A Family Traced


It is very difficult transferring from a large ship to a small boat or vice versa and accidents often happened (and presumably still do).  18-year-old Ordinary Seaman Edward Ashton D/JX565396 Royal Navy was young and inexperienced and was injured whilst serving on HMS Patroller in 1943.  He fell out of a whaler (a small boat with engine and sails) and ruptured his liver.  He was transferred to hospital and nursed in Melbourne, Australia by Sister Mary Morrison. Sadly, he died of his injuries on 26th December 1943.

Edward was the son of Edward Goulding Ashton, listed in the 1930 census as a process worker at a chemical factory (presumably ICI) and Emily Ashton (nee Hurst) of 56, High Street, Weaverham.  Edward had five brothers and one sister.  Edward is at rest in Springvale Cemetery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and is remembered on the Weaverham War Memorial.  After hearing of his death, Edward’s mother wrote a heartfelt letter of thanks to Sister Morrison.

(This appears below as well as images of Sister Morrison and her war time service.)

Sister Mary Morrison’s daughter Judith and son Tom found the letter after Mary’s death and sent it to us early in 2019 in the hope that we could trace living members of Edward’s family and return Emily’s letter to them.  At the time our appeals were unfruitful but a renewed appeal on the Memorial Orchard notice board was read by Andrew Pope, an investigator living in Hartford.  He offered to trace family members for us and thanks to him we have been able to reunite the letter with Emily’s granddaughter.  She and other members of the family, including Emily’s 91 year old daughter-in-law and Emily’s great grandchildren have been very moved by the letter and it has added to their knowledge of their family history.

Transcript of letter sent by Able Seaman Edward Ashton’s mother to Sister Morrison after Edward’s death to Sister Morrison who nursed him whilst he was dying of injuries suffered whilst serving on HMS Patroller in December 1943.  The letter written from 56 High Street Weaverham is dated 1/4/1944

Dear Sister Morrison,

I am indeed grateful for your kind letter and sympathy and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you did for my poor boy.  Will you please thank everyone at the Hospital on my behalf who did anything for him.

You have set my mind at rest for I pictured him suffering great pain so I am truly thankful to know he had none and so peaceful a passing.

I could tell there was something wrong with one of my boys for I felt so depressed and on the 26/12/43 I heard a very weak voice say mother, & yet there was no one near me at the time.

Yes Edward has one sister and 5 brothers, the little girl and boy are twins ten years of age & his eldest brother has served in the R.N. eight years, and his father is serving with the R.A.F. in the Middle East.

It is a great consolation to know he is buried on our own Dominion soil & that he had friendly hands & faces round him to the last.

Weaverham is a small village & we have a very old Church, & in our graveyard lies a New Zealand boy, he was a pilot& had married a Weaverham girl only nine weeks before he was killed, so we have a boy from your part of the world, for I believe New Zealand is not far from Australia. The senior Chaplain wrote to me & I got his letter a month ago.

Once again let me thank you for your kindness & the way you told me of his last hours on earth.  I think you must be one of a family & your mother understands how us mothers feel.

If you ever come to England, I should like to meet you.  Northwich our nearest town is a salt town.  I am very lucky to have got your letter for it has been astray at Surrey.  I must bring my letter to a close but I had to tell you your letter has been a great comfort.

                                                Yours Sincerely

                                                            Mrs Emily Ashton

Sister Mary Morrison

Joining Up 1942
Copy of Mary’s Map Showing Voyage and Operational Sphere
Army Nurses: Mary Morrison Front Row Second Right
A Reminder of Home: Gum Leaves from Mary’s Garden
Return Home: Mary Front Row Fourth Right
Mary and her Daughter: West Head Sydney 1981
Mary Morrison
1916 – 2005

We are extremely grateful to Sister Mary Morrison’s Australian son and daughter who found the letter after their mother’s death and also to Andrew Pope for tracing family members.


The Ashton family

Tom and Judy (Mary’s Children)

T. Johnson

A. Pope

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