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Our War: The Cranston Family

World War One had a dramatic effect on family life in East Lothian. Husbands and fathers left home to fight leaving their wives and children at home coping not only with the mixed emotions of pride and fear but also with an increased domestic burden.

One such family was the Cranston family of Haddington. Alexander and Elizabeth Cranston had 11 children. Seven of their sons went to fight, four died and two were terribly wounded. Only one returned home unscathed.

Many of the remaining family members suffered physical and mental health issues as a direct result of the conflict and the family broke up following the end of the war. Some members of the family stayed in Scotland, others emigrated and the separate families gradually drifted apart.

The Cranston brothers were ordinary people thrown into an extraordinary situation. They counted a stonemason, a baker, a cartwright, a joiner but also career soldiers in their number. Many of them were already working to support their own families and their widowed mother when they enlisted or were conscripted. The brothers were sent to France and Belgium and saw action across the field of conflict.

Image of the Cranston family around 1908

Back row standing left to right: William (b 1884); Mary (b 1891); James (b 1887); Agnes (b 1885); Adam (b 1889)Seated left to right: John (b 1882); Father Alexander (b 1854); Angus (b 1901); Mother Elizabeth (b 1855) and son Alexander (b 1879)

Centre: Robert (b 1899)

Front left to right: Andrew (b 1895) and George (b 1892)

Sapper James Buchan Cranston (Royal Engineers) contracted pulmonary tuberculosis during basic training and died not long after. Airman Robert Cranston (Royal Air Force) was conscripted in September 1917, sent to France and flew in bombing missions over Germany. Robert was demobilised in February 1919, returning home to Haddington. Private George Cranston served in four separate units and saw action in France and Belgium. Wounded several times, he suffered shell shock and was badly gassed. The painful and unpleasant after effects of the gas were to remain with him for the rest of his life. Company Sergeant Major John Buchan Cranston was a brave and decorated career soldier, Mentioned in Dispatches and killed in 1916. Private William Cranston (Seaforth Highlanders) enlisted at the declaration of war August 1914. He saw a great deal of action in France but was dreadfully wounded in 1916. He bore scars and wore an eye patch for the rest of his life. Private Adam Lindsay Cranston (Royal Scots Fusiliers) was conscripted in June 1916 and killed in action later that year. His body was found in 1917. Sergeant Alexander Cranston (Royal Engineers) was a brave soldier and leader and was killed in action 1918.

2 thoughts on “Our War: The Cranston Family”

  1. Scott Dillon says:

    I am trying to contact your selves I have a ww1 card purchased for 2d then it mentions the Cranston family it is titled a famous charge my email is [email protected]

    1. FrancesW says:

      Hi Scott,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I have sent you an email.
      best wishes,

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