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Sad end to search for VC hero's family

By Toby Neal | Pontesbury | News | Published:

A quest to track down Shropshire relatives of Captain William Allison White, a Victoria Cross hero of the Great War, has reached a sad conclusion with news that his surviving daughter has died as recently as July 12 at the age of 95.

Victoria Cross hero Captain William Allison White

Organisers of an event at Captain White's London birthplace, in which a commemorative stone will be unveiled on September 18 - the centenary of the action for which he was awarded the VC - had appealed through the Shropshire Star to trace any family members in the county so that they could be invited.

The Shropshire link came because he had died at the Priory nursing home in Wellington on September 13, 1974, at the age of 79. His ashes were taken to his wife's grave in Kent to be interred.

In response to the appeal, local genealogists were quickly on the case and discovered that he had a Shropshire daughter, the widowed Mrs Daphne James, from Plealey, near Pontesbury.

Unfortunately she died peacefully at Cliffdale Nursing Home at Pontesbury last month.

Among those to have known her was 86-year-old Mrs Jean Williams, of Wenlock Road, Shrewsbury.

She said: "I happened to notice her death in the Shrewsbury Chronicle. I said, 'oh dear, poor Daphne's died. What a shame.' We had lost touch and I had not been able to find out lately what had happened to her.

"It was definitely her father. She used to talk to me about him, only in as much as he was a VC.

"She used to go to events when they had events in London for VCs and their families. She would talk about the fact her father was a VC, not boasting about it, but mentioning it in passing.

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"Her husband, as I understand it, had been out in Hong Kong. I think it was for quite a while. I can't remember if he was in the forces or in the police force.

"She was a member of the Women's Institute in Pontesbury. I'm a member of St Giles' WI. We used to go on various trips together. I found her a pleasant person to talk to and found what she said very interesting.

"I liked her very much. She was full of spirit. She would do anything. Last time I saw her she was playing the fairy on the top of a Christmas tree at one of the WI parties at Pontesbury. She must have been 85 then. She was on top of the Christmas tree dressed as a fairy."

As far as Mrs Williams knew Mrs James did not have children - in any event, she had not heard of any.

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Sarah Gould, heritage officer for the London Borough of Merton, and one of the team organising the centenary event, said: "She had so nearly made it to the centenary of the action for which her father got the VC but sadly it was not to be.

"Given her age, I thought it unlikely that she would have been able to attend our event herself but it would have been nice to share photos and film footage with her.

"I have been told that she did not have children. However my contact has found that her brother Geoffrey Allison White, who seems to have died in 2000, had two sons – Neil Geoffrey White and Stewart Gary White – both of whom were born in Wales during the 1970s. I am trying to trace the grandsons.

"I am still hopeful that we may be able to get one of William’s descendants to attend our commemorative event.

"I am extremely grateful for the many emails, phone calls and amazing kindness that your readers and various Shropshire residents have shown me in trying to assist with our search for William White’s family – it has been very much appreciated."

She added that a Shropshire contact had put her in touch with William's Australian family - both of his sisters emigrated in September 1914 - and they were hoping a descendant would be able to attend to represent that branch of the family.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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