The guns went silent - but too late for one Wearside soldier

'Nana' Kate, pictured right, whose first husband was Robert Reid Revely.'On the left is Mrs Joan Elsie Revely who married Robert R. Revely, the son of Katherine and Robert Reid Revely.
'Nana' Kate, pictured right, whose first husband was Robert Reid Revely.'On the left is Mrs Joan Elsie Revely who married Robert R. Revely, the son of Katherine and Robert Reid Revely.
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A Sunderland soldier died from his wounds just hours before peace was declared in the First World War.

Robert Reid Revely had served with the Machine Gun Corps.

The letter penned by Katherine Revely after the death of her husband Robert - hours before the First World War Armistice was declared.

The letter penned by Katherine Revely after the death of her husband Robert - hours before the First World War Armistice was declared.

He got within days of surviving the most brutal of all conflicts when his luck ran out.

Back home on Wearside was his wife of just two years, Katherine Revely, and their baby Robert, who was 18 months old.

Katherine was praying Robert senior would return home safely.

He never did.

When I read that letter, I burst into tears. I thought ‘how awful. They had a little boy who was only a few months old

Irene Gaskell

But Robert didn’t actually die on the battlefield.

As the world leaders hammered out the details of the Armistice,

Private Revely was fighting a losing battle for life at Bagthorpe Military Hospital, which is in the city of

Nottingham.

Irene Gaskell who contacted the Echo with details of her family tree research.

Irene Gaskell who contacted the Echo with details of her family tree research.

He’d been mortally injured in France and invalided out of the Army. He was taken to hospital but died from his wounds.

His grief-stricken wife penned a letter to the Army to ask if she could have his belongings.

Decades later, that letter – as well as many other documents – became the possession of Katherine’s granddaughter Irene Gaskell, who is now a resident of Cumbria and a former Sunderland girl herself.

She admitted: “When I read that letter, I burst into tears. I thought ‘how awful. They had a little boy who was only a few months old.”

Today, Irene paid tribute to Robert and Katherine as the 100th anniversary of the Armistice drew close.

She has their wedding certificate which shows they married on January 5, 1916, at Sunderland Register Office.

Catherine, nee Docherty, was just 21 years old and her husband-to-be was 30. He was already a military man and served in the Northumberland Divisional Cycling Corps.

Irene knows little about Robert’s actual service to his country, other than he transferred at some point to the Machine Gun Corps, but she does have the letter sent by his loving wife to his superiors after his death.

It read:

“Dear sir,

Would you kindly give my small dispatch your attention.

My husband Private Robert Reid Revely, Machine Gun Corps, was wounded in France on the 18th, was invalided into Bagthorpe Military Hospital, Nottingham on the 20th, and died on Sunday night at 9pm, November 10.

My desire is that you will kindly send on to above address, the whole of his belongings, his private papers, money etc.

I shall be very grateful to you if you will oblige me in this matter.

It may seem a small thing to ask for but it means a lot to me. Anticipating a favourable reply,”

Katherine eventually remarried to a William Hayward, around two years after Robert died.

Irene got to know her grandmother in later years and said: “She was a lovely woman. I loved her to bits.”

Katherine spent her later years with family in a tenement block in London before being rehoused to Wimbledon.

Life has thrown up some coincidences in the family, as revealed by Irene during her love for family history research.

“I found out my grandmother was a landlady of a pub and my grandfather was a watchmaker.”

Ironically, Irene had been a landlady for years earlier in her life and her brother a watchmaker.

Further painstaking research by Irene has taken her back to 1641 in her family tree, to a relative named Sara Greenaway in the time of Charles I.

It shows her ancestors were mostly from Monkwearmouth and were miners and costermongers (which is someone who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables).

As for Irene herself, she was born in Bright Street in Roker, and later lived in Northumberland Street and Thorney Close.

She moved to Cumbria, worked as a counsellor in domestic violence and loves her life in the countryside.

Today, she lovingly paid tribute to her grandmother Katherine and her first husband Robert who came so close surviving the war.