14 October 2009

2977189 Sgt John Tonner, 1st Bn, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

William and Elsie Tonner of Bridgeton, Glasgow lost three sons in the Second World War. I was unaware of this when I randomly selected John Tonner's name from the 19 service personnel who died on the 14th October 1941 but there it is, in black and white, on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) site:

2977189 Sgt John Tonner, 1st Bn, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, "son of William and Elsie Tonner of Bridgeton, Glasgow; husband of Annie Tonner. His brothers, William and James Davidson Tonner, also died on service."

John Tonner was born in Glasgow and was still living there when he enlisted. He was 29 years old when he died and is buried in Asmara War Cemetery in Eritrea. CWGC reports:

"The Italian stronghold of Keren was taken by Commonwealth forces at the end of March 1941 and the retreating Italian force pursued to Asmara, which was occupied on 1 April. Asmara War Cemetery contains the graves of those killed in the latter stages of the East African campaign, or who died subsequently at the garrison stationed at Asmara. The cemetery contains 273 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 14 of them unidentified. There are also six war graves of other nationalities and five non-war burials."

2338238 Driver William Tonner of the Royal Corps of Signals was the first of the Tonner brothers to be killed. He was 23 years old when he died. He has no known grave and is one of 4506 men commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial. His date of death is also uncertain; CWGC states that he died between "between 27/05/1940 and 02/06/1940."

FX95018 Air Mechanic Second Class James Davidson Tonner, the youngest of the three brothers, died on 21st April 1942. He was twenty years old and was serving aboard HMS Medina. He is buried in Glasgow (Riddrie Park) Cemetery.

Thus in three consecutive years, William and Elsie Tonner lost three sons. I have no idea whether there were other Tonner brothers who served and survived, but in any event, the family certainly paid a heavy price.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.


Ancestry.co.uk (1939-1945 Roll of Honour)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission


Anonymous said...

Thank You so much for posting this! The Tonner Brothers you have spoken about are the brother of my paternal Grandfather George Tonner. I think my Grandfather was the youngest of several children, and too young for war, perhaps he was even denied it due to the huge loss they suffered. I remember my family talking about this annd their loss was acute indeed, Elsie lost her husband also in 1945. I cannot imagine the pain my great Grandma must have felt. George and his wife migrated to Australia in the 70's with their son (my dad) and daughter (aunt). I dont suppose you could tell me where I could access the Tonner Brothers' birth and/or death certicates? Either way, thank you and I look forward to sharing this with my family.

Kind Regards

Lorraine Tonner


Paul Nixon said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I've not done so personally, but it looks as though you'll be able to get birth certificates via the General Register Office for Scotland. Here's the link: http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,
Thank you, for your posting. My name is William Tonner, son of George Tonner. My dad was the youngest, of eight children, five brothers three sisters.
John, William and James were the oldest boys in the family. The next eldest boy, my uncle Joseph, served in the Royal Air Force and survived the war. My dad was 15 years old at war's end.
The girls, my aunties were Lily, Sarah and Violet (every one an absolute gem).
My grandfather, William Tonner, fought, in the Seaforth Highlanders, at the Somme in World War One. He suffered throughout his life, due to gas exposure at the Somme.
It is tragic that he suffered but survived the horrors of the Somme, only to see his family decimated in another terrible conflict.
My dad went on to serve in the R.A.F.

My Grannie, was an absolute 'trooper' to the end.

Once again Paul, thank you for your posting. All the best to you and yours.

'Wha's like us'?

William Tonner.

Paul Nixon said...

William, thank you for taking the time to post this additional information about your family. Some families certainly paid a particularly heavy price.

Anonymous said...

Hello there,
My name is Lily Tonner granddaughter of John Tonner of who was married to Elizabeth Tonner (was Ball) who's son was my father Gary. My Grandad served in the Royal Navy, however moved down to Kent from Scotland during World War Two. I was so pleased to find this, thanks for posting .
Lily Tonner

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for posting, Lily. I'm pleased to be able to remember the Tonner brothers, in a small way, on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,
It's unclear if Lily is aware that Sgt John Tonner is a different person to her grandfather.
John's wife was Annie Tonner. They had 3 children, my cousins, William, May and Elsie.
By coincidence though, John had a sister, my aunt, Lily Tonner.

Hope this helps to clear up any confusion.

Thanks, again.

William Tonner.