Tuesday, 5 August 2014

What did you do in the war granddad?

Yesterday we commemorated 100th anniversary of the First World War.  Such a long time ago in one way but only yesterday in another.
Last night we sat by candle light watching the service from Westminster abbey at 10pm on the TV.
It was a moving service as had the coverage been recently of those momentous years of horrible war.
For us to sit and watch TV by candle light it tended to romanticise it.  However it did make us think about how dreadful it must have been to live through those times, never knowing if  your loved ones would live or die.  The light of the candle was just a gesture but with all the trappings of the 21st century around us it did seem a little insignificant in comparison to what really happened 100 years ago.
Nevertheless the centenary has meant that Les and I have revisited our own family’s involvement in the war, talking about it quite a lot.
My Grandfather with my father and uncle at the beginning of World War II
Personally I know very little apart from the fact that my grandfather (paternal) was in the Cavalry – something I only learnt when our daughter took up horse riding as a young child. My father just mentioned it in passing at the time.  The recent film War Horse certainly made me think a bit more about his time in the war and for the first time the impact it had on the horses and there owners.   My maternal grandfather was a farmer which was a reserved occupation and as he was also deaf he wouldn’t have been allowed to go anyway.

Les's Grandfather Ellis on his wedding day in uniform
However Les’s paternal grandfather had a much more dramatic story.  He was in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was deployed to Gallipoli, one of the worst events of the First World War. He lay on the battle field left for dead for three days.  Whilst collecting bodies he was found to be alive and was sent to the field hospital and then on to St Thomas’s in London. He had lost a lung and the other one was seriously damaged.  However he went on to live a full and happy life; married and had three children. He died aged 83.

 Some years ago whilst on a cycling holiday we found the grave of Les’s great Uncle John who died on his 18th birthday during the battle of the Somme. We had been the first, and as far as we know, the only family to visit his grave.  It was in Abbeville and we went back a few years later with our daughter who was about 2 at the time.  In fact Les’s mother and one of his cousins were both christened with the middle name of Abbeville – shortening it to Abbey in both cases.

On our cycling holiday in France
Uncle Johns Grave in Abbeville
So these are just our tales of heroic family members and if every family with such memories thought about them yesterday then I hope it reinforces our determination never to go to war again.  However we are still living in a world of wars and conflict and it seems that due to greed, selfishness, land, religion and what can only be described as madness wars will never be a thing of the past.   Back then 100 years ago men and women gave their lives selflessly and they still are in many parts of the world today.  I for one don’t want them to have to do it anymore.

Newspaper cutting