With the 100th anniversary of The Great War being commemorated all around the country, if not the World, it was amazing to find my Grandfather’s sign-up papers recently. George Ernest White, my mother’s father, joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry regiment on 2nd of September 1914. His enrolment marked the start of a European wide and terrifying journey.
My maternal grandfather died of tuberculosis shortly after I was born, so although we met, I have no recollection of him. He was a respected jeweller, working in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham from the early 1900’s.
Although he survived WWI, he did not come out of the conflict unscathed, being gassed, shot and shelled during his time in Gallipoli, Egypt and France. He was also a machine gunner, the most hated of all roles. Soldiers on both sides of the trenches, performing this role were shot if caught, so devastating was the trail of death they left behind them.
It is difficult to condone the actions of our ancestors, living as we do in an era of comparative peace, but I imagine they did what they were told and had little or no choice in the roles they were given during their service.
I feel no pride for what my grandfather did, nor do I condemn him for his actions. Many lives were lost during the conflicts of the first and second world wars, and what should be condemned, is that those lives were lost largely in vain. We have truly not learned the lessons of human conflict.
I am hoping to discover more about George Ernest’s exploits during the 1914-18 campaigns. We have snippets of his history, but it will be very enlightening to follow his progress through the geography and battles that left so many lying in war cemeteries all over the Europe.