Digging In The Past

George Ernest White - Signup Papers - 23/09/1914With 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.

They Shall Grow Not Old, As We That Are Left Grow Old

I can’t remember the first time I watched the Service of Remembrance on TV, but it must be well over fifty years ago now. It has always been a family event, with my Mom and Dad and my brothers. And although, sadly, my Dad is no longer with us, and the family is spread across the globe, watching it again brought back poignant memories, as always.

I find it very moving, watching the petals falling on the servicemen and women, and although I have never known anyone killed in the service of our country, I feel a certain duty to watch the service.

The people in whose honour the service is held, gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in peace and freedom.

  They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
  Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
  At the going down of the sun and in the morning
  We will remember them.

Poignant Memories

My Nan, Charlotte and HannahMarch the thirteenth always stirs up the saddest of memories for me and my family. It is exactly twenty one years ago today, that I lost the second most important lady in my life, my paternal grandmother. Just to make it even worse, if that were at all possible, ironically, March the thirteenth 1992 was a Friday, probably the worst Friday the thirteenth ever.

She was the most wonderful grandmother anyone could ever have had. She looked after me when I was very young, when my Mom was suffering from Tuberculosis, in the days when it was often fatal. She was a tweeny, a maid between stairs, in the days when Upstairs, Downstairs was a lot less romantic that it is on TV today. She was married to my grandfather Walter, in the days when Wally wasn’t a derogatory name.

She lived in a council house in Erdington, Birmingham, never owned a car, never really had two pennies to rub together, but was dignified and always proud of the way she looked and the way she kept that house. I spent many, many happy school summer holidays there, and remember being spoiled rotten.

She made the best bread pudding in the world, always had peaches or pears and trifle on the tea table and knitted me more school jumpers than I can count. We went on lots of holidays together as a family, but never outside the UK, in fact she may never have been abroad in her whole life. She was never happier than when she had something to worry about, but she was always happy and full of love.

She was just wonderful, was always there for us and is greatly missed. It makes me happy to know that she is back in the world somewhere and I know she will be spreading love and light wherever she (or he) is. We are thinking of you Nan.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

I can’t remember the first time I watched the Service of Remembrance on TV, but it must be the best part of fifty years ago now. It has always been a family event, with my Mom and Dad and my brothers. And although, sadly, my Dad is no longer with us, and the family is spread across the globe, watching it again tonight brought back poignant memories, as always.

This year’s service seemed a little more main stream, in terms of entertainment, with the likes of Rod Stewart singing Auld Lang Syne. Not the way I think we should remember the lost and missing of past wars. Maybe I am getting towards being one of the few remaining who were taught to respect these people from childhood. This is not a program intended to entertain, it is to help us remember those who gave their life, that we may live in peace.

I find it very moving, watching the petals falling on the servicemen and women, and although I have never known anyone killed in the service of our country, I feel a certain duty to watch the service.

The people in whose honour the service is held, gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in peace and freedom.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Beautifully Quiet

In Flanders FieldsAt the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, of the eleventh year of this century, Ringwood stopped for a reverential two minutes to remember the dead of two world wars and subsequent conflicts. It was truly moving.

The office was quiet, everyone was deep in contemplation, but I was determined not to be disturbed by an errant phone call or the ping of an incoming email, so I went out into the car park alone and watched the stream slide slowly, silently by.

All a bit melodramatic you might think, but if we can’t spare two minutes out of a whole year, there really is no hope for us as a nation. It really was very quiet. A memorial service was being held at the war memorial and at eleven o’clock they fired a cannon to signify the start of the silence.

The boom startled a large flock of starlings in the flood plain on the other side of the Bickley Mill stream and they rose and fell as they wheeled across a grey and rather sad sky. And as I watched them, I noticed that I was peering through loops of barbed wire atop the perimeter fence. Rather fitting for such an occasion.

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