Threads

My son, James, on this Remembrance Sunday morning, finding one of his two Great, Great Grandfathers listed on the local war memorial in Collyhurst, Manchester.

War Horse; Mule; Donkey

I have to confess that I’ve neither seen the movie, nor read the book, War Horse, but, with Remembrance Sunday imminent, I was struck by this image that I came across last night.

It is a photograph of World War One soldiers paying a tribute to the 8 million horses, mules and donkeys lost in that war.

I wear an extra layer of sadness when it comes to the animals that were used in such conflicts, for the men who signed up to fight were at least aware of the circumstances and implications of their actions, where for the horses and donkeys, mules and dogs, they must have been terrified to find themselves in such hellish conditions, paying a price for their service to man.

Death Do Us Part: A Letter From The Trenches

I read this moving letter, with a moving conclusion, on a FB post for Valentine’s Day. It is taken from the Imperial War Museum.

A letter from the trenches. 1917

Private Albert Ford wrote to his wife, Edith, on a scrap piece of paper before going ‘over the top’.

“My darling if this should ever reach you it will be a sure sign that I am gone under and what will become of you and the chicks I do not know but there is one above that will see to you and not let you starve,” he wrote.

“You have been the best of wives and I loved you deeply, how much you will never know.

“Dear heart, do think sometimes of me in the future when your grief has worn a bit, and the older children, I know won’t forget me, and speak sometimes of me to the younger ones…

“Dearest, if the chance should come your way for you are young and good looking and should a good man give you an offer it would please me to think you would take it, not to grieve too much for me…

“I should not have left you thus bringing suffering and poverty on a loving wife and children for which in time I hope you will forgive me.

“So dear heart I will bid you all farewell hoping to meet you in the time to come if there is a hereafter. Know that my last thoughts were of you in the dugout or on the fire step my thoughts went out to you, the only one I ever loved, the one that made a man of me.”

Albert was killed in action on 26 October 1917. His last letter was treasured by Edith until her death. She never remarried and as she lay dying in February 1956 she said she could see Albert in the corner of her bedroom.

In Greece; Forever England

Since City Jackdaw has been flying, I think I’ve probably made a Remebrance Sunday post every year. Except yesterday.

As usual we spent the day, which coincided with the Armistice Centennial, by visiting the memorial on which the names of past family members are listed. It’s this personal connection that gives context to the wider impact of that war.

As I didn’t post yesterday, I will share this photograph today: it’s from when I visited the grave of my Gt Grandfather, Timothy O’Sullivan, in 2007, ninety years to the day since he died. He is buried in Thessaloniki. A plot that is forever England.

R.I.P

Hearts For Hearts

While at the football stadiums all around the country players and fans are observing a minute’s silence for tomorrow’s Remembrance Sunday,  I just learned that Heart of Midlothian (Hearts) was the first British club whose players signed up en masse for World War One.

Sixteen players enlisted, and on the first day of the Battle of the Somme three died. Of the sixteen in total, seven died in the war and seven were seriously injured.

That’s the kind of statistic that brings home just how devastating that war was.

R.I.P

Remember #1

Today, for the first time, we were unable to attend the Remembrance Sunday service that takes place at a local memorial in Collyhurst, where ancestors of mine are listed. So instead, yesterday, we took our remembrance crosses to Phillip’s Park cemetery. Normally, we place one cross at the service, then one in the cemetery where one of these ancestors lies.

In a cold, autumn wind, my son placed a cross on the unmarked grave of his Gt Gt Grandfather, who died in 1919 as a result of being gassed at the front. Once a year, around the spot when other forgotten members of my family once stood, this anonymous spot is located by a marker.

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It lay lost amongst the autumn foliage, barely noticeable to any passing mourners, but to those to whom this kind of thing matters, we know it is there.

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Our second cross this year found a home at the memorial in this cemetery. No doubt this morning, the day after we visited, these three, lonely crosses will be joined by a forest of others, each placed in the name of people long gone. Side by side, on parade.

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The sword and the cross. The suffering and the hope. Symbol and silence.

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In memory of my two Gt Grandfathers, and my wife’s Gt Uncle. R.I.P

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