Wednesday, 1 February 2012

# 32 Heroes

Emblem of the West Yorkshire Regiment
I watched Birdsong on Sunday night, having missed all of it so far. Things about the first world war always get to me because I know the loss my family suffered during both World Wars - the sons, fathers, brothers, and nephews that were lost and how shattering it must have been. It may be almost 100 years ago, but it changed our world and remapped our families forever.

My great grandfather was a 2nd Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment during the war. He was a career soldier though, not drafted up at the start of WW1 like so many young men. He was sent from Malta where he was stationed with his regiment in 1915, to the front at Ypres in Belgium.

Not long after he got there he was shot through the shoulder going over the top and laid out in no-man's land for 3 days before by some miracle being rescued. Quite a number of his comrades had been lost that day.

Like many soldiers injured in the line of duty he was patched up and sent back out but he managed to survive the rest of the war and came back to London and to his wife and children. He was awarded the military MBE and paraded in the celebrations that followed.
Ypres (source)

I don't know much about what happened to him afterwards. I know he retired from the army in 1920 and worked as a theatre doorman somewhere after that. But I'm sure he spent much of the rest of his life mentally fighting that war. My father remembers that he didn't talk about it much and his arm was never quite right where he had been shot.

I suspect that he was considerably luckier than most though. Physically, he was pretty much still there and mentally he must have seen it through because he died of natural causes in the 1950s.

So much of my life has been caught up in family research that I often think about those who have gone before. Some I have known, many I have not but we are all a part of a complicated web and we are all here for a reason, no matter how important we think our role.

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