With the Centenary of the beginning of the First World War, I started to think of the men that were lost and those who survived with my own family. Recently Mumsy gave me a photocopy of a letter which was to my Great Great Grandma, whose sons were sent to War. Can you imagine life one hundred years ago and watching your young son leaving? I look at my own 16 year old and just can't comprehend that this would have been a fact a century ago. The sickness fills my stomach and tears sting my eyes as I try to put myself in those angry, anxious, loving mother's minds.
The letter is almost 100 years old, dated 26 May 1915, regarding one of her sons. With age, the letter is incredibly fragile but its words can be photocopied for safety and its ink saved for generations to come.
The words contained within this thin and fragile paper are heart breaking.
Your letter of the 7th inst, and addressed to General Woodruff, has been passed on to us to send you what little news that we can concerning your son who has been missing since March 23rd.
When the enemy attacked us on March 21st we lost practically the whole of our Battalion and two days later when the enemy broke through again, all details including the Band, were sent up the line to try and check his advance. I myself were with these people, and I am sorry to say we were driven back with rather heavy losses again.
I would very much like to give you some hope that your son was captured and perhaps he was, but the only men who were taken prisoners that day were those who were wounded too badly to get away.
I myself was the last to leave the position and certainly nobody was captured unwounded, so either your son is severely wounded and in a hospital somewhere in Germany, or he was killed.
I tender to you, on behalf of the Battalion the deepest sympathy, and although we ask you to be brave and hope a little that he is alive, we have very grave doubts. I regret that this is all the news that I can give.
I can only imagine the pain and anguish that the family went through as they waited throughout the war for any snippet of news, holding on to whatever hope they could. The heart wrenching and uncertainty would have been too hard to bare. However thankfully, her son (my Great Grandad) survived! He had been captured and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp but he was alive. Amongst the family's papers I hold, there is a small slip of paper that shows the medals he collected up until the late 20's when he was discharged.
Even though his body was constantly shaking from the results of War injuries and he never left anything on his dinner plate (a result of being in a Prisoner of War camp where there was hardly any food), he continued to collect his medals through being a soldier with the Coldstream Guards and then the Police.
Here he is in 1940 (the one with the pipe!) and his brother.
A survivor, a man who kept the horrors of war firmly in his mind and never off loaded these to his family, which was a common thing for those heroes that lived through these awful times. I only knew him for a few months of my life, held by him in his safe arms as a baby, but this man who was initially thought to have been killed in the First World War lived until he was the grand old age of 85, knowing that his family were safe through the actions of him and his colleagues, where most had made the ultimate sacrifice. He was a kind and respectful man (even though this photo of him looks quite stern and serious!).
We are off to London next week to see the Tower of London's poppy installation, the link is here, and I have ordered a poppy from this display to proudly remember all my family members that lost their lives and also the ones who survived this awful war such as my wonderful Great Grandad Christopher.
So, another thought provoking trip out next week which I hope you will join me on dear Readers.
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