Those who lost their lives in the War to end all Wars . . .
My husband's grandfather, Private Bertie Harrison, who died on the Somme in 1916, aged 27 - just as a gypsy had once foretold . . . He was wounded on the 4th July and died a day later. A letter home to his wife mentions seeing her brother, George Bird (below) whilst they were in France, and one of his eldest daughter's last memories of him was the tears in his eyes as he said a final farewell and then stepped onto the troop train, reluctantly handing back little Edie, barely a toddler, and knowing that he might well never see them again. He was right. The final insult to his widow was the Army billing her a shilling for the blanket to bury him in . . .
And his brother-in-law, Captain George Bird of the 2nd Warwicks, (and formerly of the 17th Lancers, the "Death or Glory Boys"). He had been in India until just beforethe outbreak of the war, where the 17th Lancers formed part of the Sialkot Cavalry Division in the 1st Indian Cavalry. They left Bombay on 14th October 1914 under the control of Major-General Hew Dalrymple Fanshawe. His military career had begun when he joined the 17th Lancers as a Drummer Boy, and he accompanied them to the 2nd Boer War. Music was the love of his life, and he was an accomplished musician (this love of music is borne out elsewhere in our family, as my husband's brother also lives for music). He had been offered the position of Conductor to one of the important London orchestras and would have taken the position up and married his young lady on the Isle of Wight, but war intervened. He was already in France before the rest of his former regiment arrived, as he had been in England on a music course.
He quickly rose through the ranks, and his bravery earned him a Military Cross (he took around 300 Germans prisoner), and was recommended for a DSO, but as he was only a Leiutenant, this was commuted to a bar to his MC, as it was frowned upon giving DSOs to ordinary ranks . . . He rose to Captain, but was killed within 3 weeks of his brother-in-law, on the 30th July on the Somme. His body was one of those never found.
Even those who never put a foot on foreign soil, paid the price of helping in the war effort. My husband's other grandfather, Sapper Frederick Craine, who was in the Royal Engineers, but damaged his knee in training and never got sent to the Front. A tailor in civvy street, he spent part of his war service sewing Army uniforms, but unfortunately for him, was also one of those who was involved in testing gas warfare in Britain, probably testing the earliest gas masks which were terribly inefficient. He was gassed and his lungs weakened and he subsequently died of TB in 1919.
And from my family, my great-Uncle Ben Bolt, Hampstead born and bred but with the red soil of Devon in his blood. A shadowy figure, never mentioned by my dad - so I wonder if he even knew of him? He was a chauffeur in Kent before the War, and his widow never remarried. He died in the final months of the war but I don't know where he is buried in France.
I thought of them on Friday, and I shall think of them today.