Remembering

mum's dadI went to the Remembrance Service in Torquay with my mum on Sunday.

We were there to remember my grandfather – my mum’s dad, who died when she still a baby, just a few weeks old.

It was 1941. The Second World War raging at full pelt. Men dying in battle, far from loved ones, every day.

My grandfather died at home, his family around him. His name does not appear on the Memorial at Torquay, as one of the fallen.

But he was felled by conflict as much as those caught by a sniper. His “bullet” came in the form of mustard gas poisoning, lodged in the battlefields of France in 1918.

Around 8,000 British soldiers were killed directly as a result of gas poisoning in the First World War. A further 180,000, including my grandfather, suffered injury but survived.

Seventy per cent of them were declared fit for duty in six weeks, but most were left with permanent scar tissue damage to their lungs, leaving them exposed to diseases like tuberculosis.

With effective treatment still being developed, many of those 1918 survivors, struggled with increasing poor health and died around the time of the Second World War.

Although my grandfather’s name is not on the Memorial, the service sheet read: “For those who were killed in action, or died of wounds or sickness during and between the two great wars and in subsequent conflicts.”

20141109_113828Torquay seafront, where the Memorial stands, was packed with people for the service – young and old there to pay their respects.

It was a beautiful, sunny autumn morning, gulls circling overhead, sunlight glinting on the water. A good time and place to be still and remember – to be at peace.

On our drive home, mum and I decided to take a trip down memory lane, passing the house my father built for us nearly 40 years ago, in Kingskerswell.

It’s close to the where a new major bypass is being constructed, massive engineering works tearing through ground, where – as children – we used to walk, cycle and play in the woods.

kerswell bypassIt was strange to see a familiar landscape so changed, scarred by bull dozers, some people’s homes destroyed in their wake.

I thought of those other landscapes and lives permanently scarred by conflict, past and present: the battlefields of France; the history, homes and hopes blasted away by bombs; the towns, people and their tales being destroyed now in the Middle East.

War has so many casualties, the vast 20141109_114957majority who’s names are not on any memorial.

If we truly remembered them all – I mean really truly, all of them – surely we would not forget the beauty of peace.

 

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4 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. 5310bisho

    Thanks Jo. We took two minutes to remember in the office today, which prompted a conversation that included the dad and grandad that none of us knew. Proud of him, mum, dad, you, our family, my family, and all my colleagues who served. Especially proud (and saddened) to remember the far too many that I knew who paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving in our Armed Forces.

    Reply
  2. Jo Earlam Post author

    …..sitting here little bruv, wondering how to reply – I spot 11/11/2014 as today’s date on the computer. If only the First World War could have ended 100 years ago today, if only none of the others had started. Did we have these kind of conversations when we were cycling through the woods all those years ago, I don’t know…….but I know my life is better for having you alongside me then, and now, and I’m sure ALL your “troops” feel the same.

    Reply

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