Who Do You Remember…?
It’s Remembrance Day. At 11 am on the 11th Day of the 11th Month we come together to remember the fallen of all wars.
Today, as I am working with the Army right now we paraded in the local church for a short service of Remembrance. And of course during this service there was the two minutes silence. And during this I remembered.
I come from a military family, I am a third generation serviceman. Myself and my brother are/were in the RAF, my dad served in the RAF and my Grandfather served in the Army. And he served in the First World War. Fortunately he made it through the war, but died in 1956, years before I was ever born.
Bernard John William, or Billy to his pals, enlisted in the North Staffordshire Regiment on 12th May 1917, with the Regimental Number 39931 and was eventually posted to the East Yorkshire Regiment on 1st December 1917, as part of a massive wave of replacements to make up for the losses in the battle of Ypres. He was given a new regimental Number on his arrival – 41076 – and was bounced around between Battalions for a couple of days. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 25th October 1918, and following the end of the war was de-mobbed on 7th March 1919. He was discharged and awarded the British War Medal 14-18 and the Victory Medal. We have records to show he was 18 yrs 7 months, he was 5′ 1 3/4″ tall and weighed 108 lbs on his enlistment.
This sounds quite simple and easy, however the dates and numbers don’t tell the full story.
After he was transferred to the E. Yorks Regt, there was mix up in the reporting of a casualty with the same surname. This went so far as to an official notification being sent to his mother that he had been reported as Killed in Action on 28 Sept 1918. This confusion was made more so in that both the East Yorks Regt AND the North Staffs were involved in the Battles of the Hindenberg Line.
The thing was he had no idea he had been reported as KiA until he came home on leave, and the confusion went so far as to his name being included on the list for addition to the town War Memorial.
Finally, my brother informs me that my father told him that Billy was also wounded at some time during the War but there is no mention on the official War Office records and he never spoke about it.
This is an unusual story. It’s a nice bit of family history to have I guess, and makes me smile a little…that only OUR family could have a story like this in it.
But then…Hang on. There is another family involved in this story. The man who actually died on that day was 42438 Pte Thomas Ford aged 19, son of John Ford of 9 Don Cottages, Thurlstone Sheffield. He is buried in the Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extn, Pas de Calais (Plot II H 17).
And so today at 11 o’clock, when the nation remembered I joined that remembrance. Of course I thought of those people who died recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, and remembered those who died in the first war I fought in – the First Gulf War – and thought about the 16000 people who died in the wars of the nation after 1945. I then thought of the Second World War and thought about all those of whatever nation who died, but then considered the men of Bomber Command who died in a greater attrition rate than the men in the Trenches in World War One. I thought of course about the Fighter Boys of the Battle of Britain, and then went on to think of the horrors of the First World War. The terrors that the men in that conflict must have faced and try and imagine it…but it’s hard to…and hard to in the scale of all that. And then I selfishly thought about myself and what I am going to face.
And then, to break myself from that selfishness I remembered two other individual people. Both with my surname, one of which was my Grandfather, and another who shared a similar name but was no relation. One who survived the horrors of the First World War and one who didn’t. I don’t know if young Thomas’ family are still about. I don’t know if his own family are able to remember him, or even know about his sacrifice.
But he can rest in his grave in France easy, knowing that at least one person will remember him and that he gave his tomorrows so we can have our todays.
There is another chance to Remember. On Sunday 14th the Nation will officially remember everyone who has died for our freedom. If you didn’t do so today, please take just two minutes of your time on Sunday to join in with that Remembrance. And if you can, put a pound in the Royal British Legions Poppy Appeal collection tin. Thank you.