RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

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.


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16 thoughts on “Who Do You Remember…?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Who Do You Remember…? « Rafairman's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Today i remembered all our brave troops but also an American grandfather (and the family i never got to know) i never knew who died in WW2 and my favourite poet Wilfred Owen who died in WW1.

  3. Today I remembered troops past & present, serving in conflicts around the world.I remembered my father who served in the Raf, in WW2 in far east & Burma , survived, but died years later, still in the RAF. I also remembered a 19 year old great Uncle who died & is buried in Rouen following the Battle of the Somme.

  4. Barbara E Adams on said:

    My dad was one of the 17 USN pilots lent to the RAF to spot with the Spitfire. As his gas tank was hit on D-Day, he landed on Omaha Beach to “rig it” to return to Ipswich Base to trade it out and continue his spotting. He passed in April of this year, and never ever forgot those days with the VCS-7 and “helping the Queen out!” I think it’s a great legacy to the RAF that one of their planes were the first to land in France after the invasion. I would love more information on Ipswich and the VCS-7, especially pictures of my dad (ENS Robert J. Adams). Happy Veterans Day to all, and thank you for your sacrifices. Two pictures of him are on my Facebook page!

  5. Mike Cox on said:

    a hearfelt thanks and gratitude to all armed forces from the past wars and the present wars,bless you all.

  6. vanessa smith on said:

    I remember my Dad, who was a prisoner in Singapore,the worst jail they had. My Mum too who joined the Intelligence Core here in the UK. i give thanks to all who serve, past and present. Vanessa Smith

  7. Where I work we have a poppy appeal box of poppys etc. And I have been putting sticking all my tips in there since it appeared.
    I hope not to do the same next year as I hope to be in the RAF by then and not working in a bar still.

    Never forget.

  8. Charles Zammit on said:

    I remember the pilots that flew in Malta and yes had a harder chore than anywhere else including the battle of Brittain . But Mostly I remember the groundcrews in Malta that unlike the pilots served for 3 years and not 6 months continually under raining bombs and carrying out miracles to keep Hurries and Spits in the air with no spare parts ,underfed and dirty with hardly any sleep and the little sleep they had was on the ground.These brave men do not get the accolades they deserve but I will remember them as even as a small boy in Malta my recollections of that war albeit faded I still have vivid impressions of that time .

  9. Today I remembered so many young lives cut short.

    One of those was my son. He didn’t go to war, he just died. But it hurts no less.

    In that, I feel with those who lost a loved one – how, really doesn’t make much difference.

  10. Big Bro on said:

    I also spent some time thinking about 42438 Pte Thomas Ford at 11 o’clock along with Pte Thomas Mousley who died of malaria as a POW held by the Turks just before he was due to be repatriated and is now buried in the Baghdad Commonwealth War Cemetery in Iraq and was our mother’s uncle.

    They both have crosses to their memories in the Garden of Remembrance at Westminster.

  11. Today..remembering the six guys from 41 sqn. who lost their lives in 1983, Thommo from 604 sqn., in fact all of those who gave all, their memory lives forevermore and as years go by and the memories of names and places fade, even so we will, in our own way, “Remember them”

  12. Today I remembered family and former Work Colleagues.
    After my donation to the RBL Poppy appeal this year, I picked up a poppy for myself and two poppy wooden crosses. Today I went to the local cemetery with those crosses with my personal comments written on both. The first I took to my Grandfathers grave who’s headstone is the usual civilian headstone as although he fought in WW1 in the Royal Artillery he returned home fathered 8 children and died at a respectable 80 years of age in 1973. The second was for his brother, my great uncle, his headstone being a commonwealth War Grave one, he served in WW1 in the Royal Engineers, he also survived the War, but whilst still serving at home on leave in January 1919 he died from the Spanish Flu, aged just 23 years. The former Work Colleagues I remember were 2 of the 14 crew aboard Nimrod XV230 lost in Afghanistan on 2 Sep 2006. I thank all who have given their lives from WW1 to the present day for my Freedom. I like most former serving Military personnel support Remembrance Day and like to think in the main the Great British public do the same. It does however annoy me to read press stories of such things as people stealing poppy donation tins from shops. I would like it that Remembrance Day be taught to school children and that they could may be tend War graves, like they do in the Netherlands. Lest we Forget!

  13. Jess Dunwoody on said:

    I today of course remembered all those who have bravely fought for our benefit. I come from a service family, my grandfather was a RAF Navigator during the WW2, my father was in the Royal Navy and now my young brother has just returned from serving in Afgan, with Royal Marines 40 Commando and I am an ex service woman RN.

    I always remember every year those who died in 2001 iraq. I was serving onboard HMS Ark Royal and two of our helicopters ditched into the sea instantly killing all crews. I especially remember those who had young families and one inparticular stands out, a young officer who was recently engaged, whilst on deployment his future wife let him know the fabulous news he was to become a father. He was really pleased with this news. He will never ever know his child.

    So at this time of year I remember all of them, our brave men and women of our services whenever they served and in every conflict. We Remember Them xx

  14. I always remember my uncle Harry,by photo and letter, he was a sailor on the convoys ww2.My mother used to say he was not only her brother but her best friend.I have a letter that he wrote,and i always read it,and remember him.
    His name is on the cenotaph in my village,a memorial to the men who died in ww1+ww2.I made a donation to the red cross on Wednesday,and i received a little cross with the Signal Regiment on it,my son has been in the Signals for over 20yrs,and just got back from Afganistan recently,as i pray for his safety,i never forget the uncle i never met.

  15. JacAbsolute on said:

    Well remembered and good wishes to you.

    Granddaughter of Old Contemptible RA (gassed 1915, but lived to 85), Tunneller, Menin Ridge and Vampyr; daughter of Tiger Engineer, RAF 38 – 45, still going and still remembering.

    For you and for Uncle Bill, lost on D Day, and for all who serve,

    Thank you.

  16. A good piece, chief. My personal memory was Billy McFadzeen, an Irish soldier who was in the trench on the day before the Somme offensive began, with other members of his platoon, arming Mills grenades. One was dropped, and the cotter pin fell out somehow. It armed itself. Billy apparently threw himself onto it. He saved all his mates.

    But then I went on to remember the men of the little rifle clubs up and down the nation. As soon as war began, those little clubs joined en masse, and the men went off to war together, just as did the miners from the same pits, the cricket clubs, the workers from the same factories . . .

    I used to be proud to be Secretary to the Caterham and District Rifle and Pistol Club. Once I saw the membership lists for the club during 14/18. The pages before showed a good membership list. From memory, on the first day of the Somme three quarters of them were killed.

    We still have photos of a lot of these brave guys. Shopkeepers, printers and gardeners, all fought as hard as any other volunteers.

    Brave men.

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