The Other Grandfather
Before I launch into today’s entry in the isolation diary I would like to thank all of those who are reading my ramblings every day and a special thank you to all who have been able to send me a comment or a message. Your interest is very greatly appreciated. Please feel free to pass the link to the web site on to anyone that you think would be interested.
Today as I looked out of the bedroom window the sky was a uniform grey; dull, overcast and uninviting. Each morning the birds go through a daily routine. Three or four Gulls swoop on to the roof, screech, swear and scream loudly and then they swoop away in a graceful arc and glide into land on the village pub chimneys. Fat matronly pigeons sit in non isolating pairs on the back of the garden bench gossiping like two old ladies over a garden fence. More graceful and aerobatic, a squadron of crows leave the tree tops in the churchyard and fly in formation above the village and fields before taxiing into land with loud caws, back into their twig nests.
The weather has not improved as the day has dragged itself into the afternoon and still a dirty grey blanket of cloud covers the sky. The trees in the yard across the drive stand still and stark. I am reminded of Wilfred Owen’s poem “Exposure” in which “clouds sag stormy” but “nothing happens”.
With that thought I return to my tidying of yesterday and this time I come across some postcards that my paternal grandfather sent to his family and most especially one that he sent to his sister in August 1916 when he was on the Somme. The card says little except that he is alright and that he is hoping to have a letter from home the following morning. He sends his best love to all at home and says he will write again in a day or two. The card picture is of a bombed out street in a French town and the caption on the front is in French and English. It reads “Bapaume Street after several bombardments. In the foreground the tobacco shop of Madam Richard”. In the top left hand corner “Guerre 1914-1916. I presume that the address given on the front is that of the printer – G Lelong, 21 Rue St. Martin, Amiens.
Edward was born in Northiam, East Sussex in 1893 and his father owned and ran the Six Bells and Edward spent his early working life on his father’s land and in the Six Bells. When war was declared he volunteered and he saw service at Ypres and on the Somme. He married in 1917 and in December 1917 he was made a Warrant Officer Class ll in the Army Service Corps. Later in the war he was posted to northern Italy. His postcards home to his mother from there tell a grim picture of that time. His concern is often for the farm and the hop picking or harvest.
When he left the army at the end of the war he started farming. Much like my other grandfather he spoke little of his war experience to his family but I did once overhear him talking to my son.
At the time my son was of an age when war looked exciting. My grandfather, sat in an armchair, told gently but firmly of something of his experiences. Most poignantly, at the age of 91, he said he could still hear the big guns. Like my other grandfather he was given to looking into the distance with his cornflower blue eyes and thinking his own thoughts. He never forgot his fallen comrades.
When we visited on the evening when the Festival of Remembrance was televised we were required, even as young children, to sit and watch in silence. Nothing was said but Grandad had that far away look in his eye and a moistness that I now recognise as a silent tear for those who had been lost.
He, too, like my other grandfather was a gentle, kindly man, soft spoken a man of few words. Their experience and stoicism in the face of hardship and danger puts our present situation into some perspective.