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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Fortunate to have known them


Khaki

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Sitting here by myself in my armchair with a blanket over me (its cold), my mind wandered to the Great War veterans that I knew as friends or family and it dawned on me that with the passing of the last veterans world wide that it also gave birth to a generation who could never say that they met one. It's not that knowing them was a life changing event, they were just senior citizens as I am now, perhaps a few anecdotal stories came my way and the odd souvenir given to me but there is a 'warmth' in a memory that is also a link to those great events of those yesterdays.

old and cold

khaki

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Several decades ago when I was a Student Nurse, our hospital had several trainee doctors from Germany who were improving their English as well as learning their profession. Being junior they had the task of admitting new patients, and taking the working notes for their dept. I remember with great fondness the opening exchange between one young doctor and an elderly gentleman who I just finished taking ward notes from. The exchange went as follows "Ah good afternoon, I am Doctor Schmidt, now tell have you ever been in hospital before?" "Yes Doctor, 1916, you Bu**ers did it!"

A fine generation sadly gone.

G

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I had the great good fortune to be with Arthur Halestrap when he visited Talbot House. My abiding memory is the twinkle in his eye as he insisted that all the ladies give him the customary continental cheek kisses. At Talbot House, he was introduced to a really stunning Belgian TV lady. After the kisses , he caught my eye and we exchanged blokey confirmations of our mutual appreciation in the time honoured manner. He was a lovely feller.

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Sitting here by myself in my armchair with a blanket over me (its cold), my mind wandered to the Great War veterans that I knew as friends or family and it dawned on me that with the passing of the last veterans world wide that it also gave birth to a generation who could never say that they met one. It's not that knowing them was a life changing event, they were just senior citizens as I am now, perhaps a few anecdotal stories came my way and the odd souvenir given to me but there is a 'warmth' in a memory that is also a link to those great events of those yesterdays.

old and cold

khaki

I know how you feel, I met and knew quite a few when I were a pup, went to school and played out with their kids, I went on a trip to Belgium with a coach load of them in 1975. Now I'm kicking myself because I can't remember all the tales I was told over the years. All I have left is an M.M. badge given to me by Billy Walker. May they rest in peace and never be forgotten.

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I suppose I had the luck to be well on the way to 50 yo before the last of my ww1 relatives passed away. From a quick count only two male, near relatives did not serve in some shape or form in the armed forces

during the war. Of the ones that I knew (many of them still resided in UK and were unaccessable) never seemed to be affected by their experiences of the war and just got on with their lives the best way that they

could. Of course talk of the GW was generally very brief and related to normal life experiences. Life in the trenches was never touched upon.

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I remember sitting in Arthur Daulman's front room and seeing all of the lace he had brought back from Ypres. Amazing stuff - cloth hall in lace was amazing. I eventually managed to get him to write a few pages down for me but he rarely talked of his experience. We also used to visit Galanos House in Warwickshire and talk for hours to the Great War Vets.


Great memories.


http://www.ypressalient.co.uk/War%20Diaries/Arthur%20Daulman%20wd.htm



Steve M


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A great thread, here's hoping it turns into a 'classic', very interested in hearing more members' stories (assuming there are no other similar threads?).

I was never really old enough to meet, or at least have any real awareness of GW veterans, but knowing what I know now I would have been deeply honoured to do so.

I have only vague memories of my great uncle Fred who served with the 12th Londons/Rangers and ASC and was recently given a picture of him standing next to me as a babe in arms - a very special photo for me.

Tom

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to quote Joni Mitchell "you don`t know what you`re got till it`s gone"

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Given that the last British veterans of Waterloo died in the 1890s and the last survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1927, I wonder if any of the Great War generation had a similar conversations about them? To think of Waterloo survivors and my grandparents co-existing provides food for thought! The wheels of history seem to grind frighteningly quickly as you advance in age!

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Hello IRC Kevin,

I am sure that the GW generation had conversations about the old soldiers of earlier wars, if family, most certainly, I am confidant that fathers would have pointed out an old man who was at Waterloo, I recall seeing in an old soldiers home in New Zealand, photo's of GW NZers in uniform visiting the old soldiers of the 1850/60's.

khaki

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Back in the late 70s the Birmingham Evening Mail published a special to celebrate the RAF's 60th anniversary in which there were accounts from a whole variety of Midlands servicemen and women across the years. As a kid with an interest in all things to do with aircraft, I wrote to 3 or 4 of them and was fortunate enough to actually meet a couple of them, one of whom, Charles Crosbee, had served in the RFC, been shot down and taken prisoner in 1918.

I think now what an incredible privilege it was to have been able to spend time in his company and to hear first-hand about what it was like to be a pilot on the Western Front. He was modest and humorous and generously gave me a couple of buttons from his dress tunic. They were precious and I must have put them somewhere safe at some point but who knows where they are now!

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They struck me as being very " matter of fact" guys, absorbed in the humdrum routine of life, and not in the least bit inclined to hyperbole.

Perhaps that's what comes from being in extremis for a while.

Phil (PJA)

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Given that the last British veterans of Waterloo died in the 1890s and the last survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1927, I wonder if any of the Great War generation had a similar conversations about them? To think of Waterloo survivors and my grandparents co-existing provides food for thought! The wheels of history seem to grind frighteningly quickly as you advance in age!

There was an interesting article by Chris Lowry recently in 'History Today' on the idea of our "mirror year": "Start with the year you were born, then simply subtract your age. The result is your 'mirror year'. For example, if you've recently turned 25 then subtract that number from the year 1989 to get a mirror year of 1964."

The article asks "why do that?" Well, it gives another perspective from which to view our lives. For instance, I am 52: my mirror year is 1910. The day I was born is nearer to August 1914 than it is to today. Suppose you know an old lady aged 102: her mirror year is before the Battle of Waterloo.

Lowry: "There are still a handful of people who were born in the 19th century. And this is where the concept of the mirror year becomes truly mind-boggling. Think about it for a moment. There are, still alive today, people whose date of birth is closer to the French Revolution - to that morning in the summer of 1789 when musket-carrying Parisians stormed the Bastille - than to this present moment."

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I was born in 1979, and I'm sure at some point I'm sure I crossed paths with Great War veterans, but I would not have been aware of their status and none were relatives. I was fortunate to have been able to know and be close to seven World War II veterans from my family from all branches. My son is now eleven years old and loves history so anytime I see someone with a WWII veteran hat, or otherwise know them to be a veterans, I make sure my son meets them. He never got to know the good men I knew.

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Back in 1979 as a young lad of 22 I was in London Hospital Whitechapel recovering from surgery ,around 1am in to the ward the nurses admitted a tramp found passed out in Spittlefields,

a very posh young nurse was reading his notes out aloud and said " Oh I see you were in the trenches ,what was it like ? " The tramp replied " Fxxxing awful!"

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There was an interesting article by Chris Lowry recently in 'History Today' on the idea of our "mirror year": "Start with the year you were born, then simply subtract your age. The result is your 'mirror year'. For example, if you've recently turned 25 then subtract that number from the year 1989 to get a mirror year of 1964."

The article asks "why do that?" Well, it gives another perspective from which to view our lives. For instance, I am 52: my mirror year is 1910. The day I was born is nearer to August 1914 than it is to today. Suppose you know an old lady aged 102: her mirror year is before the Battle of Waterloo.

Lowry: "There are still a handful of people who were born in the 19th century. And this is where the concept of the mirror year becomes truly mind-boggling. Think about it for a moment. There are, still alive today, people whose date of birth is closer to the French Revolution - to that morning in the summer of 1789 when musket-carrying Parisians stormed the Bastille - than to this present moment."

Grandsons of the 10th American president yet live, even though he was born in 1790.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2092227/US-president-John-Tylers-grandsons-STILL-ALIVE.html

So these still living gentlemen had a father who lived through the Civil War as a child.

Derek.

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This mirror year notion is a sobering thing to contemplate.

Mine would be 1892, and I would have been twenty two years old in August 1914.

It gets even more sobering when you select a significant event in your early adult life : I was married thirty seven years ago...it's hard to believe how recent the event still feels. When I apply that time gap to the date of my birth and go back, I arrive in 1916.

Phil (PJA)

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My father and many of my mother's brothers served in WW1. One of her brothers took a steam roller to France in 1939, sorry that's off limits but it was only 20 odd years later. I recall many years ago visiting my father brother in law who had also served in WWI, I had not met him before. I noted and remarked on a framed MM hanging in his home. He said 'they came up with the rations'.

Old Tom

ps my mirror year is 1850. I don't think there was a war on then

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Extending this slightly - article in Saturday's newspaper about a new, long, long overdue memorial to Korea, many veterans (I do mean many) of which I was very privileged not only to know, but to serve alongside. It astounded me to read that the British Korean Veterans Association are disbanding as even the youngest are now in their '80s . . . . crumbs !

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Here's another thing to ponder : a soldier embarking for the Dardanelles in the spring or summer of 1915 would have contemplated the time distance of the Crimean War as we do that of the Korean conflict.

Phil (PJA)

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I had the good fortune of, briefly, meeting Harry Patch. A real gent and before I met him, I was asked, by the home staff, not to ask about the war as he didn't really like talking about it. I also had the great honour of lining the street at his funeral.

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As a young lad at work in the early 1970s we were based in the Fireman's office at the Daily Express in Fleet Street ,most of the lads were all ex military service many WW2 and RN ,the tales they swapped many unprintable! concerned their times and experiences in the flesh pots of the Empire which to a young lad seemed very funny but in equal measure a bit shocking ,they would also recall similar tales passed on to them by ex Lads from the RN in the Great War equally funny and the war it self a background to their adventures.

I also had the privilege to spend some time with 2 ex sailors one who went in as a Boy Sailor in 1912 ,had some great tales of the pre war Navy and the other lad was off Ostend in 1918 his attitude towards the Germans was harsh in the extrem.

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As we all know, when the Queen came to the throne her Prime Minister was GW veteran Winston Churchill. So what? you say, there are umpteen people alive now who worked with GW veterans. Well, Churchill saw Gladstone speak in the House of Commons. And Gladstone sat in the Commons with George Byng, who was first elected in 1790. So, four working lives, and that span of history.

We might also mention Peter Conover Hains, who graduated from West Point in 1861, served during the ACW and served also during the GW. So Hains was in the Army with Winfield Scott, who served in the War of 1812; and also with Douglas MacArthur, who served in Korea.

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