This is the time of year when you want to remember all those that fell in wars, old and new. That gave their lives for ‘our tomorrows. Today I want to add a new name to that list, not because he died back in WWI, but because he didn’t and I’m here today as evidence of his survival. Why now would I want to add him? Well it is because for 50 years or so, I have not known he was my grandfather. It only came to light from a chance remark my sister made (and she did not know either till very recently) about my mother’s roots. I had a grandfather of course, a large, but very gentle man to me and my sister, or at least I’ve always thought he was my grandfather! I loved him dearly and still do of course now he has been gone for many years. My childhood would not have been the same wiothout him. I have not anyone else to fill his palce in my life. Alas my real grandfather has passed on before I could get to know him, but I have the notion that he fathered my mother (and that’s a story for another time), and hence he became my maternal grandfather.
Alfred, a simple farm labourer, volunteered during 1916 and was posted as a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) to the Somme during late July 1916. If he had joined any earlier and had been posted a few weeks earlier, he would have seen the July 1st offensive against the German lines and maybe not have lived to tell the tale. As it happens he arrived at a place called Fricourt which as one of the many front lines was a place of both success and failures. As a gunner he would have been subject to much shellfire, but managed to survive the whole of 1916. During this period his unit, the 67th RGA, was also posted to Passiondale and Armens, both hot spots of WWI. He finally surccumed to a shrapnel injury in late 1917 and returned home via one of the many hospital ships, being then discharged during 1918. This is though, not a story of heroism, he was no hero, he has no special honours bestowed upon him, just the campaign medals he received during 1921.
So I will remember him in particular, along with those less fortunate than Alfred, and thank him for my beginnings in life. I’ll never love him as I loved the grandfather I knew of course, but there will now be a place in my memory for him and a reason to still find out more of what happened back then during WWI and how he became to be my garndfather.