After my Mum died a couple of years ago my Dad handed me a small package of things he said she wanted me to have.
Among the items were my grandfather’s World War One medals and a photocopy of a part of a page from the Isle of Wight County Press of September 4, 1915 – roughly a year into the war.
The main item on the page is about ‘The Royal Edward disaster’ – a troopship torpedoed by an enemy submarine in the Aegean Sea. Of 250 soldiers from the 13th Hampshire Regiment on board, only 26 survived and the report listed 15 Island men thought to have gone to a ‘watery grave’.
My grandfather was mentioned on the same page, but it seems he was ‘luckier’. His short paragraph reads: “Pte E Gates, 2nd Hants Regiment, son of Mrs and Mrs F Gates, of South Leigh Poultry Farm, Gunville, has been wounded at Gallipoli. In a letter home he says he has a bayonet wound in one knee and a shrapnel wound near the ankle in the other leg. Both are serious, and although he is doing well in hospital at Alexandria, he thinks it will be a long time before he fully recovers.”
Nearly 70,000 Allied troops died in the short Gallipoli campaign, so my granddad, Ernie, was indeed lucky to make it home.
In fact, he died when I was just a toddler so I never had the chance to ask him about the war or whether he ever did ‘fully recover’, but from what I’m told, like many others, he rarely mentioned it.
It was to these rather battered and worn medals and the short item in his local paper that I turned to this week as the country marked Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day – it’s what makes Remembrance personal for me. Yes, my granddad survived – if he hadn’t I wouldn’t be here today – but so many of his friends and comrades did not; so many grieving parents and widows, that’s what I was thinking about during those two silent minutes on Sunday and Monday. That and, of course, my Mum.