Friday, 11 November 2011
Why we will be silent for a minute on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
This watch belonged to Eric, he was 18 when he signed up to fight in the first world war. He was a non-commissioned officer and following initial training his first posting was to the Somme where he fought in the trenches and yes, he "went over the top". I guess you could say at this point that he was "one of the lucky ones" because he was injured and shell shocked badly enough to be returned home for convalescence. His sister Irene nursed him like a mother, encouraged him to express his depression, fear and anger through art - he did some truly moving paintings of fields, churches and the aberration of war.
After just a few short months he was assessed and proclaimed fit to return to the battlefield. Irene was devastated, she begged the authorities to reconsider, she told them that he may be physically fit, but mentally he was scarred for life, not capable of fighting. Her protests were disregarded.
Eric was sent back to Europe, this time to Belgium - Ypres. Yes the muddy killing fields of Ypres. He died from an exploding bullet to the thigh, he was just 21 years old.
Irene kept the letters that she had written to his commanding officer and the replies. She had asked about the manner of his death, did he suffer, what were his last words? The commanding officers replies were beautifully hand written in pencil on spiral bound notepaper - there were no last words of comfort for Irene.
When Irene died aged 89 all of these keepsakes were found carefully wrapped and bound in ribbon alongside a tiny pair of leather gloves that she had made for her only son who had died aged 60 just six months before she did.
Irene was my Grandmother, Eric was her only brother - she gave us this watch before she died so that we would never forget.