My grandfather’s older brother, Christy, served in the Great War. His eyes and lungs were destroyed by gas in the trenches. My memory is his thick glasses like the bottom of milk bottles and a hacking cough that disgusted us kids.
He joined in 1914 because Lloyd George promised Home Rule after the war if Irishmen served. 210,000 men did and 35,000 died. Lloyd George reneged on his promise in 1918. After demob, Christy fought for independence until 1922. Like many men I met from that war, his bitterness was not his damaged health but perfidy. With national amnesia we never commemorated WW1 in Ireland, the living and dead forgotten.
This month I’ll silently remember Christy on 100 Armistice Day, Sunday 11 November. In my local village, Liddington, we’ll have an evening of poetry, stories and exhibits. We’ll also reflect on those who survived with their mental and physical scars, the widows who raised children in dire circumstances, the soldiers from the colonies who are often forgotten.
We’ve researched the eight names on the Lych Gate by Liddington Church and we’ll have poems about Wiltshire soldiers written by Wiltshire poets. Join us, it’s free.
I came across a poem recently by Gerrit Enkele, a German soldier. He was engaged to a woman who was already a war widow. This poem to his fiancé could have been written by any soldier:
I am a soldier and stand in the field,
Gun on the arm and far from the world.
Were I at home, I would close door and window
And remain alone for a long time,
Sink into the sofa’s corner,
With closed eyes, think of you.
Let’s remember them all.
First published in Swindon Link Magazine