Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday


Perhaps this will be too somber a post.... but I thought I would share a sad little family history story on this day of remembrance.

On both of my parent's sides there have been soldiers who found themselves caught up in WWI and, also, WWII. Some women also played their part in WWII, as one of my grandmother's was in the WAAF and the other volunteered in a military hospital whilst an army wife in Rawalpindi (now Pakistan).

My mother's grandfather survived WWI to have to go and do it all again in WWII (and he survived that too!), but some men on my father's side did not come back from France. I already knew about Major William Ernest Watson DSO (6th Dragoon Guards) who went missing in action in November 1914. His family, in hope, put a notice in The Times in February 1915 requesting information, but it was eventually concluded that he died in the Battle of Messines on 31 October 1914. William left a wife and two girls. His name is engraved on the Menin Gate. This is his portrait:

But yesterday I was reconstructing another family branch, the Beckett family (Hindon, Wiltshire), and I kept coming up against a brick wall for a Philip Arthur Beckett (born 1892). Most of the rest of the family emigrated to America in 1910, but Philip did not go with them. I checked through various photocopies that my father had sent me, and then saw a note that said a certain Arthur had been shot by a sniper as soon as he reached France.

So I checked various websites, and then all the pieces began to fit together. Philip Arthur had stayed behind because he had managed to get a place at Clare College, Cambridge. He completed his education, but in November of 1915 arrived in France with the Royal West Kent Regiment. He rose in rank from private to 2/Lieutenant and was attached to the 7th batallion by the start of 1917. I then found that C T Atkinson's history of the regiment was available online, and it states what happened on the 14th of February 1917. The batallion had had two months of respite after hard fighting in Ancre, and they then returned to the front line. Trenches, I found out, had names then: they had control of 'Desire' Trench but where trying to recapture 'Grandcourt' trench. 2/Lieutenant Beckett and another one called Dix commanded the lead platoons. Unfortunately, it all appears to have gone horribly wrong in the dark, and the casualties were 'deplorably heavy'. Although he was never found, Philip Arthur's name appears on the Thiepval memorial.

Sad, and such a waste.


Wychbury said...

Thanks for sharing this, I thought my remembrance post was a bit maudlin too but I still felt the need to aknowledge those I never knew and the sacrifices they made. I grew up swearing to never to have anything to do with war and never understood that it's thanks to our ancestors that we get to make the choice they never had. Paula x

Tania said...

Sombre all you like. This is important stuff and if we're all going to go around forgetting our histories and lessons learned, then heaven help us tomorrow.

A sad waste indeed.

rachel said...

Yes, Remembrance Sunday always fetches us up short, doesn't it; I find my mind is too full of thoughts and memories all that day to post anything meaningful about it, but it's important to hear other people's stories too. My mother was born in 1917, and said that at her school in Belgium, she was one of very few girls who had a father still alive. So hard to understand the impact of WWW1 on that generation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that post. It's true, we must never forget...

mountainear said...

I am staggered that with two World Wars within living memory the slaughter of the young and promising continues. Have we not learned a thing?

Outside the Imperial War Museum North are the words 'War shapes lives'. How sadly true that is.