A great comment from Meryl to The Passing-Bells post, warranting yet further comment:
Lovely review – many thanks. Coincidentally, I just saw this show – I was prompted by the Dunkirk trailer.
The young Scotsman (Jack Lowden) who played the German soldier (who was also rather good in War and Peace) is in the upcoming Dunkirk.
I really enjoyed The Passing Bells- especially the final scene, and I have especially enjoyed finding out recently that the two sides played more than one game of football and swapped food and cigarettes on numerous occasions – all details scrubbed from the official unit war diaries. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/12058701/The-forgotten-Christmas-truce-the-British-tried-to-suppress.html
Wilfred Owen was from Oswestry – where I went to boarding school for 5 years. His legacy is beloved and never forgotten there xx M
“Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) is widely recognised as one of the greatest voices of the First World War. He was born in Oswestry, and brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury. Although he spent only a few years of his life here in Oswestry, his family history goes back generations and his grandfather was once mayor of the town. Oswestry Visitor & Exhibition Centre has a permanent display of Wilfred Owen’s letters to his mother and visitors who want to know more about his life in the town can download the Wilfred Owen Town Trail which will show you places in his life. “
I agree with the ending being true to the reality of war, but dramatically poignant and elevating, then commemorating.
Loved hearing that you went to school in Oswestry, and that his legacy is beloved and never forgotten. I enjoyed reading a few of his letters to his mother online, and noted that he did not go out of his way to hide detail of the war from her, as some of the other characters dissembled the awful reality to their parents in their letters, to spare them worrying.
It seems timely to mention your incredible skill, M, with Ancestry family history research which has revealed amazing tree branches and depth of history.
One such extension to the Frederick family tree was Henry Frederick Williams. Fredericks, as much or more than any family of those days, commemorated their forebears by using their names far and wide in the following generations. My grand-father, Bernard, had six sisters, two of whom were older, Elizabeth and Anna (Annie). Elizabeth married Henry (Harry) Williams, in Ballarat, where the Frederick siblings had largely grown up, except for an early stint on the near-by goldfields at Rocky Lead. Lizzy and Harry’s second son, Harry also, enlisted from Ballarat within weeks of declaration of World War 1, spending the next few weeks only in training, before embarking with his 6th Batallion (exclusively volunteer from Victoria) in Company C, arriving on the troopship Galeka, into Alexandria, in April 1915. (Lizzie and Harry had relocated to farming areas east of Perth, and were accompanied by Lizzie’s sister Annie, (who later married there at the age of 38, never having children). I imagine that they went there for the farm labouring work, but wonder if some cousins, Jacob’s children, had also relocated there.)
Twenty-one year old Harry, has on his archival war record all of the famous names of Gallipoli and Anzac Cove ( Mena, Abbassia, Dardanelles, Pembroke Camp Malta, Mustapha Barracks, Alexandria, Lemnos, Serapeum, as well as troop and hospital ships, Galeka, Braemar Castle, Seeang Bee, Megantic, Empress of Britain, and finally, Ballarat to Marseilles!). He spent an early week ill with enteritis, as many did, then presumeably was in the 6th Batallion’s second wave onto Anzac Cove on 25th April, to receive a GSW (gun-shot wound) to the shoulder on 3rd April. A few months later, he rejoined his unit, including a rest on Lemnos for a few weeks, before going to France and Belgium. At Étaples, he received a severe GSW on 21st Aug 1916, shattering the tibia of one leg, requiring treatment in York, England, including removal of infection and sequestered bone, and six months convalescence before rejoining unit in July 1917. On 20th September, he received a GSW in chest. It would appear that this was during the battle for Glencorse Wood (Belgium), and Sergeant Harry received the DCM. Second Lieutenant Birks famously received the VC posthumously.
On the right flank, Lieutenant William McIntosh, along with Sergeant Harry Williams and a few men, attacked and captured the blockhouse called Fitzclarence Farm, taking an officer, and about 50 Germans as prisoners as well as two machine guns.*
Following a brief recovery period from his GSW to the chest, Harry rejoined his Unit again in early October.
The rain stopped on the 9th, and the battalion boarded buses at Shrapnel Corner for a tented camp outside the village of Reninghelst. Despite the extremely muddy conditions, training continued with most attention being given to the specialist sections. Enemy aircraft flew frequently overhead, dropping bombs. The increase in bombing raids led to special precautions being taken, such as the camp lights being screened at night. The fine work done by Lieutenant McLachlan and the batallion’s Intelligence Section in collecting enemy documents during the October battles, was recognized when Major Butler of 1st Division HQ, sent a congratulatory message to Colonel Day on 15th October.
A brief respite from the constant training occurred on 20th October when the 6th Batallion played and defeated its “sister” batallion, the 58th, at football. On the next day, General Birdwood presented medals to some members of the batallion. Although medal presentations were often made by senior officers on a formal parade, when the batallion was in the front line, it was not uncommon for the medals to come up with the nightly rations.
Detailed orders came out on 25th October.*
Harry was killed in action on 28th October 1917.
Here ends the war for our Harry Williams, my father’s cousin. Dad was four and a half when he died. John has commented that these days, soldiers are not so repeatedly sent back to the front following so many injuries. Harry was 4th time unlucky.
He is buried at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burial ground for the dead of 1917-1918 in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendale, near Zonnebeke in Belgium.
As with Rudyard Kipling, Harry’s father had to have repeated letters spanning about 7 years to find where his son’s grave was and between whom he lay. Elizabeth was the beneficiary of his Will, consisting of disc, wallet, notecase, photos.
Elizabeth died in 1959 aged 91, outlasting all her younger siblings. Harry’s older brother, John (Jack) wrote to my Auntie Bell to inform her of his mother’s death:
“She is the last of the Frederick family. A very distinguished family and one of which mother was very proud. Mother had a very simple faith. She was convinced that when her time came, her little daughter Belle and Harry (killed in 1914-1918 war) together with the entire Frederick family would be gathered there to meet her as she entered the pearly gates. I mention this because when I went to the funeral parlour to take a last look at mother it did seem as though there were others there. There was no quesion of an apparition or anything like that, but there definitely was a feeling of the presence of people. Years earlier, mother used to say a few lines of a poem,
“Oh, for the sound of a voice that is still
Oh, for the touch of a vanished hand”
As I stood there, those words came back with a wonderful clarity. These experiences I mentioned to a friend who put it down to overwrought nerves and emotional tension. Maybe, but it was a comforting experience.
Just recently, Joy Wood, Aunt Carrie’s daughter, called on us. She had lost Aunt Nellie some months ago. So now the whole family has passed away. My memory of them all is very vivid. I knew them all as early as the days when Nellie and Sophia went to school. They were wonderful people – I only hope that mother’s faith was fulfilled.”………
Many years later, in her latter days, Aunty Bell expressed anxiety to my mother that, on entering Heaven, she would not be able to find her parents and brothers (Bell, too, had outlived all her younger brothers). My mother reassured her fully to her satisfaction, with her authoritative certainty, that she need have no concern whatsoever, that they would all be standing there, waiting, at the Entrance on her arrival!