18 December 2020
Had he still been alive, a few days ago would have been my dear Dad’s 101st birthday. Sadly he passed away many years ago and my dear mother has now been with him for a few years too, they are at peace together. With these family members as well as earlier generations having passed away long since, I feel that some of their story may be shared.
From my research over very many years, I have managed to piece together items from a few sources by chatting to elderly relatives, looking through old registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths and searching a few rather useful websites. I even spent some time down in London, looking through the archives there. It was and still is really fascinating to me to piece various items together and learn how apparently disparate events can lead to such beginnings. In fact, chatting to my dear mother a few years ago I was able to add in an extra piece of this, our family jigsaw puzzle, that she didn’t know.
As you might imagine from my own surname, a few generations back one side of the family originated in Wales. But it seems that when one of my ancestors had a dalliance with a young lady ‘below stairs’, he was sent away in disgrace. This led him to eventually settle in London. Mention was once made of time in Canada, but I’ve never been able to learn any more on that so I’m unsure if that is true or not. This would have been my paternal great-grandfather, so it was in London he met my paternal great-grandmother. Quite where they lived in London I am unsure, I’m still researching that, but I do know that my paternal grandfather went to a school in Westminster.
Meanwhile, another side of the family originated in Cornwall and they were working in the tin mines. When the work there was ending, they moved to the copper and coal mines in South Wales, where it was that my maternal great-grandparents met and married each other. They moved to do chalk mining in Suffolk, before moving to London and that is where my mother was born. So it was London where my paternal grandparents met and then married, as did my parents. That is also where I and my two elder brothers were born.
This means that I and my brothers have a mixture of Welsh and Cornish blood in us. Back in the days of the Spanish Armada, when the Spaniards landed on the English coast, many were simply killed but then some were allowed to stay and live with the locals, integrating themselves into the community. Hence the difference in hair colouring in my two brothers and I, as two of us have very fair hair, whilst the other has black hair, a very different build and quite a different temperament. A sign, I believe, of some Spanish blood!
Looking back at World War One, my maternal great-grandfather was in the Royal Navy as a Leading Stoker on the ‘Tipperary’ at the Battle of Jutland. He was in the engine room of the ship as it was hit by enemy gunfire and began to go down, but he was able to escape. He was in the water for a while, but was then spotted by sailors on a nearby British ship. By this time he was covered in oil and with a heavy beard, along with a weather-beaten face, he was initially thought to be a German and was about to be ignored. However a stream of Anglo-Saxon expletives spoken in a broad, Cornish accent soon informed the British sailors what would happen to them if they did not pick him up! He is in fact named and his rescue detailed by HMS Dublin in the Battle of Jutland Official Despatches, of which I have a copy. What fascinates me even more is that in these Despatches, I read that HMS Dublin actually lost sight of any enemy ships due to the fog. A shell had passed through the chart house and had affected their standard compass, in addition they could not navigate by dead reckoning (estimating course and speed) as their Navigating Officer had been killed and the charts in the chart house badly damaged. So as a result, they did a ‘best-guess’ of what course would bring them in contact with other ships of their squadron. It was only then, whilst on this ‘best guess’ course, that they came across my great-grandfather!
My paternal grandfather was in the Light Infantry. He walked very quickly, so as a child I often had to trot to keep up with him! During World War I he was at the Somme and Ypres (to which he always referred to as ‘wipers’), but he was captured and held in a prisoner of war camp. Whilst there, he and others survived by various means, including diverting the attention of their captors and breaking into the storage sheds where food was kept and then sharing what they had stolen with their fellow prisoners. He worked in a machine shop there and shortly before the end of the war he was injured by a piece of machinery, where he lost the third finger and part of the second finger of his right hand. He was due to return home on a troop ship, but at the last minute a doctor decided that he was not fit to go home, so he stayed for a little while longer. However, the troop ship he was booked on was then sunk, probably by a mine, and his wife was initially told that he had died. A short while later he caught another ship home. One can only imagine what happened when he arrived back home in London and their front door was then opened!
Moving on to World War II. At that time, my father was in the army and therefore was sent on a training course prior to being sent overseas. Except he broke his shoulder on the course, so had to stay in the UK. He learned about various kinds of ammunition, bombs etc and warned my mother (who he was dating at the time) about some bombs having a delayed action. As a result, my mother knew to wait a while when she and her mother, whilst in an Anderson shelter, heard a bomb hit the ground but not explode. They waited and waited, but just as they went to leave the shelter the bomb exploded. My mother had just enough time to turn her back to shield her mother from the blast, but this gave my dear mother a horrific back wound and she was initially told she would never walk again. She told my father to walk away and leave her as he wouldn’t want to marry a cripple, to which my father replied “I’m not marrying a cripple, I’m marrying you.” My mother replied that in that case, she would walk up the aisle of the church. Which she did. In fact, dear Mum bore us three boys and then reached the grand age of 95 before she passed away with, I am told, a peaceful, quiet smile on her face.
It is a sobering thought to realise that without all these events occurring as they did then I, my brothers, nephews and nieces et al would not be here!
Finally for now, an exercise in logic:
A wife asks her husband, “Would you please go shopping for me, buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6.”
A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.
The wife asks him, “Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?”
He replied, “They had eggs.”