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|26th December 2003 |
Fred Lloyd - War Veteran
Another Christmas passes and the number of veterans from World War I continues to fall. Mike Thomson asks Fred Lloyd about the changing nature of war - and if conflict is the only solution.
He was only 18 when he first set foot on the bloodied battlefields of France at the end of 1916. He had already lost an older brother in the Battle of the Somme earlier the same year, and had just survived a crippling bout of meningitis.
Now a great grandfather, Fred was born in Queen Victoria’s reign in 1898, he was too young to enlist in the services in 1914, but applied to join his local Sussex Regiment that year.
Turned down because he was too short (5'7"), he joined the Royal Artillery and began training on Salisbury Plain but was struck down with such a bad case of meningitis that doctors feared he would not survive.
Months later, he was picking his way through the mud of northern France bringing horses and guns towards the front trenches from army bases further behind the lines.
He served in the veterinary division, whose main responsibility was keeping open the vital lines of supply to troops on the front - since horses were still a key method of transportation for munitions.
One of 16 children, he lost two brothers in the First World War - William, a Scots Guard, was killed at Arras in 1914, while Thomas died at the Somme two years later.
During the Second World War, Mr Lloyd served in the home guard before working as a gardener until he was nearly 70. He retired, in 1968, when Harold Wilson was prime minister.
Thoughts on the war
Despite being hailed as a war hero - Mr Lloyd claims many wars over the last century have been pointless. He believes political will could avert the deaths of thousands of young men. Particularly nowadays, because of advanced technological warfare, many more civilians are killed.
His memories of the first war are stark and unromantic. Living in confined spaces, the soldiers had to endure cat sized rats and repeated lice infestations.They were not able to have a bath at anytime during their service in France.
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