Contributed by: Susan McDonald, on 2008-10-31
|Year of Birth||1879|
|Year of Death||1965|
|Place of Wartime Residence||Wigan, Lancashire|
My granddad died when I was three - I was there. One day, he was there in his bed, his large leather belt over the iron bedstead (never used in anger, but a great deterrent against misdemeanours...) - and the next day, he and the bed were gone. When I asked my mother what had happened to this man of whom I was not a little afraid, I was told he'd "gone to heaven". I think I confused this with the hospital, and thought he'd soon be back. But he did not return. I could only hear his story secondhand - how he fought in the Boer War, lying about his age so he could stay with his pals, how he fought in WWI at Paschendaele and other battles, how he went to Russia in 1919 to fight against the Bolsheviks, and then how he tried to sign up again in 1939.
buried in the mud up to his neck
But the story which most captured my imagination was the one about how his hair turned snow white. It seems he was in No Man's Land, and got buried in the mud up to his neck. He was there for a day, unable to move, and was only rescued when a Red Cross volunteer saw his eyes flicker and had him dug out. Granddad's hair had turned white overnight. Despite his experiences, he still returned for more. As I type this, I realise that had it not been for that Red Cross volunteer, I would not be here - my mother was born in January 1918, and if Grandad had perished in the Paschendaele mud, she - and therefore I - would not have been born.