Reading the tweets of various people I follow in the UK who have been at Remembrance services this morning reminds me all too much of a cultural difference. Remembrance is not done the same way here. Parliament voted last February that this year, for the first time, the date was to commemorate the fallen in the First World War and all the French fallen. There was a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe attended by the President and Prime Minister:
From attendance at ceremonies when I was a cub and a scout to later years when I didn’t attend but took a little time out myself on 11th November there was never before anything which touched me personally. A then friend went to the Falklands and came back. My father tried to go to Korea for his National Service but went to Austria instead. Despite being one of a family of ten only his two eldest brothers fought in the Second World War, one in North Africa and Italy and survived through it all and the other lost a leg in France. By timing it had seemed we were lucky, no one was old enough or young enough to have fought in the First World War.
Last year I had started rehearsals of Oh What A Lovely War where I played an ordinary soldier in the First World War. In November I was in Australia and attended a Remembrance Day Service in Adelaide as I posted here.
This year, for the first time, there is a family member I shall be remembering. If my father’s side of the family were lucky in either surviving or avoiding war then I have discovered recently that the brother of my maternal Great-Grandfather died on the Somme on 28th March 1918. According to the censuses he was a wire worker in Oldham, an ancillary trade to blacksmiths who took the formed metal and pulled it through a metal hole of reducing size to make wire. He was single 27 year-old on the 1911 census but by the time he died on 28th March 1918 he was married with two sons. I have not managed to find a service record to find when he joined up but he was a member of the 6th Batallion of the 1st Manchester Regiment.(Badge shown) The record show that on 4th August 1914 the battalion were at 3 Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester and a the end of that month they moved as part of the Manchester Brigade, East Lancashire Division into camp at Hollingworth Lake near Littleborough near Rochdale. On 10th September 1915 the battalion sailed from Southampton for Egypt arriving Alexandria, 25th September. They landed at Gallipoli on 6th May 1915 with the 5th Battalion at W and V beaches , 26th May 1915 the formation became part of the 127th Brigade, 42nd (East Lancs.) Division. On the 8th & 9th January the battalion was evacuated via Mudros to Egypt. In March 1917 the battalion was sent to France and on 11th November 1918, as part of the 127th Brigade 42nd Division they were in France in Hautmont Area, S. W of Maubeuge.
On 21 March 1918 the German army launched an attack on the British Army to try and break through and drive through to the sea to drive the British out of the war before the Americans arrived. The Germans advanced between 40 and about 6 miles, depending upon the account you believe, but then stopped as the troops discovered the joys of the property behind the lines which had been abandoned. What happened in between that attack and the one week later that my relative died I have not been able to discover. The history of the regiment will have to be researched in the future.
What I have been able to find through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site is that his memorial is at the Arras Memorial, Pas-de-Calais France, pictured. Which is a visit I shall have to make.