Last year on Remembrance Day my daughter asked me if we had anybody in our family who had fought in the war. My response?
“Ummmmm ya sure. Quiet, the ceremony is starting.”
Truth be told I felt really ashamed that I didn’t know what to tell her. I knew that both of my grandfathers had served but that was about it. No details, no dates, no stories of bravery. I made a promise to myself to be better educated this year.
World War I lasted just over four years. From July 1914 to November 1918. Both of my grandfathers were in their late teens. About the same age that my son is now. I can’t even imagine.
I can’t say that I really knew either or my grandfathers. My parents moved to Canada when they were in their twenties and eventually chose to settle in British Columbia. As a result, I didn’t have a chance to get to know any of my grandparents as I would have liked to.
Arthur Hamilton, my dad’s father, was called Pop. I met him maybe three or four times for very short periods when I was young. What I do remember about him was his energy. Much like my dad’s, it was boundless. He and Mop, my grandmother, spent many years living in India (where my father was born) and he was a forester who loved hiking, fishing and trapping small animals. Don’t ask.
Pop was nineteen when had been in the Territorial Army for about a year. He was injured for the first time while riding dispatch for the 8th Battalion. The bullet that ended up in his thigh was still there when he passed away. After he recovered he served a year in Suez and then volunteered for a tank corps. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in leading his tank battalion to a battle by walking ahead of them on a foggy dark night.
Edward Brockman, my mom’s dad, was called Poppa. He never came to Canada and I only visited England twice while he was alive. I don’t even remember talking to him. From what my mom has told me he was very much a “children should be seen and not heard” kind of guy. He was a well-respected orthopedic surgeon who was, to put it lightly, quite stern. Oh, how am I kidding, he scared the crap out of me as he stood by the fireplace in the library and looked over his spectacles at us.
My Poppa was at Cambridge studying medicine when the war broke out. He was drafted into the Royal Navy as a midshipman as he hadn’t competed his studies to be a licensed doctor in the service. My mom’s not clear on what type of ship he was in or where it was but she knows that at some point a shop close to them was hit and he witnessed people struggling in the burning water.
I asked my mom if she had any more details about her father’s service and she said that many servicemen didn’t want to talk about their experiences.
“We just have to imagine what hell they went through and remember what they did for our country to make it what it is today”
So now I have something to tell my daughter on Wednesday as we thank the men and women who served.
The Best Thing in Life is learning YOUR history. Talk to your parents or your grand parents. Go to the library. Do whatever you need to do to learn what your ancestors did to ensure your freedom.
LEST WE FORGET