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Trev

Battle of Passchendaele - 100 Years on

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Trev   

As many are no doubt aware, today marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the battle of Passchendaele. One of the most brutal and bloody battles in human history, not just WW1.

I would like to invite any enthusiast to share their WW1 family tales. Especially (but by no means exclusively) if to do with the battle of Passchendaele.

My grandfather was one of 5 brothers from a working class family in Plymouth who served in WW1. While he did not serve in Passchandale, he did serve in Istanbul (formally known as Constantinople). To my shame, I do not yet know where the other 4 brothers (my great uncles) served. Only 2 of the 5 survived the war.

I am told that he as a young man marched down union street to Millbay docks in order to board a ship of some kind. What that ship was, and where it was bound I have no idea - but I do know as mentioned that my grand father was ultimately bound for Turkey.

As part of a personal family project which I have started today, I would be really interested and grateful if an enthusiast could perhaps shed some light on what sort of ship was used to carry my grandfather and to where and what sort of logistics might have been involved to get him and his mates to the front lines of Turkey (or elsewhere if known). If anything else, pointing me in the right direction would be incredible.

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Troopships were usually converted passenger ships pressed into Government service. They were all sorts of shapes and sizes from Atlantic liners to the intermediate liners that serviced the British Empire.

My Grandfather served with the artillery but, like so many people who served in WW1, did not speak of his experiences.

Given the facilities on the internet these days it may well be possible to track down the fate of your Great Uncles and possibly where they are buried if records exist. Some years ago a friend of mine tracked down his own Great Uncle and discovered he was buried on the Somme. We made a visit over there and paid our respects to his headstone. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is the place to start looking.

Over the years my Wife and I have visited many of the WW1 and WW2 cemeteries and many of the battlefields of both wars in France, Belgium and Crete. Always they are places of quiet reflection and gratitude that my generation never had to make the sacrifices that they did.

At all the British cemeteries you will find a visitors book in which you can record your thoughts. Reading the earlier entries is something that will move most people to tears.

Colin

Edited by cvabishop
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neilcvx   

My great grandfather lied about his age to fight there he was 48 said he was 35, apparently he had massive scars on his back from laying barbed wire and continued to fight in Italy against the Austrians until 1919 a long way from home and a massive sacrifice.

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Nice to see a response on this topic as opposed to the many posts concerning a £5 increase in booking deposits! :S

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Trev   

cvabishop & neilcvx

Amazing contributions, thank you.

On 7/31/2017 at 19:26, cvabishop said:

My Grandfather served with the artillery but, like so many people who served in WW1, did not speak of his experiences.

My grandfather was much the same and spoke very little about his experiences.  He was a rather eccentric man (the kind of man who used his WW1 helmet as a hanging basket and brought home shell cases for the fireplace) and he brought home a sort of large curved dagger or sword, not exactly standard issue and hung it above the fireplace in his home. He would not say anything about it, other than he got it in Turkey which lead to much speculation in the family for quite some years.

Unfortunately about once a month maybe he had bad dreams - from this the family just knew not to ask too many questions.

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Gareth   

This thread has made me feel younger than I should!  My grandfathers were heavily involved in WW2 but WW1 was a bit before their time.  No doubt I did have relatives from earlier generations that were involved with WW1 etc but I'm afraid I do not have any information about them to be able to share.

What I do have is very vivid memories of a visit I made to Ypres in 2006.  The In Flanders Fields museum was a very emotive experience, and I will never forget my visit to the Menin Gate.   For the benefit of any of you who have not seen it, imagine something not quite as large as the Arc de Triomphe but not far off.  Imagine it covered from head to foot, all the way round on all sides and in the lining of all orifices, with the inscriptions of millions of names.  And then imagine the horror of discovering that these were not the names of all of those who lost their lives in the Battle of Passchendaele - it was just those whose remains were never found.

Makes me cry just thinking about it now.

Edited by Gareth
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Millsy   

My Grandfather would never talk about it, never attend remembrance day parades, showed me his medals once on my insistence, and would not wear a poppy as it had the name Haig on it.  Neither would he talk much about the 'sequel' where he was an auxiliary fireman fighting the Blitz in Bristol aged 50, after a day's work to boot. He was moreover only about 4 foot 6 and wore surgical boots and leg irons as a result of childhood illnesses. He would not have approved of this continued memorialising and especially continually encouraging young people to 'empathise' through battlefield expeditions and the like. If they really want to know what it was like I suggest they visit the M 33 exhibition on the Dardenelles at Portsmouth, learn, inwardly digest, reflect on what 'locked and loaded' really means for about a minute and then do what we should all do - look forward.

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I agree that there should be no place for mawkish sympathetic emoting which seems to be rather popular these days but I do feel that there should be an understanding of the effects of war and its consequences if only to help reduce the chances of it happening again although the Middle East seems to go its own way on that.

Good as it is, I don't think that the M33 is really anything much more than a cinematic experience compared with standing amongst the endless gravestones of Tyne Cot and Omaha Beach viewing the the names of the missing on the Thiepval Memorial and the seeing countless and poignant smaller cemeteries with their inscriptions all around Europe. That way you really do get a sobering sense of the scale of the two World War conflicts.

And as for the violence, a visit to the Verdun battlefield where the topography is still graphically devastated is an education in itself.

Colin

 

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