Great uncle Billy and remembrance

Posted on November 11, 2012


My grandmother never travelled outside the UK. The only trip she regretted never making was to a small town on the France/Belgium border to visit the grave of one of her brothers. He died in the First World War.

My grandmother passed away in 1988 but when I was a child we were close and she spoke often about my great uncle Billy. She was the fourth of four children, he the third, so although there were a few years between them they were close.

When the war began it wasn’t long before he willingly headed off to the front. As if the odds weren’t bad enough in that conflict, he was a grenadier, one of those who climbed out of the trenches first, to go ‘over the top’.

He didn’t last long at the front. My grandmother never forgot him, never ceased to be saddened and shocked by his premature death, even as she reached her eighties.

She went on to lead a full life. Ironically for someone who never travelled beyond these shores she was probably among the first women to fly in early planes, living and working as she did in Yeovil and Yeovilton in Somerset, which later became known for Westland Aircraft and the helicopters they (mainly) produced, often for the military.

Talk of those years in her late teens and twenties was equalled by her stories about her brother when they were young.

This is a time of year when I think of them both more often than usual.

I didn’t see eye to eye with my gran politically but whatever your view on war I think it’s only fair to respect those who died too young, for a greater cause than themselves.

Billy was just a teenager when he died. When I think about 11 November, about Armistice or war in general, I think about millions of Billys.

photo credit: via photopin cc

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Posted in: Family