Yesterday, I received some real mail in my real mail box. So rare is real mail these days, I feel I should declare real mail days as red-letter days (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_letter_day). The mail, from my maternal aunt, included a home-made card, a handwritten note and an article cut out from the Mid Canterbury Herald. The article gave me the greatest delight because it featured a photograph of my grandfather that I hadn’t seen before.My grandfather is seated with his ‘cobbers’ (friends) outside the Ashburton Soldiers Club. I don’t know when the photo was taken but it was probably either towards the end, or shortly after the end, of World War One.
My grandfather left New Zealand for the war in Europe on 5 February 1916. He was a Rifleman in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Battalion. We know very little about his war service and experiences but he was in Egypt and then France . At some stage,in France, he was a batman for an officer. We don’t know what action he saw in France but he was there through the last half of 1916 and some of 1917. But by March 1917 he was an invalid in Codford, England. By July 1917 he was on his way home to New Zealand. Here is an account of what my grandfather may have experienced along with thousands of other New Zealand soldiers in the First World War http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/wars-first-world-war-1914-18/page-5
Whatever scars my grandfather brought home with him, they didn’t deter him from becoming a member of a gun club and a prize-winning member at that. He won many prizes but his greatest achievement was in 1922 when he won the Miniature Rifle Championship of New Zealand.
As a child, I had no idea that my grandfather was an excellent shot, or knew anything at all about guns. They were never mentioned in my hearing. He was kind and gentle mannered and couldn’t bear to watch even the mildest of gun battles on television. It amazed me that even the mere sight of a gun in a Western was enough to make him leave the room.
Reading my mail and looking at the photo of my grandfather in his young days, reminded me of another red-letter day. In 1969, my grandfather and I went to our city’s main bookstore, Whitcombe and Tombs so that I could choose, and my grandfather could buy me, a Bible. It was my first year at high school and boarding school and I think we were required to have a Bible as part of our school kit. I remember my grandfather patiently waiting, whilst I looked through the large selection of Bibles, and finally chose this oneI don’t believe I chose the most expensive Bible in the shop but I am sure my good, dear grandfather had to stop himself from blanching at my choice. He was not a wealthy man and led a very frugal lifestyle. However, I think I made a good choice and I count this small Bible as one of my greatest treasures. To this day, I love the India paper, the Crystal print, the gold edges, the Morocco binding and the words within. Always near to me, it is a constant reminder of a champion grandfather.
It is so wonderful that you have all of the knowledge and artifacts of your grandfather. What a treasure!
Yes, a treasure indeed.
I enjoyed very much this post. Is amazing to discover what our ancestors did in their own circumstances. Sometimes, especially with old people, we forget about their past. I am very curious about history of the XXth Century so thank you for sharing this.
I am pleased you enjoyed this post. It is good to live in the present moment and make the most of it but, sometimes, it is good for us to listen to the past.
Now you understand why the even the western ‘shoot-outs’ would bother your grandfather.
Yes I do very much. I once went to a WW1 exhibition at our museum and they had set up a trench complete with battle sounds. It was horrendously noisy and would have been terrifying if it were real.
Your post brought back many memories of my grandparents and how much they gave to our generation – the belief in working hard, resourcefulness, courage, resolve, determination, kindness and the wonder of the sacred. They lived during extremely difficult days and yet, they believed their children would see a better world. Perhaps that was their greatest gift to us – hope!
Yes, you are right. They lived through difficult times, wars and the Great Depression but they came through loving and good and hopeful.
Great post!!!! It is fascinating how a photograph can take us back in time…your grandad looks early twenty and very handsome 🙂
Isn’t it fascinating! Yes I think you have the age about right. And I agree, very handsome. In fact, they all look very smart and handsome in that photo.
Let me take another look I didn’t check out the other guys 🙂
What a lovely story and Bible 😀 xox
Lovely history in your family as well! So nice he bought you this lovely bible and you cherish it. It is great to have loving memories from our grandfathers. 🙂
It certainly is.
From the moment you “discovered” my blog – however that happened – you have continued to make me feel that I am telling my stories to you. Your comments intrigue me, make me think, inspire me and encourage me. You have made me feel like a member of the family and I want to return the favor – even if others have done it before – of nominating you for the Word Press Family Award. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You can check out the award, learn about it’s meaning and the process at http://greatestgenerationlessons.wordpress.com.
Aww, I am quite overcome by the generosity of your words. Thank you for your nomination. I don’t know how I discovered you either; just another of the daily miracles of WordPress. I do enjoy your family story; it is a very caring, loving story, and I feel that, if I had turned up on the doorstep at Trumbull, I would have been made very welcome.
What a wonderful post. Receiving a letter is such a treat but a homemade card is like icing on the cake. I love the story about how your grandfather took you shopping for a Bible. Precious memories.
Yes, icing on the cake! And yes, precious memories,indeed. I am always so fascinated by the fact that when we are doing something we never know if it is THE something that will be stored in our memory bank.
Wonderful memories and family history–gems for your days and nights of contemplation. Oh, and to receive such treasures through snail mail is to return to those glory days of love letters, thank-you notes, invitations, postcards, and…
Postcards, love letters; oh yes, I had forgotten about all those lovely items. Now there is so little snail mail that our postal service is planning to cut home deliveries to 3 days a week!
Now you bring tears to my eyes. The story of your grandfather’s is the story of many New Zealanders in those days, but you tell it in a way that we understand how he was. Many of those men never came back. In Sweden we do not know what war and fighting is. I’m glad we’ve had so little of that.
You are right; it is a common story for many of my grandfather’s generation. His own brother came home in a worse state and was a lifelong reminder of the damage done by war. Sadly, knowledge of the trauma caused by war doesn’t stop countries from engaging in new ones all the time!
Amazing. I do some family history research and I’d value this sort of thing more than a wad of money.
I am glad you enjoy family history too. I wish I had more time to research. There is so much information available these days but so little time to collate it all.
What a fascinating post and what a wonderful family you come from!
Thank you. Happily, most of the family history is wonderful , with just one or two little skeletons in the cupboard to make things intriguing 🙂
That is a lovely touching story, thanks for sharing it. Your Grandfather, like so many of his comrades, obviously suffered a great deal but they almost never spoke about it afterwards, which I find incredible if you think how open we all are these days, sharing virtually everything about ourselves! A Grandfather to be proud of 🙂
Thank you for your kind words. He was a lovely Grandfather. I think that generation were reserved but maybe it was not so much a desire to keep silent, or forget, as the impossibility of describing the war experience to the home audience.