Monday, 4 August 2014

Special News blog to mark 1914


I think it would be amiss of me if I didn't mention today's historic day, the outbreak of the Great War 100 years ago on August 4 1914. Goostrey's cenotaph to the fallen in St Luke's churchyard has a wreath and crosses placed there to remember those from the village and near communities who died during the terrible conflict that lasted until 1918.
Goostrey cenotaph
 There are not many names inscribed on the sandstone memorial but with a population then many hundreds fewer than now, the impact of the losss on families and friends  in  the community must have been devastating.
 Even when I was born World War 1 was of recent history and there were still many who vividly recalled the horrors of the trenches and the sheer slaughter of battles like the Somme and Ypers. 
My grandfather, John Smith, on my mother's side served in the Boer War as well as the Great War but sadly I have little knowledge of his service. I do know that he was said to have suffered sun stroke in South Africa and then he was badly wounded in World War 1.
 Eventually with, what I can only think  of as shell shock, he was detained in a Manchester mental hospital for the rest of his days. It was a sad end to a proud man who served his country with distinction like thousands of others. My mother once took me to visit him.  I recall a military looking of elderly gentleman with bushy white hair and penetrating blue eyes.
 I watched in fascination as he used a penknife to strip the complete peel from an apple in one piece, but I remember nothing more of  the visit. To her dying day, my grandmother kept at home his medals, a pistol he was said to have carried in the war and a rifle I presume came from the Boer War. She would bring them out to let us handle as a treat. if we grandchildren were  especially good. Somewhere I have a photograph of him in uniform and  I would dearly like to find it but my cousin Peter Yates in Essex has dipped into an archive and produced one for the blog.
Waiting to go over the top on the Somme
Another hero of the war was one of my first editors as a young reporter in Wilmslow. He was called Fred Fletcher and suffered all his life from the effects of a gas attack at the front but  he was never heard to complain. He would breeze into the office on th dullest of winter days, walking stick in hand, and take in a deep breath as if to say it was still good to be alive! I believe he died in harness in his seventies.

+Click images to enlarge
John Smith

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