Thursday, December 15, 2005

Over the top

I never met my paternal Grandfather, John. He died before I was born, of causes that hint of a life lived to the full. He was what is often called a "character". A small, wiry man with sparkly eyes and a large personality, he was handsome, gregarious and a born entertainer. He performed comic songs in a music hall act, once even performing before the then Prince of Wales. Clearly my grandmother was smitten as she travelled steerage to India to marry him in 1922, against the wishes of her family (she was Catholic, he Church of England).

He was in India because he was a Private in the Northamptonshire Regiment, and before India he'd seen service in France during WWI. He didn't enlist until February 1918, aged 25 and was injured out shortly afterwards. I guess the reason for his late enlistment was that he was a coal miner and so probably categorised as being in a reserved occupation. The reason for his return home makes for a more amusing story.

I have no record of exactly where in France he was, but he was in the trenches waiting the order for a new push. Apparently everyone was issued with a tot of rum before an advance. A small shot of courage no doubt. Not everyone could face drinking theirs, so Grandad (being Grandad and not wanting to waste a good drink), drank all the spares. He was, the story goes, rather drunk and so when the order came and they charged out over the top, he tripped up, his legs in the air and got shot through the foot.

A narrow escape and ticket home that I will always raise a glass to!


Blogger Zoozan said...

what a great story.

I think it's possible that you have a hint of your grandfather's character about you.

9:14 am  
Blogger Rick said...

LOL! What a great character!

5:16 pm  
Blogger Annalis said...

Fantastic story.

I love hearing stories about my older relatives, especially the ones I never had a chance to meet.

6:04 pm  
Blogger Just Some Gal said...

OMG! hehe

This was fantastic to read!!

I met my maternal grandfather a few times but prior to the age of 5. They lived about 3000 miles away so it wasn't just a short trip in the car away. I do love hearing stories though of who he was.

8:17 pm  
Blogger Miss Smartee Pants said...

I am envious, to say the least, of your connection to your familie's past. I had, for years, believed my grandfather to be a cross between Woody Guthrie and Hemingway - he was a stunt man in old Hollywood, trainer of horses for cowboy stars, husband to three wives (one in Mexico), part time judge and full time story teller. Turns out, I'm afraid, that he wasn't my grandfather at all. You spend so much of your life connecting with the mythology that it is sometimes hard to let go. It pleases me that not everyone has to.

6:05 am  

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