I also knew that my Grandad’s lungs were badly damaged during the first world war, but did not know how. I remember him as a warm & kindly man who lived with us when we were children. In fact our three bedroom home in Kingsbury, North London, housed Grandad, my Nan, Mum & Dad, plus us three kids. He fondly told me great children’s stories as I sat on his knee, with his oxygen cylinder & mask sitting ominously next to him in the living room. He even caught me doing something I shouldn’t have, but kept it a secret from anyone forever. My other Grandfather, Albert Long, I remember as a stern archetypal Victorian man, in a woollen suit with waistcoat & fob watch. His house was a standard semi-detached in Hendon, North London with an allotment at the bottom of the garden where he spent many hours. He was certainly of a mind that ‘children should be seen & not heard’ & the front parlour was a special treat to visit only on special Sundays. This all seems so far from the days we now live in. Having been born in the mid 1950's, I grew up with the war as being something 'old people' talked about, & in my teens & twenties I was much more interested in girls & pubs!
Sadly, when I eventually became interested in what happened during the two World Wars it was too late to ask many of those I had known that had been there. It was not until I was in my early forties that I took a trip to Ypres & the Belgian World War One Battlefields & Trenches, and the experience was unexpectedly emotional & a disturbing realisation of the scale of the slaughter. In subsequent years my interest in the war years grew, as I tried to understand & make sense of what had happened. It just felt important to know. A visit to the World War Two D-Day Beaches of France soon followed. If these are trips you have never made, I thoroughly recommend a visit. I cannot say it will be fun, I also cannot guarantee you will not have an involuntary tear or two, but I can guarantee that the sights will put everything into perspective & steel your resolve for such a thing to never happen again. In my view, it should be on the curriculum of every school in the country to visit the battlefields & cemeteries to ensure our children never forget what happened to their own forefathers.
Back to Peter, (my Brother), he recently gave me a surprise present of two photograph frames with the most amazing contents following his research: each had a sepia photograph, name & rank panel, miniature medals & script on the back. The photographs were pictures of each of my Grandfathers in their military uniforms during WW1. The stories on the back revealed amazing things about two ordinary men during wartime.