Our son is named after my father who in turn is named after his father’s elder brother who was a serjeant in the Highland Light Infantry (that’s how they spelled sergeant in his regiment). He was killed on the 1st of July 1918. He is buried here in the Mesnil Communal Cemetery Extension near Albert
It looks very smart. My great uncle is in grave 111.C/21
Since today is Remembrance Sunday I thought I would do a little research online.
Thomas Woodhouse served in the 16th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. It was a pals battalion formed up from local Boys Brigade battalions. I know that my father’s family were keen on the Boys Brigade so I am presuming that was why he joined that battalion. His service number corresponds with that of men who joined up in 1915. Does that mean he was in action for 3 years? I hope not. He was born in Morecambe in Lancashire. I don’t know when. Further research is needed. I know his parents names, I know where he lived when they moved to Glasgow and I know that his father was employed as Foreman Insulated Cable Layer.
I know what actions his battalion were involved in. I know that there were no major battles around the time of his death. I don’t know how or where he died but since he is buried in a front line battlefield graveyard I think that he perished at the front and was buried in the graveyard nearest to where he fell. His cemetery is north of the town of Albert which was in German hands from March to August 1918. I presume he was killed either in a minor skirmish or in the unrelenting daily slaughter of shelling and sniper fire while the war ticked over between major battles.
The First World War started 99 years ago. There is probably nobody still alive who fought in it. This means it is now history, as detached as the Crimean war . It is normally fascinating to look back at such events but I have to admit it is upsetting when it involves family. The horror of millions of dead can be brought home by the death of one man. I have had to wipe moist eyes a few times today.
We now have to rely on second hand information – books, films and photographs. I am old enough to have met people who fought in that war. I have a connection. My maternal grandfather served in the Royal Artillery. He died when I was my son’s age and I have very dim memories of a gentle and kind elderly man. I cannot imagine such a person being in a war but I have photographs to prove it. I have photographs I can share with my children and tell them of the awfulness of what he and millions of others went through and how we must learn from history.
Photographs are an aid to memory. They can tell a story but I hope they also arouse curiosity. I hope my children look at pictures of their ancestors and want to know more.
Keeping old family images is important. They are a link with a past that is becoming more and more distant. I had to explain WW1 to my children in the same way as I did Guy Fawkes Night. It is ancient history to them. The fact that the last 150 years or so has been caught on film makes it easier to document and research and we shouldn’t lose that huge trove of treasure.
I am now getting all our old family photographs, birth wedding and death certificates and family letters gathered and organised to be scanned. When the next generation come to look into their past I want to have helped them.