Sunday, April 30, 2006

Family History

My maternal grandfather, a native of Pembrokeshire, joined the 1/4th Welsh in August 1914. He was never the same after being seriously wounded in Palestine by Johnny Turk, and died some twenty-five years later, in his early fifties, leaving a widow - and eight children.

It appears that the 1/4th Welsh had the worst possible start to the war - a direct posting to the hell-hole that was Tunbridge Wells in 1914. How relieved they must have been to get a move !

"On 19 Jul 1915 it sailed from Devonport for the Dardanelles, arriving at Mudros Island on 5 Aug and landing at Suvla Bay on 9 Aug 1915."

Hmm. Maybe not.

"On 8 Oct 1915, after suffering heavy casualties, the 1/4th Battalion was amalgamated with the 1/5th Battalion to form the 4th Welsh Composite Battalion."

Enough said.

"On 11 Dec 1915 the composite battalion left Gallipoli for Egypt. On 10 Feb 1916 the 1/4th Battalion assumed its identity. On 30 Jul 1918 the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions merged again to form the 4/5th Battalion. This battalion ended the war on 31 Oct 1918, in the same formation, in Palestine as the 53rd (Welsh) Division was moving back to Egypt."

Seems a pity to survive Gallipoli and then get filled with shrapnel in Palestine. But so many never made it home.

This evening I was asking my eldest uncle for memories of him, and he quoted this chunk of a song his father used to sing. I imagine 'jolly' would have been replaced with a more sanguinary variant in real life.

...And when we get to Gay Paree
The Kaiser he will say,
"Ach ! Mein Gott ! What a jolly funny lot,
Are the 4th Welsh Infantray !"


Slagella said...

"early forties"

Bloody hell! Early seventies, he looks like. Imagine what he went through. And we whinge (as we do, incessantly) today...

Laban said...

From personal experience it may have been the eight kids ! But then I wasn't at Gallipoli.

Bruce said...

My grandfather was at Gallipoli with the Aussies back then. Wonder if they met?

Died 50 years back and never told his story, so no one to ask this side.

His grandfather was a sea-captain from Bristol. Named after PM William Pitt.

PJ said...

Like Bruce, my grandfather was at Gallipoli with the ANZACS. His family had emigrated to NZ around '04 and after he finished the war in France he never went back. My father got thru D-Day etc completely unscathed. It wasn't till he got sent to Palestine in 45 that he got seriously shot at by the Jews and to add insult to injury the Greeks later had another go at him in Cyprus. This probably accounts for his philosophy that it's not your enemy that you should be wary of but your friends.

ed thomas said...

Laban, maybe you might be interested in this:

I only knew the song because of some AmDram I used to do, including Oh What a Lovely War, which featured it.

The only song I was taught, on long journeys by my Grandmother who was born a few years before the 1st war began, was like this:

'The moon shines down on Charlie Chaplin,
His boots a 'crackin',
For want o' blackin',
And his braces they're in need o' mendin',
Before they send him, to the Dardanelles.'

ed thomas said...

Anonymous said...

A Welshman at Gallipoli how can such a thing be true?! All true students of history know that whole campaign was a conspiracy by Churchill to kill thousands of ANZACs. Anything you hear about tens of thousands of French and British troops (or Turks) fighting and dying there is just a disinformation put about by agents of yadda yadda etc etc

Seriously, a leftie I know, when I jokingly told him that nonsense once, responded thoughtfully that yes, could be something in that. As to why Churchill would want to kill thousands of Aussies & Kiwis, well he hasnt got back to me yet...

Bruce said...

Laban, I'm seeing a pattern here.

We RWDB all seem to have had an ancestor in the Great War. In daily society that's quite rare, but here on the 'net we have all found each other. Not a coincidence I think.

Yes, my people were very anti-Churchill too. Rather odd because they were otherwise pro-Empire. I changed my view after reading Sir Winston's memoirs - such decency and intelligence, his critics had to be wrong.

Hilary Wade said...

Er, my grandfather was in Mesopotamia (Durham Light Infantry).

dearieme said...

My Great Uncle Dick died at Paschendaele.

staghounds said...

I suspect there are very few 5th generation British, Australian, or New Zealand people who do NOT have a first world war ancestor.

French and German, too.

dearieme said...

Fair point, staghounds, but I know precious little about the others in the family in that generation: perhaps it's those who went to war who got remembered?

Anonymous said...

my great-granduncle was in Palestine as well - but on the German side , fighting alongside Johnny Turk.

He was an Irish POW in Germany, who switched sides after the 1916 Easter Rising. A most curious story - the Germans recruited a platoon of Irish PoWs, and created a uniform for them - Irish shamrock emblem on a standard German field uniform.

oh - and he met the Kaiser in Berlin.

Laban said...

I hope it wasn't he who crocked my grandad.