I'm taking a break from the Grant Road series because today is Remembrance Day and I've noticed that lately people are paying more attention to it than usual. I see more poppies being worn and more media coverage, including some excellent programming such as we watched on TVO last night, Paris 1919.
The gentleman above is my paternal grandfather, Valentine Smith, who died in France during WW I several months before the birth of his son, in 1916. This is the only picture we have of him and we know very little about him personally, a fact that has always bothered my Dad.
These pieces of metal are the only concrete vestiges of his participation in THE GREAT WAR; a bronze disc, a be-ribboned medal and his dog tag.
And this silver cross, delivered to my grandmother possibly around the time she was giving birth to her son. I can't imagine how she must have dealt with her conflicting emotions of joy and sorrow during that period.
And I wonder how she felt when this son, my Dad, went off to war some 28 years later. Fortunately he returned. Through good luck and good planning Dad spent most of his time overseas with the British Forces Network, broadcasting morale-boosting radio programmes from mobile army vans and other venues in London or Paris or Hamburg.
This is the notebook he carried in which he recorded his many experiences, some funny, some sad, many lonely. Of course this practice was forbidden during wartime but so were many things. And they were done anyway. This notebook fit neatly into the breast pocket of his uniform and my sister and I often suggest it could have also stopped a fatal bullet.
He did have one close call on the Arnhem Bridge but no bullets were involved that day. He did lose his typewriter, 'Betsy Anne'.
He must have been overjoyed to put this message into his notebook!
During all that time Dad wrote many letters home to Mom. She kept them all and I still enjoy going over them once in awhile. I don't know what happened to the letters she wrote to him; he says it was difficult to carry them around. I bet he saved them too and they just got lost along the way. He's too sentimental to have deliberately got rid of them.
The long-awaited telegram.
And of course...his signature locomotive, this one inked on the inside cover of the notebook. After his voyage back on the Ile de France he journeyed home by train with many other troops who were lucky enough to have made it.
He got some medals too but never wore them later. It was enough to be back home. He was lucky.