First World War Poetry Digital Archive

http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/

My father was born in 1892 and joined the police force in 1914. He joined the Royal Artillery in 1917. He rarely spoke about his experiences in the Army unless they were amusing events.

When I was small we visited his family and my mothers family quite often. He and I would pass a house where the occupant was usually in his garden. One or other of them would call, 'Hello. How about a hash-up?' I asked my Dad why they always greeted each other in this manner. He said he was marching along a road in France, feeling homesick, and could see a soldier sitting at the edge of the road tending small fire.

When my Dad reached the soldier he could see it was a friend from back home - the man who called out to him. My Dad could see his friend had a frying pan over the fire which contained potato and bully-beef. His friend called, 'Hello Ted. How about a hash-up?'

My Dad carried his loose change in a purse and, when he opened it I always noticed a horse-shoe made of brass amongst the money. I asked him where he'd got it, and he smiled broadly. He said that when he was in France the Troop had a small wooden hut near the site in which was a
latrine.

My Dad was using the facility when a shell exploded near by. It shattered his privacy, and the hut, and he was hit on his backside by a piece of hot shrapnel which gave him a small wound. When the shrapnel had cooled, he picked it up and later took it a jeweler in the local town who made the horse-shoe for him. My father's brother Frank also served in the War but I knew nothing of his experiences.My Mother had three brothers who served in the Army. Frank had five wounds in his face, but he never spoke about what happened. Bert was quite badly gassed causing him the be a bit wheezy. I don't recall that either of them complained or felt hard done by, they were simply pleased to have come through it all.It seems that people rarely travelled very far from where they were born before the War. All these men lived in Wotton under Edge and I think about the furthest they went was
Bristol. I feel sure this was the case with Arthur, my Mother's youngest brother.He joined the Army and, after training, was sent to France. On his first venture to the front line, he was captured by the Germans and put to work in a salt mine. I believe he must have been badly treated. On his return home he couldn't keep a job and spent his time wandering in the hills around his home. Post traumatic stress I guess it would be called today. Only his mother seemed to care for him. He lived at home with her and rarely spoke. As a small child, he would put me on his lap and hold me close for a long time. I liked him, but felt very sad for him. He must have received some money, but it was very little. His brothers and my Dad were always very gentle towards him and would give him half a crown when they were with him. These men, and their like, were my role models and I am ever grateful to them. They had no time for posturing and posing. What you saw was what you got. They were utterly loyal, compassionate and caring. They had seen horrible sights and weren't impressed with possessions or status and were the men to be with in a sticky situation. One once said to me,'We don't bring anything with us into the world and we don't take anything out. Whatever we have makes us simply custodians'. My school teachers were of the same mould. One had been gassed and another wounded. One used crutches because he had only one leg. His lower jaw had scars about it. He didn't tell us what had happened to him, but another teacher said that he had been in the Royal Flying Corps. His plane was shot down and, when it crashed, the joystick pierced his jaw shattering the bones. His leg was smashed, but a clever surgeon used a bone from his leg or foot and fashioned a new jaw and covered it with skin from his leg.About the only thing which made my Dad angry was the sight of ex-soldiers carrying a tray of thing they tried to sell, usually matches. He would say, 'What happened to the world fit for heros?' My Dad went back into the police and served through WW11 reaching the rank of Chief Inspector. Many of the other policemen were veterans of WW1 all of whom were men I admired greatly.

Author Brant, Allan
Title The Brant family and the Great War
Item Date 1914 - 1918
Copyright The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor
Digital repository The Great War Archive, University of Oxford
Reference URL http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa/item/5703