Tuesday, August 5, 2014

100 years + 1 day

Having grown up in the shadow of the Second World War, I was born just a month after VJ day, the newsreels, the discussion was all about both the Second World War and the Great War or First World War as it later was known in my day. My earliest memory is of my brothers pretending to be airplanes flying into Berlin during the blockade in 1948. We (my parents, my siblings and my grandfather) were all listening to the radio (the radio that sits in my living room yet), as the announcer talked about the number of planes that were flying into Berlin that day. Do I remember that part? the why of it all? no just my brothers pretending to be airplanes and flying about the room. I was almost three when it began (24 June 1948) and not yet four when it ended (12 May 1949). So sometime during that eleven months my memories became frozen in time. I have been blessed with a good memory and it still remains quite good although I have less ability in that regard as I age. I must rattle around somewhat on occasion to recall items!

Yesterday, we went to the War Memorial here in Ottawa, to remember, to commemorate that enormous loss of life that Canada suffered with over 66,000 deaths and over 170,000 injured in the Great War. We fought hard; we won big and our nationhood was "forged in blood" as our Prime Minister Harper mentioned yesterday. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and announced that "the sentries at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will extend their solemn vigil from Vimy Ridge Day every April until Remembrance Day each Fall."

Then on to Colonel By Day where the Ontario Genealogical Society had a table set up to introduce people to the art of genealogy - tracing one's ancestors back into time as far as we can reach. I talked to quite a few people over the next couple of hours but the time there that will stay in my memory was the remembrance at the Irish Memorial where we remember, here in Ottawa, those Irish workers who came to work on the Rideau Canal. The purpose of the Canal long ago forgotten but the fact of the Canal as a UNESCO Heritage Site pays tribute to those lives lost so young and so far from their native country.

I had heard that the UK was to go dark in remembrance of their war dead from the Great War, 800,000 plus lost in the Great War, and they were to light a candle. I loved that idea and so at 10:00 p.m. we turned off our lights and lit a candle in memory of all those brave young people who died in Europe during the Great War/the First World War.

During these four years to come I hope to commemorate all Blake and all Pincombe who died in the Great War by going to the new website set up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the British Legion http://www.everymanremembered.org/  to remember and keep in the memory all those who died in the First World War. I have started by remembering one of my grandfather John Routledge Pincombe's second cousins Joseph Frank Pincombe who died on 15 June 1918 age 36 and he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He is buried at Montecchio Precalcino Communal Cemetery Extension in Italy and was the son of Charles and Louise Pincombe of Bristol. His Service No. 32423. His grandfather Philip Pincombe and my grandfather's grandfather John Pincombe were brothers and both born at Bishops Nympton, Devon. It is possible to lay a poppy at the grave of each man using this website.

The idea of this project to commemorate the war dead in each study was discussed on the Guild of One-Name Studies Forum and the thought put forward that all of us in the Guild should commemorate anyone in our one-name studies that died in the Great War.

My grandfather, who lived with us when I was a child, always called the First World War the Great War. Both wars were sad for him as people/cousins/family that he grew up with in Upper Clatford died during both wars and he was too far away to grieve with those left behind. I can still remember the letters with black borders that he kept and read into the 1950s (he died in 1953).

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 3 May 1915

When we traveled in France this past May/June, we were truly blessed to see the poppies blooming in many fields as we passed by and each time I remembered the words of John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields. We memorized his poem as school children in the 50s. Verdun will be always in my mind now as we traveled through the locations where the trenches still remain to this day. We stopped at L'Ossuaire de Douaumont and as we walked through the row upon row of memorial stones (16,142) reading the names, the quietness all around us was so poignant. This is the largest single French military cemetery of the First World War.

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