Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Every picture tells a story

This is a photo, of a B&W photo of a painting of my Great Grandfather.

It was painted whilst he was serving in the Home Guard during the second world war. After he died my Gran remembered that he had his portrait painted by an artist, doing a series on men serving in the home guard, you can just see his uniform in the background. This was a long time before the Internet and so she spent many years writing letters, doggedly trying to trace the painting. It took many many letters and many more years until finally she found it. It was stored in the vaults of a museum in Manchester. The museum kindly got it out for her, it is quite a large painting approx 3ft x 4ft. My uncle, a photographer took a photograph of the painting and I received a B&W copy. I have grown to love the painting in B&W, it always comes as a bit of a shock to see the colour version.

My Great Grandfather died when I was about 12, I did not go to his funeral as I was the designated babysitter for all my cousins. My memories of him are very sparse, he spent a lot of time living at my Grans house, of his 3 children I think he preferred it there the most. He did not change much from the painting, a trim wiry man of few words. When we came to go home though, we would be summonsed to say goodbye, plant a brief kiss on his dry very prickly cheek and he would give me a sixpence.

That my Great Grandfather was alive at all, is it seems to me a miracle. He fought in the battle for the Somme and came home, my Gran was born soon after. My mother tells me that he never ever spoke about the war, would not, could not. All that she remembers is very very occasionally he would lapse into crude humour. Such repressed memories must have made for a very hard life.

Today Kitty is helping to organise a party to celebrate Armistice Day at a local community center, she and a small group of other students have spent the last 5 Thursdays working with and talking with the old people about what life was like during the war and helping to plan a celebratory party, she has loved it. She has even bought a black and red outfit to wear. I am so pleased that she is helping to preserve the memory's of others so we can never forget.


La Belette Rouge said...

What an incredible story.A really great remembrance of your grandfather and the importance of remembering. That your grandmother found the painting speaks to the kind of persevering and strong women she was. How happy she must have been to finally found it.

A day and a parade seem inadequate to honour the service and sufferings of vets who died in purposeless and senseless wars.I cannot imagine all the unspeakable things that men and women have endured in war to keep us free and safe. It feels like Veteran's Day in the states does not adequately celebrate and honour those who fought, injured or died in service---especially when there are countless stories of homeless vets and vets who do not get adequate medical coverage in subpar hospitals.

It is touching to hear that Kitty is involved in a party to honour veterans and that she is really enjoying it. So very nice to hear. You must be proud of her.

materfamilias said...

Such a moving, personal post for Remembrance Day (as we call it in Canada -- do you call it that, or Armistice Day?) The part your Grandmother played in preserving her father's memory is inspiring -- her doggedness in refusing to let the painting be lost to family memory. And now you have a daughter carrying on that legacy.

indigo16 said...

lbr- I agree that it is the soldiers who return home injured and traumatised who get the roughest deal. We seem so happy to send them, yet so reluctant to pick up the pieces on their return. It is a national shame and one I wish could be made good. We have a 2 min silence here so at least the memory is kept alive.

yes, my Gran was dogged especially when you think no email existed so the wait between letters must have seemed forever.