Today we Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Beginning of the First World War


My grandfather, George William Shanks, MM, DCM

My grandfather, George William Shanks, MM, DCM

We are asked here in the UK, via the media, to commemorate the 100th anniversary (4th August 1914) of the beginning of World War One, by putting out our lights from 10 to 11 pm, and lighting candles. We shall set up a torch on our dining room windowsill, which looks out directly onto the street. We shall make a circular walk around the town, which will take in the cathedral and the high street as well as private dwellings.

To the left is my grandfather, who fought in the French trenches of World War One. He was twice decorated for bravery, with the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal. On one occasion, he went out from his trench into no-man’s-land to drag a wounded officer back to safety.

My grandfather was a coal miner all his life. He won a scholarship to grammar school, but his family was so poor that he was unable to take it up; instead, at the age of 11, he had to go down into the mines to earn a living. He returned to ‘the pits’ after the war.

Edwin Shanks: Died near Arras 1918, aged 16/18. Commemorated: Canadian Cemetery Vis-en-Artois, N France

Edwin Shanks: Died near Arras 1918, aged 16/18. Commemorated: Canadian Cemetery Vis-en-Artois, N France

The photo to the right is of my grandfather’s younger brother, Edwin. He falsified his age to enlist and followed my grandfather out to France. When my grandfather discovered this, he had him sent home. Edwin secretly enlisted again, again falsifying his age. He was killed, his body never discovered, near the Belgian border, just months before the end of the war in 1918.

Edwin is commemorated on a stone plaque on a wall in a cemetery for the Canadian war dead, at Vis-en-Artois, near Arras, in Northern France.

My grandfather never really recovered from the death of his brother, and from his war experiences. He served as a special constable during World War Two.

During the time my husband and I lived in France, we visited the cemetery at Vis-en-Artois, where I placed a single yellow rose at the foot of the wall on which Edwin’s name appears.

Edwin Shanks Memorial StoneThe rose was yellow to represent the yellow rose called Peace that my grandfather cultivated in his garden after the second world war; and during my early lifetime, as I have a strong memory of this rose in his garden; and of knowing its name.

The 'Peace' Rose

The ‘Peace’ Rose

And the poppy is a photo I took of a poppy in a farmed field just off a section of the white cliffs of Dover, during a walk. I was struck by the fragility and transparency of this flower, which has yet endured as one of the strongest of symbols worldwide. How odd that I have recently had a fall from one of these white cliffs, breaking my shoulder.

Poppy, St Margaret's, August 2013

About AnnIsikArts

Artist/Writer, Proofreader/Copy Editor
This entry was posted in spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Today we Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Beginning of the First World War

  1. Mark Collings says:

    Ann, I have Edwin’s WW1 medals. Let me know if you would like to have them?

    Like

  2. My Hungarian grandfather was also a soldier in World War I, as was one of his older brothers. He was wounded and captured and spent two years in a Russian prison, as did his brother. My grandfather somehow managed to escape after two years, and found his way home. His brother did not. After the war was over, he stayed in Russia and married a Russian woman, even though he had a wife and family back in Hungary. As a result, I have cousins in Russia! 🙂 Shared your link on my Facebook.

    Like

    • AnnIsikArts says:

      What an amazing story. I think if my great uncle hadn’t lost his life, you and I would not be able to share ours and conversely, he gave his life so we could share ours. 🙂

      Like

  3. There is probably not many people in the English speaking world who have not had some relative involved in WW1. My grandfather, my mum’s dad fought on the western front and was injured several times. He died at age 56 a few years before I was born. My Aunt’s husband was killed on the western front also, he left behind a small child who as a boy lived in my house. It is a day to remember Ann the lose of innocence by so many and the legacy left to us.

    Like

    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Well said, my friend. My husband and I just did a circuit round our town centre, taking in the High Street and the cathedral and a park. The High Street was unusually quiet. A candle burned (on a TV screen) in the tourist office; there was a service going on in the cathedral. A few houses had extinguished all lights as we did leaving only a candle in a window. Not many. We left a torch in our window – a candle would have burned the curtains down! Ann

      Like

      • Sounds very solemn over your way. Not sure what is happening in this country. But I did smile at the torch image, good thinking, be a bit anti climatic the curtains burning down.

        Like

      • AnnIsikArts says:

        I’m being extra careful about my ‘karma’ at present, having just ski-ed unsuccessfully down a cliff and broken my shoulder! Which is healing rapidly I hasten to add and I’m lucky to have access to private health care. Thanks in part to those who have given their lives in wars to enable me my freedom. My glass is always more than half full. 🙂

        Like

      • Glad to hear you are mending well. And yes we owe so much to those who fought so long ago. Have a good day Ann.

        Like

      • AnnIsikArts says:

        Same to you! 🙂

        Like

Share your light here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s