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Friday, 8 July 2016

The Dirty Thirty Thirds

I should have done this earlier. …. I have in my possesion, a book called Craven’s part in the great war – issued to John William Knipe in 1920 in memory of his part in what we now call World War 1.
I have two grandads – (many people will claim the same number) – John William Knipe from Skipton – my Dad’s dad and Herbert Turner, my Mum’s dad from Earby. I only ever met my mum’s dad and all he would say about the Great War was “nivver get thisell involved in owt like this, lad”, whilst suddenly withdrawing the pictures of a ruined Ypres which he’d started to show me. This puzzled me a bit at the time…
The book “Craven’s Part” etc was passed to me via my Nana when she died and it’s only now that I thought to look at it in more detail.
So, for the last few hours, I’ve retraced both grandads’ movements from Skipton to Lincolnshire to Doncaster to Bulogne to Flanders in the summer of 1915. And then to the villages just North of Ypres, to Amiens and to attacks on Thieval woods in the battle of the Somme to a reduction in available manpower from 2000 to 200 men. To the slaughter of almost all of the officer corps and the gas attacks and all that digging under fire.
And this is not even the half of it. Not yet. This is just 1916 – they continued for another 3 years.
And I can look at all the villages and roads and the digging-in by a canal on Google Earth and think that both my grandads were there – except that, maybe they were not – but got injured. Herbert got shot twice, it seems. The first time  he had a steel mirror in a chest pocket that took the force of a bullet and the second time he was hit in a hip – although he did recount enduring a gas attack which seems to have taken place at Ypres.  Grandad John Willy got hit in the hip and spent the rest of the war in hospital in Leeds, but I’m not sure, at this stage when this happened.
The bottom line, for a walking blog, is that I have a strong urge to revisit; to do some of the long marches and to visit some of the woods they invested.
The memories of Grandad Herbert Turner were probably quite stark. I think, maybe I can now understand why he snatched those pictures away so suddenly. It wasn’t the thing to show to a child. We were just post World War 2 and people had high expectations that this kind of thing should never ever happen again – an even stronger emotion held in the heart of my old Grandad given shock of gentle country lads encountering the stinking hell and  brutality and the random whistling death of the Flanders trenches. Bless ‘im.


Dawn Linney said...

Go for it Mike.

Louise said...

I only knew my Grandad, mum's dad, and he served in WWII, although he was quite old at the time, in his 30s I believe. He waa involved in the campaign at Monte Cassino and was also at Dunkirk, amongst other things. I believe he drove 'ducks'. He never spoke about it. I think it would be quite an experience, to go and stand and march where your grandads did.

Alan Sloman said...

That sounds like a grand project, Mike.

Won't the marching bit be on roads, though? Or perhaps they have been bypassed by newer ones?

Chrissie Crowther said...

Geoff and I have been over several times to many of the places from WWI in particular. Even the dogs have heard the last post at Ypres several times.....
Geoff also went on his own once (with Tilly) tracing the routes and battle places of his grandad, who went over in the war in charge of the horses. All very emotional and moving. I remember having some 'lovely' walks in the forests around Verdun - hitting the trails that most visitors don't walk.