One hundred years ago, life for many people around the world changed forever. Britain declared war on Germany and entered what was said to be “the war to end all wars”, World War I.
It is hard to think that my Grandfather waded through the mud of the trenches, gun in hand, dressed in the uniform of the King’s Liverpool Regiment and sent “over the top” to kill or be killed. He was a quiet, gentle man who, I am told, did not talk about his war-time experiences, yet there are family stories, that perhaps he was a sniper. I was told that he saved the life of a young German soldier who had made his way through No Man’s Land to the British trenches, to be threatened with death by a comrade of Granddads who apparently stopped the British soldier shooting.
On 10th October 1918 my Grandfather was wounded and sent home to recuperate in Yorkshire. He was one of the lucky ones. Over 18 million men were killed in action on both sides of the war. They were killed during a war of such unimaginable horror. The mud, the corpses, the noise, the fear, the sounds and smells that the young men faced on a daily basis. They were not career soldiers, but men who felt it was their duty, and in many cases to volunteered, to go to the front to fight the enemy. They had a patriotism lost on later generations. Many saw it as a big adventure, but the excitement they must have felt boarding the trains would soon be dispelled by the reality of what they would face.
William Owen Jones, my Great-Grandmother’s brother, joined the South Wales Borderer’s. On 16th December 1917 he was killed in action in Belgium and was laid to rest in Artillery Wood Cemetery. He was 33 years of age. A cousin of my Grandmother’s Ernest Wynn was killed in France at the age of 23, whilst his older brother, Welsh international footballer George Wynn was wounded but came home. Lives cut short, promise unfulfilled. Like many other men from around what is now the Commonwealth, they died for the freedom of this country, and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.