09 November 2012

The futility of war

In the First World War my two grandfathers were on opposite sides.



My mother's father William was on the side of the English. Born in Bermondsey  as the oldest of ten, he enlisted at the age of 19 at the very start of the war and fought at the battles of Ypres, the Somme and Paschendale - the latter where he was badly wounded. He was in the Royal Artillery and had a horse called Smiler that used to pull the gun carriages. The horse was also badly injured and had to be put down. My grandfather luckily was brought back to England with injuries to his leg, head and eye. He lost his eye and from then on had a glass one. He was plagued by bad headaches for the rest of his life too, whenever the schrapnel moved around.
 

My paternal grandfather Erisch was on the side of the Germans. Born in Berlin, he also enlisted early on in the war. He fought for a time in France, where he was shot in the leg and then, after he had recuperated, he was sent to the Russian front which was notoriously freezing and conditions were unbearable. He was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery. He went on after the war to marry a girl with Jewish connections (my grandmother) and in 1939 they were forced to flee for their lives and settle here in England, some number of months after their two teenage sons (one of them my father) had already come here with the Kindertransport.

 
 My German grandfather in exact centre front row.
 
When my mother and father got together in the Second World War, announced their engagement and introduced both sets of parents to one another, my two grandfathers amicably shook hands and joked "I bet you were the b*****r that shot my leg/eye".  It was good that they could be so forgiving, given the extent of their injuries.

13 comments:

Nota Bene said...

That's a wonderful ending to a story that could have been so different...

Working Mum said...

What an interesting story. It shows the human side of the worst ever war the world has known; both the suffering and the forgiveness. Great men.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

It is a wonderful end to your story Addy and shows that however divided we are - we are all connected.

If only we could live together peacfully...

Anna :o]

165ab330-ba3b-11e1-90d1-000f20980440 said...

It's a good thing that a war with Germany seems unlikely now. Otherwise, you'd have a job to decide whose side you were on.

165ab330-ba3b-11e1-90d1-000f20980440 said...

It's a good thing that a war with Germany seems unlikely now. Otherwise, you'd have a job to decide whose side you were on.

Eurodog said...

I like that - your - story a lot.
There are so many accounts of war, not all with a happy ending. WWI was particularly horrible. My Flemish family fled and ended up in Yorkshire. Two of my great aunts were born there, a great uncle died there and is buried there. They returned to Belgium after the war.

the veg artist said...

I have never thought that war was between troops - it is between power and wealth crazy individuals and rulers, who are clever and devious enough to persuade others to follow them.
Most ordinary men, on both sides, just want to go home to their families and live in peace.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Such a poignant story. Many of the men who killed and maimed others did it because they had no choice. Difficult times.

CJ x

Flowerpot said...

What a great story - thank you for sharing Addy.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

A wonderful story Addy and it certainly gives pause for thought. A x

Furtheron said...

Different type of people alive in those days I think - we hve lost much of the dignity they had

Ann Cordner said...

Proving, yet again, that when you bring war down to a personal level it is absolutely futile. Great story Addy.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Good stuff as always. Still musing over the book? The kindle way is ok but not perfect. Good luck.