Wounded soldiers pose for the camera at a hospital in Blighty, most of these men destined to return to the fighting at some future point, I would have thought.
Not so Charles, on the left here, who had served for eleven years, and been Mentioned in Despatches at some point, before he was wounded at Ypres on 30th September 1914. A piece of shell which entered above his left clavicle would eventually be removed from his neck in an operation on 10th December 1914, followed by another operation in February 1915 to relieve pressure on his spine. He would be admitted into a convalescent home in January 1916 suffering from muscle weakness in both legs and an arm, where he would stay until his sudden death, in his sleep, on 30th April 1940. Did I mention they amputated his right big toe in January 1937? And then his right leg a couple of months later. Oh, and his other leg in 1939. But Charles was a regular soldier, and these things come with the territory, don’t they? George, on the right, was wounded in the spine in October 1914, but he got better. Then he got wounded again, in July 1916, in his right arm. But he got better again, sort of, but not enough to return to the fighting. And when he died in 1945 he was nearly sixty. Thanks, George.
Another George, on the left, also shot in the spine, in his case on 26th September 1915 at Ypres, leaving him a paraplegic, and leading to his death almost twenty five years later in June 1939. He had just turned fifty. On the right, Albert suffered a right-sided hemiplegia, most likely a head wound, perhaps a stroke, in March 1916, leading to his discharge from the Army the following year, after which it seems he could ‘just get about’, and no more. Twenty years later, on 15th July 1937, Albert deemed it best to swallow carbolic acid, and after, I imagine, a pretty horrible twenty four hours, he died the next day, on 16th July. His name won’t be found on any casualty list. Nor am I convinced that Albert thought it was all worthwhile. Remember him.
Alfred was one of the 40,000. Not the 20,000 who died, but the 40,000 who were wounded. On the Somme. On 1st July 1916. He was part of the advance at Fricourt when a German machine gun got him in the left leg and hip joint. But he survived, wore a special boot to compensate for the leg-shortening caused by his wounds, and lived well into his seventies, the last thirty five years in a home. But no one remembers Alfred’s sacrifice. On the right, wounded in the head in 1917, leaving him with a gap in his skull, Harold was yer local friendly postman until 1939, when he had a stroke. He would live until 1945. And then he would die.
Percy, on the left, was wounded at Bapaume in April 1917, a gunshot wound to the spine leaving him a paraplegic. He would die in 1942, only in his forties, right in the middle of another World War, and you wonder whether he considered his sacrifice to have been worthwhile. George, on the right, was wounded at Messines in 1917, and lost his right arm below the elbow, but he soldiered on, forgive the pun, made the best of it, and lived until the 1950s. I think the alcohol helped. He was one of so many men who survived the war but gave an arm or a leg for their King & country. No one remembers their loss.
William, on the left, was wounded in both legs and his right forearm at Lens in July 1917. His left leg was amputated at the thigh, and he would have to wear a surgical boot on his right foot, but at least the Army awarded him a 70% pension. Hope he spent it wisely. On 10th September 1917 Walter, on the right, lost both legs and his left arm for his King & country, and then, over thirty years later, on 15th April 1949, Walter lost his life. No one remembers Walter every 11th November; his sacrifice wasn’t quite enough.
William, on the left, was one of so many men who were wounded during the Battle of Passchendaele, in his case in October 1917, resulting in the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Shame that some years later fate would see his left leg amputated too. Still, he got around in a ‘wheeled chair’ until he died in 1939. Arthur, on the right, was wounded in December 1917 resulting in the amputation of his right leg. He would live until 1956, and could always look down on his artificial leg to remind him of his sacrifice.
Sydney – I reckon he was a Sid – was shot in his right femur at Gavrelle in March 1918. It really messed up his leg and his backside. But eventually he managed to get about in a chair, and survived another World War (just), dying in November 1945 aged 66. Bartholomew – Barry, maybe – was discharged from the Army in March 1918 having received a gunshot wound to his left leg resulting in an amputation which left him with a painful stump. He was reported as being ‘senile and out of control’ before he had even reached the age of sixty. Poor Barry. I wonder what became of him.
William – good ol’ Bill – on the left, suffered from typhoid & dysentery while serving in Mesopotamia, and he never really recovered, dying in 1937, having just reached his fortieth birthday. Not so old, then. And finally John, on the right, another man shot in the spine, the injury leaving him a paraplegic. He died in 1944, still short of fifty, his death directly attributed to, among other things, that gunshot wound he received for King & country many years earlier.
None of the names of the men you have just met, nor those of thousands like them, are to be found on the more than 100,000 war memorials across the United Kingdom.
None of these men died for us.
But they did, really, didn’t they?
Remember them too.