In this week of remembrances, it seemed appropriate that I should dedicate this post to my great-uncle, my grandmother’s youngest brother. He was born in 1892 in Royston, Hertfordshire, the youngest son of William and Eliza Andrews. I first saw his name, when I was very young, on the enormous bronze ‘penny’ with Britannia and the Lion and his name etched at the side, Sidney George Andrews. He enlisted in the First Hertfordshire Regiment aged 19 years and 8 months in 1911. This was a territorial section and he continued working as a blacksmith until 6 November 1914 when his regiment was conscripted and landed at Le Havre. With no respite he fought in France until his death on 2nd August 1917 following the devastating battle at St Julien, near Ypres. For anyone interested in the history of the Hertfordshire Regiment there is a very poignant and interesting website here.
He was awarded the Victoria, British and Star Medals, sometimes referred to as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’. The Star was awarded in 1914 so he must have taken part in the First Battle of Ypres.
This young man and many thousands like him changed the course of history and we are as we are today because of them.
* from the poem The Soldier by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)
I wrote the sonnet below following a day school I attended at Craiglockhart and it seems fitting to quote it here.
Time Warp at Craiglockhart
Stride to the bolted door, towards the light;
find your way to the space that’s forbidden.
Make a left, a right, follow the crow’s flight,
keep safe some coppers for the ferryman;
beyond the glass sits the domed survivor,
temple white, stark against the black steel
pagoda lamps. Time to pay the silver,
climb the helical stairs, turn the wheel.
But first retrace your steps, past the quiet
rows of books which wait for sleeping poets
to rise from marble tombs, penning sonnets
about bugles and bigots with bullets.
If you think silvered metal slats dictate
the end of time – let’s negotiate.
Craiglockhart is now a university campus but it was used as a hospital for shell-shocked soldiers during the First World War. It was where Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen met and wrote.