Let me introduce you to Bookhound's grandad.
William was born in 1896 and was one of the lucky ones, he came from Bethnal Green in the East End of London, served with the Royal West Kent Regiment and was eighteen when he found himself on the front line.
He survived the Battle of the Somme and lived to see his 100th birthday and get his telegram from the Queen. In this week of Remembrance reading that seems like a fact worth noting because William must have been a rarity.
The first time I met Grandad (and yes he was as cheeky and cheery as he looks) in 1975 he was already almost eighty and there he was jumping up and down outside the closed doors of Royal ward, men's surgical at the London Hospital where Bookhound was a patient. Read that story here but on this occasion I was the nurse sent by Sister to please tell the little old man bouncing around outside the ward and waving at us that he would have to go away and come back at normal visiting time like everyone else. Grandad was a cook extraordinaire and, convinced (rightly) that there would be no food worth eating in a hospital, had baked a tin of cakes for his grandson's sustenance and begged me to just let him sneak in quickly...please...which, incurring the wrath of Sister Royal, I did, because he'd come on the bus and would miss the next one home.
For Bookhound he was a very special man, everything and more that a grandad should be, lovely, kind, warm, funny and caring and Bookhound remembers hearing about the Great War in their conversations.We have a few photos and Grandad's medals and we don't know much more, but we can imagine.
Reading Soft Words Butter No Parsnips, The Life and Times of John Iliffe Poole by Lynda Franklin, John's grand-daughter, I suddenly realised how important these records are for individual family histories and the important stories behind the names and faces, so often left unsaid, unrecorded, perhaps never even heard.
Fortunately, as we all know, the Tinker (father of dgr for anyone who still doesn't know him) has saved us the trouble of second-guessing by giving into our nagging and writing his WW II memories down for us in Bugle Boy.
Lynda Franklin has had to unravel, puzzle and piece together her grandfather's memories and documentary evidence, add in historical background to locate John's life in its time and, knowing the campaigns he was involved in, has built up a picture of what life might have been like for him during the Great War. When firm facts such as injuries emerge it is possible to be more specific and here some remarkable facts do emerge. Having been exposed to a gas attack during the war John developed a malignant growth on his larynx and was one of the first patients ever to undergo a radical laryngectomy and subsequent tracheostomy in 1924 and was given just six months to live. It's all quite remarkable because he actually lived with that tracheostomy for the next fifty-five years and in that time provided tireless support and encouragement to other laryngectomy patients as well as a 'home from home' for over 70,000 Service personnel from all over the world during WWII.
So as my profoundly moving week of Great War Remembrance Reading continues it seems meet and right to begin by remembering all those ordinary people who did such extraordinary things.