Sunday, April 09, 2017

He had a row of forty medals hanging on his chest

My grandfather served in the army during the first world war. He was wounded - a bullet went straight through  his lungs - but that's about as much as I know of his service history. But while sorting out Uncle's possessions we found three of my grandfather's medals.

Two of them we presume are service medals while the other is a bit of a mystery.

It appears my grandfather was a sergeant in the army, in the Welsh regiment, presumably among those who saw action in the battle for Mametz wood at the beginning of the battle of the Somme. Husband has tried to find out more - my grandfather's number is engraved on the edge of the medals - about what action he saw and the extent of his injuries - but has drawn a blank so far.

When Husband came across this final medal and showed it to me we puzzled over it. It was awarded to John Williams for three years' attendance (ending in 1921) and good conduct at an elementary school in Liverpool. Both my grandfather and Uncle had that name.
I said, 'It can't be my grandfather's. He was in his twenties then and I never heard about him being in Liverpool. But it can't be Uncle's either as he wasn't born then.'

The only thing we can think of (that being the royal 'we' as Husband came up with the idea) is that after the army ex-servicemen were offered the chance of an education. I don't think Husband has managed to do any more research into that yet but it seems a possible explanation. Unless there's another unknown-to-me John Williams, a black sheep of the family maybe, who's lurking around out there somewhere. No, on second thoughts, scrap that idea: all the black sheep were happily welcomed into the family fold.

So many questions that will never be answered now.

One thing we do know. When enough men enlisted from a village or town they would march en masse to the train station while those being left behind would stand along the road and clap and cheer. My grandfather got to do this twice. 
The first time he and his group marched to the station only to find the train wasn't running and they had to go home and do it again the following day.


SmitoniusAndSonata said...

My grandfather enlisted and went off to war aged 14 so took the chance to 'go back to school' after the war , too . He did maths and book keeping , both of which came in handy helping us all with our homework ... and to work out the odds at the races .

S. J. Qualls said...

How interesting and odd. Surely they wouldn't be handing out medals for good conduct and attendance to fully grown men ... The time period for those going back to school after the war is right though. Can you make out what is engraved under his name? I'm thinking Airfield something. Was he a pilot? Yep, a bit of a puzzle!

Liz Hinds said...

Ah, Sonata, I see. we must try and find out some more. I'm intrigued.

Anfield Road, SJ, the name of the school. Which must be close to Liverpool football club because their ground is called Anfield. It does seem like a strange award for grown men as you say!