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Bell’s Cornwall Chimes

Malcolm Bell - Head of Tourism (Truro) With Truro Cathedral in the back ground
Malcolm Bell - Head of Tourism (Truro) With Truro Cathedral in the back ground

Thursday, January 23, 2014
10:00 AM

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This can be a depressing time of the year, the nights are still long, the weather can be wet and miserable, Christmas and New Year are a distant memory and the summer holidays are so far away. It is very easy to give in to those feelings of depression and even despair about ones’ life.

However, as we enter 2014 we will hear more about the commemoration of the start of the First World War 1914 and we should take this opportunity to look back at what previous generations and families have gone through at times of real strife . As I write this article from home, I am at my desk with all the modern technologies, the Mac Air notebook, an IMAC desktop, as well as the company laptop next to the iPad and smartphones. Communication, gadgets and information is everywhere around me. Among all this technology is a handcrafted ink pot made by my grandfather in the First World War out of shell cases. This simple object helps me keep my perspective as when I start to get overly obsessed with my worries I remind myself of my grandfather’s and my grandmother’s lives.

My grandfather joined the army to avoid a life of being a trained as a butcher. He joined before the First World War and trained as a regular soldier in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He met my grandmother in Plymouth when he was based at Crownhill Fort and my Gran was in service in the Mannamead area of the city, having moved from Cornwall to gain employment.They were courting in the run-up to the First World War and in August 1914, my grandfather was dispatched with the detachment of the Royal Garrison Artillery to be part of the British Expeditionary Force and was sent to defend Mons, at the outbreak of War. He was there on Day One of the war and was involved in the retreat from Mons, as well as being involved in many of the key battles including Passchendaele and the Somme. Their courtship continued during the war and I have many of the letters and postcards between them.

They eventually married in 1916, before the battle of Somme and what might appear surprising to some, they were very keen to start a family just in case my grandfather didn’t make it back. For whatever reason there were no children conceived before the end of the war. As a regular soldier who had survived the Great War, a quick return to normal life was not to be, he was then sent to Russia to support the white Russians against the Red army, but luckily they were withdrawn before they had to do battle once more.

After he left the army they lived in Truro and they had five children - three boys and two girls. Unfortunately, two of the children died when they were young, through the disease and illness which must have been devastating, to say the least. Then at the outbreak of World War II the children now in their teens and early 20s, were eligible for military service in another World War and this time they were left wondering if their remaining children would come back alive and well. Fortunately they all survived and retuned and for that they must have been eternally grateful and not believing their luck. So when I do get overly concerned with my problems I reflect back on my grandparents lives and their REAL worries and what they had to handle in their lives. In many ways they were the fortunate ones as countless families suffered far more than mine.

My daughter has a note on her desk that states: ‘count your blessings and not your troubles’. So as we hear of the commemorations of 1914, let us all keep our perspective and concentrate on what really matters in life and reflect on what previous generations have gone through, and what many are still going through at the current time and remain well-balanced.

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