Friday, November 11, 2011

Before Remembrance Day

November the 11th -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month -- when hostilities were formally closed by the signing of the Armistice, ending the First World War, or Great War, or The War to End All Wars, as it was variously known.

Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919, on the first anniversary of the Armistice.  Even then, who believed that it would 'end all wars'?

During the 'First War' (as it is known in my family), some of my great uncles were at school.  Their eldest brother was in battle in France, and the next eldest, my grandfather, was working on the land.  My great uncles attended various village schools in rural Lincolnshire.  My family still has some of their school books, which is where these illustrations originate.  I think they are special and possibly unique.

Hedley , 4th August 1915

All my great uncles and the family before them worked on the land as largely unskilled farm labourers.  None of them had the opportunity for higher education or to develop their artistic skills.

The artisitic endeavours must have been 'set pieces' for school because many of the same subjects appear over the years in these three great uncles' notebooks.  Even so, they are beautiful:

Jack  19th November 1915

I think that Percy's were the most beautiful drawings, and it his notebooks I have the most of.  He was the eldest of the four brothers still at school (I have no notebooks of the youngest Stanely, who would have been barely at primary school when the War broke out).  Percy would have been 12 or 13, a most impressionable age, in the early years of the War.  Here are his doodles:

Percy , from the 1914 notebook, his mark 10/10 and VG (very good?)
Note the patriotic flags.  And airships and fighter planes:

Percy  1914 notebook

I can picture him, squashed into his school desk, licking his pencil stub and agonising over the scale and straight-edge.  Not so different to the doodles I remember school chums doing 50 years later, with the addition perhaps of Batman and rockets.

In the small parish churches of rural Lincolnshire the Honour Rolls of the fallen often show three, four or more men lost on the battlefields in France and Belgium bearing the same family name:  brothers and cousins and uncles and fathers.  It is hard for us here in the bright shiny future to imagine their loss and sacrifice, the denuded farms, the plundered families.  So many names.

Percy, aged 12 years, chalk on paper, 1914



HyperCRYPTICal said...

A beautiful snatch of life in the time of World War One. A fine tribute to this day.

Anna :o]

ds said...

Thank you, Isabel, for sharing the stories of your most talented uncles. We, who entered that war so late, tend to forget that an entire generation of British men were lost on those French and Belgian fields.
Yes, so many names.
Thank you.

Mama Zen said...

What treasures!

jabblog said...

Wonderful, irreplaceable family treasures.
In the regional regiments whole generations of young men were killed - so hard.

The Old Raven said...

This gave me great pleasure to read and view. Special.

Everyday Goddess said...

I really love the personal and historical connection you posted here Isabel.

I gave you one of my weekly Goddess Awards for you sidebar if you like.

In joy,