As a child, I was told how “seven Graham boys” fought in the First World War.
I didn’t learn their names but I know my father, George (photo at right), was one, and his younger brother, Arthur was another. I suppose the others were their cousins, John, Frank, Willie and Tom, and possibly their elder brother Harry. Although I can’t picture Uncle Harry in a military uniform. In the family album, he wears a white suit and dark tie. He was an accountant and a staunch supporter of the Anglican Church in Port Maria (Jamaica).
I wonder if the seventh “Graham boy” was Uncle Cyril, son of my father’s Aunt Catherine. His last name was Sinclair but to all intents and purposes he was one of “the Grahams.”
I regret that I didn’t take the trouble to learn the details. I know they all came home safely from the First World War, but Uncle Arthur (who lied about his age to get in the first time) joined the Merchant Marine for World War II and was standing on a bridge in London when a buzz bomb landed nearby. He woke up in the hospital with a steel plate in his head. That was the reason for his crazy behavior when he’d had a few drinks.
My dad didn’t much want to talk about the war. He didn’t seem to think it was all that glamorous. But he told me he was a machine gun corporal – later a sergeant – in the British Army and marched through Egypt and the Holy Land into Italy. He smiled when he bragged that he swam across the Suez Canal and he said the River Jordan was disappointingly small. He didn’t talk about the fighting, but about the heat and the thirst and the lice and the endless sand.
As for the other “Graham boys,” I have no idea where they served. Marching through the desert like my dad? Or in the bogs and barbed wire of the European Theatre… in peril from mustard gas and bayonets? Perhaps engaging in hand-to-hand fights to the death? If they did, they never talked about it. It seems that those who fight in wars want to forget rather than remember.
I’m not sure how many family members followed in their footsteps. My brother Bill spent many years as a peacekeeper in the Canadian Black Watch. And I seem to recall a picture of Uncle Cyril’s son, Harold, in some kind of uniform. Was he in World War II? (Robin, if you read this blog, you might want to fill us in.)
Anyway, today we remember those – from our family and from other families all over the world – who put their lives on the line to protect us from tyranny.
Today, my thoughts turned to those “Graham boys” who went off to war 100 years ago and came safely home again. And to the one who wasn’t quite so lucky – Uncle Arthur, who was standing on that bridge in London when the buzz bomb hit.