Tribute to my grandfather's brother, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI
I discovered several months ago, in conversation with my elderly godmother, Esther, that my Grampa John's brother, Robert, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I. Two of Grampa John's older brothers enlisted together. Only David came home. I am eternally grateful that my grandfather was much too young to go to war.
I researched the story and discovered that Robert had rescued a number of his injured comrades from bomb craters on the field of battle at St Jean, near Ypres, Belgium. He died from his wounds several days later.
I was deeply moved by his story. He was only 24 when he died. This year is the Centenary of World War I. The Centenary of Robert's death will be on 26th April 2015. I am hoping to visit his grave in Ypres then.
I wrote this Anniversary letter to him.
Private Robert Morrow, VC
St Jean, near Ypres,
26th April 2014
Dear Grand-Uncle Robert,
I am doing some research into our family history and, was talking to my god-mother, your niece, Esther, the other day when I asked her to tell me about my Grampa John, your younger brother.
We were chatting away and were discussing the subject of you and your brother David having fought in WWI, when Esther casually mentioned that you had been killed in the war and had been awarded the Victoria Cross. I was stunned. Only a few soldiers in Ireland were accorded this great honour. Esther was very vague on the details.
Up until then, I have to admit that you were just another name on our family tree. I wished it was possible to meet you, and resolved to find out as much as I could about your war record.
Today is the 99th Anniversary of your death at the age of 24. You died so young and never got the chance to come back home to us. So many people mourn your passing. My eyes prick at the injustice of Fate.
From what I have found out about you, I know you would not have sought recognition, but hope you will be pleased to know that your sacrifice did not pass unnoticed. Lest we forget, your brave actions are recorded for all to see in The Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh. There are memorials in St Anne's Cathedral and in your home town. You will have seen the tributes left by my cousins at your grave in Ypres. I am painting my own personal tribute to you, a memorial to your actions, for a Commemorative Exhibition in the Somme Centre, Bangor on this Centenary Year.
We are so proud of what you did for your comrades. To jump into a bomb crater to help the injured with no thought for yourself is a great inspiration to us all. Your death from your injuries a few days later was a cruel blow to those who waited at home for your return. You honour our name through your actions.
Age shall not wither you. You remain in our hearts.
With deep affection and respect
from your grand-niece, Terri
This October I will be exhibiting a memorial painting
at a Centenary Memorial Concert in the Somme Centre, near Belfast.
I will be reading the following poem in his honour.
The sergeant said “We need you lads
To do your level best
To fight for King and Country
Against a postulating pest.
Two brothers stepped up to the mark,
Young and fighting fit;
Marched into the sunset
To try and do their bit.
Remember them! Long ago,
Dank ranks in muddy trenches,
Drenched, apprehensive, boyish faces wait,
With sodden feet, to meet their fate.
Remember them! In answer to the shrilling call,
They scramble, rambling through no man’s land,
To crawl, or fall in shrieking pain,
Blown to kingdom come by alien shell,
Their death knell, an agonizing yell.
Remember Them! The fortunate few, saddened,
Returning home again,
Boys turned into shattered men,
Remember Them! With poppies,
Sombre drums and sad parades;
Their fallen comrades,
Friends, who lie in foreign glades.
Now, silence splits, a bugle sounds, a poignant, clear refrain,
While marching old men slowly stoop,
To lay each crimson wreath
On steps, beneath the Cenotaph.
(Word count: 715 Words)
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