Like most Europeans, I had more than one ancestor killed in World War One. Today I found my photos of one of them. He died just over 100 years ago – my dad spoke of him when we were growing up, and his other uncle who died in 1917.
I thought it was very instructive to put the two photos of my grandma’s brother side by side. Same young man, probably the same uniform, same hat. And maybe only two years’ difference, between the shots. My grandma is the little girl on the right of the photo. She adored her older brother, I was told. I can’t imagine how it must have felt, the day the family got that telegram. There was no body found, no grave for anyone to visit. Most of William’s colleagues lasted a few months in this unit. He lasted several years. He is one of the names on the memorial at Soissons Cathedral. I’ve never been able to afford to go there so have never seen it. One day I’d love to.
My oldest son was born on a Remembrance Sunday and we gave him William’s name.
What I’ve always found striking is that you would think two decades not two years, had passed, between these two images being taken. One is a boy; one looks like a tough, middle aged man. I wonder if it’s the same hat in both photos? The second picture is pierced round wonkily with a pin, and has his name written in ink, on the back and something my dad was told was a bloodstain. It does look possible.
Gunner William Boothman, Royal Artillery, X Battery trench mortars, (“suicide squad”), number: 107649. He was my great grandparents’ oldest son. He joined up the same day as his cousin, of the same name, also from Leeds. The other William survived the war.
Politicians (donkeys) still sacrifice lions. So – lest we forget. Here is one of the faceless many.