Your Story of the Great War

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The road to Notre-Dame-de-Lorette

‘Your story of the Great War’ are the stories some of our readers wrote about their distant relatives who died on the battlefields of WWI.

Some went to extreme research to dig out information about their ancestor, others recovered old documents stored in their attic.

Their messages were so touching that we decided to create a compilations of their stories.

What is your story?

Please contact us if you’d like us to publish the story of your grandfather, great uncle or any family member who fought, died or survived during the Great War.

Placing a face on a name, or discovering who they were, will revive the shadow of their life.

 

Your Story – Andrew Ronald Legat MC – British

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Andrew Ronald Legat

Lieutenant Andrew Ronald Legat MC – A Bty. 317th Bde., Royal Field Artillery – died on 28 March 1917.

He was 29 years old.

He was buried in Cabaret Rouge CWGC Cemetery located in Souchez  in the department of Pas-de-Calais.

He is Remembered with Honour.

There is no known photo of him.

His great grand nephews, Jonathan and Anthony, said that Andrew had a twin brother who survived.

However, no one in the family could remember if the twins were identical or fraternal.

 

 

Your Story – Canadian Unknown Soldier – Cabaret Rouge

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Unknown Canadian Soldier’s burial plot

On May 25, 2000 the CWGC officially exhumed the remains of an unidentified Canadian Soldier.

This took place in Cabaret Rouge CWGC Cemetery in Souchez.

His ashes were returned to Canada.

They were laid at the foot of the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

The memorial pays tribute to the 116,000 Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their life in the name of Peace and Freedom.

A ceremony was also held at the magnificent Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial.

A gravestone in Plot 8, Row E, Grave 7 in Cabaret Rouge marks the site where the Unknown Canadian Soldier’s original grave was.

Your Story of the Great War – Claude-Joseph – French

Brigitte sent us the story of her grandfather Claude-Joseph, who was 20 when the Great War broke out.

“With his comrades he crawled, slept and survived like a rat in the muddy and bloody trenches of Verdun.

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Life on the front

So many husbands, brothers, fathers and sons never returned…

All was left of them was the picture of proud soldiers displayed on the mantle piece of the dining- room and mourned by legions of orphans and widows.

So much misery for those who were left behind!

My family didn’t worship a picture but a small black leather diary with a big hole in its centre.

Indeed, this booklet proved to have been the most efficient armour a soldier could have worn!

On the morning of the day he should have died, my grand-father decided to scribble a few notes in his diary.

He then hastily placed it back in the front pocket of his jacket, just over his heart, as the shooting resumed.

Then Claude-Joseph found himself face to face with the German soldier.

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Statue of a Poilu in Fleury-devant-Douaumont

They both shot at each other but the bullet supposed to reach my grandfather’s heart embedded itself in the little diary.

His injuries came down ‘only’ to three missing knuckles on the left hand and a nasty wound in the thigh.

These injuries amazingly saved his life, as he was sent to a military hospital in Nice where he stayed until the Armistice.

My grandfather never learned of course the name of the German soldier he killed that day; Death has no name…

Two years later Claude-Joseph met my grandmother, Anne-Marie, a gorgeous and witty brunette.

She gave him a girl then a boy and a few years later my mother.

He had defeated war and death and had been be able to transmit his genes to the next generations, his ‘passport for eternity’.

My daughter and her children will keep carrying his legacy.”

Your Story of the Great War – James Trott – British

One of the men who died at Passchendaele was James Trott of the Yorkshire Regiment 9th Battalion.

His great niece, Carol, contacted us and this is what she wrote:

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James Trott

“I am just typing up some memories from my Grandmother that she recorded in the late 80’s.

Apparently her brother James died on the 19th September and had just been home on leave and went back on the last day of August – she says they all had their picture taken together in the station but sadly we don’t have a copy of that.

This is what my grandmother says about that time:

“A lot of men had come home on leave, they used to have a farewell party and I was saying to Mum and Dad “Oh we should have a farewell party” and Mother said “Oh no, when he comes back for good, we’ll have a real good welcome home party”.

But he never came back, he was killed on the 19th September.

He was stretcher bearing and he was bringing in the wounded, and the officer wrote to my mother.

To think that he’d never had chance to sort of live….he was such a nice lad, I’ve got his picture.”

James is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Your Story of the Great War – John Franklin Laraghy – Australian

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John Franklin Laraghy

John Franklin Laraghy was an 18 year old cellarman who joined up the 14th Infantry on 12th July 1915.

He sailed for the Western Front on RMS Osterley from Sydney on 15th January 1916.

His brother Victor Gordon Laraghy joined up a few weeks before him on June 21, 1915, and is believe to have survived.

He also had another brother who joined up on October 27, 1915; he was seriously injured and was returned to Australia and discharged on May 4, 1917.

John’s death was announced on the Sydney Morning Herald, New South Wales on December 20, 1917.

John was killed only a couple of days before Passchendaele village was finally taken.

He was buried by the Canadian Dressing Station in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Your Story of the Great War – The Blanc Brothers – French

When Philip Hoyle purchased his farm on the Causse of Quercy, he had no idea he was also purchasing a bit of World War I history.

In the attic, he discovered a cache of over 250 letters written by Emile and Leopold Blanc, the sons of Monsieur and Madame Blanc who owned the farm in the early 1900’s.

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Blanc Brothers

The letters the Blanc Brothers Letters wrote to their parents told of the misery of war and the disillusionment the soldiers suffered.

Battles were horrific, but the boredom of inactivity between fighting was almost as demoralizing.

One brother sunk into depression and alcohol; the other became radicalized politically.

At one point their morale was so low that they contemplated desertion, even making a plan and selecting a safe haven in which to hide.

You can feel the homesickness each felt as they inquired after the health of their parents, the weather, the crops, and their friends.

Both longed to be at home helping their parents farm the land.

Apparently Emile, the good-looking brother, had a sweetheart before the war.

Before he left for the front, she vowed to him that if he did not return to her, she would take holy orders and become a nun.

He did not return; she entered the convent.

Yet another life changed forever by WWI.

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War Memorial in Sauliac-sur-Célé

Mr and Mme Blanc like many farmers during the Great War struggled without their sons to help with the work of raising crops and tending livestock on their 80 hectares of rocky and dry Causse land.

Previously well off, the farm slipped into disrepair, parts of it were even rented out as Mr. Blanc could not farm it all on his own.

When both boys were killed within weeks of each other during the Battle of Verdun in 1917, their parents’ struggle to hold the farm together increased.

Mr Blanc was killed in a riding accident a few years after the war ended.

Madame lived on the farm another thirty years, all of it rented out now to provide her a meager income.

One can only imagine how lonely she must have been….her boys gone, her husband dead and no other children to care for her.

One can imagine her by the fire on long winter evenings, reading and re-reading the letters from her sons.

She is representative of so many other French whose lives were devastated by the Great War.

Philip gathered together the Blanc Brothers letters, his research and photos of the farm into his book:

“Les lettres des frêres Blanc: Témoignages du Front 1914-1917” (Blanc Brothers’ Letters: Testimonies from the Front 1914-1917).

Story via Melanged Magic by Evelyn Jackson

Your Story of the Great War – Angelina

Paule told us the tragic story of a woman who lost all.

“Angelina was one of my grandmother’s school friends.

We didn’t believe my grandmother when she told us how beautiful Angelina once was!

She said that she bewitched all the boys with her looks – ginger hair, freckles and bright green eyes.

All I remember was Angelina’s intense look; I also remember that I never saw her smile, and sadly she scared us all when we were children.

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Grieving…

Angelina got married before the Great War, and had twin girls who inherited her ginger hair and striking green eyes.

When her husband was sent to the front, she kept running the family estate.

He was killed, and his body was never found.

If the grief of loosing her husband was not big enough, she also lost her twins to the Spanish flu in 1920!

Years of desolation followed, as her life was shattered.

Not only has she never been able to mourn properly for her husband, as his body was never recovered, but she couldn’t project herself into the future having lost her precious little girls.

I often hear people say that God never gives more than you can bear.

I don’t know about this, but what I know is that women are made of strong stuff and no doubt Angelina was a survivor!

She flirted with insanity all her life – who would blame her?

However, she remained in charge; she was also a great warrior!

A few years later, she fostered two orphan boys and adopted them officially when they turned 21.

They gave her the family she had lost so tragically, the grandchildren she was not supposed to have had.

She survived because of the immense love she had embedded in her heart.

I wish I had known this when you were alive Angelina…”

Here are the links to the WWI 100th Anniversary Celebrations planned:

Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, starting on July 1st 2016

Mission Centenaire 14-18 in English