Remembrance Families to pay tribute to their forebears tomorrow
Their stories will endure. A century after the guns finally fell silent on the western front, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other relatives of those who fought in the first world war will be among the 10,000-strong crowd expected to march past the Cenotaph in the People’s Procession on Remembrance Sunday.
Mark Rogers will march for his grandfather Lewis Rogers, a gunner who survived the war, but whose brother Bertie did not. Bertie was one of three of Rogers’ great-uncles who died in the war. “All were young men. As Lewis said, ‘there was no old men there’,” said Rogers, a maths teacher from Solihull.
Julia Knowles will also walk for her grandfather: Arthur Hines, a signaller who survived and went back to France to marry the young French woman who had captured his heart in Lille. She will have in mind a “heart-rending” letter Hines carried all his life. It was written to him by the mother of a comrade who did not come home, in which she consoles herself that her son had “died for a great and noble cause”.
Fighting continued up to the moment of armistice, at 11am on 11 November 1918. "Now the two world wars of the last century are passing from living memory,” said Rogers. “Even this event is driven by the fact that veterans of these wars have all but disappeared. What do we do next? Abandon the march past the Cenotaph at Whitehall, or adapt it?
“I want to march past in the place of those who used to remember their comrades who had fallen; men who knew the men who had died, and were thankful they had survived.”
His grandfather, from Crowle in Worcestershire, was one of four brothers, all of whom fought. He survived the Somme and was shot during the Battle of Aisne. He rarely spoke of the war, his grandson said. Only towards the end of his life did he open up, allowing his grandson to record his memories. “I asked him whether he ever thought about the many men he must have killed. He replied: ‘I suppose I did. You couldn’t miss ’em. It was like shooting into a wall of cattle.’”
Rogers said: “I think they had to sanitise it, to come to terms with it. It was just doing a job, basically.” was so moved by the letter written to her grandfather, who served with the British expeditionary force, that she recently sought out the grave of his comrade, William Munro Hutchinson, from Bolton.
The men’s friendship was forged in the war. When Hutchinson died aged 24, Hines wrote to his parents, and his comrade’s mother wrote back. “It must have meant a lot to my grandfather,” said Knowles, an operations manager at a satellite communications company. “He kept it all his life. But we knew nothing about it until my father died, and we found it in his personal effects.”
Knowles will also celebrate the more “joyous” consequence of the war – in that it brought her grandparents together – and the close links she retains with her French grandmother’s family.
Mark Rogers is remembering his grandfather and three great-uncles