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As a boy


As a boy, after sunday lunch, I recall sitting on my grandfather’s knee and he would start off with the line ‘have I told you about the time …’ and he’d then add, ‘we were gassed, or we took a German prisoner, or I was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps‘.

Perhaps this started my interest in history.

In his 96th year he returned  to Passchandaele with Lynn Macdonald and I recorded some three hours of interviews, all transcribed here.  We even visited the armoury at the Imperial War Museum where he immediately squatted down behind a Vicker’s Machine Gun and started to set through a routine of checks.

Watching the First Iraq War on TV,  as a contemporary member of the Durham Light Infantry was interviewed he said, ‘That’s nothing compared to Passchendaele‘ which I turned into a TV script of the same name.

Since then I’ve used this memoir and library of references to write ‘Get Jack Back’ relating to the week in late November 1917 when he was stuck in Houlthoust Forrest and ‘Angel of the North‘ about his imagined younger sister who gets herself onto the Western Front. With the centenary nearly upon us now is the time to remember. Jack died in his 97th year. Through various quirks I found myself the guardian of his ashes in 2014. When I research and write about the First World War today, I often think what the man in the urn in the garden shed would say.

 

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