Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Memoir of a Family: Part Seven

This is episode seven of the serialised journal, written up by my wife's great aunt, entitled, ‘Memoirs of my family and my parents, George and Louisa’. This hand-written journal offers a wonderful personal account of family life spanning more than 100 years from around 1863 onwards.

'The war ended in 1918 and gradually the men returned to find homes very difficult.

Bert came home, straight from the trenches, where he had suffered from lack of food, and was thoroughly depressed; he found it difficult to accept civilian life: he drank quite a lot. He brought home a German sniper’s automatic revolver, which Mum asked him to give to the Police. Of course, he didn’t, and whilst cleaning it one afternoon, Ted meddled with it and it must have been loaded. When Bert pulled the trigger, thinking it was unloaded, it went off and a bullet went through my knee and through an armchair and into the wall. It knocked me over for a short time. Ted, with great presence of mind, hid the revolver in the shed.

The doctor came the next day and said I was very fortunate not to have been permanently crippled: the bullet had missed the bone.

This happened just after he had returned home. His wedding to his cousin, Lily Webb, was the next day, and I was to be a bridesmaid. Bert threatened to commit suicide, but was forcibly persuaded by Mum and Dad that he must go to Portsmouth and get married.

Fortunately, Doll was just demobbed from the Air Force, so she took my place.

Then, there was the great worry as to where they were going to live. Bert returned to his work as a bricklayer and visited Lily at weekends. Lily lived with her two sisters. Winnie, the eldest, was a dressmaker, but also managed the housekeeping. Nel was married to Syd Cardy, and they had a baby, Gladys. Syd was an electric welder in the dockyard, earning good wages. He was also a very kind and generous man. We got to know him well, as he often came to visit, and he always brought chocolate and sweets which we enjoyed. They were scarce and classed as luxuries we could not afford.

By this time, Bert and Lil came to live at Broomhill and had two sons. Bert, three years and George, eleven months.

The following four years must have been the most heart-breaking of Mum’s life. On 2nd March, 1921, Dad died in his 70th year. He had the flu and did not recover fully. He was not seriously ill to begin with, but took ill again and died.

Just a year after Dad’s death, Bert died of Meningitis after a bad attack of flu. This was a terrible tragedy, and Mum had to face another situation. Lily was penniless, as Bert had only worked for a short period.

Fortunately, Syd offered a home for Lil and her boys at Cosham. Lil worked for many years at a restaurant and was looked after well.'

To read from the beginning - click here

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges 


  1. We rarely have any idea of just how hard life was for 'ordinary' people around this time - they were truly extraordinary in the way they coped with everthing that life threw at them.

  2. So many heartbreaking stories of the men returning from WWI, irreparably damaged in mind and body.

  3. I feel shades of Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" here. Sad days, indeed.

  4. It is interesting how families through all times have difficulties that call for unusual solutions. It is a very interesting read. I am glad the bullet didn't cause infection.

  5. Jinksy

    You're so right. Although some people suffer extremes of hardship today, at least there are mechanisms that offer some assistance. These people really were on their own, and could only look to their family and friends for support.


    I find it impossible to believe that these men could ever return to 'normal' lives after what they had been through. As you say, heartbreaking.


    It's a reminder, isn't it, that there are/were people far worse-off than us? I can't begin to think what it must have been like.


    I had forgotten about the shooting incident. When I re-read it, I found it pretty shocking. I am a little surprised no questions were asked by the doctor.

  6. Good Lord, Martin! This was quite a chapter, wasn't it?
    I read it out to my husband who said it reads like a Scandinavian film.
    I'm amazed at that suicide averted in favour of marriage scenario.
    It must have been awful for the men who came back from that war.



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