Saturday, 22 May 2010

Sepia Saturday: Bertha and the Brothers

Bertha, 1889-1966 and George, 1893-1967

My late father-in-law’s mother, Bertha, married George Maidment in 1919, the year after the end of World War One. Her first husband, Pte. Frederick Maidment, was killed in action on 28th March, 1918, aged 29. He had only just returned to the ‘front’ after a short leave.

Bertha’s youngest sister, Eva, wrote in her journal, “This was a great tragedy, and Bertha was so shocked, that she and Reg and Ivy came home to stay with us for long periods.”

Her life turned upside down, and left with two young children to raise, Bertha gradually saw a future with her husband’s younger brother, George. They duly tied the knot and, together, they had two more sons; Albert, my father-in-law and Maurice.

Eva went on to write, “George was a very good husband, and became a kind and generous step-father to Reg and Ivy. He was a wonderful gardener.” “Bertha was a very clean and thorough housewife, with a very high standard of cleanliness and discipline: each child had certain tasks to fulfil."

“When Bertha and George were in their 70s, they had to move to an old cottage as a new road was being built, and their house had to be demolished. Bertha had a very long illness when she was middle-aged, suffering from cancer. But she made a miraculous recovery and lived until she was 77.”

In the picture, above, Bertha and George are enjoying a day trip to Stonehenge. The photograph was taken by their youngest son, Maurice, who is still alive and well today.

More Sepia Saturday posts HERE

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges


  1. The fact that these two are photographed against the backdrop of Stonehenge says so much about the past and history and what we may have lost. For a start, bring back the cardigan.

  2. So many lives must have been upturned as a result of war. I can't imagine just how devastating that must have been, but I suppose having been married only a short time was what enabled someone ultimately to move on and forge a life with someone else. I imagine the brother shared some of the traits of the one lost, so perhaps she was able to regain a bit of what had been taken from her.
    This was a lovely relating of their story, Martin.



  3. A wonderful story, Martin! And I love seeing Stonehenge in the background.

  4. Hi Martin

    I loved to hear of Bertha and George. It was interesting that widows often married a brother-in-law. My grandparents and my great aunt and uncle were brother and sister twice over. Perhaps the circle of friendships and acquaintances was so much smaller in those days that you made do.

    George looks a little mischievous.

    Happy days

  5. What a lovely heartwarming story, Martin. Wonderful to hear of a happy ending for Bertha after the tragedy of losing her first husband.

  6. At first glimpse of your photo, I thought, "Oh, my gosh, is that Stonehenge?" Indeed it was. Fabulous.

  7. That is a truly wonderful photo! & the touching story took my mind to a place similar to Kat's--the turmoil of war translated to daily life.

  8. Fran - Cardigans are back, but you must only be seen in the asymmetrical variety, by all accounts.

    Kat - I agree with your take on this. And sometimes, when we have no emotional tie to a person, it's easy to form an opinion of them, based on their actions, alone. When the detail is provided, we realise that they laughed, cried and loved, as we all do.

    Vicki - Yes, I don't think I've ever seen another family snap from this era, taken at Stonehenge....when we could get up close to the stones.

    Delwyn - In Bertha's day, her locality would probably have been her world. Today, of course, the world is regarded as our locality.

    Teresa - I think it's one of the happiest endings too. Mags tells me that she remembers her grandparents as being a happy couple. After Bertha died, George really struggled, and joined her within twelve months.

    willow - In some ways, it actually looks like a film set or studio shot, doesn't it? But it is the real thing.

  9. Really enjoyed this post. Amazing the freedom of access people once had to Stonehenge.

  10. Bertha seems to have had two happy endings in her life- first her second marriage and then her second life after cancer.
    I visited Stonehenge in the '60s and you were still able to go right up to the stones. It's probably a good thing they don't let people do it anymore, though. Can you imagine the graffiti?

  11. I loved the story, with all its tragedy and triumph. And I love cardigans! I have quite a collection...

  12. What an amazing story! It's so true that reality is far more interesting and original than fiction. I always enjoy your Sepia Saturdays because they remind me of that most important fact. And I'm glad Bertha finally found joy with another... such a horrible tragedy she and her children had to endure.

    Wishing you a lovely Sunday, Martin.


  13. John - Thank you.

    Barry - Yes, it's certainly a different tale today.

    Barbara and Nancy - By all accounts, Bertha was the kind of person who would make the best of a situation. Her disposition must have helped her through these ordeals. I noticed this announcement on the English heritage website, 'English Heritage is pleased to be providing Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice.'

    Leah - Glad you liked Bertha's story. Look after those cardigans.

    Nevine - The lives and times of our forebears are often full of events and incidents that make us sit up and think. To see the routes their lives took them on, and the way they met with fortune and tragedy, is endlessly fascinating.

  14. A photo like this reveals how our lives can be so tumultuous with changing times and events. Interesting that it's taken with such a potent symbol behind.

  15. I am happy Bertha could pick up the pieces. It had to be a scar that she carried inside while finding a new life helped it to heal. Great blog and it is a neat photo of them.

  16. How wonderful to have someone who kept a journal within the family and that such a record has survived down the years. I can almost see someone quoting such passages from our blogs in 50 years time as they weave together the long-lost stories of Martin and Alan and all the rest.

  17. lovely that they were happy together after such a tragedy. I like the photo. I remember visiting Stonehenge as a child, when you could still wander between and touch the stones

  18. I've been recently reading a series of fiction books set in post-WWI England. The author brings to life, to some extent at least, some of the difficulties after the war, and especially the loss of so many young men, which meant many unmarried young women. Good for Bertha that she found love again. I love this photo. They both look like very sturdy people to me. Thanks for sharing.


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