Friday, 14 October 2011

Sepia Saturday: Brothers in Arms

Arthur and George were twins. They were called up to fight in 1939, aged just 19. They trained together and, for the most part, fought together in Italy and North Africa.


Arthur was my late stepfather. He passed away in December, 2009, aged 89. His war experiences never left him and, in his final months, the most poignant episodes were recalled again and again. He had been left puzzles to solve in his own mind, puzzles that had no clear answers.

We know about the special relationship that can exist between twins. Two of our own grandchildren share such a bond. And there's a particular wartime story about Arthur and George that I'll always remember. They had been involved in heavy fighting, at close quarters. As the odds turned against them, the order was given to fall back. Enemy fire rained down, and Arthur threw himself into a hole in the ground. He stayed there, waist-deep in water. Any attempt to haul himself out and make it back to his unit, would have attracted unwanted attention from the other side. In fact, the Germans were so close, just beyond a low ridge, that Arthur could hear them talking and slapping their sides in the cold early mornings.

Who else, other than George, would have crawled on his belly to get cold rations and water to his isolated brother? Time after time, he did so, under cover of darkness.

Everyone has stayed too long in the bath at some time. The crinkly skin is the tell-tale sign. Imagine how we'd look after several days too long in the water. Arthur was hospitalised after his eventual rescue.

As kids, we gently ribbed him about how smooth his legs were. We had no idea then and, in truth, we still have no idea today.

25 comments:

  1. What fascinating story. And don't they look handsome in their uniforms. They certainly had some guts and what a super bond they had - risking his own life to take rations to his trapped brother. People who moan over trivial things would do well to look at these two men and their story.

    Julie xx

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  2. The Expression That "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" Seems Very Apt.

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  3. Without being facetious, this reminds me of that line from 'Two Little Boys:' were one goes to the other: Do you think I would leave you dying, when there's room on my horse for two...

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  4. We think we know about war - but we don't really do we? What a touching story. Glad one of them, at least, lived to a ripe old age - though inevitably changed by the experience.

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  5. Hello Martin, I very much enjoy your blog but this post has really made an impression on me. Despite the fact that our nation is currently involved in several conflicts (all of which are admittedly very different in nature to the second world war) there is a vacuousness to our much of our modern discourse that I simply do not believe existed previously.

    It is thanks to people such as yourself that it is not all pervading. We need to communicate what happened.

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  6. My Grandfather never talked about his war experiences, but the friends he made during the Great War remained close for long after, and I suspect were the only people to whom he could talk about that time and be understood. Having twin daughters myself, I understand that heightened understanding and empathy which would make those wartime experiences something to share between themselves, but not perhaps easy to relate to others. Thanks for such a thoughful post, revealing the back story to what was already a nice portrait.

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  7. It is indeed a charming portrait of two fine young men. The story of the selflessness of one twin for the other, putting himself in danger, so that his brother might survive, deserves be read by a wider audience. You have done them both great service.

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  8. They are both good looking men. Their experience that you described sounds like something from a movie.

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  9. What a wonderful photo! How handsome and proud they look. Wow..89 is a wonderfully long life!

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  10. It breaks my heart to think of both of them going off to war. I can only imagine how their mother felt. I'm so glad they made it back.

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  11. Oh my God - how cold, wet and horrible that would have been and amazing that his brother knew to help him - great story Martin.

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  12. Oh they are powerfully handsome for sure, and what an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it...I'm not very comfortable with speaking about the war like so many...mostly I think because my son-in-law is deployed over there again for a second time...so the topic of war is bitter for me...

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  13. Rolf Harris came to my mind, too... ♥

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  14. I too see this story as a mother. I can't imagine having twins and seeing them both leave for war. Is it still true that twins or siblings fight in the battlefield together?

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  15. Martin, we need to make sure that events like this are never forgotten. Thanks for retelling their experiences.

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  16. What a story of true brotherly love and sacrifice. I don't think I will soon forget it - it does put our modern problems in a proper perspective. Thank you for bringing that photograph to life.

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  17. That was indeed an amazing story. We have several sets of twins in my husbands family and they definitely share a bond unlike other siblings.
    QMM

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  18. I can't help but think how young they were to be off at war. It is good that they had each other both during and after the war.

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  19. They could go to war but they couldn't vote, not in those days. It's an amazing story, one well worth remembering.

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  20. thanks for posting this touching REAL story about
    your family- what a lovely photo and such a story-we really have no idea what young men and now young women have to endure and what bravery goes unoticed by most of us...as we live out our mostly quiet lives. My heart goes out to all past and present soldiers.

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  21. Yes, my father too told the stories more frequently than ever before his last few years. He let go the one final story while in the emergency room before he was checked in to die. He had to help a buddy cut off another guys leg. He cried and cried as he relived it. That reality was more real than how sick he really was at the real world time. My dad never really got over any of is experiences in the war.

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  22. A wonderful story and photo. The pose in front of a theatrical backdrop and balustrade prop is very 19th century though. If you had not explained that they were twins, one might mistake it for a trick double exposure photo.

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  23. What a great story of twinship.
    Loved it
    Love the photo too.
    Nancy Javier
    Ladies of the grove

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  24. surprising that he didn't get infected after being in there for so long...

    a nice tale.
    thanx 4 sharing!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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