Battlefield Relations

 
Charlie's Grave
 

Scratch the surface of any family, even today, and you will find stories of relatives who served in WW1.

 

My uncles were   involved and all five returned relatively unscathed.

 

D.J.’s family were not so fortunate. Two of his great-uncles were killed –one   on the Somme and one near Ypres.

 

Since we were “doing” the battle fields, it seemed fitting to visit their graves.

 

Thanks to David's and Ailsa’s meticulous research and the efficiency of the Commonwealth War Graves web-site, we knew exactly where to find them.

 

That’s why, on a beautiful sunny evening, we were climbing a hill deep in the French countryside to reach a little military cemetery.

 

We   couldn’t find a road up to it, so the ascent involved a “full frontal attack” led by my indefatigable son-in-law through brambles, goose-grass and the odd thistle.

 

It was only when we reached the top, hot, scratched and breathless that we saw the neat metalled road winding up to a gate from further round the hill …….

 

The cemetery was surrounded by cornfields and poppies and had the same beautiful feeling of peace as all the others.

 

D.J. soon found the headstone inscribed to

 “Captain A.N. Drysdale, M.C.” and the badge of the Highland Light Infantry

 

After he had planted the little remembrance cross, we signed the visitors’ book. (All the cemeteries have a small metal cupboard somewhere in a wall or column, with the names of the dead and a book to sign.)

 

I picked some poppies from the field as a little token and  we headed down the hill – on the road this   time !!!

 

Later that week we went to Kortrijk to find Great - Uncle Charlie.

 

Kortrijk is a busy, industrial Belgian town and, according to David, he was buried in the military section of the civilian cemetery there.

 

My heart sank as we wandered through grey, depressing headstones and tombs. The overwhelming impression was of desolation and decay.

 

Then we saw, in a far corner, the Cross of Sacrifice set with a sword which characterises all military cemeteries maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and, surrounding it, the now-familiar cream - coloured headstones with their soft, colourful plants and grassy sward.

 

As we entered this little oasis, some workers from the cemetery came by, laughing and talking but when they saw us, they were immediately silent and tiptoed past.

We were most touched by their respect.

 

We found his grave easily

 

“Lieut. C.S Workman M.C” and his age – 20 years

 

Charles had been seconded from the Cameronian Scottish Rifles to the Royal Flying Corps and was shot down over Kortrijk.

 

He was still alive following the crash of his aircraft, but gravely injured.

“Parachute?  What parachute? ” said my daughter   when I asked if he could have bailed out.

 

“They didn’t have any, Mum. Not then”

 

Charles was taken to a German Military Hospital and there, the doctor in attendance   recognised him as the son of his friend Dr. Workman, a Glasgow pathologist who had trained and lectured in Germany before the conflict.

 

The good doctor did everything in his power to save Charles’s life but to no avail.

 

So, as soon as possible, he wrote to his friend to tell him what had happened and to express to the family, his sorrow at the boy’s death.

 

Countries may have been at war but the simple friendship  , kindness and compassion of this act still shines out after all those years.

 

But we hadn’t finished with the relatives yet… things were going to get a lot more “close up and personal” before we came home.

 

Join me next time !!

 

 

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