On Friday night I went on to Ancestry to see if I could find anything new about my family, because that’s my Friday nights now I’m old.
I found out that my great grandfather, John London (generally referred to as Pops), served in the First World War. Something we didn’t know before. He joined the Army in 1915 but there’s not really any information about that until he joined the Royal Flying Corps in late 1917 as a driver, with the rank of 3rd Class Air Mechanic.
He served in France from March 1918 until 1919 which means he was there for the last eight months of the war (and probably earlier in his pre-RFC career), including Armistice Day which has its centenary today. It also means that he was transferred to the Royal Air Force on its creation, the centenary of which has been celebrated this year.
Pops was lucky enough to survive the war (as you can see from the picture of him as an older man), working both before and after in the film industry.
Luckily 2 of my other great grandfathers survived it too. Ernest Jeakings was in the Army Vetinary Corps, looking after horses. Albert Edward Irving served in the Royal Marine Artillery, he also served in the Second World War and survived that too.
My great grandmother’s brothers weren’t as lucky. Frederick William Clements died in bombardment of the trenches in 1916 in Ypres, he was 21. Alfred John Clements died in the Battle of Coronel off the coa of Chile when his ship HMS Monmouth was sunk with all hands in 1914, he was 17. George Clements also died during the same war.
My granddad Pete served in the RAF in the Second World War, he and all his brothers volunteered as soon as they were able (one who was a firefighter had to stay at home continue this). My other granddad did National Service in Egypt and Palestine shortly after the war.
All of this makes me very humble and brings to mind the quote from Dr Johnson, “Every man thinks meanly of himself for never having been to sea nor having been a soldier.”