My mother's father came from a prosperous Scottish family. This photograph
was taken at the turn of the last century, and the hand-tinted figures
are members of her immediate family.


The child in the front row wearing the blue suit is my grandfather, Francis (or FA as he was always known). Behind sits my great-grandfather, Daniel Walker. My mother can remember a glass he used for his brandy which had a shelf to support his magnificent moustache.


The other hand-tinted men of a similar age are his brothers. The patriarch in the centre is my great-great grandfather, Allan, in front of him my great-great grandmother, Helen.

Some time later the brothers had a photograph taken of themselves together.

Four Brothers

My great-grandfather helpfully wrote the ages of himself and his four siblings on the back of the card.

Left to right: Uncle John (72), my great grandfather Daniel (68), Uncle Bob (61) and Uncle Allen (60). You can find them years younger in the group photograph.

They have added up their ages for an Aggragate age of 261.

Grandad in World War I

My grandfather said he lied about his age in order to serve during the First World War. This seemed unlikely as he was born in 1893 making him twenty-one when war broke out. However, it turns out that he joined the 5th Territorial Battalion of the Scottish Rifles (the Cameronians) for a four-year term in 1910 which put him amongst the first to be sent to France in August 1914. The Cameronians guarded the lines of communication.

He didn't like to talk about the Great War, but his bravery was never in doubt. We were told that he fought in the trenches and was gassed, sent home, but returned to France to get blown up.

He always maintained that he had taken part in the famous Christmas 1914 football match between the German and British soldiers and he was certainly fighting in the area of Armentiers where it occurred.

Grandad told my mother that he was used as a runner to take messages along the trenches and he had removed his gas mask. In September 1915 at Loos the British releasted gas so that it could drift over to the German front line. However, along parts of the British front line, the wind changed direction and the chlorine was blown back onto the British resulting in 2,000 casualties and seven fatalaties.

This ties in with the stories my grandfather told my mother. She can also remember him sweating pink sweat (which she saw as a child on his white shirts). He said this was the gas still coming out of his body. He also said the gas had smelt of roses, and he was never able to stand the smell of a rose for the rest of his life. I have found references to phosgene gas smelling of new-mown hay or fresh corn, and this was often mixed with chlorine gas and called White Star.

This is my grandfather's dog-tag and the locket (with Napoleon on the front) that contained a photograph of his then fiancée (not my grandmother). He had torn up pieces of company notepaper to stop the picture shifting in the locket. He worked for Barr & Stroud in Glasgow.

He would also have worn a cardboard dog-tag and had he been killed, the metal tag would have been kept with his body, often placed in the mouth, to help identification. The cardboard one would have been retained by his regiment. PRES means he was a Presbyterian.

Below are his Great War medals: The Victory Medal 1914-1919 (left), The British War Medal 1914-1920 and the 1914 Star, sometimes (erroneously) known as the Mons Star. On 19 October 1919 it was announced that The King had approved the issue of a clasp (seen on the right-hand ribbon) to those already awarded the 1914 Star 'who actually served under the fire of the enemy in France or Belgium' between 5 August and 22 November 1914.

 

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