While watching the Westminster Abbey service tonight I got the urge to light a candle. Both my grandfathers fought in WW1, on opposing sides. My English grandfather ran away from home and lied about his age to get into the Royal Flying Corps (the forerunner of the RAF). He survived the war and remained in the RAF for the rest of his career, retiring in the 1950s. My Polish grandfather regarded himself as Prussian and fought in the German army. He survived a gas attack, but his lungs were severely compromised. He was a farmer by vocation and ended up on a glorious smallholding in the hills above Durban, South Africa. He sent me boxes of his home-grown passion fruit when I was a child. Both grandfathers died in the 1970s.
And that was the sum total of our family's history with WWI, or so I thought. Recently my brother and I have been tracing our family tree, and I was pretty surprised to find I had a grand-uncle Percival living at home in the schoolhouse at Slapton Sands, Devon, in the census of 1911 (My great-grandparents were the school teachers there). He was a tailor's apprentice. He was born in 1894, so was peak age for cannon fodder in the war. He died somewhere in 1916. I still have to follow up all the details.
The odd thing is no one in my family ever mentioned him. My grandfather never said a word. I don't think my father or his sister Patricia even knew of Percy's existence - my aunt Patricia had a huge fund of family stories and was interested in all the connections so I feel certain she would have said something about him if she had known.
Poor Percy. In memory of his short life and miserable death, a candle tonight.