"We Remember" Booklet 2006
I never knew my grandfather. He
died in 1917. The record says “Killed in Action” - but
then in the deep and cloying mud of Ypres, old Wipers, you never
know. However he died I hope it was swift. The conditions were
I started doing my family history
and amongst all the relatives in the old posed photos, there he
was, in his uniform, with his wife and a little boy looking a
bit dour with his centre parting. I think I would! That little
boy was my father. Sadly he’s gone now too, in 1975.
have always been “bits” lying around: my grandfather’s medal
ribbons in a small brown envelope, a big round bronze plaque
with his name on it, and an old letter from the grandly named
Imperial War Graves Commission. And there was a ring. Well, not
really a ring – half a ring. It’s probably not worth much, and
it’s a bit discoloured.
In 1986, I wrote to the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission to find out what I could
about a grave. Private George Bates, they said, G/16787,
“A” Company 1st Battalion Royal West Kent
Regiment. Died on 3 October 1917, age 32. Buried in Plot 13, Row
A, Grave 19 in Bedford House Cemetery, Enclosure No 4,
So, I thought that I should go to
Zillebeke and see his grave. The grave of my father’s
Dad once suggested going over to find it, but it was in the days
when the continent was a world away and foreign. Not going then
has grieved me ever since, because, inscribed on the gravestone
is “Until the dawn breaks, from his wife and son Leslie”.
Leslie, my father, never saw it, never knew that his mother,
George’s wife, had asked that this should be written there.
The old war graves letter says
the half ring, with its initials GB, was sent to my grandmother
to confirm that they had found George’s remains. It was cut from
his finger as he lay. I have that ring. I put that half-ring on
my finger and find that he had thin fingers. There is more to
this story. But laying that ring on my finger now, I feel that I
know him a lot better.
George, Amelia, and Leslie Bates
the half ring