On this Memorial Day, I would like to pay tribute to the soldiers in my family:
My maternal grandfather, Jack Wallis, who was a radio operator in the Royal Navy in the North Sea during World War I. He was 17 when he enlisted.
My paternal grandfather Henry Victor Smith, who also enlisted at age 17, and took care of the horses for the British army in France and Belgium. Perhaps his happiest memory from the war was stumbling across a nest with eggs which he shared with his starving comrades. My grandfather didn’t suffer fools gladly. After the war, he ran into his commanding officer in Derby. His CO had ordered his men into battle, but instead of leading them, he stayed back behind the front lines while they advanced. My grandfather “didn’t half give him a bollocking,” cursing him out in the middle of Derby for being a “coward.” I’m sure his CO never forgot this.
Henry Smith’s brother, Norman Smith, also served in the army during World War I.Norman was gassed by the Germans and developed a weak heart which troubled him his entire life and led to an early death.
All four sons of my maternal great-grandmother, Alice Durward, fought in World War II: Reg, Eric, George, and Jack Durward.
Luckily, all of these men came home, but one, Bert Dewar, a Scottish cousin, did not.