Messages from the Dead.

We have pushed the Great War out of the way. We have forgotten. sure we take a trip, some of us more that one. We go to Tyne Cot, bow our heads, perhaps say a prayer or two. Shed a tear or two. Pile on the bus and go to Langemark. “Voss is buried there”, someone says, “so are two of our chaps,” says another. “You would have thought they would have buried them in one of our cemeteries” “Did you know Hitler said Germany owes the Jewish soldiers buried here a debt of gratitude?” said by yet another. Then perhaps another Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, to see one of the youngest, “So young”, plus a few VC winners chucked in for good measure. does anyone apart from me place a poppy on other graves? I sometimes wonder. our duty done, we have paid our respects, time to head home. On the 11th and or the nearest Sunday, we will go to another bit of the town away from our houses to spend a minute head bowed to “Remember them” those that died over the channel, the dead, died there not here.

There was going to be a message from my sponsors, The Dead, but they must be sleeping. Time to go.

“Hang on a minute. I’m Florrie, I lived here. At No.29 Blackbull Road, just across from you. I died here. A German bomb killed me on the 25th  May 1917. I was out shopping.

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and I’m buried here.”

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“I’m Florence Louise Norris, I lived here”

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” My two” William “Mummy can I say something?” “Not now the grown up dead are talking, as I was saying, Me and my two children, Florence 2 and William 10 months, were killed in the same air raid as Florrie. We are buried in a grave in Folkestone Old Cemetery.”

“Me? I’m Private George Allen, 7th Buffs, I was killed over there,Near Arras, Not sure where, my name is on the Arras Memorial, but I lived here.

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“Mummy” “Not now William”

“I’m George Albert Bridger, no one remembers me, even the old house ‘as gone. i died over there in Cologne, that was after we won,  I lived here where this ‘orrible building is.”

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“Mummy” “Hush William”

“Albert Beer is my name, went to Canada for a better life, but King and Empire need a helping hand. Used to live here in Number 87 Blackbull Road, before I went to Canada, with me Mum and Dad. I’m buried in Bramshot, of all places.

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“Mother” “Not now William”

“I’m Annie, I was killed in the Folkestone Air Raid too, I used to live at No.90.

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I was only 28, My daughter also Annie was killed alongside me,  Private Summerfield of the West Surreys used to live here too, he got killed on the Somme in 1916, he’s buried over there, at Caterpillar. All those killed in the Air Raid, such a shame and all the got was a little plaque

and a Memorial Garden, just look at them now” (note, The Memorial Garden has since been tidied up and cleared.)IMG_5712

“Mum” “Not now William, soon.”

“Private Head here, my sister used to live at 110, next to Frederick Keeler, he lived at 112, we both got it on the Somme, different days of course, terrible it was.”

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112 and 110 Blackbull Road, where private Head;s sister  and Frederick Keeler lived.

“Mummy, don’t I matter?”

“Soon, William, soon.” “All of us, the dead, we lived in your streets. We played, we laugh, we loved, in houses, you pass every day. We went to school in the schools in your town. we shopped, worked and sometimes died in your town. don’t remember us Over There, or at some nice little memorial elsewhere in the town, Think of us where we lived and were loved. You pass our homes every day.”

Ok William (Norris) what is it?”

” Not sure what a head is, but can you tell me. Was it my head that got blown off and landed on someone’s doorstep. Or was it another child’s head? I can’t remember.”

Two other soldiers with connections to Blackbull Road are, Walter Tull. As a child he would have known the road very well, he was at the school.

Acting Bombardier Herbert Blackford lived at No. 56 He committed suicide in 1919.  Not because of the horrors of the war. He was due to be posted back to his unit. His business wasn’t doing well,and he felt there was no longer a point in serving with the army. His body was found hanging in a doorway by his daughter.

Then there are the others. Soldiers who came back. The vast majority of soldiers did. Ignored for decades. Even now a hundred years later money is spent on grandiose projects, photo opportunities and vanity memorials. Here in places like Blackbull Road, nothing, streets still not fit for heroes.

 

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