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  • Writer's picturePhil

Children of War

Although some of my friends and family have served and seen action in Post WWII conflict zones most that were born here of my own and subsequent generations have been in the fortunate position of having avoided war throughout their lifetimes.

In a way we are all “children of war” (even those of us who have avoided conflict ). When you consider us as individuals it is obvious that no particular person would be alive today had their parents not met (and in turn all of that person’s grandparents, great-grandparents and ancestors over the decades).

I can use my own existence to show how war has been a crucial factor in some of my ancestors ending up in the right place to meet their partners . My own parents despite being born 210 miles apart from each other met whilst both were serving in the Royal Navy.

My dad was a signalman and his semaphore messages are portrayed in the film “Yangtse Incident” as his ship came under fire whilst attempting to come to the rescue of HMS Amethyst early on in his naval career.

Just a few years before the incident on the Yangtse my dad had experienced the devastating destruction of conflict during the German air raids on Coventry. On the morning after the November 14th 1940 blitz my dad (twelve year old Fred) and his sister (14 year old Olive) were sent on a trek to pick their way from their Wyken home to Leamington to inform family members that themselves, parents and siblings had survived the blitz (a fuller account is in my blog entry from November 14th 2018). Olive went on to join the land army and my dad to begin his naval career at the war’s end.

Moving back a generation my grandma (my dad’s mother) was born in Coventry in 1901. She grew up in the shadow of the biggest factory in Europe at the time – the Cammel Laird ordnance works which produced naval guns and the famous Howitzer guns.

As a thirteen year old girl she was drafted into the WW1 war effort herself being employed at the Humber factory (the city’s factories had largely been given over to the production of military equipment). It was after the war whilst still working at the Humber that she met my grandfather. He was originally from Worcester and was a veteran of both Ypres and the Somme – attracted to Coventry as an industrial centre.

If we jump forward again to the German raids of the 1940s there is another story of destruction. My grandma’s sister (May) lived in her wool shop on Eagle Street. This was completely destroyed in an air raid and the site remained barren until the late 1950s. Construction of Coventry’s first Mosque was completed in 1960 on the site. Many newly arrived settlers to Coventry who worship there now would themselves have been displaced and witnessed the horrors of war at first hand.

I now move on to my mother’s family. The story gets even more interesting (and a short blog post can’t really do it justice so there will be more to come).

My mum was born in Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. Her father (widely known as “Pop”) was born a few miles away in the village of Dale as were generations of his paternal ancestors. This branch of my family became established in Pembrokeshire following an ancestor being press-ganged into military service during the Napoleonic conflicts. Some of his own ancestors appear at key points in our history – notably Samuel Spriggs, an “Esquire of the Body” to Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth (one of my distant cousins who came over from Australia for the re-interment of Richard is mentioned on the BBC’s account of the day’s events).

In a twist of history fuelled by military conflict (and press-ganging!) one of Samuel’s descendants went on to settle at the very point in Pembrokeshire where Henry Tudor had landed on his way to Bosworth!

So there are a few examples here just from my own direct family background of how we are “children of war”. There are many more which I have picked up from the families of friends and neighbours who ended up in Coventry as a result of conflicts over the years and around the world. More of that to come as the ramble goes on.....

The next post will be early next week as I’ll be competing in the UK Open Backgammon Championship this weekend. I am hoping to add to my 2019 British Open title (there are two main Backgammon Associations in the UK so I am hoping to “unify” the titles for Coventry!)

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