Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three dates

1915





1917

See also here.



1935



My dad, aged 8, with his parents. On the back of this little photograph my grandfather has written, in his forceful, beautiful capitals,

HELL FIRE CORNER.
YPRES MENIN ROAD.


One can only imagine what is going through his mind under that Menziesesque hat. And I suppose a few trees would grow back in eighteen years, not to mention the grass.

If you click on the photo to enlarge it you'll see one word on the stone: HIER. Hier means, as you'd expect, 'here', as in 'He is not missing. He is here.' But it's also the French word for 'yesterday'.

16 comments:

Zoe said...

And what a beautiful hand he had, Pav - all those stately "n"s.

A beautiful post.

Caroline said...

My thoughts too.

Gee you wouldn't want to own up to being discharged with Ignominy or as Incorrigible and Worthless. Doubt anyone put their hand up for that. No pressure of course.

Bernice said...

The last photo, the one with your father, is take at Menin Road? Your grandfather, grandmother and family went onto the battlefields of the Western Front? Was this something Australians did in the years after WWI? The only stories I know of people going back are of men who served in both wars. And the poignancy of the headstone.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Bernice, I think the main point of the trip was for my grandmother to see her family in Scotland -- she came out to Australia to marry him after the war so she'd not been home for nearly fifteen years.

They sailed, of course, so there are photos of them in India and on Malta as well as here and in London and Aberfoyle. I guess he thought he'd (re)visit while he was so close -- he fought there, of course. There's more about Menin Road and Hellfire Corner here including contemporary pix.

Also, my grandfather was a shrewd old sausage and probably knew there was another war coming, and wanted his kid to see the world while it was still there.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Also, yes, to the best of my knowledge the 1917 photo and the 1935 photo are of exactly the same place.

Lefty E said...

Great post Pav. Inspired me to get round to what Ive been thinking about all day - a similar one. I just downloaded the same enlistment form today. http://bitemylatte.blogspot.com/2009/04/to-women-of-australia-1915.html

Sarah Randles said...

That's a fascinating image, but I'm puzzled by it. Because 'hier' is German for 'here', not French, which would be 'ici'. So, is this a German monument to the WWI dead? And if it is, why are your Australian family visiting it? If it's simply a monument to the place - as in 'it happened here', rather than 'here lies ...', it strikes me as strange that there would be such a place marker by 1935 - it shows a multinationalism that I would not have associated with the period immediately before the second world war. The decoration is also interesting - I'm reading the plants at the sides as palms, the sign of the martyr, which would make sense, but I don't know how to interpret the central vessel.

I'm thoroughly intrigued.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sarah, here's my best guess: Ypres is in Belgium, where most of the population speak Dutch. 'Hier' is the Dutch word, as well as the German word, for 'here'. The main Ypres monument to the war dead is the Menin Gate, opened in 1927 -- that's in the links as well.

Also, yes, I think it's chiefly a geographical marker rather than a monument as such. If you've got time, read the links in the post and in that fourth comment, and it will be clearer. One of those links shows a contemporary photo which makes it clear that this monument is quite shamelessly phallic; you can't see the word any more, so it may have been removed or the photo may simply be from a different angle.

What it's a geographical marker of is Hellfire Corner, which is what the sign in the 1917 photo says -- again, there's a lot about it in the links. My grandfather (who was in the 10th Battalion which seems to have got shuttled backwards and forwards between Ypres and the Somme for a couple of years) fought there. He is not so much visiting as revisiting, and the last time he saw the place it looked like the 1917 photo. There are some amazing Frank Hurley photographs of the site at its worst, and it's entirely possible that my grandfather is in them.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Aha (I'd link to the source, but putting links in comments is too bloody labour-intensive -- I got it from Googling)-- this text appears with pix of the stone:

'Today Hellfire Corner is a busy roundabout much used by through traffic. By the roadside is a demarcation stone - one of 12 surviving today in the Ypres Salient - marking the point of the Germans' closest advance to Ypres.

The metre-high stones, made from pink Alsace granite, were conceived in 1919. The sites of the stones were determined by Marshal Petain and his staff.

All bear the inscription (in three languages): "Here the invader was brought to a standstill 1918". At each corner was a palm emerging from a hand grenade.

It is not known precisely how many were constructed - estimates range from 119 to 280; many were destroyed by German troops during World War II who objected to the inscription upon the stones.

An original signboard that had marked Hellfire Corner was handed over to the National Army Museum in 1996. Long considered lost it was located by the family of Lt William Storie, who had brought it home with him after the war and displayed in a shop window in Prince's Street in Edinburgh.'

TimT said...

Belgians would sure have trouble with translations of the Beatles song 'Yesterday' -

Yesterday,
All my troubles were so far away
Now it seems as though they're yesterday...
Oh I believe in yesterday.

Ampersand Duck said...

Fantabulous. I always love your ANZAC posts.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Thanks for linking to those, Duckie -- I was going to, but the fiddliness of doing the other links had started to get me down. I eventually found the other grandfather's attestation papers too, but too late to put them in the post. Check out Lefty E's (after I fix that link in his comment) -- he's got a full-on ANZAC in his family, and 'only nineteen' to boot.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Lefty E's Anzac post is here.

Lefty E said...

Thanks for that link, Pav, and yes, I did look it up online - but not the same site you just pointed me to.

I went here... And here's your grandad: http://www.aif.adfa.edu.au:8080/showPerson?pid=113499

There's an Ernest Leslie Goldsworthy from SA as well.

Sarah Randles said...

Ah, thank you, that makes sense. I'm still fascinated by the memorials, though.

Ampersand Duck said...

Heh, save it for next ANZAC day!