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Some family history from World War One  
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  HOME  : Personal : WW1
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Circa 1915 - Four Greenwood Brothers enlist in the British Army.  They were George, Mark (my Grandfather), Fred, and Arthur.
The following is the text of a letter sent to my Great Grandmother a few short years later.  Some of it is difficult to read, unrecognised words are shown as [?].


Mrs Fleming's Hospital
27, Grosvenor Square
Telephone, Mayfair 6475

Dear Mrs Greenwood,
               I am writing as the commanding officer of the Brigade in which your son, Lieut. G. Greenwood C/177 Battery R.F.A., was serving, and to tell you how deeply we all in the Brigade feel for you in your great loss. He fell on the 21st March during the first day of the German attack, between Ronssoy and St. Emilie, while leading the teams and limbers up to the guns of his Battery, in a very gallant attempt to save them.
     We were in the most unfortunate position of the whole army that day, the enemy having broken through the Division on our right, and attacking us from the flank, though our own infantry were still holding out in the front line.  Enfiladed* at short range by machine guns, the Battery positions were untenable, and all efforts to bring away the guns were unavailing.  If it had been possible, your son would have undoubtedly succeeded.  As it was, his personal gallantry and skill saved many more casualties to the teams than actually occurred.  He took every precaution in keeping wide intervals, and making the best use of ground, and rode well in front himself, so as to be able to warn them of danger.  He was killed by a machine gun bullet right beside the guns.  Death was instantaneous, and he was spared any suffering.
     I had only seen him a short time previously. He called at my headquarters on his way up to the Battery, and his cheerful and confident bearing impressed me very much indeed.
     I have been rather unlucky myself - I was wounded in the shoulder on the 20th, being the third wound in this war - but hope to be fit to go back before long.

With deepest sympathy,
Yours sincerely
W. R. W. Warren
(Lt. Col. R.F.A.)

*thanks to Peter and Dave for helping with this translation!

Ironically, Great Uncle George actually survived the war.  Apparently, after laying on the battlefield for 3 days & nights, he was found and taken to a Russian Field Hospital. He must have taken some time to recover.  His family, unaware of his survival, were in mourning for 6 months.
George and Mark later migrated to New Zealand, specifically to management positions at the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills. The other two brothers returned to their native Yorkshire after the war.
The letter is still a chilling reminder of the loss too many families felt during the "Great War".  I can't read it without feeling a deep sadness for the family who received it and believed it for six whole months, and other families who have lost loved ones in last- century's many and varied conflicts.




  (c) Copyright 2008 Brian Greenwood