Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Wartime Horror Behind Poppy Pride

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Wartime Horror Behind Poppy Pride

Article excerpt

Byline: Gillian Samples

ACROSS the miles here in Glendale, California, November 11 is Veterans' Day, but to me it will always be Poppy Day.

I can hear some overhead ancient aircraft circling around from a nearby airfield out in the valley to commemorate the occasion and the US flag Old Glory is flying high all over USA cities and towns.

There are various parades, of course. However, back in the UK all the services and parades were very well broadcast and I saw the Queen at the Cenotaph.

It appears to me that this event is getting bigger every year - and what a turnout from all the good folks of Redcar at the cenotaph. It was as good as being there and I thank The Gazette for the coverage.

When I was a young kid growing up in Acklam, we had Poppy Day, of course, and I always remember my mam pinning one to my coat and telling me to "keep it nice for the actual Sunday itself." They appeared to be much larger back then in size, but was it me being so small? My late grandfather, William Craigie of Middlesbrough, fought in the First World War and became a drill sergeant. He did survive the war but in some ways I do not think he did.

As I got older he told me quite a few stories about it all and they were rather horrifying and I realised that is why he waited until I got to a certain age as he told me "no way could I understand a war".

He told me that in my lifetime he hoped I never saw one of that category. He told me about being in the trenches in France and how horrible it all was, the water was knee deep and the rats the size of cats. He said they would bite at a moment's notice. Some of the soldiers, he said, actually ate them when they were so hungry.

As the war went on, he developed a bad throat and tonsillitis. The others in his regiment told him that "he had to have his tonsils taken out".

No, not in hospital, but there in the trench itself as they had no time and could not be a man short. …

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