A time to remember (George Burgess)
This is a year in which we look back at World War One and the effect it had on Shetland and Shetlanders.
My father was one who went off with the Gordons to fight in France. As far as the battles were concerned and how he was affected he would speak of the tremendous never-ending noise and also what an inappropriate article of clothing a kilt was in the mud of the trenches.
During the last German offensive in April 1918 he was made a prisoner. A particular recollection was his moment of capture when a German soldier was wrestling with him to take off his wrist watch. The German got a bullet just above his heart and he dropped dead. If that bullet had been a few inches different I would not be writing this letter today.
My father was a prisoner in France until the Armistice in November. During that time he had dysentery and malaria, for which he was treated in a German hospital. These illnesses were something that reappeared from time to time in later life.
The men who returned from the war were often not the men who left Shetland. Among them was my father-in-law who had a leg amputated. For the rest of his life he had pain in different degrees in the stump and not a particularly efficient artificial leg.
After the war my father was one of the team who compiled Shetland’s Roll of Honour so he was very aware of the contribution Shetlanders made to the war – the 600-plus men who died – and he would speak of that. As he wanted that to be recognised he was responsible for organising the poppy day collection. At Armistice time our house would be full of poppies.
He was also an official of the Earl Haig Fund which gave grants to families because there was no breadwinner. There were often times when grants were paid – my recollection, never a very big amount but gratefully received.
So this is a time to remember those who gave their lives in the war; a time to remember those who came back; a time to remember the women who lost husbands; a time to remember the women who never had husbands; a time to think of the bairns who lost their fathers; a time to think of the bairns who never were born.
A final thought. What would our Shetland have been like if Shetlanders who died had been able to live out their days?
37 Burgh Road,