Monday, August 04, 2014

A CANDLE IN SICILY

Father and son - Richard and Arthur Eggleton


In one hour from now, the lights will go out all over my own country to commemorate the moment, one hundred years ago, when Britain entered the First World War. The ""Lights Out"  initiative is also intended as a mark of respect for those who were killed or maimed in that terrible conflict. Households are asked to leave just a single candle burning for one hour and that is what I am going to do here in Sicily, although Italy entered the war the following year.

During that hour, like people all over Europe and beyond, I will reflect upon those killing fields, some so near Britain that the guns could be heard there and yet so far away in terms of their unimaginable conditions and brutality. And my mind will also turn to a Welsh naval officer who never saw his son. The officer was blinded in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and his son was my father, born three years later. 

Chief Petty Officer Richard Eggleton could not have known, during the long months of coming to terms with the loss of his sight, that there was still happiness in store for him, but one day, while he was in rehabilitation at St Dunstan's [now Blind Veterans UK ], a friend of his brought another friend along to visit. This was my future grandmother, Mary. Richard and Mary were not young when they married, so when Mary stopped menstruating and began to put on weight, she assumed it was the menopause. When my dad decided to pop into the world one summer afternoon it was a complete surprise to her.

War, as we all know, hurts the innocent and it hurt my dad in indirect ways: Mary had developed a severe hearing impairment and my dad was a bit rebellious so, with his best interests at heart, Mary and Richard sent him to a boarding school which had iron discipline and [unknown to them] a very cruel régime. My dad never forgot it. This may seem nothing if we compare his suffering to that of the frightened children of a faraway war taking place at this very moment, but I can remember my dad shivering every time we passed his former school when I was a little girl.

The starving German children of 1918 grew up to want revenge and got it and I wonder whether those waging war so mercilessly now ever stop to think about what could one day be unleashed upon their children and their children's children.

No one despises war more than someone who has fought in one and Richard Eggleton, while of course respecting the memory of all who had fought with him, wanted his son to grow up in a world at peace. 

As I sit by the light of a single candle in Sicily tonight, I silently thank a grandfather I never knew for choosing to go on living, despite the moments of deepest despair that he must have gone through, and for the little boy who became my dad.


6 comments:

Winchester whisperer said...

in memoriam WL

CherryPie said...

A beautiful memorium, we should never forget...

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, WW and Cherie.

Lee said...

A wonderful post, Pat...a wonderful tribute.

James Higham said...

Yes but not alone, Welshcakes.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Lee. It's very kind of you to say so. Thank you, James.

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