My father Albert made it home from World War I. But when he died just a few years later, there’s no doubt his illness was a result of the horror and the suffering he had gone through on the battlefield.
I was only a little girl, and never got to know very much about him after that. I have a memory of him giving me a piglet to hold when I was very small, but don’t remember him much. I treasure the one photograph I have of us together; I am about two years old and he is holding me in his arms. People look at it and say they can see just from that picture how much he loved me, and that has always brought me great comfort.
My family come from Swindon, but I have lived in Liverpool for most of my life since I was a teenager.
My mother was very strict and never talked about what happened to my dad, although she did tell me once that he was so ill because he had been gassed in the trenches. We moved to Liverpool after he died.
Many years later I learned that because my parents married after the war, my mother had not been entitled to a widow’s pension. I was one of five daughters, and it was hard work for her.
I’m in my eighties now, but it wasn’t really until recently I began trying to find out more about my dad, and I have been in touch with a local historian who was able to provide records of his time in service. We recently found his grave again, a place I haven’t visited since my childhood. It all came flooding back.
I grew up to have a very big family – nine children and more than 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren! But I was always aware that I never had a dad. All these years later I never realised how deeply this had affected me, but it has been very emotional finding out about him.
My father Albert was a career soldier in the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment. He fought in the trenches in France and became a prisoner of war in Germany, where he was released when the war ended.
As a sergeant, he trained young soldiers before they went off to war – we discovered that battalions of volunteer soldiers known as the Liverpool Pals, and the Liverpool King’s Regiment were included in this. That has been a very interesting co-incidence. When you visit Swindon men’s graves on the western front, you always see the Wilts alongside those of the Liverpool men that died and fought side by side.
I wanted to do something to commemorate my father and all the soldiers of World War I.
Looking after the garden is a hobby of mine – I like to do interesting things with it and make people smile as they walk past and that’s why to mark the centenary of the start of the war I had a thought to make that the focus.
Plus Dane’s INES team designed a planter for me to fill with poppy seeds to mark 100 years since the start of World War I. I have filled the garden with artwork to remember my dad and the fallen, and it has been blessed as a garden of remembrance. The results have been wonderful.
Creating the garden has made me both happy and sad. It worries me that people don’t remember and don’t know what all those men went through, and I’m passionate about ensuring the war isn’t forgotten. If just one person who goes past asks me what my garden represents, I’ll feel I’ve done my bit to honour my dad.