Friday, 15 August 2014

Yesterday....

I realise that my last post may have not been to everyone's taste (even though I received some lovely comments)...World War 1 is a subject that has always been of great interest to me and very close to my heart. I want this blog to reflect all the facets of my life...home...garden...travel...but also some of the deeper feelings I have and so it feels right to share some darker aspects from time to time...or it wouldn't be me!

So this post will be the last for the time being about First World War subjects, I promise...I have the next one planned and it is much lighter & fun, so do bear with me!

Yesterday, 14th August, was the 95th anniversary of the death of my great-great-uncle, Cyril. I mentioned him in my last post, but there is greater detail about him elsewhere on this blog (if you look for a post titled 'Anzac Day' for instance) In a nutshell, he was the youngest brother of my great-grandfather Walter. We didn't know he ever existed until about 10 years ago, when a chance search of the Commonwealth War Graves website revealed the site of his burial (in England...in the town he was born in in Suffolk on the East Coast...) My Mum was absolutely amazed. She thought that she had known all her great-uncles on that side of the family, and that they had all returned safely from the war (although damaged, as detailed before.) Cyril was never, ever spoken about and we knew that there must be a secret there which would unlock the reason. Families are so full of hidden emotions, lies, shame...if you just delve a little bit, you are sure to find this in your own somewhere!

After (literally) years of searching, I have managed to piece it all together finally. The last bits of the jigsaw were fitted together for me by an amazing company called Fourteen Eighteen which undertakes paid (but very reasonably,in my opinion) research into the soldiers of WW1. I won't reveal it all here...much of it is extremely personal, of course, and I owe him his dignity even after all this time.

But what I can say is that his life ended by his own hand. He threw himself in front of an underground train at Elephant & Castle station, in London one late summer afternoon at the age of 29. Another victim of the terrible war that killed so many. Now that I have all the facts, I really wanted to honour him as he has been forgotten for so very long. So yesterday I travelled to that same station...
 It's right at the end of the line, and after the train had emptied I was quite alone on the platform...

 I looked up the steps, and thought that this may have been where Cyril descended all those years ago. There are two platforms - Northbound & Southbound - and I don't know which side he fell. I had brought a bunch of roses from my garden with me, tied with a note. I left them at a point exactly between the two platforms...
 And I stood and thought of that young man...of all he had been through in those terrible war years...of the pain and suffering that had driven him to this extreme. The death of Robin Williams is fresh in my mind too, this week...another victim of depression and despair who saw no other way out.
 Such a terribly, terribly sad end to a life....and one which affected the family that had known him for the rest of theirs, I have no doubt...because he was loved, I am absolutely sure of that. My great-grandfather named one of his sons Cyril in 1924...and this could only have been in tribute to the brother he had lost 5 years before...
And then I got back on the train and started my journey home. I was so pleased to have done this small thing for him. To show the world that he was in it. And he mattered...& matters still....

Amazingly, last night I received an anonymous message from someone who had stopped to read the note attached to the roses that they had seen at the station on their way home...and who had cared enough to Google Cyril's name which had led them to this blog. They were pleased to know he had been 'found' and honoured, as he should be. I was very touched - and thrilled on his behalf, too.
Cyril Arthur Took - a secret no longer.

Have a wonderful weekend x

15 comments:

  1. such a beautiful post and such a beautiful thing to do. I shall forever think of Cyril whenever I'm at E&C.

    I'm glad you made your journey and left the roses.
    x

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  2. What a lovely tribute. A reminder to all of us of the despair that some live with, and a further reminder to reach out if at all possible. And, how very thoughtful of the person that sent you a message to take the time to locate you. I enjoy your blog very much.

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  3. Oh how lovely Rachel!!! What a wonderful tribute to him! The war makes such huge holes in the lives of families. As you know, my German mom went through the war times and many of her family members were killed. Records were oftentimes kept with churches and many of the churches were bombed and/or destroyed. You have encouraged me to try a bit harder to try and find some of her family's information. She shares bits and pieces and there is so much I do not know. How exciting to have this note read and that it came full circle to your blog. That is wonderful!!! xoxo

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  4. Rachel, what an honor to read about your uncle and your tribute to him. We must never forget that mental illness is just that--an illness that can happen to any of us. Let us not ignore it any longer. xo ♥

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  5. Rachel, may God bless your loving and caring heart for honoring and respecting the life of one of His children. May Cyril rest in peace.

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  6. What a wonderful tribute Rachel. I shall just have to give you a big hug when I next see you. Our family has a tale too and I shall share it with you. Xx

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  7. Dear Rachel....what a dear one, you are!! Your deeds and words are so moving.... May compassion you hold in your heart spill over, not only to your family, but to others you know! With love...xoxox

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  8. Rachel, what a lovely thing to do. So appreciative.
    You've made me think. I had a great uncle who was
    lost in the Great War. Now I will see what I can find
    out about him. He was not married but my father
    was named for him, Albert. Thank you for this. Julia
    USA

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  9. Rachel, I am so touched by your lovely remembrance of your great-great-uncle Cyril. That is just such lovely thing to do. I have enjoyed your blogs about WW I. The dark things are part of life, and we shouldn't just gloss them over, in my opinion. As an artist, Gene always told his students, in painting it takes the darks to bring out the lights. This dark moment has brought out a light of compassion that has given your family something special and blessed all of us as you have told the story. Thank you so much.

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  10. Darling, I am woefully behind, flying to and fro and bolstering mom and feeding calves--so I have treated myself to reading your last two blogs. Now I'm teary and grateful and proud to be your friend. Darling, your bouquet quite made my heart soar an break at the very same moment. It's such a lucky think that my grandfather survived his years in the North Sea with the British Navy to come home to begat my father who begat me so that I can sit here, thousands of miles southwest of England, and feel as though I'm just there, in your living room. It always makes me think of "Vita and Harold," too. Beyond the story of love and gardens, I always think of Harold writing from the negotiation and then the signing of the Armistice. Stunning. Peace and love to Cyril, and to his remarkable niece. xo

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  11. I was so touched by both articles. Admiration for all those that took part that all of us on both sides of the Atlantic might have some peace in the years to come. Thank you for writing them.

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  12. Dearest Rachel,

    Only you, my friend! Such a lovely gesture and tribute to your great-great-uncle! This post has touched me very deeply. My dear aunt (mom's sister) took her own life at only 26 years old. I was 15 at the time. It was a terrible loss and a death that I have truly never gotten over. Your beautiful tribute has got me thinking about doing something similar for her. Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings. You are such a kind, generous, thoughtful woman and I feel blessed to have a friend like you in this world. XOXO

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  13. A fascinating story, so well illustrated. Thank you for sharing.

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  14. Oh Rachel, so many suffer after the wars are finished. This was such an amazing tribute. Hard to type this, wiping away tears. xx

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