Memories of the war
As part of the Richmond At Home & At War project, volunteers from the Museum of Richmond visited several Elders in the community to capture their families’ First World War memories.
Of course, the generation of men and women who served in the war, at home and at the Front, have passed on. But there are still people who remember the impact of the war on their parents and grandparents. Although memories are sparse, due to time and the reluctance of many men of the time to share their experiences, sharing them enhances our understanding of the impact of the war.
Elizabeth Grove was born in 1928 in Richmond.
Her mother, Kathleen Edith Mills, was born in 1898 in Richmond. She was 16 when war
broke out and aged 18 fell in love with a serviceman she hoped to marry. Sadly he was killed. Kathleen was 21 years younger than Thomas, Elizabeth’s father, when they married.
Elizabeth’s grandfather, her mother’s father, refused to fight on religious grounds so served as a stretcher bearer.
Thomas Arnold Matthews, Elizabeth’s father, was born in May 1877. A GP, he lived at 6 Richmond Green – where Elizabeth was later born. Thomas volunteered for service and was based at Ypres, where he tended casualties at the front:
Born in 1908, Muriel was six years old when the war started. She grew up in the Valleys, in Blaenau, South wales. Her father didn’t have first hand experience of the war. Muriel describes him as a musician – he played the cello – and as a master baker, a protected occupation exempt from war service. She recalls that other men she knew and in her family had to go to the war “for duty”.
She was interviewed in early 2014. Having achieved the magnificent age of 106, her recollections of the war were dim, but she remembered the many recruitment posters that appeared at the start of the war:
Patricia Close was born in Richmond, grew up in Petersham and now lives in Priory Road, Kew
Patricia Close was born after the war but both her father and one of her grandfathers fought in the war. Her grandfather died when his ship was sunk by a German u-boat submarine. Her father was a Sapper in the Royal Engineers.
Patricia had many recollections of her own and her family’s experiences during the Second World War, but remembered that her father did not like to talk about his experiences in the First World War:
“My father mentioned it [the war] very little because it was such a horrifying experience that he didn’t want to talk about it, and I was only 23 when he died.”
Years after the war, Patricia and her family went Brussels, where they lived for 15 years. They used to drive across the border to Lille. Driving through the countryside of northern France, her father did share one story, about a visit to a French cafe whilst on leave. Her father was not fluent in French and only knew a few polite, formal phrases. He went into the cafe to ask the young girl serving for some refreshments. In response, the girl looked at Patricia’s father with surprise and confusion. Another French customer, who spoke English, told him that the girl was surprised to be spoken to so formally by a grown man in uniform.