Thursday, October 19, 2017

A hundred years ago

Frederick Feston died nearly one hundred years ago on 25th October 1917. One of the casualties of the Third battle of Ypres that they called Passchendaele.  Not the only one who died that day so it is all too easy to lump them all together as casualties and forget that each of them was an individual: son, father or husband.
Fred Feston is a real man to us even though we never knew him. His daughters never knew him,   the first only a baby and the second born after he died. His widow remarried so his memory gradually faded.
We know him because of our interest in family history and we have been able to piece together his life before the war and the events surrounding his few brief months in the army in France before he disappeared into the mud of Flanders.  No grave-just a name inscribed on a long wall among so many others and an entry in  memorial book.

The Third Battle of Ypres ended at the beginning of November, too late for Fred Feston and for close to three quarters of a million men who died there in less than a month.  In a poem, Sigfried Sassoon put it "I died in Hell, they called it Passchendaele."

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