Doing the Family History’ unearths all kinds of information and emotions. Hooray for the Internet! While doing a search for Grandad and our family history the search query was: The Accrington Pals 1914-18 War .
Andrew Jackson runs a web site in memory of the Accrington Pals – a group of about 737 young British men who all who all enlisted together and shortly after were sent to fight in what was to be known as WWI.
Most were slaughtered on their first day in the trenches in France. Grandad had lied about his age to join up at 17, and was one of the few survivors to return home to England. . It was a great tragedy in the life of the people of Accrington Lancashire.
However I have been very proud to learn that this young Irish -born lad, my Grandad Cornelious D’Arcy had joined the Lancashire Lads regiment that fought alongside the Aussies at Gallipoli. They were then sent to Egypt, and to France.
I sent an email to Andrew and this is his reply. Imagine my excitement!
“Dear Eunice I’ve found something on your grandfather! The Accrington Observer and Times of 1st May 1915 carried a Roll of Honour of 737 men from local Roman Catholic missions who were serving in the armed forces Amongst them was Cornelius Darcey of 14 Mill Street serving with the 5th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment (photocopy enclosed – poor quality I’m afraid). You’ve every reason to be very proud of him. Clearly he volunteered for army service early in the war. “
It did make me very grateful that Grandad was one of the ‘lucky’ ones, although dysentery and mustard gas, plus the horrors he must have seen, affected him for the rest of his life. It made me, a descendant of this man, wonder just who would have been born if all of those young men had not died and eturned safe home – hence this poem:
THE WAR TO END ALL WARS
Irish born but Lancashire bred
At seventeen with war declared
he marched away with bayonet bared
To smell the mustard gas of Serre
He married Jenny so in love
and fathered all my aunts and Mum
but now and then he’d disappear I
nto the wee shed at the rear
of the red brick semi in Accrington
to cough the mustard from his lung
He made carved wood down in the shed –
a tiny space just like a trench
a solitary lonely place
without the shelling and the mud
and brought o show with pride
the polished efforts of his bench
His humour never died at all
not even after what he’d seen
and yet his eyes would sometimes dim
his thoughts had wandered far away
and just one silent tear would gleam.
He looked so gaunt for all his life
despite the nurturing of his wife
his humour was the very same
hat got him through their time at Serre
When bogged in mud with rotting flesh
lying around them everywhere
and Germans shelling mercilessly
these children who had marched to war
I loved him so much as a child
My holidays he made a joy
His clogs would clatter up the lane
joined by others on their way to
Bulloughs nd the clanking steel
to where the cotton bobbins whir
If not for him I would not be
and my grandchildren would not live
not till this minute did I see that many
many souls like me
died-unborn in Normandy
Eunice C English