Danny Breslin

How it is…

Croisilles

On day two of our visit to France and Belgium my sister Teresa and her husband Neil (who was also Best Man at my wedding) decided to go for a run. Teresa is well into her running, something I’ve never been into except when chasing my dog, but she does crazy things like half marathons such as the Great North Run. Her poor old knees! So off they trot first thing in the morning; now if it was me, I would take note of the route I was taking when in a new environment so I could find my way back – but that’s just me, I’m funny like that. Not them though, they ended up getting lost and running a lot further than they intended. Uncle Leo and myself were up, scrubbed, dressed and breakfasted by the time they dragged their butts back to the hotel.

That is something I wanted to have a short moan about, breakfast in foreign hotels. My European friends, when you visit this bejewelled isle you are served proper breakfast, or at least given the option: I’m talking sausages, bacon, eggs etc. etc. You know, all the things I’m not allowed to eat at home. Yet when we visit your shores we are given cheese, cold meat and boiled eggs. I enjoy a chomp on a croissant as much as the next chap but come on, sort yourselves out and feed a bloke in the morning. End of complaint.

We set off in good spirits and headed for Croisilles which is only about 8 miles away from Arras. After about 45 minutes it became obvious that the satnav settings hadn’t been changed and we were traversing the French countryside in what can only be described as a roundabout route. The car had a satnav but we were having difficulty getting it to speak English, despite my advice to “kick the bloody thing until it gives up.” Eventually we made it to this tiny village that appeared to be taking Mondays off.

The cemetery itself was small and one of many that are scattered around this land that has been fought over so fiercely. When I say small it still contained the remains of 2000 lost. I had a diagram of the place indicating my Great Uncle’s grave and while the others were reading an inscription on a wall I made my way to where he lay.

I stood before his stone and read his name. It was a man I never met, a hand I’d never shook and a voice whose opinions I would never hear, but still I felt a crushing sense of loss. The man that lay here once had the same blood as me pulsing through him. I felt my throat constrict and my eyes blur.

The gravestones next to his were representing two other men from his regiment, killed on the same day: November 5th 1917. I wondered if they were all hit by the same shell, if they were friends who lived, laughed, marched and died together. It gave me some degree of comfort to think that if he was to be here, at least he was with his mates, what more could any of us ask for?

The sun was warm on the back of my neck and a soft breeze brushed my cheek, it wasn’t a day like this in November 1917; Passchendaele was remembered for the rain than poured down turning everything into a quagmire. The wounded were sinking and drowning in the mud. Don’t let anyone tell you that war is glorious, where is the glory in that? My kin, a nineteen year old boy, dying for a dispute between inbred royal cousins, who didn’t even know his name and wouldn’t have given a toss if they’d heard it. The vermin politicians who would send an entire generation to their doom to serve their greed. The churchmen, so-called men of God, who preach hatred and extol the virtues of taking another’s life, “God’s on our side boys!”

We left there and headed north for Belgium, we wanted to get there in time for the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ieper. I will tell you about that next time. For now could I ask you a favour? I’m not sure what religion you are, or what you believe in, or what God you pray to, or if you pray at all, it’s really none of my business; but please if you get a quiet moment in your busy day, spare a thought or say a prayer for my Great Uncle:

18946 Lance Corporal Patrick McGeough, 2nd Bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers

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November 13, 2012 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. This was really touching Danny. I’ll say something for your Great Uncle.

    Comment by Yaz | November 13, 2012 | Reply

  2. I love, love old photos. It is wonderful how you have an appreciation for the history of your family too. Excellent write up.

    Comment by WordsFallFromMyEyes | November 13, 2012 | Reply

  3. So many lives lost over the years. I sometimes think that the human race is incapable of learning.

    Comment by Clowie | November 14, 2012 | Reply

    • Sad but true. Perhaps if the Royals, the politicians, the church and the corporations had to do their own fighting and dying wars would suddenly become less prevalent?

      Comment by Danny Breslin | November 14, 2012 | Reply

  4. Your uncle was good bloke, but at !9 what he didn’t have a clue, pity you vere not around to wise him up.

    Comment by jacksjottings | November 18, 2012 | Reply

    • All those young lads, what potential they could have had and it was lost to the world.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | November 19, 2012 | Reply

      • “Blowen in the Wind”, they pick the young flowers.
        You are a writer Dany, can you make the understand.

        Comment by jacksjottings | November 21, 2012

  5. […] I’ve already told you about things that happened in Germany (my favourite story ever), France and Belgium, special memories from India and almost causing a bloodbath in Tunisia. And if […]

    Pingback by Bogged down « Danny Breslin | November 15, 2013 | Reply

  6. Hello Danny,

    My Name is Angela Deasy, my mother is Bridget Buckley and my grandmother is Angela Hogg nee McGeough—sister to Patrick MCGeough of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Seems your wife Teresa and I have a great-uncle in common.

    I grew up in Dublin in a house with the last pieces of Lance Corporal MCGeough personal belongings , including post-cards from the trenches, letters to home, medals, the telegram from the War Office and the Death Penny.
    I have been to the grave in Croissiles just outside of Arras on a few occasions- It is a quiet spot between the railway line and the local school and if memory serves me right, a farmer’s field to the rear. I was pleased ( if that is the right expression) that Lance Corporal Mc Grough had he own grave as many did not. We placed some flowers and said a prayer. Up to then I believed that we were the first family to visit the grave.

    My husband found this by chance doing some research on the web. Nice to make contact with someone else who has taken the time to visit.

    Comment by Angela | May 29, 2014 | Reply

    • Hi Angela, I’m so glad you found my blog. I’m away causing mayhem and minor irritation in Germany at the moment, doing research for my next book, but I will be back in a few days. Please get in touch via email so we can carry on this conversation, you can reach me at saysbreslin@gmail.com
      Looking forward to hearing from you. Regards, Danny

      Comment by Danny Breslin | May 30, 2014 | Reply

      • Hello Danny,

        delighted to make the contact. Apologies for not getting the connection right. Obviously both you and your SISTER are related to Lance Corporal McGeough.

        We’ve just returned to Ireland having lived abroad for 25 years, the last 11 in Germany, in Bayern. What a coincidence that you are there now.

        So you check out the link. I can trace my connection through my grandmother Angela McGeough, daughter of George and Mary McGeough from Summerhill in Dublin. I can only remember some of the siblings names. George, Kitty, Nancy, Frank ,Johnny …I am sure there were more. Would love to know what branch of the family you hail from.

        My blog email address is the default contact ID for things I post, but it is mostly used for my crafty pursuits. My private email id is angela.deasy@live.de and if you wish you can contact me through this email address when you return from Germany. Hoping your research trip is rewarding. Looking forward to exchanging information soon.

        Regards Angela

        Date: Fri, 30 May 2014 15:38:50 +0000 To: tintinheart@hotmail.com

        Comment by Angela Deasy | May 30, 2014


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