Gracia Olive May Tallack: Birth: 25 JUL 1917 in 161 Chatsworth Ave., Cosham, Portsmouth, Hants., U.K.. Death: 28 FEB 2000 in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, Portsmouth, Hants., U.K.
Note: Memories of Grandfather Tallack. My earliest memory of Grandad are of a small wiry man, who was always quietly active, either in the garden or his Garage workshop. During the 1914-1918 War, he had been an Infantryman, had served on the Somme and Paschendale, and as a result of Mustard Gas poisoning, had a perpetual little dry cough, and was sometimes short of breath and wheezing.
A quiet man, he usually deferred to Grandma in all matters within the house, which were her domain, but would bring her up short with a "Gert" if he thought she was out of line. We grandchildren had an unspoken knowledge that the girls were closest or best understood by Grandma, and the boys by Grandpa.
His Grandsons knew that with a little coaxing, he would tell fascinating stories of the War - though he told them as a Soldier who had been and seen, and no longer believed in the honour and glory themes that we read of in books. These were often centred about some pal who had been killed on the Somme or Paschendale. His descriptions were of machine gun emplacements, mass attacks by infantry, hand-to-hand fighting in the dark with bayonet and Trench knife, and living conditions in the mud of the Trenches, interspaced by periods of boredom and misery, and highlighted by fun in some French town or other.
As I recollect, he did not have a very high opinion of most of the Officers he served under, who were largely "Sprigs" - University Men of Wealthy Families or Nobility - who placed no great value on the lives of the men they led, and squandered these lives to achieve nothing material beyond obeying contradictory orders and getting their own names "mentioned in dispatches".
Curiously he had no great enmity for the German Soldiers he had fought against, rather, a kind of respect born of serving in the same senseless carnage. As he described it, the common soldiers often shared water bottles while sheltering in the same trench during Artillery Fire, cared for one-anothers wounded, and at Christmas time exchanged Schnaps and Fruitcake etc., until brought under control by their officers. His words left an impression of common men sharing the same problems and just surviving the ordeal, while the Officers - who lived on another plane - worked on their ego trips.
During the 1939-1945 War, he served in the Home Guard. I remember the day he checked that Grandma and our Mothers were busy nattering, and then motioned my cousin Dave and I to follow him into the closet under the stairs, where he unveiled the Steel Helmet and Enfield No.1Mk.1 Rifle and Bayonet he had been issued, and never returned. We were thrilled.
I also remember his watching me after my younger brother died, and inventing a reason to go out to the workshop, where he quietly told me not to blame myself for his death no matter what I might overhear others say, and to put it aside as "in the cards".
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