But dates of births, deaths and marriages are just numbers until you start to think about what the people were actually doing. George Whiting’s granddaughter Beryl Hobson married Harold Lilja – my grandfather – in 1916 just 3 weeks before Harold departed for the Western Front. After surviving the horrors of WWI, with all its mud and blood, young Harold still only 25 comes home to Beryl and then they start their family.
With two young children, Clive and Valerie (my mother) how heartbreaking it must have been for young Beryl and Harold to then have to face the death of both their mothers, Blanche Antoinette Hobson in 1921 and Mary Eliza Lilja in 1922! Until starting this WWI centenary project I’d never considered the timeline before and the effect on their lives of losing their mothers at the vital time of raising their three children.
Blanche is buried in Gore Hill Cemetery alongside her youngest son Kenyon, who died in 1919 from the Spanish flu brought back to Australia by the soldiers returning from the battlefields. How tragic to have lost her beautiful boy, and then to have died herself so soon after at the young age of only 63. I know from my grandmother how much she loved her mother.
How equally devastating then for young Beryl at age 27 with a baby son and heavily pregnant with my mother to lose her mother Blanche, after also losing her beloved younger brother. All this on top of coping with a young husband back from the war who must have come back changed from the battlefields and traumatised by what he had seen and experienced.
And then the following year Harold loses his own mother Mary at the most crucial time with his young family needing the help and guidance and support after such a devastating war!
Mary is buried in the Field of Mars cemetery, alone and for no apparent reason. I didn’t know where my great grandmother Mary was resting when I started this project in January, and only recently found and visited her grave for the first time.
Vale for all the mothers and women who suffered while their sons and loved ones were away at the war, and who carried such a burden of anxiety and fear throughout the long years of that awful war…..waiting and waiting for news of their sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and lovers. And then how sad for Blanche and Mary not to see all their grandchildren born, nor to watch them grow and prosper. Lest we forget!