Remembrance Sunday: The Laurels During World War I
The Great War: the War to End All Wars. If only that were true, but the rows of veterans filing passed the television screen and those down the main street of every town on both sides of the pond tell us otherwise.
I remember watching as a little girl when the young men from the Gulf War walked proudly next to the grey haired men from WWII, there were only a handful from WWI left. And today we count down the remaining men and women from WWII as the Gulf War veterans are now grey and the Iraqi War veterans fill in the gaps. One day I, too, will be grey and counting down those left from the Gulf War while veterans from whatever war my children’s generation will see take the place of those who succumbed to the bonds of time. And the streets will perpetually flow with them as we stand on the sidewalk fighting mixed emotions of eternal thankfulness, grief for those we lost and that what we don’t speak of for fear of being labeled as “unpatriotic”: the anger and confusion surrounding what it is in the intricate fibers of our humanity that justifies the existence of war in the first place.
I’ve watched my grandfather (WWII and Korea) and my uncle (Vietnam) walk in parades, watched my father buried with full military rites, watched my 3 year old son peer over the grave of his great-great grandfather’s tombstone in a cemetery in Dunkirk, France, and listened to countless stories of family members listening to names over the radio at night, visiting my uncle at the VA hospital after barely surviving a run in with a land mine, of growing up in Okinawa, Japan.
My mother in law waved hello to the bugle player at the Remembrance Choir Concert tonight. On our way home she told me the story of her father, who became shell shocked and wheel chair bound after WWII and how they would always bring him to these concerts. One year they changed the playlist to something more modern instead of the traditional songs. Afterwards everyone went to the now defunct Legion equivalent in town where her father started singing the songs he missed. The bugle player picked up the songs as he went and accompanied him.
The Laurels during World War I.
The Laurels was not immune. During the era of WWI, a man named Thomas Henry Lello lived in The Laurels, during the time it was likely a Nursing Home. His genealogy entry calls The Laurels “a huge timbered Victorian house which is now a rest home.”
Thomas previously worked as a draper’s buyer and owned a good deal of the area surrounding The Laurels, perhaps including some of (most of) my FIL’s house and yard. He lived in The Gables (which he had built around 1903) at the foot of the their property until he retired to The Laurels possibly in 1918. Here is a photo (break out the microscopes) of him and a tiny at The Gables:
It was there he was registered as living at when his son George William Lello was killed in Rouen France. He died of wounds on the 25th of November 1918, 14 days after the “official” end of the war. He was serving as a war reporter for a newspaper here in the West Midlands and serving in the 3 New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade, 1 Battalion. You can see his entry on the War Graves Project, here.
George immigrated to Tasmania, following his older brother Thomas Henry (Harry)’s footsteps who traveled there a year earlier.
In a letter from his brother to his daughter, Eleanor about her late uncle:
6 July 1938
[George] followed me to Tas when 15. After a few years he went home and to the U.S.A. and drifted as far as the foot-hills of the Rockies in Wyoming. Back to home and to Scotland to my Aunt Mary’s [note: Mary Crocket who married a Kerr and lived at LItle Richorn] farm to learn some farming, and then to Palmer Co. Nebraska with our Uncle John Lello (who had then left me in Frankford) to put in 8 years growing corn. His aunt Mary’s home, at ‘Little Richorn’, is alongside the remains of : Richorn Motte, a medieval castle of the 12th or 13th century.
Back home, and then Cape Town, Elizabeth Town Durham, De? Bay and up to Umtali and Bulowayo (…0 where the lions patrolled the streets at night. Back to Tas (Once more to Elizabeth Town for a few years. Then to N.Z. where he carved a living as correspondent until he went to the war. He said he left Mas..land because of malaria. I think he left because the Jamieson Raid was close to, and he looked on it as a piece of bucaneering.’
While in Tasmania, as a gifted painter, who made many water colours. Then when he followed his uncle to North America, he completed some more. As at 2013, a sample of scans of these can be seen here.
He was in New Zealand working from 1906/7 until he enlisted.
One of his paintings:
Thomas Lello moved from The Laurels somewhere between 1918 to 1922. Perhaps it was a temporary move after he sold The Gables to “the Water Company” to use as its offices, according to the genealogical record above.