I post this picture on Twitter most years, it is a (watercolour) painting I did after visiting the WW1 battlefields in 2010, to retrace the steps of my grandfather William Brims.
I grew up hearing about my Dad’s dad and knew a little bit about what he did in the war, but going over there, and having a professional guide, together with being able to search online to find out more, really brought it all to life.
William enlisted in Edinburgh in 1915, aged just 16, less than two weeks after his father died (aged 48). William was the eldest of five (see picture above) and perhaps he felt he had to earn some money for the family, we don’t know. He joined the Royal Scots and soon joined the new Machine Gun Corps.
(I watched a documentary about the machine gun corps this week, terrifying and fascinating in equal measure. I cannot equate a soldier using such weapons with the gentle man my father describes.)
He spent a long time on his basic training in the UK, we know he was sick during this time, but perhaps his seniors realised how young he was and held him back also. It’s conjecture.
It was over two years before he was sent to France, and that late deployment and his ongoing ill health probably saved him. He fought at Passchendaele, and before that he was near Albert on the Somme (although mercifully after the major battle there).
He was discharged in late 1917 as unfit to serve, still just a teenager. His health was delicate until his death just after WWII aged 48.
My father, a photographer, did a very moving photographic series about his father which you can see on his website: davidbrims.com.