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Etretat 100 years ago and now

Special thanks to Chris Weekes for sharing with us his website page on Etretat (it’s here) where Edie served from November 1915 until early 1917.  Chris has a holiday flat in the town and has put together lots of photos of particular locations or buildings in the town – as they were 100 years ago and as they are now.

Particularly poignant for us were the headstones of six soldiers who had been in Edie’s care before they died. Here are the names of four of them followed by a link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website for each:

  • Colonel Frederick Thackeray: CWGC link here.
  • Captain Paul Hammond: CWGC link here.
  • Private Charles Kerr: CWGC link here.
  • Sapper George Sawdon: CWGC link here.

Here’s the extract from Edie’s diary – on 18 April 1916 – in which she records laying flowers on their graves:

April 18th. Maxey, Constable & I had half days – weather very heavy. Blowing 1/2 a gale with occasional gusts of rain or hail. We walked to Benouville, dug up a basket full of primrose roots, then went to the Inn for our usual boiled eggs & bread & butter tea.  Then went home to the Cemetery & tidied up 9 graves – took away all the dead flowers & planted primroses.   Col. Thackery, Capt Hammond, Kerr & Sawden came under my special care. If everybody does a few we may have them all tidy for Easter – the Cemetery is very beautifully kept.

Another patient who died in Edie’s care was Sergeant Middleton (whom she mentions on 6 and 14 March); CWGC link here.

Perhaps the most moving of Edie’s diaries entries relate to slow and painful death of another patient of hers, Rifleman James Lennox (mentioned many times between July and August 1916); CWGC link here. Following a contact from a journalist in Lennox’s home town of Ballymena I put together a page about him; it’s here.

Of course, the CWGC headstones are not the original ones at which Edie would have laid flowers. But, as ever, seeing such examples of the beautifully careful way in which CWGC looks after those graves somehow brings those individuals’ lives and tragic deaths closer for us, even 100 years later.

As of today’s date (7 December 2015) the descendants of no fewer than 16 of the over 200 people (colleagues and patients) named by Edie in her diaries have been in touch with me.  One of those was Nicola, the great, great niece of Private Charlie Kerr mentioned above and you can see much more about the family here.

If by any chance you are reading this and recognise a family link do get in touch with me at ediesdiaries@gmail.com.

Dick Robinson
Edie’s great nephew

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