Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the biggest moments in 20th century history, if not for many people, at least for myself and perhaps a few others. For on this day, January 25th 1917, my Great Grandad Ernest Heard died in Iraq during WW1.
Like many others in that particular campaign, he didn’t die from being shot but from severe dysentery caused by disease, infection and malnutrition.
Below is the best photo I have or Private Ernest Heard of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, this photo taken just a few months before his death also shows my Great Grandma Annie and his son, my Grandad Harold as a new born baby.
Like millions of others, Harold would grow up without a father, his children without a grandad and myself without what is only now becoming much more commonplace, a Greatgrandad.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission make it easy to track down the resting place of all known graves for Commonwealth forces from WW1 onwards, including not just British but Australian, Canadian, Indian, South African and other nations by using their website http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx
Great Grandad Ernest is buried just a little way from the River Tigris in the Iraqi city of Amara. It has been fought over many times since being just 30 miles from Iran as well as in the recent wars and civil disorder.
Below is a photo taken a few years ago of the massive cemetery. Apparently the whole area has now been vandalised and turned into an unofficial football pitch whilst immediately to the south, the related Indian cemetery has unbelievably been turned into a fun-fair. All seemingly oblivious of the near 9,000 British and Indian men buried just beneath the surface.
However, plans are in place to restore the cemeteries and headstones have already been prepared and just waiting for the political situation to calm down further before work can begin.
I hope one day to visit Amarah for myself just as my Grandad was able to do when he served in Iraq in WW2.
I will do a blog post about the actual events in Iraq in the war in the next day or so but for now.