Remembering My Great Grandad Ernest Heard Who Died 100 Years Ago Today in Amarah, Iraq.

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.

Ernest Heard with Annie Heard and Granddad

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.

Amara war cemetery

Amarah War Cemetery in Iraq, resting place to several thousand casualties of WW1 including my Great Granddad, Ernest Heard

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.

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I hope one day to visit Amarah for myself just as my Grandad was able to do when he served in Iraq in WW2.

 

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You can see Amara in SE Iraq, just above Basra. The red dot in the west is as close as I have got so far.

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Amarah from space. Dominated by the River Tigris which branches off in numerous directions here on the way to the sea. The cemetery is the largely blank square in the centre of the photo.

 

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Great Grandad Ernest Heard is buried in the British cemetery to the right of the buildings, right of the wall. The Indian cemetery starts towards the bottom of the photo where the green patch is and goes off down from there.

I will do a blog post about the actual events in Iraq in the war in the next day or so but for now.

 

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Candle of rememberance

Proudly remembering and loving my Great Grandad Ernest Heard who died aged 28 on January 25th 1917 in Amarah, Iraq.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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17 Responses to Remembering My Great Grandad Ernest Heard Who Died 100 Years Ago Today in Amarah, Iraq.

  1. i’m sorry for your loss. your great grand-dad made the ultimate sacrifice.
    freedom has a cost, too.
    thank you for his service.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Francis says:

    Extraordinary post! So sad about your great grand dad.
    How disgraceful that these hallowed war cemeteries should have converted to funfairs. I suppose, however, that life has become cheap out there as a result of continual fighting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, poor chap. I wonder if he had any idea he would still be remembered a century later… no less than any of them deserved however.

      It is disgusting isn’t it. Apparently it was mostly encouraged by Saddam and since then things have only got worse.

      Obviously the poor local people have suffered terribly but respecting the relatively recent dead is surely the bare minimum of civilisation.

      Apparently for decades, it was cared for by the son or grandson of the original caretaker who always appreciated those who had died and he kept away the yobs and drunks until the recent war but now the head stones are just broken lumps of stone, scattered along the street outside.

      Like

  3. such a tragic waste – we never learn do we…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Boyer Writes says:

    Stephen, such a fascinating background. I do hope things will change so you can make that trip that you referred to. I believe it is important to write family history for generations to follow. Blessings, Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you. Yes I hope to make it there one day too. I’m quite happy to go to very out of the way and challenging places but only outright war is too much. If I had been older, I would have been happy to visit under Saddam but unfortunately I seem to have matured at precisely the worst time for anyone who would like to visit several places in the region. At only 50 miles from Iran and a little more from Kuwait it would be hoped that one day it would be suitable for a day trip at least. My Granddad actually went there during WW2 and said in a funny way, the war was the only thing that made it possible for him to visit there. He also played the organ at either Basra or Baghdad Cathedral for the Christmas service in 1943 (I think) so I’d like to go there too. Thanks for commenting, Stephen

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  5. Hopefully it’ll be safe enough for you to go there while you’re still young enough to, unfortunately I don’t hold out much hope for that.
    I’m sorry your family lost someone so far away, but it’s great that you have the history, it’s more than some if us have, I wish my family would have kept records.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I hope so too. I was all ready to go when it all fell apart. I would have been quite happy to visit under Saddam but wasn’t really old or rich enough. It is a shame that so many of the places I’d like to visit such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen are all no-go areas. I have another 25 years I think before I have to restrict my travels to easy-going places.

      I think that is the real shame of it, the cemetery being so very far away and probably in the very hardest spot to visit. It would be much easier to get to more distant but stable places.

      Yes, I have quite a lot of information, Ernest had a close relation who went to live in Oklahoma and I have a photo of him too in the American WW1 army uniform.

      My Granddad actually kept a wonderful war diary with photos and collected memorabilia from his WW2 travels in Egypt, Iraq and Italy and though I saw it and treasured it as a child, sadly when he died it was thrown away. It would have been priceless now in more ways than one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hopefully peace will get a chance someday soon… and hopefully there will still be something left that’s worth visiting.
        It’s a shame that his diary was thrown away, sometimes people just don’t value stuff like that.
        My father’s family is that way, they threw everything away, so there is very little family history left from that side, which is a shame, I would love to know more about my family history.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Graham says:

    Great tribute there. I was lucky that both of my grandfathers survived WWII and it was interesting how one wrote about it in a memoir (he was torpedoed five times while in the merchant navy) and the other never said a word about it (I think he was in the royal engineers in Egypt). I guess different people deal with it in different ways…but building a funfair on a cemetery, that is disrespectful at the very least.

    Like

  7. Pingback: WW1 Iraq & The Desert Campaigns | Stephen Liddell

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