So what did my granddad do? Unsurprisingly: His peace time job – a shoeing smith meaning he specialised in shoeing horses – important assets in the days before cars became universal. Just as you can’t run a fleet of lorries without mechanics, the work of a shoeing smith never stopped. This meant extra training, extra pay and an exemption from parades. Shoeing smiths had the equivalent rank of corporal while Farriers had the equivalent of sergeant.
The Army used thousands of horses but the Cavalry took the best ones. Using the rejects to cart supplies, wounded and munitions about was hard work especially when explosions were going off, artillery was in use and the animals were terrified.
Imagine a young couple recently married and hubby goes off to war, which turns out to be unlike any other. Slaughter is on an industrial scale and chemical weapons are used in large quantities for the first time. Showing perhaps that clouds have silver linings, chemical weapons eventually lead to the introduction of chemo therapy for cancer treatment – but I digress.
The Industrial Revolution which improved standards of living so much for the common man, was now devoted to producing machines and materiel to destroy it. The young wife at home goes to compline every day, praying for the safe return of her husband.
Hubby gets a pass to go home to his young wife, not having to a buy a train or bus ticket since soldiers in uniform didn’t need one. After more than 24 hours travelling, he turns up his on own doorstep. You would expect the wife to throw her arms around his neck? Not at all.
He is filthy in a mud-spattered uniform with lice in his hair, so is shooed around to the scullery at the back and given a thorough scrubbing. No instant water heaters in those days and certainly no shower, so after an hour heating up the water in hob, granddad sits down in the proverbial zinc bathtub while the carbolic soap and scrubbing brush gets the lice and muck off him.
It’s All over now
War over, granddad is an itinerant blacksmith for a while, going from village to village looking for work. Later, he rents his own forge which business enables him to bring up 7 children and buy a car – a Model A Ford. My father only ever sees his Dad topping up the radiator with water, so for a long while believes that cars run on just that – rather than petrol.
The business folds after World War 2, where only a few weeks of trading show that the local blacksmith days are over. Both grandparents meet after the war when my English and German parents are married. One of the nicer things of human nature is that old soldiers tend to get on well and it turns out that the granddads were only a few miles apart at the Battle of the Somme, but of course on opposite sides.
If only I could show them my lovely grandchildren now….