Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Family Memoir of the First World War

A Family Memoir of the First World War
Pip, Squeak and Wilfred – and a couple of old brass tins
~ ~ ~

Amongst our family heirlooms we come across the above medals belonging to my grandfather. They were awarded to him for service to his country in the First World War. Actually, the image above is how they originally looked. With the passage of time they now look like this…

The medals were affectionately referred to by service personnel of the day as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

From left to right the medals are: 1914-14 Star (Pip), The British War Medal (Squeak) and the Victory Medal (Wilfred).

My grandfather - James Scougal  - was born in Yankton, South Dakota, North America, on 25th September, 1882: the son of George Roberts Scougal, a local banker and horse trader of some repute. He died on 24th October, 1956 in Carlisle, Cumbria.

During the First World War, he was a sergeant in the Durham Light Infantry. The regiment’s nickname was ‘The Dirty Little Imps’. The medals were awarded by King George V to those soldiers who had fought against the Germans in the theatre of war in France and Belgium.

The Durham Light Infantry was an infantry regiment of the British Army from 1881 to 1968. It was formed by the amalgamation of the 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 106th Regiment of Foot (Bombay Light Infantry) along with the militia and rifle volunteers of County Durham. Following a series of mergers since 1968, the regiment's lineage is continued today by The Rifles.

My grandfather was a member of the 2nd Battalion who were deployed to France, Flanders, Belgium, in 1914. The regiment was part of 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, Third Corps.
The battalion’s battle honours include Armentieres 1914; Hooge 1915; Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy, Hill 70, Somme 1916; Cambrai 1917; and the Somme 1918.

He didn’t just bring medals home when the war came to an end he brought these two old tins too.

The above tin is the Princess Mary 1914 Christmas Gift Tin
Princess Mary was a member of the British Royal Family. She was the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She held the title of princess with the style Highness from birth as the then great-granddaughter of the British Sovereign, and later Her Royal Highness, as the granddaughter and finally daughter of the Sovereign. After her marriage she held the title of Viscountess Lascelles and, from 1929, Countess of Harewood. During World War I, Princess Mary visited hospitals and welfare organizations with her mother, assisting with projects to give comfort to British servicemen and assistance to their families. One of these projects was Princess Mary's Christmas Gift Fund, through which £100,000 worth of gifts was sent to all British soldiers and sailors for Christmas, 1914. She also took an active role in promoting the Girl Guide movement, the VADs, and the Land Girls. In 1918, she took a nursing course and went to work at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Many soldiers received cigarettes or sweets in the tin. I was never to know what my grandfather received in his tin. We’ve kept it over the years and it is in remarkably good condition. Amongst his possession we also found a Muratti's (Ariston) Cigarette Tin shown below.

Basil Mouratoglou, a Greek tobacco trader, founded MURATTI at Constantinople (Turkey) in 1821. Due to the creation of a tobacco monopoly at the Ottoman Empire he moved in the 1880's to Western Europe. Established in 1885 at Germany, and in 1887 at London. The English company became part of U.K. TOBACCO COMPANY which became part of GODFREY PHILLIPS which became part of PHILIP MORRIS. In Germany MARTIN BRINKMANN bought German MURATTI in 1960, that's why today the German MURATTI line belongs to BAT. The older MURATTI cigarettes include Ariston.

The empty tin is in good condition. The words - B.Muratti.Sons & Co. Limited, MANCHESTER, LONDON are clearly printed in gold coloured lettering on the top of the hinged lid as well as the underside of the lid. Indeed, when you run your finger over the lettering on the underside of the tin lid you can feel that it is slightly raised but you can see the lettering very clearly. The tin is believed to date from between 1910 and 1921 when Ariston cigarettes (made in Holland and Belgium) had an obvious association with Muratti's and historical data supports this time period. It may date from 1887 but that cannot be properly asserted.

Medals, tins, memories....

In 2014, the United Kingdom and her First World War allies will remember those who died during the Great War. It will mark one hundred years since those dark days.

We shall quietly remember a grandfather – and thousands like him.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields. 

by John McCrae