My youngest sister was three years younger than me. Closer in age, we tended to do a lot of things together. Such proximity perhaps also meant that we fought (argued) a lot. When we were punished, it was for fighting rather than doing anything naughty. Our poor mother would constantly implore us to “stop fighting!” It must have driven her mad. Then she’d remind us that our grandmother would have loved to have had her brother to play with, but he died in the war. We should be grateful to have each other.
When you’re young, imagining your grandmother at your age was pretty impossible. But it did make me feel guilty, thinking of her losing her brother. As much as I fought with my sister, I loved her too, and I didn’t want any harm to come to her.
Uncle Murray died at El Alamein, in northern Egypt, on 17 July 1942. I realised many years later that by then my mother was already a young girl, and my grandmother was 41 when she lost her brother. She also had another brother, Uncle Ray, who we grew to love very much. He wasn’t factored into my mother’s message of guilt! Still, the message got through.
I love this photo. I imagine the three children growing up together, playing together, maybe fighting together too. I wonder what their lives were like. My grandmother died when I was 16, and at that age, I never thought to ask her.
I have promised my mother if I ever go to Egypt I’ll go to Uncle Murray’s grave. She will have forgotten that now. But it’s a promise I want to keep. I know I can. I’ve found his grave on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. I feel that it would be nice for someone from our family to visit him where he lies in that far off land, so different from the lush green fields of home. Even though he never knew me, he’s always been part of my life, and always will be.