Exactly one-hundred years ago today – it was a Tuesday – December 3, 1918, London was enjoying an unseasonably mild day. With the Armistice having been signed just weeks before, one can easily imagine the sense of relief and happiness that must have pervaded the city after long years of war. Locals could once again get back to the business of living, without the focus being placed on the trenches of France and the Great War.
One pair in particular was, I suspect, in very good spirits. At least I’d like to think they were. My maternal grandparents, Sergeant George Ernest Blackwell of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps., and Madeline (Madge) Deegan of St. Julien’s Road, Kilburn, were married on this day, one century ago.
The wedding took place at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Quex Road, Kilburn. While the church still stands to this day, having survived the bombing of the Second World War, I have to believe the officiating priest, Father Burke, has passed on to a better place.
Little is known about how or exactly when my grandparents met. My grandfather arrived in England in 1914 with his colleagues in the Black Watch, part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force that volunteered to defend King and Crown. Like many of his comrades, he suffered numerous afflictions in the trenches, including septic boils, influenza, the effects of gassing and shell shock.
In early September of 1918, during the Second Battle of Arras, part of the Last Hundred Days offensive that would lead to the German surrender, he received a gunshot wound that left shrapnel in his knee and cost him the sight in his right eye. His war was over.
He was seen by several doctors in various hospitals in and around London. However, evidently, he was well enough to get on with the matter of marriage. On November 22, 1918, while at the Canadian Machine Gun Depot at Seaford, he was granted permission to marry “at public expense”.
And so, a century ago today, my grandparents tied the knot. One of the memories I have from my childhood was their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1968. The dregs of an almost entirely evaporated bottle of sherry remain in my refrigerator to this day.
Ten years later they marked their 60th, or diamond anniversary. George passed away in early 1980 and Madge followed in May of 1981.