Friday, 11 November 2011

A dull 11th November in Surrey

You might wonder what a Welshman residing in Surrey has anything to write about today in France?

Well the answer has two threads, the first is though I was born in Wales my paternal grandfather was French, and the second thread is that 200 yards from our house in Pirbright is the Commonwealth Graves Cemetry in Brookwood.

Gabriel Funning
In 1898 my Grandfather left Le Havre for South Wales eventually ending in the Vale of Neath at Resolven. With him came his mother and father, brother and sister and his two year old nephew Gabriel. Gabriel grew up in the Welsh community and from family tales could speak little French. Come 1914 because they had not become nationalised British, both he and his father were called up for the French Army.

On the 12th June 1918 he was due to come home on leave, when he met a British Soldier, who also came from Resolven, and they agreed to come home together a few days later. Sadly on the 13th June 1918 Gabriel was killed in action. For his bravery he was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre with a silver star  as the citation says for "leading an attack on enemy positions".
Mass grave at Mery-la Bataille where it is presumed Gabriel lays

Liz and I visited the graveyard at Mery la Bataille where he died, and found the mass grave where 251 unidentifiable bodies from Gabriel' s regiment lay.

So today I visited the French War Graves section at Brookwood Cemetry and proudly planted my poppy on a wooden cross in memory of Gabriel.
French wargraves at Brookwood Cemetry

The folly of war is illustrated by the fact that his grandfather who arrived from France with him was Prussian. Our surname originally had the German Umlaut over the "u" in our surname, and I have discovered that there were German "Funning" casualties in the mass slaughter that was the War to End all Wars!