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My Grandad My Hero

Author Paul Burchell


Review date 03/07/2022

No of pages


Publisher URL

Year of publication 15/02/2021


Our Review


£ 19.99, hardback

After the centenary of the First World War, let alone after the covid pandemic, the men and women of the 1914-18 war feel far off, and beyond recall. It is the achievement of Paul Burchell's book - My Granddad My Hero - about his grandfather Ernest that he has written such a full account and pieced together such a human story.

It is a story with a happy ending: in September 1918 Ernest, as a sergeant in the Wiltshire Yeomanry, was shot in the lungs in France, a wound that was fatal for many. He survived, and was a patient in a hospital in Leeds come the Armistice of November 1918. The next year in peacetime he married his sweetheart Elizabeth.

The author knew Ernest as a child in the 1960s when Ernest was old (he was born in 1888). Even then the differences in generation and outlook were great; as Paul relates; his grandfather insisted on him attending Sunday school. Paul Burchell is a retired Leicestershire Police detective who has done further detective work to learn about the first 31 years of his grandfather's life.

In a brief epilogue Paul writes: "Never did I realise the sheer scale of how the world developed in inventions and in technological, health, welfare and social reform during this period .... The British Empire was by far the biggest in the world. It makes you wonder if only this vast wealth that the nation had accrued had been spent on more worthwhile projects than on the pointless war of 1914-18. What position would we all be in now? A lot better, I'm sure! It's a sad fact that mankind seems to have this mechanism for self-destruction."

Ernest was a volunteer for the Army on the outbreak of war in August 1914 and reached France to fight in 1916. Paul lays out at the same time one man's war and the wider stories of the Wiltshire units, the nation and the course of the war on the Western Front, an industrial-scale war, making plain that while Ernest is deserving of that title 'My Hero', having gained the DCM, Ernest was also fortunate simply to survive in one piece, unlike so many.

The book is for sale from the author: email