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Dedicated to Henry George Pickard 1878-1966

My grandad lived in Dalston just up from Ridley Road

Where the market hustle-bustled and the city traffic flowed

The pub stood on the corner there where grandma fetched his beer

And we would come to visit them a dozen times a year

But the highlight of the day for me the hour spent next door

For pie and mash with liquor and sawdust on the floor

I found the visits tedious as this grey and lifeless man

Lay propped up on the pillows being cared for by my nan

A dying old night watchman was no interest to me

I prayed the visit over soon so we could go for tea

But 60 long years later with the help of my pc

I found out about Henry and the life I couldn’t see

Henry was the 2nd born of 14, Though only 6 lived to their teens. His father

was a 20-year-old cabinet maker with a teenage wife. Henry was 20 himself

when his father died, and he ran away and joined the army. Six months later

he ran away from the army. Served time for desertion. At 28 having married

his pregnant girlfriend he was back in the army for the Great War and trench

warfare on the Western Front

At Christmas 1916 his regiment was sent from France to Greece and they

joined the march from Thessaloniki to the Dova Tepe Fort fighting the

Bulgarians, then on to Macedonia where the regiment was almost wiped out.

Reassigned to Egypt they crossed Suez and through the Sinai desert. They

drove the Turks out of Palestine and Jerusalem surrendered. Finally came the

push into Jericho, Jordan, 1918 and peace. Henry came home to his wife and

his children and his father’s trade as a cabinet maker and upholsterer

He didn’t leave again for another 50 years

Propped up in bed surrounded by a thousand souvenirs

Brought back from foreign travels and from salty seaside piers

His skin was thin as paper as he lay there in the gloom

Like a tragic Mr Haversham imprisoned in his room

I never got to know him, and I found it all a bore

Till the pie and mash and liquor and the sawdust on the floor

50 views8 comments


Tim Roberts
Tim Roberts
May 24, 2023

powerful stuff...also very entertaining and yet a certain pathos


Dawson Stafford
Dawson Stafford
Mar 25, 2023

A brillant piece tinged with some sadness, Hindsight is a wonderful yet deadly thing!


John Dallison
John Dallison
Mar 24, 2023

Thank you for this, Martin. I didn't understand my own father until I studied WW1. It is a sad fact of life that the generations are doomed to misunderstand each other, Wonderful!


Nigel Smith
Nigel Smith
Mar 20, 2023

Very good indeed mate. Yes there are many misconceptions surrounding ww1, the idea it was all mud for example, the Leeds , Bradford and Accrington pals walked to slaughter on the 1st day of the Somme up slight inclines covered in waist high grass on a sunny morning. The British had 57,000 casualties of which 19,000 were killed on the 1st day, largely due to the fact that the General Staff were still stuck in the Victorian era. Haigh famously stated the machine gun, relatively new, was overrated, the axis powers did not and brought a shed-load to their trenches which were fortified for defensive war. Not that it made much difference........cos the brits had no high explosive shells,



Alice Carroll
Alice Carroll
Mar 19, 2023

Spot on Martin. WW1 vets were even more tight lipped than were WW11 vets. Wish that we could have shown more interest and respect to WW1 vets. All I know about WW1 is what I've seen in Hollywood movies-- lots of rain and muddy trenches. Embarrassing

Unknown member
Mar 19, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Alice. I have collected pages of information on Henry and his wartime experiences and find them spellbinding. It’s not just that he was there at such dramatic points of history but he survived again and again when 1000s were dying around him And then came home and lived such an unremarkable life for another 50 years.

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