Mary's Wedding
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Marie Roulleau

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Here are a couple of stories related to WW1 and my family.

The first is my grandmother's.

When her sweetheart left for WW1, she was pregnant. When she got no news from her beau, she decided to marry another man – my grandfather, twenty years older than she was – after her daughter was born.

But before that birth, a Traviata-style family drama unfolded: when my grandmother's unmarried mother-to-be status was revealed, her older sister's wedding to a well-to-do man was called off. That sister, my great-aunt, eventually married too, but a man who didn't make her happy. She held a grudge against my grandmother for a long time. The two sisters reportedly never spoke to each other for the rest of their lives, even though they lived in the same village, 150 metres from each other! (with no Act III death-bed reconciliation scene.)

When the war was over, my grandmother's lover turned up. When he saw she was married, he decided to contribute to his daughter's upbringing by giving the couple a heifer that would produce calves and milk.

My paternal grandfather was sent to the battlefields as soon as the war erupted. He died on Sept.14, 1914, not of a fatal wound, but of pneumonia contracted out there. Because he didn't actually die on the 'field of honour' but in some infirmary tent, his widow could not collect a war widow's pension – even though his name is the first one read every Nov. 11 in the village cemetery, because it is at the top of the list on the monument to the men 'morts pour la France' (who died for France). My father was born exactly two months after his father's death, on November 14th. He grew up without a father.

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