Temple Newsam and World War One
In the shadows of despair and through flickers of sparks and light, I am injured in the war. I am brought back to England, then Leeds to Beckett’s Park Hospital. My leg, they fear that the infection is spreading fast, so with a scalpel and saw they remove it quick. They send me to Temple Newsam to recover and recuperate at will. A house like this I never saw before, and for the first few days I stare around in awe.
In my head I relive the war, thunderous bangs and shaking ground. Men on both sides live in fear of never seeing again those they hold dear. Farmers’ fields are not the only thing destroyed there. All these are the endless bodies of the dead. Heaven’s angels attend to the dead, and the living and breathing are in hospital beds.
In the Great Hall, I awaken to the smell of tobacco smoke and the chatter of men. Men who saw the terror, as did I on those frightful battlefields. They miss limbs; burned bodies and healing holes that shells exposed down to the bone.
VAD, they call the girls in here with their pristine sterile gowns. They are overlooked by sisters and matron in turn. Lady Wood is in charge and gives the final word, whether in French to the Belgians, or King’s tongue to the English and the Irish as one. Girls from the local towns do charring and give a helping hand.
Foreign families from Belgium fill the stable blocks, always smile and give a nod when passing me on the terrace. They send their children to the local school and they soon come past singing our national anthem. They soon learn the way of the English land but their parents try hard to understand.
We sit here safe at night because of our great grandparents of yesterday: they fought for their country of red, white and blue. For this we must thank them with our hearts, take off our hats and bow our heads with respect for all those living and dead.
By Chrissy Byrne