I was travelling on this year’s Remembrance Sunday so I am paying my respects today at the Cenotaph in London.
My grandfather, Christopher Tom Walkington, was a genuine Tommy. He went to France in August 1914 as a private soldier with the British Expeditionary Force – one of the original ‘Old Contemptibles’ - and initially served in the trenches. He applied to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps and had to spend 100 perilous hours in the air as an observer before he could train to be a pilot.
He flew through the rest of the war, becoming a founder member of the RAF. He continued to serve through the Second World War as well, rising to the rank of Group Captain and commanding RAF Hornchurch. He flew Spitfires though not in combat.
He died when I was quite young but I can remember him as a kind white-haired old man. We recently found on the internet a picture of him as a newly qualified pilot – Corporal Christopher Tom Walkington – taken in December 1916 when he was 21. He looks impossibly young but had already seen two years of trench warfare and had two more years of the conflict ahead of him.
These are the people we remember each year.