My grandfather John William Evans was born in West Felton in Oswestry in 1889 and he was a soldier in World War I. He worked as a farm waggoner in Whittington, living quite a sheltered life, so going to war must have been a horrendous change for him.
I found out about him through this family heirloom which is something that I received and had passed onto me when my mother died. It is called a ‘sweetheart cushion’, and it was brought home by my grandfather to give to his mother at the end of World War I. So I became interested in the war because of this. I did a bit of research and I think probably the cloth and the background were produced in France, and then the soldiers were given this gold braid and the buttons to decorate the cushions themselves, and then they brought them home.
I knew he was in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from the ‘sweetheart cushion’. You can see the acronym in the middle of the cushion. Then I tried to find more information from the Regimental Museum in Caernarvon. Unfortunately, because his name was not unusual, they found fifty John William Evans who served in the war. So unless I have his regimental number it’s going to be quite difficult to find anything further, other than when he was born, when he was married, when he died. I’m pleased to have the photograph of him, but I think he looks a bit worried and rather scared, like he’s wondering what’s to come. I don’t know if it was taken when he joined up or later. He was probably about 25 then. I look at that picture and think I wouldn’t be here, if you hadn’t of been one of the lucky soldiers.
My grandfather survived, and was a miner at Ifton Heath colliery, but he didn’t speak about the war. I don’t think he wanted to be reminded. Rumour has it that he was at the battle of the Somme, but I don’t really know about that. He also seemed to have an awful cough most of the time and I can remember it being suggested that it was as a result of mustard gas.
When my mother died and the cushion was going to be passed on to a member of my family, my three sisters and I thought about it and there was a general feeling that we didn’t want to be reminded of what an awful time it was and what our grandfather had to go through. But I decided that I would like it so I could pass it on to family members in the future or possibly to a museum.
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