Write of a family heirloom, childhood memories, lead us through the history of an object that bears special meaning to you.
A FAMILY TRREASURE.
I am fortunate to possess a number of family heirlooms that I number as treasures.
One of those heirlooms is the Henry Wilkinson sword pictured below. It holds special significance for me.
The sword was the property of my Great Uncle from my Mother’s side of the House of Beaufort, Colonel Charles Wyndham Somerset, CB, CMG, MVO. The family lineage dates back to the early 1400’s. The family motto is ‘Mutare vel timere spurn’, which roughly translated means,’ I scorn to change or fear’.
The Colonel was born in England in 1862 and like many members of the British aristocracy, followed the military tradition and joined the army where he was commissioned as a Lieutenant. At graduation he was presented with the sword shown above. In common with many young British Officers of the time, he elected to be transferred to the British Indian Army where there was a greater opportunity for action. The sword accompanied him throughout his active military service and bears the scars of action.
He first saw combat throughout the 3rd Burma War, 1886 to 1889, then fought in the Battle of Chitral in 1895. From 1897 to 1898 he saw action on the North West Frontier and whilst there participated in the battle for Tirah.
At the outbreak of World War One in 1914, he was part of the Indian Army’s contribution to the war effort and was in active service throughout the war until its conclusion in 1918.
In 1911 he was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order for his active service with the Indian Army. In 1917, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for his actions in WW1 and this was followed at the cessation of hostilities when he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath. Then, in 1919 he was made an Honorary Brigadier General in the Indian Army. He died at home in England in 1938.
Twenty one hears later, In November,1959 when I was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Australian Citizens Military Forces (CMF) my Grandmother presented the Colonel’s sword to me.
I have treasured it ever since and it holds pride of place in a special display here in my home.
When I withdraw the sword from its scabbard, it makes a soothing sound, totally at odds with its traditional purpose. As I clean the blade, the hilt with its hand guaard, as I regularly do, I wonder what it must have been like for the Colonel when going into battle with lethal intent, mounted on his war horse, the sword swinging by his side.
My thoughts and imagination have been strongly influenced by the recent ANZAC day remembrance services I’ve attended here, both before and after the 25th April, 2015. 2015 is particularly significant as it is the 100th Anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Gallipoli.
Many towns and cities through Australia have developed exhibitions to acknowledge the sacrifices made by veterans of international conflicts, with particular emphasis on that of the ANZACS.
Here in my home town an exhibition called, ‘A SAUTE-Aussie Soldier from 1915 meets Young Turk in 2015’.
The exhibition contains many family treasures from World War1, the so called War to End All Wars.
Included are letters and postcards from the front, photographs, lockets containing the hair of a loved one, orders and decorations together with examples of the work of the women at home in the form of hand knitted socks, balaclavas and the like.
Also on display is the Colonel’s sword.
I have great pride in my antecedents, both paternal and maternal.
So far in my 75 years I’ve been able to abide by the family motto. i uphold the family traditions, where, inter alia, strength of character and a need to do what’s right are paramount.
Each time I unsheath and hold the family sword, those obligations and feelings are reinforced.