Mistake

Reading through Jack’s records again was a mistake.

It’s all becoming real to me again.

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Some More Info About Jack

I did some digging on a number of sites but it appears that there isn’t a John Harris from the 2nd Battalion of the KSLI listed on ANY of the war memorials in Herefordshire. This was after cross-referencing two lists.

I already knew he wasn’t listed on the Yeovil Roll because he was not living in Yeovil at the time. Nor is it a surprise that he’s not on any of the Shropshire rolls because he wasn’t living there. But the best information I have says he lived in Herefordshire, specifically Hereford. Why is there no mention of him on any of the monuments?

Was he not living in Herefordshire? And if so, where was he living? I know he enlisted at Nuneaton but Nuneaton was a major army town in those days. At any rate, the Roll of Honour for Nuneaton hasn’t been published online yet as it was only recently compiled.

BUT… along with raising more questions, I may have found out which company of the KSLI Jack was in! According to this page, only one company of the 2nd Battalion had any casualties in July 1915: “B” company.

Also, I reexamined the pdf I was sent of his pre-WWI military service and discovered it was full of information I hadn’t noticed before! I don’t know how I overlooked the following pages all this time but I can tell you this does answer a few questions about him!

So here’s what I know about Jack’s service so far:

*He had been previously enlisted (No. 6834) until February 1914 as a reservist with the KSLI (2nd. Bn). Before that he was active from 1902 to 1910 and served in Secunderabad. His address at the time the war broke out was probably at #1 Coronation Terrace (or lane, the handwriting is unclear). This house may not exist or the street may be renamed.

*He had no education certificates to speak of. His occupation is listed as “laborer.” Sadly I cannot confirm my memory of working in the hop fields on a seasonal basis but this remains plausible.

*He had no physical resemblance to me. His physical appearance upon transfer to the reserve is described thus:

Height (without boots): 5′ 6″

Chest: 34″

Waist: 33″

Exact size of helmet: 21 1/2 (note: I can only guess this refers to a pith helmet as this record predates the Brodie by some time).

Exact size of boots: 7.4 (I do not understand this figure and need to find more information on how boots were sized in the British Army prior to WWI).

Complexion: Dark

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Dark

Descriptive marks: Nil

A description upon enlistment is less legible but he was bigger overall and his hair is listed as dark brown. This page also lists his religious affiliation as Church of England.

*He received several disciplinary actions and remained a private for his whole career. I recently noticed that his behavior is noted, and in most instances it involves drunkenness but there are also two unexcused absences, creating a disturbance, and wilfully damaging a captain’s(?) property. Sadly this a little too much like me in some respects as a lot of this is behaviors I’ve only conquered in this life.

*During his tour in India he suffered an attack of phebitis, heatstroke, fever, and some other conditions which are sadly illegible to me.

*He reenlisted in the 2nd Bn. (No. 7324) some time in September 1914. His records from 1914-1915 were probably lost in the Blitz and most of the data on him comes from CWGC sources.

*He served in “B” company.

*He may have served with his brother Albert, who may have been wounded and likely survived him by almost 60 years.

*He was present at the Second Battle of Ypres.

*He survived the battle but was killed in action later that summer in a quiet sector, L’Epinette, a small hamlet near Houplines and Armentieres. He was a front line casualty, most likely killed in the trenches along the Ruelle de la Blanche between Chemin de L’Epinette and Chemin du Pilori.

*He is buried in Ferme Buterne Military Cemetery, Row C, Plot 1. His epitaph, “He Did His Duty,” was most likely written by his brother, Albert, as his name is on the cemetery records.

I need to do some more research now to see if him being in “B” company confirms or disproves some of my meories. This is a small detail but an important one if I can find the movements of the individual companies during specific battles.

A Change

My relationship with the experience I had in September 2012 seems to be changing.

I don’t get the same feeling when I listen to music that used to remind me strongly of those memories.

I still remember everything but I feel I’ve either started to live past it, or I’m blocked from really engaging. The scars are there but they don’t feel as fresh any more.

I think writing about what happened to me in the form of a fiction story, being able to put that distance between myself and the memories by having a character go through something similar, seems to have helped.

It’s still difficult talking about the most horrific details I confirmed. I still tend to avoid certain things like songs or movies or whatever. It’s possible I just learned to bury it because I had no way to really face it. I don’t know.

It’s there. Jack’s life is there and it’s not going away. I haven’t so much healed as I’m just sort of learning to live with it, like learning to live with a serious wound that never properly heals.

Projects! Projects! Projects!

I finished a 9500 word short story for an anthology that I really want to get into on Monday and submitted it with four hours to spare before the deadline.

On Tuesday (technically still “today” for me being a bit of a nighthawk) I finished yet another draft of that novel I’ve been working so hard on. That makes 14 drafts now; I have NO excuse for it to not be the most refined thing I ever wrote.

Also, my writing is starting to get attention.

Starting to.

I’m still a long way from making it though.

Right now my goal is to expand into the easiest spheres of recognition I know: the niche fiction community I write in, and the literary scene in Portland. I figure if I can get known in Portland I’ll have a better chance of getting known elsewhere on the West Coast and maybe, if I’m very lucky, I’ll get the right kind of attention to finally make a living off this.

But for now, it feels so unattainable. The path is becoming clearer but there’s so much left to do, and I’m going about this in a very unorthodox way that goes against the conventional wisdom on how to get known as a writer.

I’ll do what I have to do to make this life count. But good grief… all my life it’s been so much work for so little return!

Korea

I was not born when the war began.

My parents were not born when the war began.

My grandparents were teenagers too young to fight.

It took 65 long years before the stalemate got so stale that both sides fatigued of being at each other’s throats and shook hands in no man’s land.

Will it last though? Will everyone keep their end of the bargain? Will one side or the other prove unreasonable? Will the process get bogged down in details?

We can’t know. It’s been too damn long. Even if there’s a peace treaty, the healing is only beginning.

But my heart and the hearts of many go out to the Korean people today with the very best of hopes. After coming right to the brink of unthinkable bloodshed, can these two countries separated by time and conflict find some hope of a new day?

Doubt

I have seen the thumbprint of God on the fabric of time and in the subtle, sublime way the divine meme has worked in my life.

Why, then, do I still find it easier to doubt?

Not many people who struggle with doubt have the benefit of some degree of theophany. I suppose doubt is part of our culture though. It was the most jarring thing I noticed in my memories of medieval times: to us in the present, doubt in God is the default position; but in those memories the existence and presence of God was seen as a given. But that culturally-bound doubt is natural given the fact that we were taught so long to love a God of the Gaps rather than a God of the Ineffable. And as the gaps in our understanding shrank, the ineffable could be easily handwaved though it never goes away no matter how much we try.

But I think it’s more than culture. Just having the experience of seeing the mark of something tremendous moving and influencing the stream of time puts me outside the prevailing culture somewhat. It might be easier to handwave this if I’d been diagnosed schizophrenic or bipolar but there’s no such easy out for me; what I experienced was something rare and special and my doctors agree, they don’t have a ready answer. It is what it is. Still, my doubt persists.

I think maybe there is some degree of doubt in our nature and even to witness a miracle or the clear traces of God is never enough. Certainly, doubt existed before us! Doubt existed before Rome, before Babylon even. I realize that now; the miracles I’ve seen may have encouraged me to seek, but they didn’t fix any sort of unwavering belief in me either. That is something I need to examine and pray about.

You can see spirits, reveal the shape of time, and see the shadow of God moving below the waters of our existence, but you cannot trust that alone to dispel doubt. That’s a harsh lesson but one I must share.

Flash

I just had a strange flash which, while it may not be past life related, I feel I should record here because it involves an era Phil lived in and wrote about.

I was reading about the F-82 Twin Mustang and saw that it had once been an escort for the B-36 Peacemaker (can you find a more cynically named strategic bomber?). I knew of the B-36 and had seen one before (at least, I’d seen film or pictures of one). But for some reason the picture of the B-36 sent me back full-force to the zeitgeist of the early Atomic Age. That weird mix of optimism that we were invincible, yet dawning terror when the true cost of an atomic war became ever clearer.

I’ve wanted to write a straight historical fiction about cold war aviation and a person living in the illusion of peace time while being faced with the stark absurdity of war for a while. I don’t know though; my last attempt died after three paragraphs.