Inspired by Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, and amazed at the similarities between the main character’s experience of the trenches during the 1914-1918 war and those of my grandfather, William Harold Jowett, I began work on the above piece using actual letters, my grandfather’s documents, medals, his personal diary and sketches.
He was taken prisoner on April 25th 1918 during the German Spring Offensive on Mont Kemmel, known as Hill 60, and for the rest of the war until repatriation was marched between a variety of POW camps in Belgium and Germany. He spent time loading shells with which to fire at the Allied troops and also working underground in the Westphalia coal mines. The cartoons in his sketch books show an unbelievable resilience and good humour.
He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the Military Medal for bravery in the field.