Fred – my maternal grandfather

In an earlier post (May 21st – tribute to my Mum) I mentioned my maternal grandfather, Fred, whose life read like a Michael Palin Ripping Yarn.

Fred acquired his first driving licence in 1906 later becoming a local bus driver.  A member of the ‘Terriers’ he went to Gallipoli in 1914 and then transferred to the Royal Flying Corps training school at Aboukir, Egypt, where he rose to the rank of Chief Mechanic.  A collection of photographs from the time show Fred with a variety of wrecked aircraft, taking part in local ‘Inter-Nation’ football matches and posing in front of the Sphinx whose inscrutable smile is much more in evidence than in the 21st Century.  There must have been hardship but the overwhelming impression is of young men in their prime having the time of their lives, securely distant from the horror of the trenches.

Fred stands proud and hatless in the centre with a folding roll film camera in his left hand, his pith helmet in his right and a centre parting kept in place with a touch of pomade.

Their guide takes centre stage whilst a white horse enters stage left and a caged chicken exits stage right.  In the wings a herd of camel riders is gathering by a distant pyramid whilst the airmen stand patiently posing in the dry desert heat.  The science fiction world obsesses about time travel but windows into earlier lives can be found in most attics, filed in boxes waiting for the light.  This and our sense of smell can resurrect people and places we thought had gone forever.  When I knew my grandfather he was a tapestry of reassuring odours, predominantly Brylcreem, Three Nuns tobacco and probably alcohol.


  1. bittercharm · July 26, 2012

    Wow, like they say, a Picture is worth a thousand words, but the way you have wrapped up your words around it, it becomes so much real. Great Click and amazing choice of words. I am glad I found this post.


  2. nature789 · July 29, 2012

    Your Grandfather Fred is very dapper. Unique photo with engaging words, Well done.

    • northumbrianlight · July 29, 2012

      Thanks Tj – Fred survived until 1966 but brother William died a young man. This is a sad story which includes a bit part from Winston Churchill which I will post when I get back from holiday.

      • nature789 · July 30, 2012

        Robin, I look forward to reading it.

  3. clumsyfool · June 27, 2013

    Simply amazing!

    • northumbrianlight · June 27, 2013

      Thanks, glad you liked it – a moment from an entirely different world.

  4. LaVagabonde · July 23, 2013

    Superb photo. Every such window to the past is so precious. I’ve scanned a few that I’ve come across of my great grandparents just in case the original are ever destroyed.

  5. northumbrianlight · July 23, 2013

    It is my favourite – he was such a kind loving person and I can still smell his Three Nuns tobacco and Brylcreem. I am lucky to have quite a collection of photos and documents from his time in the Great War which I have used to create a ‘Life Book’ – you can see it here:

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