‘Gone but not forgotten’ for Sonel’s Family B&W challenge


This week, Sonel’s B&W Photo Challenge is ‘Family’. I recently borrowed my mom’s old photo albums, as I had suddenly realised how little I knew of the generations of my family who had gone before.Β  As I turned the pages, I was filled with sadness, thinking of the many family members I should have known and loved, but never got to meet, and others with whom I had just a brief encounter. My Great Aunt Mary was my grandma’s sister. What a beautiful woman she was, both inside and out, and so loved by my sister and I. We used to have such fun with together, and were absolutely devastated when she died of cancer in the prime of her life, and our adventures with her came to an abrupt halt.

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When I was a child, we often visited my Great Aunt Sue and Uncle Harold. I remember that my eyes were always drawn to the photo which stood on their piano, of a handsome young man in army uniform. Alfie their only child, was one of the many young casualties of the second world war. The piano had been his, and was never opened after his death. Here he is in happier times, with his mom and dad.

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My mom has often spoken with pride of her older brother Fred. He was her hero, a great swimmer and competition diver, diving from the top of cranes in Hong Kong Harbour. The two of them were very close.

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He went down on an unmarked Japanese POW ship which was torpedoed by the allies in 1943. A Military Medal is little compensation for the loss of a beloved son and brother. His name is at the bottom of the first column on this segment of the Roll of Honour.

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I know I would have loved to have had him as my uncle. Maybe he would have taught me to play the trumpet, as well as how to swim, which is something I’ve never really mastered.

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This birthday card was the last correspondence mom received from him. I kept the flower in colour. I’m sure Sonel won’t mind, as it’s so pretty. πŸ™‚

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Mom’s Uncle Bob is another man I would have loved to have met. He would have been my great uncle, if only he hadn’t also been killed in the war.

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My dad’s dreams of studying to be an engineer were shattered by the outbreak of war, and he was in his late teens when left his home and family in the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, to join the Royal Dutch Navy on the submarines. At the end of the war, he fell in love with my mom in England and they married. Because he hardly spoke any English, he was forced to settle for a very mediocre job as an electrician in a coal mine. Times were very hard, and any job was better than nothing, especially with a young family to support.

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My dad survived the war, physically unscathed, but he never saw his mom and dad again, and my sister and I didn’t get to meet our grandparents. My grandfather was killed by the Japanese, and my grandmother died when we were very young.

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As I pored over these faded B&W photographs, my heart was filled with sadness, thinking of how war can change the course of people’s lives for ever, and usually not for the better. These words spoken by General Robert E. Lee, are so true: β€œWhat a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”

To see more entries for Sonel’s challenge, click on the icon below.

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96 comments on “‘Gone but not forgotten’ for Sonel’s Family B&W challenge

  1. It’s always nice to know the history behind old photo’s even if it is sad and unhappy. Memories can’t always be happy ones. The sad ones help us learn things that avoid future sorrows. At least, we hope so. Thank you for sharing apart of your family history. So many handsome people with loving memories for you.
    Blessings, Sylvia.

  2. Old photo albums – always such a mind bender!
    Takes you back to bygone times, even if you were not even there – liked seeing pictures of your distant past AD – thanks πŸ™‚

  3. The quote by Lee is very moving and true. I never met my paternal grandfather who fought in WWII and in Korea. I’ve always wondered what he was like. Thanks for sharing the photos and your family history.

  4. I absolutely love these pictures. I treasure my family album and have a picture hanging on my wall of my Great Uncle Robert (as a child) who died in Changi POW camp. These are treasures that need to be shared xoxoxo

  5. Nicely done, Sylvia. These are family stories and treasured pictures of a sad period in our world’s history. War never gives us anything in return. Just heartache and lost potential.

  6. gli orrori della guerra hanno spezzato tante vite, tanti sorrisi, tante famiglie dove regnava l’amore e la bellezza di questi ritratti che non noi hai condiviso, Γ¨ devastata dal pensiero di cosΓ¬ grande tristezza
    voglio sempre sperare in un mondo migliore dove a ciascuno sia dato di vivere la sua vita
    Ventis

    the horrors of war have broken so many lives, so many smiles, so many families where there was the love and beauty of these portraits that we’ve shared, is devastated by the thought of so much sadness
    I always hope in a better world where each person is given to live her life

  7. I adore old black & white photos and these are fabulous. The woman in the last pic looks like she has a bit of an attitude about her…..I have one of my grandmother like that…..LOVE it!

    • Maybe it’s just the way she posed in her best dress for the photo. πŸ™‚ My dad adored his mom. So sad he never saw her again before she died.

    • Yes it was tragic, especially for a such a strong swimmer. Apparently the prisoners were all chained below deck, so there was no chance of escape. Horrible. 😦

  8. Profoundly life-affirming. When I hear people worry about getting older, I remember that it is a privilege denied many. Time moves us relentlessly forward, but we can only live our lives by looking at our past for it is always with us, in our thoughts, actions, and genes. The stories of those that came before give us impetus to complete our walk the very best that we can, without regret and only love. I read “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder when I was in High School – I have kept this quote throughout my life.

    β€œThere is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” ― Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

  9. What a great and yet sad post, be glad you have such great pics to remember family. I have all my family pics going back to the 1880’s when my relies served in the British army back to Kandahar in the second Afgan war in the 1888;s and all the way to my service in the U.S. Army..:-)

    • Thanks, Ed. Yes, it’s great to be able to look back at old photos. Imagine if photography had never been invented; we would have no idea what our ancestors looked like.

  10. i think the old b&w photos are somehow richer than our modern colour snaps … all the sorrow of war, if only we can remember to seek peace and prevent so much needless bloodshed in future … a touching post ad, lovely to learn more about your family πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much, Christine. ” if only we can remember to seek peace and prevent so much needless bloodshed in future”…. from your lips to God’s ears. πŸ™‚

  11. So sad…the losses…but good to have the pictures of them…today I put the watch that was my brother’s on my wrist and pressed it close to my skin for the last time….now it is mailed and on the way to his son who is now grown….It was sad, but good, to remember my brother today and shed a few tears for him.

    • So sorry about your brother’s passing, Suzanne. That must have been very hard. His son will wear that watch with pride, and always keep it as a momento of his dad.

      • Giving the watch to him, made me feel like I got to do one last thing for my brother…It’s been fifteen years now…I saw my nephew rub his hand across this upper lip when we were together last…something that my brother used to do and that I had forgotten entirely…I got the gift of a long forgotten memory. πŸ™‚

  12. So many senseless losses. It never seems to end. I don’t even want to get on that soapbox this morning. Such a shame for all the family members we lost thus, But a beautiful post in their memory.

  13. For sure, a wonderful post in the spirit of the theme, plus a tribute to those in your family ahead of you. Yet, I can also sense the varying emotions from your heart. Very well done!

  14. Your post is sad yet touching. By coincidence I was listening to the following song while reading your post. A WWI song but somehow relevant to this. Thank you for sharing.

  15. A touching post. It gave me chills to read what you wrote. The last card from your uncle to your mom brought a tear to my heart.
    May they all rest in peace.
    {Hugs}

  16. what a touching post with nostalgic images, images of when people wrote by hand and left sweet x’s across a page to illustrate one’s affection for another! we have advanced, yet we have lost as well.

    thank you for sharing this glimpse into yesteryear.

  17. Precious photos of your family history. Having heroes in the family gives pride to ones family line. Sorry for your loses.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

  18. Thank you for sharing these memories with us. I love looking at old pictures to see the way they used to dress – and to see the personalities shining through.

  19. The war was indeed an ugly thing AD. I think it wasn’t needed at all. So many families was broken up because of it and then that big C. But I am glad you kept the photo’s and shared it with us sweetness. I love them all and the card is so beautiful! I am glad you kept it in colour. Cards doesn’t look nice in black and white. Great entry for the challenge and thanks for sharing. *big hugs*

    • Thanks so much for the challenge, Sonel. I really enjoyed doing it, even though it made me sad. It came at the right time, just when I’d scanned these precious old photos. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the hugs.

      • You’re very welcome hon and I am glad you could share these treasures with us hon. πŸ˜€ *big hugs*

  20. Just wonderful and so beautiful done – lovely old photos – war is a terrible thing – it effect families and friends so hugely and even if the loved once return unharmed physical – they will never be the same person as before they left for war. Thanks for sharing you family’s history and those fantastic photos.

  21. What a wonderful collection of family photos. I love the words you have quoted to sum up your photographic investigation of your family’s past.

  22. And now I feel sad too :-). On a lighter note – I hope you can swim AD. Much of your life is surrounded by water. It may be an English thing. My mum took lessons when she was well into her sixties.

  23. How much in common with my family. A great aunt dying of cancer, an uncle shot down in the war (RAF pilot), another uncle torpedoed twice – luckily swam to safety but said he wouldn’t do it a third time!

    My dad was also an engineer but had to leave the power station for the war and engineered on ships. Or whatever they did. I’ve got few pix of my family in b&w but I’m trying to upload them poco a poco. They are wonderful and we all have shared memories. So far apart and so similar.

    • My uncle would have been able to swim to safety too, but apparently the prisoners were all chained up down below. So tragic. Strange how we have such similar stories. Old photos really work on the emotions, don’t they? xx

      • I didn’t realise about the chains until you’ve explained in the comments. That really is terrible. Seems like a very nasty mindset by the Japanese there. If you get us, you’ll kill some of your own too, because that’s basically it is it not? Very sad that the PoWs were killed by allied forces 😦 It all leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

        I would guess many people our age have similar stories. A relative or more killed in the war, some surviving against the odds, an older (or even younger) relative dying of cancer – given the prevalence – and all of us living here, there and everywhere, sometimes in the same place at some point.

        I like the old photos for the sense of history, and the realisation that was then, and will never be again. They are a truly remarkable historical record, and if we can add some facts to them so much the better, which is why this was such a good post.

      • Yes it was very nasty indeed. I read that some 2O,OOO PoW’s died at sea this way. Those ships were a such Hell-holes for the men on them, but the maybe it was a mercy they died before being taken the Japanese work camps to be cruelly treated there. I shudder at the thought of what these men endured.

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