The Somme – and my grandfather

Today is the centenary of the death of my grandfather, Ronnie Greig, killed on the Somme at the age of 40.

He was a professional soldier, got the DSO while fighting in the Boer War and by 1914 was a major in the Royal Engineers. He was killed while superintending advanced trench work on the night of 27/8 August 1916.

Chris and I once did a detour to look at Trônes Wood where he died.  It was a moving experience.  The trees had regrown, but you can imagine the desolate landscape (now full of turnip fields) and the trenches which presumably Ronnie was supervising the rebuilding (Trônes wood had been taken by the British a few months earlier, but then was retaken by the Germans).

I have no real image of what Ronnie was like; I get the impression that he was kind and amiable but not particularly exciting. But obviously his death, followed in 1917 by the death of her favourite brother, David, was devastating for my grandmother, Tish. She was left with three small children. My mother, the youngest, was six months old when her father died.

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