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  • I heard the story many times but I never paid attention to the fine details. My grandmother was around seven when her father, my great-grandfather, Emmanuel Matthews, placed six pence in her tiny hands and told her to be a good girl. The year was 1917 and she watched him leave.

    My grandmother lived a hard life in Trinidad; and never knew what became of her father after that day he left. She simply told her children the story of the pennies he left in her hand and my mother in turn told me the story.

    I recall in the 80s, my mother attending the service for Remembrance Day at Memorial Park in Trinidad. I went with her a few times and I jumped every time, as the gun salutes terrified me. His name was on the plaque and this is all we knew.

    In February 2010, one of my older cousins contacted me. He had set out on his own and found our great-grandfather's grave. It really pained me that I had lost my mother a mere two months earlier and I wished I could have shared this with her.

    The British West Indian Regiment were no one. They fought alongside the British, ripped away from their families, with no choice.

    They knew not what was winter.

    At least today, they may be treated better but the West Indians were second class citizens even to the allies and their colonial mother. I learnt that my great-grandfather did not die in battle.....but from hunger and dysentery.

    He died on Valentine's Day in 1919 and lay in France for 91 years.

    Cold and alone.

    My cousin finding this grave was one of the biggest achievements for our family and at last one of us could pay our respects.

    I will never know whom he died beside.

    Who dragged his lifeless body.

    Who ensured he received a burial.

    I thank you.

    My youngest visited with his school recently and wept on the coach, for he could not find the grave.

    The young girl next to him said, "Don't cry. He knows you are looking for him."

    I promise to find you when next we're in France and I'll raise you up on eagles' wings, bear you on the breath of dawn and hold you.

    ~Photo credit to Dave Akal~
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