Monday, April 09, 2018

On the Loss of Cousins

Charles Evans, Charles Geraint Payne, Henry Marten

I grew up without any first cousins, my aunts and uncles did not have children though later on I had step-cousins. Recently I have fallen headlong into researching my ancestry which has revealed many relatives, some of them quite famous, some from long ago being actual kings and queens within what must be an enormous margin of error. It is obvious that everybody is related to everybody else; the thing is to prove that link with double and triple checks on sources.

All of this is not the point of this post. The most sobering thing about the recent past is how many of my various nth cousins n-times removed were killed in the First World War. The tree stops short so many times with various reports of death or missing in action. The most poignant of these is that of Charles Geraint Christopher Payne who was killed in action at Neuve-Chapelle, France on the 12th March 1915.

This is not the end of his story though. Geraint (as he was known) was engaged to Kitty Clausen, the daughter of the painter, Sir George Clausen who was inspired by Kitty's grief at his death, to paint Youth Mourning. The details of this are in The National Archives.

Youth Mourning by Sir George Clausen RA © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4655)

 This especially but also the great many other premature ends to branches of my family tree have made me wonder how different the world would be without just one of them. Just a single person taken out of history removes a massive potential from the universe. Add in all their sisters and brothers in arms on top of the inestimable political differences that would be in force should the war and its continuation also be taken out, and it becomes certain that we are living in an alternative reality. Somewhere in that role call of victims is perhaps the inventor of Warp Drive or an unimaginable medical advance. All this is lost to us. History is fluid and humans are stupid enough to let this week's nationalistic target to get in the way of just living. We must look on the bright side and hope that all these lost ideas have been tossed forwards to a later more peaceful generation. But think of where we could be now. Just one Tommy who survived rather than was killed and the Starships of a United Earth are just now coming out of Hyperspace near the closest star. We have to keep hoping.

This is my father's father, John Joseph Brown, just young enough to join the war only as it closed. He had a long, happy and productive life. 

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