Uncle Paddy’s War


My gran and grandad with Paddy.

My gran lived with us when I was a child and we grew up on her war stories – I and II. She was fiercely pro-Brit – whenever God Save the Queen or Rule Britannia came on the TV when we were kids Gran would begin a slow struggle to her feet, intending to stand ramrod straight and salute. As she was rising from her seat myself or one of my sisters would jump forwards and switch channels.

Gran (Julia ‘Dote’ Hickson) was one of a family of ten girls and one boy, and the boy, Paddy, was her twin. She both adored him and bossed him about, and when World War I broke out she convinced him to enlist. Paddy fought in France with the Royal Field Artillery and was wounded at Ypres. He returned home with shell shock, something which affected him for the rest of his life.


Card from the front. Paddy is on the right. On the other side he has written ‘To Mother, from Paddy, with best love.


Paddy is in front, second couple from left


Back row, eleventh from left


Victory. A mix of uniforms- Australian, Irish, Scottish, British, gendarmes, nurses- and civilians. Paddy is standing in the second row, behind the man with his ankles crossed

Their mother never forgave my gran for encouraging her only son to go to war or for the fact that he came home a different man. But judging by this Christmas card from WWII Paddy was no more a ‘neutral’ observer of this new war than was his sister.

Paddy’s story is one of many collected and recorded by Neil Richardson in his award-winning book A Coward If I Return, A Hero If I Fall, Stories of Irishmen in WWI published in 2010