My Mother told me that it was given to her Mother following a mass for Peter Roughley who was married to her Aunt Sally but was killed in World War One. Years went by and these items just became part of my childhood memories but I never forgot the story of Peter and Aunt Sally and often wondered what had happened to him.
By the late 1990’s my Mother lived alone for the first time in her life. We would talk for hours about family history. I think it made her feel closer to the people who had gone. She loved to colour the facts with stories of who these people were and what had happened to them in their lives, which was usually a sad tale. If it hadn’t been for her excellent memory a whole chunk of our family history would be lost. She recalled broken love affairs and a suicide following unrequited love. She described nights when all their relatives came to stay to get away from the blitz in Liverpool not knowing if they would have a home by the next day.
I felt a lump in my throat as I read the citation, here was this young man who risked his life for his friends, died and our family hardly remembered him. I felt sad that he had been buried in Belgium and it was highly unlikely that anyone from our family had ever laid flowers on his grave. I felt I had to rectify this so on a cold but clear weekend in March we travelled to Ypres and visited the cemetery at Hooge Crater.
Hooge Crater Cemetery, Belgium
It would be impossible to go to this area and not feel great sadness. It is so peaceful and beautiful now but each blade of grass is tinged with the blood of our ancestors. The sun cast long shadows on the frosty ground. Row upon row of white stones interspersed with varying small bushes to try to break up the regimentation. You could see how well cared for the cemeteries were – but they were impersonal and so lonely – no little teddies placed on the ground by a loving son or daughter, no reminiscences of a Dad’s favourite football team. These graves have not had tears shed over them by a grief stricken family.
Peter Roughley's final resting place
We found Peter’s grave on Sunday morning. The sky was clear and blue and we could see for miles. A church bell rang appropriately in the distance as we laid flowers on his grave – deep purple coloured tulips. We shivered with sadness not only for him and Sally but for the others who also gave their lives for King and Country – the graves went on forever. As I laid the flowers I thanked him for the freedom we have and we take for granted. I cherished my husband and my life that bit more from that moment. We came back to England and got on with our lives. I no longer felt the same need to keep trying to find out what happened. Maybe his spirit was able to rest now, maybe he did not want his sacrifice to be forgotten. I hoped that there was an afterlife where they were both together.
Peter Roughley's DCM front
A number of years later I received an email from a collector who had just bought Peter’s medal. He kindly sent photographs of it and agreed that next time he was in the area – he would bring it along for us to see, but the medal itself is no longer important, after all its just a piece of metal. What was important was that Peter’s story not been forgotten. He, together with so many of his generation, had made a lasting impression in time.
Peter Roughley's DCM reverse
Rest in Peace Peter and Sally.
Since publishing the story of Peter Roughley last year, a number of people have contacted me with comments, some have expressed how interesting the story is, others have shed a tear as it touched their hearts. Another person, Anthony, contacted me with newspaper clippings from the Liverpool Express telling initially of Peters award and sadly a few months later, a report of his death.
9 June 1917
Anthony also sent photographs of the war memorial in Our Lady of Reconciliation de la Salette church in Eldon Street.