Georgina Thorne

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

11th November 2016 Skopje, North Macedonia


Early October 1918

Corporal George Henry Carter, M2/130656 of the 880th Motor Transport Convoy, Army Service Corps writes to his wife Minnie. His letter, written and indeed read with hope and optimism speaks of change. He confirms an Armistice had been reached with the Bulgarians; ‘…the Germans are about done too, So I am looking forward to being home before too long’.

Everyday topics of letter writing were included; asking how everyone was, the keen desire to soon be returning home –  to be with his wife and baby, Minnie Georgina. Both were constant in his thoughts. He apologised for the bad handwriting for he was on the road whilst he wrote, and with the closing lines said ‘…Good Bye Dearest for now and God bless you and babe and may he bring me home to you safe…’

1st November 1918

Changes indeed came and God’s Will was not to take him home.

A letter to his wife confirms he died of Influenza on the 28th October at the 60th General Hospital, and buried at Vales, Serbia.

Two weeks short of that hoped Armistice of what we know as the 11th November 1918.

And I am left wondering, if the opening lines of his last letter, which hinted towards his health not being with him – were in fact written whilst he was travelling to the hospital.  What I am sure of, is that his letter offered his wife deep love, courage and hope.

Summer 2016

There is in our home County of Hampshire, UK, Sandham Chapel. The photo in a guide book instantly gave a pulling feeling. And the prospect of seeing work of commissioned WW1 war artist, was equally inviting: for I could not believe this was within my home county and I had yet to see it! Upon visiting I discovered it was a named ‘The Holy Box’ – purpose built to commemorate men of the Salonika Campaign.

When I opened the doors to the chapel it was indeed like opening a box. Before me, panels painted by Stanley Spencer (himself served as a medical orderly in Salonika) depicted scenes he recalled and in seconds, decades cascaded over me. I witnessed in his paintings, the suspension within eternity these men hung. Men who had served within the country’s landscapes – men who had died of Malaria.

One panel, of a captain on horseback caught my eye, for he held open a map of Macedonia. Within the map were towns Spencer had visited –and this made me wonder, if, just maybe my Great Grandfather visited them too. The map seemed an invitation and determined, I began my research.

However, it was a conversation I had in my local supermarket around this time which leads me on through fate…

It just so happened the lady on the checkout was from Skopje, Macedonia. Despite telling her about my research of my Great Grandfather, and her telling me she knows someone who lives near the cemetery –  I was perhaps too British and reserved in giving my contact details. But after trying to see her again, 3 weeks later I managed to do just that.

Within 24 hours, her friend Josh emailed me a photo of my Great Grandfather’s headstone.

The immense joy continued through the flurry of excited emails. Firstly, by Josh offering to place a poppy on our behalf; then the Embassy’s invitation to join this year’s Remembrance service. Suddenly several years’ worth of mum and I saying ‘we must research more and one-day visit Skopje’ all happened within a week!

Josh’s and The Embassy’s acknowledgement, appreciation and respect to my Great Grandfather has presented mum and I with an opportunity that his mother and wife did not have – to visit his resting place. For him to feel fully at Peace. We cannot thank you all enough.

I can’t help but feel that this year, God’s Will has brought George H Carter’s grand -daughter and great grand-daughter to be with him. As far as we know, his first relatives to visit, to let him know we have always remembered him and for me, that finally my Great Grandfather is ‘The Lark Ascending’.

2 comments on “Finally…

  1. What a wonderful uplifting story. I love the fact it was all made possible through a fleeting conversation at the checkout in a supermarket!!
    In such turbulent times we find ourselves in through World Politics, the fact that every day, ordinary people are conversing and supporting each other to fulfill long held wishes, restores my faith in human nature and the genuine respect still held very dear of those who fought for our freedom.

    This story should be told to as many people as possible. Thank you for sharing.

  2. So beautifully written and so heartfelt, I am sat here with tears in my eyes, and am left feeling that I too should now be looking for my great Uncle, who had died at 18. Thank you for sharing this Georgie, it was an honour to read this.
    We shall not forget them!

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