A CRYSTAL poppy tacked to the lapel of Louise King’s blouse has played a poignant reminder of the horrors her family faced almost a century ago.
The mum-of-three from Gosport has worn the adornment for two years in memory of her great-grandfathers on her mother’s side, both of whom were killed within a month of each other – the first in the Battle of Jutland and other at the Somme.
And as the nation looks to mark the centenary of the pivotal First World War naval engagement, Louise has revealed her family’s wartime past in the hope others will do the same.
‘The war had a huge impact on my family,’ said the 57-year-old of Jessie Road.
‘I can’t imagine what it must have been like.’
The first of her relatives to perish in the conflict was her great-grandfather George Bond, of Portsmouth, who died in the Battle of Jutland on June 6, 1916.
He was a sailor serving aboard HMS Hampshire when she struck a mine. He died alongside 655 others, with just 12 of the ship’s company surviving the blast.
‘My nan told me that when she was a girl she didn’t know her dad had died,’ said Louise.
‘Then, a friend came down and announced that he had died.
‘It had a dreadful impact on her because she absolutely worshipped her dad.’
Tragedy struck her family just weeks later, when her other great-grandfather William Henry Ward was killed in the Battle of the Somme, on July 3, 1916, aged 41.
William was an engineer tasked with digging tunnels under German trenches – he had been drafted just weeks before his death.
‘My family history has had so many twists and turns in it. It’s been fascinating,’ she said.
Louise had been inspired to unveil her family’s wartime history after an appeal from the relative of a Jutland survivor came forward urging others in Portsmouth to join commemoration events marking the tragedy.
Louise said it was important families and the nation to join the memorials to preserve the memory of those killed in the war.
There will be a number of events staged to mark the battle in Portsmouth in May and June this year.