Have you ever experienced those little psychic moments when people or documents appear in your life at the right time? They provide the answers to your family history questions. Their presence is seemingly a coincidence as how else can they be explained.
Today, I experienced such a moment. I was in a coffee shop with my cousin who has been assisting me in my family history research. We were discussing William Lyons, my Great Grandfather, and her Grandfather. As we prattled away about his career as Second Class Drill Instructor, I was totally unaware of a group of soldiers in uniform at the table behind us.
Kay went on to say “you know that Second Class in the army isn’t what it sounds to be. It is actually a higher rank than First Class.”
She peered across my shoulder and said, “Isn’t that right?” to someone behind me.
When I looked around, I realized she was directing the question at a soldier at the table behind us. He was quick to explain that indeed First Class is a higher rank than Second Class. Kay blushed and laughed off her gaffe, returning her attention to our conversation with her hand hiding her face.
We kept talking and I began to hungrily take notes as Kay off loaded more and more little morsels of her Grandfather’s experiences, which she had been told by her father. There were stories about casks of rum washing up onto the shores of Gallipoli; how he trained for the First World War by walking a 60 mile return trip from Giru to Townsville and back; how Great Grandfather was initially refused the soldier’s pension because he abused the young clerk who took his application had an attitude he found offensive; and how he ordered his batman to steal furniture from the British Officers’ tents during the Boer War.
When Kay mentioned the word ‘batman’, my ears pricked as I was led to believe that ‘batman’ was the name of his horse in Egypt during the First World War.
“So what is a batman?” I enquired, somewhat confused.
“Excuse me!” Kay shouted, trying to attract the attention of the soldier at the next table.
“Can you please explain to my cousin what a ‘Batman’ is?”
He laughed and said, “A Batman was an assistant to an officer. He would get his uniforms ready, deliver messages etc. But the position doesn’t exist anymore.”
It turns out that Great Grandfather was a bit of a rogue and larriken. He figured that the British Officers didn’t deserve the luxuries they possessed and set about to acquire them for himself. As it turns out they included a piano.
Now, I must admit that when I read in his diary about ‘Batman’ I assumed his horse was named after the comic book character. However, the character most probably wasn’t created back in 1917. Now that I am aware of the actual military position, I will reread his words in order to ascertain whether he was indeed talking about his trusty steed or his servant.
Before we parted company Kay said to me, “I think Grandfather is looking over your shoulder today. Those soldiers are his messengers.”
I would have to agree. It is not the first time that I have experienced such moments; when someone appears at the right time to provide me with much sought after answers. So, my final words are to you Great Grandfather, “thank you.”
Before I sign off, I wish to share another psychic moment that I experienced this morning. At 6.00am I received a text from my cousin Kay. She was reading my blog and realized the significance of its name. She said “Kimmie, just realized for years I’ve been saying how the family have shoved Grandfather in the cupboard and shut the door, and you have named your blog ‘Behind The Cupboard Doors.’