“There is no coincidence; only the illusion of coincidence.”
So sayeth everyone’s favourite vigilante, the eponymous hero of “V for Vendetta”. This little story demonstrates V’s principle perfectly, I think.
If you know Sheffield at all, you’ll know Barker’s Pool. There’s no pool. It’s the large public square between City Hall and John Lewis, home to a 90ft tall Grade II listed WW1 memorial.
When I walked past at lunch today there was a fluorescent-suited workman taking a keen interest in it. I didn’t really pay any attention, but he walked away as I reached him and I looked to see what he he’d been so engrossed in. I saw the sign tied to the base of the monument but didn’t stop to read it. Half a dozen steps later, for no good reason, I went back and took this picture. If you can’t make out the picture, here’s what it says:
Poole, Harry, 3/8534 Pte
7th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment
(Victory Medal, British Medal, 1915 Star)
of 9 Bernard Street, Sheffield
Enlisted Saturday, 29th August 1914
Executed by firing squad by the British state at 06:00hrs Saturday, 9th December 1916 at Cavillon, near Amiens, France.
His file was closed until 1992.
WHAT DID THE BRITISH STATE HAVE TO HIDE?
(Judicial murder… that’s what!)
Back in the office, I googled “Harry Poole 7th Battalion”. There’s not a lot online, but I did find this wonderfully informative site by Chris Hobbs. According to his research, poor Private Poole was shot for desertion.
Poole is buried in a small plot alongside one other English WW1 soldier, and three from WW2. The other WW1 soldier is a chap called W. H. Randle, of the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters; the same regiment which, if I remember my own family’s history correctly, my paternal grandfather served in at that time.
I never knew my paternal grandfather as he died just after I was born. If the workman hadn’t been paying attention to the sign I wouldn’t even have noticed it, wouldn’t have been inexplicably moved to take the photo, wouldn’t have googled Private Poole, and so wouldn’t have discovered Private Randle and that link to my family, like a cosmic game of six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
A sad footnote: on the Chris Hobbs website linked above, there’s a similar photo from 2014. I imagine it’s one of Poole’s descendants. It would be interesting to know why the file remained sealed until 1992, and what was in it.