The Ring of Life

Set high up in the the garden wall, in a small crevice hollowed out when the wall was new, sit  two gold rings,  a small ring and a larger ring . They are dull and lifeless looking today, but when they were placed there they shone with the sparkle of young love, intense and crystal clear in its intensity.

The wall was built in the spring of 1914, by Ernest Smith and his father to enclose the small kitchen garden of the cottage Ernest had purchased to be home for him and his wife to be when they married in September of that year.  His father a well known local builder helped him with all the repairs and improvement works on the home and this ancient cottage was already looking like the dream home for the excited young couple.

They had been planning their marriage for 5 years, Ernest was a hard working entrepreneurial man and had wanted to be an established trader and to be able to support his family (they had plans for a large family). His fruit and vegetable business was now a success, he had natural flair and ability and business was growing and prosperous.

His finance, Gladys Attwell, was  equally determined to  succeed but her passion was nursing, and she  had that innate ability, that objective compassion that made the best nurses.  She had spent much of the last few years training and becoming qualified as a nurse and was now a ward sister in the local Cottage Hospital.

This couple had planned well and their lives ahead looked secure and comfortable so the momentous changes in July 1914 did not worry them unduly.  Everyone said it would be all over by Christmas and few could believe that their leaders would get it all so wrong.

The wave of patriotism that swept the land intercepted their plans in August, they were both moved to play their part.  Ernest would join up and serve in the Army and Gladys would  also join up as a nurse.    The did discuss the dangers, but off course neither could imagine the true horror of the war to come, that in just a few months would sweep away their lives and their joy so completely.

Ernest found himself being sent abroad within a few months, not to France as he expected, but to Palestine and and he served the whole war in the middle East.

Gladys was also sent abroad, and set out on a small ferry boat to France as part of an advance party setting up field hospitals, but she never got there. Her boat was one of the early casualties of the U-Boat campaign, and was torpedoed in mid channel.  Many of those who died drowned inside the ship, but Gladys was a fighter  and she managed to escape and fight her way to the surface where she endured many hours floating in the sea.  The  cold waters of that September numbed her to the bone and she eventually perished, lost and alone at sea, her beloved Ernest many miles away in the baking heat of Palestine on the very day they had planned to be married.

Ernest was devastated, and never came home again.  After the war, he fled to the far East where he became a shipping agent.  He died in 1941, still alone when the Japanese invaded Singapore.

And the two  rings, well they had spent a glorious summer day working in the garden that July in 1914. They talked about their plans and the coming conflict and made the difficult but they felt correct joint  decision to postpone their wedding for a few months.  Knowing they would be separated for a while, they resolved that they would meet again in this very spot.  Ernest took their two as yet unworn wedding rings and  near the top of the wall just above head height, he cut a small crevice in the wall , between two of the larger capping stones.  He placed both rings in the space he had made, hidden from view.  They never told anyone about this and so the rings are still there waiting for the return of the two young lovers, lost in the despair of war.

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The Ring of Life

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