Think of a traditional Father Christmas; take away the beard so
that you can see a beaming smile and a pair of glasses; remove the
hat to reveal a slightly balding head; and replace the tunic to
display a cardigan, always buttoned. Now you have a picture of how
my grandfather, George Pine, appeared to me as a child. George was
not a well-educated man, few of his generation were, but he had the
most incredible memory and could tell a wonderful, gripping story.
He could remember 50 or 60 years ago as if it were yesterday. Later
on in life George lived at a residential home in Southmead,
Bristol. The whole Pine family used to visit him as often as we
could, including me and my wife Fran. He would then suspend his
self-appointed role of organising all the residents (a legacy of
his Sergeant Major training) and after a little prompting, sit down
to retell some of his stories, still wearing a cardigan with
buttons up the front. We thought that these stories were so
interesting that in early 1972 we asked him to write them down.
What follows are the memories that George recorded. The account you
can now read probably contains less than half of the details that
George could remember. Fran and I were hoping to read his account
and visit him to record any missing details, but he wanted to
finish the whole story before we read it. Unfortunately, he never
did quite finish. George might not have had academic qualifications
but he had qualities of which I am tremendously proud and which he
passed on to his children. These qualities were resourcefulness, a
fierce determination to always do your best, perseverance despite
the difficulties and a deep loyalty to, and love of, family. I am
very grateful to my brother-in-law, who has demonstrated these same
qualities in expanding on over 40,000 words of George's handwritten
memories. Clive has worked tirelessly, following up every
conceivable lead, filling in many gaps and expanding upon George's
recollections. He has trawled through thousands of photographs and
documents, delved in numerous public and private archives in the UK
and abroad and visited France and Belgium, with friends and family,
to follow George's story. I recall one such visit to France. On one
page in George's handwritten account he drew a map of the German
and British front lines. We were astonished to find that the map
was uncannily accurate with the buildings and general terrain still
there some 90 years later. I am sure this was just one of the
discoveries that led Clive to spend so much time in researching and
producing Trenches to Trams. He has transformed George's
handwritten pages from a family history to something much broader;
touching on the First World War, Bristol Tramways & Carriage
Company, Bristol in the Second World War and a slice of Bristol
Social history from the 19th and 20th Centuries. The heart of
George's story is that of an ordinary Bristol Tommy who showed
great courage, bravery and pluck in extraordinary times. Being the
modest man he was, he would wish the readers of Trenches to Trams
to consider it as a tribute to his generation and to a remarkable
group of people - his comrades and colleagues - whose stories of
heroism and sacrifice may never be told. John Pine
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