Benjamin William Badcock, my Grandfather, was an ordinary
Englishman. Yet like millions of others of his generation, he lived
through extra-ordinary times. In 1880, the year of his birth,
between twenty five and thirty million people lived in Great
Britain, yet its industry and economy dominated the world, and its
Queen/Empress, Victoria, held more than a quarter of its 1.5 - 2
billion population in thrall through her vast navy and tiny army.
But the following year, in 1881, a handful of Boer farmers threw
down a challenge that reverberated across Africa and the world and
set a pattern for the 20th Century that would lead to the
dissolution of the old imperial world order, and ultimately to the
break-up of the British Empire: all within the lifetime of one
soldier, my grandfather, Benjamin William Badcock. Had you met Ben
you would have found him to be, like millions of other British
citizens of his time, oblivious of the fact that he was (and they
were) making history. But though not a historical figure, he was,
nevertheless a participant in, and a witness to, many great events
and historical moments, living, as he did, through the greatest
period of industrial development and socio-economic change that
Britain or the world had ever experienced. Son of a Devonport
soldier, his namesake, Benjamin Badcock, Ben was born in a tented
Summer camp at Platras on the side of a Cyprus mountain. At three
months he was jolted down its mountainside in a donkey pannier as
the regimental-train of his father's regiment, the 2nd Battalion,
20th Foot, The East Devons, marched to Larnaca. In the following
year, 1881, the family and regiment would move to Malta, and from
thence (remustered as Lancashire Fusiliers!) to Ireland in Royal
Naval sailing ships. That voyage, from Malta to Ireland took 3 - 4
weeks to accomplish, depending on the winds - a journey which 70
years later, by the miracle of air travel, would reduce to as many
hours as it had taken weeks before: a miracle which by the time of
his death in 1964, Ben himself had witnessed evolving from Colonel
Sam Cody's tentative "stringbag" flights at Farnborough in 1910;
through the development of aerial-warfare in two world wars, and
its metamorphosis into the jet fighters, "V" bombers and airliners
of the 1950's and 60's. Much of this he witnessed from his
back-garden in Aldershot as the myriad prototypes circled and dived
in the then ALL British, Farnborough air shows, held annually each
September. Those changes, however, had been bought at great human
cost as a result of clashing imperial egos, and conflicting
political and socio-economic imperatives, the price of which is
still being paid in continuous political conflict and instability
across the globe and in particular in the Middle East: conflict in
which British armed forces have been constantly and tirelessly
involved, both at home in Ireland, and overseas. And it was in
these conflicts, in one way or another, that the Badcock family
were involved from 1867 to 1969: the zenith of which service
culminated in the award to my grandfather, Benjamin William Badcock
(later Baddock) of the Military Cross (MC), The Medaille Militaire,
and his three "Mentions in Despatches" during WW 1; the "Great War;
or "Big Scrap" as Ben called it. But to talk of that gets ahead of
ourselves, for prior to that my Grandfather would first have to be
raised; to take the "Queen's shilling;" be trained and blooded for
the task in the 2nd Boer War; and to meet and marry Mabel Lawrence,
and with her, to raise a family of their own. And that is a story
in its own right.
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