176: Emily Cameron (photographs)
My grandfather Thomas had been a Royal Marine for 12 years, leaving in 1905 to marry Emily Potter. After leaving the Marines, he worked at Nine Elms and Clapham Junction and had just been promoted to a signal man in 1914.
He rejoined his unit at the onset of war. He took part in the defence of Antwerp during which he went out on patrol and was shot in the head. He survived and was brought back to England but died on his 40th birthday on October 20th 1914.
Emily took a job in a laundry and set about raising her sons as a single mother, a daunting prospect for any woman in 1914 with no welfare state or National Health Service for support. She would work in the laundry by day and briefly return home to feed her boys before going back out to scrub floors by night. Emily's frantic schedule meant that she would often put the boys to bed in their school uniforms as she would not be there to prepare them for school.
The lads had to work as well when possible, though one son, James, got a scholarship to Emmanuel College in London. How did she manage it?! The four boys were devoted and looked after her when they were young men. They all played a lot of sport, read and got on as best they could. They were all a credit to her, having families, doing well in relatively low paid, but secure jobs. Sadly James died at El Alamein, a fact that was kept from Emily just before she died.
There were no medals or citations for Emily but she was a truly wonderful, remarkable, uneducated but lovely lady. Thank you to the grandmother I never met, but whose hard work helped me become who I am today and of whom I am indescribably proud.