So we had our "lights-out" night last Monday, millions switching off all over Great Britain to reflect the words of 1905-16 Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey – "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time" – and to solemnly commemorate the centenary of this country declaring war on Germany and our national commitment to… who knew what, back then?
But even with the British Army Expeditionary Force's first major battle still a couple of weeks away (Mons, August 23), my father, Sam Sutcliffe – a 16-year-old junior office boy living with his parents, two sisters and two brothers, in Edmonton, north London – saw drastic changes at home take hold at once, some of them rarely reported or recalled.
In Nobody Of Any Importance, I should explain for new readers of this blog, my father started out writing in the third person as an "objective" narrator reporting on the life of a boy called "Tommy Norcliffe" – that is, himself. He shifted to first-person "I" during Part Two (of nine). However, his 18-year-old brother, referred to in the following passage, really was nicknamed Ted:
"… the war declaration did bring about immediate and visible changes which touched the lives of many. In the City, at Ted’s paper firm, a German mill owner’s young son, who’d been working for the firm and perfecting his English, failed to appear on the morning of the 5th of August – the day after Britain’s declaration of war on Germany – and was never seen in that office again.