We’ve introduced one of the main characters from Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land, Professor Brightmeer, and now it is time to introduce another: Sid ‘Sapper’ Brown:
Sid Brown is a sapper – or combat engineer. This means he has a pretty good working knowledge of some of the technology used on the battlefields of the Great War. He is knowledgeable about gas warfare for example, which is a new and terrifying technology for the soldiers on the front line. He also knows a little about the artillery system at use there – which gives him some helpful skills in calling the big guns down on your enemies. He is a chatty, likeable Devonian with lots of helpful skills when in a tight spot.
Sid is named after my great-grandfather (my dad’s mum’s dad). He was a remarkable man who aged around 19 signed up to fight in what he hoped would be ‘the war to end all wars‘. This family connection means I’ve always had an interest in World War 1 and so I have wanted to do something in this era for some time. This is a photo of him taken just before he left to fight in 1914:
In the village he lived, Bovey Tracey in Devon, he worked making ‘coal gas‘ for the village before the war. Before easy access to natural gas, this was how gas for lighting and cooking was made, by basically baking it out of coal. This experience got him assigned to some of the units using that war’s nascent chemical weapons. Unlike so many, he survived the war and lived to a ripe old age. However the effects of the trenches scared him and he had ‘shell shock‘ for the rest of his life, reacting to sudden loud sounds with a strong nervous response until the day he died.
Interestingly he also refused to take part in any of the veterans days or commemoration ceremonies, despite the fact that for many years he was the village’s only WW1 veteran. He would angrily turn on anyone who suggested he should take part telling them that if they’d seen the full horror of war they’d not have any part of such ceremonies either. I did ask him about the war on a number of occasions, but he was reluctant to talk about it. As a teenager I asked him the classic teenager question: “Did you kill anyone?”, to which he replied in his strong Devon accent, “I fired my rifle a few times but I don’t know if I hit anyone.”