A novel set in the closing stages of the First World War and in England 1918 – 1919 based on family history, real people and actual events
‘Two Trees’ is a fusion of influences. The title of the novel comes from the First World War Cemetery of Two Tree in Northern France. It is possible that through this place my father’s squad fought in the later stages of the war and in its vicinity he was taken prisoner.
John Brownleader, a young soldier from the the Black Country area of the West Midlands in England, is sent to the Western Front in France in the closing stages of the First World War. He is subsequently reported missing in battle but is rescued by a German soldier; in the mayhem and chaos of war an unlikely friendship is forged. John is incarcerated in the enemy’s prisoner of war camp; he returns home a complete physical and psychological wreck following the Armistice in 1918 yet his friendship with the German soldier endures, much to the incomprehension of his family.
‘Two Trees’ is dedicated to the memories of Charles Edwin Greenhough (1897 -1954) and an unknown German soldier from the Western Front 1918
My father, Charles Edwin Greenhough, served in the Welsh Guards in Northern France in 1918. It is possible that he was captured by the Germans in the region of Two Tree Cemetery. Subsequently he ended the war in a German prisoner of war camp.
I never had the privilege of speaking to my father or spending any time with him as he died when I was extremely young. I think that he was a gentle and remarkable man. In the carnage that was the Western Front he may have experienced a degree of compassion from at least one enemy soldier who rescued him. Even though I never knew either of them, I dedicate ‘Two Trees’ to their respective memories.
Two Tree Cemetery
The title of the novel is taken from the First World War cemetery named Two Tree ; the cemetery is located in the village of Moyenneville in the Pas de Calais in Northern France. Moyenneville is 13 kilometres south of Arras and 3 kilometres east of Bapaume.
Two Tree Cemetery takes its name from two large trees that now exist as stumps and which are located some 60 metres to the north east of the cemetery itself.
The village of Moyenneville was occupied by the British 7th Division on 17th March 1917 but lost to the German Spring Offensive at the end of March 1918. The British Guards Division recaptured the village on 21st August 1918 as part of the Allied attack on the heavily defended German positions known as the Hindenburg Line.
Two Tree Cemetery is very small by First World War standards. It contains some 33 identifiable British graves and a number of graves of unidentified soldiers. There are 17 identified graves of soldiers killed between 26th and 28th March 1918 defending Moyenneville from the German Spring Offensive. There are 13 identified graves of soldiers from the Guards Division that died between 21st and 26th August 1918 in the successful attempt to recapture the village; one of those soldiers, J.E.Friday, was from the Welsh Guards and appears with my father in a squad photograph taken in 1917.
The significance of two trees recurs throughout the novel ‘Two Trees’. John is captured in France at the two trees in August 1918 (Chapter Seven) and his brother Tom acquires two hornbeam shrubs to plant in their parent’s garden in England in Chapter Thirty-Six; the trees in Two Tree Cemetery are hornbeam trees.