Astonishing greed

The afternoon was passed researching family history. Stories of my great grandfather, Albert Luxton, are part of family tradition. Only by reading through his military records this afternoon did we discover that, born in 1880, he was the youngest among his siblings to serve in the 15th Hussars. Along with Albert, there were older brothers William, Henry and Richard, each enlisting with the Corps of Hussars, each being assigned to the 15th Hussars, each being assigned to other units later in their career.

Military service seemed to have come with severe hardships. Richard was deemed unfit for military service at the beginning of 1900, but was called back to the colours that summer and was despatched to South Africa to join the battle against the Boers. His health did not improve in the decade that followed and he died at the age of 42 in 1914.

Born in 1869, Henry was three years senior to Richard, and perhaps set the pattern for his younger brothers, enlisting at the age of eighteen. Henry completed the twelve years for which he enlisted and was transferred to the army reserve. Back at home in Aller, his wife died just before the First World War, and Henry returned to army life at the age of forty-five. Great great grandmother Luxton became the guardian of his children, a woman whose reputation for severity has been passed down through the generations. Henry’s attestation has “United Kingdom service only,” written across the top. He served as squadron sergeant major in a number of military depots. It was 1920, when he was fifty-one, before Henry returned to civilian life.

The answer to why the four brothers joined the army, facing hardship and risking death, was not hard to find. The occupations listed on the papers are manual work, one is a gardener, the others are labourers. Work was scarce, pay was poor, army life was a better option than remaining in Aller in the hope of improvement.

Listening to BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme this evening, there was a breathtaking story. The actor Scarlett Johansson has had a spat with the Disney Corporation over her latest film. Disney’s decision to show the film on its television network means that box office takings will not be a s substantial as the might be and Johannson will not earn as much as she might. Disney revealed that her payment had been $20 million. The Radio 4 programme suggested that she might have earned a further $30 million through a share of box office takings. Who in the world needs $20 million, let alone $30 million on top?

The world is still filled with people like Albert and Henry and Richard and William, people who labour all their lives for little reward. There is consolation in the fact that such fundamentally decent people are much more plentiful than those who are astonishingly greedy.

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