It was a promise made to his late mum some years ago that saw Jack Nixon visiting Italy to pay his respects to his dead grandfather.
Gunner Walter Elliott of the Royal Garrison Artillery was Jack’s grandad on his mothers side of the family.
He was killed on December 11, 1917 while helping the Italians defend a bridge against the Austrians and the Hungarians, only weeks after arriving in Italy with his regiment.
After years of putting off a visit to the First World War grave Jack finally made good on his promise to his mother to make the trip to Northern Italy before she died in 2011 to pay tribute to the father she never got to meet.
Jack commented: “The trip was in fact delayed from last year when the Beast from the East stormed in last March, so it was with some trepidation that I re-booked the same dates for this year, arranging to meet my younger son Graeme in Italy.
“After a pleasant drive of some 30 kilometres in the morning via Museo Della Battaglia where we had the scene set for us by a moving, realistic portrayal in the well appointed museum under the watchful, but imposingly lovely back drop of the Alps.
“Suitably prepared for the visit after a short drive we walked up the olive-lined path to a small, but beautifully maintained cemetery, knowing then that my son’s inspired decision to make the trip was the right one.
“After a few minutes at the grave in the Giavera British Cemetery, looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, I made a mumbled apology for taking so long to visit, we took photographs, while paying tribute to grandpa Elliott’s fallen companions, from so many regiments, reflecting on how far from home they were, and some probably never having had a visitor of any kind in the intervening years.
“It was a very quiet duo who made their way back to Treviso, chastened but also uplifted by the experience, glad we had made the trip to honour my promise to my mother of all those years ago.”
But while Jack and Graeme’s day of visiting the grave of a loved one had been a peaceful and sobering day in the most perfect of settings, the following day before flying home proved to be less so.
But stoic in the face of adversity Jack wasn’t too perturbed to find that their car had been towed away for being parked in the wrong place, subsequently costing father and son 133 euros to get it back.
As if that wasn’t enough, a shunt they suffered in the same car, was the final straw. Thankfully no one was hurt and the other driver cheerfully accepted responsibility for the accident.
Jack remarked: “Indeed, we made a number of friends during our three-day visit, making me wonder why so many in the UK are to so keen to turn our backs on our European friends at the end of the month.
“Graeme and I both agreed, we shall return, hopefully next time in the company of my older son Keith who lives in the US and was unable to make this particular trip, even if it is just to thank the good citizens of Treviso for looking after my grandfather, Gunner Walter Elliott, so well for more than 100 years. It’s a remarkable level of dedication.”