Saturday, March 10, 2007

The little signet ring that saved my grandfathers life on the fields of France...Nov. 9, 1918

My grandfathers name card from World War One. It was given to his mother in 1917 as he prepared to go to War. Company B...4th New Jersey Infantry
William Henry Rothmeier (1899-1968) This is the picture he left with his mother in 1917. He left with a ring given to him by his parents.

The ring with light shining on it...Just as it shone on November 9, 1918

The ring which belonged to my grandfather...The ring that saved his life.

My grandfather William Henry Rothmeier was born in West Hoboken, New Jersey in early 1899. He was a interesting boy. He liked to read, and learn about the goings on around the world. He kept a daily ledger (diary)..From the time of his youth till nearly the end of his life.
When I was a little boy I used to go through his diaries and enjoy reading what he had to say about life and current events. Sadly they no longer exist....My grandmother threw them out.
I remember looking at the day I was born...He wrote as I remember.."Today I am a grandfather, my grandson's name is Jack. Good luck in life to you ."...I sadly only looked at that date .. I was 13 years old at the time. Oh how I wish I had them now.
My grandmother had my grandfathers metals in a box. I used to enjoy looking at them too...Till she threw them out!
My grandmother was losing it I think....When she was somewhat lucid I asked her several questions about my grandfather. One was a signet ring very lovingly wrapped up in a cloth. She told me the story of that ring and it is one I will always remember....I wish to share it with you.........

My grandfather was a soldier in World War One. He joined in 1917 as soon as Woodrow Wilson declared war. My grandfather was soon inducted into the army and then was ready to leave for France. ..Before he left he spend some time with his grand parents..(my great great grandparents)...Jacob and Theresa Schick were an old couple who had married and lived in New York right after the Civil war.
Jacob was a Union Veteran and had been born in 1842.
Theresa was born in 1841.... Jacob at this time was 75 years old. he was not well. He had been a blacksmith from the late 1850's on. Now the sands of time had pretty much run their course. My grandfather had pictures taken with his grandmother and then left this picture that you see here with his family as he sailed on the Mauritania to France.

He had on him as he left his ring...That was given to him by his parents. On the ring it had his initials ....WHR.

He fought in all the major campaigns of the war....He was in the thick of it all. ...He made it through it all amazingly...Finally in November 1918 the news buzzing around was that the war was soon to end....Everyone was happy.

On November 9, 1918 my grandfather was by a batch of bushes in France...when a massive shrapnel shell came crashing down...It ripped the back of his leg off....opening up a major artery. He was in shock and and rolling under the bushes in pain . He was dirty in drab clothes and no one saw him. But while he was going into his death spasms..there was a fellow who saw a flashing glint of reflective light.
This fellow was not liked by any of the other soldiers as he was known to be a crook. He went to the bush where he saw the reflecting light and there he found my grandfather in very bad condition. ....
This fellow (I wish I knew his name) made a bandage from his kit...and used his gun to create a tight wrap and splint around the very strongly bleeding leg. It was spraying blood and this fellow stopped the bleeding to some degree. He told my grandfather that he saw the flash of light from his ring! Amazing!!!
This was a great thing to happen to both men as my grandfather was saved from certain death and this fellow who no one wanted to be around became known as a hero.
Now after the bleeding was controlled the damage was assessed. It was not very good and there was a thought that the leg would have to be amputated. But somehow it was kept. But 50% of the back of his leg was forever gone. He walked with a cane pretty much the rest of his life.

He was put into an army hospital on November 10, 1918 and the next day the war ended. The Army hospital he was in was a massive tent. On November 14 the tent collapsed and the major support pole fell on many missed my grandfather by only a few feet.
Once again he cheated death.... In 1919 my grandfather returned to the United States on the SS La France....He was very much a broken man...but he was alive. He always said that the little ring saved his life.
In 1925 He married, and 10 years later my mother was born....Sadly as my real grandmother died in childbirth...
My grandfather remarried in 1941, and this was the grandmother I knew....I remember as a little boy asking my grandfather so many questions about WWI. He would tell little parts of it....But just before he died...He took that ring and wrapped it up ...and saved it for me.

I started to wear that ring as soon as my fingers were big enough. ...Starting in 1973....It has been with me and on me ever since...... That special ring from 1917...That saved my grandfathers life....and gave me life so to speak.....I really love this ring and its amazing history........ I wish I could have told him. But he died when was 10 years old. But if I could then say thank you I would have said it this way, as I always did as a little boy..."Thank you Pop Pop."