Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Literature; Historical Studies
Project Advisor 1
Project Advisor 2
Marina van Zuylen
When he was twenty-six years old, my grandfather John Aspinall discovered that his real father was a soldier who had fought and been decorated in both world wars. Thrilled, he began to track his father down and catch up on the lost years. Being a great raconteur, stories at once began trickling down the family line about this illustrious figure ‘Bruce’, each one more wonderful than the last. But a lot remained missing: who was this young man who had picked up four wounds on the Western Front and won medals for his leadership and gallantry? Who later commanded 28,000 men in Burma the Second World War? Who seemed to excel in everything he did; who was brave to a fault, and yet at the same time, equipped with an all-too-familiar outrageous sense of humor?
Part military history, part family history, this project navigates the murky waters where fact meets fiction, to get as close to the truth as possible about one man’s life. Where the story goes dark, as often is does when dealing with few resources, I have drawn on the lives of Bruce’s contemporaries, particularly soldiers and poets. This is less an attempt to write the entire life story of one man, than an attempt to get to know him across time; to look behind the public mask and reveal the personality within. If I have failed, it is not for any want of character on the part of my subject, but for my own want of skills as his researcher. I always knew that I wanted to tell the story of my great-grandfather, to explore the life of this ‘missing link’ in a family scattered over two continents; here was my chance to finally verify that story.
If John’s account of paternal discovery, with which this story begins, resembles a ‘Lost World piece of literature; it’s important to remember that’s what it is. In meeting Bruce, we are stepping into a different world; a world of Empire, hushed truths, and blood dark history.
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Fry, Orson, "'A Most Splendid Soldier': The Life of My Great-Grandfather Major General George Bruce" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 121.
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