This story begins a four year journey exploring my grandfather's war experiences as well as trying to find a living relative of his fallen comrades. I will include additional entries from by e-book each month. I have been trying to find a literary agent to handle my book in order to tell my grandfather's story without success, so this is an opportunity to share this amazing story with others. The story is not a book on WWI history, although it contains history regarding early battles of the war. My grandfather's journal contains several important and compelling documentation regarding a soldier's experiences serving in the Royal Field Artillery from August 1914 to May 1915. Several digital images are included to help the reader understand the story as it unfolds. The story is a non-fictional account of one soldier's experiences while trying to survive the war.
PROLOGUE On a balmy North Carolina spring day in 2009, I sat at my kitchen table, swamped by the conglomeration of memorabilia amassed by my deceased paternal grandparents. The tattered box of paper relics had been transferred to me via my older sister, having been previously stored away and forgotten in various family closets for more than fifty years. My objective was to find my grandfather’s World War 1 journal. Among the contents of the box were an English marriage license, a couple of cookbooks, a boyhood bible, newspaper clippings, and several military documents. Eventually, I uncovered a small, brown ledger; printed on the front cover was ‘ Army Book 152 Correspondence Book (Field Service)’ . I gently lifted the journal from the box and held it in my hands. For a brief time I just stared at it, revelling in the moment. I will never forget the emotions that followed. At first I was overcome by exhilaration, comparable to winning a lottery or embarking upon an adventurous journey. This elation became intermingled with awe for the piece of history I was holding. However, these sentiments were soon overshadowed by the riveting realization that I was holding my GRANDFATHER’S journal; a journal written astutely in his own fluent, cursive hand, almost one-hundred years ago. The pages were yellowed and the penciled script faded. Even so, I was still able to follow a narrative that proved to be both insightful and compelling. Thoroughly convinced of the value of this documentation, I aspired to transcribe the journal for other members of my family to enjoy, as well as to concretely preserve its contents for generations to follow. Countless hours were devoted to this undertaking — deciphering the colloquial and military language of a British soldier written a century earlier. Progressing through the journal, I was able to transcribe my grandfather’s experiences to late spring of 1915, following the second battle of Ypres. Knowing that the war continued through 1918, I was curious as to the reason why the entries suddenly ended. What changes in his military service might have taken place? How did he spend the remainder of the war? So, once again, I dove into the contents of our family carton searching for answers. I was able to discover through other saved documents that, due to his specific skills and expertise, Frederick George Coxen had been assigned to other areas of responsibility for the duration of the war. None of this information had been revealed to me, or to my siblings, prior to this point. By unraveling the poignantly historical threads of my grandfather’s war years, through the examination of his personal relics, I was able to sculpt together a more complete replica of the remarkably complex man he was. I could not have anticipated that further excavation into the box contents would have had such a dramatic effect on the next few years of my life. Tucked away in the depths of all the memorabilia was a more recent correspondence of my grandfather’s, typed on onion skin paper in 1945. The letter was addressed to no particular person or group; it just contained a title: ‘ I Had A Dream The Other Night’ It was one of those hazy, disjointed dreams that cause you on awakening to try to connect it in sequence, and leave you greatly perturbed in mind - yes, and in spirit. It seems that I was sitting at a table - it might have been after a good dinner, for I felt quite satisfied with everything, and very complacent. I leaned back in my chair, picked up a glass from the table, and was enjoying the odor of its contents - most likely an after-dinner brandy. I seemed to hear a noise and looked up, and there stood three of my old buddies, ‘ Pudgie’ Taylor, Bobbie Glue, and George Bramwell. I seemed to become elated with a supreme sense of happiness, just as if I was suddenly transported into a kind of world hitherto unknown to me. It appeared that we greeted each other with an enthusiasm beyond what we humans experience, and then it seemed that we all became rigid as Pudgie filled up glasses for each one of us. We apparently stood a long time in silence, and then Pudgie spoke, just one of his utterances that I had heard so many times, ‘ Here’s to you, Old China’ . (in modern parlance: ‘ Here’s to you, old pal’ ). ‘ May we all do the job together.’ Then everything grew hazy, as it does in dreams, and I woke up. In the few moments it took to collect my senses, I was at first excited, then let down, ‘ I have been dreaming.’ Memory took me over the years and thoughts drifted sadly. Pudgie, Bobby, George, and I were old pals. A couple of days before the battle of Mons in August 1914, we promised each other that should one or more of us get back, we, or he, would call on the family of those who perished and explain how and when ‘ it happened.’ Within a few weeks of that pledge George was killed beside me at the Marne, and died in my arms. Pudgie got his at Ypres, repairing a telephone wire. Bobby’s legs left his torso when I tried to pull him from our blown-in dugout, also at Ypres. Since that enlightened dream the thought has been with me, ‘ May we all do the job together.’ Pudgie meant, in forming that pact just prior to when the shooting started, that we all GET BACK TOGETHER. Well, we didn’t! Just one of the four did and that one failed to carry out the promise. For in the more than four years that the war continued, so much happened; time has gradually softened the memory, which is now one among so many. Throughout the years I have had a great many dreams or mild nightmares fighting that war all over again, and have so often thought, ‘ Was it worthwhile?’ We positively know now, those of my generation who are left, together with the younger generation who are now engaged in completing the job, more clearly how to see to it that it will be completed the RIGHT WAY this time. I am wondering now, was that ‘ visit’ of my old buddies who have been lying in Flanders Fields for nearly thirty years, a reproach or a reminder? I don’t know, but it has certainly caused my criticism of myself to assert itself. Were they not telling me that the job has to be done together? Were they not asking, ‘ Are we all united in our cause?’ Were they telling me to do all I could to help COMPLETE the job which they and millions of others died for? It is all too complex for me to answer but I do know one thing, and that very definitely, I HAVE NOT DONE MY BEST! I have made no sacrifice that could, in the smallest measure, be compared with that of the boys who are now going through that hell that I know so well. Sure, I have done and am doing war work, getting well paid for it too. Sure, I have given time to selling war bonds, and bought some too. But I have to admit that I often get sore at the way the war is being run, like all the damn dumb things that make it cost so much, at the cockeyed forms that I have to fill in, and the taxes I have to pay. I get mad ‘too’ when I read and hear of strikes, when my gas is running low. I criticize about everything, EXCEPT TO PROMOTE THE ALL IMPORTANT FACT THE BOYS (as we fondly call them) ARE GOING THROUGH HELL AND DYING FOR FIFTY BUCKS A MONTH. Dying for fifty bucks a month, that’s what it amounts to, unless we of the home front do our part to back the fighting front, with every ounce of our individual strength, in dollars, work, and brains. If we do not (even at the thought I would scream to high heaven), it will mean, as it did last time, veterans of war would be transformed into peddlers, aye, even beggars, yes, even worse, paupers, together with general chaos. The question of ‘ Why and for what did my old pals give their lives?’ is still unanswered. May God grant that World War Two mold a different world than did World War One. We must see to it, or World War Three will develop. The irony of the thought of world war defined by numerals! For a few days my dream sort of worried me. But I am grateful now, because it gave me reasons to do a little more thinking, the result of which gives me determination to try in every way to do a little more. Candidly, there is not much I can do in comparison to the sacrifice others are making, but I can and will work harder, count to ten before I start bellyaching, conserve, and save (that word ‘ save’ is right up my alley) for I can really do that by BUYING WAR BONDS TO THE UTMOST. From now on I am going to ask myself a question very often, the question being, ‘ What did I do today for the one who may die for me tonight?’ The answer, ‘ I bought an extra bond.’ Thanks for the visit, George, Bobby, and Pudgie; may you forever rest in peace, together with those who are joining you now. By the Grace of God, and our efforts, perhaps we can make sure that my grandsons will not have to make the sacrifice you, and thousands who are now joining you, were called upon to make. (Figure 1 & 2) It took a while to digest the content of the letter and even longer to comprehend its full meaning. I started to imagine at what point in time these young men entered into their pact. The setting could have been on a train enroute to the Belgian frontier, or during the long march to their first engagement in Mons. Perhaps it was the trepidation from hearing the first barrage of heavy artillery prior to battle that drove the moment. Whenever or wherever it took place, these chums felt compelled to formulate a promise to each other and vowed to notify one another’s family in the event that he, or they, became a fatality of war. No one will know the emotional rationale behind the promise made that day; nevertheless, the letter does reveal that, as the lone survivor, my grandfather neglected to honor their covenant. This letter testifies to the fact that Frederick G. Coxen, although very grateful for surviving the war, remained haunted by that fervent agreement made among friends - one devised by naïve, untested warriors, who could never have imagined the agonizing inferno they were about to face. My grandfather’s dream epitomized the residual guilt he carried all those years, surmising that he had disappointed his chums. Upon reviewing this revealing personal confession, I immediately became determined to fulfill my grandfather’s promise, to locate and inform the descendants of those fallen soldiers of how and where their ancestor met their deaths. Having now become acquainted with his war exploits, I can only imagine the terror and hardship my grandfather faced each day. By sharing his journal with you, along with the aspects of my search for these three families, you may come to understand the compelling reasons for committing myself to this quest, as well as to ascertain the likely motives behind my grandfather leaving his promise unfulfilled. PREFACE My purpose for writing this book was to honor my grandfather by telling his story. In addition I wanted to impart to the reader the experiences, as well as the conditions of war, and what it was like trying to survive each day. . The story is based on the World War 1 journal written by Captain Frederick G. Coxen, who served in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1905 to 1919. On August 5, 1914, he was called into active duty when the British Parliament passed the General Mobilization Decree. He reported for duty at Newcastle upon the Tyne located in northern England, where he was assigned to the newly created 40th Battery of the 43rd Brigade. By August 16 the brigade had been sent over to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). ‘World War 1 – An Unkept Promise’ is a historical account of the following: the first battle of Mons, the first battle of Marne, the first Battle of The Aisne, the first and second battles of Ypres, and the battle of Neuve Chapelle. Each battle is represented as a chapter in the book and begins with a brief overview of the battle, intermingled with dramatic journal entries. This format helps establish a foundation for understanding the relationship between the journal entries and the battles they describe. Journal excerpts and other supportive documents are italicized and indented to assist with identification and clarity. NOTE: All journal entries are quoted as they were written; some expressions, used one-hundred years ago, were in common usage, which would be deemed offensive in today’s society. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to acknowledge the debt I owe to those who diligently assisted me in my attempts to find information about George Bramwell, Pudgie Taylor, and Bobby Glue. I also wish to express a novice researcher’s gratitude to the following websites for expanding my World War One knowledge: The Long, Long Trail; The Western Front Association; The British National Archives; Great War Forum; and FirstWorldWar. com. I am grateful to The Imperial War Museum in London for dedicating a copy of the journal to my grandfather. My eternal gratitude to my wife, Lynne, whose editing and support made this book a reality. I want to thank and acknowledgement David Thompson of the Northumberland (England) Branch of the Western Front Association for his examination of historical accuracy of the book, as well as for contributing information. I also want to recognize the contribution of author Michele McGrath whose guidance, support and encouragement brought the book to fruition. INTRODUCTION The date was 1887. Richard and Alice Coxen were adding a son, Frederick George, to the four children that already filled their house. Living in Battersea, Richard was a sail-maker whose trade was vanishing due to Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The modern vessels were propelled by coal-fired steam engines that bellowed out dark black smoke. Little is known about Fred’s childhood, until he turned eighteen in 1905. That is when he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA), assigned to the 55th Battery. His reasons for enlisting are unknown, but it could be argued that he did so in order to further his education. Even though the law of 1870 provided schooling for all children, it was common that children of working class parents were given only a rudimentary education at best; many never had an opportunity to attend school beyond the age of 12. When children turned the age of eighteen, the British military offered soldiers a basic education in return for six years of active and six years of reserve duty. In 1907 Fred earned both his third and second class education certificates in composition – leading one to believe that his desire to obtain an education may have been a major inducement in his decision to enlist. Along with a classroom education, he was also trained in all aspects of operating artillery, yet he selected Signalling as his specialty. He and George Millington graduated together in the 168th Class, School of Signaling, at Aldershot. When new field telephones were introduced, Fred was sent to Ireland in 1909 for training. Communications between the artillery batteries and the forward observation post were extremely vital for shelling accuracy and target selection. In 1911 he was awarded the ‘Assistant Signal Instructor’ certificate, just prior to his departure from active duty to begin his RFA reserve obligation. Serving in the RFA Reserves allowed Fred more time to pursue his training as an electrician. During this period of time he lived in Westminster, at 28 Berkley Street, an address which proved to be romantically significant. The attractive Lillian Turner, who lived with her parents at 32 Berkley Street, provided an alluring and convenient dating arrangement. It did not take long for Lillian to put a twinkle in Fred’s eyes. After a brief courtship, they were married on October 12th, 1912, at the Parish Church, in the Parish of St. Mary, Lambeth. By 1913 the young couple moved to 93 Rectory Lane, Tooting Bec Common, where Lillian gave birth to a baby girl they named Doris. It could be assumed that Fred would have kept abreast of what was happening in Europe, after years of escalating turmoil. Rising political strife between Germany, France, and Russia, fueled by the escalating tensions between Austria– Hungary and Serbia produced whispers of war. Otto von Bismarck, a German ambassador, predicted that ‘Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans,’ would ignite the next war. On June 28, 1914, the assassination of the Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Serbian nationals, brought his prediction to fruition. The house of cards, constructed of alliances between key countries in Europe, was beginning to collapse. This descent into the abyss of war resembled the tumbling of a row of dominoes, when one falls the rest will follow. This chain reaction commenced when Austria–Hungary attacked Serbia in response to the assassination of the Archduke. Russia had an alliance with Serbia; therefore Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary. As Austria-Hungary had a partnership with Germany, Germany declared war on both Serbia and Russia. Russia and France had an agreement, so France slid into the abyss alongside the others. This cascading effect would continue as other countries entered the war, with the exception of Britain. Britain was not involved in alliances with other countries; however, she did have a loose agreement with France, although not politically binding. It was an agreement that they would openly discuss providing mutual aid should either country be attacked. However, under the existing circumstances, this agreement took on deeper meaning and greater importance to Britain once she considered the consequences if France should lose the war. Parliament was debating this issue when the game changed. Germany declared that they were going to use Belgium, a neutral country, as an avenue for attacking France. Belgium’s neutrality was part of the 1839 Treaty of London. Under that treaty the European powers would recognize and guarantee the independence and neutrality of Belgium. The significant part of the treaty was in Article VII, which required Belgium to remain perpetually neutral and the signatory powers would be committed to guard that neutrality in the event of invasion. The cosigners of the treaty were Great Britten, Austria, France, the German Confederation (Prussia), Russia, and the Netherlands. Since Germany’s intention was to break the treaty, Britain felt that under Article VII it was their responsibility to come to Belgium’s defense. Therefore they sent an ultimatum to Germany; if they invaded Belgium, Britain would enter the war. German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg could not believe that Britain would go to war against Germany over a mere ‘scrap of paper’ . Kaiser Wilhelm was unconcerned by the threat, and ordered his army to invade Belgium on August 4, 1914. When the German Army crossed over the Belgian border, the British Parliament signed the General Mobilization Decree; Britain was officially at war with Germany. Within a few hours after the decree was posted, Fred received his orders to report for duty on August 5th at Newcastle upon the Tyne. The forces that had been put in motion prior to this date would forever alter Fred’s life. Fred’s first journal entry: August 4th ‘General Mobilization, will it be declared?’ was the thought with me all day. My dear wife first gave me the news, but then I could not believe it, until we walked to the post office and saw the Official Declaration. And then I knew that, I should have to leave my home and dear ones — for ‘Where?’ that was my one great thought. And until then I never realized what it all meant; with the conflicting thoughts of my dear ones, and the fascination that I was going to participate in a real scrap. My mind was in a real whirl, and was so until I left home next day, for Newcastle-on-Tyne. And then — ‘Where?’ August 5th I do not dwell on the thought of leaving my dear little wife, my mother, and baby — the journey up north was one of enthusiasm, for the train was packed with reservists, rejoining the Colours, as I, and all, seemed absolutely mad to go and obliterate Germany! August 6–7th Drawing kit, passing Doctors, etc: - was detailed to join the 39th Bde R.F.A Surplus Details, as acting Q. M Sergt, at Borden Camp, [I] was very disappointed, for this meant that I should not go to the front yet. As I was informed that we should form the nucleus of a Reserve Brigade at Shorncliffe. August 8th – 14th Arrived at Borden, gave great satisfaction to C.O. - and volunteered for immediate Service. After a little trouble and help of Brigadier Clark, I was detailed to join 43rd Bde RFA. At Deepcut – I joined them late on night of 14th, and was glad to meet a couple of chums in the Battery. I joined – 40th Btty RFA. August 15th Getting ready to embark – ‘Where?’ that was the burning question for all orders were secret. Chapter 1 THE BUILD-UP When war was declared, the Regular Army comprised 247,432 men (all ranks), of which 79,000 were in India. The ‘Special Reserve’ and the Territorial Force totaled 270,859 men. It was intended that the defence of the homeland would be carried out by the fourteen divisions of the Territorial Force, which was created in 1908 by then Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane. County Associations were established, to organise and administer the Territorial Force, the infantry battalions being established at 29 officers and 980 non-commissioned officers and men. The Force establishment was 312,000 men, but this target was never reached and recruitment peaked, probably in June 1909 at 270,000. By the beginning of that year, each Territorial unit had been assigned a specific role, either in coastal defence or as part of a central force. Much of the Territorial Force’s equipment was obsolete and the Force never fulfilled Richard Haldane’s intention of being immediately available for service overseas. In 1910, members of it had been invited to accept a liability to serve abroad in the event of mobilisation, but barely seven per cent had made the ‘Imperial Service’ pledge, by September 1913. Prior to Britain declaring war, her small, all-regular, professional army was designed to police the Empire, therefore at the outset only capable of fielding, in Europe, only six infantry and one cavalry divisions, totaling 162,000 men. Virtually all of the Regular Army, which would become to be known as the "Old Contemptables",available in Britain, in 1914, numbered about 160,000 men, of whom a little over 100,000 were front-line troops. Each infantry division numbered three brigades of four infantry battalions with supporting artillery formations. The entire British Army, worldwide, did not amount to more than eleven Regular divisions. There was an ongoing debate around the decision to send all six divisions to France and Belgium, or hold back one or more to protect the homeland until the Territorials had additional time to train. In attendance at the August 5th meeting of the War Council was Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, Sir Edward Grey, who served as Foreign Secretary from 1905-1916; Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty; and Lord Richard Haldane, War Minister, who also served as Lord Chancellor from 1912 until he left office in 1915. Also present were eleven Army general officers, including Field Marshal Sir John French and two of his corps commanders, Sir Douglas Haig and Sir James Grierson, among others. At the last minute there was an invasion scare that altered the War Council’s decision to send only four of the six divisions, along with one cavalry division. This was slated to take place immediately – embarkation was to begin August 9. Field Marshall Lord Kitchener had reluctantly accepted his appointment as Secretary of State for War. He passionately wanted to protect Britain’s Regular Army. He believed that Britain’s professional army, especially the officers, should be used for training new recruits instead of being wasted fighting battles. He was not involved in the original planning process for fighting a war in Europe, which offered him a different perspective on the impact six divisions of the Expeditionary Force would have on the outcome of the war, especially in contrast to Germany and France’s seventy divisions each. Lord Kitchener disapproved of the French offensive strategy. Therefore prior to British participation in any ‘forward movements’ in which the French army was not present in large numbers, and in which the British might be ‘unduly exposed to attack,’ Sir John French was ordered to consult his government first . Sir John must ‘distinctly understand that his command would be an entirely independent one and that he will in no case be under the orders of any Allied general.’ In this one stroke, Kitchener negated the principle of unity of command. His motive was the preservation of the British Army, and given Sir John’s personal aloof temperament, Kitchener practically nullified the order to ‘support’ and ‘cooperate’ with the French.This was to haunt the Allied war effort long after Sir John was replaced and Kitchener himself was dead. Lord Kitchener wanted the BEF’s staging area to be Amiens, which offered a safe distance from the advancing German Army. However, at the last minute it was changed to Maubeuge, where the BEF would experience the full weight of the German forces. On August 6-10, 80,000 troops of the BEF with 30,000 horses, 315 field guns, and 125 machine guns, were gathered at the Southampton and Portsmouth embarkation ports. Knowledge of the commanders involved will help in understanding the battles that were going to take place. BRITISH COMMANDERS Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres (28 September 1885 – 22 May 1925) Sir John French distinguished himself by commanding the Cavalry Division during the Second Bore War. He became Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in 1912, before serving for two years as the first Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force during World War I. Even thought promoted to field marshal on 3 June, 1913, French had neither staff experience nor had studied at Staff College in order to excel in his position. As CIGS he forced through some controversial changes to infantry battalions, first changing the composition of a battalion from eight small companies commanded by captains, to four large companies commanded by majors. He also ensured that cavalry would continue to be trained to fight with sword and lance rather than fight dismounted with firearms. These changes caused concerns regarding French’s lack of intellect and knowledge for the position he held. Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig (19 June 1861 – 29 January 1928) Douglas Haig was a British senior officer during World War I, commanding the 1st Corps, until he replaced Sir John French as commander-in-chief of the BEF. Some have criticized him for the number of British casualties that occurred during his command, and regarded him as representing class-based incompetent commanders unable to grasp modern tactics and technologies. General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien (26 May 1858 – 12 August 1930) Smith-Dorrien commanded the British II Corps during World War I and is best known for his successful defensive action in the Battle of Le Cateau. He commanded the British Second Army at the Second Battle of Ypres before being relieved of command by Sir John French. FRENCH GENERALS Marshal Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre (12 January 1852 – 3 January 1931) Joseph Joffre was the French general and commander-in-chief of the Allied army during World War I, best known for regrouping the retreating allied armies in order to defeat the Germans at First Battle of the Marne in 1914. Joffre was a career officer who saw active service in different theaters. While serving in the colonies he was asked to return to France to be appointed commander-in-chief of the French Army in 1911. He purged French officers who were ‘ defensive-minded’ and replaced them with those believing in the offensive ‘ Plan XVII’ . Like French, Joffre was selected to command despite the fact he never commanded an Army, and was labeled as ‘ having no knowledge what so ever of how a General Staff works.’ Charles Lanrezac (July 31, 1852 – January 18, 1925) Lanrezac was a French general, formerly a distinguished staff college lecturer, who commanded the French Fifth Army at the outbreak of World War I. At the Battle of Charleroi he intended to strike the Germans on their western flank, but before he could act, the German 2nd Army struck first. After experiencing heavy casualties, he ordered the French Army to retreat. He recovered from his embarrassment at Charleroi by launching a successful counterattack at the Battle of Guise. He was relieved of his command by Joffre before the Battle of the Marne. Ferdinand Foch Was born in 1851 and fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. He became an artillery specialist in 1907. When war broke out in 1914, Foch commanded the French Second Army until the Battle on the Marne, after which he headed the French Ninth Army. GERMAN GENERALS Alexander Heinrich Rudolph von Kluck (1846-1934) Von Kluck was born in Munster on 20 May 1846. During the First World War he commanded the German First Army. He was known as an aggressive commander and grew impatient with his counterpart, Second Army commander von Bulow, who was unwilling to allow gaps between the two armies. This eventually led to failure of the infamous ‘ Schlieffen Plan’ when von Kluck advanced his army south and east of Paris instead of north and west as planned. FIELD MARSHAL KARL von BULOW (1846-1921) Karl von Bulow was born on 24 April, 1846. At the start of the First World War von Bulow was given the command of the German Second Army and to ensure that the German invasion of Belgium went according to the Schlieffen Plan, he was also given control over both the First and Third Armies. However, his control was rescinded when he and, the aggressive, von Kluck clashed over Bulow’s cautious nature. Bulow’s greatest success was capturing the Belgian fortress of Namur and defeating the French General Lanrezac’s Firth Army at the Battle of Charleroi on 23-24 August, 1914. Journal entry: August 16th Embarked at Southampton on the SS City of Chester - uneventful trip – disembarked at Boulogne next morning - I knew well that I was in France, grand reception.