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It is said that Frank Bryce, the gardener for the Riddle house, injured his leg during the "war".

Frank Bryce was the Riddles’ gardener. He lived alone in a run-down cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House. Frank had come back from the war with a very stiff leg and a great dislike of crowds and loud noises, and had been working for the Riddles ever since.


“Ah, now,” said a woman at the bar, “he had a hard war, Frank. He likes the quiet life. That’s no reason to —”


“War turned him funny, if you ask me,” said the landlord.

(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1)

Is it ever specified which war? The Harry Potter Lexicon and HP Wiki say that it's refering to WWII, but why?

Which war did Frank fight in?

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We're never explicitly told, but by mathematical necessity1, it must have been World War II.

Frank Bryce's Age

Goblet of Fire opens in July 1994, and we're told that Frank is closing on 77:

Frank was nearing his seventy-seventh birthday now, very deaf, his bad leg stiffer than ever, but could be seen pottering around the flower beds in fine weather, even though the weeds were starting to creep up on him, try as he might to suppress them.

Goblet of Fire Chapter 1: "The Riddle House"

So he must have been born before July or August 19172. He'd have been 23 in 1939, when Parliament passed the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939, which mandated military service for all male UK residents between the ages of 18 and 41. Even assuming Frank hadn't joined the military when he turned 18, he definitely would have joined then, and we all know what the British Armed Forces were doing in 1939.

This does not, however, preclude him from having participated in other conflicts after WW2; the Korean War, for example, while normally considered on America's list of wars, did have UK involvement, and ran from 1950 to 1953. Frank would have been 33 when the Korean War broke out, so he may have served there as well.

So let's take another angle.

The Riddle Murder

We're told that the Riddles (Tom Sr. and his parents) were killed about fifty years prior:

Fifty years before, at daybreak on a fine summer’s morning when the Riddle House had still been well kept and impressive, a maid had entered the drawing room to find all three Riddles dead.

Goblet of Fire Chapter 1: "The Riddle House"

Fifty years is a round number, which makes it hard to take at face value, but means that the Riddles were killed around the year 1944. But we can do slightly better than this, because we know that Voldemort committed the murder and framed his uncle Morfin for it, in his sixteenth year:

In the summer of his sixteenth year, [Voldemort] left the orphanage to which he returned annually and set off to find his Gaunt relatives.

[...]

Morfin could not remember anything from that point onward," said Dumbledore, gesturing Harry back into his seat. "When he awoke next morning, he was lying on the floor, quite alone. Marvolo's ring had gone.

"Meanwhile, in the village of Little Hangleton, a maid was running along the High Street, screaming that there were three bodies lying in the drawing room of the big house: Tom Riddle Senior and his mother and father.

Half-Blood Prince Chapter 17: "A Sluggish Memory"

Voldemort was born in 1926, so his sixteenth year was either 1942 or 19433. Since Frank was the prime (muggle) suspect of the murder, he must have left the military after 1939, but before 1943.

So, World War II.


1 I am aware of the irony of answering a Rowling question with the phrase "mathematical necessity"

2 Worth noting that this fact alone precludes "The War" from referring to World War I; Frank wouldn't have been a whole year old when the armistice was signed, and even the most virulent proponents of child soldiery would agree that's too young to fight

2 Your "sixteenth year" is the year in which you are fifteen, because in your first year you are zero years old. Voldemort is a bit of a complication here, because he was born on 31 December 1926; technically his first year is 1926, but the fact that his first year lasts only 24 hours somewhat violates the spirit of the idiom. Whether the murder took place in 1942 or 1943 depends on how Rowling interprets the idiom, but doesn't really matter for the purposes of this question.

  • This is a superb answer and I've already +1'ed, but FWIW I think a bit of JKR maths has crept in here, everything in the beginning of that chapter strongly suggests to me that the murders were supposed to have taken place shortly after the (second world) war. I also don't believe it was all that common to be released from service in the middle of the war, especially if you were still in a fit state to do the gardening, however gammy your leg was – Au101 Feb 7 '16 at 4:53
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    To add further to this excellent answer - it is common in colloquial speech in England for people to refer to WW2 as "the war". It was such a pivotal moment in our British history that people do not feel the need to specify any further than that. We would however be more specific if e.g. talking about the Korean War. – The Giant of Lannister Feb 7 '16 at 9:02
  • @TheGiantofLannister that's what I would have thought, but my inspiration for the question was when a British friend told me that he always read the passage as referring to WW1. – ibid Feb 8 '16 at 23:50
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    @ibid The War used to be WWI in Britain, but then became WWII some time in the 1940s. The Great War is still generally WWI, though. Besides, if it had been WWI here, Frank would have been around 100 years old at the time of Goblet, and there's no mention of anything like that. The few people in the series that are that old are all both magic folk (who enjoy extended lifespans) and either a) specifically stated to be so (Bathilda Bagshot, Muriel “I'm 107” Weasley, the Flamels), or b) Dumbledore; so a Muggle that old would almost certainly have had more attention devoted to his age. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 9 '16 at 1:33
  • @ibid that is strange, I would say that your friend either is confused or in the minority. I agree with Janus' response regarding "the war" for WW2 and "the great war" for WW1. As a side note, this discussion gives me an excellent excuse to link to classic British comedy "Fawlty Towers" - a textbook example of the use of "the war" to refer to WW2... youtube.com/watch?v=yfl6Lu3xQW0 – The Giant of Lannister Feb 9 '16 at 18:33
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Well, Bryce is old enough to have been the Riddle's gardener.

And Tom Riddle (Voldemort) is at least 60 years old.

So add up the years, parents (20 years at least) and Voldemort's age (60+) and you get around 80 without the +'s.

She wrote the book to be in around the 1990's - 2000's, so 1995-80 is 1915.

WW1 - 1914 - 1918: -1 - 3 years old. You really don't expect someone someone to fight when they are born.

WW2 - 1939 - 1945: 24 - 30 years old; ideal age to fight.

No other wars nearby that England partiipated in, so no other candidates, really.

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