SERGEANT HAROLD WILLIAM MASTON
4TH OCTOBER 1917 AGE 23
BURIED: TYNE COT CEMETERY, BELGIUM
Maston's inscription comes from John Travers Cornwall, a poem by John Oxenham, published in 1917 in his book The Vision Splendid. Oxenham, the pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley, was, as Connie Ruzich has persuasively argued, the most popular poet of the First World War. He was certainly extremely popular with families at home, the next-of-kin who chose the personal inscriptions. Maston's inscription comes from verse 3:
Britain be proud of such a son!
Deathless the fame that he has won
Only a boy, but such a one!
Standing forever to his gun;
There was his duty to be done,
And he did it.
Fourteen-year-old Cornwall won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Jutland by staying with his gun and awaiting orders whilst the rest of his gun crew were dead and, as Oxenham put it, 'mounded around him'.
Harold William Maston did not win a Victoria Cross but he had been awarded a Military Medal. This proved useful when it came to identifying ten soldiers found in unmarked graves on the old battlefield north of Ypres in March 1920. Three still had their identity discs but Maston could only be identified by his medal ribbon and his sergeant's chevrons. He had been killed in action in the attack on Broodseinde Ridge.
On Friday 7 March 1930 The Singleton Argus reported:
"Mr William Maston, a prominent Sydney businessman, died on Sunday while travelling to France to visit the grave of his son, Sergeant Harold Maston. The funeral took place at Aden on Tuesday."