SAPPER STANLEY REES EDE
8TH OCTOBER 1917 AGE 19
BURIED: HOOGE CRATER CEMETERY, BELGIUM
This may not be its most famous line but it certainly comes from one of the most famous poems of the First World War, Rupert Brooke's The Soldier, of which this is verse 1:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
Lines two and three are, not surprisingly, a popular inscription. Stanley Ede's father chose line four, changing the word 'conceals' to 'contains'. When relations change words it's difficult to know whether they've just misremembered the original or whether they meant it. I think Mr William Edward Ede meant it - the earth should be proud to contain his son's 'richer dust', whereas there could be something furtive about concealing it.
The poem is full of nostalgic melancholy:
And think this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
William Edward Ede emigrated to Australia with his wife and three children in 1912. Having been born and grown up in Devon, is there a longing for the old country and the old days concealed in his choice of inscription? The family are Australians now, that is why his son's grave cannot be 'forever England'.
And there could be a deeper regret too. When Stanley Ede joined up on 1 May 1915 he declared he was 18 and 3 months. A handwritten note beside this answer says, "Parents consent attached". However, according to the British records, Ede was born in the first quarter of 1898. He was therefore only 17 and 3 months. A fact confirmed by his father on the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia when he gives his son's age at death as 19 and 9 months.
Ede, a plumber, served with the 12th Field Company Australian Engineers. Sturdy and of fresh complexion, Ede was, according to his comrades, "full of fun and almost invariably singing". A witness told the Australian Red Cross that he "was killed at Zonnebeke by a piece of shell which hit him in the neck and killed him outright".