RIFLEMAN RICHARD TILDESLEY BRATT
LONDON REGIMENT (LONDON RIFLE BRIGADE)
27TH AUGUST 1918 AGE 30
BURIED: BOYELLES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, FRANCE
This isn't exactly what Shakespeare's Hamlet says in Act 5 Scene 2 but I'm sure that Mrs Elizabeth Bratt had Hamlet's words in mind when she chose her husband's inscription.
Hamlet, speaking to his friend Horatio, says that however much we might attempt to 'rough hew' our destinies, control them ourselves, it is God who in fact does so:
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will
I wonder whether Mrs Bratt mis-remembered Shakespeare's words or whether she made a conscious decision to ascribe fortune to fate rather than to God. But, had Mrs Bratt seriously not believed in God, she would have told the War Graves Commission that she didn't want a cross on her husband's grave; it was only a matter of saying 'yes' or 'no' beside the question on the Family Verification Form. There is a cross on Richard Bratt's grave, which would suggest that Elizabeth Bratt was no atheist. It could be that she preferred to think that 'fate' had removed her husband from her, not God. The popular headstone inscription, 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee' was not for her.
The couple had been married for nine years and in the 1911 census had a ten-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. Richard was a letter-press printer and the couple lived in Islington. His medal card indicates that he didn't join a theatre of war until 1916. In August 1918 he was serving with the 5th Battalion London Regiment. On the night of the 26th/27th August the battalion made a frontal attack on the German trenches in front of Croisilles. The battalion war diary speaks of heavy casualties from machine gun fire. Bratt died of wounds on the 27th.