SECOND LIEUTENANT WILLIAM EDWARD GILLESPIE
11TH SEPTEMBER 1918 AGE 28
BURIED: GOUZEAUCOURT NEW BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE
This beautiful inscription is from Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur, which begins:
So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's table, man by man,
Had fallen in Lyonesse about their Lord,
The dying Arthur tells Sir Bedevere, 'the last of all his knights':
The sequel of today unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep - the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
These are such haunting words, which must have resonated with many people who felt that life would never be the same again now that so many of their menfolk were dead, as was the case with Mrs Gillespie, William Gillespie's mother, who chose the inscription. Mrs Gillespie's husband Denis died in October 1915, her son William was killed on 11 September 1918 and another son, Daniel, was killed seven days later.
William served with the Rifle Brigade but at the time of his death was attached to the 12th Battalion London Regiment, part of the 58th London Division. On 11 September they were in the front line near Epehy. That night the Germans put down a box barrage and attacked Tattenham Post. According to the war diary, "D Coy were surrounded and the post taken". Was this when Gillespie was killed? His body was discovered in an unmarked grave a year later.
His older brother, Daniel, a Lance Corporal with the 58th Division Signal Company Royal Engineers, was killed on 18 September. One of his other brothers, a Mr J Gillespie, chose his inscription. It comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
After life's fitful fever
He sleeps well