SERGEANT HENRY LEGGO HAMMOND
PRINCESS PATRICIA'S CANADIAN LIGHT INFANTRY
30TH SEPTEMBER 1917 AGE 21
BURIED: MILL SWITCH BRITISH CEMETERY, TILLOY-LEZ-CAMBRAI, FRANCE
For all that this is now one of the most famous poems of the war, and certainly the most famous Canadian poem of the war, it is not often quoted in inscriptions. John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields in May 1915, prompted by the death of a young friend killed at Ypres the previous day. McCrae, a doctor, served in France throughout the war, eventually dying of cerebral-meningitis following pneumonia in January 1918.
The inscription comes from verse 3, the last verse:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In this instance 'the torch' is 'our quarrel with the foe', McCrae was exhorting his readers not to give up the struggle with Germany until the war was won. More usually, however, 'the torch' is used as a metaphor for 'the torch of life', the vitai lampada'. This refers to the duties and responsibilities to one's fellow human beings that should be passed on from one generation to another. This was the meaning Sir Henry Newbolt had in mind when he wrote his poem, Vitae Lampada.
The War Graves Commission has recorded Sergeant Hammond's name as Henry Leggo Harry Hammond but I feel sure that 'Harry' was a nickname since Hammond's father was also called Henry. Hammond, a bank clerk enlisted in Montreal on 4 October 1915. He arrived in France on 23 April 1916 and served with No. 4 Company Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He was killed on 30 September 1918. The battalion war diary recorded the events of the day:
"The plan was that the P.P.C.L.I., having crossed the Railway, should swing to the East and South-East and make good the Railway Cutting, the village of Tilloy as far forward as the main Tilloy-Blecourt Road ...
At 6-00 a.m. the attack was made with Nos. 1, 2 and 4 Coys front line and No. 3 Coy in support. Rapid progress was made as far as the road running from 8.21.b.60.80. to 8.27.a.40.60. From this point the advance was still continued on the right by No. 4 Coy, who reached their objective at the juncture of the main Tilloy-Blecourt Road and Embankment. Nos. 1 and 2 Coys on the Left and No.3 Coy in Support were suffering very heavy casualties from Machine Gun fire from the village and from the high ground to the North ... By this time most of the Officers and N.C.O.s had been knocked out and the Coys were badly disorganized ..."
Hammond was a senior N.C.O. in No. 4 Company.
His parents were initially told that he was missing presumed wounded in action. A month later they received the news that he had been killed. He's buried in Mill Race Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai. The name coming from a switch line on the Cambrai-Douai railway, which ran to a large German supply dump on the site of the cemetery. Corps burial officers began constructing the cemetery in late October 1918, which is when Hammond's body must have been discovered and his parents informed.