PRIVATE JAMES BELL HARVEY MM
ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS
9TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 21
BURIED: SUNKEN ROAD CEMETERY, BOISLEUX-ST. MARC, GERMANY
One of the symbols traditionally associated with the archangel Gabriel is a trumpet with which to sound the last rally - the trumpet call heralding the arrival of the Day of Judgement. Rally is a military word, used most particularly by the cavalry for a trumpet or bugle call sounded to recall the troops after a charge - to bring them home. Gabriel also calls people home, home to their father in heaven. In this way he is considered the messenger of man's salvation. This will be why Private Harvey's mother chose the words, the implication being that those who die fighting for their country are assured of salvation. Mrs Harvey will also be hoping that at the last rally, when she too is dead, she will be reunited with her son.
The inscription is taken from the last line of The Trumpeter, a song originally written in 1904 by J. Francis Barron, which became very popular during the First World War, especially after 1915 when it was recorded by John McCormack. In verse one the trumpeter sounds reveille to rouse the sleeping soldiers from their tents. In verse two he sounds the charge, and in verse three the rally.
It's an interesting song, interesting in that for all its popularity and stirring military associations it makes no concessions to the fact that wars kill people. In fact, in the often omitted last line of verse two the Trumpeter describes the aftermath of a charge as 'Hell'. In this he is echoing the words of William Tecumseh Sherman, the American Civil War Union general who famously said, "War is hell".
It's well worth listening to the song, which can be heard here. This is not McCormack's version, I don't know who is singing but it's rather more melodramatic than his version.
James Harvey, the son of a tram conductor in Glasgow, served with the 1st/2nd Lowland Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps and died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Boisleux-St Marc on 9 October 1918.
Trumpeter, what are you sounding now!
(Is it the call I'm seeking!)
"Lucky for you if you hear it all,
For my trumpet's but faintly speakin'.
I'm callin' 'em home - come home! come home!
Tread light o'er the dead in the valley.
Who are lyin' around face down to the ground,
And they can't hear me sound the 'Rally'.
But they'll hear it again in a grand refrain,
When Gabriel sounds the last 'Rally',"