PRIVATE NATHAN WHITEHEAD
ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
17TH JANUARY 1918 AGE 23
BURIED: GAZA WAR CEMETERY, ISRAEL
This is an old epitaph, several versions of which appeared in a number of Victorian epitaph collections in the 1870s. The addition of some extra punctuation and a couple of words helps make the sense clearer:
"Who plucked this flower?"
"I" said the master
And the gardener
Held his peace
Later people felt the need to expand the story:
Once a gardener had a choice flower that he tended and valued above all the flowers of the garden. One morning it was missing. He thought a servant had taken it, and went about asking them all if they had plucked it.
Then a servant said: "I saw the master walking in the garden early, and he plucked it."
The gardener said: "It is well. The flower was his. For him I nursed and tended it, and as he has taken it, it is well."
As with the flower, so with a young life; God has taken it, it was his to take.
Nathan Whitehead was one of the three children of Jonathan and Mary Whitehead of Tebay in Westmorland. Father was a platelayer with a railway company and in 1911, sixteen-year-old Nathan was a shop assistant. He served with the 5th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, not joining them until after they had been evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915. They spent the rest of the war in Egypt and Palestine where Whitehead died of dysentery - as did so many soldiers in this part of the world - on 17 January 1918.