LANCE CORPORAL HAROLD SIDEBOTTOM
5TH MAY 1918 AGE 25
BURIED: BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY, FRANCE
This blunt truism appears all over the Internet, always in inverted commas but never attributed to an author. That is, until you change the pronoun to 'he', "Come he slow, or come he fast" and then it emerges as a line from Sir Walter Scott's Marmion (1808). Writers have quoted it ever since to indicate that death and danger are old friends, or to remind us of the transient nature of life, either of which could have been in Mr Joseph Sidebottom's mind when he chose it for his son's inscription.
Harold Sidebottom served in the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment and died of wounds in a hospital in Boulogne. It's difficult to identify when soldiers can have been wounded but the 10th Cheshires had been up in Flanders, near Kemmel, when the Germans attacked on 10 April, and on the 26th they had been part of a counter-attack. Their casualties from the two operations included more than 236 wounded and 372 missing. In June the battalion was reduced to cadre strength and the 10th as a fighting unit ceased to exist.
Harold Sidebottom was a cotton weaver from Glossop in Derbyshire where his father, Joseph was a coal heaver and his mother, Ann, assisted in the business as a book keeper.