LIEUTENANT VAN DYKE FERNALD
ROYAL AIR FORCE
23RD JULY 1918 AGE 20
BURIED: TEZZE BRITISH CEMETERY, ITALY
"An ever joyous life" was not the only thing Van Dyke Fernald freely gave up; in January 1916 he freely gave up his American citizenship and became a naturalized British subject in order to be able to join the British Army.
"Lieut. Van Dyke Fernald R.A.F., who is now reported as having died as a prisoner in Austrian hands, was born in San Francisco in 1897, and was the son of Mr Chester Bailey Fernald, the dramatic author. His American ancestry dated from 1630, through a long line of English colonial blood. At the period when America's entry into the war seemed doubtful, his protest was to surrender his American nationalitiy in order to enter the British Army. From Trinity College, Oxford, he entered the Univeristy Training Corps, and was gazetted second lieutenant in the Royal West Surrey Regt. He was subsequently attached to the R.F.C., qualified as an observor, and saw six months' service on the Western Front. He then qualified as a pilot, and was sent to Italy. He was last seen on July 23rd over the Austrian front, where, having finished a reconnaissance, it is believed he stayed behind his escort, on the joint initiative of himself and his observer, Lieut. Watkins, in the hope of meeting an enemy."
Flight magazine October 3 1918
One thing surprises me about this inscription: the use of the word 'barbarian', or to be more accurate, the fact that the War Graves Commission allowed Van Dyke Fernald's father to use the word barbarian. The Commission, which had given itself the right to censor inscriptions, refused: "He died the just for the unjust", where the Germans were the "unjust", since they didn't like inscriptions that insulted the Germans. I would have thought that calling the enemy "barbarians" was much worse but this one was permitted.