24TH MAY 1915 AGE 21


Richard Douglas Salmon, a stockbroker's clerk from Willesden, enlisted in the 22nd Battalion London Regiment at the outbreak of war. On 15 March 1915 the regiment disembarked in France. Just over two months later Salmon was wounded in action. It was 23 May, his 21st birthday. He died the following day.
Salman's inscription comes from 'The Second Lieutenant' by 'Touchstone', the pen name of the journalist Claude Edward Cole Hamilton Burton, who was known as 'The Daily Mail' poet because his poems appeared so regularly in that newspaper.
'The Second Lieutenant' was first published in the paper in May 1915, the same month Salman was killed. It was reprinted in 'The Mystery of the Daily Mail 1896-1921', a history by FA McKenzie of the paper's first twenty-five years.
McKenzie claimed that Touchstone's poems 'are cherished by thousands as among their most familiar and treasured possessions, the best known, 'A Second Lieutenant'. It obviously made an impression on Salmon's family.
I have written the poem out in full as you are unlikely to be able to find it very easily anywhere else.

Somewhere in Flanders he lies,
The lad with the laughing eyes;
And I bade him good-bye but yesterday!
He clasped my hand in a manly grip;
I can see him now with a smiling lip,
And his chin held high in the old proud way.

Salt of our English earth,
A lad of promise and worth,
Straight and true as the blade at his side,
Instant to answer his country's call,
He leapt to the fray to fight and fall,
And there, in his youth's full flood, he died.

Victor yet, in his grave,
All that he had he gave;
Nor may we weep for the might-have-been,
For the quenchless flame of a heart aglow
Burns clear that the soul yet blind may know
The vision splendid his eyes have seen!

Weep but the wasted life
Of him who shrinks from the strife,
Shunning the path that the brave have trod;
Not for the friend whose task is done,
Who strove with his face to the morning sun,
Up and up to his God!