PRIVATE THOMAS HOXWORTH BOOTE
12TH JANUARY 1917 AGE 20
BURIED: RUNCORN CEMETERY, CHESHIRE, UK
This is a really unusual inscription, unusual because I have not previously come across one that quotes the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon. The quotation comes from Aftermath, which Sassoon wrote in 1919. From the reference to 'your men', it's as though Sassoon is reminiscing with a fellow officer, but his intention is to remind everyone that, however much people might now be looking back at the camaraderie of the trenches, the whole thing was appalling:
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack, -
And the anger, and blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.
Private Thomas Boote volunteered in 1914 when he can only have been 17. He served with the 5th Cheshire Regiment and went with it to France in February 1915, earning the 1915 Star. After this the trail goes cold. He died on 12 January 1917 and was buried in the cemetery of his home town, Runcorn in Cheshire. This indicates that he died in Britain but whether of wounds or illness I haven't been able to find out.
Boote's War Grave Commission headstone was not issued until 1997. If he had never had one before I believe the War Graves Commission are prepared to provide one now, with an inscription. That therefore must have been chosen by members of his family in 1997.
Sassoon was a powerful poet but a minority poet in 1919. His position was very different in 1997. His sentiments were not popular with those who were choosing inscriptions in the immediate post-war years, nor were those of Wilfred Owen, despite their popularity now. I've seen Owen quoted twice, once by his parents on his own headstone, and once on a grave at Fromelles. But again, that is a modern inscription chosen sometime in the early twenty-first century.
Thomas Boote's younger brother, James, served in the Royal Navy and went down with his ship, HMS Gloucester, when it was sunk by German bombers off the coast of Crete on 22 May 1941.