LANCE CORPORAL PETER PENNINGTON
SOUTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT
29TH APRIL 1915 AGE 22
BURIED: WIMEREUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY, FRANCE
This inscription comes from the last verse of Sir Francis Doyle's (1810-1880) poem 'The Private of the Buffs', which he based on a supposed incident in China during the Second Opium War:
"Some Sikhs and a private of the Buffs, having remained behind with the grog carts, fell into the hands of the Chinese. On the next morning they were brought before the authorities, and commanded to perform the kow-tow. The Sikhs obeyed; but Moyse, the English soldier, declaring that he would not prostrate himself before any Chinaman alive, was immediately knocked upon the head and his body thrown on a dunghill."
The Times 1860
Never mind that if the event took place at all Moyse may have been imbibing too much from the grog carts, the event was seized on by the British press and Moyse turned into a hero.
Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
Bewildered and alone.
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
He yet can call his own,
Aye, tear his body, limb from limb,
Bring cord, or axe, or flame;
He only knows that not through him
Shall England come to shame.
It is in fact a very unpleasant, jingoistic poem in which Moyse's 'brave' action is contrasted with that of the native soldiers who 'whine and kneel', unlike the 'English lad' who:
... with eyes that would not shrink,
With knee to man unbent,
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink
To his red grave he went.
The poem concludes with the warning that the mightiest fleets with all their guns are as nothing:
"Unless proud England keep untamed
The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through England ring -
A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta's King
Because his soul was great.
Peter Pennington, a miner from Golborn, was a lance-corporal in the South Lancashire Regiment. He had a been a Territorial before the war, was mobilised on the outbreak and in France on 13 February 1915. On 8 September that year he was with a working party in the trenches when he was wounded in the abdomen and died the next day. His father, also a coal miner, chose his inscription.