SAPPER WILLIAM HENRY MERRIFIELD
22ND APRIL 1920 AGE 26
BURIED: NEWTON ABBOT CEMETERY, DEVON, UK
This has all the hallmarks of a brother's inscription: hearty, blokey and unemotional. And it is a brother's inscription, chosen by William Merrifield's younger brother, Leonard. Their parents were both dead - mother died in 1905, father in 1915 and their older sister had died in 1914.
William Merrifield died on 4 August 1920. The war had been over for nearly two years. Merrifield had served since the outbreak and been in France since 24 June 1915. He was 'disembodied' on 15 February 1919; disembodied is a military term which indicates that Merrifield had been a territorial soldier before the war. The fact that he was disembodied in February 1919 would seem to imply that he had survived it unwounded. Yet when he dies in his home town of Newton Abbot just over a year later he is entitled to a military grave. There is no indication as to the cause of Merrifield's death but, if you died before 31 August 1921 of any cause where your war service could have been a contributory factor, you were entitled to a war grave.
I said the inscription Leonard chose for his brother was unemotional, but two things: first he chose an inscription, and paid five shillings and sixpence for it, and secondly, he acknowledges his comradeship with his brother. That doesn't come from the use of the word 'Matey' but from the 'Au revoir', the French word for 'good-bye'. Leonard served with the Devonshire Regiment and had been in France since October 1915. He was discharged 'Class Z' on 12 November 1919. Class Z meant that you were discharged to the reserve and if war broke out again you would be called up.