PRIVATE ALEXANDER BAYNE MCGREGOR GRAHAM
30TH APRIL 1916 AGE 19
BURIED: BETHUNE TOWN CEMETERY, VLAMERTINGHE, FRANCE
Alexander Graham, serving with the 9th Battalion Black Watch, died of gas poisoning in a hospital in Bethune. The battalion had gone into the front line at Vermelles on 26 April 1916. The Germans launched a gas attack on the 27th but the gongs sounded the alert and the men all got their smoke helmets on in good time. Even though the gas was so dense that one could not see more than 8 to 10 feet little harm was done. However, on the 29th the Germans subjected the line to the most intense bombardment using every form of shell including gas shells and lachrymatory shells (tear gas). This time casualties were very high probably, it was concluded, because the men had been advised to remove their helmets too soon. Graham died in hospital the following day.
Isabella Graham chose her youngest son's inscription. It comes from Edwin Arnold's poem, 'The Song Celestial'. This poetic translation of the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, was very popular, especially with Theosophists who were interested in Eastern mysticism. The passage is based on Book 2
"Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak'st
Words lacking wisdom! for the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die. [...]
He who shall say, "Lo! I have slain a man!"
He who shall think, "Lo! I am slain!" those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; Never was time it was not; end and beginning are dreams! Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!"