PRIVATE HERBERT DOWNS
27TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 21
BURIED: TEZZE BRITISH CEMETERY, ITALY
Herbert Downs was killed in action during the crossing of the Piave River on 27 October 1918. He was buried in the Italian village of Tezze. It's a long way from Stockport Cheshire where his parents and brothers and sisters lived.
You can see his mother's distress in the inscription she chose. The British Army banned the repatriation of bodies early in 1915 and reinforced this ban after the war ended. It was deeply unpopular and caused much angry criticism, especially from those families who could easily have afforded to pay to repatriate the bodies of their own family members.
The ban remained in force however, the authorities determined that the war cemeteries were not going to be just for those whose families couldn't afford to repatriate their bodies. This was one of the many reasons why the Commission also did not permit private headstones since this would distinguish the rich dead from the poor dead and the Commission wanted to emphasise the equality of sacrifice of all the dead. Everyone had to accept a regulation Imperial War Graves Commission headstone, which caused more distress, but perhaps by way of compensation families were allowed to personalise the headstone with their choice of inscription.
Herbert Downs was the third of his parents five children. Father, Matthew Downs, was a builders' labourer. Herbert initially joined the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment but was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers and went with them to Italy in November 1917.
Eight days after HerbertDown's death the Austrians signed an armistice - the war on the Austro-Italian front was over.