PRIVATE FRED HAMPTON
7TH MARCH 1917 AGE 32
BURIED: BETHLEEM FARM EAST CEMETERY, BELGIUM
This inscription comes from The Rosary, a hugely popular romantic song about loss and the acceptance of loss, written in America in 1898 by Ethelbert Nevin and Robert Cameron Rogers. It became one of the most popular songs of the early twentieth century, and was made even more popular by Florence L Barclay's deeply romantic novel of the same name in which the song plays a central part.
Barclay's book was published in 1909 and immediately became a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic; by 1924 it had sold a million copies.
The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me.
I count them over every one apart,
Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung.
I tell each bead unto the end - and there
A cross is hung.
Oh memories that bless - and burn!
Oh, barren gain - and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross,
To kiss the cross.
Fred Hampton's widow, Eleanor, chose his inscription. Her husband had been killed during the night of 3 July whilst part of a working party repairing the wire out in no-man's-land. Initially no one knew what had happened to him and Eleanor initiated a search by the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Bureau. One wonders how much of what the Red Cross found out was relayed to her. Witnesses describe how Fred Hampton was "struck by a shell which carried away the lower part of his face". The witnesses then disagree about whether "he lived only a few minutes" or was "taken to a dressing station where he died after about 30 minutes". The fact that he is buried in a battlefield cemetery not one associated with an aid post, Field Ambulance or Casualty Clearing Station, inclines me to think he only lived a few minutes.