1ST JULY 1916 AGE 39


"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
St John 11: 25-6

Cyril Shepard's inscription is taken from the opening words of the Church of England's Order For the Burial of the Dead and is a quote from St John's gospel. For the next-of-kin, comfort could be derived from the Christian promise of eternal life, and from the reference to the funeral service, which none of them had been able to attend - and which many must have feared had not been properly conducted.
Cyril Harry Shepard was Ernest Shepard's older brother. Ernest, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows, served with the Royal Artillery during the war, Cyril with the 9th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. In June 1916 both were on the Somme, Ernest's guns pounding the German's trenches, Cyril and his men waiting to attack on 1 July. Come the 1st July, Cyril and 160 men from the 8th and 9th Devonshires were killed almost immediately. Many of them were caught by a machine gun positioned exactly where Captain Martin had predicted one would be from the plasticine model he'd made of the area. He'd hoped the British bombardment would have put it out of action - it hadn't.
Later that same day the survivors buried their dead in the same forward trench from which they had launched their attack, marking the grave with the famous words:

The Devonshires held this trench
The Devonshires hold it still

Some days after the battle Ernest found his brother's grave, remarking in his diary that he was grateful to feel so near to Cyril. He returned several times, telling his wife, Florence, that "it's such a strange feeling, I feel as if the place were a kind of home, and I feel we're kind of greeting each other. I always dream of after the war when you and I can go there together and I expect Rosemary & Ethel [sister] will come too". So as not to lose the place, he marked up a trench map with the reference F17 a.9.6. putting a tiny cross on the precise spot. According to the information beside this map in the House of Illustration exhibition, 'EH Shepard: An Illustrator's War', Ernest returned to the grave for years after the war was over.