LANCE CORPORAL HORACE ALBERT MILLARD
LONDON RIFLE BRIGADE
17TH AUGUST 1917 AGE 24
BURIED: MENDINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY, PROVEN, BELGIUM
This inscription comes from the last verse of one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's most popular poems: 'Crossing the Bar'. The whole poem is an extended metaphor for coming to the end of one's life, 'sunset and evening star', and dying, 'crossing the bar': the bar of sand that builds up at the mouth of a harbour and which could be said to separate the water of the harbour from that of the open sea. It really is a lovely image: death is equated with that moment when the incoming tide, which has come 'from out the boundless deep', stills for a moment before it begins to ebb, 'turns again home', carrying with it the dead person to meet 'his Pilot', Christ.
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
In 1911, seventeen-year-old Horace Albert Millard was a Civil Service boy clerk working for the Post Office. From his army number it appears he enlisted aound November 1915. He served with the 1st/5th London Regiment, the London Rifle Brigade, part of the 56th London Division, and died of wounds on 17 August 1917. The previous day the 56th London Division had taken part in the opening attack of the Battle of Langemarck. This turned out to be a very costly failure, which generated a legend that the British plans had been betrayed by a deserter. But it's more likely that the failure was due to the exceptionally soggy, rain-sodden ground, the German artillery and the existence of several undetected machine-gun pill boxes.