SECOND LIEUTENANT JAMES EKIN
YORK AND LANCASTER REGIMENT
1ST JULY 1916 AGE 19
BURIED: LONSDALE CEMETERY, AUTHUILLE, FRANCE
The idea that the dead are now happy, that they are better off where they are, and that in the case of the youthful dead, they will now be young forever, is a consistent theme in consolatory verse. This is exactly the idea behind 'Flower of Youth' a poem by Katherine Tynan (1861-1931) from which James Ekin's inscription is taken. However, Tynan takes it slightly further and like Mrs Schuyler van Rensselaer's poem, 'It Is Well With the Child?', she implies that God positively wants the companionship of these young men.
Lest Heaven be thronged with grey-beards hoary,
God, who made boys for His delight,
Stoops in a day of grief and glory
And calls them in, in from the night.
When they come trooping from the war
Our skies have many a new gold star.
The inscription comes from verse four:
Now Heaven is by the young invaded;
Their laughter's in the House of God.
Stainless and simple as He made it
God keeps the heart o' the boy unflawed.
The old wise Saints look on and smile,
They are so young and without guile.
But the real point of the poem is to reassure the bereaved:
Oh! if the sonless mothers, weeping,
And the widowed girls could look inside
The glory that hath them in keeping
Who went to the Great War, and died,
They would rise and put their mourning off,
And say: 'Thank God, he has enough!'
There was a huge crowd 'invading' heaven on the day James Ekin died: 19, 240 young British men alone. All killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme and among them James's elder brother Leslie who was twenty-two.
I looked up the Ekins in the 1911 census to see if there were any other children and was relieved to see that there were five of them. The youngest was only one, a boy Sidney, so he was totally safe from harm - except that he wasn't. He was killed in Tunisia on 21 January 1943 aged thirty-two whilst serving with the Second Battalion The London Irish Rifles.