PRIVATE CHARLES W. ALDRIDGE
ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT
22ND AUGUST 1917 AGE 37
BURIED: TYNE COT CEMETERY, BELGIUM
So many hymns contain this line that it would be impossible to say with any certainty which one it came from. And does it matter since we all must know what it means: that death has freed us from the trials and tribulations of this mortal life and we are now safe 'home', for the Christian, in heaven.
Forced to choose, my front runner would be the Afternoon Hymn by Geoffrey Thring (1823-1894), mainly because it was the best known. Verse 2 reads:
Our life is but a fading dawn,
It's glorious noon how quickly past;
Lead us, O Christ, when all is gone,
Safe home at last.
When Earth's Labours Are O'er' is another contender. Although I think this is much less likely because it was not so widely known, I have quoted from it as it perfectly captures the wider meaning of the inscription. You can get this from the first two lines of the first verse and the last two lines of the final verse.
When earth's labours are o'er, and I rest on the shore
Of that land where no storms ever beat,
All my fears will be past; I'll be safe home at last,
Evermore with the Lord there to be.
In 1911 Charles Aldridge was a thirty-one-year-old married man with two children of three and nine months working as a domestic butler for the owners of Gay's House, Holyport, Berkshire. He served with the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment and was killed in action in the attack on Pond Farm when the battalion war diary for the 22nd/23rd August recorded two officers wounded and missing, 32 other ranks killed, 25 wounded and missing, and 54 missing. Aldridge was among the missing, his body not discovered until September 1919 when it was identified by his identity disc and paybook. His wife, Margaret, now of the General Store, Windsor Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, chose his inscription.