LIEUTENANT GERALD GALT
25TH DECEMBER 1916 AGE 29
BURIED: HYDE PARK CORNER (ROYAL BERKS) CEMETERY, HAINAUT, BELGIUM
There was no Christmas Truce in 1916, at least definitely not in the trenches near Ploegsteert Wood where Gerald Galt was killed by a shell on Christmas Day. The War Dairy gives a cursory narrative:
December 25: We bombarded enemy trenches at 8 pm no retaliation - Mr Galt was killed at about 9 pm just outside dugout 123 trench.
Galt, a mining engineer, had been working with the Braden Copper Company in Rancagua, Chile before returning to Canada to enlist. He joined the 3rd Tunnelling Company Canadian Engineers and arrived in France in September 1916, three months before he was killed.
Galt's Latin inscription was composed by Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) for his poem Clifton Chapel, a rather alarmingly militaristic poem that was very popular in its day. A father introduces his son to his old school chapel and tells him that of all the glittering prizes the future might bring there is none more pure than the one represented by the words on one of the brass plaques:
'Qui procul hinc,' the legend's writ, -
The frontier-grave is far away -
'Qui ante diem periit:
Sed miles, sed pro patria.'
Translated the words mean - who died in a far off land before his time but as a soldier and for his country. In other words, there is no nobler ambition for a young man than to be prepared to die for your country.
I always think it's interesting that Rudyard Kipling, whose own son John was killed in the war but had no grave, chose these same words for John's memorial in Burwash Church in Sussex. Kipling, who expressed so eloquently the pride and grief of a nation in the work he did for the War Graves Commission, used the words of another man for his son.