READY WHEN CALLED
Private Middleton enlisted in October 1915; he answered the 'call to arms'. But I don't think that this is the 'call' his father was referring to when he chose his son's inscription. The call Archibald Middleton answered was God's. Christians are constantly warned that they should be prepared to meet their God, in other words that they should always live godly lives because they never know when they will be called to meet their maker - "ye know neither the day nor the hour". Middleton, a Presbyterian, was, according to his father, ready when God called him.
Middleton served with the 31st Battalion Australian Infantry. He had embarked from Australia in March 1916 and was killed six weeks before the war ended. According to a witness:
"He was of 31st Battalion, A.2. 5ft 4, medium and 30. Came from New South Wales. Beyond Bellecourt near the railway line on September 29th 1918 at 10. a.m. we were resting in shelters during the attack when Middleton was wounded by a shell. He was carried out by two prisoners of war. He was conscious when I last saw him."
Another witness reported, "He died at a field D/S about two miles back from Bellicourt". The Officer Commanding 20th Casualty Clearing Station confirmed, "Admitted 20th Casualty Clearing Station 30.9.18. Died 1.10.18. Wounds: - shell wounds chest and left leg".
A CAREER SO BRILLIANT
FOR THE CALL TO ARMS
LOVED BY ALL
Francis John Piggott was working in marine insurance before he joined up in February 1916. After several months training in both Australia and England, he arrived in France in November 1916 to serve with the 36th Battalion Australian Infantry. Australia's digitised records are phenomenal and one site, the Harrower Collection, documents every single aspect of Piggott's military career together with the bureaucracy surrounding his death.
Piggott was killed on the third day of the Battle of Messines. The Battalion War Diary records the action but doesn't mention his death:
10/6/17: At 3 a.m. threw out Advance Posts on Ulster Avenue and Ulster Drive to line "O" and Tilleui Farm ... At 5 p.m.received orders to storm La Potterie Farm System of trenches. Zero time 11 p.m. Organised 6 Officers and 200 men who carried the works killing 80 Boche and sending back 5 prisoners.
An enquiry by his mother to the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau elicited the information that:
Captain F.J. Piggott of C. Coy. of the 36th Battn was killed on the night of the 10th June just prior to the attack at La Potteril (sic) Farm. He and four others were killed instantly by a large shell which fell into the trench. His body was brought back to the Casualty Clearing Station and handed over for burial.
Other witnesses weren't quite so sure about the 'killed instantly'; one reported that he had been "badly wounded through the lung at Messines and died at the dressing station at Charing Cross".
BETTER A WOODEN CROSS
THAN BE ONE
WHO COULD HAVE GONE
AND DID NOT
Sapper Jeeves' wife chose his inscription. She took the words from a letter he had written from the front, which she quoted when she filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia:
"I would rather lie with a little wooden cross above my head, than be one of those who could have gone and did not."
The words inspired his brother-in-law, Clarence Herbert Cazaly, to write 'In Memoriam Sapper Frederick Jeeves'. The poem, published in the Lilydale Express on 25 October 1918, begins with the same sentiment:
"I would rather lie," he said,
"With wooden cross above my head,
Than be one who could have gone
And who did not." By the Somme
In a soldier's grave he lies,
Dust of France upon his eyes,
Robe of honour on his heart;
And in token of his part,
A wooden cross above his head,
Calm amid the Austral dead,
By the waters of the Somme,
On the road to Amiens.
Jeeves, a motor mechanic and garage proprietor from Croydon, Lilydale, Victoria, joined up on 1 February 1916 and embarked for Europe on 28 July that year. His inscription has to be seen against the background of Australian resistance to the introduction of conscription. He served with the 6th Field Company Australian Engineers and was killed on 1 August 1918, as reported in the War Diary:
No.4 Section, while building S.P. Shelters for 22nd Battalion in railway cutting at O.28.c.3.8. came in for a heavy "area shoot", Sapper F.W.Jeeves being killed and Sapper H.Q. Boutchard wounded.
Jeeve's platoon commander, Lieutenant Carleton, described him as, "Absolutely one of the very best".
THEN THE GODS PITIED HIM
AND TOOK HIM TO THEIR MIDST
Who dies in youth and vigour dies the best,
Struck thro' with wounds, all honest on the breast
Homer Iliad Bk viii, 1.371
No one knows but that death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man
Plato 'Apologia of Socrates sec. 29
Prout's inscription makes sense if you take the view that to die in youth is to die the best, if death may be the greatest of blessings. It follows on from yesterday's inscription, 'Whom the gods love dies young', and it informs that very popular verse of Laurence Binyon's, now regularly recited at Remembrance Day services:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Binyon probably meant the polar opposite from the way the verse is taken today - that tragically those who died in the war never had the opportunity to grow old. To Binyon, and to others, those who died young would be young forever unlike the survivors who would end up 'sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything' (As You Like It Act II. Sc. viii, Shakespeare).
Arthur Prout was 22 when he died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on the Somme. His mother, Mrs Jessie Prout, requested information from the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau, which told her:
"This man was admitted to a dressing station administered by this Field Ambulance on the Bray Corbie Road (map reference approximately Sheet. 62D.J.24.b.) suffering from Bullet wound skull - fracture, and died a few minutes after admission. He was buried by an Army Chaplain close by at a spot known as Cemetery Copse, which has since been made an English Cemetery.
[O.C. 2/3rd H.C. Field Amb. R.A.M.C. B.E.F.]
WHOM THE GODS LOVE
'Whom the gods love dies young' (Menander), 'He whom the gods love dies young (Hypsaeus), 'He whom the gods love dies young, while he has his strength and senses and wits (Plautus). Byron echoed the ancient authors when he wrote:
"Whom the gods love die young," was said of yore,
And many deaths do they escape by this:
The death of friends, and that which slays even more,
The death of friendship, love, youth, all that is,
Except mere breath.
Don Juan (Canto iv st. 12)
The same sentiment lay behind the passage in Horace Vachell's 'The Hill' when the Headmaster told the assembled school that one of their number had just been killed in the South African War:
"I would sooner see any of you struck down in the flower of youth than living on to lose, long before death comes, all that makes life worth living. Better death a thousand times, than gradual decay of mind and spirit; better death than faithlessness, indifference and uncleaness."
I'm not suggesting for a moment that these were Dr Joseph Pritchard's sentiments when he chose his son's inscription. The phrase had come to mean that the dead person was beloved of the gods rather than that it was better to be dead, beloved of the gods because he was beautiful, graceful, accomplished, happy ...
David Pritchard's life and death is excellently covered on Bradford Grammar School's memorial site. Pritchard served with the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, along with Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. He was killed by a high explosive shell on the same night as Sassoon's friend, David Thomas. Thomas, Pritchard and another officer, all killed on the same night, were buried the following night with Graves and Sassoon both present.
Many people wrote many complimentary things about young David Pritchard, all lending credence to the idea that he was beloved of the gods, but it was what his father wrote of his son that is the most touching: "David was just an ordinary boy. He was afraid of the dark. He disliked to get hurt ... you will see what an ordinary boy can do if he sets himself to do it, and what one ordinary boy can do any ordinary boy can do".
BUT IF YOU ONLY KNEW
THE WHOLE GREAT BRITISH ARMY
WAS MADE FROM STUFF LIKE YOU
Frank Cain's inscription comes from 'Barnabas' by George Willis a poet of almost complete obscurity who wrote one poem for which he is occasionally remembered. That poem, 'Any Soldier to His Son', was also the title of a very slim volume of verses - eighteen in total - published by George Allen and Unwin in 1919.
The poem 'Barnabas' has been exceptionally difficult to find so I am going to write it out in full, although I think this may just be an extract rather than the whole poem.
We march in fours to-day, mate, but tomorrow man by man,
For it's "Up the Line" to-night, mate, and dodge it if you can;
You may work it out in billets, with your synovitis knee,
But all you'll get tomorrow is a whacking great M.D.
It's a damned, infernal pity you should have to do your whack,
But better men than you are have trod the self-same track.
You ain't the only pebble on this beach: there's plenty here
Been out three winters, and you joined up this year.
You're a poor, faint-hearted soldier, but if you only knew,
The whole great British Army was made up from stuff like you.
It's a strange sentiment for an inscription, which Cain's father, Francis Cain a coal miner in Northshields, chose; his wife had died in 1913. What did he mean by it? George Willis, about whom I have discovered nothing, is credited with having been a front-line soldier himself. This is because it was felt he 'knew' how the front-line soldier felt. Whether Willis's experience of war was first-hand or not, he was certainly not someone who glamourised it. In one reviewer's opinion, Willis's poetry "will do more than any measured argument or fiery denunciation to aid in the preservation of peace". The final verse of 'Any Soldier to His Son' shows just exactly how little he glamourised war:
You'd like to be a soldier and go to France some day?
By all the dead in Delville Wood, by all the nights I lay
Between our lines and Fritz's before they brought me in;
By this old wood-and-leather stump, that once was flesh and skin;
By all the lads who crossed with me but never crossed again,
By all the prayers their mothers and their sweethearts prayed in vain,
Before the things that were that day should ever more befall
May God in common pity destroy us one and all!
Frank Cain, came from Chirton, Northshields, Tyne and Wear. Before the war he worked in a coal mine, like all the men in his family. He served with the Drake Battalion, Royal Naval Division and died in a Casualty Clearing Station of wounds received during the Battle of the Ancre, the final stage of the Somme Campaign.
TRANQUIL YOU LIE ...
YOUR MEMORY HALLOWED
IN THE LAND YOU LOVED
Lt. Colonel Chester-Muster's inscription comes from the first verse of the once very popular and highly emotional Remembrance hymn O Valiant Hearts, written by Sir John Arkwright in 1917.
O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through clouds of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.
Chester-Muster was a professional soldier who had served in the South African War. In 1914 he was on the reserve list; he was also Chief Constable of Gloucestershire. He rejoined his regiment on the outbreak of war and went with it to France. He was shot by a sniper on 30 August 1917. His DSO and Bar bear testament to his qualities as a soldier and the Acting Chief Constable's tribute, distributed to all the police stations in Gloucestershire to notify them of his death, bear testament to his qualities as a man:
"In him the country has lost a brave and experienced soldier; the county of Gloucestershire has lost a valued and high-minded official; the Police Force has lost a head who had devoted the best energies of his life, since he became Chief Constable, to their official and private welfare; and a great many people have lost a friend whom they had learnt to honour and love. He has passed away in the midst of what promised to be a brilliant military career, leaving behind him a memory which will never bee forgotten of a "gallant gentleman" in the best and noblest sense of the word."
Richard Chester-Master's wife, Geraldine, chose his inscription. Born Geraldine Mary Rose Arkwright, she was the sister of Sir John Arkwright, the author of 'O Valiant hearts'.
IN LOVING MEMORY
OF OUR ONLY CHILD
"At 4 am on the 1st September orders were received to change direction left and advance on Wulverghem ... The advance encountered no serious opposition until the Kemmel-Neuve Eglise road was reached at 9 am. Here the right of the battalion was held up by heavy machine gun and trench mortar fire from the Neuve Eglise Ridge. Our trench mortars were brought to bear on the German machine guns and silenced those nearest the battalion. At 10.30 a forward movement was made, but B Company lost all its officers, killed or wounded, the right platoon of C Company lost 2nd Lieutenant Williamson killed and most of his men either killed or wounded."
The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment 1902-1922
7th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment War Diaries
Sept 1/2 1918 W of Wulverghem
Casualties incurred during an attack by the Batt: -
Killed - 2 Officers and 15 OR
Wounded - 3 Officers and 55 OR and 5 OR missing
Letter from Williamson's Commanding Officer to his parents:
"There is no doubt at all that he was the best officer in the company, and he was very popular with everyone. His men would have followed him anywhere ... Whenever there was a difficulty, or an awkward job had to be tackled with judgment or tact, I always knew that I could rely on him to take it in hand and see it through properly."
Born, brought up and educated in Ireland where the family were Roman Catholic, Williamson went to RMC Sandhurst in May 1917, was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Regiment in April 1918, served with them in France and Flanders from June 1918 and was killed in action at Wulverghem that September. As the inscription says, he was his parents' only child.
SUCH A DEATH
AS THESE HAVE WON
GIVES THE TRUE MEASURE
OF THEIR WORTH
YORKSHIRE POST AND LEEDS INTELLIGENCER
Friday 7 July 1916
Sec-Lieut. Robert Brian Holmes, King's Royal Rifle Corps, who died of wounds on July 1, was the sixth and youngest son of the late Alfred Holmes and Mrs Holmes, of Udimore, Sussex, and Ashfield, Bingley. Educated at Oatlands, Harrogate, and at Haileybury, he was a partner in the firm of J.R.Holmes & Sons, Bingley, and at the commencement of the war enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion. He was granted a commission in the King's Royal Rifle Corps, and was sent to France in October 1915. He was wounded last spring by the accidental explosion of a bomb, but very shortly rejoined his regiment.
Despite the influence of the Classics in British education, especially in the public schools - Holmes was educated at Haileybury - classical authors do not provide many inscriptions. Except of course for Horace whose Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori always remained popular even after the savaging Wilfred Owen gave it in his poem of the same name. In fact, this is the inscription on Hume Sanders Wingard's headstone, just five graves down from Holmes'.
Kate Holmes, Robert's mother, chose his inscription. It comes from Pericles Funeral Oration taken from Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War:
"And of how few Hellenes can it be said of them, that their deeds when weighed in the balance have been found equal to their fame! Methinks that such a death as theirs has been gives the true measure of a man's worth."
J.R.Holmes & Sons, the firm in which Holmes had been a partner, were brewers, taken over by Hammonds in 1919. Was his death a material factor here? They were a prosperous family. The 1911 census shows there were seven people in the household: four members of the family, a cook, a parlour maid and a house maid in a house with eighteen rooms.
This is a very neat epitaph since the name David is thought to derive from the Hebrew word 'dwd', which means beloved. David Sullivan's mother, Evelyn, chose it, perhaps fully aware of its meaning when she first decided on the name at his birth - never thinking it would make a suitable inscription for his grave.
Fourteen-year-old Sullivan, the son of a glass embosser, gave his trade as 'messenger' in the 1911 census. He served with "B" Battery, 173rd Brigade Royal Field Artillery, part of the 36th Division. The Division took part in the attack on Langemark on 16 August 1917; Sullivan was killed that day.
WE LOVED HIM
Such a simple inscription - 'We loved him'. And who were those who loved him? As one of the seven surviving children of Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Halliwell, he was loved by his parents and brothers and sisters Jane, George, Henry, Margaret, John and Charles Halliwell.
The Halliwells lived in Wigan, Lancashire where in 1911 Thomas Halliwell senior and his three oldest sons all worked underground in a coal mine. Thomas senior was a hewer and George, Thomas junior and Henry were all trammers. Trammers were the men who pushed the 'trams', wheeled carts carrying the coal, along the rails away from the coal face to the surface. It was hard, exhausting work. In 1911 George, Thomas junior and Henry were 14, 13 and 11.
Halliwell served with "D" Battary, 87th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and was killed in action on 24 April 1918 at Kemmel during the Battle of the Lys. It seems to have been rather a long time before his parents were informed.
27 July 1918
A NEWTOWN DATALLER KILLED
The parents of Dvr. Thomas Halliwell, of the Royal Field Artillery, whose home is at 11, Stanley Street, Newtown, have been notified that he has been killed in action. Dvr. Halliwell, who was 20 years old and single, enlisted in March last year. He was last employed as a dataller at the Garswood Hall Collieries.
THE LAST ENEMY
TO BE DESTROYED
26 October 1917
Essex Roll of Honour
Cpl. A.S. Bennell R.F.A. son of Mr and Mrs Bennell 41 Queen Street, Colchester, was killed in action aged 21. Before the war he was employed by Messrs. E. Scott and Son, grocers. Three other brothers are still serving.
Corporal Bennell's father, John, chose his inscription. It comes from I Corinthians 15:26 in the English Revised Version of the New Testament, first published in 1881. The passage declares that Christ's death and resurrection have destroyed death so that when we die we will have overcome our last enemy and are assured of everlasting life.
Bennell's inscription is yet more evidence of comfort families received from their belief in an afterlife. To some it was just the thought that they would all meet again whereas to others it was the full Christian belief in the resurrection and the life of the world to come.
'Ireland', this one word summarises a world of conflicting patriotism, loyalty, heartbreak and pain.
Vincent Arnold was born in Clonmult, a tiny community close to Ballydonagh More in Co. Cork. His family were Roman Catholics and Vincent was the youngest of his parents' seven children. Aged 20 in 1911 he was working as an ironmonger's assistant in Youghal, just 13 miles from where he was born; aged 23 in 1915 he was serving in the British army.
Ireland was in turmoil. The question of Home Rule had divided the country and not just north versus south and Catholics versus Protestants. Just a month after the outbreak of war, John Redmond, the Irish Nationalist politician, pledged his support for the Allied cause and urged members of the Irish Volunteers to join the British army, claiming that, "The interests of Ireland - of the whole of Ireland - are at stake in this war". Many Irishmen did enlist, motivated by a sense of adventure, love of Ireland, loyalty to Britain or poverty. Many others saw England's difficulty as Ireland's opportunity and pressed on for independence.
Arnold served in the 7th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and died of wounds in Salonika on 22 March 1917. When the war ended and the time came for his family to chose an inscription the turmoil in Ireland had worsened. In January 1919 Sinn Fein formed a breakaway government, Dial Eirann, and declared independence from Britain. In September 1919 the British Government outlawed Sinn Fein and the Dial and then in November 1920, following a period of escalating attacks, ambushes and reprisals, it declared martial law.
Dublin, Belfast and Co. Cork were at the centre of the violence. In December 1920 the centre of Cork City, just 30 miles from Clonmult, was burnt out by British forces and in February 1921 one of the worst atrocities took place in Clonmult itself. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in May 1921, which partitioned Ireland, the two sides agreed on a truce. However, this was not the end of the violence as fighting broke out between the republicans who opposed and those who supported the Treaty.
Who loved Ireland more, those who wanted to maintain the union with Britain, those who were happy to support the partitioning of Ireland or those who were determined to achieve full independence? And where did the family of a soldier who had died in the service of the British crown stand? The use of the single, enigmatic word 'Ireland' on Vincent Arnold's headstone gives no clues.
I SHALL SEE MY PILOT
FACE TO FACE
WHEN I HAVE CROST THE BAR
War Diary 3rd Canadian Divisional Signal Company
15 June 1917
Working party of 50 for buried cable work. All other work progressing favourably. Lt Uglow seriously wounded by sniper while looking over new points for extension of buried cable system.
16 June 1917
Only small working party for cable burying. Work commenced on installing new Signal office at Adv Div HQrs. Other work of air line construction and tunnel work progressing. Lt.Uglow died of wounds at No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station.
17 June 1917
Lt Uglow buried at Noeux Le Mins. All other work in hand being carried on satisfactorily.
Uglow's mother, Charlotte, chose his inscription. It comes from Tennyson's much-loved poem, Crossing the Bar, except that Tennyson wrote "I hope to see my Pilot face to face when I have crost the bar", whereas Uglow's mother wrote , "I shall see my Pilot face to face when I have crost the bar".
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
AS I HAVE LOVED YOU
"Corporal Richard Jackson, who was killed in action last month, served with the Inniskilling Fusiliers. He leaves a wife and seven children who reside at Derrylileagh, Portadown."
Portadown News 21 April 1917
His wife, chose his inscription. It comes from the New Testament, St John 13:34-5:
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
These are the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples after the Last Supper, knowing that it was his last night on earth. Were these Richard Jackson's instructions to his wife as he left for war, or was this Mrs Jackson's plea to the world in the wake of the war?
Jackson, a farmer, was a member of the Derrylileagh Orange Lodge, which would make him a fierce Protestant, a fierce Unionist and a fierce supporter of the British Crown.
IT IS BETTER TO DIE
FOR OTHERS, DEAR LAD
THAN TO LIVE
FOR ONESELF ALONE
Robert Buckingham was killed in the 47th London Division's capture of Rancourt on 1 September 1918. According to the Divisional History, the 15th Battalion London Regiment (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles), part of 140th Brigade, successfully took the west edge of St Pierre Vaast Wood "with many prisoners, and a motor ambulance complete with driver and two doctors". The troops were facing a newly-arrived German division but apparently "its quality was not remarkably good, however, and the morale of prisoners taken in large numbers later on fell distinctly low".
Private Buckingham's sister, Alice, signed for his inscription. Nine years older than him, she was an elementary school teacher in Croydon. Can I hear a sisterly attempt to encourage a dubious soldier of his duty, or am I imagining things?
PEACE HATH HIGHER TESTS
THAN BATTLE EVER KNEW
Private Izzatt's widow, Margaret, chose his inscription. It's a relatively well-known quotation from a virtually unknown poem, The Hero, by a now almost forgotten American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. (1807-1892). The poem celebrates the actions of another American, Samuel Gridley Howe, who, inspired by Byron, went to fight for Greece in its War of Independence. Whittier's claim is that you don't need to lament the passing of the age of chivalry because wherever freedom is in danger the Bayards and the Sidneys, the knights 'without reproach or fear' can still be found. However, to Whittier, a fervent abolitionist, you didn't need to take up arms in a military manner in order to fight for freedom.
But dream not helm and harness
The sign of valour true;
Peace hath higher tests of manhood
Than battle ever knew.
Izzatt served with the 1st Battalion Black Watch and was killed within three months of the outbreak of war. This suggests to me that he was a regular soldier, his army number, 5857, indicating that he joined up in 1894. He would have been 18. Before that the 1891 census shows that at the age of 15 he was a miner.
The Black Watch crossed to France on 14 August 1914 and had been in action ever since, taking part in the fighting retreat and the race to the sea. Izzatt was killed at Gheluvelt. His body was not recovered until April 1921 when he was identified by his kilt and his spoon. Given the number of times a spoon is recorded as the means of identification, I am assuming that many were marked with the serviceman's initials and number.
Izzatt is buried in Bedford House Cemetery, a concentration cemetery where there are only 2,194 identified graves out of 5,139 burials.
[Mr W.H. Davison, Mayor of Kensington, writes: - "I have just received the enclosed poem, written at the front by a brother officer in memory of Captain Allan MacDougall, of the Royal Fusiliers, who was recently killed in action. He had just written the message in his pocket-book: - 'O.C. - - Royal Fusiliers - Relief complete,' but was killed before he was able to sign the memorandum. Captain MacDougall was born in North Uist, in the Hebrides. From there he went to New Zealand, whence he came to New College, Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar, obtaining a First in History. He was gazetted as a subaltern in the - Royal Fusiliers in October 1914."] (N.B. censorship meant that The Times couldn't print the number of the battalion, which was the 22nd.)
Not where in grey surges of unnumbered miles
Rises the Coronach of the Hebrides;
Nor far away where molten sunlight smiles
On Southern Seas;
Not from the cloistered strife of Academe,
Spent with its subtle warfare, bowed with years
Of honoured labour, did'st thou pass supreme
Amongst thy peers:
But in the blasting hurricane of the Fray,
Deaf to its roar, unheeding of its toll,
Humbly before the Altar did'st thou lay
Thy splendid Soul.
So thou art gone, but who that lives can mourn
The promise of thy manhood, who by fire
Tried and accepted, did'st endure to scorn
The world's desire?
Rather we pray that we who hold the fort
May with an equal courage pace our beat,
Till, unashamed, we can at last report
August 3, 1916 P.H.Y.
The above was printed in The Times on 18 August 1916, ten days later the newspaper printed another tribute, from "an Oxford correspondent" who wrote that, having taken a First in English (not history), MacDougall,
"was appointed successively Assistant Lecturer in English at University College, Nottingham, Assistant Lecturer at the University of Belfast, and Lecturer at Bedford College, London. On the outbreak of war he enlisted, soon received a commission in the Royal Fusiliers, and became a first-rate officer. His high spirits and sense of humour and his union of courage and resource made him a leader of men. He was a faithful friend and a most loveable character."
WE ASKED LIFE OF THEE
AND THOU HAS GIVEN HIM LIFE
Robert Rhodes' family prayed that he would survive - that he would live. God heard their prayers and gave Rhodes eternal life. I've come across this inscription before in the war cemeteries but each time I see it I get the feeling that, for the family, this was the wrong answer.
Rhodes was a nineteen-year-old bicycle enameller from Newcastle-under-Lyme when he joined the army in 1915. He served with the 12th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, which took part in the opening of the Passchendaele Offensive on 31 July 1917, and in the Battle of Langemarck on 16 August. After which the regimental history records that:
"the wet weather and the arrangement of new tactics to suit the new elastic defence of the Germans imposed a long interval in the operations; and although minor assaults were delivered here and there, no further concerted movement took place in this area until September 20th".
Rhodes was killed during this period. His brother, Albert, who was 18 years older than him, chose his inscription.
WHO THROUGH AGE
COULD HAVE RETURNED
BUT CHOSE TO STAY
William Henry Brunsdon enlisted on 30 January 1915. He was just 17. To serve in the British army you had to be 18, and to serve abroad, 19. However, until the introduction of conscription in January 1916 you did not have to prove your age you just had to state it. If you looked 19 the army believed you. If you were 19 and didn't look it they probably didn't believe you. The army wanted men not boys. You needed to be able to carry your pack, which weighed at least 25 kg, rising to 41 kg as the war went on, and march long distances carrying it. This was the reason for the age qualification, not for any child protection reasons. This is why the navy accepted boys at 16 - you didn't need to be able to march carrying a pack. Brunsdon's medal card indicates that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having gone to France in December 1915, still only 17.
In the autumn of 1916, after the introduction of conscription and the death of many underage soldiers in the Somme campaign, the army agreed to remove them from the front line - if they wanted to go. Brunsdon obviously didn't. He was killed in action near Ypres on 23 July 1917.
EVER IN OUR THOUGHTS
PERCY, HERBERT, ARTHUR
CISS & AMY
I picked this inscription to show the wider community of mourning that can be associated with a single war death. I thought it would be easy to show who Percy, Herbert, Arthur, Ciss and Amy were, but it turned out to be very difficult. The War Graves Commission only had Hughes' initials, AC, which always makes life difficult, but eventually he turned up in the 1911 census as Charles Hughes, living with his children - Percy, Herbert, Arthur, Lydia (Ciss?) and Amy - as well as with Alice Hughes, his wife of nineteen years.
Hughes attested in September 1915. When asked for the name of his next-of-kin he gave it as Alice M Wilson, describing the relationship as "Friend (as wife)". They had obviously never married. Alice's name is not listed on the headstone. Was she dead? The uncertainty of her legal name makes her very difficult to trace.
THERE'S A COTTAGE HOME
WHERE HIS MOTHER SITS AND WEEPS
There's a lonely grave in Flanders
Where a brave young hero sleeps;
There's a cottage home in England
Where a mother sits and weeps.
"He nobly answered duty's call,
He gave his life for one and all."
Mrs Elizabeth Redmond chose her son's inscription, quoting from a popular piece of verse that appeared quite often in the In Memoriam columns of newspapers. However, Mr and Mrs Redmond did not have "A cottage home in England", they lived in a three-roomed dwelling in Corporation St, West Ham with six of their nine children who were aged from 26 to 12. This was in 1911 when seventeen-year-old Peter Redmond was working as a shop porter.
Redmond served with the 21st Battalion London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles) and died at a Field Ambulance Station on 3 May 1917 during the Second Battle of Ypres.
A NOBLE TYPE OF
GOOD HEROIC WOMANHOOD
LEEDS NURSE KILLED BY THE HUNS
Victim of Bombardment in France
Miss Nellie Spindler, who, from 1912 to 1915, was a nurse at the Leeds Township Infirmary, was killed in France on August 21st by a German shell during the bombardment on a stationary hospital where she was engaged.
She was 26 years of age, and was a daughter of the Chief Inspector of Police at Stanley Road, Wakefield. In November 1915, she left Leeds to take up duties as nurse at a military hospital in Staffordshire, where she remained until last June, when she proceeded to France.
[Leeds Mercury Tuesday 28 August 1917]
The Leeds Mercury published further particulars of Nurse Spindler's death in the following day's paper under the headline - THE MURDERED NURSE.
A letter has been received from Miss M. Wood, sister-in-charge of the hospital who states:-
"Your daughter became unconscious immediately she was hit, and she passed away perfectly peacefully at 11.30 a.m. - just 20 minutes afterwards. I was with her at the time; but after the first minute of two she did not know me. It was a great mercy she was oblivious to her surroundings, for the shells continued to fall in for the rest of the day."
The Germans had been systematically shelling the area round the Casualty Clearing Stations at Brandhoek, convincing the British that they were intentionally targeting them and forcing their temporary closure.
Nellie Spindler's mother chose her inscription, which comes from Santa Filomena, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's tribute to Florence Nightingale, which he wrote in 1857:
A lady with a lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
SLEEP BEAUT DARL
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
Serjeant Stares, "Beaut darl" to his mother who chose his inscription - beautiful darling perhaps? - served with the 25th Division Signal Company, Royal Engineers. Maintaining communications along the front and between Battalion and Divisional headquarters was a dangerous business whether you were a despatch rider or a signaller using flares, telegraphy or wireless. If contact was to be maintained, wires had to be re-connected, messages sent or carried regardless of the military situation.
Albert James Stares, an insurance clerk in civilian life - a job he had been doing since 1911 when he was 15 - enlisted on 12 October 1914 at the age of 18. By the time he was killed in action on 9 September 1917, the day the 25th Division was withdrawn from the Ypres front, he had become a serjeant.
Mr and Mrs Stares had two sons: Albert James and Frederick Clarence. Frederick survived the war but his son, Frederick Lewis Stares, was killed in action on D-Day, 6 June 1944. His parents chose a similarly affectionate tribute, making use of their diminutive for him as had been done for his uncle killed 27 years earlier:
Sleep on Freddy
The dawn will break.
THANK GOD: WE KNOW
THAT HE "BATTED WELL"
IN THE LAST
GREAT GAME OF ALL
This inscription, with its sporting analogies, comes from the last lines of 'The Fool', a poem by the Anglo-Canadian author Robert William Service. The fool of the poem is a young boy, Dick, who insists on giving up his schooling in order to join the army. The poet's voice is that of a parent:
"Rubbish!" I cried; "the bugle's call
Isn't for lads from school."
D'ye think he'd listen? Oh, not at all:
So I called him a fool, a fool.
Dick, of course is killed:
Dick with his rapture of song and sun,
Dick of the yellow hair,
Dicky whose life had just begun,
Carrion-cold out there,
The parent realises his huge mistake:
And I called him a fool ... oh how blind was I!
And the cup of my grief's abrim.
Will glory of England ever die
So long as we've lads like him?
Before concluding with the only comfort he can find:
Thank God! we know that he "Batted well"
In the last great Game of all.
Richard Douglas Miles, born in Jamaica where his father was the Collector General, was educated at Bedford Grammar School and destined for the army but decided to go to Canada instead where he first worked on a farm before joining a bank. Soon after the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Alberta Regiment and went to Europe with the Second Canadian Contingent. He rose rapidly through the ranks to become Company Sergeant Major before being commissioned into the Royal Irish Fusiliers early in 1916.
On 16 August 1917 the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers attacked on the opening day of the Battle of Langemarck. According to Nick Metcalfe in 'Blacker's Boys', the action virtually destroyed the battalion, which was amalgamated with the 2nd Irish Horse the following month. Miles was wounded and died at the Casualty Clearing Station in Brandhoek early the next day.
MALCOLM & MARION GIFFORD
OF HUDSON, NEW YORK, USA
There's a very strange story behind this most inoffensive of inscriptions. Just look at this report from the front page of a New York newspaper on 18 April 1914:
RICH BOY HELD AS MURDERER
Malcolm Gifford Jr. seventeen-year-old son of a wealthy manufacturer of Hudson is under arrest here charged with being the 'slayer of mystery' in the tragic murder of Frank J. Chute, chauffeur, April 1, a year ago.
The circumstantial evidence was extremely damning, but, despite the fact that Gifford was tried twice, neither jury could agree on a verdict. There was, however, a lingering suspicion that the fact that Gifford's parents were extremely wealthy might have had something to do with the outcome.
After the second trial in 1915, Gifford went to College and it was from here, Williams College, that he enlisted in February 1917, just two months before the United States entered the war. After training, Gifford, who served as a gunner in the Canadian Field Artillery, arrived at the front in late September 1917. He was killed by a shell, along with another member of the gun crew, on 8 November 1917. The New York Times reported his death on its front page with the headline:
MALCOLM GIFFORD KILLED. Youth twice tried on murder charge dies in France.
Perhaps Gifford would never have escaped his past. But at least his parents didn't attempt to dissociate themselves from him, in fact far from it, they have put both their names and their address on his headstone.
"THE ELEMENTS BE KIND TO THEE
AND MAKE THY SPIRITS
ALL OF COMFORT"
Arnold Bloomer's inscription comes from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra: an appropriate source for someone who was educated at Shakespeare's own school - King Edward's Stratford-upon-Avon. They are the words Octavius speaks to his sister Octavia in Act 3 Sc. 2 as she leaves Rome with her new husband Antony:
Farewell, my dearest sister, fare thee well:
The elements be kind to thee, and make
Thy spirits all of comfort! fare thee well.
Bloomer died on 3 August 1917, the Birmingham Daily Post reported his death under the headline: Casualties Among Midland Officers.
Lieutenant Arnold Grayson Bloomer of the Lincolns, who received a mortal wound on 31 July, was the second son of Mr. and Mrs. G.F. Bloomer of Stratford-on-Avon, and grandson of the late Mr. George Yates, surgeon, of Birmingham. He was educated at King Edward VI's School, Stratford-on-Avon, and on the outbreak of war he joined a Birmingham City Battalion. After training he was given a commission and went to France, where he remained for about eighteen months. He came home on sick leave, under-went a serious operation, and returned to France in May last. He was 31 years of age.
Bloomer received his 'mortal wound' on the opening day of the Passchendaele Campaign, 31 July 1917. He died at a Casualty Clearing Station at Brandhoek, three days later after receiving all possible care and attention as his parents were assured by both a sister and a chaplain of 32 Casualty Clearing Station, Brandhoek, .
LOVED WITH SUCH LOVE
AND WITH SUCH SORROW MOURNED
Gunner Leslie Jones was his parents only son. He had three sisters but no brothers. His father, Edward Jones, was a caterer and he was his father's caterers manager. The report of his death in the Essex Newsman, on 22 September 1917, records that he "had been for nine years the representative in Southend of his father, the lessee of the Pier Refreshment Rooms, and proprietor of the White House, High Street"
Jones enlisted on 30 June 1915 and served with 2/B Battery Honourable Artillery Company, going with them to the front on 20 June 1917. The Battery took part in the opening battles of Third Ypres. Jones was killed on 3 September and buried in a small cemetery near St Jan.
His inscription, chosen by his mother, comes from The Wanderer, a long poem by William Wordsworth:
Oh blest are they who live and die like these,
Loved with such love, and with such sorrow mourned.
Wordsworth's 'blessed' are those who live and die in the heart of their community, surrounded by their family and friends who love them, bury them, and mourn them.
MOTHER'S DARLING BRAVE BOY
LOVED BY ALL
Charles Owen was the fourth of his mother's five children. Born and brought up in Hull, where his father was a brewer's engineer, he joined up in Hull and served originally with the East Yorkshire Regiment. He transferred to the 5th Battalion Border Regiment and was killed in action near Loker, 11 km south of Ypres, on 27 August 1916. This is the date the War Graves Commission gives for his death but other reports say he was killed on the 26th.
Charles' elder brother, Walter William Owen, enlisted in August 1914 on the outbreak of war and was killed in action in France on 12 April 1917 aged 23. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing.
After the war, the boys' mother, Clara Selina Owen, went to live in Lewisham in South London. It's possible that her husband went with her but there is no evidence either way. It was Clara who chose the inscription for her "darling brave boy".
OF BRIDGE OF DEE
TO MEMORY DEAR
"Wee Joe" was not just his parents' fond diminutive but a physical description since Joe Connelly, a flat race jockey, was small. Born and brought up in the tiny community of Bridge of Dee, part of the parish of Balmghie, Castle Douglas, Kirkudbrightshire, where his father was a horse dealer, by 1918 Joe was working for a racing stable near Aston Tirrold on the Berkshire Downs. From here he joined up in March 1918 and was serving with the 2nd/4th The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment when he died of wounds in a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Esquelbecq.
The 2/4th Queen's War Dairy throws no light on Joe Connelly's fate. The Battalion spent the 11th, 12th and 13th September in the line without incident. The weather was continuously wet but the enemy was generally quiet, "confining his activities to M.G. fire, occasional bursts of artillery fire, sniping and very little use of trench mortars".
Nevertheless the casualty summary for September 1918 records that two officers and 14 other ranks were killed and one other rank died of wounds - presumably this was "Wee Joe".
MAN AM I GROWN
A MAN'S WORK MUST I DO
ELSE WHEREFORE BORN
Is there a personal story behind this inscription? We shall never know but the context suggests that there might be. The inscription comes from Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King'. Gareth, the youngest of his parents' sons, wants to go and join his brothers as a knight at Arthur's Round Table. But his mother wants to keep him safe and refuses to let him go, telling him, "Stay my best son! ye are yet more boy than man', and trying to persuade him that he can train for manhood by following the deer, in other words by hunting in the forest. Gareth replies:
... O mother,
How can ye keep me tether'd to you? Shame.
Man am I grown, a man's work must I do.
Follow the deer? follow the Christ, the King,
Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King -
Else, wherefore born?
Clarence Fowle was 18 when he was killed, technically too young to be at the front unless he had his parents' signed permission. Do we think he persuaded an unwilling mother to let him go? We shall ever know. It was his mother who chose his inscription.
Fowle, serving with the 1st Regiment South African Infantry, was killed in the attack on Frezenberg Ridge on the opening day of the Battle of Menin Road. Of the 20 September 1917, John Buchan's 'History of South African Forces in the Great War' said, "That day's battle cracked the kernel of the German defence in the Salient. It showed only a limited advance ... but every inch of the ground was vital". However, in Buchan's opinion:
"Few struggles in the campaign were more desperate or carried out in a more gruesome battlefield. The mass of quagmires, splintered woods, ruined husks of pill-boxes, water-filled shell holes, and foul creeks which made up the land on both sides of the Menin road was a sight which, to the recollection of most men, must seem like a fevered nightmare. ... the elements seemed to have blended with each other to make it a limbo outside mortal experience and almost beyond human imagining."
SO YOUNG, SO FAR FROM HOME
On 6 November 1917 the 14th Battalion Canadian Infantry was in reserve at Wieltje. That morning the CO's report recorded: "at about 5 a.m. the enemy opened an intense bombardment on CAMP "A" and surroundings and inflicted heavy casualties upon us. The balance of the day was uneventful."
Sergeant Card, one of the casualties, was buried in the nearby Oxford Road cemetery so called after the road that ran behind the support trench from Wieltje to the Potijze-Zonnebeke road. Card
Card came from Elora, a small community in Ontario. He was indeed "so far from home"; 6,000 km to be exact. He was, however, only 81 km from his older brother, Daniel Oscar Card, who is buried in Neuville-St. Vaast, France having been killed in action in the storming of Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917.
WHO DIES IF ENGLAND LIVES
WHO LIVES IF ENGLAND DIES
"At 11 a.m. nothing less than a tragedy to the Battalion occurred. The Commanding Officer, Major H.F.F. Murray, temporarily in command owing to Lieutenant-Colonel Innes having been ordered not to take part in the attack, on account of the necessity for keeping at least one senior officer to replace a possible casualty, had made his headquarters in a captured German concrete dug-out. Unfortunately the entrance faced the enemy, and a shell entered it, killing 12 of the Battalion Headquarters staff and wounding nine others, among the former being Major Murray ... "
A History of the Black Watch in the Great War 1914-1918 Volume III
Major Murray's fate was the result of previous success, the German dug-out had been captured by the British but its entrance now faced the wrong way making it vulnerable to its previous owners' shells.
Henry Murray, a professional soldier who had fought in the South African War, was the son of a soldier. He married Madeline Elizabeth Giles in January 1915 and it was she who chose his inscription. The line "who dies if England live(s)" comes from the last verse of the poem Rudyard Kipling wrote in September 1914 in response to the outbreak of war, For All We Have and Are. However, Kipling didn't write the other line of the inscription, 'Who lives if England dies'. Kipling's associated line was, 'What stands if Freedom fall'. This is the last verse:
No easy hope or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sacrifice
Of body, will, and soul.
There is but one task for all -
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?
Murray's inscription as written forms the text on the final frame of an official film made in 1916 showing preparations for an attack on the Somme, 'Sons of Empire' Episode 4. This is what will have given the saying prominence. That and a deeply romantic painting by Charles Spencelayh, painted in 1914, which shows a dying soldier on a virtually empty battlefield with the rays of the setting sun lighting up a phantom Union Jack in the sky. It's called 'Who dies if England live'.
Before I finish let me just show you that the sentiments of Murray's inscription and Kipling's verse were common to both sides. In 1914 the German poet Heinrich Lersch published own poetic response to the outbreak of war - 'Soldaten Abschied', the Soldier's Farewell. Each of the five verses ends with the same words - "Deutschland muss leben, und wenn wir sterben mussen", Germany must live even if we must die.
I HAVE ONLY DONE MY DUTY
AS A MAN IS BOUND TO DO
"Gibbie", Private John Gilbert Gill, served with the 4th London Divisional Field Ambulance and was killed in action on 8 August 1917. His father signed for his inscription, quoting his son's own words; words that will have summarised what motivated hundreds and thousands of other young men - their duty.
Gill had been a clerk in a felt factory before the war. He volunteered in March 1915, which meant that he volunteered to do his duty rather than that he was conscripted to do it. Some RAMC men were conscientious objectors who accepted non-combatant work in the RAMC but this would seem to be unlikely in Gill's case. And even if this was the case, service with the RAMC did not keep you out of danger.
EVERY NOBLE LIFE
LEAVES ITS FIBRE INTERWOVEN
IN THE WORK OF THE WORLD
Thomas Mountford's inscription is a slightly altered version of some famous lines from John Ruskin's 'Proserpina'. Ruskin claimes that the impact of a 'real' human life on the world is not at all slight or insubstantial:
"That life, when it is real, is not evanescent; is not slight; does not vanish away. Every noble life leaves the fibre of it interwoven for ever in the work of the world; by so much, evermore, the strength of the human race has gained; more stubborn in the root, higher towards heaven in the branch; and, "as a teil tree, as an oak, - whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves, - so the holy seed is in the midst thereof".
Mountford, the son of a hewer in a coal miner, was a trainee teacher in the 1911 census. He served with C Battery 232nd Army Field Brigade Royal Artillery and died of wounds on 31 July 1917, the opening day of the Third Ypres Campaign. His mother chose his inscription, asserting that her son's life had made a positive contribution to the 'work of the world'.
M.SC., F.I.C., F.C.S.
This inscription is concerned with identity and status. Herbert King was just one of the over 12,000 lieutenants who died serving in the armies of the British Empire during the First World War - of whom 91 were Lieutenant Kings. But this Lieutenant King had a masters degree in Science and was a Fellow of both the Royal Institute of Chemistry (F.I.C.) and the Chemical Society (F.C.S.). This is how his brother-in-law, his sister's husband, chose to identify him on his headstone. It's formal, correct and proud - this isn't just anyone lying here.
King was also 41 and since his medal card shows that he was not eligible for the 1914-15 Star he can't have joined up until 1916, probably as the result of the introduction in January 1916 of conscription for men between the ages of 18 and 41. The son of a tailor in Scarborough, King was teaching science in Leeds when the war broke out. He served with the Royal Army Ordnance Department, responsible for the supply and repair of military equipment, and died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station at Brandhoek on 6 October 1917.
HE DID HIS BIT
If you think this sounds a rather begrudging epitaph then you wouldn't be the only one. But as it happens, it's a near quote from the poem that begins Ian Hay's best-selling novel, 'The First Hundred Thousand', which was published in 1915 and by early 1917 had sold 30,000 copies. It purports to tell the tale of a group of men who were among the first hundred thousand to answer the call to arms in August 1914 and how they became soldiers in Kitchener's New Army.
The book, like the poem, is written with typical British self-deprecation and understatement but a sense of pride in the task being undertaken is never far from the surface. In the poem, the men resist any heroic claims, yes they've given up their jobs but no they haven't done it for glory rather just "To have a slap at Kaiser Bill". And now they're off to war and they know that some of them will not come back:
But all we ask, if that befall,
Is this. Within your hearts be writ
This single-line memorial: -
He did his duty - and his bit!
Robert Thompson did his bit. Originally Private Thompson 25296 of the East Yorkshire Regiment, he was serving with the 22nd Company Labour Corps when he died from the effects of gas in a Casualty Clearing Station at Dozinghem on 9 September 1917. His transfer from the East Yorkshire Regiment to the Labour Corps suggests that he had been been wounded and was no longer deemed fit for front line service. Nevertheless, the work done by the Corps was still within the reach of the guns - and gas.
TENDER BUT FEARLESS
GENEROUS AND CHIVALROUS
Second Lieutenant Deane's father, Henry Deane, has attributed to his son some of the essential qualities of a perfect Christian knight. We know very little of Arthur Francis Deane's life but we know enough to know that these were qualities more noted by their absence than their presence in his father's life.
Henry Deane was not his real name, it was Henry Pockett, and in 1896 Henry Pockett was sentenced to six months imprisonment and fined £500 for "obtaining money by false pretences from persons who wanted to borrow money from him". In his defence, Pockett said that he "had only followed the practice of other money-lenders" and appealed for leniency. But the judge said that Pockett had shown no sign of leniency to his victims, "and the majority of the applicants were people of the poorer classes who could ill afford to part with it [their money]".
The whole story can be read in this excellent article on the Epsom and Ewell History Explorer.
At the time of his father's imprisonment Arthur Francis would have been 6. His mother died the following year, at which point the family appear to have changed their name from Pockett to Deane. In the 1911 census, Henry Deane stated that he had been married for nine years to Florence Elizabeth Pockett and to have had one child from the marriage. The records show that he didn't marry Florence until 1917.
In the summer of 1916, Arthur Francis Deane returned from Shanghai where he had been working for Messrs Butterfield and Swire. He attested in Whitehall on 20 September and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps on 27 January 1917. He was killed in action outside Ypres during the Battle of Langemarck on 16 August. The War Diary records that the attack took place at 4.45 am:
"Two guns with 1st Londons on left got well forward and covered the advance from J.8b.1.6. 2/Lt Deane was with these guns which did excellent work and found many targets on the opposite side of the valley at ranges from 600 yards to 1500 yards. One of the guns was destroyed by shell fire and the greater part of the team became casualties."
Deane's body was found at map reference J.7.b.81.09 on 30 April 1921 and identified by his 'damaged discs and clothing'.
THAN FALSE OF FAYTHE
The phrase would seem to date from the sixteenth century where it appeared on jewellery, presumably worn by people prepared to declare their willingness to die for their faith. In the nineteenth century, it became the motto of Sir Walter St John School Battersea, although it does not seem to have been the motto of its seventeenth-century founder.
Percy Hodges was a pupil at this school, his name appearing on a plaque, now in St Mary's Church, Battersea. The plaque refers to a stained glass window, which doesn't appear to have survived. The motto appears at bottom of the plaque after the list of the 78 boys who "gave their lives for King and Country in the Great European War 1914-1919" - "Rather deathe than false of faith".
Hodges, the son of a commercial clerk, served with the 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers and was killed in action on 25 April 1918 in a German attack on Kemmel. The 6th Battalion's two forward companies were all either killed or captured in the action. Hodges body was discovered at map reference 28/N.16.d.3.6 in November 1919. Although there was no marker on the grave the body still had its identity disc. His father chose his inscription.
"SERVANT OF GOD, MAN'S FRIEND"
There's a black marble plaque in St Andrew's Church, Bishopthorpe, Selby, Yorkshire, which tells the story of Major Watson's war:
To the beloved memory of
Arthur Toward Watson
Major 21st Battn. Kings Royal
Rifles of Bishopthorpe Garth
And of Burnopfield in the
County of Durham
He offered his services to his
Country as a soldier in the Great
War. He led a company in the
Battle of the Somme, Sept 15th
1916, when he was severely wounded
And in the Battle of Messines
On June 7th 1917. On Sunday Aug 5th
1917 when second in command of
His Battn. he was killed in action
In the fighting for Passchendaele
Ridge in his 48th year
Arthur Watson was a wealthy coal owner. He had always wanted a career in the army but a non-military gun-shot injury had deprived him of the sight in his right eye, over which he wore a patch. Although this had previously prevented him joining the army it didn't stop him receiving a temporary commission in September 1914. Initially he served with the Remount Department but in October 1915 he managed to get a commission in a service battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
Severely wounded on the Somme, he returned to the front in April 1917. At the beginning of August he received a well-deserved home posting. On Sunday 5 August he went up the line for the last time to say good-bye to his old battalion and was very badly wounded when a shell exploded beside him. He died of his wounds the same day.
His inscription is a puzzle. The quotation marks are definitely there and yet it doesn't appear to be a quotation. In addition, the rather stilted syntax would suggest that they weren't Watson's own words. The inscription implies that Watson, by being a servant of God, was a friend to man and this interpretation is born out by the inscription on the reredos, also in St Andrew's Church Bishopthorpe:
To the Glory of God & in loving & grateful memory of Arthur Toward Watson whose days on earth were spent in the endeavour to
Make the lives of others happy & who for his King and Country willingly laid down his life in battle.
This reredos and panelling were placed in this chancel
By Virginia his widow, John his son & Diana his daughter MCMXIX
"I PRAY YOU SHED NO TEAR"
"Your son was without exception the finest specimen of the young British officer I have ever met. His loss to the battalion is irreparable. Since our former Colonel (sic. should it be captain?) left he has been my Adjutant, and I relied implicitly on him. Brave to a fault, brimming over with energy and kindness, a prime favourite with officers and men, he also possessed a very old head on young shoulders. Personally, I loved your boy as if he had been a son of my own, and I have never been so cut up over any loss in this war."
Lt. Colonel Thomas David Murray
Quoted page 257 Volume 3 of the Marquis de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour
Stevenson was studying Chemistry at Manchester when the war broke out. He joined up immediately and was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 2 September 1914 arriving in France on 2 February 1915. Promoted lieutenant on 27 September 1915, and captain on 10 August 1917, he was wounded three times before being killed in action by a sniper at Polderhoek on the Menin Road. Stevenson, who had been awarded an MC in January 1917, received a posthumous bar to it in November 1917.
His father, Francis Stevenson, chose his inscription. It's a quote from a very obscure poem called 'To All Who Love, written by Lieutenant Colonel J. Berkley and published in The Spectator on 24 February 1917:
If Death should claim this mortal shell of me
Which you have seen and touched and thought to be
Needful to happiness,
I pray you shed no tear as though this life
Held all, or were but passing phase of strife
'Tween pleasure and distress.
I pray you clothe yourself in gala hue,
Purging your soul of that self-pitying view
That calls for mourning black.
For I would have you mingle with a throng,
Bright-hued, exulting, cheering me along
The road that leads not back,
That I may pass beyond the SOLDIERS' GATE,
Whose arch is SACRIFICE and threshold FATE,
Unburdened by regret;
To greet my battle comrades who have bled
For ENGLAND'S sake, and, risen from the dead,
Rest, clear of Honour's debt.
I pray you, urgently, to see your woe
As just that jarring note you would forgo
Could you but feel at heart,
How, grieving, I could have no other grief
Than helplessness to bring you dear relief,
Being near - yet far apart.
Four years after Talbert Stevenson's death his sister, Mrs Margaret Philip, had a son who she named Talbert Stevenson Philip after her brother. He was killed in action in Normandy on 19 August 1944. Lt Colonel Murray's sons were both killed in 1943.
There is more information about Talbert Stevenson on this Great War Forum site.
A portrait of Captain Talbert Stevenson MC & Bar by Anton Abraham van Anrooy hangs in the Black Watch Castle and Museum, Perth, Scotland
DOLGELLY, N. WALES
"A DDUG ANGAU NI DDWG ANGOF"
'A ddug angau ni ddwg angof', the words on the Dolgelly (Dolgellau) war memorial are repeated on Griffith Christmas Owen's headstone. Translated from the Welsh they mean, 'when death comes it does not mean we forget'.
Owen was killed on 31 July 1917 leading his men in an assault on Pilkhem Ridge on the opening day of the Third Ypres Campaign. Between 31 July and 2 August the 11th Battalion South Wales Borderers lost 320 men killed, wounded and missing. Owen was among the missing, his body not discovered until 24 April 1928 when it was identified by his badges of rank and his general service uniform. By this time his name had been carved on the Menin Gate, dedicated by Lord Plumer in July 1927 to the "officers & men who fell in the Ypres Salient, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death".
Owen is now buried in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery where his inscription, chosen by his brother, John Llewelyn Owen, links him back to the town of his birth and shares with it the same dedication.
HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER
Sergeant Hostrawser's father, William, has chosen a succinct but profound way to express his son's sense of responsibility for his fellow man. When God asked Cain where his brother Abel was - just after Cain had killed him - Cain replied, "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" [Genesis 4:8] In other words, how should I know, what do I care where he is? Cain's words have become a shorthand for man's unwillingness to look out for his fellow man, to only be interested in himself. But George Hostrawser was not this sort of man, he was, "His brother's keeper". A factor I would suggest in him being a sergeant by the age of 20.
Hostrawser, the youngest of his parents twelve children, enlisted in Brampton, Ontario on 18 December 1915. He served with the 116th Battalion Canadian Infantry, which in October 1917 was in the Weiltje area, near Ypres. It came out of the front line on 28 October but remained in the forward area to provide working parties. This was a dangerous business: four others ranks were killed and two wounded on the 29th, and two were killed on the 30th. On 1 November the war diary reported: "Strength 31 officers, 617 other ranks. Our casualties on the 31st of October were 7 killed and 3 wounded".
UNITED WITH HIS FATHER
& FALLEN BROTHER BERT
MY ALL GONE
Mr and Mrs Albert Francis Lucas had two children, two sons - Albert born in 1894 and Ernest in 1897. Albert enlisted on 9 September 1914, went to France on 7 November 1915 and was serving with the 19th Battalion Manchester Regiment when he was killed in action on 1 July 1916. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Ernest's service records haven't survived. He served with the 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station at Brandhoek on 17 August 1917. Both sons were unmarried.
Their father, a merchant shippers clerk, died on 5 April 1920, aged 57. As Mrs Sarah Lucas so plainly put it on Ernest's headstone inscription: "My all gone".
Sarah Lucas died in Park Hospital, Davyhulme, Urmston, Lancashire on 4 March 1937 aged 69.
OFFICERS AND MEN
George Basil Brown, "Beloved by officers and men", was a nineteen-year-old acting corporal serving with the 32nd Battery 8th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. He was killed in action on 14 November 1917. The 8th Brigade's war diary described the day:
"In the afternoon enemy put on "Area" shoot with 5.9 and 8" H.E. and shrapnel. Two mguns (machineguns?) 30th battery and two guns 24th Battery knocked out.
Casualties - 1251575 Gnr. L.O.Liddell (24th Bty) killed, and two gunners wounded.
306623 Gnr. Kennedy H.E., 30th Battery killed, three gunners wounded. No. 305598 A/Cpl Brown G.B. (32nd Bty) killed, and two gunners wounded. Three gunners 43rd Battery wounded.
At night enemy shelled positions with gas, using some phosgene and Yellow X."
IN THE WORDS OF HIS COLONEL
HE WAS AN EXAMPLE TO ALL
Douglas Fitch's father has quoted from the letter of condolence he received from his son's colonel. There's more information from this letter on a brass memorial plaque in St Andrew's Church, Kingswood, Surrey:
"A most gallant officer, beloved of his men. Throughout the hard and dangerous work of the last few weeks of his life he never spared himself and he was an example to us all."
There is even more information in the Marquis de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour. His Battery Commander wrote of him:
"Always thoughtful for others, whether they were his brother officers or the men of his section; always cheerful, he had a wonderful effect on us all and I think it was a good deal due to his influence that the battery has faced a very hard gruelling without a murmuring."
And his captain wrote:
"His unfailing cheerfulness and unconcern through the heaviest shell fire and greatest discomforts were wonderful ... There was no more popular officer in the brigade and the men of his battery and especially those of his own section, almost worshipped him."
Douglas, who served with 'C' Battery 162nd Brigade, was killed in action just ten days before his twenty-first birthday. He was his parents only child.
"HE WAS THE BRAVEST MAN WE HAD"
The family of every soldier killed in the war received a letter of condolence from his officer. His words may only have been conventional platitudes often repeated - although one cannot criticise because how difficult must it have been to write something personal and meaningful that would bring comfort to the bereaved. So who knows how many times Gunner Lloyd's captain had used this phrase about one of his soldiers, but does it matter? However, we do know that Lloyd was a brave soldier, we know this because he had been mentioned in despatches.
His mother, Agnes Lloyd chose his inscription. You can sense her pride in the captain's accolade, and the comfort she took from it. At the age of 16, according to the 1911 census, Lloyd had been a "hall boy mansion". I think this means that he was a general helper in a block of mansion flats not in a large mansion. His father was a house painter, his mother a cook in a private house, and his fourteen-year-old sister an apprentice dressmaker. He served in the 37th Battery 27th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and was killed in action on 2 October 1917.
TO BREAK BUT NOT TO FAIL
Gunner Handley's inscription comes from the last line of a little-known poem, 'To Women', by Laurence Binyon, author of the spectacularly well-known verse from his poem, 'For the Fallen':
They shall grown not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Published in The Times just two weeks after the outbreak of war, 'To Women' acknowledges the front-line role women will play in the war, not that they will actually be present on the front line but every bullet, sword or lance wound suffered by a soldier will be suffered by them too.
For you, you too to battle go
Not with the marching drums and cheers
But in the watch of solitude
And in the boundless night of fears.
But, despite their fears and and their suffering, Binyon acknowledges that the women of Britain are prepared " to bleed, to bear, to break, but not to fail".
The War Graves Commission records don't show who chose Handley's inscription but I would suggest that the quality of endurance, the person who might break but won't fail, is in this case the soldier. Born in Yorkshire the son of an agricultural labourer, at the age of 17 Harry Handley was living with a farmer in Hull and described in the census as 'Lad among the horses'. He served with the Royal Horse Artillery and was killed on 23 April 1917 during the Battle of Arras.
How can the war have been a struggle for Liberty? Because it was a struggle between the democracies and military autocracy, at least this is how the Allies saw it. Liberty was particularly the cause the United States claimed for their participation in the war so that those who contributed money to the war effort bought Liberty Bonds - Beat back the Hun with Liberty Bonds - and one of their popular history's of the war was titled, 'The World War for Liberty'. But others were allowed to fight for Liberty too. One of the most popular British poems of the war, by the poet John Oxenham, assured the bereaved that their dead had:
"died the noblest death a man may die,
Fighting for God, and Right, and Liberty".
By way of explanation, Oxenham wrote:
"War is red horror. But, better war than the utter crushing-out of liberty and civilisation under the heel of Prussian or any other militarism."
Rintel, a school teacher at Ballarat College, enlisted in July 1915. He embarked from Australia on 23 November 1916, six days after he'd married Gwendolyn Morey, a teacher at Fairlight Girls Grammar School in East St Kilda. He served with the 8th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed on 20 September 1917 in an attack on the German lines near Zillebeke. The 8th Battalion's war diary gives the details of the attack. Rintel was "killed instantaneously by a piece of shell in the advance".
Many websites say that Rintel 'secretly' married Gwendolyn Morey. If he did, by the end of the war the family knew of her. Rintel's father chose his son's headstone inscription and received his Victory Medal and Memorial Plaque, but Gwendolyn had his British War Medal, Memorial Scroll and the pamphlet, 'Where the Australians Rest' the booklet that was given to the next-of-kin of all those who died on active service abroad. By 1920 she was the headmistress of Fairlight. She appears never to have remarried and to have died aged 72 in 1967.
It's strange the things you can find out about people: Horace Rintel, the grandson of Moses Rintel, who is commemorated in the Australian Jewry Roll of Honour, is buried under a headstone inscribed with a cross. His father did not request the star of David as he was perfectly within his rights to do.
IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE
Private Taylor was one of nineteen men from the 6th Battalion the Somerset Light Infantry to have been killed on 9 April 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Arras, in the attack on Wancourt. A farmer's son from Suffolk, the 1911 census shows that at the age of 14 he was working on his father's farm.
It was his father, John Taylor, who chose his inscription - In Freedom's Cause. This was a phrase that regularly appeared on patriotic postcards - The flags that fight in freedom's cause - this one showing the flags of Britain, France, Belgium and Russia. The phrase also featured on mugs and plates, also with an assortment of allied flags. The Australians used the phrase on war loan posters, but perhaps the most influential use of the phrase was on the front page of the Daily Mail on 21 July 1919 when reporting on the Victory Parade that had taken place through the streets of London the previous Saturday, 19 July. The headline read: "Hail, ye heroes, who fought in Freedom's cause".
FOR HUMANITY'S SAKE
The 18th to the 25th June 1917 was Red Cross Week. Fundraising posters were issued in Britain, Canada and the United States with the slogan "For humanity's sake". Whilst each country has its own Red Cross Society, they are all meant to be part of an international humanitarian organisation. This is why the fundraising is "For humanity's sake", a strictly neutral cause. However, one of the posters is headed, 'Civilization vs Barbarism' and enough newspaper articles had accused the Germans of barbarism for the public to know for which side the money was being raised. Another poster, not a Red Cross poster this time, shows a child holding up its handless arms against the background of a burning town with the message: "They mutilate - for humanity's sake enlist". Who 'they' are is made clear by the use of the word 'Kultur', the German word culture and civilization.
Ralph Burton Fowler came from Nova Scotia and enlisted in the 106th Overseas Battalion Nova Scotia Rifles, which was raised in November 1915. It crossed to England in July 1916 and was absorbed into the 25th Battalion Canadian Infantry. 1 January 1917 found them in the trenches near Bully-les-Mines engaged in working parties. On 3 January they went into the trenches, the war diary records the day:
"Relieved 24th Canadian Battalion in Angres Sector 1, "A" and "C" Co'ys going into front line, "B" and "D" in support trenches. Artillery and Trench Mortars active on both sides. Private R.B.Fowler being killed and Pte. McA. Blackburn fatally wounded, and two OR shell shocked."
Ralph Fowler's father chose his inscription, no doubt influenced by the Red Cross and recruiting posters he must have seen.