NEVER MORNING WORE
BUT SOME HEART DID BREAK
This is yet another quotation from Tennyson's In Memoriam, which is galloping away as the most quoted poem in personal inscriptions. And interestingly, it's not always the same quotation that people use, in fact, I haven't seen this one before. Tennyson muses on the fact that even whilst a father is toasting his far-away soldier son a shot can just have killed him, and while a mother prays for her sailor son's safety he can at that very moment be being buried at sea.
That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.
O father, wheresoe'er thou be,
Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath still'd the life that beat from thee.
O mother, praying God will save
Thy sailor - while thy head is bow'd.
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
Drops in his vast and wandering grave
IN MEMORIAM VI 2-4
However, I would be prepared to bet that it wasn't just the poem that influenced Mrs Annie Cash when she chose this for her son.
There's a rather beautiful painting by the Newlyn-School artist Walter Langley (1852-1922), which he called, 'Never morning wore to evening but some heart did break'. It shows a young woman sitting on a harbour wall, her face in her hands, whilst a much older woman sits beside her, a hand on her shoulder and a look of sorrowing despair on her face. Behind them is a calm sea, shimmering in the early evening light. The empty fish baskets beside them indicate that this young woman's fisherman husband will not be coming home but has perished at sea - the day has never dawned that didn't end in heartbreak for someone. It was one of Langley's most powerful works and I feel sure that it would have been reproduced in enough places for Mrs Cash to have seen it.
George Cash, her eldest child, served with the 4th Battalion South Wales Borderers. The battalion, which had been in Gallipoli during 1915, was ordered to Mesopotamia in 1916 where it spent the rest of the war. Cash's medal card indicates that he didn't join until after 1915. The fighting was largely over by the time Cash died so the presumption is that he either died of illness or of wounds received some time earlier.
Dark house, by which I once more stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly waiting for a hand,
A hand that can be clasp'd no more -
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.
He is not here, but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.
IM MEMORIAM VIII 1-3
NEARING THE GOAL
HE FELL GLORIOUSLY
LEADING HIS MEN
It's all there - the sporting analogy, the exalted language, the noble death, all just as it should be for a heroic soldier. It was Sir Henry Newbolt in his poem Clifton Chapel who had a father tell his son that the son could wish for no finer 'fortune' than to have the words 'Qui procul hinc ... Qui ante diem periit: Sed miles, sed pro patria' (He died far away and before his time but as a soldier and for his country) written on his gravestone. I think that many a parent today could think of a better one; one that had their son living to a ripe old age.
I've written before about sporting analogies in inscriptions: 'He played the game' from the poem The Lost Master by Robert Service;'Well played lad' a tribute from a mother to her son, and 'Though a boy he played a man's game to the finish' from the soldier's Commanding Officer.
'Nearing the goal' carries the analogy a bit further. We know Second Lieutenant Burstall was leading his platoon in an attack on the German lines at Holnon on the 24 September 1918 so the 'goal' was presumably the German lines. Such an association is totally alien to us today but it was part of the culture of the era. Not that people thought war was no more than a game of football but that the qualities necessary to be a good member of a team were the qualities necessary for a good soldier. I can see their point.
Arthur Burstall was nineteen, the eldest son of a timber merchant in Kingston-upon-Hull. It looks as if he served originally as a private in the 16th London Regiment before being commissioned into the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was attached to the 1st Battalion the The Prince of Wales Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) at the time of his death.
Burstall is one of three young officers commemorated in a stained glass window in Holy Trinity Church, Kingston-upon-Hull, now Hull Minster. Two knights stand on either side of a robed figure above the words:
Comfort ye my people
Saith your God
Speak ye comfortably
And cry unto her
That her warfare is accomplished
WE ARE YOURS
ENGLAND, MY OWN!
Thomas Lawrence's married sister, Hilda Sillavan, chose his inscription, quoting from verse three of 'England, My England' a poem written by W.E.Henley (1849-1903).
The poem begins:
What have I done for you,
England, my England?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own?
Verse three reads:
Ever the faith endures,
England, my England: -
'Take and break us: we are yours,
England my own!
Life is good, and joys run high
Between English earth and sky:
Death is death; but we shall die
To the Song on your bugles blown,
To the stars on your bugles blown!'
'Take and break us, we are yours'; England certainly broke hundreds and thousands of young men between the years 1914 and 1918, including Thomas Lawrence. In 1914 he was a fifteen-year-old schoolboy at Malvern College. In 1918, aged nineteen, he arrived in France on 31 July. Seven weeks later he was dead. Records say he served with 'C' Company, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment but I can't see his name in the diary and there are lists of officer casualties throughout September 1918. The regiment attacked at Epehy on 18th and again on the 22nd. Lawrence is buried in a Casualty Clearing Station cemetery, which would suggest that he died of wounds.
This used to be such a famous poem, the epitome of British patriotism at a time when both Britain and her Empire were referred to simply as England. There is pride in English achievements: "Where shall the watchful sun ... match the master-work you've done?"; there is a belief that England has a duty to guard the world: "They call you proud and hard ... you with worlds to watch and ward", and a certainty that in all this England is doing God's work: "Chosen daughter of the Lord, spouse-in-chief of the ancient sword". The refrain, which varies slightly from verse to verse, became a rallying cry of Empire - "the song on your bugles blown" ... "round the world"; "down the years"; "to the stars"; "round the pit"; "out of heaven".
IN THE SHOCK OF STEEL
THE OFFSPRING OF LOCHIEL
I often wonder where people get the quotations they use from. I don't mean which poems or hymns but how they knew them. To my mind the whole point of a truncated inscription, like this one, is that people will recognise the allusion. These lines seem particularly obscure but they are not inappropriate.. They come from the Field of Waterloo by Lord Byron. The battle is over and many fine men are dead:
Thou saw'st in seas of gore expire
Redoubted Picton's soul of fire -
Saw'st in mingled carnage lie
All that of Ponsonby could die -
De Lancy change love's bridal-wreath,
For laurels from the hand of death -
Saw'st gallant Miller's failing eye
Still bent where Albion's banners fly,
And Cameron, in the shock of steel,
Die like the offspring of Lochiel;
The most famous Cameron of Lochiel was Bonnie Prince Charlie's loyal supporter in the 1745 Rebellion, who accompanied him into exile in France. The Cameron of the poem refers to John Cameron, a cousin of the Camerons of Lochiel. He fought with distinction at Waterloo and was killed leading a cavalry charge at Quatre-Bras.
This still left me wondering how Private Fraser's mother could be confident that people would pickup the allusion as it is not one of Byron's best-known poems. That was until I discovered that under 'L' in the turn-of-the -century editions of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is the word Lochiel, with Byron's lines by way of explanation of his heroism.
The quotation has a further relevance because William White Fraser served with the 2nd Battalion the Cameron Highlanders. The battalion had been fighting in Italy since November 1917. But on 22 September 1918, Private William Fraser died of influenza in a hospital in Genoa.
LOVE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH
William Voight Theron was a South African of Dutch ancestry. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in August 1917 but didn't join 205 Squadron until May 1918. 205 Squadron's role was to carry out bombing raids on ports and airfields flying DH4s, light bombers.
I haven't been able to find out exactly what happened on 20 September 1918 but 205 Squadron was based at Bois de Roche in Northern France, about 75 km from Proyart where Theron was originally buried. This would suggest that he was on a bombing raid over the German lines. Between August and September 1918 No. 9 Casualty Clearing Station was based at Proyart and Theron is reported to have died of wounds. 2nd Lieutenant JJ Rowe who was flying with Theron, whether as observer or pilot I haven't been able to tell, was also wounded but survived.
E. Theron Esq. of CapeTown, South Africa chose Theron's inscription. The War Graves Commission's Register doesn't have any details of Theron's parentage so I can't tell who E. Theron was. He has chosen to quote from the Old Testament Song of Solomon 8:6-8:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy as cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned.
MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN
MAKES COUNTLESS THOUSANDS
Ernest Steele's mother was German. She became a naturalised British citizen in 1894, the same year she married James Steele, a cardboard box manufacturer in London. It's not really possible to determine the sort of relationship someone like Rosa Koehne would have had with her native country, nor how she would have felt when the two countries were at war. But perhaps the fact that her son was a volunteer is a clue.
Ernest Steele enlisted in the 16th London Regiment; conscription was not introduced until March 1916. He went with the regiment to France on 17 August 1915 whilst he was still only 18. As he was not yet 19 he would have needed his parents' signed permission in order to be able to serve abroad On the 25 September 1916 he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps, serving from March 1918 with the 21st Battalion, part of the 21st Division.
On 18 September 1918, the day Steele was killed, the Division took part in an attack directed at outposts of the Hindenburg Line near the village of Epehy. A creeping barrage of 1,500 guns, and the presence of 300 machine guns greatly assisted the attack, which was a small but significant victory, indicating an encouraging weakening of German resistance.
Steele's father signed for his inscription. His son might have been a youthful volunteer, and gone abroad with his parents' support when he was still only 18, but by the time he came to choose his son's inscription James Steele's support for the war seems to have diminished.
The inscription comes from verse seven of 'Man Was Made to Mourn' by Robert Burns (1759-1796). To Burns, man has enough problems in his life without adding to them himself through his inhumanity to his fellow man.
Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!
The Steele's weren't the only family to choose this as an inscription and it's interesting that the War Graves Commission, which gave itself the power to censor inscriptions, didn't refuse to accept this one, despite its obvious criticism of war.
WOULD THAT THOSE
WHO MADE THE QUARRELS
WERE THE ONLY ONES TO FIGHT
From his choice of inscription you can see that Leonard Tams' father, James, was not a wholehearted supporter of the war. In his opinion, why couldn't those who caused them fight them and not drag everyone else in. This is not how his son felt, or at least this can't have been how his son felt originally since he was quite an early a volunteer. Leonard Tams attested on 24 March 1915, before the pressure to 'volunteer' began to be heavily applied.
Tams served with the 9th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment and embarked with them for France on 6 September 1915. The following month they embarked from Marseilles for Salonika. His service file is one of the few to have survived and from it we can see that he was admitted to hospital with influenza and a septic hand in March 1916, and that from 18 November 1916 he was in and out of medical units with 'N.Y.D.', a 'not yet diagnosed' complaint. Eventually on 18 April 1918 he was admitted to the hospital ship Valdivia, still with 'N.Y.D', and then on 17 May into hospital in Malta, his condition eventually diagnosed as malaria. He did not return to Salonika until October 1917.
On 18 September 1918 the battalion took part in the Allied attack on the strongly fortified heights of the Grand Couronne and Pip's Ridge. Their casualties were huge and the attack initially failed. However, it was the beginning of the end for the Bulgarians: three days later they abandoned the heights and eight days later they surrendered.
Leonard Tams was wounded in action on the 18th - his Active Service Casualty Sheet recording 'Shell wound penetrating abdomen'. He died the next day.
"BOY O' MINE"
The speech marks are definitely there, as is the apostrophe after the letter 'o', which means that the chances are Donald Emson's mother intended us to understand that this is a quotation rather than simply a term of endearment. But a quotation from what? My best guess is a poem called Boy O' Mine written by the American poet, Edgar Guest (1881-1959) and published in a collection of his verse called When Day is Done. The last verse could have resonated with Mrs Emson:
Boy o'mine, boy o'mine, this is my prayer for you;
Never may shame pen one line of despair for you;
Never may conquest or glory mean all to you;
Cling to your honour whatever shall fall to you;
Rather than victory, rather than fame to you,
Choose to be true and nothing bring shame to you.
The poem was not published until 1921, which may seem too late to be used as a source for a headstone inscription. However, many war cemeteries were not constructed until the late 1920s so this is not necessarily a problem. A slightly bigger problem comes from the fact that there appears to be no evidence that either the poem or When Day is Done was ever published in Britain.
There are other contenders but they are equally American and even more unlikely. Soldier Boy O' Mine, written in 1919 by Elizabeth S Howe has a first verse that goes:
All my heart is with you o'er the ocean
In my dreams your dear face I can see
And I long for the day, when from far away
You'll come back to the homeland and me.
Somehow this doesn't sound like something that would appeal to a bereaved mother. And there's another poem with the title Boy O' Mine, words and music by Florence T Irving, which was written in 1918:
Just a song boy o' mine
Just a message of love
Just a prayer oh boy o' mine
To our father above ...
But the subject of the song is really the Stars and Stripes so that rules it out for me.
Donald's father having died when he was four, his mother supported herself as a school teacher. Donald, a farm labourer, volunteered and went out to France in September 1915. In September 1918 he was in Salonika with the 9th Battalion The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, which took part in the costly assault on the Grand Couronne and Pips Ridge near Lake Doiran on 18-19 September. Emson was killed in action on the 19th.
ALAS THAT YOUTH'S
SWEET SCENTED MANUSCRIPT
Edward Fitzgerald's translation of quatrains said to have been written in the 11th Century by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam was published in 1859 as the Rubayait of Omar Khayyam. Initially attracting little attention, by the 1880s the poems were extremely popular throughout the English speaking world, and their popularity only grew. Some of the quatrains perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.
Lieutenant Kirby's father, Hector, was not the only relation to quote from the Rubayait; he chose a line from the 72nd quatrain:
Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose
That youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
Kenneth Cameron Kirby was brought up in Norwich. His mother died in 1903 and his family lived with his mother's father, who was a master tailor. Hector Kirby was a tailor's cutter. They lived with Kenneth's two younger brothers, and two of Hector's sisters. This is totally irrelevant but one of the sisters went by the magnificent name of Alma Sevastopol Kirby. She was 56 in 1911, which means that she was born in 1855 during the Crimean War, I would imagine in September 1855 or shortly afterwards when the siege of Sevastopol was lifted.
After leaving school, Kirby worked in insurance for the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company, part of the Norwich Union group on whose Roll of Honour his name appears.
Kirby's medal card card indicates that he first arrived in a theatre of war on 10 August 1918. He was killed six weeks later, leading his men in a successful attack on the village of Epehy.
Epehy was a minor but significant victory in which the British took 11,750 prisoners and captured 100 guns. It was an early sign that perhaps the Germans were weakening.
WENT THE DAY WELL?
WE DIED -
AND NEVER KNEW
Captain Dick's mother chose his inscription, quoting from an epitaph composed by J Maxwell Edmonds, a classics don at Cambridge. The epitaph was one of four originally published in The Times on 6 February 1918 under the heading 'Four Epitaphs'. Edmonds then composed five more. All nine were included in the Victoria and Albert Museum's 1919 publication - Inscriptions Suggested for War Memorials.
The full inscription reads:
On some that died early in the Day of Battle.
Went the day well? We died and never knew;
But well or ill, England, we died for you.
Somehow the incomplete inscription, especially in the manner in which it is laid out, which was how Mrs Dick wanted it to be done, is all the more poignant for being incomplete.
Watson Tulloch Dick volunteered in 1915 and served as a private in the Highland Light Infantry. He served in France from September 1915 until 1917 when he went to Salonika. By this time he had been commissioned and was serving with the 7th Battalion South Wales Borderers.
Dick was killed on 18 September 1918 in the Third Battle of Doiran when the combined British, Greek and French forces tried to break the Bulgarian lines. Although the Bulgarians surrendered just ten days later this wasn't before they had put up a tremendous fight, causing the 7th Battalion South Wales Borderers terrible casualties. Dick was killed leading an assault on the Grande-Couronne, a rugged peak that rose to 1,977 feet to the west of Lake Doiran.
TO SAVE MANKIND
A WIDOWED MOTHER'S ONLY SON
'To save mankind' seems like rather an unequal task for one widowed mother's son to achieve; where did the idea that this was the cause for which William John Daniels died come from?
The Mrs Maude Turner who chose his inscription - she was not his mother whose name was Catherine - was quoting a line from verse two of Sir John Arkwright's famous hymn, O Valiant Hearts:
Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God's message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had you gave,
To save mankind - yourselves you scorned to save.
You can imagine the comfort such words would have given to the bereaved. They provide not only meaning for the deaths of their loved ones but the assurance that having fought in God's cause these men are assured of their place in heaven:
These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God.
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.
I haven't been able to find out any personal details about William John Daniels, only that he was born in Landrake, Cornwall, enlisted in Saltash and wasn't entitled to the 1914 or 1915 Star. He served originally with the 4th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, transferred to the 260th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, and was killed in action on 18 September 1918 when the battery was in support of the 4th Australian Divisions attack on the Hindenburg Line.
NOW LETTEST THOU THY SERVANT
DEPART IN PEACE
Frederick Moon died as a prisoner of war in Germany. There is very little else I can tell you about him other than that he had been a professional soldier who in September 1914 was still on the reserve. In 1911 Moon was in Malta serving with the 2nd Battalion The Prince Albert's Somerset Light Infantry. Later in 1911 the Battalion went to China and then in 1914 to India where it remained until 1917. However, Moon earned the 1914 Star by entering a theatre of war on 21 September 1914. This is why I conclude he must have been still on the reserve when war broke out.
Moon is now buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery but he could have died in any one of the 180 different prison camps in the Hanover, Hessen, Rhine or Westphalia regions. After the war it was decided to gather all the British dead from these areas into the Southern Cologne Cemetery, which was to be one of four cemeteries in Germany into which the exhumed bodies of prisoners of war were reburied. There is no record of when Moon was taken prisoner and no record of his cause of death.
Born in Williton, Somerset to Edward and Emma Moon it was a Mrs E Cheshire of 11 Havelock Road, Wealdstone, Middlesex who chose his inscription. In the absence of any other information I would suggest that this was his mother, remarried, or a married sister. She chose an extract from the Nunc Dimittis, an ancient canticle that has been part of the Church of England's service of Evening Prayer for centuries, as well as part of the funeral service:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
I MOURN FOR YOU IN SILENCE
BUT NOT WITH OUTWARD SHOW
This seems a very guarded inscription; it made me curious to know whether there was anything behind it and the more I looked into William Clarence McGregor the more dark thoughts I began to have about him.
His entire eight-eight-page service file has been digitised and for some time it made confusing reading.
The War Graves Commission record says that he was the son of Mrs Jessie McGregor and the late Dugald McGregor and that he served as Murray. According to the documents in his file, he enlisted on 17 September 1914 giving his name as William Clarence McGregor, his birthplace as Bellingen, New South Wales, his profession as motor driver, and his age as 21 and one month. In answer to the question had he ever been apprenticed he answered no. The next document in the file is his discharge paper. There is no information on it, no date of discharge and no information as to why he was discharged.
However, on 2 July 1915, the file contains the attestation form for Albert Murray. There is a note in red ink at the top of the form, 'Real name William Clarence McGregor'. 'Albert Murray' said he was born in Aukland, New Zealand, and that he was a motor mechanic who had been apprenticed for four years to his father in Aukland. In answer to the questions, 'Have you ever been discharged from HM Forces?', 'Have you ever served in HM Forces' and 'Have you ever been rejected as unfit?', his answer to every question was 'no'.
You can see why I was having dark thoughts about McGregor/Murray. Albert Murray received a commission in June 1916, embarked from Australia in January 1917 and served with the 49th Battalion Australian Infantry. However, he didn't get to France until the 17 November that year.
He seems to have been a bold soldier as testified by the manner in which he won his Military Cross on 17 August 1918:
"For conspicuous daring in dealing with a troublesome hostile machine-gun. Crawling over No Man's Land, he entered the enemy's trench & worked up it for about 150 yards, until he located the sentry mounted on the gun. He killed the sentry & captured the gun. After bombing a dug-out & killing an officer & four men, he made good his way back with two prisoners."
Note, citations usually read 'for conspicuous gallantry' not 'daring'. A month later whilst out on patrol he was hit by a machine-gun bullet and killed instantly.
At this point he was still known as Albert Murray. However, a year after his death his mother wrote to the military authorities to say that "as the mother of the above-named soldier, who was killed in action in France on the 16th September 1918, I desire to take the necessary steps to have his correct name recorded". This is the story she had to tell:
"My son enlisted to leave with the first lot of men to go and was very disappointed when he contracted rheumatic fever and instead of sailing with his camp comrades he had to go into hospital for 9 weeks and as a consequence received his discharge.
Later on when he considered that he had removed all trace of the [disease] he endeavoured to re-enlist but was advised that his former illness which had to be disclosed would come against him.
Not to be defeated in this worthy object he enlisted in a name other than his own and sailed as if Lieut Albert Murray in the troopship Ayrshire in 1916 ... "
Mrs McGregor obviously convinced the authorities, which is why his file has 'Correct name William Clarence McGregor' written over all his forms. She also got his correct name carved onto his headstone. However, it's interesting to note that the War Graves Commission told her that they would also include the name under which he served, reasoning:
"If the correct name only appeared in view of the fact that he served under the assumed name there would be danger of his identity being lost sight of."
So, my dark thoughts about McGregor were totally unfounded. His reasons for disguising his identity far from being nefarious were down to the fact that he was keen to join the action and feared that his medical history, if suspected, would prevent him doing so.
FEAR NO MORE
THE HEAT O' THE SUN
NOR THE FURIOUS
These words, from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, are spoken by Guiderus over the body of Cloten who he has just killed:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldy task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Guiderus' brother, Arvirargus, speaks the next lines and together they complete what is now best known as a poem, without the separate speaking parts.
Long before Shelley assuaged his grief for the death of John Keats in his poem Adonais with the assurance that 'He hath awaken'd from the dream of life':
He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again.
And Binyon attempted to comfort those mourning the dead of the First World War with the thought that:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grown old:
Age shall not weary them or the years condemn.
Shakespeare was assuring those who mourned that at least nothing could ever hurt the dead again and that they would now never have anything to fear.
Johnston Hughston, also known as John and Jack, was an Australian doctor, a former pupil of Scotch College, newly qualified from the University of Melbourne. Scotch College have a detailed biography of him on their website from which I shall quote.
Johnston and his brother Edward, also a doctor, were among a group on one hundred Australian doctors who went to England in 1915 to help support Kitchener's New Armies. They were all on one year contracts. Johnston joined the 68th Field Ambulance and went with it to Salonika in October 1915. In April 1916 his contract with the army came up but he signed on again.
In May 1918 he went home to Australia for a few weeks in order to recover from malaria. He returned to the Salonika front and on 3 August was wounded in the chest by a shell fragment. He spent a month in hospital before returning to the front when he was again hit by shrapnel whilst visiting some advanced dressing stations. Although he was with another doctor who immediately did what he could, and was despatched to hospital as quickly as possible, he died nineteen hours later.
His mother chose his inscription, but added to the War Grave Commission records the comment that he was 'A young Australian who freely gave his life when duty called'. Johnston Hughston was one of eight of the original hundred doctors to die.
HE LOVED TO DO A KIND ACTION
I have just watched a television programme where one of the commentators was spitting with rage at the fact that officers got a clothing allowance and extra pay despite the fact that they were already all so much better off than the soldiers. The commentator was wrong; all officers weren't necessarily better off.
Harley Bentham was the son of a Midlands Railway Company signalman who had begun his working life as an assistant railway porter. The family lived in a small terraced house at 7 Thorndale St, Hellifield, Yorkshire.
Bentham attended Giggleswick Grammar School and left work to become a clerk in the Bank of Liverpool in Settle. He enlisted in January 1916 as a private in the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. In December 1916 he was recommended for a commission and in August 1917 was gazetted second lieutenant.
On 13 September 1918 Bentham was wounded in action by shellfire "whilst gallantly leading his men" in a successful attack, which captured the town of Havrincourt. Bentham's lieutenant colonel reassured his parents that their son had not suffered and that he'd died shortly after reaching the Casualty Clearing Station. There's always been a suspicion that such reassurances were mere words, especially as we know that Bentham didn't die until the third day after he'd been wounded.
Thomas Bentham chose a very gentle inscription for his son, who was his parents' only child - 'He loved to do a kind action'. One such action was a letter he wrote to the sister of one of the men in his regiment. This was whilst he was still a private so it was not his job to do so but as he says to her: "I have been asked by some of the lads to write to you and tell you how sorry we are and how we sympathise with you in your great loss". Bentham tells the sister how her brother was killed when a shell burst on the parapet right beside him. He assures her that death would have been instantaneous and that he wouldn't have suffered. In this instance it's possible to believe him.
TO HAVE, TO LOVE
AND THEN TO PART
IS THE SADDEST PAIN
OF A MOTHER'S HEART
This may not be great literature but it is very heartfelt, and very affecting. Mrs Sarah Dally chose the words for her son, John's inscription. John had been married since early 1914 but his wife, Elizabeth, was dead.
There is very little information about John Dally but what there is can be pieced together to tell a story. He was born in Smoketown, USA, the only one of his parents' five children not to have been born in Wales. Smoketown is a minute and remote farming community in Pennsylvania. Did John's parents try to escape from the mining life of South Wales but find they couldn't manage it? They returned to Wales where James Dally, a coal miner, died in 1896.
In the 1901 census Sarah Dally, a widow, is living with her five children, her widowed mother, a widowed sister and her two children, and three spinster sisters in a single house in Aberdare. Her son Thomas aged 13 is a coal miner, a hewer, despite the fact that he is so young. In 1911 Sarah Dally and four of her children are living in their own house. John and Thomas are both coal miners, both hewers.
John joined up early earning the 1915 Star. He went to France in July 1915, serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He later transferred to No. 1 Water Boring Section, Royal Engineers. This was formed in March 1917 and served in France with the 3rd Army from 1 July 1917. Made up of one officer and 40 other ranks with a variety of different skills, these sections were responsible for drilling wells and pumping the water.
There is no information about how John Dally died but on 15 September the 3rd Army was taking part in the assualt on the Hindenburg Line. Dally is buried in a Casualty Clearing Station cemetery 12 km south east of Bapaume.
Sometimes next-of-kin choose inscriptions that are impenetrably enigmatic, like this one - "As yesterday" - or Lieutenant Horace Collins', "Yes Dad" which I wrote about in May. I admire their originality, especially as I always suspect I might have chosen something deeply conventional. However, is it possible to get an inkling of what Robert French's mother, Mrs Martha French, meant by her choice of inscription?
There's a memorial in Linthorpe Municipal Cemetery, Middlesborough Yorkshire that gives a hint. The dedication reads:
My dearly loved husband Robert French
Died on active service Aug. 18th, buried at sea
August 19th 1916
Also my dearly beloved only son Robert Illtyd
Aged 23 yrs 10 mths killed in action Sept 12th 1918
Buried at Bertincourt, France
Robert French was a time-expired naval petty officer who rejoined the navy on the outbreak of war. He served on board HMS Moldavia, an armed merchant cruiser on patrol in the North Sea. French is variously said to have 'died of disease', 'died of haemorrhage', died of a 'burst blood vessel'. However, someone has transcribed Moldavia's log book and this gives chapter and verse:
18 August 1916
Various courses for patrol
4.00 pm: In 56 26N, 11 27W, departed this life, PO Robert French, RFR, ON 138240, from haemorrhage following cancer of the stomach
19 August 1916
Various courses for patrol
9 am: Stopped and committed to the deep the body of the late PO 1c Robert French, in Lat 56 22N, Long 11 17W. RIP.
There is not the same level of detail known about his son's death. Robert Illtyd French's medal card shows him to have been entitled to the 1915 Star having first gone to France and Flanders on 17 April 1915. He served originally with the Yorkshire Regiment before being transferred to the 2/4th York and Lancaster Regiment. This was part of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, which on 12 September 1918, the day French was killed, successfully took the town of Havrincourt; the first breach in the German Hindenburg Line.
Does any of this tell us what Martha French meant by her inscription? I would suggest perhaps that she was declaring that her love and her grief for her dead husband and son were the same 'as yesterday'; they had not diminished.
SUCH A SLEEP THEY SLEEP
THE MEN I LOVED
This beautiful inscription is from Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur, which begins:
So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's table, man by man,
Had fallen in Lyonesse about their Lord,
The dying Arthur tells Sir Bedevere, 'the last of all his knights':
The sequel of today unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep - the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
Such haunting words, which must have resonated with many people who felt that life would never be the same again now that so many of their menfolk were dead, as was the case with Mrs Gillespie, William Gillespie's mother, who chose the inscription. Mrs Gillespie's husband Denis had died in October 1915, her son William was killed on 11 September 1918 and another son, Denis, seven days later.
William served with the Rifle Brigade but at the time of his death was attached to the 12th Battalion London Regiment, part of the 58th London Division. On 11 September they were in the front line near Epehy. That night the Germans put down a box barrage and attacked Tattenham Post. According to the war diary, "D Coy were surrounded and the post taken". Was this when Gillespie was killed? His body was discovered in an unmarked grave a year later.
His brother, Denis, was a Lance Corporal with the 58th Division Signal Company Royal Engineers. He was killed on 18 September. One of his brothers, Mr J Gillespie, chose his inscription. It comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
After life's fitful fever
He sleeps well
HE CROSSED THE BAR
FOR HIS COUNTRY
IN THE GLORIOUS CHARGE
On 31 October 1917 the British (at the time the term British would automatically have included Empire and Commonwealth soldiers) secured the capture of the Ottoman-held town of Beersheba with a magnificent Australian cavalry charge that has gone down in legend. The capture of the town, important though it was, was perhaps of less importance than the capture of its wells since the British soldiers and their horses had been short of water for days.
Some parts of the town had been captured during the day but the British wanted total possession and the day was getting late. The commanders therefore decided to gamble on a full-scale cavalry charge and the task was entrusted to the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse regiments. Much has been written about this famous charge, which rode off at 4.30 pm just as the sun was beginning to set. Armed only with their bayonets, the cavalry was organised into three lines, each line 300 yards apart, and each man keeping a distance of five yards between him and the next to minimise the impact of enemy artillery. As the Ottoman lines came into view the Australians spurred their horses into a gallop and rode straight into a hail of artillery and machine-gun fire. Within in an hour they had achieved their objective and although the Ottoman commander tried to destroy the wells all but two were saved.
It was a magnificent achievement but amongst all the hyperbole that has been subsequently written about the event, I love the 12th Light Horse's laconic war diary entry:
October 31 1917:
"The Regiment moved on Beersheba at the gallop. Heavy enemy rifle and machine gun fire developed on the left flank ... This fire was silenced by artillery. The leading Squadron came under very heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire from the trenches, ... On reaching a point about 100 yards from these trenches, one Troop of A Squadron dismounted for action, and the remainder of the Squadron galloped on ... The Regiment, less 1 troop, kept straight on to Beersheba."
John Fielding was in A Squadron. Eight hundred men began the charge in which 31 were killed, mainly in the hand-to-hand fighting in the trenches.
Fielding was born in Rawtenstall, Manchester and arrived in Australia in 1908 when he was 13. He enlisted in January 1915 and served in Gallipoli from August to December that year. His father chose his inscription. He began it with a reference to Tennyson's Crossing the Bar, a euphemism for dying:
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea
And concluded it by indicating his pride in his son's participation in this legendary event. There's one other point about the inscription. John Fielding's father says, 'he crossed the bar for his country', which country? I'm going to say Britain, and by that I mean the British Empire because at that time many Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans thought of themselves as British, despite the fact that so many episodes, like the 'glorious charge at Beersheba', have now become building blocks in the construction of their various nationhoods.
NATION WITH NATION
LAND WITH LAND
UNARMED SHALL LIVE
AS COMRADES, FREE
This wonderful Utopian world where men will live at peace, guided by science and reason, where woman will be man's 'mate and peer' and art and music will blossom, is envisaged by John Addington Symonds in his poem, The Vista (1880). However, it's far more likely that Arthur Latchford's mother, who chose the inscription, knew the lines from the shortened version, which was published as a four or five-verse hymn, rather than from the poem.
Symonds, a literary critic and cultural historian, was a fairly controversial figure. An advocate of homosexuality even perhaps verging on pederasty, Symonds admired the Greek world where relationships between men and youths were not frowned on, and looked forward to a time when homosexuality would no longer be a sin. That's why the hymn is a far more likely source. It's called, 'These things shall be: a loftier race', and it looks forward to the time when:
These things shall be: a loftier race
Than e'er the world hath known, shall rise
With flame of freedom in their souls
And light of knowledge in their eyes.
Latchford's inscription comes from verse three:
Nation with nation, land with land,
Unarmed shall live as comrades free;
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.
This is the Utopian world that Mrs Latchford was looking forward to.
Arthur Latchford was his parents' eldest child; his father, William was a brickmaker in Boxmoor, Hertfordshire. Arthur is commemorated on the McCorquodale and Co Ltd war memorial. McCorquodales were printers based in Cardington St, London and in Milton Keynes, which is where Latchford was probably based. He served with the 38th Field Ambulance, part of the 12th Division, and died on 8 September 1918. There are no records of what happened to him.
KILLED IN ACTION
25TH SEPT. 1918
There's a story here quite beyond the one of two brothers being killed within twenty days of each other.
Benjamin and Emmanuel Goldstein were the sons of Morris and Milly Goldstein. Morris was born in Chachinow, Plotzk a town now in central Poland but at the time of his birth in Russia. The town had a huge, vibrant Jewish community estimated at one time to have made up 40% of the population. However, by the end of the Second World War, after decades of varying degrees of anti-semitism culminating in the Plotzk Ghetto, there were thought to be no more than thirty Jewish residents in the city. Milly, Amelia Bernberg, was born in Kuldiga, a town in western Latvia, which had had a similarly thriving Jewish community. Many of them were German, which is how Milly identified her nationality in the 1911 British census. In 1941, the Jews of Kildigas were imprisoned in the synagogue before being taken out into the forest in small groups and shot.
Morris Goldstein, who was a tailor, came to Britain in about 1894 when he was 36, and became a naturalised British subject in December 1902. There is no evidence that Milly ever became a British subject. All their six children were born in Britain, of whom five survived to adulthood.
The three eldest boys all served in the British army, the second and third sons both being killed in 1918 within weeks of the end of the war.
The boys' father, Morris Goldstein, chose Benjamin's inscription, whereas their eldest brother chose Emmanuel's: "Brother of Ben Goldstein died of wounds Sept. 6th 1918". However, the eldest brother, Samuel Reuben Goldstein, was now calling himself Stanley Robert Golding. And later on I can see that the youngest brother, Louis, had changed his surname to Golding too.
It seems a shame that a family who came to Britain to escape prejudice, two of whose four sons died fighting for Britain, should have felt the need to change their name from Goldstein to the less Jewish sounding Golding - but this was the story of the twentieth-century.
"THEY NEVER FAIL
WHO DIE IN A GREAT CAUSE"
"MY DEAR, MY BETTER HALF"
The first part of the inscription comes from Byron's play 'Marino Faliero'. Faliero was a fourteenth century Doge of Venice and against all the historical evidence, in fact in contradiction of all the historical evidence, Byron creates a revolutionary hero. In the play, two fellow revolutionaries, Calendro and Israel Bertuccio discuss a third, Bertram, whom Calendro thinks has 'a hesitating softness', which will be fatal to their cause. Bertuccio assures him that:
The truly brave are soft of heart and eyes.
And feel for what their duty bids them do.
I have known Bertram long; there doth not breathe
A soul more full of honour.
In this Bertram appears to share the same characteristics as Wordsworth's Happy Warrior - see yesterday's inscription and also this earlier one. But the quality that made the Happy Warrior more than usually brave was that he was a married man with much to love, which he risked losing by fighting, whereas Bertram was alone:
CALENDRO: [...] Yet as he has no mistress, and no wife
To work upon his milkiness of spirit,
He may go through the ordeal; it is well
He is an orphan, friendless save in us:
A woman or a child had made him less
Than either in resolve.
So Bertram is not as brave as the Happy Warrior who, despite the fact that he has much to love, can be relied upon to do his duty. Lieutenant Ponter also has much to love: the wife who called him her "dear one, her better half", a son born in January 1918 and a daughter who was born posthumously in February 1919.
Ponter had joined up in September 1914 but poor eyesight kept him on home duties, training soldiers and guarding the east coast. However, by some means he got himself to France in July 1918. He was killed in his first action, his company commander assuring his parents that he had died "gallantly and well", leading his platoon and dying instantaneously when hit by rifle fire.
Blanche Ponter chose her husband's inscription. Just after Bertuccio has defended Bertram he goes on to assert:
We must forget all feelings save the one -
We must resign all passions save our purpose -
We must behold no object save our country -
And only look on death as beautiful,
So that the sacrifice ascend to heaven, -
And draw down freedom on her evermore.
CALENDRO: But if we fail.
BERTUCCIO: They never fail who die
In a great cause:
MORE BRAVE FOR THIS
THAT HE HATH MUCH TO LOVE
James McDonald was a married man, a fact which provides a clue to his inscription. It comes from Wordsworth's poem 'Character of the Happy Warrior'. The poem asks the question - "Who is the happy warrior? Who is he that every man in arms would wish to be?" - before enumerating all the noble and honourable qualities that make a man a good soldier, describing him as someone who can withstand the 'storm and turbulence' of warfare but:
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, whereso-er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love: -
And 'much to love' meant he had much to lose, which explains why in Wordsworth's eyes he was 'more brave' than those who were not family men.
More than one inscription quotes from Wordsworth's poem, and the term 'happy warrior' had passed into general usage as a description for an all-round good sort. Presumably none of the people who quoted from Wordsworth's Happy Warrior were familiar with Herbert Read's poem of the same title:
His wild heart beats with painful sobs
His strain'd hands clench an ice-cold rifle
His aching jaws grip a hot parch'd tongue
His wide eyes search unconsciously.
He cannot shriek.
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.
I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.
This is the happy warrior,
This is he ...
McDonald had been born in Scotland in 1878 but by the time he enlisted in September 1915 he was a grocer in Vancouver, British Columbia. He served with the 72nd Battalion Canadian Infantry and arrived in France in August 1916. Severely wounded in his right foot and right temple, he was out of action for the early months of 1917. In July 1918 he went home on leave to Dumbarton in Scotland, returning to the front on 17 August. He was killed just over a month later.
A PROFITABLE MEMBER
OF THE KING AND COMMONWEALTH
On 1 November 1918 Frank Knight came home on leave from France to stay with his mother's brother at Severn Street in Leicester. Nine days later he was dead. The cause of his death: pneumonia following influenza. He was buried in Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery after a full military funeral that included buglers and a firing party.
Knight's family lived in Australia, where they had gone in 1912 when he was 17. He had been born in Witherley in Leicestershire and grown up in Rugby, Warwickshire where his father, Isaac Knight, ran the Queen's Head pub. Knight attended Lawrence Sherriff School in Rugby. This makes him an Old Laurentian, an O.L. as it says on his inscription.
Knight, a draughtsman, enlisted in Melbourne in March 1916. It would appear that he spent some time training to be a machine gunner and then training machine gunners at the Machine Gun Training Centre in Grantham, Lincolnshire. In January 1918 he went to France, from where he came on leave on 1 November 1918 to die two days before the end of the war.
I find the the syntax of his inscription rather curious: 'He became a profitable member of the King and Commonwealth'. It has rather a seventeenth-century ring to it. However, by Commonwealth Isaac Knight wasn't referring to the kingless government of England following the civil war, nor to the British Commonwealth of Nations but to the Commonwealth of Australia the country's official name following the federation of the six self-governing colonies on 1 January 1901. Isaac Knight was stating that his son was both a valuable subject of His Majesty King George V and a useful member of the Commonwealth of Australia.
This inscription will feature as part of the Global War Graves Leicester project, which aims "to explore and bring to light how the 298 First World War casualties came to be buried in the cemetery, how their identities were negotiated in death; and how even the British burials alongside them also had connections throughout and beyond the UK. The purpose of this research will be to challenge and expand our understandings of the relationship between local and global in terms of Leicester and the First World War".
"TO THIS END WAS I BORN"
This sounds rather a harsh inscription for a parent to chose for their son: "To this end was I born". It comes from St John's gospel and was chosen by Private Mark's father, Major Herbert Beaumont Marks. In St John, Christ has been brought before Pontius Pilate to be tried.
"Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
St John 18 v. 37
The inscription implies that Major Marks was one of those who believed war with Germany to be inevitable, the logical conclusion of the growth of German militarism. And this being the case, that he knew his son was in line to be sacrificed in the forthcoming war. In 1910, Major HB Marks had been appointed Area Officer for the town of Townsville in Northern Queensland. This put him in charge of the local militia and of recruitment, making sure that even the young men of Townsville were prepared for war.
His son enlisted on 20 May 1916 when he was 18 and 9 months. Prior to this young Marks had been working as a station hand. He embarked from Australia in September 1916 and served with the 41st Battalion Australian Infantry. This took part in the Australian attack on Peronne on 1 September 1918. It was a terrible battle, the machine-gun fire, especially the enfilade, the greatest the battalion had ever experienced causing many casualties. The war diary is unusually descriptive:
"This fire also prevented us from removing some of our casualties from the front line as the Boche fired on stretcher bearers, killing and wounding a whole team. We took a large number of prisoners, some two hundred and fifty, together with five Field Guns, the teams of which "D" Coy. Lewis Gunners shot on reaching their objective, while the enemy was trying to withdraw them."
Marks was one of the 120 casualties suffered by the 41st battalion that day.
FOR YOUR TOMORROW
WE GAVE OUR TODAY
When you go home, tell them of us and say
"For your to-morrows these gave their to-day"
The most famous use of this inscription is on the Kohima Memorial which marks the point at which the Japanese advance into India was halted in April 1944. The words were composed by a Cambridge Classic's don, J Maxwell Edmonds, and included in a 1919 HMSO publication titled, 'Suggested Inscriptions for War Memorials'. However, the words on the Kohima Memorial are slightly different, which is how they are usually found:
When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.
A Miss M Grant chose Charles Grant's inscription. His parents were both dead and it's not possible to tell whether this was an aunt or a sister.
Grant was a barrister, a partner in the firm of Parker, Grant, Freeman and Abbott, when he enlisted in December 1915. Badly wounded on the Somme in September 1916, he didn't return to the front until early in 1917. He was wounded again in June 1917, but less seriously less time. He was wounded again on 28 August 1918 in the Canadian action at Jigsaw Wood. (The diary entry for the action has been transcribed and can be read here).
It wasn't until 4 September that Mrs James Grant received a telegram informing her that her step-son had been wounded. This was quickly followed a few hours later by one saying that he was dangerously ill and within hours another one to say that he had died on 2 September.
ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN
TO DO HIS DUTY
I think a lot of people will recognise this inscription; it's the message Admiral Lord Nelson ordered to be sent from his flagship HMS Victory on the morning of 21 October 1805 just before the British fleet engaged with the French at Trafalgar. Nelson knew this was to be a momentous battle, Britain's freedom of the seas depended on it; he wanted to say something that would stiffen his sailors' hearts. He can't have realised just how successful a message it would be - and he never did realise it as he died that day.
Apparently Nelson selected the word 'confides', in other words, England is confident that every man will do his duty. However, the signals officer said that he would have to spell out the word 'confides' whereas there was already a signal for 'expects' so could he use that instead, it would be much faster. Nelson agreed and the saying, 'England expects that every man will do his duty' has sunk deep into the nation's cultural memory.
So what is it doing on the grave of an American serving in the Canadian army? The answer isn't difficult to find. Albert Harrop was an Englishman, born in Birmingham in 1898 to English parents. In 1891 the family were living in Birmingham, Aston, where father James was a chandelier caster. But they must have moved to the United States before the 1901 census where there is no sign of them. Certainly by the time Albert joined up on 15 December 1917 they were living in Rhode Island. By this time the United States had entered the war. It's interesting that Albert Harrop should have enlisted in the Canadian army, was this a sign of the family's continuing feeling of loyalty to the old country where recruiting posters were exhorting young men to join the army by using the phrase - 'England expects every man to do his duty'.
Harrop served with the 13th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed at Upton Wood eight months later, just after the Canadians had captured Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt.
HE WAS A FATHER TO HIS MEN
THE END OF THE UPRIGHT MAN
The paternal relationship officers had with their men has often been commented on and here it is confirmed by one officer's mother. Of course an officer was concerned that his men had the correct equipment, were on time for parades and duties and remained fit, but there was more to it than that. Lieutenant Ewart Alan Mackintosh expressed it most powerfully in his poem, In Memoriam, written in 1916. This is verse 5:
Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers',
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you while you died.
Mackintosh was 23 when he wrote the poem - he was killed the following year. Lewis was nearly ten years older.
The second part of Lewis's inscription references Psalm 37, which is much concerned with the just deserts of the virtuous and the wicked man. The inscription comes from verses 37/8:
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
Frederick Lewis's mother not only chose his inscription but also filled in the form for the Roll of Honour of Australia, making an unusually thorough job of it. Beside the request for 'Unit and number if known' she has replied, 'In Command D Company, 42 Battalion, 3rd Australian Division'. And asked for where he was killed she has put, 'Peronne Sector, N.E. Mont St Quentin, Near Clery sur Somme'. She also tells us that he was 'a valued officer - staff - of the Bank of New South Wales, Brisbane Branch' and that he had been a scholarship boy at Brisbane Boys Grammar School.
Lewis was killed in action on the 1 September 1918 in the Australian attack on Peronne.
INDIAN-TRIBE 6 NATIONS
DIED FOR HONOUR OF EMPIRE
BY WIFE AND CHILDREN
The place of indigenous peoples in the armies of the British Empire is a very interesting one. Dominion Governments were reluctant to arm and train them fearing the consequences for the stability of their post-war rule. New Zealand never prevented Maoris from joining the army but originally it only envisaged them in noncombatant roles. Australia was very reluctant to enlist Aborigines at all, some did manage to join up but there was never a policy of recruiting them. The Canadian Government too was initially reluctant to enlist any of the indigenous people, this despite the fact that many of them were very keen to do so. Timothy C. Winegard's book, 'Indigenous Peoples of the British Dominions and the First World War, explains why many native North Americans were so keen to take part in the war. Money, employment and adventure all played their part, as they did with all recruits of whatever nationality, but in addition many North American Indians were keen to revive the warrior tradition of their ancestors, which they felt had stagnated after their years of living on the reserves, receiving Western schooling and religious education.
However, whilst many North American Indians were willing to put their warrior heritage at the service of the British Crown, it was the British Crown they wanted to serve rather than the Dominion Government. And the Dominion Government was equally reluctant to have them serve it, despite the fact that many Indians were already serving in militia units. But this changed in October 1915 when the British Government made a direct appeal for the recruitment of indigenous people.
All this fits Lewis Wilson precisely. His inscription asserts his race, which the physical description on his attestation form confirms: complexion - dark, eyes - brown. hair - black. He enlisted in May 1916 having already served three years with a militia unit, the Haldimand Rifles. And his wife states specifically that he 'Died for the honour of the British Empire'.
But, however much Wilson might have wanted to be a 'warrior', he served in the Canadian Engineers. On 30 August 1918 the 3rd Battalion Canadian Engineers were engaged in work on a tramway that ran from somewhere between Beaurains and Neuville Vitasse to Wancourt. That night an 'E.A. bomb' fell on their billets killing two other ranks and wounding seven. Wilson died the next day in a Casualty Clearing Station in Aubigny-en-Artois.
HIS LAST MESSAGE
"I DIED DOING MY DUTY"
What is duty? For some people today it has become synonymous with the word chore, but that is not how men like Private Hoffmeyer saw it. To them 'duty' was something you owed, in this case to your country, something you felt to be morally right despite the fact that it might involve self-sacrifice. There was no conscription in Australia so those who volunteered did so for any number of reasons, which in Norman Hoffmeyer's case amounted to a sense that it was his duty to do so.
Hoffmeyer, a farmer from Bendigo in Victoria, enlisted in September 1916, admitting that he had previously been rejected on the grounds of 'bad feet'. He served at the front from March 1917 except for two weeks in June 1917 when he was wounded, and two weeks in Britain in March 1918 when he was on leave.
On the 31 August 1918 at 4.20 am, the 38th Battalion took over the front line near the Canal du Nord prior to an attack. The war diary reported that at 3.15 pm the 37th Battalion moved through to continue the attack and the 38th went into reserve. 'Moved through' gives a hint as to how the fighting in August had changed from the trench warfare of the past four years, so do the diary's references to 'semi-open' and 'rapidly moving' warfare.
There is no indication as to how Hoffmeyer met his death. His family did not request information from the Australian Red Cross perhaps because, as his inscription suggests, someone was with him when he died who passed on the information. This suggestion is supported by a chance discovery in 2007. Two cousins, sorting out a shed in the family property on the outskirts of Bendigo, came across a collection of First World War photographs that had been taken by their fathers, Jack and Bert Grinton. The brothers served with the 38th Battalion and among the images in the collection is one of Hoffmeyer's grave, marked with a wooden cross. Evidence perhaps that Hoffmeyer was among friends when he died.
HE TRIED TO DO HIS DUTY
This is a very famous inscription or should I say it was a very famous inscription, not because it belongs to Harry Rushworth but because these are the words Sir Henry Lawrence is said to have asked to have inscribed on his tombstone. Lawrence was the Chief Commissioner of Oudh in May 1857 when the Indian Rebellion broke out. On the 30 June the residency at Lucknow came under siege. More than 1,280 civilians, many of them women and children, had gathered within the grounds of the residency for protection. Lawrence tried to organise the defence with the 1,700 British and Indian soldiers and civilian volunteers he had at his disposal. However, Lawrence was badly wounded by a shell on 2 July. He died two days later having apparently said, "Put on my tomb only this; Here lies Henry Lawrence who tried to do his duty". As was the way with 'heroic' Victorian deaths, the death scene and Lawrence's dying words became famous, especially as they echoed the dying words of another great hero Admiral Lord Nelson, which were not "Kiss me Hardy" but "Thank God I have done my duty". Lawrence's tombstone in St Mary's churchyard Lucknow reads:
Here lies Henry Lawrence
Who tried to do his duty
May God have mercy on his soul
Sir Henry Lawrence was a fifty-one-year-old soldier and statesman born into a military family in India. Harry Rushworth was an eighteen-year-old boy whose father was an engine driver in Huddersfield. Rushworth, who served with 'C' Company 8th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was killed near Ecoust. As the Germans withdrew in front of the British advance they left behind teams of machine gunners hidden in the folds of the rough terrain who wrought havoc on the advancing British. Rushworth was one of the many casualties.
OH! IT'S QUIET DOWN HERE
BUT GOD IS VERY NEAR
This seemed to be rather an rather blunt inscription - where is "down here" meant to be - the grave"? The words come from a song by an Australian composer, May Hannah Brahe (1885-1956) with the lyrics by PJ O'Reilly. But, even if I give you the lyrics you will still wonder where "down here" is meant to be. Here they are:
Oh! it's quiet down here
Yes, as quiet as a mouse
Save the sigh of the wind
And the clock in the house
Oh! it's quiet down here!
Oh! it's quiet down here
If a bird-note should break,
All the easy going folk
In the village would wake -
Sure, it's quiet down here.
Oh! it's quiet down here,
And thro' the long day
To the great God of Peace
I feel I must pray
Oh! it's quiet down here,
But God is very near.
You can hear it sung here.
The only clue I have been able to discover is a contemporary print in a New Zealand collection called 'Down Here'. This shows a clearing in a forest. However, I can't help feeling that Edward Armitage's parents were referring to the quiet of the grave.
Armitage was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in June 1917 when he was 19. However, he didn't get to the front until June 1918. Two months later he was killed in action serving with the 76th Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
FATE RULES OUR DESTINIES
ROUGH HEW THEM AS WE MAY
This isn't exactly what Shakespeare's Hamlet says in Act 5 Scene 2 but I'm sure that Mrs Elizabeth Bratt had Hamlet's words in mind when she chose her husband's inscription.
Hamlet, speaking to his friend Horatio, says that however much we might attempt to 'rough hew' our destinies, control them ourselves, it is God who in fact does so:
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will
I wonder whether Mrs Bratt mis-remembered Shakespeare's words or whether she made a conscious decision to ascribe fortune to fate rather than to God. But, had Mrs Bratt seriously not believed in God, she would have told the War Graves Commission that she didn't want a cross on her husband's grave; it was only a matter of saying 'yes' or 'no' beside the question on the Family Verification Form. There is a cross on Richard Bratt's grave, which would suggest that Elizabeth Bratt was no atheist. It could be that she preferred to think that 'fate' had removed her husband from her, not God. The popular headstone inscription, 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee' was not for her.
The couple had been married for nine years and in the 1911 census had a ten-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. Richard was a letter-press printer and the couple lived in Islington. His medal card indicates that he didn't join a theatre of war until 1916. In August 1918 he was serving with the 5th Battalion London Regiment. On the night of the 26th/27th August the battalion made a frontal attack on the German trenches in front of Croisilles. The battalion war diary speaks of heavy casualties from machine gun fire. Bratt died of wounds on the 27th.
SLEEP LIGHTLY, LAD
THOU ART KING'S GUARD
This is an inscription of unknown origin about which there has been a certain amount of curiosity on the Internet. The words appear on several memorials in the North East of England and although it is not unknown elsewhere it is more commonly found here. And 'here' is where William Charlton came from. His father, John Charlton, was the head teacher at the Council School in Seaton Delaval, a village in Northumberland, eleven miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
In November 1917 an article appeared in the journal, The United Methodist, written by the Rev. Ernest FH Capey, a Methodist minister. He told of going for a walk one Sunday afternoon to the church in Ford, which overlooks Flodden Field. The church was locked but,
"On the inner door was suspended an artistic card 'in memoriam' of the brave boys of the village who had lost their lives in the war. It was headed:
Fought and died for Freedom
Sleep lightly, Lad,
Thou art for King's Guard at daybreak;
With spotless kit turn out,
And take a place of honour."
In other words, prepare yourself, for tomorrow, as a reward for dying for your country, you will part of the honour guard around God.
Searching the newspaper archive I came across an earlier mention of the inscription in an article in the Newcastle Journal of 9 October 1916. Reporting on the dedication of a memorial plaque in St Luke's Chapel, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, it mentioned an accompanying Roll of Honour, 'delicately executed, the gift of an anonymous friend'. The inscription on the Roll of Honour read: 'Pro Patria: Freely they served and died', followed by the same inscription as that on the door of Ford Church. The article finished with the information that, 'The roll is the work of Mr J.H. Binks of Ford, and is chastely and ably done'.
That certainly doesn't mean that Mr JH Binks composed the inscription, although he may well have done, but it does link the two locations. I don't imagine that it was the card in Ford Church that popularised the lines however, rather I should image it was its use by the Royal Infirmary, and the mention in the local paper. The North East War Memorial Project records several places where the inscription has been used on a war memorial. None of these places are more than 12 miles from Newcastle, except for Ford which is over 50 miles away.
John and Ann Charlton had four children, two sons and two daughters. William was the youngest. Before being commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry in January 1916, he was a pupil barrister at the Inns of Court in London. Serving with the 15th Battalion London Regiment, he went to France in July 1916 where he was severely wounded on the 7th. It was June 1918 before he returned to the front. He was killed two months later.
'Sleep lightly, Lad' is not the inscription on the Seaton Delaval war memorial. This carries the dedication 'To the Motherland', followed by the words on the next-of-kin memorial scroll. The memorial was unveiled on 2 September 1922 by Mr John Charlton "whose two sons were killed in the war"
And what is the personal inscription on the headstone of Captain George Fenwick Hedley Charlton, South Wales Borderers, killed in action on 6 October 1916?
Sleep lightly, Lad
Thou art King's Guard
GOD, MOTHER, ENGLAND
This is the fourth night in succession that the epitaph has identified a soldier's reasons for fighting: 'To uphold British prestige"; "for England's honour"; "To end all wars" and now for "God, Mother, England".
If I'm not much mistaken, John Albert Nadon was really Jean Albert Nadon since the family were French Canadians hailing from Quebec. Nadon was born in Mattawa, Ontario where his parents, Joachim and Exilda, had married in 1885 and where his father was a farmer. This makes Nadon's inscription all the more interesting. It was signed for by his mother and it's not only the order of priorities that makes it interesting, nor the fact that his father was still alive, but that this French Canadian should identify England, not Canada or the Empire as a reason for fighting, which some Canadians, especially French Canadians, would have done. Today England is a very specific place but at one time the word was loosely used for the whole of Great Britain. And England was the motherland, the heart of the world-wide Empire.
There is very little personal information on John Albert Nadon, just that he served in the 52nd Battalion Canadian Infantry and that he died on 28 August 1918. On the 27th and the 28th the battalion took part in an attack on the village of Bois-de-Vert and Artillery Hill. It was a successful operation but a costly one, the war diary noted that at the end of the day, "our four companies only numbered one hundred".
TO END ALL WARS
To Private Martin's father's, his son had died in the war to end all wars. The phrase, which became one of the catchphrases of the war and is always associated with the American president Woodrow Wilson, in fact owes its origins to the title of a book by HG Wells, published in late 1914, containing a number of newspaper articles he'd written in August 1914. The title of the book was, 'The War That Will End War'. And how would it end war? By smashing German militarism.
"We are fighting Germany ... we have to destroy an evil system of government and the mental and material corruption that has got hold of the German imagination and taken possession of German life. We have to smash Prussian Imperialism" which "has been for forty years an intolerable nuisance in the earth. Ever since the crushing of the French in 1871 the evil thing has grown and cast its spreading shadow over Europe. Germany has preached a propaganda of ruthless force and political materialism to the whole uneasy world. "Blood and iron," she boasted, was the cement of her unity, and almost as openly the little, mean, aggressive statesmen and professors who have guided her destinies to this present conflict have professed cynicism and an utter disregard of any ends but nationally selfish ends, as though it were religion."
I think you will have got the picture by now. It's worth following the link to have a look at the book as it certainly illustrates what some people thought they were fighting for and why it would be the war to end war. It wasn't, as we know, but then Wells himself said:
"There can be no diplomatic settlement that will leave German Imperialism free to explain away its failure to its people and start new preparations. We have to go on until we are absolutely done for, or until the Germans as a people know that they are beaten, and are convinced that they have had enough of war."
And that of course didn't happen until after 1945.
I have been able to find out virtually nothing about Private H Martin, except that his father was Mr JJ Martin, that he lived at 3 West Beech Road, Wood Green, London, and that he was killed in action on 27 August 1918 when the 3rd London Regiment Royal Fusiliers, with which he was serving, took the village of Maricourt.
HE DIED FOR ENGLAND'S HONOUR
May the heavenly winds blow softly
O'er that far and silent grave,
Where sleeping without dreaming
Lies one we could not save.
He answered duty's call,
He lies among the slain,
He died for England's honour,
He has not died in vain.
Arthur Williams' father quoted from a piece of memorial verse of the kind to be found in the In Memoriam columns of local newspapers. Arthur's father, James, was a former Life Guards' trooper. The concept of England's honour would have resonated with him.
Williams' army number indicates that he joined up in February 1917. He served with the 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards. On 25 August 1918 the 1st Battalion were in the trenches at St Leger when they took part in an attack on the German-held town of Ecoust St Mein. Initially things went well, the heavy mist shrouding their attack. However, the supporting tanks got lost, the German wire was discovered to be uncut, and when the mist lifted the guardsmen were sitting ducks for the German machine guns. The war diary tells how they were forced to withdraw, emphasising that they took their wounded with them. However, Arthur Williams and four other Welsh Guardsmen, who all died on 25 August, were buried approximately ten kilometres behind the German lines in Dury German Cemetery. Their bodies were exhumed in 1924 and buried in Vis-en-Arois British Cemetery.
TO UPHOLD BRITISH PRESTIGE
Upholding British prestige throughout the world has always been a matter of concern for British politicians and diplomats. Was it one of the factors that took us to war in 1914? Probably. Did Harry Wright's father, Walter Wright, who chose the inscription, think it a cause worth fighting for? I'm going to say again - probably. Just as concern for British sovereignty played its part in the vote for Brexit in 2016, so upholding British prestige will have played a part in Britain's decision to go to war in 1914.
Harry Wright joined up on 23 August 1915 when he was 17. He didn't get to France until 13 February 1917, presumably by which time he was 19. Promoted Lance Corporal on 22 May 1917, he was demoted on 5 August 1918 for "when on active service failing to relieve a sentry".
According to his surviving service record, Wright was wounded on the 22 August and died on the 24th. According to the war diary the battalion was resting on the 21st and 22nd August so it seems more likely that he was wounded on the 20th when the Germans attacked the British lines just south of the River Scarpe and secured a footing in the Loyal North Lancashire's trenches, forcing them to withdraw to the lines they had originally held on the 18th. A total of five other ranks were killed and twenty-four wounded during thi three-day period. One of them being Harry Wright, who died 'to uphold British prestige'.
THOU O'ER LOOK'ST
THE TUMULT FROM AFAR
AND SMILEST, KNOWING
ALL IS WELL
This is yet another inscription from Tennyson's In Memoriam. It comes from section CXXVII, the section that begins:
And all is well, tho' faith and form
Be sunder'd in the night of fear;
The poem goes on to describe an apocalyptic scene before asserting that even in the midst of all this chaos, even while "compass'd by the fires of Hell",
Thou, dear spirit, happy star,
O'erlook'st the tumult from afar,
And smilest, knowing all is well.
The smiling person is Tennyson's dead friend Arthur Hallam, and the implication is that once we are dead and with God in heaven, we can be assured that all will be well whatever is happening on earth.
Robert Evans was a solicitor. He served initially as a serjeant with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Commissioned in March 1917, he served with the 57th training reserve battalion before going to France in 1918. He was killed during the Battle of Albert; shot dead by a German prisoner.
A married man with one child, I think it was his wife, Edith, who chose his inscription. The War Graves Commission's records say Mrs AC Evans but that's probably a mis-type for Mrs RC Evans.
REMEMBER, WHATEVER HAPPENS
IT WILL HAVE BEEN
Arthur Granville Sharp earned the 1914 Star. This means that he entered a theatre of war before 22 November 1914. Sharp was born on 27 October 1897. He joined Thring's Horse on 24 October 1914, which means that he was just three days short of his seventeenth birthday.
Thring's Horse took part in the suppression of the Maritz / Boer Rebellion after General Maritz allied himself with the Germans and declared that "the former South African Republic and Orange Free State as well as the Cape Province and Natal are proclaimed free from British control and independent". The war, Maritz claimed, was South Africa's chance to free itself from British control and become independent.
Although born in the Orange Free State, Sharp was one of the many who did not agree with Maritz. By the end of the year the rebellion had been suppressed. At which point Sharp transferred to the 1st Mounted Brigade (Sharpshooters) and took part in the German-South-West African Campaign. By December 1915 he had taken a commission in the Royal Field Artillery and spent the rest of the war in France, Flanders and Italy.
Sharp was serving with D Battery, 72 Army Brigade attached to the Guards Division Artillery when he was killed in action on 23 August 1918, the same action for which he was awarded his Military Cross. On the day he was working as a forward observation officer near Hamelincourt, sending back accurate and valuable information to the guns despite the fact that he was under constant and relentless fire.
His mother chose his inscription. These have to have been Arthur Sharp's own words, this must have been his philosophy. Interestingly it's not the same thing as 'Thy will be done', or 'Whatever is is best' but 'Whatever happens it will have been worthwhile'. Sharp served throughout the war until his death in August 1918 but was still only 20 when he died.
HIS LAST WORDS AT HOME WERE
"I SHALL BE ALRIGHT MOTHER"
You can imagine the scene at 33 Maple Road, Blackheath, Birmingham as Percy Cole prepared to leave for the front: Mrs Ellen Cole fussing and fretting whilst her son tried hard to reassure her, "I shall be alright mother". Did he mean I'll be able to look after myself, I've got everything I need, or don't worry I won't get killed; all three I expect.
Percy Cole was nineteen when he died. He would have been conscripted at 18 and allowed to go to the front at 19 so he wouldn't have been there for long before he was killed. He served with the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment and died of wounds 30 km from Beaumont-Hamel where at 3 am on 21 August the 1st Lincolnshires,
"formed up in their preliminary assembly positions in Wagon road (the road between Beamont Hamel and Serre), B and D formed the first wave, C and A the second wave. By zero, companies were formed up in their assembly positions, i.e., Serre road, due east of Wagon road.
At zero the battalion advanced and reached a ravine (probably the Puisieux road) without opposition: a few prisoners were taken en route. But now hostile machine-gun fire came from a line of German trenches ahead."
[History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918]
The 1st Lincolnshire's objective had been to take a sunken road running north-west from Baillescourt Farm, north-east of Beaucourt. Lost to the Germans earlier in the year, Beaucourt was successfully retaken, thus the Lincolnshires played their part the Second Battle of Albert, which restarted the stalled Allied advance and really was the beginning of the end. However, by the end of the month the Lincolnshires had suffered three officers and twenty-nine other ranks killed, one officer and two other ranks died of wounds, together with twenty missing and a total of 171 wounded.
Percy Cole was one of the two other ranks who died of wounds; his final words to his mother tragically belied.
BY THE WILL OF GOD
HERE THE WEST MEETS THE EAST
This inscription must reference Rudyard Kipling's poem The Ballad of East and West, but whether Lance Corporal Carpenter's father, Charles Carpenter, used the idea as Kipling intended or as critics have assumed it does not seem possible to tell. The poem begins and ends with the same four lines:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!
There are those who argue that Kipling's poem is racist and asserts the superiority of the white races. However, without wishing to be too rude, I would suggest that these people haven't read the poem since Kipling in fact describes how two men from completely different religious and cultural backgrounds, one from the east and one from the west, come to respect each other's courage, and tells how this mutual acknowledgment of bravery results in the swearing of a solemn oath of brotherhood:
They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.
Lance Corporal Herbert Carpenter died on 19 August 1918 in Mesopotamia. I don't know whether he was killed in action, died of wounds or disease, or of heatstroke as many men did. He's buried in Baghdad North Gate Cemetery which took men who had died in the hospitals and casualty clearing stations there, or were gathered in after the war from graves in northern Iraq and Anatolia. The enemy was the Ottoman Turk. Did Charles Carpenter's choice of inscription reflect a respect for these representatives of the east, or scorn?
Herbert Carpenter was the eldest of his parents' four children. Father was a commercial traveller in groceries and in 1911 Herbert was a draper's assistant in Marshall and Snelgove, a big department store on Oxford Street. He served with the 1/6th Hampshire Regiment, which served in India before arriving in Basra on 16 September 1917. His youngest brother, Carl, was killed in action on 15 February 1915. Carl's body was not found until 1928 so although he now has a grave in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, his name had already been carved onto the Menin Gate.
DIED TO SAVE AN ENEMY
Samuel Brew's brother, Captain Henry Brew, chose his inscription, and confirmed this statment when he filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia by saying: "Killed while succoring [sic] wounded enemy". Interested to see if I could find out any further details, I looked up 16 August 1918 in the 6th Field Ambulance's war diary and this is what it said:
15th August: ... At about 12 noon the driver of a Ford Car stationed at Quarry X.4.s.8.3. (No. 2294 Dvr F Connolly No. 2 A.M.T. Coy att. 6th Field Amb.) and the orderly No. 9806 Pte. S Brew 6th Field Amb. were just about to commence their midday meal when an enemy shell exploded 5 yards from the car. The driver was standing just in front of the car & the orderly had stepped into the car to get his mess utensils when the shell exploded, the driver was killed instantly & the orderly severely wounded (sh.wd avulsed right arm sh. wd right knee, right foot). He died at No. 55 CCS on 16th & was buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension."
On 12 August, the 6th Field Ambulance moved forward from St Achuel. By the end of the 13th it had established itself in its new location and at 8.30 pm received its first patient. There would definitely have been German soldiers among those treated by the 6th Field Ambulance, those it succoured, but Brew's inscription does give a slightly misleading idea of the exact circumstances of his death.
Samuel Brew was born in Britain, in Great Crosby near Liverpool. He emigrated to Australia in 1899 when he was 23. His brother, Henry, also went to Australia, as did another brother, John. John served with the 38th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action on 8 June 1917. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate. The death of two brothers, and also of a cousin - Lieutenant Thomas Brew was killed in action on 4 October 1917 - could explain why Henry Brew, from the comments he makes about his brother's death, sounds like a bitter man.
I'd like to make two comments about the diary entry before I finish, firstly it's interesting that a Field Ambulance diary names and describes the death of other ranks in this way, other units tend only to name officers. And secondly, as a Field Ambulance, the diary writer has given very specific details about the wounds Brew suffered. I had to look up 'avulsed'. It means a partial or complete tearing away of skin and tissue.
"'TISN'T LIFE THAT MATTERS
'TIS THE COURAGE
YOU BRING TO IT"
"'Tisn't life that matters! 'Tis the courage you bring to it" ... this from old Frosted Moses in the warm corner by the door." ... "A little boy, Peter Westcott, heard what old Frosted Moses had said, and turned it over in his mind."
FORTITUDE Hugh Walpole 1913
John Francis Ashley Hall's father chose his inscription, taking it from the opening words of Hugh Walpole's 1913 novel, Fortitude. The main character is Peter Westcott whose life is tested by one personal catastrophe after another, in the face of which he shows great personal fortitude.
Hall originally served with the East Yorkshire Regiment, being commissioned from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in August 1916. However, at some point he transferred to the Royal Air Force where he served with 21 Squadron, a strategic reconnaissance and bombing squadron.
I don't know how Hall met his death on 14 August 1918 but he's buried beside a fellow member of 21 Squadron, Second Lieutenant Hugh William Savage, who also died on 14 August. This suggests to me that they were the observer and pilot of one of 21 Squadron's RE-8s. Savage's record says that he was killed in action rather than being accidentally killed. I would imagine that this was Hall's fate too.
HE WAS ONLY A BOY
Frank Westby was 20 when he died. We've become so used to the idea of boy soldiers being 17 and under that we've almost forgotten how young soldiers were at 20.
Frank Westby was born in 1898 in Long Eaton in Derbyshire. The War Graves Commission's records state: "Son of Mrs Jane Westby of Sheffield", yet in the 1901 census Frank Westby is described as the adopted son of John and Agnes Hibbs of Long Eaton. The Hibbs already had three children. Aged 14 in 1911, Frank Westby was a farm boy boarding with John and Elizabeth Middleton, also in Long Eaton. Aged 17 and 24 days on 9 October 1914, Westby enlisted in the 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.
Westby's medal card shows that he was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star so he didn't enter a theatre of war until 1916. Two years later he was in the front line at Noreuil on 21 March 1918 when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive. The 2nd/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters took the full force of the German onslaught with resulting very heavy casualties: on 1 March 1918 their fighting strength had been 53 officers and 883 ORs; on 1 April 1918 it was 18 officers and 364 ORs.
Westby, along with both the regiment's Commanding Officer and Second in Command, was taken prisoner. Five months later he died whilst a prisoner of war. Some sources says he died of wounds but many prisoners died of overwork, malnutrition, harsh treatment or illness. Westby would have been buried at the time wherever in Germany he had been imprisoned, but after the war prisoners' bodies were gathered up from 180 different burial grounds and reinterred in four permanent cemeteries, of which the Cologne Southern Cemetery was one.
Mr Joseph Westby, a cutlery manufacturer of Goole Green Farm, Fulwood, Sheffield, chose Frank Westby's inscription - "He was only a boy". However. not only was Westby 'only a boy' but he was also one who appears to have had no real family. Joseph Westby was definitely not his father but he could have been his uncle.
HE SHALL MASTER & SURPRISE
THE STEED OF DEATH
FOR HE IS STRONG
During her lifetime the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was more popular than her husband Robert Browning, but this hasn't been reflected in this headstone inscription project. Robert Browning is one of the most popular poets quoted whereas this is the first quotation from one of Elizabeth's poems that I've come across. It's a difficult poem too, and not a popular one. The poem is called A Drama of Exile. It recounts the events of Adam and Eve's first day in exile from the Garden of Eden, and their conversations with Gabriel, Lucifer, various angels, spirits, phantasms and Christ in a vision.
On the Day of Judgement, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised up, who will control Death, the pale horse of Revelation 6: 7-8? The second semichorus promise that, "A Tamer shall be found ... He shall master and surprise the steed of Death for He is strong ..." He, of course, will be Christ who will overcome death for, as it says in the bible, "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" [I Corinthians 15:22]. This is the meaning of Osmond's inscription: there is no death.
John Percival Osmand was born and brought up in South Molton Devon where his father was a domestic groom and coachman. He served in the 2nd/4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and died of wounds in Aire, a hospital centre behind the lines. The battalion had been in action that day in the Neppe Forest Sector where their casualties, particularly from gas, had been very heavy but it's not possible to say if this was the day Osmond was wounded.
MY TASK ACCOMPLISHED
AND THE LONG DAY DONE
Roy Harvey's inscription comes from WE Henley's poem, Margaritae Sorori, Sister Margaret, which he wrote after the death of his five-year-old daughter, Margaret, in 1894. The poem likens death to the end of a day:
... The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night -
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.
So be my passing!
My task accomplished and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gathered to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,
It's a beautiful image which can bear no resemblance to Harvey's death except for the fact that it was the end of his day.
Harvey was a pupil at Hillhead High School in Glasgow and his war service is covered in their war memorial volume. According to their account:
"Three days after the sweeping British advance on the 8th August, in a gallant and successful attack by his battalion, the 5th/6th Royal Scots, he was struck by a bullet, and killed instantaneously."
This wasn't quite how the battalion's war diary saw it. The 5th/6th were certainly part of the attack on Parvillers that day but the attack failed, according to the diary writer:
"for the following reasons, (a) the tanks were half an hour late and were all put out of action before crossing our front line (b) barrage line 400 yds too far advanced and missed German front M.G. positions (c) wire almost impenetrable."
Initially prevented from joining the army, as the Hillhead volume put it: "by a physique which fell below the standard then required", it was October 1917 before he got to the front. Harvey must have been about 5' 2", the minimum height requirement varied between 5' 3" and 5' 6" during the early months of the war before settling on 5' 2" in February 1915. Although men as small as 4' 10" were accepted by the bantam battalions.
The school described Harvey as a reserved, thoughtful boy, noted for his thoroughness, accuracy and precision. For this reason they found it totally in keeping that on his body should have been found both a diary, written up to the previous day, and a Collins Gem dictionary.
"CURST GREED OF GOLD
WHAT CRIMES THY TYRANT POWER
Virgil didn't say this precisely; he used the word 'attest' rather than 'caused', not that it makes much difference. Virgil's point was that many crimes attest to, are evidence of, the power not of gold itself but of the greed for gold. The sentiment is similar to the biblical words from Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all evil".
If that was Virgil's point, what was the point of W de V Summers, Victor's cousin, who chose the inscription? It sounds very much as though W de V was one of the many people who held the socialist view that the war was the result of imperialist tensions caused by world capitalism: "What was responsible for these wars was the whole world system of capitalism with its competitive struggle for profits and its collection of competing armed states".
It's strange that W de V Summers, the de V representing the family name de Vere, who lived in Berkeley, California should have been his cousin's next of kin but then Victor Lionel's parentage is something of a mystery. Aged four in 1891 he was living with his grandparents, and aged 14 in 1901 he was a pupil at St Saviour's College, Ardingly in Sussex. When he enlisted in Watrous, Saskatchewan on 28 October 1916 he named his grandmother, Elizabeth Summers, as his next of kin. She died in 1923 and perhaps this was before the War Graves Commission sent out the request for inscriptions.
Victor Summers served with the 28th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed on 9 August 1918 when the battalion was ordered up from the reserve to go to the assistance of the 31st Battalion in their attack on the village of Rosieres on the second day of the Amiens offensive..
HIS LAST WORDS
"I PRAY TO GOD
TO KEEP MUM AND DAD
HAPPY AND WELL" RIP
At 1 pm on 9th August 1918, the 6th Battalion the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment received orders that they were to attack at 5.30 pm that evening. The battalion war diary recorded:
"Attack completely successful after hand fighting. 12 machine guns captured 10 others destroyed, 4 Trench Howitzers & 1 granatenwerfer [grenade thrower] & about 40 prisoners taken. Attack penetrated about 2000 yards into enemy positions."
Two days later the war diary counted up the casualties the regiment had incurred between 12 noon on the 9th and 12 noon on the 11th August. They amounted to 165 including two officers and 24 other ranks killed. Fourteen members of the regiment are buried with Rivers in Ville-sur-Ancre Communal Cemetery Extension; Rivers is the only one to have died on the 11th. I don't like to think about it but, there was no Regimental Aid Post or Field Ambulance attached to this cemetery so Rivers would not have received any particular medical attention. However, he obviously knew he was dying and lived long enough to be able utter his last affecting words. I wonder who passed them on.
Frederick Rivers was the seventh of his parents' ten children. Father, Charles William Rivers, had served in the army between 1883 and 1894 - as a butcher in the Commissariat Transport Corps. In 1911 he was a labourer in the naval dockyards in Portsmouth. Two of Frederick's elder brothers served in the Royal Navy and one in the Royal Marine Artillery, all three survived the war.
WILL YE NO COME BACK AGAIN
This song has such strong associations with Scotland that I assumed William Logan was a Scotsman. But no, he was an Englishman, born and bred in the Home Counties. Nor was his father a Scotsman, having been born in Liverpool. But then I saw where his mother came from - Alvah in Banffshire - so that was the Scottish connection.
The song's best-known words commemorate 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), following the 1745 Rebellion. It's possible however that the tune belonged to a traditional Scottish song of farewell long before Carolina Oliphant (Lady Nairne 1766-1845) added the Bonnie Prince Charlie dimension. The words come from the chorus:
Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be,
Will ye no come back again.
William, the son of a nurseryman in Enfield, Middlesex, served with the 1st Battalion The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. In August 1918 the regiment were in Flanders and whatever was happening in France, where the British had just launched the Battle of Amiens, it was business as usual in Flanders. The regiment were based near Erie Farm where the war diary reported that on the 6th they were "Called upon to furnish a party to proceed to La Lovie Chateau & line the avenue to cheer H.M. the King as he passed along ... The party got very wet". There were no casualties on the 7th, nor on the 8th but on the 9th it reported "hostile artillery active on front left during night 3 ORs killed". The 10th was another quiet day. Was Logan one of the three ORs killed on the night of the 9th. It looks like it.
"HE NOBLY LIVED OR OTHERWISE;
FAILED OR SUCCEEDED"
FRIEND JUST SAY "HE TRIED"
To a Soldier
Say not of him "he left this vale of tears,"
Who loved the good plain English phrase
Nor state "he nobly lived (or otherwise)
Failed or succeeded" - friend, just say
O.E. (Somewhere in France.)
The above verse was published in the Eton Chronicle on 11 May 1916 just four days before its author, Captain Henry Platt Coldstream Guards, was killed in Flanders whilst out on a wiring party. Mrs Platt quoted from it for her husband's inscription just as Mrs Pooley did for hers. But I wonder how Mrs Pooley came across it as it seems that Eton played no part in the lives of the Pooleys and I can't see that the lines were published anywhere else.
In 1891 at the age of 18, Pooley was a private in the 5th Dragoon Guards stationed at Aldershot. Twenty-three years later he was the Regimental Serjeant Major and the 5th Dragoons were back in Aldershot. From here they were immediately mobilised for war and crossed to France ten days later, 15 August. Within six weeks Pooley had been commissioned Second Lieutenant "for services in the field". The following January he was awarded one of the very first Military Crosses for "meritorious service", was promoted Lieutenant and appointed Adjutant in May 1915 and by February 1918 was an Acting Staff Captain attached to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade Headquarters.
On 8 August 1918 the Brigade took part in the opening day of the Battle of Amiens. The war diary gives an almost hour by hour, sometimes a minute by minute account of events between the 8th and the 10th, reporting that at 2.55 pm on the 9th:
"The valley from Caix to the station was being heavily shelled by 5.9s. One of these landed in the midst of Bde. H.Q. killing Capt. Pooley MC (Staff Capt.) Lieut. H. Fry (Signalling Officer), Lieut. G. Hulbert 18th Hrs (Galloper tot he G.O.C.) and two O.R.s and wounding Major Walter(O.C. 2nd M.G.S.) and Lieut. Frere 2nd M.G.S. besides causing about 10 casualties to the horses."
Charles Pooley sounds like a valuable man to have around, an excellent soldier from the very beginning of the war to just within sight of victory. I like to think that his inscription suited him - don't say fancy things about me, just say I tried.