Author Archives: Sarah

Americans who fought and died in the Armies of the British Empire

The United States may only have joined the First World War on 6 April 1917 but many young American men had already given their lives in the allied cause, either crossing the border to enlist in the Canadian army or crossing the Atlantic to serve with British and French forces. Why? We can’t always know […]

Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau

There are three impressive factors about the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau: one, that it existed at all, two, that its files survived, and three, that they have been digitised. These files drill right down into the loss, fear and horror of war and into the care taken to discover the fate […]

Two Sons of The Souls: Hugo and Yvo Charteris

At an isolated crossroads on the busy Stow-on-the-Wold, Tewkesbury Road, there’s an elegant bronze statue of St George piercing the dragon’s breast with his slender lance. Carved on the base are the words: “Men of Stanway For a tomb they have an altar For lamentation memory And for pity praise” Among the eleven names carved […]

John Kipling

John Kipling was Rudyard’s only son, not quite his “best beloved” as that position was always held by his daughter Josephine who had died of pneumonia in 1899 when she was only 6. In fact, John emerges from his father’s biographies as someone who had “not turned out altogether well” (Martin Seymour-Smith), was backward in […]

Foreign Language Inscriptions

Inscriptions come in many different languages: Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Danish, Africaans, Maori and Zulu to name the ones I’ve come across. The language usually reflects the casualty’s country of origin, even if he was no longer living there when he died. The War Graves Commission stipulated that “Inscriptions requiring the use of special alphabets such […]

Laurence Binyon

Robert Laurence Binyon 1869-1943 was a poet and art historian who spent his working life at the British Museum, mainly in the Department of Prints and Drawings. On 21 September 1914 The Times published his lyrical elegy ‘For the Fallen’. The words of the fourth verse are still repeated at remembrance services, and are the […]

Circumstances of Death

The circumstances of a casualty’s death make for an interesting category of inscription; many manage to convey not only information but dignity and pathos too, despite their restricted letter count. Some inscriptions quote “Killed in action” or “Died of wounds”, the words of the official communique. An officer’s next-of-kin received a telegram with the words: […]

His Loving Parents Curse the Hun

Having originally announced that all inscriptions were to be subject to their “absolute power of rejection or acceptance”, the Commission then had to backtrack and reassure the public that it only intended to censor ones that were “plainly unsuitable”. What did they consider “plainly unsuitable?

The Cause

In the first weeks of the war commentators begged the Government to make their war aims clear to the public – what was the country fighting for? Surely this was a vital step if the Government was to succeed in getting men to volunteer. When the war was over, headstone inscriptions revealed the myriad causes […]

The Amiens Dispatch

Kitchener’s poster declared, “Your King and Country need you”, but it was only once the Amiens Dispatch was published on 30 August that the British public realised just how much their King and country needed them. Early on the morning of Monday 24 August, the day after the British defeat at Mons, Lord Kitchener brought […]