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 […]

A Call To Arms

Unlike the rest of the country, Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, did not believe that it would all be over by Christmas. In fact he believed that it would be all be over for Britain in a way it hadn’t bargained for if something wasn’t done fast to expand the size of […]

A Contemptible Little Army

‘Contemptible’ was the proud adjective that survivors of the original Expeditionary Force used to describe themselves after the Kaiser had supposedly dismissed them as “General French’s contemptible little army” on 19 August 1914. It is my Royal and Imperial Command that you concentrate your energies, for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and that […]

Roman Catholic Prayers for the Dead

Headstone inscriptions were not part of the Imperial War Graves Commission’s original plans but came about through an awareness of the comfort they would give the Roman Catholic community. There is some difference of opinion as to whether leave should be given to relatives to add anything further … (but) it would give satisfaction in […]

The Battle of Mons

It took five days from the declaration of war for the first troops of the British Expeditionary Force to be ready to leave for France, and seven more for the exercise to be complete. In those twelve days thousands of army reservists were recalled and issued with uniforms, 120,000 horses were requisitioned and 1,800 special […]

The King’s Message, 9 August 1914

In a personal message to the Expeditionary Force as it embarked for France, King George V assured his soldiers that their welfare would never be absent from his thoughts and expressed his confidence in knowing that their duty would be ‘nobly done’. The words struck a cord and were not only used on headstone inscriptions […]

Lord Kitchener’s Advice to British Troops

On 9 August 1914, as the first troops of the Expeditionary Force embarked for France, the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, sent the following message to the army. In much the same way that the US army issued Instructions to American Servicemen in Britain 1942, he believed it would encourage good relations with […]

Killed in Action: Died of Wounds

The circumstances of a casualty’s death make for an interesting category of inscription. Many of them manage to convey not only information but dignity and pathos too, despite their limited letter count. Some inscriptions simply use the phrase “Killed in action” or “Died of wounds”, the phrases of the official communiques. Officers’ next-of-kin received telegrams […]