1 JULY 1916
"THE FRENCH ARE
A GRAND NATION
WORTH FIGHTING FOR"
VIDE ALF'S LETTER 22.3.16
Some parents were so magnanimous, so generous in their response to the death of their sons. Alfred Goodlad was his parents only child yet his inscription, quoting from a letter he had written to them on 22 March 1916, says "The French are a grand nation worth fighting for".
Goodlad, an accountant's clerk, served with the 12th Battalion the York and Lancaster Regiment, the Sheffield Pals, which in March 1916 had only just landed in France after a brief spell in Egypt, their first foreign deployment. On 1 July 1916 the regiment attacked the heavily fortified village of Serre. Within minutes the soldiers had come up against uncut barbed wire and heavy machine gun fire causing 513 casualties, killed, wounded and missing, of whom 246 died that day. As someone said of another Pals battalion, "We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying".
This isn't the whole of Colonel Machell's inscription but we'll come to that later. One of the reasons I've chosen to include Percy Machell is to show that not everyone killed on 1 July was a young junior officer or an inexperienced soldier; Machell was 54 and a Lieutenant Colonel. And this is where the rest of his inscription comes in. It exceeds the War Graves Commission's limit of sixty-six letters by forty, and with the link could well have exceeded Twitter's 140 character limit, so I omitted for it for Twitter and have included it here. The inscription relates his military career:
56 Regt. 1882 Egyptian Army 1886
C.O. XII Sudanese 1891-1895
Adviser Ministry of Interior
Egyptian Government 1898-1908
The information in the cemetery register gives even more detail.
Machell retired in 1905 and married in 1906. However, when Lord Lonsdale decided to raise a battalion in the border regions, the 11th (Service) Battalion Border Regiment, afterwards known as The Lonsdales, he asked his friend Percy Machell to train and command it. This Machell was prepared to do with his usual commitment and thoroughness, if also with his usual brusqueness and bluntness.
On 23 November 1915 the battalion sailed for France and in the middle of December had its first taste of the trenches. You can see the sort of man he was in this extract from his diary of 14 December:
I had a talk yesterday on the futility of grousing and the necessity of making the best of the worst of everything.
The battalion, like so many of these New Army battalions, was being trained for the 'Big Push' that was to come on the Somme on 1 July 1916. Machell did his best to leave no stone unturned in the preparations, as his obviously hurried final note to his Company Commanders makes clear:
All not hit MUST push on. MUST do our job. If all goes well, I stay proper place; if goes badly, I come up and see it through.
A commanding officer's 'proper place' was behind the lines, as far as possible out of danger so that he could 'command'. Unfortunately all did not go well with the Lonsdale's attack with the result that Machell rushed to the front line, mounted the parapet to urge his men on and was immediately shot and killed.
One hundred and eighty men from the Lonsdale Battalion were killed on 1 July. The bodies of the majority of them, ninety-eight, were never recovered and they are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, but sixty of them are buried in Lonsdale Cemetery. I find it rather sad that Machell is not among them. Perhaps attempts were made to save him and he was sent to a Field Ambulance Station, where he died and where he is the only member of his battalion to be buried.
His wife chose his inscription. Lady Valda Machell had been born Lady Valda Gleichen, the daughter of Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the son of Queen Victoria's half sister. The inscription finishes with the single word 'Prospice', the title of a poem by Robert Browning. I'll only quote a few lines of what is not in fact a very long poem, all of which seems very appropriate.
I was ever a fighter, so one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
Note: Much of the information on Percy Machell came from The Border Regiment on This Day and this excellent site, dedicated to the Lonsdale Battalion and maintained by Kev Johnstone, great grandson of Private John Farrer, killed in action 1 July 1916.
OF A FOREIGN FIELD
THAT IS FOR EVER ENGLAND
In 1914, Rupert Brooke wrote:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
These are the opening lines of his hugely popular poem, The Soldier. Today readers criticise Brooke for romanticising, even glamourising war and the idea of dying for your country. But it is nevertheless a very beautiful poem, and very consoling should your relation be numbered among the dead.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
In one way William Roy Davey was the classic nineteen-year-old subaltern, fresh from school, killed leading his men 'over the top' into a hail of machine-gun fire and a tangle of uncut German barbed wire on the morning of 1 July 1916. But in another way he does not conform to the stereotype. He was not a young man of privilege, of the establishment, educated at a public school. In 1911 his father was a tailor's cutter, the family lived in Albert Road, Hendon, a road of terraced houses of some substance but no grandeur, and worshipped at the Congregational Church.
Davey was one of five second lieutenants in the battalion killed in the attack at Gommecourt - his body not located until May 1921 - one of 552 second lieutenants killed in France on that day, a small fraction of the 19,240 British soldiers who died on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts of England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
This single word probably draws a blank for many a twenty-first century reader yet it is doubly appropriate, perhaps even triply appropriate as an inscription.
Firstly the word bivouac means temporary living quarters that have been specially built for soldiers, sometimes a temporary camp without either tents or cover. Soldiers bivouac, mountaineers too, and the dead bivouac in these cemeteries, 'camps' that have been specially built for them. There is perhaps too a sub-text in that it is only temporary accommodation because the dead shall rise up to everlasting life.
But another reason for the choice of this word as an inscription is the poem by the American poet Theodore O'Hara (1820-1867), 'The Bivouac of the Dead' of which this is the first verse:
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.
Kenneth Milne-Mills, although I don't know where the Milne comes from because the family don't use it in either the 1891 or the 1911 census, served with the 16th Battalion Middlesex Regiment. On 1 July 1916 the battalion was in the supporting wave of the 29th Division's attack on Hawthorn Ridge, Beaumont-Hamel, which followed the blowing of the huge mine there. The battalion advanced into 'withering German machine gun fire' with the inevitable huge casualties.
Private Mills' father, a librarian at Guy's Hospital, was dead by 1911. A Mr M.B. Milne-Mills chose Kenneth's inscription, perhaps a misprint for N? His brother was called Norman.
HOW CLOSELY BRAVERY
AND MODESTY ARE ENTWINED
Private Francis Thomas Lind, much better known by his nickname 'Mayo' Lind, has an entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography based on the series of thirty-two good humoured, gossipy letters which he wrote whilst on active service and which were published in the St John's 'Daily News'.
In the letter dated 20 May 1915, Lind complained about English tobacco with the result that the makers of 'Mayo' tobacco launched an appeal for funds to send him tobacco that he could then distribute to his fellow Newfoundland soldiers. On 1 July 1915, 1,700 pounds of tobacco arrived at Stobs Camp near Edinburgh where Lind was in training; much to the amusement and one assumes pleasure of the rest of the camp. This is how he acquired his nickname.
The letters also explain how he acquired his inscription. After the war his letters were published by the editor of the Daily News as 'The Letters of Mayo Lind', "in memory of the cheerful soldier". As the Canadian Dictionary of Biography notes, after Lind's death "he became a symbol in Newfoundland of the soldier who could face discomfort and ultimately sacrifice, with good humour".
Lind went into action with the rest of the 798 members of the 1st Battalion at Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 1916. At the end of the day 710 of them had become casualties: 233 killed, 91 missing, all of the missing eventually to be pronounced dead.
Lind was among the missing. It was months before his family had any firm news and then on 3 November 1916 the headline, 'Frank Lind Dead', appeared in the 'Daily News'. The report stated that:
a returned soldier is sure he saw Frank Lind dead on the field on July 1st. He passed him going out and noticed he was doubled up as though he had been hit in the stomach. The same man was later wounded and in crawling back passed the same place again and is sure there was no doubt that it was Lind and that he was dead.
On 12 November Lind's brother wrote to the Colonial Secretary, (see Lind's file in the digitised records of the Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War) asking him if he would get in touch with the returned soldier, or let him have his name and address so he could make contact himself. I don't know what answer he got but on 23 November the Colonial Secretary wrote a letter to the families of all the missing Newfoundland soldiers telling them that "all these gallant men, whose names are given in the enclosed list, and one of whom was very dear to you, were killed in that fateful action on the 1st of July".
Lind's body was eventually recovered and, in a manner, identified. The full inscription on his headstone reads:
Of the great war
Royal Newfoundland Regt.
1st July 1916. age 37
How closely bravery
And modesty are entwined
Royal Newfoundland Regt.
Known unto God
BE ASHAMED TO DIE
UNTIL YOU HAVE GAINED
SOME VICTORY FOR HUMANITY
George Pike was one of the three hundred and twenty-four men from the 1st Battalion the Newfoundland Regiment killed in action on the 1 July 1916. Originally among the missing, his body was located and buried in June 1917. His full army details, medical records and conduct sheets have been digitised and can be found on the Newfoundland Regiment and the Great War website.
His inscription is a well known American quotation from a speech given by Horace Mann 1796-1859, an educational reformer and the President of Antioch College at Yellow Springs, Ohio. It comes from his commencement message to the class of 1859 and is now not only repeated to the graduating class at every commencement but has become the College's motto.
It's not possible to say who chose Pike's inscription as the name under it is that of Lt Colonel T Nangle, Newfoundland's Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries and Memorials and the country's representative on the Imperial War Graves Commission. I have evidence that Newfoundland families did choose inscriptions but sometimes the one on the grave isn't the one they chose.
Nangle served as a Roman Catholic padre with the Royal Army Chaplains Department, where he was much respected by the men. It is to him that credit for the purchase of the ground over which so many Newfoundlanders fought and died on 1 July 1916 was bought and has been preserved as a memorial to all Newfoundlanders who died in the war. He is also responsible for the six caribou memorials, four in France, one in Belgium and one in Newfoundland that also commemorate the dead.
FELL WHILST LEADING
On 16 June 1916 Ronald Grundy wrote to his father, sending the letter home with a friend going on leave so as to avoid the censor and telling him him that the British were on the verge of a big attack. The letter gave John Grundy far more military details than it should have done, including the fact that Ronald was "glad to say I shall be one of the first over the top". At the end of the letter he warned his father that, "As it is information that would be useful to the enemy keep it to yourself at least until the show as started".
Two weeks later he wrote to both his parents concluding with these words:
And mother, please always look on the bright side. Only 5% of the Army are killed and there are lots of fellows over here who have been out 20 months & in all the big scraps. So cheer up & don't worry for I can't always write as frequently as I have done.
Goodbye and best to you all,
P.S. A very happy birthday to you
The next day, 1 July 1916, Ronald led his men (his platoon of about fifty men) 'over the top', according to his batman carrying no more than his officer's swagger stick, and was shot through the neck and killed in the very first minutes of the attack. It appears that his family received his 30 June letter on 4 July and the telegram notifying them of his death on the 5th - his mother's birthday.
Statistics vary but however you look at it Ronald's percentage of Army deaths was way out. Twelve percent is usually the number given for soldiers and seventeen percent for officers.
Ronald and his brothers were all pupils at Emanuel School in London. His elder brother Cecil died of wounds on 16 November 1915, his younger brother, Jack, became headmaster in 1953.
In his book, 'The Great War and Modern Memory', Paul Fussell scorned the use of 'high diction', euphemisms, that disguise the reality of war and glamourize and romanticise it. The use of the word 'fell' instead of died or was killed is one that receives special mention. However, I have seen enough reports from soldiers describing the death of the man beside them to know that they used the word literally - the man fell - without any intention of glamourising what happened. He 'fell', the 'fallen', did become the way to describe the war dead, and it did give their deaths some sort of romantic distance but it was also a literal description of what happened when you were shot or hit by a shell. Ronald's father used the word in his inscription, Ronald's manservant having told them that he had just "crumpled without a sound".
For Cecil's inscription, John Grundy appears to pay tribute to both his sons:
And for such sons as these
Be praise to God
I have made extensive use of an article by Daniel Kirmatzis for this post. He is the co-author of 'Emanuel School at War' and can be heard talking about the Grundy bothers here.
IS BY THE YOUNG INVADED
The idea that the dead are now happy, that they are better off where they are, and that in the case of the youthful dead, they will now be young forever, is a consistent theme in consolatory verse. This is exactly the idea behind 'Flower of Youth' a poem by Katherine Tynan (1861-1931) from which James Ekin's inscription is taken. However, Tynan takes it slightly further and like Mrs Schuyler van Rensselaer's poem, 'It Is Well With the Child?', she implies that God positively wants the companionship of these young men.
Lest Heaven be thronged with grey-beards hoary,
God, who made boys for His delight,
Stoops in a day of grief and glory
And calls them in, in from the night.
When they come trooping from the war
Our skies have many a new gold star.
The inscription comes from verse four:
Now Heaven is by the young invaded;
Their laughter's in the House of God.
Stainless and simple as He made it
God keeps the heart o' the boy unflawed.
The old wise Saints look on and smile,
They are so young and without guile.
But the real point of the poem is to reassure the bereaved:
Oh! if the sonless mothers, weeping,
And the widowed girls could look inside
The glory that hath them in keeping
Who went to the Great War, and died,
They would rise and put their mourning off,
And say: 'Thank God, he has enough!'
There was a huge crowd 'invading' heaven on the day James Ekin died: 19, 240 young British men alone. All killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme and among them James's elder brother Leslie who was twenty-two.
I looked up the Ekins in the 1911 census to see if there were any other children and was relieved to see that there were five of them. The youngest was only one, a boy Sidney, so he was totally safe from harm - except that he wasn't. He was killed in Tunisia on 21 January 1943 aged thirty-two whilst serving with the Second Battalion The London Irish Rifles.
IN THE MIDST OF LIFE
WE ARE IN DEATH
The words of the Order for the Burial of the Dead from the Book of Common Prayer have brought comfort to mourners for centuries. This inscription comes from the prayer said by the priest at the graveside as the body is lowered into the ground.
Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the pains of eternal death. Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.
The words express truths that were never more evident than on 1 July 1916 - that our lives are short, that we can be cut down like a flower at any time, and that whilst we live death surrounds us on all sides.
Joseph Bell was among almost 20,000 men killed along the Somme front on that one day. It's a distance of between fifteen and twenty miles depending on how many twists and turns of the front line you take into account. So that's a thousand bodies a mile, almost one every two yards. How on earth were they all buried?
Many bodies of course weren't buried, they just disappeared, pulverized by shells, trodden into the ground, lost for ever. Others were carried to prepared grave trenches just behind the lines. This is what happened to Joseph Bell. And, whilst the army made every attempt to bury soldiers with dignity, funeral services must have been pretty hurried and abbreviated in the days immediately following 1 July.
Joseph Bell's mother, Sarah, chose his inscription. Not only is it a form of momento mori - take care how you live as death is all around you - but, by referencing the words from this funeral prayer, Mrs Bell evokes its whole sentiment for her son: "O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the pains of eternal death ... and suffer us not, at our last hour ... to fall from thee".
A MERE BOY
BUT A GREAT SPORTSMAN
We can know nothing about this young man - other than the fact that he was one of the 19,240 men killed in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Somme campaign - and that according to his mother whose chose his inscription, he was "a great sportsman". Rowe was the son of a Spanish General Produce Merchant who lived in Clapham. He served with the Second Battalion the London Regiment Royal Fusiliers whose task on the day was to divert the German artillery and their reserves from the main attack south of the Ancre. Unfortunately the Germans were expecting the British attack just where the Second Battalion were to create their diversion.
THE THOUGHTS OF MOTHER
MY DARLING SON
WHO MOURNS YOU ALWAYS
Mrs Parsons, Arthur Johnathan's mother chose his inscription and no, I haven't spelt his name wrongly, that's how it appears on all the documents. She was a widow, her husband having died in 1904 when Arthur was seven and his sister, Alice, two. In the 1911 census Mrs Parsons describes herself as 'domestic'; Arthur, aged 14, was working as a 'boy in deposit office'. Their accommodation in St Thomas's Street, Islington, had three rooms, and that included counting the kitchen as a room.
Arthur volunteered in 1914, served in Gallipoli during 1915, and transferred to the Western Front early in 1916. He was killed in action in the Fusiliers' diversionary attack at Gommecourt on 1 July 1916, one of the 57,450 casualties - killed, missing, wounded - suffered by the British Army on the Somme that day; one of the 19,240 men killed.
'Boys' like Arthur Parsons had become valuable soldiers by 1916, the fact that at nineteen he was a Lance Serjeant is an indication of his quality. It won't only have been his mother who missed him.
THE WORLD WAS SWEETER
FOR HIS LIFE
AND LIFE LIVES -
POORER BY A FRIEND. A.V.R.
Alfred Ratcliffe wrote his own epitaph - not for himself but for a friend, 'G.C.H.', who died in 1912. The poem, 'A Broken Friendship', was first published in 1913 in 'A Broken Friendship and Other Verse" and then anthologised with some of his later poetry in several collections of soldier poets. Ratcliffe's mother chose the lines for his inscription although very oddly the family later placed a private stone in front of his War Graves Commission headstone, which obscured the original inscription. The plaque reads, "A very dearly loved son and brother".
The verse from which the original inscription comes is the last verse of the poem:
And through the darksome ways of strife
This thought shall lustre till the end,
The world was sweeter for his life,
And life lives - poorer by a friend.
[Harrogate August 1912]
The way the words are laid out in the inscription has led some people to think that the lines were written "by a friend" but no, it's that Ratcliffe's life is poorer by the loss of a friend.
There is an echo of a poem by Gerald Massey, 'In Memoriam, Earl Brownlow' in this last verse:
And Life is all the sweeter that he lived,
And all he loved more sacred for his sake,
And death is all the brighter that he died,
And Heaven is all the happier that he's there.
Ratcliffe, educated at Dulwich College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, was killed on 1 July 1916. His senior officer having been killed earlier in the day, Ratcliffe was commanding the company at the time of his death. A fellow officer told his mother that "from where we found his body he must have led it pluckily and well".
I AM THE RESURRECTION
AND THE LIFE
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
St John 11: 25-6
Cyril Shepard's inscription is taken from the opening words of the Church of England's Order For the Burial of the Dead and is a quote from St John's gospel. For the next-of-kin, comfort could be derived from the Christian promise of eternal life, and from the reference to the funeral service, which none of them had been able to attend - and which many must have feared had not been properly conducted.
Cyril Harry Shepard was Ernest Shepard's older brother. Ernest, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows, served with the Royal Artillery during the war, Cyril with the 9th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. In June 1916 both were on the Somme, Ernest's guns pounding the German's trenches, Cyril and his men waiting to attack on 1 July. Come the 1st July, Cyril and 160 men from the 8th and 9th Devonshires were killed almost immediately. Many of them were caught by a machine gun positioned exactly where Captain Martin had predicted one would be from the plasticine model he'd made of the area. He'd hoped the British bombardment would have put it out of action - it hadn't.
Later that same day the survivors buried their dead in the same forward trench from which they had launched their attack, marking the grave with the famous words:
The Devonshires held this trench
The Devonshires hold it still
Some days after the battle Ernest found his brother's grave, remarking in his diary that he was grateful to feel so near to Cyril. He returned several times, telling his wife, Florence, that "it's such a strange feeling, I feel as if the place were a kind of home, and I feel we're kind of greeting each other. I always dream of after the war when you and I can go there together and I expect Rosemary & Ethel [sister] will come too". So as not to lose the place, he marked up a trench map with the reference F17 a.9.6. putting a tiny cross on the precise spot. According to the information beside this map in the House of Illustration exhibition, 'EH Shepard: An Illustrator's War', Ernest returned to the grave for years after the war was over.
NOT MY WILL O LORD
BUT THINE BE DONE
The Lord's Prayer appears in both the Gospel of St Matthew (6: 9-13) and in St Luke (11:2-4) but the words most people are and would have been familiar with come from the Book of Common Prayer:
Our father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done,
In earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil.
The fourth line of the prayer, Thy will be done, is a very popular inscription and indicates the bleak acceptance of God's will. However, Private Stapleton's family make it clear that whilst his death may have been God's will, it was not their's. And this too is a popular inscription. The words echo those spoken by Jesus in the hours before his arrest in Garden of Gethsemene: "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (St Luke 22:42); "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done" (St Matthew 26:42).
Thomas Stapleton, serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed in action on the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.
I FELL: BUT YIELDED NOT
MY ENGLISH SOUL
THAT LIVES OUT HERE
BENEATH THE BATTLE'S ROLL
He died for love of race; because the blood
Of northern freemen swelled in his veins; arose
True to tradition that like mountain stood
Impregnable, crown'd with its pathless snows,
When broke the call, from the sepulchred years
Strong voices urged and stirr'd his soul to life;
The call of English freemen fled his fears
And led him (their true son) into the strife.
There in the van he fought thro' many a dawn,
Stood by the forlorn hope, knew victory;
Proud, scorning Death, fought with a purpose drawn
Sword-edged, defiant, grand for Liberty.
He fell; but yielded not his Englsih soul -
That lives out there beneath the battle's roll.
Serjeant Street's inscription comes from one of his own poems, An English Soldier, first published in September 1916 in Erskine MacDonald's Soldier Poets: Songs of the Fighting Men and later in a collected edition of his own poetry, The Undying Splendour , May 1917 . However, his mother slightly altered the words of the original so that where Streets wrote "He fell", Clara Streets has changed it to "I fell", and where the final line reads, "That lives out there" she has put, "out here" so that Streets is now speaking directly to the reader from his grave.
John William Streets left school at 14. Although he won a place at the local grammar school he chose instead to go to work in the local colliery. As the eldest of 10 children, the family could do with the money he earned. In the 1901 census he was 15 and working as a colliery pony driver, driving the ponies that pulled the tubs from the coal face to the bottom of the shaft. By the 1911 census he was a hewer, working at the coal face.
Despite leaving school, Streets continued to study, teaching himself Latin and Greek and taking a correspondence course in French. He painted and drew, sang in the choir at his local Wesleyan Chapel and taught at the Sunday School. Surviving notebooks reveal his love of the Derbyshire countryside around Whitwell where the family lived, and his developing interest in poetry and writing.
Streets enlisted in the 12th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, the Sheffield Pals, and went with them to Egypt in December 1915. Two months later the battalion transferred to the Western Front and three months after this they took part in the attack on the heavily fortified village of Serre on 1 July 1916. At the end of the day Streets was missing having been known to have been wounded. It was May 1917 before Street's body was found, identified and buried, the same month that Undying Splendour was published.
He was a good soldier, as confirmed by a senior officer in the regiment, Major Alfred Plackett, in a letter to Streets' publisher in April 1917:
I understand you are publishing a book of the verses of Sergt. J.W. Streets. If his verses are as good as his reputation as a soldier you may rest assured that the book will be a great success.
... He was conspicuous amongst a battalion of brave men who formed the left wing battalion of the great Allied advance on the 1st July. He fell along with the remainder of his comrades, and he died as he had lived ... a MAN.
Need I say more?
It was a privilege to command such men.
STILL SERVING HIS KING
Charles Soper was one of the 19,240 British soldiers killed in the service of their King and country on 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme. His mother chose his inscription - Still serving his King - however, this king is no longer King George V but God. Many psalms and hymns make this association: Psalm 145, 'I will extoll Thee O my God and king'; George Herbert, 'Teach me my God and king, in all things Thee to see'.
Charles Soper was the son of Thomas Henry Soper of the photographers Soper and Stedman. Following their father's death in 1903, the two children, Charles and Cecilia, were sent to the London Orphan Asylum in Watford where children were educated by a charity whose aim was to "maintain, clothe, and educate respectable fatherless children of either sex, who are without means adequate to their support". The name makes it sound a terrible place but it's worth taking a look at the buildings and facilities to see if it makes you think again.
SON OF W. AND M. HALL
George Hall worked at Pleasley Colliery before he enlisted in September 1914. The family wrshipped at St Barnabas Church where George sang in the choir. The Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser reported that a few days before going into battle he sent his mother a beautiful card with the words 'God be with you 'til we meet again'. He was killed on the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916, in the Sherwood Foresters attack on the Leipig Salient.
His elder brother James Northage Hall died on the Greek Island of Lemnos of dysentry on 9 December 1915. His wife assures him in the inscription she chose that he was "Gone but not forgotten", even though she was now married to someone else.
"AND THE LEAVES OF THE TREE
WERE FOR THE HEALING
OF THE NATIONS"
"C" Company, the centre left element of the attack, had also been hung up on uncut wire. Led by Captain Richard Hoare, who was killed by shrapnel in front of the German lines, the men desperately sought a passage through the German wire and into the relative safety of the German trenches but a hail of rifle fire and bombs was thinning their ranks by the minute."
"There went into action with the Rangers, 23 officers and 780 other ranks. Answered their names at roll call: 6 officers and 280 other ranks. Another 53 other ranks lost in the confusion or trapped in No Man's Land by heavy fire found their way back and returned to the ranks over the following days. In all, 58% of the Rangers became casualties on 1st July. Three-quarters of the officers were either killed or wounded."
1:30 am 2nd July 1916
The Rangers War Diary
Richard Hoare's inscription, which comes as it says from the Book of Revelations, was confirmed by his mother, Laura (Cator) Hoare.
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22: 1-2
OF BALLIOL COLLEGE OXFORD
THE DEARLY LOVED SON
OF GUSTAF AND ANNIE ROOS
Gustaf Roos was a well developed man with auburn hair and about 5 foot 9 or 10 inches in height. How do we know? Because this was the description of the body exhumed on 26 June 1924 from Fremicourt Communal Cemetery where it had been buried by the Germans in July 1916 under a cross inscribed with his name.
Captain Roos's fate can be traced through the war diary of the 14th Battalion the York and Lancaster Regiment, the Barnsley Pals', for July 1 1916 . 'A' Company, under Captain Roos was:
"To proceed in file across "No Man's Land" immediately following assaulting waves. To consolidate and hold German Trench K30a4085 to K23a7510 and to construct and hold strong points A and B along that line."
Reporting on the attack the diary later states:
"No report of any sort was received back from A or B Companies once they had left Nairne. From reports by wounded men who had got back from "No Man's Land", very great casualties were sustained by A and B Coys, while crossing towards the German wire, on the left flank of the attack."
At the end of the day the Battalion war diary reports 26 men killed, 153 missing and 96 wounded. Of 'A' Company's officers, Captain Roos and Lieutenant RDB Anderson were missing, 2nd Lieutenant W Hirst had been killed and 2nd Lieutenant W Kell wounded.
Later reports suggested that Captain Roos had been seen to enter the German trench at the head of his men but had been wounded, captured by the Germans and died of wounds in a German hospital. All this is confirmed by his burial on 4 July 1916 in Fremicourt Communal Cemetery, where the Germans were burying those who died in the hospital they had set up in the local church. And what were his wounds? I'll let the exhumation report tell you: "Both legs broken, body badly smashed".
Gustaf Roos must have been some man. He had been a Queen's Scholar at Westminster, taken a 1st Class degree in Jurisprudence from Balliol College, Oxford, which he followed with a B.C.L., a Bachelor of Civil Law. He worked as a solicitor in London, often acting as 'Poor Man's Solicitor' at Toynbee Hall. He volunteered to fight in the South African War where he was badly wounded. So badly wounded that he found it difficult to persuade anyone to take him seriously when he volunteered to fight in 1914. Eventually, in October 1915, he got a commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment, which is how at the age of 47 he found himself leading 'A' Company across No Man's Land at 7.10 on the morning of 1 July 1916.
ALSO CAPT. A. WEATHERHEAD
ROYAL LANCASTER REGIMENT
KILLED 1ST JULY 1916
"Much sympathy will be felt throughout the district for Mrs. Weatherhead, of Mount Road, New Brighton, widow of the late Canon Weatherhead, of Seacombe, in the loss of her eldest son, Captain and Adjutant George Ernest Weatherhead, of the 2nd Battalion the King's Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment. Mrs. Weatherhead has just received the sad news that her son was killed in action near Ypres on Sunday last. It will be remembered that she had three sons serving with His Majesty's Forces."
Wallasey News Saturday 22 May 1915
From this son's inscription we can see that another of Mrs Weatherhead's sons, Andrew, was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Neither George nor Andrew were married but there is evidence that at least one of the sons married and had children.
"Captain George Ernest Weatherhead, Adjutant, 2nd Battalion the Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) Died 8th May 1915 defending Ypres. 100 Years and still remembered.
Nephew Peter Weatherhead and family."
In Memorium Column, Daily Telegraph 8 May 2015
There seems to be some confusion over the date of George's death. The War Graves Commission records it as the 9 May but the family say the 8th and I think they are correct. According to the 2nd Battalion's War Diary for 8 May 1915: the Germans began to heavily shell their trenches at 7am, simultaneously launching an attack which forced them to abandon the front line. The battalion regrouped but at 10am the Germans renewed their attack and at 11.35 am they received the message to retire. Among those listed as having been killed in the attack was Captain Weatherhead.
I AM THE RESURRECTION
AND THE LIFE
Montgomery Hewitt was one of three brothers killed in the war. Two of them, Montogmery and his younger brother William, were killed on the same day, 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme. Only one of them, Montgomery, has a grave and was therefore able to have an inscription. The other two are commemorated on memorials to the missing, Ernest at Le Touret and William at Thiepval. The fourth brother survived the war.
The boys' parents took comfort from the words they chose for Montgomery's inscription:
"Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me , though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoso believeth in me shall never die."
St John 11:25-6
HE SLEEPETH WITH THE BRAVE
Alan Hill was one of the 19,240 men killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. His inscription references 'How Sleep the Brave', a poem by William Collins (1721-1759).
How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow'd mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honour comes, a pilgim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there!