On 28 October 1918 the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment were in billets at St Armand having been withdrawn from the line on the 20th after a period of fighting. The war diary for the 28th records 'A/Capt. JF Farrar admitted hospital sick', and then for 1st November '2Lt (A/Capt) JF Farrar died at 62nd CCS from influenza'. The War Graves Commission gives his date of death as 2 November.
Farrar had originally joined the army as a private in the Cameron Highlanders. It looks as though he first entered a theatre of war, France, on 12 July 1916. A year later he was commissioned into the West Yorkshire Regiment and although still officially a Second Lieutenant at the time of his death he held the rank of acting captain.
His mother, Sarah Farrar, chose his inscription from 'Justice' a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which was published in The Times on 24 October 1918, syndicated to at least 200 other newspapers and later included in several collections of his work. For all the honourable sounding intent of these the last two lines, the poem is a vehement plea that there should not be a negotiated peace with Germany. The 'sword of justice' must be used on her, Germany, 'evil incarnate', must be made to answer for her atrocities:

For agony and spoil
Of nations beat to dust,
For poisoned air and tortured soil
And cold, commanded lust,

Germany must be made to 'relearn the law' so that her people will never again develop 'the heart of beasts'. This retribution will be the means -

Whereby our dead shall sleep
In honour, unbetrayed
And we in faith and honour keep
That peace for which they paid.



Harry Rivers was taken prisoner on 27 May 1918. At 9 pm the previous evening the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment received information from Brigade Head Quarters that two German prisoners had warned them of an attack timed to start at 3 am the following morning, to be preceded by a bombardment that would begin at 1 am. This is what happened. It was the opening day of the Third Battle of the Aisne, what the Germans called Operation Bluecher. By the end of the day the Germans had broken through the Allied lines, in some places to the extent of 15 miles.
On 30 May the 7th Battalion war diary recorded that although only two officers and fifteen soldiers were known to have been killed, 19 officers and 431 soldiers were missing.
Rivers was one of the missing, he was taken prisoner and held with more than 1,500 Russian, French, Belgian, Portuguese, Italian, Serbian and British prisoners of war at Altdamm, 8 km east of Stettin on the Polish-German border. Rivers' death was recorded on the 31 October 1918 at the Register Officer in Altdamm as having taken place at 8 pm the previous day. No cause was given for his death.
Harry Rivers attested in September 1916 when he was 17 and 6 months. His mobilization in April 1917 was announced and then withdrawn, perhaps because he was only just 18 and therefore too young to be sent abroad. It was 31 March 1918 before he went to France. He had scarcely been there two months before he became a prisoner.
Rivers' mother chose his inscription, his father was dead. It comes from 'When We Two Parted', a poem by Lord Byron (1788-1824) in which the poet laments a faithless lover who betrayed him by going off with another man.



Alan Yardley was 19 and serving with the 3rd Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) when he was killed in action on 24 October 1918 during the Battle of the River Selle . The Germans having withdrawn from the Hindenburg Line had set up a new defensive line to the east of the Selle. On 23 October the British First, Second and Third Armies crossed the Selle and advanced six miles in two days, forcing the Germans to withdraw to a new defensive line at the Sambre-Oise Canal.
Yardley in buried in the Capelle-Beaudignies Road Cemetery where there are only 53 burials, all from a two-week period 21 October to 5 November. More than half the graves relate to the two days 23 and 24 October.
Born in King's Norton, Warwickshire, Yardley was his parents' only son, the eldest of their two children. In 1911 the father, Charles Yardley, was a 'pianoforte agent' in Sheffield. At the time of Alan's death the family were living in Plymouth, Devon and it's in the West Country that Charles Yardley died in 1959 and Bertha Yardley in 1965. This being the case - that the authorities knew where his parents were living - it's strange that Alan Yardley's medals were never delivered. His medal index card just says that they were retained, undisposed. The Service Medal and Award Rolls has the word 'Returned' beside Yardley's name. It was not unknown for next-of-kin to refuse to receive medals, scrolls and memorial plaques. They wanted nothing to do with the authorities who had 'killed' their family member. It looks as though the Yardleys could have been one such family.
Charles Yardley signed for his son's inscription. It comes from Byron's poem 'Don Juan'. However, the quotation had a life of its own apart from the poem since it was frequently used as a fatalistic acceptance of what life had thrown at you.



George Smith left school, Rugby, at Easter 1915 with a Classical Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. He immediately took a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and after training went to France in June 1916. He was promoted captain that September. In November he was awarded a Military Cross for carrying out "a daring raid against the enemy with great courage and determination".
In November 1917 he returned to England for six months home duty before returning to France in May 1918. He was killed six months later by a shell whilst leading his Company into action on 28 September 1918.
Smith's inscription, chosen by his father, George Smith Master of Dulwich College, comes from Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra, a philosophical poem in which Age addresses Youth and tells it, "Grow old along with me the best is yet to be". This is because in Age we acquire the wisdom and insight that Youth, too concerned with living in the moment, doesn't have. However, these are the very qualities that twenty-two-year-old Smith was admired for. As his Colonel wrote to his parents: "Though young in years, he had an old head, with much discretion. I could trust any duty to him knowing that it would be well and faithfully carried out".
The poem holds that our life on earth is but one step on the journey of our soul, which will continue after death. To his parents, George Smith was setting out "Once more on my adventure brave and new".



This is such a heartbreaking inscription. It comes from a poem by Kathleen Chute-Erson (1879-1966) called Killed in Action, which was published in her 'War Stanzas and Other Poems' in November 1916. I've neither heard of Chute-Erson before nor ever seen this poem. It's the kind of sentimental verse that the twentieth century rejected but it's the type that must have expressed many a mother's feelings:

Yes, I am proud, I shall not weep, my son –
Boy of the high, brave spirit, who lies slain,
Blent with the earth grown hallowed for the stain
Of thy young life-blood. Boy, who on my breast
Has lain, so small, so dear, in infant rest;
Whose tiny, clinging hands and nestling head
Seemed God and life to me - dear son, now dead.

Son of the strong, young frame, the fearless heart,
Vibrant with life and thought, the coming man
Shadowed in graver mood, the finished plan.
My mother-love foresaw and knew content,
And when, all youthful fire and courage blent,
You said good-bye, I smiled (Oh, God! that day
Fear clutched my heart!) I would not have you stay.

Boy! you have died, as we would have you die.
Yes, I am proud, my son, I shall not weep,
But, oh! within the hours of broken sleep
I see your dear, loved form, your eyes, your hair,
And clench my arms to clasp and hold you there;
Then wake and know the glory you have won.
Yes, I am proud, indeed, but - Son, oh, Son!

Those three words - 'Son oh son'. For all that the mother has tried to convince herself that she's proud that her son has died 'as we would have you die', and that she is determined that she 'shall not weep', remembering him as a baby and and 'on the verge of manhood' is actually too much for her. William Stephen was 18 when he was killed in action on the day the 51st Highland Division took Marfaux with very heavy casualties.



'Follow the gleam', this is a phrase that has passed out of usage; once upon a time everyone would have known what it meant. It comes from Tennyson's poem 'Merlin and the Gleam' where the gleam is a glimmer of the holy grail, that intangible quality that man should attempt to follow in his life:

Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Not of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow the Gleam.

This will have been the source of the inscription but it could have been a second-hand source. In 1920 Sallie Hume Douglas and Helen Hill composed a song for a YWCA - Young Women's Christian Association - competition. The song won and became a YMCA anthem, which is still sung today. Based on Tennyson's poem the song encourages young people to follow the gleam:

To knights in the days of old,
Keeping watch on the mountain height,
Came a vision of Holy Grail
And a voice through the waiting night.

“Follow, follow, follow the Gleam,
Banners unfurled o’er all the world;
Follow, follow, follow the Gleam
Of the chalice that is the Grail.

“And we who would serve the King,
And loyally Him obey,
In the consecrate silence know,
That the challenge still holds today:

“Follow, follow, follow the Gleam,
Standards of worth o’er all the earth,
Follow, follow, follow the Gleam,
Of the Light that shall bring the dawn.

Horace Edgar Kingsmill Bray enlisted in the Canadian Mounted Rifles in January 1915. He served in France and Belgium and then, having been wounded, transferred to the Royal Air Force. He finished his flying training and was just about to be sent to France when he had a head-on collision in the air and was killed.
His father, the Revd Horace E Bray chose his inscription. His mother had died when his sister was born. Bray's patriotic poetry was included in several Canadian anthologies.
This YouTube film, They Are Not Here, feature Bray's life and death.



This plea for peace was written by Robert Burns in 1794, more than a hundred years before David Herkes repeated it on his son's headstone. Burns' poem, 'On the Seas and Far Away' expresses a parents' yearning for peace so that their sailor son's life might be saved:

Bullets, spare my only joy!
Bullets, spare my darling boy!
Fate, do with me what you may -
Spare but him that's far away.

Robert Herkes was 18 when he died of wounds in a base hospital in France. At one time this would have meant that the soldier had his parents' signed permission to be serving abroad, but by this stage of the war more and more eighteen-year-olds were being sent to the front without this.
Although Herkes served with the London Regiment he was born and brought up in Leith, Scotland where his father was a dock porter. From the 1901 census it would appear that his mother was dead and that his grandmother, Isabella Herkes, was looking after the family of two children.
'On the Seas and Far Away' echoes the sentiment of Burn's earlier poem, 'Man was Made to Mourn' 1784, which has the famous line, 'Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn'. In this later poem he says:

Peace, thy olive wand extend,
And bid wild war his ravage end,
Man with brother man to meet,
And as a brother kindly greet:



George Helliwell Harding was the Red Baron's 73rd victim. He had only been with 79 Squadron since 2 March when he became von Richthofen's third kill of the day.
All the following information is taken from Mike O'Connor's excellent book 'Airfields and Airmen Somme'. Harding was attacking a German fighter when von Richthofen came from behind and shot him down. Harding's plane caught fire and broke up in the air. Two years later, Harding's sister, Ruth, an actress, was in France entertaining American troops. She wanted to identify her brother's grave - the implication being that he had been buried as an unknown airman. She identified a grave and insisted on the body being exhumed for her to identify the remains. It must have been indescribably gruesome. Her brother would have been horribly burnt and had been in the ground for a year. She did identify him and George Harding was buried in Dive Copse Cemetery.
Just under a month later Manfred von Richthofen was killed.
Harding was an American citizen from South Minneapolis, Minnesota. After America's entry into the war he tried to enlist in the American army but so many Americans were volunteering that he became impatient at the delay and crossed the border into Canada to enlist in the Flying Corps. He arrived in England in August 1917 and after further training, he went to France on 2 March. Twenty-five days later he was dead.
His father, Mr GF Harding, chose his inscription from Algernon Swinburne's poem 'The Halt Before Rome': Republican Rome, for whom the soldiers in the poem are fighting:

She, without shelter or station,
She, beyond limit or bar,
Urges to slumberless speed
Armies that famish, that bleed,
Sowing their lives for her seed,
That their dust may rebuild her a nation,
That their souls may relight her a star.



Stanley Jenkin's inscription comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's beautiful, passionate love poem 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways'. It was signed for by his father.
Jenkins enlisted on 1 June 1915 and went to France with the 16th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 2 December 1915. The battalion was sent first to a quiet part of the line to acclimatise themselves to the trenches before being sent into the front line at Givenchy on 17 February. The next day the British artillery bombarded the German trenches from 8 to 11 pm. The war diary recorded that the enemy's retaliation was 'moderate' and that one soldier was killed. The next day, the 19th, is described as "Very quiet - nothing unusual happened. Enemy fairly active with rifle grenades &c Casualties Pte M Hughes & Ptr SG Jenkins killed".
In civilian life Jenkins had been an engine driver in a colliery in Ogmore Vale, Glamorganshire. In 1911 he was living in Ogmore with his grandmother, Anne Davies, without his parents, as he had been aged 7 in 1901. On his attestation form he named his grandmother as his next of kin and left his money to her in his will.
However, by 1920 she was dead and it was his parents, Evan and Esther Jenkins of Brodawel, Twyn, Garnant, Carmarthenshire, who received his medals, next-of-kin memorial plaque and scroll. To do this they had to fill in Army Form W. 5080 giving the names and address "of all the relatives of the above-named deceased soldier in each degree specified below that are now living". This revealed that all his grandparents were dead and that he had no brothers or sisters.



The death has occurred "somewhere
in France," of pneumonia of Major Halford
Claude Vaughan Harrison RFA, late of
Cote Grange, Westbury-on-Trym. He was
52 years of age.
Clifton and Redland Free Press
7 April 1916

At the time of the 1911 Census, Major Halford Claude Vaughan Harrison RA described himself as on the retired list. On the outbreak of war he rejoined the army and was in France by March 1915 with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, meaning that he would hold the rank for the duration of the war.
Harrison was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in 1882. He came from an army family. His father had served with the Madras Native Infantry and his grand-father had been a major-general in the Royal Artillery.
In France he served with the 16th Division Ammunition Column and as the newspaper reported, died of pneumonia.
His wife, Beatrice, chose his inscription. It comes from Robert Louis Stevenson's Requiem, the poem that appears on his own grave in Samoa:

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Mrs Harrison has contracted the words to read as she wanted them to read. Her husband, after a long career in the army, was lying among his fellow soldiers in the battlefields of France.



Alexander Graham, serving with the 9th Battalion Black Watch, died of gas poisoning in a hospital in Bethune. The battalion had gone into the front line at Vermelles on 26 April 1916. The Germans launched a gas attack on the 27th but the gongs sounded the alert and the men all got their smoke helmets on in good time. Even though the gas was so dense that one could not see more than 8 to 10 feet little harm was done. However, on the 29th the Germans subjected the line to the most intense bombardment using every form of shell including gas shells and lachrymatory shells (tear gas). This time casualties were very high probably, it was concluded, because the men had been advised to remove their helmets too soon. Graham died in hospital the following day.
Isabella Graham chose her youngest son's inscription. It comes from Edwin Arnold's poem, 'The Song Celestial'. This poetic translation of the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, was very popular, especially with Theosophists who were interested in Eastern mysticism. The passage is based on Book 2

"Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak'st
Words lacking wisdom! for the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die. [...]
He who shall say, "Lo! I have slain a man!"
He who shall think, "Lo! I am slain!" those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; Never was time it was not; end and beginning are dreams! Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!"



This is Kipling - do you recognise it? If you can keep your head, trust yourself, dream, think ... meet with triumph and disaster, force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone ... :

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

This is Kipling's poem 'If', written in 1895. Strangely, for all its popularity, I've not come across any reference to the poem in an inscription before.
Geoffrey Gidley was the second youngest of George and Annie Gidley's seven children. Some might think he was a man already because he was out at work, as a clerk in a barrister's office, by the time he was 14 in 1911.
As it was, he joined the 9th Battalion London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) on the outbreak of war. Went with them to France on 17 August 1915 and died of wounds, aged 20 in a Casualty Clearing Station on 30 May 1916.



James O'Rorke served with the 6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders and died on 26 July 1918. There is no individual mention of his death but the battalion war diary records that, whilst they were being relieved from the front line trenches at Missy au Bois on the 25th, they were subjected to very heavy gas shelling resulting in 9 officers and 180 other ranks being admitted to hospital. It seems likely that O'Rorke was one of these casualties.
His father chose his inscription. There's another version of it that is fairly common as a general 'In Memoriam' inscription: "There came a mist and a blinding rain and life was never the same again". Mr Edward O'Rorke, however, quoted it correctly from the poem 'Sweet Peril' written by George MacDonald (1824-1905). It's a love poem and the quotation comes from the first verse:

Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.



Ralph Hamilton's father signed for his inscription. It comes from Lord Byron's narrative poem 'The Bride of Abydos', a story of Turkish love and revenge. Ralph Hamilton was killed in France but his battalion, the 14th (Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) Battalion Black Watch had been fighting in Palestine until their return to Europe in May 1918. They were therefore familiar with the land Byron describes: the land of cypress and myrtle of cedar and vine, 'where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine ... and all, save the spirit of man, is divine?' The actual passage George Hamilton quotes refers to the two lovers:

The winds are high on Helle's wave,
As on that night of stormy water,
When love, who sent, forget to save
The young, the beautiful, the brave,
The lonely hope of Sesto's daughter.

The quotation has an interesting after life. Byron died in 1824 and for many years afterwards an In Memoriam notice would appear in The Times and Morning Post on the anniversary of his death:

Byron - George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron, died nobly for Greece, at Missolonghi, April 19 1824.
"When love, who sent, forgot to save
The young, the beautiful, the brave

The story was that a lady bequeathed money to ensure that on the anniversary of his death a wreath of Marechel Niel roses was laid at the foot his statue in Hamilton Gardens, London W1, and the notices appeared in the papers, 'until the Authorities of Westminster Abbey shall sanction the erection of some memorial in the Poet's Corner'. The 'immorality' of his life making him unacceptable to the Abbey authorities.
I haven't looked up to see how long the notices kept appearing but it was not until May 1969 that Byron got a memorial in Westminster Abbey.
Hamilton's battalion had been brought back from Palestine to meet the German offensive. the regimental history tells of how they had to receive instruction on a different kind of warfare. They had certainly had no experience of gas but the experts sent to train them in fighting with bayonets soon found 'we had not much to learn in that line'.
Hamilton was killed on 2 September 1918. The battalion successfully attacked across the Canal du Nord when 'murderous machine-gun fire opened up from the left and their rear.

"The battalion of Londoners on our left north of Moislains had withdrawn, the village of Moislains itself was never mopped up, and the eight Bosche machine-guns holding Moislains seeing this moved quickly to the south of the village and opened on our backs. In addition to this we were being subjected to very heavy fire on our left flank, which was now completely in the air, and we could actually see their gun teams working the 77's on the crest of the ridge. The Bosche had paid us the compliment of rushing up his best troops to meet our Division, and certainly the Alpini Corps were most gallant fighters. To advance unsupported was out of the question, and our casualties were by now very heavy, so there was nothing left but to withdraw to the west side of the Canal again and reorganise the remains of the companies."



Christian Phillips was born in March 1880. His mother died in 1884 and his father in 1888 leaving him and his older sister and brother, Rachel and Edward, to be brought up by their mother's spinster sisters.
Commissioned into the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on 5 May 1900, he served in the South African War and remained in the army until he retired in 1914. He rejoined his old regiment on the outbreak of war and was in France by 16 January 1915. Attached to the 15th Battalion Welsh Regiment, he was promoted Temporary major on 1 July 1916.
It was a rank he held for ten days. On 10 July the battalion took part in the attack on Mametz Wood and Phillips was killed.
His brother, Edward, a farmer in Ampthill Bedfordshire, chose his inscription from Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the fire was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole world I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid.



Mrs Rose Ward's lovely description of the lost past comes from a poem by Frederick W Myers who is better known today as a Spiritualist. The poem, which doesn't appear to have a title, seems to describe a magical visit to the Lake District near Helvellyn, the memory of which is printed on the poet's mind:

Within, without, whate'er hath been,
In cosmic deeps the immortal scene
Is mirrored and shall last -
Live the long looks, the woodland ways.
That twilight of enchanted days -
The imperishable past.

Alfred Ward volunteered soon after the outbreak of war and joined the 61st Field Company Royal Engineers. His medal index card shows that he went with the regiment to France on 25 May 1915. They were based in Belgium - Hooge and Bellewaarde - until the summer of 1916 when they moved to the Somme. Ward was killed at Delville Wood where, among all the fighting, the sappers were laying on water supplies, creating tramway trenches, machine gun emplacements and shell-proof shelters.



This inscription comes from the last verse of Sir Francis Doyle's (1810-1880) poem 'The Private of the Buffs', which he based on a supposed incident in China during the Second Opium War:

"Some Sikhs and a private of the Buffs, having remained behind with the grog carts, fell into the hands of the Chinese. On the next morning they were brought before the authorities, and commanded to perform the kow-tow. The Sikhs obeyed; but Moyse, the English soldier, declaring that he would not prostrate himself before any Chinaman alive, was immediately knocked upon the head and his body thrown on a dunghill."
The Times 1860

Never mind that if the event took place at all Moyse may have been imbibing too much from the grog carts, the event was seized on by the British press and Moyse turned into a hero.

Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
Bewildered and alone.
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
He yet can call his own,
Aye, tear his body, limb from limb,
Bring cord, or axe, or flame;
He only knows that not through him
Shall England come to shame.

It is in fact a very unpleasant, jingoistic poem in which Moyse's 'brave' action is contrasted with that of the native soldiers who 'whine and kneel', unlike the 'English lad' who:

... with eyes that would not shrink,
With knee to man unbent,
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink
To his red grave he went.

The poem concludes with the warning that the mightiest fleets with all their guns are as nothing:

"Unless proud England keep untamed
The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through England ring -
A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta's King
Because his soul was great.

Peter Pennington, a miner from Golborn, was a lance-corporal in the South Lancashire Regiment. He had a been a Territorial before the war, was mobilised on the outbreak and in France on 13 February 1915. On 8 September that year he was with a working party in the trenches when he was wounded in the abdomen and died the next day. His father, also a coal miner, chose his inscription.



This is a really unusual inscription, unusual because I have not previously come across one that quotes the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon. The quotation comes from Aftermath, which Sassoon wrote in 1919. From the reference to 'your men', it's as though Sassoon is reminiscing with a fellow officer, but his intention is to remind everyone that, however much people might now be looking back at the camaraderie of the trenches, the whole thing was appalling:

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack, -
And the anger, and blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.

Private Thomas Boote volunteered in 1914 when he can only have been 17. He served with the 5th Cheshire Regiment and went with it to France in February 1915, earning the 1915 Star. After this the trail goes cold. He died on 12 January 1917 and was buried in the cemetery of his home town, Runcorn in Cheshire. This indicates that he died in Britain but whether of wounds or illness I haven't been able to find out.
Boote's War Grave Commission headstone was not issued until 1997. If he had never had one before I believe the War Graves Commission are prepared to provide one now, with an inscription. That therefore must have been chosen by members of his family in 1997.
Sassoon was a powerful poet but a minority poet in 1919. His position was very different in 1997. His sentiments were not popular with those who were choosing inscriptions in the immediate post-war years, nor were those of Wilfred Owen, despite their popularity now. I've seen Owen quoted twice, once by his parents on his own headstone, and once on a grave at Fromelles. But again, that is a modern inscription chosen sometime in the early twenty-first century.
Thomas Boote's younger brother, James, served in the Royal Navy and went down with his ship, HMS Gloucester, when it was sunk by German bombers off the coast of Crete on 22 May 1941.



These words form the last line of each of the three verses of Sir Henry Newbolt's poem 'Vitai Lampada'. This is the torch of life, which each generation nurtures before passing it on to the next, its flame intact. The flame is nurtured by each person playing his part, playing the game, to the benefit the whole team, regiment or country.
Massively popular in its day, the poem has come in for much subsequent ridicule, particularly for its second verse:

The sand of the desert is sodden red, -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'

The words don't mean that war is a game, they were simply a colloquial way of saying, do what you know to be right for the greater good not for yourself. As an inscription the meaning is to those still living to take up the torch the dead have dropped and carry on playing the game. Haworth's father chose it.
Haworth, the son of a Blackpool saddler, served with the 8th Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. On 6 June 1917, the battalion took part in the attack on the Messines Ridge, which followed the explosion of several large mines.



Wilfred Bidstrup, an accountant from South Australia, was killed in action on 3 April 1917 leading a group of bombers in a night attack on the German trenches. Witness reports vary wildly but the fact of his death was never disputed.

He was killed "by a Boche machine gun while advancing to the attack. His platoon met a German strong-point and had a bad time".

"I saw casualty killed at Noreuil, France by a machine-gun bullet whilst on a bombing raid. He was killed under my eyes, not instantly but he died of wounds shortly afterwards."

"He was found by a search party, sent out to look for him, dead, riddled with bullets and his revolver empty".

"I found his body next day, with his revolver lying by his side. All the cartridges had been fired off. I could see no marks of a wound on his body, so he must have been killed by a bullet."

Bidstrup's mother, Minna, chose his inscription from a poem called 'To S.H. Killed in France (From his First Schoolmaster)" by W. Snow which was published in The Spectator on 15 May 1915. This is the first verse:

You, killed in action, leading men!
I hardly yet believe it true:
For me you're still the boy of ten,
Blue-eyes and curly-haired, I knew.

The poem recounts the triumphs of his schooldays, of his year at Oxford before he volunteered, forsaking the 'magic' gown' for duty. This is the last verse:

And is this all? was all in vain
The life that you so early gave?
No life is short that's nobly spent,
No hero's death is premature.

The inscription, particularly the penultimate line of the poem, is much better known than the rest of the poem and is quite regularly found on war graves.



Richard Douglas Salmon, a stockbroker's clerk from Willesden, enlisted in the 22nd Battalion London Regiment at the outbreak of war. On 15 March 1915 the regiment disembarked in France. Just over two months later Salmon was wounded in action. It was 23 May, his 21st birthday. He died the following day.
Salman's inscription comes from 'The Second Lieutenant' by 'Touchstone', the pen name of the journalist Claude Edward Cole Hamilton Burton, who was known as 'The Daily Mail' poet because his poems appeared so regularly in that newspaper.
'The Second Lieutenant' was first published in the paper in May 1915, the same month Salman was killed. It was reprinted in 'The Mystery of the Daily Mail 1896-1921', a history by FA McKenzie of the paper's first twenty-five years.
McKenzie claimed that Touchstone's poems 'are cherished by thousands as among their most familiar and treasured possessions, the best known, 'A Second Lieutenant'. It obviously made an impression on Salmon's family.
I have written the poem out in full as you are unlikely to be able to find it very easily anywhere else.

Somewhere in Flanders he lies,
The lad with the laughing eyes;
And I bade him good-bye but yesterday!
He clasped my hand in a manly grip;
I can see him now with a smiling lip,
And his chin held high in the old proud way.

Salt of our English earth,
A lad of promise and worth,
Straight and true as the blade at his side,
Instant to answer his country's call,
He leapt to the fray to fight and fall,
And there, in his youth's full flood, he died.

Victor yet, in his grave,
All that he had he gave;
Nor may we weep for the might-have-been,
For the quenchless flame of a heart aglow
Burns clear that the soul yet blind may know
The vision splendid his eyes have seen!

Weep but the wasted life
Of him who shrinks from the strife,
Shunning the path that the brave have trod;
Not for the friend whose task is done,
Who strove with his face to the morning sun,
Up and up to his God!



Roger Wilkinson was eighteen when he died of wounds on 21 November 1916 - too young to be on active service in France without his parents signed permission.
On 13 November his regiment, the 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, took part in an attack on the German front line between Beaumont Hamel and the right bank of the River Ancre. The attack came under heavy machine-gun fire and Wilkinson received severe gun-shot wounds in his left leg and shoulder. He died just over a week later, his parents having been telegrammed permission to visit him in hospital in France on the 19th. He died on the 21st.
In his letter of condolence, Wilkinson's company commander told his parents:

'What worried him most was the possibility of not being allowed to take his platoon into action on the 13th, as I had previously sent his name as being under age. In fact he went to HQ, quite unknown to myself, and begged the C.O. to allow him to go.'

His father signed for his inscription. It comes from 'April' by the American poet Alice Cary (1821-1871), prettily expressing the belief that life continues on the other side after death:

So, even for the dead I will not bind
My soul to grief: Death cannot long divide;
For is it not as if the rose that climbed
My garden wall, had bloomed the other side?



Although the inverted commas surround the first seven words of this inscription, I'm relatively sure that it's not a quotation but an amalgamation of words and ideas from Wilfred Owen's poem 'Strange Meeting'. Probably written sometime early in 1918, the poem was first published the following year in Edith Sitwell's 'Wheels, An Anthology of Verse', and then in 'Poems by Wilfred Owen, published by Chatto and Windus in 1920 with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon.
In his poem Owen meets the man he killed the previous day:

"Strange friend," I said, "here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said that other, "save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also;

A few lines later Owen refers not to the cruelty of war but to, 'The pity of war, the pity war distilled'. I believe Rollings' father, who signed for the inscription, was referring to both these passages.
This is only the third time that I've noticed a reference to any of Wilfred Owen's poems in a headstone inscription. Owen's parents quoted, or rather slightly misquoted, 'The End', and one of the graves at Fromelles, where the inscriptions were chosen by the families during the first decade of the twenty-first century, quoted from the lines, 'Red lips are not so red/As stained stones kissed by the English dead'.
Charles Albert Rollings came from Malton in Ontario and served with the 52nd Canadian Infantry. He died at a field ambulance on 18 July 1917 and was buried in the adjacent cemetery.
The War Grave Commission limited inscriptions to sixty-six characters, not that it appears to have enforced this, Rollings' inscription comes to 65, which is presumably why the word brothers had been abbreviated to 'bros'.



NEVILLE - Lance-Corpl John Oliver Neville, Special Company, Royal Engineers, killed by shell splinter whilst leaving the line on June 4 1917, aged 22 years, the dearly beloved youngest son of F. and M.F. Neville of 57 Hayward Road, Barton Hill.

Lance-Corporal Neville served with "O" Special Company Royal Engineers, formed early in May 1915 in response to the introduction of gas warfare. "O" Company's job was to try to develop protective measures to minimise the impact of chemical warfare.
Neville was one of the two children of Frederick Neville, a railway engine driver from Bristol, and his wife Mary Frances Neville. Frederick Neville signed for his son's inscription. It comes from Matthew Arnold's 'Stanzas in Memory of the Author of 'Obermann', Etienne de Senancour (1770-1846), whose philosophical melancholy of an earlier era reflected Arnold's own.



For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
[Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam XXII]

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, such as this one, perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.
Frank Carson had been shipping clerk in Liverpool in civilian life and Scoutmaster of the 33rd Liverpool Scout Troop, Mossley Hill, Merseyside. His medal index card does not indicate that he was a volunteer. He served originally with the 6th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment before being transferred to the 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers whilst he was still a private.
He was killed in action two weeks before the end of the war. On 28 October the Battalion, in reserve, were being subjected to very heavy enemy shelling at intervals during the day, many of the shells were gas shells. There's no report of Carson's death just this bleak announcement in the Liverpool Daily Post on 21 November, ten days after the end of the war:

CARSON - Mrs and Mrs Carson and Family desire to thank all kind friends for expressions of sympathy in their great sorrow.
29 Faulkner Street, Liverpool



Like yesterday's inscription, Errol Sidney Plowes' comes from the first verse of Sir John Arkwright's poem, which later became a hymn, O Valiant Hearts:

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Proudly you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Plowes' parents chose the last line, which is more usually quoted than the line above. However, unusually, they have identified 'the land he loved' - it was South Africa, the land where he was born and brought up and where his father, Sidney Arnold Plowes, worked for the Union Castle Shipping Line in Cape Town.
Born in Rondebosch on 22 February 1898, Plowes joined the 1st South African Infantry as a private in 1916 when he was just 18. On 8 April 1917, just after his 19th birthday, he received a commission into the Royal Field Artillery, serving with the 379th Battery, 169th Brigade. He was killed in action during the fighting for Hangard Wood, part of the German's Spring Offensive, a year and a day later when he was just 20.



Wilfred Bowles was killed in action on 10 July 1916 in the Welsh Division's attack on Mametz Wood. He was shot by a sniper. A theology student at King's College London, Bowles gave up his studies in June 1915 to join the Inns of Court OTC. Five months later he was commissioned into the 5th Battalion, Essex Regiment and three months after this he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France on 4 June 1916 and was killed five weeks later.
William Spencer Bowles was the son of Tom and Alice Bowles of Les Rochettes, Pontac, St Clements, Jersey. His father was a house painter and his mother a school mistress who by 1911 was the head teacher of a church school on the island. This makes her one of the very few mothers in this project to have an independent career, least of all one with three children and a living husband.
Bowles' father signed for his inscription. It comes from the first verse of Sir John Arkwright's famous hymn, 'O Valiant Hearts', once a stalwart of Remembrance Day services before its sentiments went out of fashion:

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Proudly you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.



Captain Steuart's older brother, Major Charles Basil Steuart, chose his inscription. It comes from 'Horatius at the Bridge', a long narrative poem by Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay (1800-1859), part of his Lays of Ancient Rome. The poem was a stalwart of poetry anthologies throughout the nineteenth century and this is very much the sort of heroic inscription one brother might choose for another - although most people who quote the poem quote the third and fourth lines of the verse:

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.

In the face of overwhelming odds and with only two companions by his side, Horatius faces Lars Posena and the Tuscan horde and prevents them crossing the bridge across the Tiber and by so doing saves Rome.
The Steuarts were a military family, the father, Robert Stueart had been a captain in the Indian Army and had taken part in suppressing the Indian Rebellion in 1857. All four of the Steuart brothers served in the First World War: Alan John Steuart who served with the Canadian Engineers was killed in action on 30 April 1915.



Percy Powis's inscription comes from To You Who Have Lost by John Oxenham, pseudonym of the poet William Arthur Dunckerley (1852-1941), from his 1915 collection 'All's Well':

I know! I know!
The ceaseless ache, the emptiness, the woe, -
The pang of loss, -
The strength that sinks beneath so sore a cross,
" - Heedless and careless, still the world wags on,
And leaves me broken ... Oh, my son! my son!"

Yet - think of this! -
Yea, rather think on this! -
He died as few men get the chance to die, -
Fighting to save a world's morality.
He died the noblest death a man may die,
Fighting for God and Right and Liberty; -
And such a death is immortality.

Powis's grandparents, John and Mary Martha Morris, are buried in Cannock Chase Town Cemetery, Staffordshire. Their gravestone includes a mention of Lance Corporal Powis, 'the dearly loved son of George and Agnes Powis and the idolized grandson of John and Mary M Morris'. This is followed by the fifth and sixth lines of the second verse of Oxenham's poem. Not only was Oxenham one of the most popular poets of the First World War but the last three lines of the second verse is a popular inscription both on headstones and on war memorials.
Percy Hartland Powis served with the 6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, a territorial battalion. He was mobilised soon after the outbreak of war and crossed to France on 5 March 1915.
On 25 May 1917, the Germans subjected the South Staffordshire's line to two heavy barrages, one at 4 am and one at 11 am. They followed this up at 11.30 am with a counter-attack 'made in considerable force'. In the twenty-four hours the battalion suffered thirty-eight casualties of whom five were killed, among them Percy Powis.



This is the third day running that the man commemorated hasn't been killed in action or died of wounds. Two days ago it was Private Manaton who died of tuberculosis, yesterday Major Seton who was murdered, and today Sapper Nix who died from dysentery. But whatever the cause of death, if you died between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921 and were serving in any branch of the armed forces you were deemed to be a casualty of the war.
William Nix was a plumber from Nottingham who was working in Canada when he enlisted late in 1915 in the 8th Battalion Canadian Engineers. The battalion landed in France on 30 March 1916 and in September 1916 were at Flers-Corcelette on the Somme. Nix is not mentioned in the diary by name but it would seem that an unusual number of soldiers seemed to be reporting sick in the days surrounding Nix's death.
His wife chose his inscription, which is not only unusual but its relevance seems pretty obscure. The line comes from the fifth stanza of Wordsworth's 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood'.

Our birth is a but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

When we are born some of the radiance of heaven, from which we came, still clings to us. Perhaps the inscription is an assurance that at our deaths we shall return to this glory.



One year after Private Gallen's death his parents inserted the following 'In Memoriam' in the North Wales Chronicle:

Gallen - In memory of our beloved boy Alexander Llewelyn Gallen (Alex) who fell in action in France 10th April 1916, aged 21 years.
Dylassa, Bettwsycoed

Requiescat is not my bidding -
That is the weary man's right speeding;
You, O child, full of life laughter,
Joy to you now and long days hereafter.

Many a game and goal be given
To you in the playing fields of heaven,
Be, as you were, a light shape of joy,
Glad in the strength and the grace of a boy.

Dear and young, here's the prayer I pray for you -
Heaven be full of new life and play for you -
Swift as an arrow, light as a swallow,
So may we find you, boy, when we follow.

First published in The Windsor Magazine in April 1916, these are three verses from a four-verse poem, , written by the Irish poet Katharine Tynan in memory of Yvo Alan Charteris, youngest son of the Earl and Countess of Wemyss who was killed in action on the 17 October 1915. Tynan is saying that it was not her wish to write a 'requiescat', a prayer for the dead, for Yvo, that sort of 'speeding', an old fashioned word for a blessing as in 'God speed you', is meant for much older men. However, as he is dead, this is her prayer for him: may heaven be a wonderful place for you and may we find you 'swift as an arrow, light as a swallow' when we follow you there.
Alex Gallen was his parents' only child. Born and brought up in Bettwsycoed, where his father was a game keeper and his mother an artist/sculptor, he volunteered in 1914 and served with the 16th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in France from 2 December 1915. On 10 April 1916, although the battalion were in reserve it provided a team of machine gunners for the Division in action that day. Gallen was killed by a sniper.
The War Graves Commission have Gallen's first name as Roland, the 1911 census records it as Ronald and his parents don't appear to use it all but call him Alex.



John Wood was killed in action near Epehy during a trench raid on the British lines, which began with a heavy barrage at midnight on 12 July. The barrage lifted at 1.15 am when the Germans were observed in front of the British wire. The British opened up with rifle and Lewis gun fire at which, in response to two green lights sent up from the German lines, the hostile barrage recommenced. It slackened at 2 pm and finished at 2.30. By this time twenty-three members of the 15th Battalion Sherwood Foresters had become casualties, among them John Wood who was dead.
His wife, Lilian, chose his inscription. It comes from, A Jacobite's Epitaph by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859). The exiled Jacobite laments the fact that he has lost everything by his support for the Stuart kings in the 1715 and 1745 rebellions. From Italy he pines for his native land and dreams each night of home:

Till God, who saw me tried too sorely, gave
The resting-place I'd ask'd, an early grave.
O thou, whom chance leads to this nameless stone,
From that proud country which was once mine own,
By those white cliffs I never more must see,
By that dear language which I spake like thee,
Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
O'er English dust. A broken heart lies here.



Thomas Hunter's inscription comes from a verse that Laurence Binyon wrote specially for Sir Edward Elgar's choral work Spirit of England (1917), his requiem for the war dead based on three of Binyon's poems: Fourth of August, For the Fallen and To Women. The verse is similar to one in For the Fallen:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

This is the specially written verse:

They fought, they were terrible, nought could tame them,
Hunger nor legions, nor shattering cannonade.
They laughed, they sang their melodies of England,
They fell open-eyed and unafraid.

Thomas Hunter was a soldier before the First World War. In the 1911 census he is serving with R Battery Royal Horse Artillery in Meerut, India. However, I think he had left the army and was on the reserve when the war broke out. He served with 113th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, which went to France on 12 June 1916. This was two weeks after he'd married Beatrice Alice King in St Paul's Gloucester. He was killed three months later.
From the burial evidence, it looks as though Hunter's gun received a direct hit. He and four members of the 113th were buried at map reference 62c.A.14.b.5.4., their graves discovered, registered, exhumed and reburied in February 1920.



Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal
Saturday 4 May 1918
Our readers will learn with regret that Lieut. Roy Agnew Moon, younger son of Dr G.D. Moon of Derby, died in hospital at Rouen on Saturday night from an illness following upon wounds. It was on the day of his other son's wedding at Montrose that Dr Moon received a telegram stating that Lieut. Roy Moon was seriously ill. He left Derby immediately, and arrived in Rouen on Friday evening, but his son died the following night from septic poisoning. Lieut. Moon, who was 21 years of age ...joined the Foresters in 1915, transferred to theMachine Gun Corps and was sent to France in September 1916. Soon after he contracted trench fever, and was in England till November last. He then returned to the fighting line and was wounded as stated, early in the commencement of the present German "push" [4 April]. This is the second of Dr and Mrs Moon's war bereavements, their eldest son, Surgeon George Bassett Moon R.N., having been killed in action in the battle of Jutland whilst attending to the wounded on H.H.S. Lion.

George Moon has no grave, the inscription on Roy's, which was signed for by his mother, comes from Robert Browning's verse poem 'Pippa Passes:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew pearl'd;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven-
All's right with the world!



Johnston (John) Hughston was one of a group of a hundred newly qualified Australian doctors who were sent to Britain in 1915 to help support the New Armies being raised there. Their contract was only for twelve months, but many, like Hughston, stayed on for longer in the knowledge that they were doing vital work.
Posted to Salonika in April 1916, he was granted a few weeks leave back in Australia to recover from a bout of malaria in May 1918. On 13 August, Hughston was doing the rounds at one of two advanced dressing stations when the Bulgars fired a salvo of shells. He was hit in the back by some shrapnel. He was taken down the mountain by stretcher and driven by motor ambulance to a Casualty Clearing Station where he died in the early hours of 14 August.
His widowed mother chose his inscription from a poem in Shakespeare's Cymbeline:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task has done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Hughstone was educated at Scotch College in Melbourne whose website carries a biography of Hughston.



Both yesterday and today's inscriptions begin with the single word 'gone' but there the similarity ends. Sergeant Woodnoth's parents have lost their only child and their inscription is bleak - 'Gone/and the light/of all our life/gone with him' - Lance Corporal Blyth's, using the high diction of John Oxenham's poem Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) projects pride .
The poem was included in Oxenham's collection, The Fiery Cross, published in 1918 for 'all who feel the vital need for a return to God and a higher spiritual life throughout the world'. Blyth's inscription comes from the first verse:

Gone! in the unutterable splendour
Of your immortal youth!
Gone unto Him who made, and making gave you
Passion for truth;
Made you heart-bold to brave the wrath
Of this world's evil;

Thomas Blyth served with the 7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was in France by 15 December 1914. He was killed in the trenches on 28 May 1916 when at "1.4 am enemy exploded a mine in front of battn on our left. Heavy bombardment followed till 2.30 am. Casualties, killed 5 OR, wounded 6 OR".
Blyth's inscription was chosen by Nurse BM Blyth, Eastern District Hospital, Duke St, Glasgow. I think this was probably one of his sisters. The family came from Crook of Devon, Kinross and on the Roll of Service in the Crook of Devon Institute a Nurse Bessie Blyth is listed as serving at Crookston War Hospital, as is Lance Corporal TJW Blyth.



Alexander Campbell was brought home to Shetland be buried. That's a long way from Plymouth where he died in hospital two days before the end of the war. In fact, I'm not sure that Campbell ever got to the war. He tried to join up but was rejected six times on account of his defective eyesight. However, he was eventually accepted in June 1917. He seems to have been stationed at the 'Palmerston' fort of Picklecombe, part of the naval defences of the port of Plymouth, when he became ill with influenza and died of pneumonia.
Campbell was born on Shetland, the son of Alexander Campbell the borough surveyor, and his wife Mary Ann. He was educated on the island at the Anderson Educational Institute where he was 'the dux' for 1911 - the highest academic-ranking pupil at the school. He acquired a degree from the University of Edinburgh and then taught Classics at the Hamilton Academy near Glasgow.
His inscription comes from Ave Atque Vale (Hail and Farewell) by Algernon Swinburne, Swinburne's tribute to the French poet Charles Baudelaire in which, like Shelley's Adonais, he speaks of the calm in which the dead now live, free from all cares:

Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done;
There lies not any troublous thing before,
Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more,
For whom all winds are quiet as the sun,
All waters as the shore.

Mrs Mary Ann Campbell signed for her son's inscription.



This inscription comes from 'To "My People" before the "Great Offensive" a poem written by Captain Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson MC on the eve of the Battle of the Somme and published in 'Soldier Poets - Songs of the Fighting Men' in September 1916. Wilkinson was killed in action on 9 October 1917.
In the poem, Wilkinson attempts to assure 'his people' - a very old fashioned way of referring to one's extended family - that if he is killed they should "mourn not for me too sadly" because he has been for months living the exalted life of a king, and if his crown is to be death they are not to begrudge it because for him it was worth it, because for "those brief months life meant more than selfish pleasures".

Grudge not then the price,
But say, "Our country in the storm of war
Has found him fit to fight and die for her,"
And lift you heads in pride for evermore.
But when the leaves the evening breezes stir
Close not the door.

The poem then moves into the section that Atherton's parents seem to have identified with. Wilkinson says that if death is followed by any form of consciousness, "then in the hush of twilight ... I shall come home",

... listen to the wind that hurries by,
To all the Song of Life for tones you knew.
For in the voice of birds, the scent of flowers,
The evening silence and the falling dew,
Through every throbbing pulse of nature's powers
I'll speak to you.

Walter Atherton was the only son of Samuel and Emma Atherton of Meole Brace, Shewsbury. Samuel Atherton was a colliery owner, Walter, at the time of the 1911 census was a trainee accountant. He served with the 1st/4th Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry, which would imply he was a Territorial soldier before the war. The 1st/4th served in India from December 1914, returning to the Western Front in July 1917. Atherton's medal card states that he first entered a theatre of war (France) on 27 July 1917, which would fit. He was killed in action five months later.



Wallace Johnstone's parents had read 'Boy of My Heart'; they have to have done. This was the book the popular novelist, Marie Connor Leighton, wrote in memory of her son, Roland Leighton. Roland was a prize-winning scholar from Uppingham School, the apple of his mother's eye, and Vera Brittain's fiance. (I have written more extensively about the book here.)
Roland was killed in December 1915 and the following year Marie published this hugely sentimental and over-the-top book. Under the title 'Boy of My Heart', there's a pencil portrait of Roland drawn by his sister the artist Clare Leighton, under which are the words:

Though life and all take flight
Never goodbye!"

The quotation, actually a purposeful misquotation, comes from WE Henley's poem, 'Echoes'. Henley's words are:

"Good-night, sweet friend, good-night:
Till life and all take flight,
Never good-bye."

Wallace Johnstone served in the 2nd Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery and was wounded in action on 23 February 1917. He died in hospital on 6 March. A week later, the hospital received an enquiry from the Australian Red Cross, asking if they could provide details of Johnstone's wounds, death and burial for his friends back in Melbourne. The hospital replied:

"From the O/C 18 General Hospital BEF
In reply to your letter of the 12th inst regarding the late No 3312 Pte WR Johnstone 2nd Aust TMB, please note he died at 9.am 6/3/17. He suffered from G.S. [gunshot] wounds in the left thigh which had been amputated, & also wounds of the R. arm. He was buried on the 7th ult at the British Military Cemetery, Etaples & the grave number is Q19."



Harold Guthrie was the son of William and Ellen Guthrie who were both school teachers. It was unusual at the time for a married woman with children to have a job outside the home. I have not come across many in the course of this project.
In 1901, Mr and Mrs Guthrie and their two children Harold and Bede were living in Hambledon, Buckinghamshire. In 1911 William Guthrie was teaching in Lancashire and boarding with a farmer in Carnforth, Mrs Guthrie was teaching in Norfolk and living in Fring, Harold was working as a bank clerk in London and Bede was still at school in Norfolk.
Harold volunteered soon after the outbreak of war and by 6 March 1915 was in France, serving with the Royal Fusiliers. He lasted three years before he was killed in action on 16 April 1918 during the Battle of Arras.
His mother chose his inscription, quoting from a poem written by Thomas William Hodgson Crosland, an outspoken journalist and poet described by Siegfried Sassoon as a 'vigorous versifier' and 'a human battleground of good and evil'. The poem is called 'Sursum', which means 'on high' in Latin. It was first published in 1917 in a collection of Crosland's poetry, and then again in 'Valour and Vision' (1919). The poem has not stood the test of time:

I saw his dread plume gleaming,
As he rode down the line.
And cried like one a-dreaming
"That man, that man, is mine!"

They did not fail or falter
Because his front so shone;
His horse's golden halter
With star-dust thick was sown.

They followed him like seigneurs,
Proud of both mien and mind -
Colonels and old campaigners
And bits of lads new-joined.

A glittering way he showed them
Beyond the dim outpost.
And in his tents bestowed them -
White as the Holy Ghost.

And by the clear watch-fires,
They talk with conquerors,
And have their hearts desires,
And praise the honest wars.

And each of them in raiment
Of honour goeth drest,
And hath his fee and payment.
And glory on his breast.

O woman, that sit'st weeping -
Close, like the stricken dove, -
He is in goodly keeping,
The soldier thou dids't love!

At the end of the war, Mrs Guthrie was living a few miles from Fringle in Brancaster Straithe. The village war memorial includes not only the name Harold Guthrie but also that of his brother, Bede. Lance Corporal Bede Guthrie was killed in action on 16 August 1918; he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial.



There was the Door to which I found no Key:
There was the Veil past which I could not see
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There seem'd - and then no more of Thee and Me.

Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And - "A Blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

Then to this earthern Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur'd - 'While you live,
Drink! - for, once dead, you never shall return."

The poem is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the author Edward Fitzgerald. Private Rennell's inscription comes from quatrain XXXIII, but what his wife, Mrs Rose Ellen Rennell, meant by it is difficult to tell - even more difficult when you learn her story, which is related in two letters a descendant has put on Ancestry:

Dear Mrs Rennell,
Your husband wishes me to write and tell you he was wounded on the 25th July. I saw him as he passed through [the] dressing station, and he particularly wished me to send his love and to assure you not to have any anxiety about him.
I sincerely hope you will get good news of him soon.
Yours sincerely,
(Signed) C.T.Richards C.F.
Chaplin 7th London Regiment

1 Aug. 1918
Dear Mrs Rennell,
I am very sorry to have to give you news that your brave husband died on July 26th at a casualty Clearing Station, the day after he was wounded. When I saw him the day before, I knew matters were serious, but he wished me to reassure you, so I did not say all I felt about him.
Since returning to the Battalion, I have found that your husband received his wound in doing a very gallant and splendid action. He went out under very heavy fire to bring in a wounded man of another attacking battalion; was himself so severely wounded that he had to return; but in spite of the severity and pain of his wound he went out again, and succeeded in dragging in his man and getting back himself. All through he showed the utmost pluck and endurance, and I understand that he was highly recommended for his magnificent deed.
Please accept my very deep sympathy in your trouble. I know the blow will be a heavy one, and I do feel for you, especially too as your husband told me that your house was destroyed by a bomb not so very long since.
May you find comfort in the thought that he gave of his very best, and lived and died a real hero, his soul assuredly now in God's keeping. His one thought when I was with him was that you should not worry or be anxious about him.
Yours very sincerely,
(Signed) CT Richards C.F.
Chaplain 7th London Regt.

On the night of the 19/20 May 1918, at about 12.15 pm, a Gotha dropped three bombs - one 300g and two 50g - over Stratford East London. The larger bomb demolished two houses in Maryland Square, damaged fifty others, killed two people and injured seven others. Mrs Rennell and her two children lived at 48 Maryland Square.
The Gotha was shot down by a Bristol fighter over East Ham.
So what did Mrs Rennell mean by her choice of inscription? Was it that understanding is not necessary, you should just put your faith in God because whatever happens is His will? Perhaps, but then she could have found a more Christian source than this to say so. Or does she mean that fate strikes randomly and there is no sense in anything? Who can tell.

[The information about the bombing of East London comes from Ian Castle's wonderfully detailed and informative website: Zeppelin Raids, Goths and 'Giants' Britain's First Blitz 1914-1918.]



This is so obviously a quotation and yet it was incredibly difficult to find the poem it came from. Eventually I found it published on 17 December 1917 in the New Castle Herald, a local paper from New Castle, Pennsylvania, USA. It's not exactly a quotation but a contraction of two lines. Quite how the poem was known to Reginald Read's mother, who at the time she chose it was living in Broadstone, Dorset, I don't know.
It appeared in a published sermon written by the Revd MB Williams of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Williams was inspired by the publication of a young soldier's last letter home in which he told his parents that he was happy to die as "we shall live forever as the result of our efforts". I've copied out the whole of the poem, which is not great poetry nor even very comprehensible but you are unlikely to find it anywhere else:

What chaunt is this that thou dost sing,
Beside the shadow of the Wing
And marked for Victory and for Sting -
"But we shall live forever!"
What rose of wonder hast thou prest
With a gold pin to thy young breast
That in such pride thou goest dreast? -
"But we shall live forever!"

Thou saws't the Earth and all her spires,
Dreams and dominions and desires,
Fade from thee: and thy heart still quires,
"But we shall live forever!"
And while into the dark thou'rt flung
By irremediable wrong,
Yet boasteth thy submissive tongue,
"But we shall live forever!"

O child, O stripling, O dead boy,
That on the threshold of thy joy
Beheld the godness past the toy,
So shalt thou live forever!
Oh such as thou, men shall record:
"They break the terror of the sword
And built the garden of the Lord
And 'stablished it forever".

Reginald Read, the son of Albert Read, a ship's steward, and his wife Jessie, was born in Newhaven in October 1900. He joined the RAF in July 1917 whilst still only 16. He went to the RAF Boys Wing Training Establishment at Cranwell in Lincolnshire where he achieved the rank of Acting Lance Corporal before he died of pneumonia in hospital in Lincoln. His body was returned to Newhaven to be buried.



Bertram Ransome was forty-five, a director of the family firm, Ransome, Sims and Jefferies of Ipswich, married and with six children when he joined the Royal Defence Corps on its formation in March 1916. The corps was intended only for home duties: guarding ports, bridges and prisoners of war. But a year later Ransome transferred to the Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Section and went to France.
Ransome was a mechanical engineer, his firm, which made agricultural equipment, turned out aeroplanes during the war. In France he was involved with the building of the hospitals at Trouville. In 1917, he transferred to the 8th Auxiliary Steam Co. which was beginning to use steam vehicles to move heavy equipment and guns. In June 1918 he became ill with influenza and died from pneumonia in hospital in Le Havre.
His wife, Phyllis Ransome, chose his inscription from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's A Psalm of Life. Despite knowing very little of the man, from the little I've discerned from websites like this, the words of the poem would seem to suit him well. These are the last three verses:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.



This wonderful metaphor for death comes from the last two lines of The Light of Asia, Sir Edwin Arnold's long narrative poem, first published in 1879, which introduced Western readers to the philosophy of Buddhism. The words appear twice in Book 8:

Never shall yearnings torture, nor sins
Stain him, nor ache of earthly joys and woes
Invade his safe eternal peace, nor deaths
And Lives recur. He goes
Unto Nirvana! He is one with life
Yet lives not. He is blest, ceasing to be.
Om, Mani Padme, Om! the Dewdrop slips
Int the shining sea.

Arnold's words have a distinct echo of Shelley's Adonais:

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;
From the contagion of the world's slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;'

Gross's precise inscription appears in the last two lines of the poem:

The dew is on the lotus! - Rise, Great Sun!
And lift my leaf and mix me with the wave.
Om Mani Padme Hum, the sunrise comes!
The Dewdrop Slips into The Shining Sea!

'Om mani padme hum', is a Bhuddist mantra which cannot really be translated into English since it is hardly more than a transformative, meditative collection of sound syllables all intended to bring the speaker closer to the way of the Bhudda. Arnold himself had spent some years in India and was keen to introduce Bhuddist philosophy to the Western world.
Arthur Gross died in hospital in Hounslow. At the time of his death he was an Air Mechanic Third Class at the Armament School in Uxbridge. I have been unable to discover whether the cause of death was accident or illness. His body was taken back home to Suffolk where he is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Boynton. His father, Dr Charles Gross, chose his inscription, did he just like the words or was he interested in Bhuddism? Whichever, it's an interesting inscription in an English churchyard.



Archibald Anderson attested in Canada on 15 May 1917, arrived in England on 5 July, was hospitalized in England with German measles from 25 January to 4 February 1918, and then again with mumps from 5th to 25th March. He went to France on 28 May and died three days later on the 31st. Born on 6 April 1899, he was one month past his nineteenth birthday. His service file indicates that he served with the McGill University Siege Artillery, and it states that he was killed in action, 'hostile aircraft'. On the night of the 31 May 1918 there were many casualties when the camp and hospitals at Etaples were bombed by German aircraft. Archibald Anderson was one of the casualties. It looks as though he got no further than the base camp before he was killed.
Anderson's inscription comes from 'Better Far to Pass Away' by Captain Richard Molesworth Dennys (1884-1916), 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who was killed in action on the Somme in August 1916.
Dennys' poem repeats the ancient theory that it is better to die young:

Better far to pass away
While limbs are strong and young,
Ere the ending of the day,
Ere youth's lusty song be sung.

The poet's reasoning - how he could enjoy the things he loves so much - "the hills, the sea, the sun, the winds, the woods, the clouds, the trees" when he's an old man.

Come when it may, the stern decree
For me to leave the cheery throng
And quit the sturdy company
Of brothers that I work among.
No need for me to look askance,
Since no regret my prospect mars.
My day was happy - and perchance
The coming night is full of stars.

We find it difficult to believe that young First World War soldiers really had this insouciant attitude towards death. In my head I hear these lines by AE Housman (1859-1936):

Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.



Eighteen-year-old Charles Edwin Morris was his parents' only child, born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire and raised in Coventry, Warwickshire where his father was a clerk in a cycle works. Morris enlisted in July 1917. At one time a soldier had to be nineteen before he could be sent abroad, but after the casualties of the 1918 German Spring Offensive the rule was less strictly observed.
Morris's inscription comes from 'The Victorious Dead', a poem by Alfred Noyes first published in a special souvenir edition of the Daily Mail, The Golden Peace Edition, to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in July 1919. The inscription comes from the second verse:

Make firm, O God, the peace our dead have won.
For folly shakes the tinsel on its head
And points us back to darkness and to hell,
Cackling 'Beware of visions', while our dead
Whisper, 'It was for visions that we fell'.
All that this earth can give they thrust aside.
They crowded all their youth into an hour.
And, for one fleeting dream of right, they died.
Oh, if we fail them, in that awful trust,
How should we bear those voices from the dust?

You can hear in this the echo of a very famous line from 'The Call', written by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1819): 'One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name'. But Noyes, and many like him, didn't think this was enough, the dead had died for a 'fleeing dream of right' and we will fail them if we don't try to make that dream come true. The dream is summarised in another of Noyes' poems, 'Victory':

There's but one gift that all our dead desire,
One gift that men can give, and that's a dream,
Unless we, too, can burn with that same fire
Of sacrifice; die to the things that seem;

Die to the little hatreds; die to greed;
Die to the old ignoble selves we knew;
Die to the base contempts of race and greed,
And rise again, like these, with souls as true.

To Noyes this dream is not to be achieved 'by sword, or tongue, or pen, There's but one way. God make us better men'.



"Truly ye come of The Blood; slower to bless than to ban;
Little used to lie down at the bidding of any man.
Flesh of the flesh that I bred, bone of the bone that I bare;
Stark as your sons shall be - stern as your fathers were.
Deeper than speech our love, stronger than life our tether,
But we do not fall on the neck nor kiss when we come together."

Second Lieutenant Hamilton's inscription refers to the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling's 'England's Answer'. This speaks of the blood ties that link the people of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa into the British Empire, and lauds the qualities of the British race and the responsibilities it has assumed in the world.
However, there is more going on with this inscription than just Kipling's poem. The War Graves Commission has only the most minimal information about Second Lieutenant GEAF Hamilton, no Christian names, no parentage and no age. But he was, in fact, George Edward Archibald Augustus FitzGeorge Hamilton, son and heir of Sir Archibald Hamilton and his first wife Olga Mary Adelaide FitzGeorge. Both these families came of royal blood: Olga's grandfather was the Duke of Cambridge, one of the sons of George III, and Sir Archibald was descended from James II. 'Truly ye are of the blood' is a reference not just to the binding blood of the Empire but to royal blood. After the divorce Sir Archibald was given custody of his son but it was his mother's second husband, Squadron Leader Richard Charlton Lan of the Air Ministry, who signed for the inscription.
Olga and Sir Archibald divorced in 1902 and Sir Archibald went on to have a fairly colourful career, which saw him convert to Islam and become a leading member of the British Union of Fascists.
George Hamilton was educated at Winchester, left in 1916 to go to Sandhurst, was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards - the regiment of which his great-grandfather the Duke of Cambridge had been Colonel in Chief for over forty years - joining the 1st Battalion in France in January 1918. By May 1918 the German offensive was beginning to lose steam but their artillery and aeroplanes were still very active. The regimental history records that:

"On the 17th the area occupied by the 1st Battalion was subjected to a severe bombing by aircraft; Second Lieutenant W.A. Fleet and Second Lieutenant G.E.A.A. Fitz-George Hamilton were killed, and Second Lieutenant S.J. Hargreaves and Second Lieutenant G.D. Neale were seriously wounded. The two latter never recovered from the wounds they received, and died the next day. The loss of these four keen young officers was deeply felt by the whole Battalion."



Alexander Child's eldest sister, Beatrice, chose his inscription. The words come from a poem written by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), 'It is not the tear at this moment shed', which he wrote following the death of a dearly loved relation.

It is not the tear at this moment shed,
When the cold turf has just been laid o'er him,
That can tell how beloved was the friend that's fled,
Or how deep in our hearts we deplore him.
'Tis the tear, thro' many a long day wept,
'Tis life's whole path o'ershaded;
'Tis the one remembrance, fondly kept,
When all lighter griefs have faded.

Thus his memory, like some holy light,
Kept alive in our hearts, will improve them,
For worth shall look fairer, and truth more bright,
When we think how we lived but to love them.
And, as fresher flowers the sod perfume
Where buried saints are lying,
So our hearts shall borrow a sweetening bloom
From the image he left there in dying!

The poem was set to music in 1901 by the Anglo-Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford and it's this that probably brought it to prominence. But Child's inscription goes to show yet again that the rank of a soldier does not define the type of his inscription, it isn't only officers whose families find profound and unusual things to say.
Child was the sixth of John and Ada Child's nine children. In 1911, at the age of 15, he was working as a shop assistant - his sister Beatrice was a coca demonstrator. He volunteered on the outbreak of war and joined the Wiltshire Regiment, going with them to France on 4 January 1915. He was killed on 7 May 1918. Originally buried in the churchyard at Marle-sur-Serre his body was exhumed a reinterred in 1924.



This blunt truism appears all over the Internet, always in inverted commas but never attributed to an author. That is, until you change the pronoun to 'he', "Come he slow, or come he fast" and then it emerges as a line from Sir Walter Scott's Marmion (1808). Writers have quoted it ever since to indicate that death and danger are old friends, or to remind us of the transient nature of life, either of which could have been in Mr Joseph Sidebottom's mind when he chose it for his son's inscription.
Harold Sidebottom served in the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment and died of wounds in a hospital in Boulogne. It's difficult to identify when soldiers can have been wounded but the 10th Cheshires had been up in Flanders, near Kemmel, when the Germans attacked on 10 April, and on the 26th they had been part of a counter-attack. Their casualties from the two operations included more than 236 wounded and 372 missing. In June the battalion was reduced to cadre strength and the 10th as a fighting unit ceased to exist.
Harold Sidebottom was a cotton weaver from Glossop in Derbyshire where his father, Joseph was a coal heaver and his mother, Ann, assisted in the business as a book keeper.



Did you recognise it?

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. 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 suns of home.

Rupert Brooke's lyrical description of the English countryside forms an ironic contrast with the the sun of the last few months of Harold Howarth's life. He served with the 1st/5th Devonshire Regiment, which had been fighting in Palestine since June 1917. Of the march to Jerusalem that October the regimental history says, it "was a torment of heat, dust, thirst and exhaustion". Howarth is buried in Ramlah War Cemetery, beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with green lawns and flowers as in the gardens of England, but he's very far from home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by 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.
[The Soldier, from '1914' by Rupert Brooke

The 7 May edition of the 'Western Morning News' reported Howarth's death:

"Lt Harold Victor Howarth, who died on May 2 of wounds received in action in Palestine on April 21, was the younger son of Mr Frank Howarth (water engineer) and Mrs Howarth. Lt Howarth was previously dangerously wounded in July 1917, in the head with shrapnel, but recovered and went back to the front in Dec. Only on Sunday last three cheerful letters were received from him, in one which he congratulated himself on having gone through without being hit, the same action in which Maj. Spooner was killed. He was educated at Plymouth College and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, having won an open exhibition to the latter in the year before the war broke out. After being a year at Cambridge he obtained a commission in the - Devons in July 1915, and took a draft out to India the following year. He accompanied the battn. to Palestine and was dangerously wounded at Gaza. Mr and Mrs Howarth's elder son holds a commission in the Machine Gun Corps, and is serving in Mesopotamia, having gone to India in Dec. 1914."



Gunner Henson died of wounds in a base hospital in Boulogne. His wife, Mrs EJ Henson, chose a quotation from the second verse of Tennyson's famous four-verse poem, Crossing the Bar.

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning at the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be so sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Mrs Henson has chosen a very powerful image for the moment of death, that moment when whatever force it is that has driven the tide inexorably onwards suddenly slackens, eddies and withdraws taking the water - us - back into the boundless deep, that vast anonymous nothingness from whence we came.
Edwin Charles Henson was born in Leytonstone, East London to Edwin and Annie Henson. His father, who died in 1908 was a carpenter. In 1901, fourteen-year-old Edwin Charles was an office boy. Henson served with the 72nd Battery, 38th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. I haven't been able to discover how, when or where he was wounded



Twenty-year-old Serjeant Hugh McGrogan died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Lijssenthoek. Educated at Paisley Grammar School, McGrogan would have gone to Glasgow Provincial Training College had he not joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in July 1916 when he was eighteen. When he died two years later, he was a serjeant.
Born in Paisley, Hugh McGrogan was the only son of James and Margaret McGrogan. His father, who was a tailor, died in August 1916, the month after Hugh enlisted, so it was his mother who chose her son's inscription.
It comes from The Princess,Tennyson's long narrative, serio-comic poem about the education of women and their role in public life. The inscription comes from a beautiful four-verse song, a lament for "days that are no more". These are the first two verses:

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

McGrogan served with the 263rd Siege Battery and was wounded as the Germans pushed forward in Belgium during their Spring Offensive.



Samuel Ernest Crane was a veteran of the South African War who re-enlisted in March 1915 and was given the rank of corporal. He served in Gallipoli, where he was wounded and hospitalised in England. He spent a year in England, training soldiers once he'd recovered, and being promoted to the rank of sergeant. However, he wanted to return to the front and was prepared to be reduced to the rank of private to achieve this. He served with the 6th Battalion Australian Infantry and was wounded in both legs on 16 April 1918. He died in a Casualty Clearing Station four days later.
His inscription comes from a poem called 'My Land and I' (1903), written by Henry Lawson (1867-1922). Lawson was one of the most famous and popular of all Australian writers, revered as someone who "represented the real voice of Australia". It was a voice that would have preferred Australia to be 'white'. Sites that feature his poetry today come with a warning that:

"the phrasings used in his lifetime were correct for his time period in that the usage of terms not regarded as "politically correct" today were quite acceptable at that time and were not regarded as "offensive".

'My Land and I' is a savage attack on the sort of people who insisted that Australia was dead, finished. This is the last verse.

The parasites dine at your tables spread
(As my enemies did at mine),
And they croak and gurgle, 'Australia's dead'
While they guzzle Australian wine.
But we heed them never, my land, my land,
For we know how small they are,
And we see the signs of a future grand
As we gaze on a rising star.



War Diary 5th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
19 April 1918
"Snow fell during the day. Hail and snow showers at intervals and very cold wind."

At mid-day, Gunner Truman and eight other members of his battery were gathered round a fire in an old house in the village of Lavieville waiting for their dinner when a German shell crashed through the roof killing one gunner and wounding the other eight. Truman was hit by pieces of shell all over his body and head and died soon afterwards. Truman was "a bright, high spirited chap", with a "fresh complexion, shortish, always lively".
All this information was given by various witnesses to the Australian Red Cross who conveyed it to his parents in South Africa. Truman was born in Sydney and was working there as a draughtsman when he enlisted in January 1916. His parents were by this time in Pretoria, South Africa.
His father chose his inscription. It comes from a poem, which I found published on 26 September 1918 in the Southern Reporter, a Scottish newspaper, and again in the book, 'Victory Over Blindness: how it was won by the men of St Dunstan's and how others may win it' (1919) by Sir Arthur Pearson. It's introduced in this book with the comment that it was by a 'St Dunstaner'.
I'll reproduce it in full.

The Gunner smiled as his breachblock closed,
His arm was steady, his grip was tight;
The Gunner smiled, and his face beamed bright
In the twilight flush of an autumn night.
Silent columns of moving men
Moved to a point in a neighbouring glen,
And the Gunner smiled.
The Gunner smiled as his gun spoke loud,
With deafening crash and darkening cloud;
The Gunner smiled as the darkness fell,
Smiled at the wreck of shot and shell.
The Gunner smiled with firm fixed eye
On the field of death, where brave men die.
Then he sank down slowly beside his gun,
And smiled, though his course was nearly run;
Though his heart beat faint in his wounded breast.
The Gunner smiled as he went out west.



This heartfelt piece of verse was written by Private Arnold's father. It was, of course, extremely difficult for the bereaved when the soldiers came home to great rejoicing. For some relations these were the hardest days of all.
David Arnold enlisted in September 1915 aged 18. He left Australia in January 1916 and served with the 55th Battalion Australian Infantry in France from 12 August 1917. He was killed by a shell in the trenches on 16 April 1918. A witness told the Australian Red Cross:

"I knew both the above [Lieutenant Collins and Private DE Arnold] - they were in No. 1 Platoon. We were in the front line at Villers-Bretonneux ... I did not see them killed but was told that a shall burst in the trench and killed six of them ... This was in the morning. That same night, as I was doing despatch running, I saw Collins and Arnold being carried out of the trench, and I subsequently saw the Pioneers making crosses for their graves ... I knew them both well. Arnold was a stretcher bearer. He was a nuggety fellow - a bit deaf - fairish complexion - we called him Dave."



I never stand above a bier and see
The seal of death set on some well-loved face
But that I think, "One more to welcome me
When I shall cross the intervening space
Between this land and that one 'over there';
One more to make the strange Beyond seem fair".
The Beyond v3
Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850-1919

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a popular American poet whose status can be judged by the fact that none of her poetry was included in The Oxford Book of American Verse (1950) and yet fourteen of her poems were published in Best Loved Poems of America (1936). Gunner Forsyth's wife, Ada Nellie Forsyth, quoted from The Beyond.
According to the Burnley Express of 24 April 1918, Forsyth , who joined up in June 1916 and was mobilised in February 1917, died of multiple gun shot wounds. His service record shows that these were received on 12 April 1918. He died two days later.
Ada and John Forsyth were married in December 1905, He was a grocer, tea and drapery dealer in Burnley. Childless at the time of the 1911 census, they had a daughter in July 1914 who was therefore three when her father died. Ada Forsyth died in 1974, fifty-six years after her husband.

And so for me there is no sting to death,
And so the grave has lost its victory.
It is but crossing - with a bated breath,
And white, set face - a little strip of sea.
To find the loved ones waiting on the shore
More beautiful, more precious than before.



Private Edman's father, George Hunston Edman, chose some lines from The Song of the Dardanelles by Henry Lawson for his son's inscription. It's a very nationalistic poem heroising the Australian landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915:

The sea was hell and the shore was hell,
With mine, entanglement and shell,
But they stormed the heights as Australians should,
And they fought and they died as we knew they would.
Knew they would -
Knew they would;
They fought and they died as we knew they would.

Edman, who served with the 20th Battalion Australian Infantry, landed on Gallipoli on 22 August 1915. After the battalion was withdrawn in December, it was sent to France. Here, on 12 April 1918, Edman was one of two soldiers wounded when the Germans shelled the town where they were billeted. He was admitted to hospital with a compound fracture of his left femur and died two days later.
His father, who filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia, told how Edman's eldest brother had lost an eye in a bayonet charge at Armentieres and another brother had been wounded in April 1918 during the Battle of the Lys.



Both Vincent Anderson's parents were born in England but he himself was born and brought up in South Africa. However, as his inscription hauntingly conveys - England took him.
Anderson's inscription comes from, Sir Richard's Song in Kipling's 'Puck of Pook's Hill'. Sir Richard is Sir Richard Dalyngridge, a Norman knight who comes to England with William the Conqueror. He comes as a conqueror but is conquered himself by his love for a Saxon lady - and for the country - and he sends back messages, each message a verse, to his father, mother, brother and sister, which each end telling them, 'England hath taken me'.

Anderson enlisted in the Inns of Court OTC in December 1915. He was 18. On 24 October 1916 he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps and joined the 1st Machine Gun Company in France on 31 July 1917. In February 1918 this became part of the 1st Machine Gun Battalion. Anderson died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Lapugnoy on 13 April. As the battalion were involved in the Battle of Estaires, 9-12 April, it is possible that this is when he was wounded.

I had my horse, my shield and banner,
And a boy's heart, so whole and free;
But now I sing in another manner -
But now England hath taken me!



Mrs Annie Reid quoted the last two lines of Harold Begbie's famous, or should I say infamous, recruiting poem, 'Fall In', for her husband's inscription. The poem appeared in numerous local papers during the first weeks of the war, designed to shame men into volunteering by asking them how they were going to feel when they were shunned by girls for not being a soldier, how they would cope when their children questioned the role they'd played in the war, and how they would feel when they were old and their mates were reminiscing and they were excluded. The poem concludes:

Is it naught to you if your country fall,
And Right is smashed by Wrong?
Is it football still and the picture show,
The pub and the betting odds,
When your brothers stand to the tyrant's blow,
And England's call is God's!

How could you stand aside when your 'brothers' are fighting for God against tyranny.
James Reid was born in Stirling, Scotland, the son of John and Marion Reid. He served with the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) and from his service number it would appear that he enlisted in the second half of 1915. He was killed on 27 March 1918 as the regiment fought to contain the German advance across the Crozat Canal, through Teignier Wood, Noreuil and Chauny. Reid is buried in Chauney Communal Cemetery British Extension.



Private Playle's father, also William Springfield Playle, who chose this inscription, is referencing very directly Henry Newbolt's famous poem Vitae Lampada [1897] [The Torch of Life], which was based on a passage from De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things] by the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretius:

"Thus the sum of things is ever being renewed, and mortal creatures live dependent one upon another. Some species increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures are changed and, like runners, pass on the torch of life"
Book II line 75

In Newbolt's poem, at a crucial point in a school cricket match - "ten to make and a match to win" - the last batsman is inspired not by the thought of the glory that could be his but by: "his captain's hand on his shoulder" and the words: "Play up! play up! and play the game": play for your team and not for yourself. To Newbolt, it's this same spirit of selflessness that can rally a group of soldiers who find themselves in a desperate situation:

The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

It's a spirit of selflessness, of responsibility to others, transferred from the cricket pitch to the field of battle. And writ large - transferred from the cricket pitch to life:

This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The poem is always thought to have epitomised the public school ideal of selfless service to the community. But Playle was not a public schoolboy. He was educated at Rotherham Grammar School, which shows that this ideal of 'playing' for others and not for yourself was not limited to the public schools
William Springfield Playle was the eldest son of William Springfield Playle Senior, a quantity surveyor from Eccleshall in Yorkshire, and his wife, Minnie Kate. He served with the 17th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. In March 1918 the battalion was involved in a fighting retreat in the face of the German offensive. Playle, who had been at the front since January 1918, was said to have been killed by a sniper whilst carrying a wounded comrade.



John Lodge's inscription comes from Herbert Asquith's poem, The Volunteer, which he wrote two years before the outbreak of war but which is always assumed to have been written after it.
Asquith writes of "a clerk who half his life had spent, toiling at ledgers in a city grey". As he worked at his books, his ledgers, the clerk assumed his life would drift away, "with no lance broken in life's tournament". Yet he cannot rid his mind of romantic images of war:

The gleaming eagles of the legions came,
And horsemen, charging under phantom skies,
Went thundering past beneath the oriflamme.

But then his life changes and the chance of war does come and the clerk is killed.

And now those waiting dreams are satisfied
From twilight to the halls of dawn he went;
His lance is broken; but he lies content
With that high hour, in which he lived and died.

John Lodge, the son of Adam, a railway signalman, and his wife Phoebe was not a clerk but a Post Office letter sorter. He enlisted in September 1915 and served originally as a bombardier in the Royal Artillery, rising through the ranks until he was commissioned in July 1917. In March 1918 he was with the 190th Siege Battery when he died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station in Lijssenthoek. His mother signed for his inscription.
The poem concludes:

And falling this, he wants no recompense,
Who found his battle in the last resort
Nor needs he any hearse to bear him hence,
Who goes to join the men of Agincourt.



There no definite source for this inscription, which expresses a patriotic culture that venerates the national flag. 'True to the Flag' is best known today as the title of an American marching song, written in 1917. The American flag, the star spangled banner, or Old Glory, is more prominently revered in the United States in the twenty-first century than the Union Jack is in Britain, but in the early years of the twentieth century, especially in the years surrounding the South African War, British poems like this showed the same sentiment:

It's only a small piece of bunting,
It's only an old coloured rag;
Yet thousands have died for its honour,
And shed their best blood for the flag.

After the next sixteen lines that boast of how Britons never yield, and about the number of countries in the British Empire over which the flag flies, the poem concludes:

We hoist it to show our devotion
To our Queen, to our country and laws;
'Tis the outward and visible emblem
Of advancement and liberty's cause.
You may say it's a small bit of bunting,
You may call it an old coloured rag;
Yet freedom has made it majestic
And time has ennobled the flag.

You can see therefore how the four words, 'true to the flag' encapsulate a whole world of patriotic, martial pride, a pride in which Mr Alfred Bowland, baker and confectioner of Norton Malton, Yorkshire, could find comfort in the face of his son's death.
Stanley John Bowland was one of Alfred and Elizabeth Bowland's eight sons: George, Charles, Frederick, Stanley, William, Leonard, Harold and Thomas Octavius.
George served with the RAMC and survived the war; Charles, a reservist with the 1st Grenadier Guards, was recalled immediately on the outbreak and was in France by November 1914. Frederick was a baker like his father and I can't find a medal index card for him, Stanley, who served with the 1st/5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales Own) died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 23 March 1918, and William was killed in action eight days later. I can't find medal index cards for either Leonard or Harold but nineteen-year-old Thomas Octavius was killed in action on 27 September 1918.
'True to the flag' is a sentiment in which I've just said Mr Bowland could find comfort in the face of his son's death - but the apostrophe needs moving - it should be, in the face of his sons' deaths.



Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year!

From 'To the Cuckoo'
Authorship disputed

This eight verse poem was either written by John Logan (1748-1788) or by his friend Michael Bruce (1746-1767). Logan edited and published Bruce's poems and added some of his own. 'To the Cuckoo', thought to be the best in the collection, was one Logan claimed for himself but Bruce's friends hotly disputed this. The poet sees the cuckoo as forever associated with spring and summer, making it a beautiful image for a young person who dies before their time, someone born to "know not winter, only spring" ['In Memoriam F.A.S.' by Robert Louis Stevenson].
Stuart Stirling Gemmell was 19 when he was killed on the afternoon of 21 March 1918 "during hostile bombardment" whilst his battalion were in the trenches at Les Fosses Farm off the Cambria Road. Gemmell served in the 3rd Battalion Cameron Highlanders but at the time of his death was attached to the 7th. All through February and March 1918 the British army had been expecting the German offensive. The 7th Battalion's regimental history notes that for many weeks beforehand neither officers nor men had taken their clothes off as they worked hard to prepare belts of wire and improve the trench systems in anticipation of the attack. Although the 21st was the day the Germans launched their offensive, it was not in the location of the 7th Battalion. They had to wait until 3 am on the morning of the 28th before the onslaught reached them.
Stuart Gemmell was the youngest of the three sons of John Edward Gemmell, a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, and his wife Margaret Ann of Beechlands, Mossley Hill, Liverpool. Educated at Uppingham School, Gemmell took up his place at Cambridge University until he was old enough to join up. He was gazetted second lieutenant in July 1917 and had been at the front since September. His older brother, Lieutenant Kenneth Alexander Gemmell of The King's Liverpool Regiment, was killed in action at Bellewaarde on 16 June 1915. He does not have a grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.



Robert Kiddle's inscription comes from Lycidas, John Milton's (1608-1674)threnody, his lament, for his friend Edward King who was drowned in 1637 whilst on his way to visit his family in Ireland. King was twenty-five, five years older than Kiddle when he met his death. Both of them dead before their prime. Milton claimed that there was no one left who was King's peer, his equal, and this is the line Kiddle's father chose for his son.
Robert Henry Kiddle was the younger of John and Elizabeth Kiddle's two sons. How could the father say that Robert had not left anyone who was his equal when he had another son? The announcement of Robert's death in the Liverpool Echo of 20 March 1918 makes the reason clear:

Kiddle - 15 March, died of wounds, at Casualty Clearing Station. Signaller Robert Henry Kiddle K.L.R., aged 20, only surviving child of John Henry and Elizabeth Parker Kiddle, now of 75, Urmston Road, Wallesy.

Kiddle, who was twenty in February 1918, was a qualified signaller serving with the 10th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment. He had been in France since January 1917. He died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 15 March, the Sister in charge writing to tell his parents that he'd been brought in seriously wounded in the head, thigh, arm and abdomen, and that his condition was hopeless from the first.
It's not possible to tell what date Kible was wounded but the 10th Battalion were in the front line near Festubert at the time he died. On the 13th the war diary records that it had been an "exceptionally quiet day"; on the 14th that their sector was subjected to a heavy bombardment, which left two of their men dead, and on the 15th, "Enemy artillery very aggressive, and 4 casualties were sustained (1 killed, 2 died of wounds, I wounded)". That suggests to me that Kibble died of wounds received on the same day.



A wink from Hesper, falling
Fast in the wintry sky,
Comes through the even blue,
Dear, like a word from you.
Is it good-bye?

Across the miles between us
I send you sigh for sigh.
Good-night, sweet friend, good-night:
Till life and all take flight,
Never good-bye.

It's far more usual to see this lovely poem by WE Henley misquoted than it is to see it correctly quoted in headstone inscriptions. Henley wrote, "till life and all take flight, never good-bye", whereas most inscriptions deny that death is the end and write, "though life and all take flight never good-bye". There is, of course, much more consolation in the latter.
Serjeant Crew's mother, Eliza Crew chose the inscription. Thomas Oliver Crew was his parent's eldest child. The family lived in Poplar, east London, where the father, John Crew, was a marine engineer. In 1911, Crew was a clerk working for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He enlisted in June 1915 and served for a year with Queen Victoria's Rifles, a territorial battalion before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France in July 1916 attached to the Royal Fusiliers.
Crew's is one of the few service files to exist and it records that on 9 March 1918 he was admitted to a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek with gun shot wounds penetrating his abdomen and both legs. He died the same day.



The brothers Stanley and Roy Lambert both had the same inscription. Stanley was killed on 17 February 1918, having only joined his unit in France a month earlier. Roy, who was 21, was killed on 11 July 1918 having been on active service since February 1916.
Soldiers' photographs were often framed in elaborate patriotic frames - especially if they had been killed - and one such frame features 'He heard the call and answered' in a banner across the top of the frame, along with the Australian flag and a vase of foliage that I can't quite make out but is probably made up of oak, laurel and wattle.
The second line of the inscription comes from Laurence Binyon's famous poem, For the Fallen, interestingly, from a verse that is now usually omitted:

They fought, they were terrible, nought could tame them,
Hunger, nor legions, nor shattering cannonade.
They laughed, they sang their melodies of England,
They fell open-eyed and unafraid.

The very next verse begins: 'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grown old'.
The Lambert brothers were both born in Australia. Roy was a poultry farmer when he enlisted in September 1915, and Stanley, who enlisted in November 1916, was an electrician. Stanley spent most of 1917 in England before joining his unit, the 24th Coy Australian Machine Gun Corps, on 26 January 1918.
According to a witness to the Australian Red Cross, Lambert was killed at a place called Sherwood Dump on Hill 60:

"He had been caught by a shell, pieces of which hit him about the head and side. He was badly hit and I think death must have been instantaneous."

Roy Lambert was similarly a casualty of shell fire. Sergeant Lewis reported to the Red Cross:

"On July 11th at night time, he was in charge of a ration party and passing a dangerous gully, was, I understand, killed instantly, owing to heavy enemy barrage; there was no wound and death was from concussion. I did not see the body but was told by C/S/M A King 82, of A Co. that he had seen it and there was no mark whatever on it."

Roy Lambert had done well in the army and was promoted to sergeant in December 1917. However, there is a curious incident on his record sheet, which relates that, whilst at Codford Camp, a large ANZAC training and transfer camp, he was seriously reprimanded and docked three days pay for being absent without leave from midnight on 19 February 1918 to 3 pm on the 22nd. What day had his brother been killed? The 17 February. It sounds to me as though Roy went on a 'blinder'. Interestingly, the reprimand had no effect on his rank.



Born and brought up in Atherstone, Warwicksire, Richard Lauder Sale was one of the four sons of Alfred and Gertrude Sale. In 1913, Richard married Dorothy Mary Northcott, the third daughter of the Vicar of Atherstone. She too had been born in the town. One imagines that the couple had known each other all their lives. This makes the inscription she chose for her husband all the more poignant.
It comes from the poem 'Missing' by Geoffrey Dearmer (1893-1996), which was published in 1918 in a collection of his verse. Dorothy Sale knew her husband wasn't missing, she knew he was dead, she'd placed an announcement of his death in the 22 January edition of The Times, but the words of the poem still rang true for her:

How should I grieve? His life inspired in me
A joy that shall outlive eternity,
Wrought out, complete, unsnared by time and age
My jewelled past my precious heritage.
Shall misery usurp my realm of years
And leave me drowning in self-pitying tears,
A derelict in my own whirlpool swirled -
Me - whom Love crowned an empress of the world?

When the war broke out, Richard Sale was in practice as a solicitor with his father, Alfred, and his brother, Edward. Early in 1915 he joined the Inns of Court OTC and that September was commissioned into the Household Cavalry. He served at the front from February 1916 until his death in January 1918. In June 1916 he became his regiment's sniping and patrol officer and early in 1917 was promoted to brigade sniping officer. It was his duty among other things to make daily reports about the location of sniper posts and to liaise with the artillery for their removal. Sale died of wounds received in a raid on 15 January 1918.



This beautiful inscription comes from the last verse of a love poem, One Day, by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). The 'one day' is the day the lovers will be united when the second one dies.

When shall they meet? I cannot tell,
Indeed, when they shall meet again,
Except some day in Paradise:
For this they wait, one waits in pain,
Beyond the sea of death love lies
For ever, yesterday, to-day;
Angels shall ask them, 'Is it well?'
And they shall answer, 'Yea'.

In 1911 Horace Topps, aged 17, was living at home with his parents and six brothers and sisters, in Sutton Surrey: father, George Topps was a house painter, mother, Elizabeth was a charlady, Horace worked in a fishmonger's, sixteen-year-old Kate was a daily girl, Charlie, 14, Ethel, 10, twins Agnes and Helena 8, were at school, and three year old Ena was a 'baby at home'.
By 1918, three of the family were dead: George died in December 1917, Horace in January 1918 and Helena in December 1918. By the time Elizabeth chose Horace's inscription she had much to mourn.
The themes of undying love and meeting again are among the most popular of all personal inscriptions; Mrs Topps has chosen a particularly beautiful way of expressing this.
Horace Topps was a volunteer who entered France on active service on 27 August 1915. He served with the 21st Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps, which was sent to Italy in December 1917 to relieve the Italians on the Piave front. They were not involved in any particular military operations but in carrying out patrol work across the River Piave. Topps was the second battalion casualty of the tour.



This is an unusual quotation from Edward Fitzgerald's the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. When other families have quoted from this beautiful but fatalistic poem they have tended to choose passages that lament the fleeting nature of life. The quotation comes from the 26th quatrain. The 24th makes the point that we will soon all be dust so we may as well make the most of our lives whilst we can.

Ah make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and sans End!

The 26th quatrain scoffs at those supposedly wise men who discuss the future, what do they know and what's more, what will anyone care when they're dead:

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two worlds so wisely - they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scattere'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

Horace Holton's father, William Henry Holton, signed for his inscription. The family lived in Leicester where William was a boot finisher and in 1911, fourteen-year-old Horace was working in a wholesale chemists. His medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having entered a theatre of war on 28 July 1915. It looks therefore as though he volunteered on the outbreak of war when he was 18. His medal card says he served with the 9th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. The War Graves Commission records say it was the 1st/5th. The 9th Battalion arrived in France on 29 July 1915, which would tie in with the date on Holton's medal card. However, neither of these battalion's war diaries give any indication of hostile activities on the day he was said to have been killed in action.
So, what could the Holton's have meant by their choice of inscription? Does it just mean that their son is dead - his mouth full of the dust of the earth he's buried in? That seems a bit literal. Did they mean that it is pointless listening to those who think they 'know' what they're talking about - politicians and opinion formers? It could. Or were they aware, as Fitzgerald must have been, that putting your mouth in the dust is an Oriental form of submission as when you prostrate yourself in obeisance before a superior being as a sign that you are prepared to accept their will? So is it just a superior way of saying, Thy will be done?



'Doll', Mrs Kate Thompson, Captain Thompson's widow, quotes the words of the extremely popular American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) for her husband's inscription:

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.

First published in June 1895 in The Century, a popular American quarterly magazine, it was later republished as the first verse of Wilcox's poem Voice of the Voiceless, which pleaded for kindness to animals.
Herbert Henry Thompson, born in Aldershot in 1884, was the son of Sergeant Major Herbert Henry Thomson and his wife Isabella. By 1901 Isabella was a widow running a fancy goods shop in Aldershot and Herbert was a grocer's assistant. She herself was an army daughter. Her father, John James Harvey, had been an army bandsman who had served in India where her younger sister was born.
I lost track of both Herbert Henry and Isabella in the 1911 census but wonder whether Herbert had gone to Africa. His military record notes that he served in the West African Frontier Force followed by the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having arrived on active service in Alexandria in August 1915. At some point he was mentioned in despatches but by the time of his death, cause unspecified, he was working for the Army Pay Department in Aldershot.
Scorned as a lowbrow, popular poet as opposed to a literary one, Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poems regularly appear in anthologies of bad verse, but I have rather a soft spot for her insouciant words of wisdom:

Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep and you weep alone;
The good old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame wind that blows.
'Tis the set of the sails,
And not the gales,
That tell us the way to go.
[The Winds of Fate]

All love that has not friendship for its base,
Is like a mansion built upon the sand.
Love, to endure life's sorrow and earth's woe,
Needs friendship's solid masonwork below.
[Upon the Sand]



A hundred years after his death Wilfred Owen is one of the most famous casualties of the war, certainly the most famous poet to have been killed, even the most famous of all the war poets. However, at the time, few people had ever heard of him. Two weeks after his death, his parents inserted an announcement in The Times but there was no follow-up obituary. Whereas three days after Rupert Brooke's death a headline in The Times read, 'Death of Mr Rupert Brooke', the article accompanied by an appreciation written by Winston Churchill, then still First Lord of the Admiralty.
But as Brooke's reputation has diminished, somewhat unfairly as he died before his poetry could reflect his experience of warfare, Owen's has soared. Yet Owen too could write like Brooke in the early days; his first poem of the war concluding with the verse:

O meet it is and passing sweet
To live in peace with others,
But sweeter still and far more meet
To die in war for brothers.

Owen's post-war fame was fostered by those members of the literary world who saw his quality, people like Harold Munro, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Edith Sitwell. Sitwell was the first person to publish a collection of Owen's work. The 1919 edition of Wheels, the magazine she edited with her brother, Osbert, not only carried seven of his poems but was dedicated to the memory of 'W.O.' By the late twentieth century his reputation had reached iconic status, where it remains. Owen is the anti-war poet of all anti-war poets, the man who portrayed war in its full repulsiveness.
Yet, when offered the ability to escape the war, as he was in the summer of 1918 following his treatment for shell shock at Craiglockhart, Owen decided he must return to the front. As he wrote in The Calls:

For leaning out last midnight on my sill,
I heard the sighs of men, that have no skill
To speak of their distress, no, nor the will!
A voice I know. And this time I must go.

Owen did not return to the front just so that he could give voice to the voiceless soldiery but to fight. The Military Cross he was awarded for his actions on 1st/2nd October 1918 was for not only assuming command when his company commander became a casualty but for personally manipulating a captured enemy machine gun and inflicting 'considerable losses on the enemy'. He was killed just over a month later, shot as he encouraged his men to face the German machine guns as they desperately tried to prevent the British army crossing the Sambe-Oise canal.
Wilfred was the eldest child of Tom Owen, Assistant Superintendent of the Joint Railways [the LNWR and GWR], and his wife, Susan. The news of his death reached the family home on 11 November, just as all the church bells were ringing to celebrate the Armistice.
When, some time later his parents were asked to choose an inscription, they chose a line from one of their son's own poems, The End. His father actually signed the form confirming the inscription although his mother is always blamed for curtailing the quotation and so giving it a meaning diametrically opposed to the one her son intended. The poem, which people have tried to see as a comment on the war, has to be a comment on the idea of resurrection, the Day of Judgement. Owen asks:

Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul, all tears assuage?

There are two questions here. The inscription, as chosen by the parents, contains a question and an answer:

Shall life renew
These bodies?
Of a truth
All death will he annul.

Owen questions the resurrection, his parents assert it. Their action is no different from the many other families who took lines out of context and in so doing altered their meanings. Mr and Mrs Owen could never have envisaged that their son's poetry would become the subject of such minute study, and in any case - it's what they wanted to say.



War Diary
102nd Battalion Canadian Infantry
Saturday November 2 1918
The Hun started bombing and shelling at 04:00 hours. Our barrage opened at 05:30 hours ...
The Hun continued desultory shelling of the town and at about 09:00 hours, the Battalion Medical Officer, Captain Harry Dunlop MC (CAMC) was hit in the head whilst standing in the doorway of HQ and died shortly afterwards, to the intense sorrow of all.

Dunlop was working in Peru when the war broke out. He returned to Canada to enlist in March 1916 and went abroad that October. In March 1918 he married an American, Rachel Thayer, in London. In August he was awarded a Military Cross for his action near Beaucourt-en-Santerre when, "this officer followed close behind the attack, and attended to the wounded under heavy machine gun fire. He was untiring in his efforts to care for and evacuate the wounded, and undoubtedly saved many lives".
After the war, Mrs Dunlop returned to the United States. At the time she chose her husband's inscription her address was Eaton's Ranch, Wolf Creek, Wyoming, a 7,000 acre cattle ranch on the slopes of the Bighorn Mountain.
The inscription she chose comes from the last line of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the West Wind. The poem is thought to express support for the people of Europe in their struggle against authoritarian regimes. Winter in this context being the re-establishment of reactionary governments after the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 and these governments' suppression of liberal protest; just as spring always follows winter so conservative repression will be followed by liberal reforms. However, in the context of Harry Dunlop's inscription it would appear to be a reference to death and resurrection: just as spring always follows winter so death is always followed by resurrection.



Yesterday's soldier, Ernest Cartright, enlisted on 23 August 1914 and entered a theatre of war on 15 July 1915. He was killed on 1 November 1918. Arthur Skemp too joined up on the outbreak of war, and he too was killed on 1 November but in Skemp's case he had been at the front for just eight days, since 23 October.
Skemp was not unwilling to go to the front but his employers were unwilling to let him go. He was the extremely popular and able Winterstoke Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Bristol of whom a friend wrote:

"His remarkable powers as a lecturer on his subject were well known, and he was idolised by staff and students alike for his intellectual gifts, strong and virile character, his energy and enthusiasm, and his geniality and unfailing kindness of heart endeared him to all."

Skemp served as a member of the Bristol Contingent of the Officer Training Corps until he got transferred to the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and was posted to France. He arrived just as the battalion came out of the line for six days general cleaning up and training. On the 30th they took over the line NE of Mazinghein, holding posts overlooking the Canal de la Sambre. On the 31st the battalion repulsed an enemy attack, the next day the enemy attacked again:

"A Coy posts attacked by enemy. Enemy repulsed with casualties. Our casualties: Lieut A.R. Skemp and 6 O.R. killed 1 O.R. wounded. 4 O.R. wounded later."

Mrs Jessie Skemp chose her husband's inscription. It comes from Robert Browning's Prospice. The choice of author cannot have been difficult since Professor Skemp, the author of a study of his poetry, was a Browning expert. Nor can the choice of poem have been difficult either since in Prospice Browning expresses a bold determination not to hide from death but to meet it head on:

I was ever a fighter, so - one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forebore,
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.



This is no 'que sera sera' but a far more definite statement, not whatever will be will be but 'whatever is, is best'. The words are both the title and the last line of a three verse poem by the popular American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox [1850-1919]. This is the last verse:

I know there are no errors
In the great Eternal plan,
And all things work together
For the final good of man.
And I know when my soul speeds onward
In its grand Eternal quest,
I shall say as I look back earthward
Whatever is - is best.

Mrs Dorothy Bell chose the inscription for her husband, 'Jack', who died of influenza in hospital in Boulogne on 30 October 1918. They had been married for nearly two years and had an eighteen-month-old son. Bell originally served in the Royal Field Artillery but at the time of his death was attached to the Intelligence Corps.



The poem from which this inscription comes, For All We Have and Are, was written by Rudyard Kipling inthe first month of the war. It begins:

For all we have and are,
For all our children's fate,
Stand up and take the war.
The hun is at the gate.

Kipling warns that we shall all have to give up our comfortable lives in order "to meet and break and bind a crazed and driven foe". However:

No easy hope or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sarcrifice
Of body will and soul.
There is but one task for all -
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?

Most families chose the last two lines of the poem, but Private Mcnamara's mother, Matilda, chose the penultimate two. They seem to issue a stark message: it is up to each person to offer their life to the cause.
Mcnamara, who served with the 6th Battalion Welsh Regiment, a pioneer battalion, was killed on 28 October 1918 when "the companies were employed on the repair of forward roads and tracks, working as far forward as possible by day without direct observation". The war diary doesn't report any casualties but presumably something went wrong.
Mcnamara is buried in the cemetery at La Vallee-Mulatre, the village where the battalion had been billeted. It's a very small cemetery, only forty-seven burials. For this reason it features on Pierre Vandervelden's website, 'In Memory' designed to encourage people to venture off the beaten track and visit some of the smaller cemeteries along the Western Front. 'In Memory' has a Guest Book and in it 'Stephen' has written: "In memory of my great uncle Llewellyn Mcnamara, he never wanted to go died 28/10/1918 he nearly came home. You may be long gone but you are certainly not forgotten." -
"He never wanted to go", the great nephews's words; "There is but one task for all - one life for each to give", the mother's choice of personal inscription. Mcnamara was a conscript, although he was 31 in 1918 he didn't enter the war until at least 1916. Did his mother disagree with his holding back or was she acknowledging that her son had had to do his duty?
Llewellyn Mcnamara was the son of Robert Mcnamara, a County Council nightwatchman in Swansea, and Matilda his wife. In 1911, Mcnamara was working as a carter for the Steam Packet Company, which ran a ferry service between Swansea and Ilfracombe across the Bristol Channel.



Robert Inglis was taken prisoner, unwounded, at Ploegsteert on 11 April 1918. The information comes from his file in the Red Cross Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives. Inglis served with the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, not the 19th as it says on his War Grave Commission record, and was captured when the Germans overran the catacombs at Hill 63 near Ploegsteert Wood as they drove all before them during their Spring Offensive.
Six months later, Inglis, who had been held at Friedrichsfeld bei Wesel prisoner of war camp, died of unrecorded causes - most probably influenza - on 28 October 1918. He was 19 and ten months.
Alexander Inglis, Robert's father, chose his inscription. It comes from the last lines of a poem written by the English-born Canadian poet Robert Service, Young Fellow My Lad, which was published in Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, 1916. In the poem, the son tells the father that he's going to join up despite the father's protestations that he's only a boy: "I'm seventeen and a quarter, Dad, and ever so strong you know". The son goes off to fight and after some time the father receives no letters from him. He's very afraid:

I hear them tell that we've gained new ground,
But a terrible price we've paid:
God grant, my boy, that you're safe and sound;
But oh I'm afraid, afraid.

The son has been killed: "They've told me the truth, young fellow my lad: You'll never come back again". But he is able to comfort himself with the thought that his son will live on:

In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you'll never die, my wonderful boy,
While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to lads like you.

Robert Inglis was the son of Alexander Inglis, a stableman, and his wife, Margaret, of Newlands, Glasgow.



Owen Atkinson's father, Lieutenant-Colonel George Charles Atkinson, Indian Army, quotes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling for his son's inscription. Called The Nativity, the poem compares the anguish of the Virgin Mary over her son's death with that of a mother whose son has been killed but who has no known grave, "she knows not how he fell", nor "where he is laid".
Published in the Daily Telegraph on 23 December 1916, the poem echoes the Kipling's own grief. John Kipling had gone missing during the Battle of Loos on 27 September 1915. His body was never found and his parents had to face the agony of having to believe he was dead but hoping against hope that he was alive.
George and Margarita Atkinson did know that their son was dead. Wounded on 21 October 1918, he died six days later and was buried in the grounds of the Hautmont Abbey; his body exhumed and reburied in Y Farm Military Cemetery in February 1920.
Atkinson had already followed his father into the army before the outbreak of war. He attended the School of Military Engineering in Chatham and was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 1 April 1914. He crossed to France with his unit, the 200th Field Company, on 15 November 1914 and served with them for one month short of four years, rising to the rank of major.
He was wounded on 21 October 1918 and died six days later. The Engineers were trying to bridge the River Scheldt near Helchin and according to the war diary, Major O.D. Atkinson was "wounded while making reconnaissance for bridge across Schelte near Helchin". The Allies didn't manage to cross the River Scheldt until the beginning of November and by then the war was virtually over.
Kipling's poem has an interesting number of religious references for a man who was generally considered not to have believed in a Christian God. The phrase in the poem, "Is it well with the child" is a quote from 2 Kings 4:26. One day the prophet Elisha has an unexpected visit from the Shunammite woman, a wealthy woman who has befriended him. He sees her from a distance and sends his servant to ask:

"Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well."

In fact the Shunammite woman's child is dead but her words indicate that whatever God does 'it is well', and that 'it is well' with those who are dead too since they are with God. The last verse of Kiplng's poem indicates that this is how this mother also feels. Her child has died in God's cause, so it is well with him:

"But I know for Whom he fell" -
The steadfast mother smiled,
"Is it well with the child - is it well?
It is well - it is well with the child!"



Lieutenant Charles Reynolds was a pilot with 55 Squadron, part of the Independent Air Force. If you've never heard of the Independent Air Force neither had I.
The Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918, the Independent Air Force, or the Independent Force RAF, on 6 June. The RAF was intended as a tactical force, operating in support of the army on the ground, the Independent Air Force was to be a strategic force, attacking German railways, industrial centres and airfields. By the end of October, joined by French, Italian and American squadrons, it had become the Inter-Allied Independent Air Force. However, three days after the signing of the Armistice it was dissolved.
Charles Reynolds enlisted on the outbreak of war and was commissioned into the 1st Surrey Rifles on 14 October 1914. He was eighteen. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, getting his wings in June 1917. After this he received specific bombing training before joining 55 Squadron in March 1918. The squadron flew the new DH4s on daylight bombing raids over German targets. Reynolds was wounded on 18 May 1918 having taken part in a raid over Cologne when thirty-three bombers caused widespread damage and 110 casualties. He returned to his squadron in October and was killed on the 23rd when his plane crash landed on returning from a bombing raid.
Andrew Whitmarsh's British Strategic Bombing 1917-18: The Independent Force writes of the many difficulties day bombers faced. Forced to fly at very high altitudes with rudimentary oxygen equipment, oxygen deprivation was a real issue, as were extreme cold causing frostbite, headaches and temporary deafness - all contributing to debilitating exhaustion.
Reynolds' widowed mother, Annie Delesia Reynolds, chose his inscription. It is not a quotation from Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam but Mrs Reynolds will have been referencing it:

Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.
Quatrain XXI

Fitzgerald's melancholy verses, first published in 1859, perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.

Mrs Reynolds says, "Lo, one we loved", but in fact she lost both her sons. James Reynolds also enlisted on the outbreak of the war. He did not take a commission but served as a private in the London Rifle Brigade and was killed in action on the 2 May 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate.



The Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges (1844-1930), wrote these lines for his Eton Memorial Ode, 'In memory of the Old Etonians whose lives were lost in the South African War'. The words were set to music by Sir Herbert Parry and the piece performed when King Edward VII inaugurated the Memorial Hall on 18 November 1908. In 1912 Bridges published the poem in a collection of his works but it was never particularly well known.
At one time I thought Wakeman must have been an Etonian, which would explain how his parents knew the poem. But he wasn't, he was a former pupil of William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester[ He is remembered on their War Memorial site]. However, Wakeman's inscription appears as a dedication on more than a few war memorials and this is probably attributable to the fact that it was one of the 'Inscriptions Suggested for War Memorials', a booklet which the Victoria and Albert Museum thought it would be helpful to publish in 1919.
The story of Malcolm Wakeman's death features in Jay Winter's Sites of Memory Sites of Mourning. Wakeman was called up in 1917 when he was eighteen. He joined the Royal Air Force, trained as an observer and was posted to France in July 1918. He seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of it all, his letters to his parents full of tales of derring do. Then on 2 October his plane, an RE8 on a counter attack patrol was shot down and the pilot killed. Wakeman was taken to hospital with head wounds. The German pilot, Leutnant K Plauth of Ja51 claimed the victory.
When informed, Wakeman's parents immediately set out to visit him, paying their own fare, which cost them £8 12s 8d. Despite initial optimism, Wakeman's condition deteriorated and he died on 18 October.
When Wakeman's father asked the Air Ministry to reimburse him the £8 12 8d, something it was prepared to do for parents too poor to afford it themselves, he was told that didn't fit this category. But Mr Wakeman successfully argued that he was not a rich man and why should he be punished just because he had been prudent enough to have some savings to hand. It's difficult to say how much £8 was worth in 1918 but apparently the average male earned £94 a year.
In 1923, the Wakemans, taking advantage of the St Barnabas Society's organised tours to the battlefield cemeteries, visited their son's grave. The cost of the journey this time was £4.



It hadn't occurred to me that this was a quotation until I wrote up Second Lieutenant Andrew Bennet's inscription. Bennet's inscription comes from The Vision Splendid, a poem by John Oxenham, published in 1917 in a collection of verse of the same name. It was whilst looking through this book that I came across the poem Oxenham wrote in praise of sixteen-year-old John Travers Cornwell who, although mortally wounded, remained at his post on HMS Chester throughout the Battle of Jutland with the rest of his gun crew dead around him. The poem, called Promoted, begins:

There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.

No thought of glory to be won;
There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.

Wounded when scarce the fight begun,
Of all his fellows left not one;
There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.

Why hadn't it occurred to me that this was a quotation? I'd seen other inscriptions that said, 'There was his duty to be done and he did it' and just assumed that the family were making a simple and direct statement since 'duty' was as great a motivator as patriotism - if not more so - when it came to people's reasons for joining the war. This inscription seemed to confirm it so I looked no further.
Oxenham, the pseudonym for William Arthur Dunkerley (1852-1941), was perhaps the most popular poet of the First World War. The sales of his wartime volumes, All's Well and The Vision Splendid, were phenomenal and one has to assume that the message he propounded was popular too. To Dunkerley, the outcome of the war depended on us - and he wasn't talking about whether we lost or won. Yes there had been huge material losses; yes many hundreds of thousands of men had been killed but after all the dead are only lost to us for a short while since we shall be reunited them when we too die. Despite these losses, to Oxenham the war will have been worthwhile, "if it brings us perforce to simpler living". He hoped that "the soul of the world has been shocked at last into true understanding of the inevitable and dire results of purely materialistic aims", the:

"wheels of life were skidding on the greasy ways of wealth and ease. We were leaving God out. This from which we are suffering is of our own incurring".

So that after the war:

"having paid, in blood and tears and bitterness of woe, - now with the spirit of God in us, with enlightened souls and widened hearts, we may look forward to The Vision Splendid of a new-made world".

Powerful stuff. This, however, is a view of the war that we have snuffed out. Rupert Brooke's Peace, has been much mocked for promoting a similar view:

Now, God be thanked who has matched us with his hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

It may not be a view that we can comprehend today but that doesn't mean that it wasn't a view held then. Nor was it a view imposed by Governments and elites; it was a view that emerged among some people as the spirit of the age. As we have recently learnt, the spirit of an age can have many faces.

John O'Neill was born in Liverpool, one of the two children of John and Marie Isabel O'Neill. The family lived in Birkenhead where father was a gas fitter at the shipyard. Private O'Neill served with the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers and died on 20 October 1918. This is the day that the war diary reported:

"The Batt attacked at 02.00 hours. The object of the attack being to capture the high ground E of the River Selle. All objectives were gained. Gains were consolidated and held"
9th Battn Royal Welsh Fusiliers War Diary
20 October 1918

The battalion attacked from Montrecourt, a village on the River Selle. O'Neill is buried in Glageon, over 50 km further east. Glageon had been in German hands since the beginning of the war and wasn't liberated until early November. It's where the Germans buried their own soldiers and allied prisoners. Was O'Neill already a German prisoner or was he taken prisoner on the 20th and died of wounds that day?

Britain, be proud of such a son! -
Deathless the fame that he has won.
Only a boy, - but such a one! -
Standing for ever to his gun;
There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.



Here - or hereafter - you shall see it ended,
This mighty work to which your souls are set;
If from beyond - then, with the vision splendid,
You shall smile back and never know regret.

John Oxenham (the pseudonym for the popular and prolific poet William Arthur Dunkerley 1852-1941) originally wrote this verse for his poem 'Christs All! Our Boys Who Have Gone to the Front'. Here he assures those who are fighting that:

You are all christs in this your self surrender, -
True sons of God in seeking not your own.

Oxenham then repeated the verse in a poem he wrote later, which was called 'The Vision Splendid', which was published in a collection of verse of the same name. The thrust of this poem is that those who are fighting have redeemed the world from the selfishness and sin into which it had fallen:

O, not in vain has been your great endeavour;
For, by your dyings, Life is born again,
And greater love hath no man tokened ever,
Than with his life to purchase Life's high gain.

What is the 'vision splendid'? It's that time when all the people of earth shall come together as one to worship God, as envisaged in the Book of Revelation 7:9-10:

After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

Mrs Agnes Bennet, Andrew Bennet's widowed mother, chose his inscription. To be able to envisage that your son had fought not just for victory but to contribute to the coming together of all mankind must have brought her comfort - enough comfort to cope with the fact that twelve days after Andrew's death her only other son Alexander died of wounds?
Andrew Bennet was an observer with 82 Squadron. The squadron flew Armstrong Whitworth FK8s on artillery spotting and photo reconnaissance duties. Bennet and his pilot, Captain Humphrey Flowers, were shot down over Ledeghem, some sources say in aerial combat, others by ground fire as no German fighter claimed a corresponding kill that day.



This inscription comes from a very patriotic poem called Nationality, written by Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845). Verse one declares that a nation's voice is a solemn thing and should be respected. Verse two states that a nation's flag, unfurled in the cause of Liberty, should be guarded "till Death or Victory" - with the assurance that anyone who dies defending it will have an honoured grave:

No saint or king has tomb so proud,
As he whose flag becomes his shroud.

Verse three insists that God gave nations the right to defend themselves with the sword against a foreign yoke.

'Tis freedom from a foreign yoke,
'Tis just and equal laws,
Which deal unto the humblest folk,
As in a noble cause.

So far so good, this is England fighting for her liberty against the fear of a German 'yoke'. Except that it isn't. The nation entitled to her voice, entitled to just and equal laws, is Ireland, and the foreign yoke belongs to England.
Thomas Osborne Davis, the author of the poem, was an Irish nationalist whose nationalism was based on shared Irish culture and language rather than on Catholic Emancipation or full blown independence and republicanism. He was in any case a protestant, as were Charles Stuart Parnell and Roger Casement, two other Irish nationalist figures.
The Leonards were a Roman Catholic family from Brackaville, a rural community near Coalisland, Co. Tyrone. Who knows what the family's politics were but throughout the twentieth century Coalisland was an IRA stronghold. However, many Irish people were prepared to fight for Britain because they believed John Redmond who told them that English gratitude would ensure they were rewarded afterwards with independence. And many Irish people fought for Britain because they didn't want independence.
It's not possible to tell what motivated James 'Joe' Leonard to enlist - money, adventure, escape, principle. He was an early volunteer, his medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having arrived in France on 29 September 1915. This was well before the British suppression that followed the Dublin Easter Rising in April 1916.
Leonard served throughout the war with the 157th Field Company Royal Engineers, part of the 16th (Irish) Division. The war diary exists and shows that in October 1918 the Company were based in Auchy constructing pontoons for crossing the Heutedeule Canal and attempting to stop a leak or a 'cut' in the canal bank. The diary for 13 October records:

"No. 3 [Section] in canal cut .Sprs Leonard and Dunnington killed and the stopping of the leak was not successful."

It sounds as though there was some kind of accident in which Leonard and Dunnington were killed. There is certainly no mention of any enemy action that day. By the way, the War Graves Commission gives the date of his death as the 12 October, the war diary as the 13th.
Mrs Sarah Ann Leonard, Sapper Leonard's mother, chose his inscription - or did she? In the 1901 census neither parent were said to have been able to read.

May Ireland's voice be ever heard,
Amid the world's applause!
And never be her flag-staff stirred,
But in an honest cause!
May freedom be her very breath,
Be justice ever dear;
And never an ennobled death
May son of Ireland fear!
So the Lord God will ever smile,
With guardian grace, upon our isle.
NATIONALITY verse four



This might not be exactly what Rupert Brooke wrote but when Mrs Sarah Hilling chose this inscription for her daughter she had Brooke's poem, The Soldier, firmly in her mind:

If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. 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 ...

At one time this was the most famous poem in England and Brooke, who died in 1915 on his way to take part in the Gallipoli Campaign, the most famous war poet.
I wish it had been possible to find out more about Sophia Hilling - most records give her name as Sophie, including the War Graves Commission, but the record of her baptism and all the census returns give it as Sophia.
She was born in Deptford, South London. Her father, Samuel Hilling, was a rag cutter, someone who cut up rags for paper making. He died before 1901 when her mother, Sarah Hilling, was supporting herself as a charwoman. Sixteen-year-old Sophia was a general domestic servant. Ten years later she was a sick nurse working at the Birmingham Workhouse Infirmary.
According to the information her mother gave the Commission, Sophia Hilling had had four year's war service before she died. There is no information as to where but in 1917 she was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal (Second Class) for "bravery, coolness and devotion to duty whilst on active service". At this time she was working at the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital, Whitchurch, Cardiff where soldiers received both orthopaedic and psychiatric treatment.
By October 1918 Hilling was in France working at one of the general hospitals in Trouville, France when she fell ill. On 12 October E Maud McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, recorded in her official diary:

"Wired Matron-in-Chief, War Office, and reported to DGMS that Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNS reported on the "Dangerously ill" list with pneumonia."

And then the next day:

"Wired Matron-in-Chief, War Office, and reported to DGMS that Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNS on the "Dangerously ill" list yesterday, died at 10.30 p.m."

[E Maud McCarthy's war diary is a wonderful resource. It has been transcribed by Scarlet Finders and can be read here.]



It may have been relatively unusual and poetic to describe the war dead as the unreturning brave but it was not unknown. A handful of British towns dedicated their war memorials to them and Australian newspapers used the phrase to head their casualty lists. Nor was it a new phrase: Lord Byron, writing about the dead of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) described how:

... Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Dewy with Nature's tear drops, as they pass
Grieving, if aught inanimate e're grieves
Over the unreturning brave.

American Civil War songs and poems often used the phrase:

O my heart is filled with love
For the unreturning brave

Another song ends each verse with a reference to eyes dimming and lips quivering, or hearts aching and tears flowing, orphans watching and widows listening, for the unreturning brave. And John W Forney's poem, The Men Who Fell at Baltimore, a skirmish between a secessionist crowd and Union troops in April 1861 talks about those who,

"... fell for right at Baltimore.
As over every honoured grave
Where sleeps the "Unreturning Brave,"
A mother sobs, a young wife moans,
A father for a lost one groans ... "

Hugh Price was the son of Daniel and Kate Price of Whitley Bay, Northumberland. His mother signed for his inscription.
Price served with the 3rd Battalion Prince of Wales West Yorkshire Regiment. However, at the time of his death he was attached to the 1st/7th Battalion the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. He was killed in action on 11 October 1918 when the 49th Division took the village of St Aubert where he is buried.

"Zero hour 9 am. An advance of 1,000 yards was made the Bn. passing through the Canadians who were holding the line. Towards noon the enemy counter-attacked with tanks & we withdrew 500 yds to Sunken Road ... where enemy were held for the night. During the night 11th-12th the enemy withdrew ... "

On the 12 October the German Government followed up their first note to President Woodrow Wilson of 3 October with a second note expressing their willingness to seek an armistice. The war had a month to run.



The 5th Leicestershire Regiment's war diary for Friday 11 October 1918 covers almost three pages whereas at some points in the war one page would have done for at least five days.
Starting at Zero hour - 05.30 - the passing hours and in some cases half hours chart the ebb and flow of the fighting. At 10.45 the Germans retook Retheuil Farm and at 11.00, "covering his advance with very heavy machine gun fire", they retook the Chateau they had lost an hour earlier. It was also at 11.00 that "The MO Capt WB Jack RAMC [was] killed while attending the wounded with great courage".
Captain Jack had gone out to attend to a machine-gunned stretcher bearer when he was hit himself. For a little while it was too dangerous for anyone to go out to him but when the German fire slackened he was brought. He died a few hours later.
William Boyd Jack was born and educated in Scotland but in 1911 was practicing medicine in Kendal, Westmorland. Married and with three children, he joined up in March 1917, spent six months with the 1/3 North Midland Field Ambulance before being appointed Medical Officer to the 5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. He was with them for the last year of the war, throughout all the fierce fighting around the St Quentin Canal where he was awarded a Military Cross for his actions at Pontruet on 24 September 1918.
Mrs WB Jack chose his inscription. It comes from verse three of Robert Browning's Epilogue to his final volume of poetry, Asolando, which was published on the day Browning died:

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

It is generally thought that Browning summarised own attitude to life in this verse: how adversity never defeated him, how he always believed that whatever happened was for the right, and that at the end of our lives on earth we would awake to a new life in heaven. It's a very positive inscription but I look at verse one and wonder how positive Mrs Jack felt:

At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time,
When you set your fancies free,
Will they pass to where - by death, fools think, imprisoned -
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so,
- Pity me?



They do not die
Who fall
At freedom's call
In battle for the right.

The conflict o'er,
They rest
On Honour's breast.
Victor's by virtue's might.

In hallowed grave
The brave,
'Neath sod or wave,
Strife o'er sleep after fight.

They do but sleep:
The soul,
From earth's control
Released, sees Heaven's light.

We are the dead,
Who, bound
By earthly round,
See not horizons bright.

They live in fame,
Begirt with love,
Precious in memory's sight.

This inscription is based on the fourth verse of the above poem, The Glorious Dead, which was written by someone called Joseph Turner. The only place I have found the poem is on a website featuring one hundred poets from the town of Walsall in Staffordshire. I don't have a copy, but I think it might have originally been published in 'Songs from the Heart of England, an anthology of Walsall poetry' edited by Alfred Moss and published by T Fisher Unwin in 1920.
According to the poem it is we the living who are dead since we are unable to see the bright horizons that those who died in freedom's cause, fighting for the right, can see.
The poem having such a limited geographical circulation, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that James Edward Allen was born and brought up in Walsall, the third of his parents' four sons. Father, Herbert Allen, who signed for the inscription, was a police constable. James and his older brother worked in the town's leather trade.
James attested in August 1916 when he was 17 and a half. He was on home service until October 1917 when he was posted to France where he served with the 1st/4th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. He was killed in action on the 11 October 1918, exactly one month before the end of the war, when the Duke of Wellington's took the town of Rieux-en-Canbresis. James is buried in the town, in Wellington Cemetery where the majority of the casualties come from the Wellington Regiment and were killed on 11 October.



Shelley's Adonais, his Elegy on the Death of John Keats (1821), is not an unusual source for personal inscriptions but people tend to choose line 344: 'He hath awakened from the dream of life', or line 352, 'He has outsoared the shadow of our night'. James Gore's inscription comes from the last four lines of the first verse:

Say: 'With me
Died Adonais; till the Future dares
Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
An echo and a light unto eternity!'

The inscription was chosen, or at least signed for, by Gore's younger brother John. The family lived in Liverpool where Gore had been born and where in 1911 James was working as a building lift attendant. However, at some point he must have gone to Canada because when he attested on 6 November 1916 he was working as a steward in Bellevue, Ontario, Canada.
Gore served with the 19th Battalion Canadian Infantry and arrived in France on 30 November 1917. He was killed in action on 9 October 1918 but that is not a day that the battalion were in action. In fact, all the war diary says for the 9th is that the companies were notified to move into new positions and that the move was achieved by 11.20 am. At 5.30 pm the battalion moved again to an area NE of Escaudouvees in preparation for an attack at 6 am the following morning, 10 October.
By the end of the 11th the battalion casualties amounted to one officer missing, four wounded and 139 other ranks either killed or wounded. Gore is the only person in the 19th Battalion to have died on the 9th - and it's not that he died of wounds in a hospital behind the lines because Sains-les-Marquion was a front line burial ground. His death was just part of the normal, unremarkable, wastage of war.



Whilst pre-twentieth century poets dominate the authors quoted in personal inscriptions, with Shakespeare and Tennyson taking the lead in what is admittedly my very unscientific analysis based on impression rather than statistics, Rupert Brooke and John Oxenham are the most popular of the twentieth-century. Neither of their reputations have survived very well but Brooke is definitely better known than Oxenham who few people have heard of these days.
Charles Cox's mother chose his inscription. It comes from Brooke's The Dead in which the poet claimed that by dying, by being prepared to sacrifice themselves, the dead have "made us rarer gifts than gold": the restoration of the high, moral qualities that mankind seemed to have lost before 1914. But now, thanks to them, "nobleness walks in our ways again; and we have come into our heritage".
It's a deeply traditional, romantic and heroic view of war, and of fighting and dying for your country, which has helped Brooke's reputation slide to its current lowly state. But that is how many people felt then. It is however arguable that Brooke, who was an intelligent and sensitive man, wouldn't have continued to feel like this, or write like this, had he lived. As it was he died on 23 April 1915.
Brooke might have changed his view but by the end of the war it was still that of many next-of-kin, like Mrs Cox; it brought them comfort.
Charles Cox, born and brought up in Newport, Monmouthshire, served with the 1st Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment. He died of wounds on 4 October 1918. The battalion were in action on the 3rd, he could have been wounded then, or on the 4th itself when the war diary recorded:

"Orders received for "C" Coy to dispatch a strong patrol (1 platoon) at 6.30 am as far into Montbrehain as possible, under cover of our bombardment. Patrol moved off at 6.30 am but was driven back by concentrated M.G. fire from front and both flanks. Only 3 returned unwounded. The remainder of the day was comparatively quiet with the exception of enemy shelling & MG fire ... "

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, that dying has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.



I'm not sure what was going on here but it can have never occurred to Alexander Riddell that ninety-nine years after his death somebody would be looking at his attestation form and wondering what he'd been playing at.
Alexander Lorimer Riddell, army service number 706968, son of George and Margaret Riddell of Rosehearty, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, was born in Scotland in 1885. In 1906, aged 21, he went to Canada and settled in Nanamo, British Columbia where he worked as a building contractor. He enlisted in the Canadian Infantry in February 1916, sailed from Halifax in July and joined his unit in the field in February 1917. He was wounded at Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and returned to Rosehearty in December where he married Jean Arthur. After two weeks leave he returned to the front and died of wounds received in action on 3 October 1918.
That, in brief, is the life of Alexander Lorimer Ridddell. It all comes from information provided by Riddell's family for his entry in the Marquis du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour. So why, on his attestation form, does he claim that he was born in New South Wales, Australia on 16 August 1877, which would have made him 44 when he was only 33. And why does he say that his next of kin is his step-father, Donald Riddell of Lincoln, Nebraska, when he didn't have a step-father. I don't have an answer.
His wife chose his inscription. It comes from Rudyard Kipling's poem The Children and is a savage indictment of the society that led its innocent children into war. Yes Kipling was probably moved to write it by his grief for the death of his own son, John, who was killed in action at Loos on 26 September 1915, but there is much more to the poem than the self-pity that one unsympathetic critic has accused Kipling of. Riddell's inscription comes from verse 3:

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the judgment o'ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour -
Not since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her,

Never before has our earth seen 'such worth', such wonderful, valuable people thrown away, wasted in this manner. There is nothing at all heroic or triumphalist about this poem, no attempt at all to make death in war glamorous:

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed on them.

But, as Kipling acknowledges, we can rail against what has happened all we like, we can regret it, we can try to make amends, but in the end what's the point because nothing can bring our children back. "Who shall return us our children?" he asks, and the answer, of course, is no one.



These lines come from a poem called Between Midnight and Morning, which is often said to have been found on the body of an Australian soldier killed at Gallipoli; the implication being that the soldier wrote it. Well, a copy of the poem could easily have been found on the body of an Australian soldier but he most definitely didn't write it because it was written by Owen Seaman, the editor of Punch, and published in December 1914 in King Albert's Book. However, the Australian story gave the poem great traction and it became known all over the world.

You that have faith to look with fearless eyes
Beyond the tragedy of a world at strife,
And trust that out of night and death shall rise
The dawn of ampler life:

Rejoice, whatever anguish rend your heart,
That God has given you, for a priceless dower,
To live in these great times and have your part
In Freedom's crowning hour.

That you may tell your sons who see the light
High in the heavens, their heritage to take: -
"I saw the powers of darkness put to flight!
I saw the morning break!"

Thomson was born and raised in Kapunda, South Australia. He began his career as an accountant but enlisted in November 1914 soon after the outbreak of war. He served with the 3rd Field Ambulance in Gallipoli from June to December 1915 and then transferred to France in March 1916. In January 1918 he returned to England and in May 1918 was gazetted Flying Officer (Observer) in No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps. The squadron flew RE8s on reconnaissance, bombing and artillery spotting duties.
At 6 am on the morning of the 3 October 1918, Lieut Thomson and Lieut Gould Taylor took off from the airfield at Bouvincourt and never returned. Three days later a machine was found crashed at Folemprise Farm, 1,000 yards NW of Estrees. Beside the plane were two graves marked with the information that these were the graves of two unidentified Australian airmen. The plane could be identified by its number as Thomson and Gould-Taylor's and the bodies identified as their's. A year later their bodies were exhumed and buried in adjacent graves in Prospect Hill British Cemetery.
Thomson's father chose his inscription.

Rejoice, whatever anguish rend your heart,
That God has given you, for a priceless dower,
To live in these great times and have your part
In Freedom's crowning hour.



This is a rather poignant inscription for an Australian soldier who was born in England in 1888 and only went to Australia in 1912 when he was 24. It was chosen by his wife Phyllis. She too was born in England although the couple married in Australia in 1913.
Browning volunteered in January 1918. There was no conscription in Australia; he must have wanted to go. However, January 1918 is quite late to be enlisting if you were someone who was keen to get to the war. This could be explained by his answer to the question on the attestation form - Have you ever been rejected for military service? Browning's answer is 'Yes - made fit by operation'. He had wanted to go, but he needed to undergo an operation before he could be considered fit enough.
Browning's inscription comes from Wordsworth's 'I Travelled Among Unknown Men' of which this is the first verse:

I travelled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

I don't think Browning regretted going to Australia. He must have liked it since he persuaded his older brother, James, with his wife and two children, to join him in the country in 1913. But when England was in danger he realised what he felt for the old country.
Browning was killed in action at Beaurevoir on 3 October 1918, six weeks before the end of the war. The news went to his wife in Australia and his family in England only learnt of his death through friends. His sister therefore wrote to the Australian Red Cross to ask if they could tell her how he had died and whether he had been buried. They were able to assure her that he had been killed instantly and buried properly but spared her the full details, which they had learnt from the stretcher bearer who was first on the scene:

"I saw the above (all of B Coy) and one other man whose name I think was Lionel killed by one shell near Beaurevoir about 7 am during the attack about 1/2 hour or less after we hopped over. I was stretcherbearing & was following up behind them and was not 8 yards from them. Browning (killed instantly) was hit through head, Clarkson (instantly) thigh to knee badly smashed and concussion, Sgt, Crockett (instantly) all over body, Lionel (instantly) head, Langley hit on left collar bone and the artery was cut he was the only one with any life and I tried to dress the wound and succeeded in stopping the bleeding but he was dead before I finished ... Browning, Clarkson and Langley were all late joined us at Cappy, first time in line."



Know thou, O stranger to the fame
Of this much lov'd much honour'd name!
(For none that knew him need be told)
A warmer heart Death ne'er made cold.
'For R.A. Esq.'
by Robert Burns

By choosing this lovely epitaph written by Robert Burns for one of his friends, Mr and Mrs Adam Oliver have managed not only to reflect their son's Scottish heritage - he was born in Jedburgh, Roxburghshire - but to simply and effectively convey an affectionate character sketch of their nineteen-year-old son.
John Oliver served with the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, part of the 9th Scottish Division. On 29 September 1918 the Division captured the village of Dadizeele, 16km east of Ypres towards Menin. Three days later the Division pushed on towards the Menin-Roulers railway north of Ledeghem but the Germans put up a much fiercer resistance with particularly heavy machine gun and sniper fire.
Oliver was one of the twenty-three members of the battalion who were killed in action or died of wounds that day.



For all that this is now one of the most famous poems of the war, and certainly the most famous Canadian poem of the war, it is not often quoted in inscriptions. John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields in May 1915, prompted by the death of a young friend killed at Ypres the previous day. McCrae, a doctor, served in France throughout the war, eventually dying of cerebral-meningitis following pneumonia in January 1918.
The inscription comes from verse 3, the last verse:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In this instance 'the torch' is 'our quarrel with the foe', McCrae was exhorting his readers not to give up the struggle with Germany until the war was won. More usually, however, 'the torch' is used as a metaphor for 'the torch of life', the vitai lampada'. This refers to the duties and responsibilities to one's fellow human beings that should be passed on from one generation to another. This was the meaning Sir Henry Newbolt had in mind when he wrote his poem, Vitae Lampada.

The War Graves Commission has recorded Sergeant Hammond's name as Henry Leggo Harry Hammond but I feel sure that 'Harry' was a nickname since Hammond's father was also called Henry. Hammond, a bank clerk enlisted in Montreal on 4 October 1915. He arrived in France on 23 April 1916 and served with No. 4 Company Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He was killed on 30 September 1918. The battalion war diary recorded the events of the day:

"The plan was that the P.P.C.L.I., having crossed the Railway, should swing to the East and South-East and make good the Railway Cutting, the village of Tilloy as far forward as the main Tilloy-Blecourt Road ...
At 6-00 a.m. the attack was made with Nos. 1, 2 and 4 Coys front line and No. 3 Coy in support. Rapid progress was made as far as the road running from 8.21.b.60.80. to 8.27.a.40.60. From this point the advance was still continued on the right by No. 4 Coy, who reached their objective at the juncture of the main Tilloy-Blecourt Road and Embankment. Nos. 1 and 2 Coys on the Left and No.3 Coy in Support were suffering very heavy casualties from Machine Gun fire from the village and from the high ground to the North ... By this time most of the Officers and N.C.O.s had been knocked out and the Coys were badly disorganized ..."

Hammond was a senior N.C.O. in No. 4 Company.
His parents were initially told that he was missing presumed wounded in action. A month later they received the news that he had been killed. He's buried in Mill Race Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai. The name coming from a switch line on the Cambrai-Douai railway, which ran to a large German supply dump on the site of the cemetery. Corps burial officers began constructing the cemetery in late October 1918, which is when Hammond's body must have been discovered and his parents informed.



Robert Gray was born in Australia in 1883. In 1917 he was working as a book keeper in Fresno California whilst his wife was living in the Dominion Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. On 12 September 1917 he joined the 7th Battalion Canadian Infantry, the British Columbia Regiment, and served with them in France from March 1918. He was killed in action on the 27 September. By the time his wife came to choose his inscription she was living in Australia, where his mother also lived.
If his wife hadn't lived in Canada she might never have come across his inscription. It comes from a poem, They Never Die by J.W. Barry, published in the 17 August 1917 edition of The Civilian, "a fortnightly journal devoted to the interests of the Civil Service of Canada" - hardly a mass circulation journal! And from my trawl of the Internet I can't see that it was published anywhere else.

The Brave! who says they die?
Their deathless story
Rings 'cross the emblazon'd sky
Of England's glory.

He fought, and fell, and met
No tearful eye
To wet his nameless grave - and yet
He did not die.

She fought a martyr's fight, and fell
Without a cry.
Ah, sweet Cavell, all, all is well -
You did not die.

Only cowards die. The Brave,
Seeing beyond, with piercing eye,
Rest forever in a Nation's love,
And never die.

Gray was killed on the day the 1st Canadian Division played their part in the crossing of the Canal du Nord by capturing the village of Sains-les-Marquion. He's buried in the cemetery there where 152 of the 228 burials belong to Canadians who were also killed on that day. Sains-les-Marquion is 15 km north west of Cambrai, a fact that is probably significant in Mrs Gray's post-war address. She lived at: Cambrai, Lone Pine Parade, Matraville, Sydney.



Sir John Bridger Shiffner, 6th Baronet, had been at the front for two days when was killed in action on the 24 September 1918, the day the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment captured the high ground north of Gricourt. Later that day the Germans counter-attacked with some 400 men. The battalion war diary gives an unusually vivid description of what happened next:

"Captain Roberts ordered his company to open fire on the advancing enemy and when they were within 30 yards, the leading waves began to waver, on seeing this, Captain Roberts ordered his men to fix bayonets and then to charge the enemy. The men all rose from their positions in shell holes and charged with the bayonet and utterly routed the enemy, taking over 40 prisoners. The artillery in response to the S.O.S. signal, put down an intense fire on to the enemy, causing numerous casualties as they were running away. This action was specifically mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's communique. It was a fine example of the use of Infantry weapons and the value of the dash and fighting spirit shown by all ranks who took part, as their total number was less than 80, thus being out-numbered by 5 to 1."

Shiffner was killed in the bayonet charge. He was 19 and had been married for six weeks. His younger brother, Henry, inherited the title and was killed in action in North Africa in 1941.

The Dowger Lady Shiffner, Sir John's mother, chose his inscription. It comes from 'In Memoriam F.A.S', written by Robert Louis Stevenson at Davos in 1881 to commemorate an eighteen-year-old boy, Francis Albert Sitwell, who died of consumption there that year. It's a beautiful poem, echoing Shelley's 'Adonais', his lament for the early death of John Keats (see stanzas XXIX and XL), and prefiguring Laurence Binyon's 'For the Fallen'. However, Lady Shiffner makes an interesting alteration: Stevenson wrote 'Doomed to know not winter, only spring', she changed the word 'doomed' to 'born', which gives a slightly less mournful feeling to her son's death.
I wonder why the new Lady Shiffner, as next of kin, didn't choose her husband's inscription, and what she might have wanted to say.

YET, O stricken heart, remember, O remember
How of human days he lived the better part.
April came to bloom and never dim December
Breathed its killing chills upon the head or heart.

Doomed to know not Winter, only Spring, a being
Trod the flowery April blithely for awhile,
Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing,
Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.

Came and stayed and went, and now when all is finished,
You alone have crossed the melancholy stream,
Yours the pang, but his, O his, the undiminished
Undecaying gladness, undeparted dream.

All that life contains of torture, toil, and treason,
Shame, dishonour, death, to him were but a name.
Here, a boy, he dwelt through all the singing season
And ere the day of sorrow departed as he came.



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

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.



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,
England -
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".



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.



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.



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,
King Arthur:

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.

These are 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 died in October 1915, her son William was killed on 11 September 1918 and another son, Daniel, was killed 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 older brother, Daniel, a Lance Corporal with the 58th Division Signal Company Royal Engineers, was killed on 18 September. One of his other brothers, a Mr J Gillespie, chose his inscription. It comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth:

After life's fitful fever
He sleeps well



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.



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.



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:



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.
Bloody saliva
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.



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.



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.



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.



To a Soldier
Say not of him "he left this vale of tears,"
Who loved the good plain English phrase
"He died,"
Nor state "he nobly lived (or otherwise)
Failed or succeeded" - friend, just say
"He tried."
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.



There are only two First World War servicemen buried in Laillang Communal Cemetery and the record states that they are both buried in the same grave. I have come to recognise what this means - they were airmen whose plane crashed and burnt with them inside, making their bodies indistinguishable from each other.
At 08.05 on the morning of 18 August 1917, Second Lieutenant Louis Harel and his observer Captain William Walker, serving with 11 Squadron and flying a Bristol F2b A7191, were shot down by Lieutenant Viktor Schobinger, a victory that gave Schobinger his 3rd 'kill'.
William Hope Walker had been born in Earlston, Berewickshire in 1892. At some point after 1901 his parents emigrated to Canada. Walker enlisted on 14 July 1915 and originally served with the Canadian Infantry before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.
His mother, Helen J. Sinclair, formerly Walker, chose his inscription. It comes from a very obscure prayer (piece of verse) so obscure that it only appears twice on the Internet, both times in an Australian newspaper in December 1915. It must however have been better known for Mrs Sinclair, living in Canada, to have known of it. I feel that like many emigrants both she and her son must have felt the pull of the mother country following the outbreak of war.

God, who art love, be kind, be kind to all
Thy children, who must hear the sudden call;
Hot from their haste, their hate, their lust, their din,
Must open wide Thy door and enter in.
Cleanse from their feet the stains of dust and wear;
Take from their hearts what is not pure and fair;
For they, Thy children, they have trusted Thee
In death to save. This is their only plea -
"She called, my country called me, and I went" -
With this much, God of love, be Thou content.
Edith A. Talbot, in the 'Christian Guardian'

It may be fairly appalling verse but can you see what Edith Talbot was saying to God? Forgive these young men who are coming straight into your presence from hating and killing people, their justification for their behaviour being, "She called, my country called me, and I went".



The Internet kept trying to persuade me that these words came from the Book of Job Chapter 38 verse 7. But this is what Job says:

"When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy".

It's close but it's not exact. Nor is this:

"Where sing the Morning-stars in joy together,
And all things are at home."

But nevertheless I think that this is the source of the inscription and if so it's rather interesting. The lines are close to those in The Open Secret, a poem written by Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) and published in 1905 in the fourth part of his book Towards Democracy. Carpenter was an extraordinary man: a radical free thinker and socialist writer, a vegetarian and a teetotaller, and a defender, even a proponent of, homosexuality, who lived openly - if remotely - with his homosexual lover for many years at a time when it was illegal to do so. The Open Secret promotes his other great passion, the simplification of life, living in the open:

Sweet secret of the open air -
That waits so long, and always there, unheeded.
Something uncaught, so free, so calm large confident -
The floating breeze, the far hills and broad sky,
And every little bird and tiny fly or flower
At home in the great whole, nor feeling lost at all or forsaken,

To Carpenter it is only man who hides himself away behind walls:

He, Cain-like from the calm eyes of the Angels,
In houses hiding, in huge gas-lighted offices and dens, in ponderous churches,
Beset with darkness cowers;

While man surrounds himself with 'ramparts of stone and gold',

... still the great world waits by the door as ever,
The great world stretching endlessly on every hand,
In deep on deep of fathomless content -
Where sing the morning-stars together,
And all things are at home.

Norman Boyd's father chose his inscription, changing the last word from 'home' to 'rest'. His son now rests in the wide open world, in eternity.
Norman Boyd was born and brought up in Burley-in-Wharfdale in Yorkshire where his father was an insurance agent. In 1898 he emigrated to Canada, from where he enlisted in February 1916. He served with the 2nd Canadian Infantry the Eastern Ontario Regiment. On 6 October 1917 the regiment went into the trenches at Lievin where working parties undertook repairs to the trench system and where they were periodically shelled and bombed. The war diary makes no mention of casualties. Boyd is buried at a Field Ambulance burial ground a few kilometres from Lievin.



O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious rev'rence, and attend!
Here lie the loving husband's dear remains,
The tender father, and the gen'rous friend;
The pitying heart that felt for human woe,
The dauntless heart that feared no human pride;
The friend of man - to vice alone a foe;
For "ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side".
Robert Burns 1784

Burns composed this beautiful epitaph for his father's headstone in Alloway Kirkyard in Ayr, Scotland. Dr George Oldershaw quoted from it for his son's personal inscription in Coxyde Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Like his father, Leslie Oldershaw was a doctor, as was his older brother, George Francis Oldershaw. Leslie Oldershaw, who had qualified as a doctor by the age of 21, took a commission in May 1915 in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served for six months in the 1st Western General Hospital in Liverpool before being posted to Gallipoli in November 1915. After the evacuation he served in Egypt and then returned to Europe in the spring of 1917. Whilst home on leave in April 1917 he married Ruby Gorman whose sister, Elsie, was married to George Oldershaw Jnr. Six months later he was killed by a piece of shrapnel that struck his head. A fellow officer related to his parents how:

"He and I were walking down the road from the trenches in Nieuport, and when we had gone about a mile the accident occurred. All I remember is a flash, and then I was lying in the road and Leslie was lying by me. He never moved or spoke, and I think was killed instantaneously ... I have since been told that it was an aeroplane bomb that dropped close to us that did it."

Six days later Ruby and Elsie's brother, Howard Gannon, was killed in Salonika. Ruby served as a VAD in Western Europe from August 1918 to January 1919. In 1927 she married William Penman, a fifty-year-old widower. He died three years later. She died in 1969.



What is self-sacrifice? It's giving up one's own interests, happiness and hopes for the sake of duty. This inscription is a salutary reminder that the men who fought in the First World War weren't naive enthusiasts for war but were doing their duty - and some men had to submit themselves to it. At the distance of a hundred years many people today can comfortably assume that those who fought were in some way different from themselves, they wanted to go, they wanted to fight, they were happy to give up their current lives, they were even happy to give up their lives. But this inscription shows the firmness with which some men had to speak to themselves in order to do their duty.
The lines come from Wordsworth's Ode to Duty. The poet claims that there are some people who just naturally do their duty - "Who do thy [duty's] work, and know it not". And then there are other's, like him, who "deferred the task, in smoother walks to stray". But now, recognising the peace that comes from knowing that you are doing your duty, he asks:

Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;

Edmund Cullingford was a volunteer. He served with the 9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, which was raised in York in September 1914. According to his medal card, he went with the Battalion to Egypt in December 1915. In July 1916, it returned to Europe and on 9 October 1917 it took part in the attack at Poelcappelle.
The British barrage was terrific, it moved at a rate of 100 yards in four minutes with the soldiers advancing behind it over ground that had been churned into an endless mass of shell holes and mud so as to be almost impassable. However, despite the fierce barrage the German gun emplacements remained virtually impervious and the British troops were met by murderous machine gun fire from these 'pill-boxes', which relentlessly thinned their ranks. At the end of the day the 9th West Yorkshires had lost 12 officers and 203 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. Cullingford was one of the missing, his body located at map reference V.20.a.3.8 in September 1919 and identified by his disc. Think of what he faced and think again about the inscription his father chose for him, "Give unto me ... the spirit of self-sacrifice".



This may not be its most famous line but it certainly comes from one of the most famous poems of the First World War, Rupert Brooke's The Soldier, of which this is verse 1:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. 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 suns of home.

Lines two and three are, not surprisingly, a popular inscription. Stanley Ede's father chose line four, changing the word 'conceals' to 'contains'. When relations change words it's difficult to know whether they've just misremembered the original or whether they meant it. I think Mr William Edward Ede meant it - the earth should be proud to contain his son's 'richer dust', whereas there could be something furtive about concealing it.
The poem is full of nostalgic melancholy:

And think this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by 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.

William Edward Ede emigrated to Australia with his wife and three children in 1912. Having been born and grown up in Devon, is there a longing for the old country and the old days concealed in his choice of inscription? The family are Australians now, that is why his son's grave cannot be 'forever England'.
And there could be a deeper regret too. When Stanley Ede joined up on 1 May 1915 he declared he was 18 and 3 months. A handwritten note beside this answer says, "Parents consent attached". However, according to the British records, Ede was born in the first quarter of 1898. He was therefore only 17 and 3 months. A fact confirmed by his father on the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia when he gives his son's age at death as 19 and 9 months.
Ede, a plumber, served with the 12th Field Company Australian Engineers. Sturdy and of fresh complexion, Ede was, according to his comrades, "full of fun and almost invariably singing". A witness told the Australian Red Cross that he "was killed at Zonnebeke by a piece of shell which hit him in the neck and killed him outright".



Victor Woodcock's father chose a lovely image of death for his son's inscription. It makes it sound as though Woodcock just flew into the rising sun as it appeared above the grassland hills; an beautiful image for a Royal Flying Corps pilot. As it was, Woodcock and his observer crashed to the ground during a formation-flying training session, Woodcock having only joined the Squadron eight days earlier.
The inscription is based on a line from Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard; there's just one word different, Gray wrote to meet the sun, not greet the sun. Not that that makes any difference to the sense of the inscription. However, whatever sense Mr Woodcock intended was not what Gray meant by the words. To Gray they were just part of a description of an old countryman:

"Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn."

Victor Woodcock was the son of a Master Grocer from Leeds. Ultimately destined for the Methodist Ministry, he spent two years at Leeds University studying Engineering. In January 1916 he took a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers and served with them throughout 1916. In January 1917 he got his aviator's certificate and a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. In September 1917 he joined 3 Squadron eight days before he was killed.



The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) is the author of a surprising number of headstone inscriptions of which this is one. It comes from his poem, Resignation, composed following the death of his daughter Fanny. Longfellow holds out the consolation that "oftentimes celestial benedictions / assume this dark disguise", and what seem to us "but sad, funereal tapers / may be heaven's distant lamps".

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.

It is in the 'life elysian'

In that great cloister's stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin's pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

Harry Richards was a gunner serving with the 46th Battery 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade at Zillebeke when he was killed near the Menin Road. A witness told the Red Cross Enquiry Bureau:

"He was dark, cleanshaven, slim, about 5'6", and about 21 or 22. He was killed whilst mending our telephone wire on 1st Oct. on the Passchendaele front. I was told this by Sig. Norman Potts, who was with him at the Dickebusch and a cross put over his grave."

Richards' South Australian Division Red Cross file can be read here. Unusually, it not only names his mother as his next-of-kin, but also his fiancee, Miss Doris Baldwin.



Ernest Rounce's father references 'Non Angli Sed Angeli', a poem by the Revd Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy published in More Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1919). An inspirational Church of England padre, Studdert-Kennedy was probably better known by his nickname, Woodbine Willie, which came from his habit of generously dishing out cigarettes (Woodbines) along with his religious homilies. During the war he ardently encouraged soldiers to battle, but afterwards he became an equally ardent pacifist and socialist. 'Non Angli Sed Angeli' hints as this.
The title refers to a story Bede (672/3 - 735) related in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It dates from 590 when Pope Gregory the Great came across some faired-haired, fair-skinned people being sold in a slave market in Rome. When he asked what they were he was told they were Angles. He is reported to have replied, 'Non Angli sed angeli', not Angles but angels.
Studdert-Kennedy's poem is a plea that the men who died for freedom should not be betrayed by the new slavery of capitalism, "the minotaur of Mammon":

"Shall wealth still grow and woe increase to breed
In filthy slums the slaves of poverty?"

If this happens:

"Then blessed are the dead who die in war,
Their bodies shattered but their souls untouched
By slime of sin, unpoisoned by the snake.
For war is kinder than a Godless peace.
O England, let this message from the past
Ring down the ages like a trumpet call,
Not Angles these but angels, souls not slaves.
Let thy wealth be counted not in sov'reigns
But in souls .... "

What did Ernest Rounce's father, a Metropolitan police constable, mean by his choice of inscription? He hasn't quoted the poem exactly but it's definitely the source. I think he was at one with Studdert-Kennedy, make England a country fit for those who fought and died for it not just a rich country that benefitted the wealthy.
Rounce served with C Battery, 76th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He is buried in a dressing station cemetery just outside the village of Vlamertinge not far from Ypres. My assumption would be that he died soon after he'd been wounded, on the same day - 23 August 1917.



It has been difficult to track down the source of this quotation, "How many hopes lie buried here". It's not an uncommon inscription on a child's grave and the words do appear in The Little Robe of White, a poem about the funeral of a baby girl , which was published in an American journal in 1865. But somehow this poem didn't seem an appropriate source for a soldier's grave, yet the quotation marks indicate that it is a quotation. Then I found it. It comes from A Night View of the Battle of Raisin and was written in 1813 by an obscure American poet called William Orlando Butler (1791-1880) who was wounded in the battle of Raisin in January 1813 when the United States was at war with the British and Native American Alliance.
The poem appears to have remained in manuscript form until 1912 at which point it came to modest prominence. The poet surveys the field in the aftermath of the battle:

The battle's o'er the din is past!
Night's mantle on the field is cast,
The moon with sad and pensive beam
Hangs sorrowing o'er the bloody stream.

The inscription comes from verse seven of this thirty-one verse poem:

For sad's the Dirge the Muse must sing
Fallen are the Flowers of the land.
How many hopes lie buried here?
The Father's joy, the Mother's pride.

You might wonder how Richard Cox's mother came by the poem and the answer probably lies in the fact that for all that he served in the Canadian Infantry, Richard Cox was an American, born in New York, whose parents lived in Long Beach, California. He was one of the many American citizens who joined the war long before their country did.
Cox served with Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, Eastern Ontario Regiment. On the morning of 30 October 1917 the regiment attacked at Meetcheele Ridge. Conditions were appalling, as their Commanding Officer made clear in a letter:

"The condition of the ground beggars description. Just one mass of shell-holes, all full of water. The strongest and youngest men cannot navigate without falling down. The people we relieve tell me in the attack, a great many of their men drowned in shell holes for want of strength to pull themselves out when dog-tired."

Major Papineau, Officer Commanding No. 3 Company, looking at the Ridge they were about to attack, and at the German defences, remarked to a fellow officer that the attack was suicide - Papineau was one of the first to be killed. We don't know at what point Cox was killed but his body was found at map reference v.30.D.2.1. almost exactly two years later.



Death is Swallowed up in Victory

Take comfort, ye who mourn a loved one, lost
Upon the battle-field,
Thank God for one, who, counting not the cost
Faced death and would not yield;
Thank God, although your eyes with tears are dim,
And sad your life and grey,
That howsoe'er the battle went for him
'Twas Victory that day.
With armour buckled on, and flag unfurled,
The heights of death he trod,
Translated from the warfare of the world
Into the peace of God

Sometimes I just don't know where people got their inscriptions from. Lines from this verse can be found on a number of war memorials all over the country and in death announcements and In Memoriam colums but the only place I've seen the whole poem, Death is Swallowed up in Victory, printed out is in 'Wycliffe and the War a School Record', and I'm pretty sure John Salter didn't go to Wycliffe.
Salter was the son of John Hambling Salter who ran a tailoring business in the High Street, South Brent Devon. He served with the 1st/1st (Warwick) Battery Royal Horse Artillery and was killed in action near Langemarck on the 4 August. On 17 August, The Western Times reported:

"The sad news has just been received by Mr JH Salter outfitter, that his eldest son, Sigr. JE Salter Warwickshire Regiment., has been killed in action in France. The greatest sympathy is felt for Mr ad Mrs Salter the deceased being a very bright young man, who was a great assistance in the business, and a favourite among all who knew him. He was a member of the Church choir in recognition of which the Dead March was played at Sunday's services."



War Diary 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
31 July 1917
Trenches: map reference St Julien 28. N.W.2.
The Fifth Army attacked the German lines North of Ypres this morning at dawn and the Battalion took part in the attack, jumping off at 3.50 am. The objective - Mon du Basta and Mon Bulgare - were reached but the fighting still continues.

The 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders were part of the 51st Highland Division whose divisional history summed up the battle over the two days 31 July and 1 August as:

"the neatest and cleanest performance which the Division had carried out. It was delivered against the Germans while their fighting efficiency was still unimpaired, and while their numbers were still unappreciably diminished. Moreover, it was delivered against a position hidden from view, which had been deliberately fortified during the preceding years with every artifice the ingenuity of the Boche could devise, and contained the concrete barrage-proof farms and the entirely unexpected concrete blockhouses.
The success, indeed, was so complete that, even after the battle was over, nothing which could have been an improvement in the plan of attack suggested itself."

The action was considered to have been a success. However, over those two days the Division suffered 1,515 other-rank casualties - killed, wounded and missing. Private Sandilands was one of them. It's a figure that is incomprehensible to us in 2017; fifteen would be too many let alone ten times that. But as the eminent historian, Jay Winter, comments in his most recent book, War Beyond Words, this was an era when people considered war to be a legitimate tool of political life. It's not how people see it in Western Europe today, in part as a consequence of the First World War's gigantic casualties. We can hope that in another hundred years perhaps the whole world will see it this way

Private Sandiland's father, Robert Sandiland, chose his inscription. It comes from The Hour of Death by the early Victorian poet, Felicia Hemans. Everything in the world has a time - for sleeping, eating, sun rise, sun set, autumn, spring, summer, but death can come at any time:

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set - but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, oh! death



On 31 July 1917 the British launched an attack along the whole of the Ypres front, from Boesinghe in the north to Wytschaete in the south. The 6th Battalion Black Watch, with which Clouston served, was part of the 51st Highland Division. Their divisional history records:

"Of the battalions engaged on the Divisional front, the 6th Black Watch sustained most casualties, 9 officers and 292 other ranks. This battalion had suffered considerably in the half hour before zero while lying assembled immediately in rear of the old British front line, and again while waiting for the barrage to move forward from in front of the Black outpost line. In this position the men were swept by a machine-gun firing from Gournier Farm."

Clouston's father, a bank teller from Glasgow, chose his inscription. It may seem highly inappropriate to us for someone to describe fighting as playing the game, but that's not what it meant. Playing the game means doing what is expected of you, as a member of a team, enthusiastically and to the best of your abilities. It's what the schoolboy meant in Newbolt's much derided poem, Vitai Lampada, when it was his voice that rallied the ranks with the cry of 'Play up, play up and play the game'.
However, Clouston's inscription does not come from Newbolt's poem but from The Lost Master by the Anglo-Canadian poet, Robert Service (1874-1958). The 'master', who I read as an officer, tells his men that when he dies he doesn't want any elaborate rituals or praise, "But just the line ye grave for me: 'He played the game'"

So when his glorious task was done,
It was not of the fame we thought;
It was not of his battles won,
But of the pride with which he fought;
But of his zest, his ringing laugh,
His trenchant scorn of praise or blame:
And so we graved his epitaph,
"He played the game."



Talbot Robertson Preston had the signed permission of both his parents when he joined up at the age of 18 and 3 months on 26 August 1916. He needed it as without this permissio, he would not have been able to go abroad until he was 19. This means that he was still only 18 and 7 months when he embarked for Britain on 23 December 1916. But as his headstone inscription asks - How could I stay? This wasn't just a simple statement but the last line of a very patriotic piece of verse written by James Drummond Burns who, like Talbot Robertson, was a former pupil of Scotch College in Melbourne.

The bugles of England were blowing o'er the sea,
As they had called a thousand years, calling now to me;
They woke me from dreaming in the dawning of the day,
The bugles of England - and how could I stay?

The banners of England, unfurled across the sea,
Floating out upon the wind, were beckoning to me;
Storm-rent and battle torn, smoke stained and grey,
The banners of England - and how could I stay?

O England, I heard the cry of those that died for thee,
Sounding like an organ-voice across the winter sea;
They lived and died for England, and gladly went their way -
England, O England - how could I stay?

Robertson arrived in Britain on 17 February 1917 and on 22 August went to France. He was wounded barely a month later, on 29 September. Evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station, he was operated on the next day for 'severe gun shot wound of left thigh'. On 1 October he was admitted to No. 26 General Hospital at Etaples where he died six days later.
James Drummond Burns, the author of the verse, had been killed in Gallipoli in September 1915. Although Burns' words are quoted relatively frequently one way or another on headstone inscriptions, Burns' own headstone quotes Henry Newbolt's Clifton College:

Qui ante diem periit
Sed miles sed pro patria.

Who died before his time but as a soldier and for his country.



The light of her young life went down,
As sinks behind the hill
The glory of a setting star,
Clear, suddenly, and still.
GONE 1845
John Greenleaf Whttier 1807-1892

Laurence Minot's father may not have quoted the words exactly as Whittier wrote them but Whittier's poem on the death of his sister is the inspiration for Minot's inscription.
After a phenomenal month in which he achieved six aerial victories between the 1st and the 27th July 1917 (qualifying as a flying 'ace'), Minot was himself shot down on the 28th - one week after his 21st birthday. Initially listed as missing, Flight magazine reported on the 7 March 1918:

"Captain Laurence Minot RFC, who was reported missing on July 28th 1917 is now, from information obtained from German sources by the British Red Cross Society, officially concluded to have been killed in aerial combat on that date near Heuelbeke."

Buried by the Germans, Minot's body was reburied in Heulebeke Communal Cemetery in 1923. In May 1926, the Air Ministry announced:

"A new trophy, to be known as the Laurence Minot Memorial Trophy, has been presented by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous in memory of the late Captain Laurence Minot, MC, Royal Flying Corps, who was killed on July 28 1917, in air combat whilst serving with No. 57 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. Competition for this trophy, which will be awarded annually to the crew of the bombing aeroplane which obtains the highest degree of accuracy in individual classification bombing practices for the current year, will be open to all bombing squadrons under the command of the Air Officer Commander in Chief, Air Defence of Great Britain."
Flight on 26 May 1926

The anonymous donor was, of course, Minot's father. The trophy, a magnificent silver eagle with wings outstretched, is no longer awarded but has been presented for safe-keeping to No. 57 Squadron, Minot's own squadron, which also owns his Military Cross.
Laurence Minot, the child of his second marriage, was his father's only son. For many years he put an In Memoriam announcement in The Times on the anniversary of his son's death. The last time on 28 July 1937:

"In proud and ever-loving memory of my gallant son, Captain Laurence Minot MC, RFC, killed in aerial engagement near Meulebeke, Flanders, July 28 !917, aged 21."



James Robertson, born in Jedburgh, Scotland on 23 July 1888, was a baker in Woodstock, Ontario when he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry on 10 July 1916, giving his mother, Christina Robertson, in Jedburgh as his next of kin. She chose his inscription. It comes from an anonymous piece of memorial verse. The earliest I've seen it quoted is in the Brisbane Courier in December 1888. It became popular on funeral cards, In Memoriam columns in newspapers and in death announcements. The two verses of the poem read:

Remember what they were, with thankful heart,
The bright, the brave, the tender, and the true.
Remember where they are - from sin apart,
Present with God - yet not estranged from you.

But never doubt that love, and love alone,
Removed our loved ones from this trial scene:
Nor idly dream, since they to God have gone,
Of what, had they been left, they might have been.

Robertson served with the 18th Battalion Canadian Infantry. On 18 August 1917 the battalion came out of the front line and spent the 19th and the 20th resting at Bully-Grenay. The war diary recorded that at 9.30 am on the 21st the battalion:

"proceeded to Bouvigny Huts going into Corps Reserve. On the road 'D' Coy sustained 52 casualties, 23 of which were fatal, by the bursting of an enemy shell (high velocity). This bringing our casualties to approx 220 during the tour."

Robertson must have been one of the 23 fatal casualties. It was two days before his 29th birthday.



Maston's inscription comes from John Travers Cornwall, a poem by John Oxenham, published in 1917 in his book The Vision Splendid. Oxenham, the pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley, was, as Connie Ruzich has persuasively argued, the most popular poet of the First World War. He was certainly extremely popular with families at home, the next-of-kin who chose the personal inscriptions. Maston's inscription comes from verse 3:

Britain be proud of such a son!
Deathless the fame that he has won
Only a boy, but such a one!
Standing forever to his gun;
There was his duty to be done,
And he did it.

Fourteen-year-old Cornwall won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Jutland by staying with his gun and awaiting orders whilst the rest of his gun crew were dead and, as Oxenham put it, 'mounded around him'.
Harold William Maston did not win a Victoria Cross but he had been awarded a Military Medal. This proved useful when it came to identifying ten soldiers found in unmarked graves on the old battlefield north of Ypres in March 1920. Three still had their identity discs but Maston could only be identified by his medal ribbon and his sergeant's chevrons. He had been killed in action in the attack on Broodseinde Ridge.
On Friday 7 March 1930 The Singleton Argus reported:

"Mr William Maston, a prominent Sydney businessman, died on Sunday while travelling to France to visit the grave of his son, Sergeant Harold Maston. The funeral took place at Aden on Tuesday."



I often wonder how people come across some of the poems from which they quote. Thomas Kershaw's inscription is from a gentle piece of verse written by a fairly obscure American teacher and occasional poet called Julia Harris May (1833-1912), Live Day by Day. There is no evidence it was published in Britain. The poem begins:

I heard a voice at evening softly say:
Bear not thy yesterday into tomorrow,
Nor load this week with last week's load of sorrow;
Lift all thy burdens as they come, nor try
To weight the present with the by and by.
One step and then another, take thy way -
Live day by day.
Live day by day.

And ends:

Watch not the ashes of the dying ember.
Kindle thy hope. Put all thy fears away -
Live day by day.

Perhaps the fact that Mrs Mary Ellen Kershaw, Thomas Kershaw's mother, was a Canadian, or at least, was born in Canada, explains how she came across it.
The Kershaws had two children, a son and a daughter. Thomas, a teacher, joined up in September 1915 and disembarked in France on 18 November 1915, which entitled him to the 14-15 Star. He served with the 19th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, which in October 1917 was just north of Ypres. Kershaw is buried in Canada Farm Cemetery, the site of a former dressing station, so it would probably be safe to assume that he died of wounds he'd received that same day.



Joscelyne's inscription comes from the last verse of Robert Browning's final poem, Epilogue, from his final volume of verse, Asolando. The poem is not an uncommon source for inscriptions but they are usually lines chosen from verse two:

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

The poem is thought to be Browning's summary of himself, a man whose optimism about life never failed. The final verse carries that optimism to death:

"Strive and thrive!" cry "Speed, - fight on, fare ever
There as here!"

Clement Joscelyne was a thirty-one-year-old married man with two children when he returned from Argentina in September 1916 in order to join up. I'm pretty sure the long arm of conscription couldn't have reached him there but he must have felt it was his duty. Commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in June 1917 he went with it to France in July and was killed three months later. The battalion went up to the front on 9 October to repair the roads immediately behind the front line. The working party was under continuous enemy bombardment and Joscelyne was hit by shell fragments. He died the next day. Whilst he was in France, his wife gave birth to a son who he never saw. She chose his inscription.



Hugh Bartholomew's siblings compiled a charming memoir of their brother for their parents, which has been digitised and can be read online. The publication includes copies of the diaries he kept whilst at the front, his letters home and some of the letters of condolence his parents received. One friend, Alan Smith who was himself killed in September 1918, told them that Hugh had been standing in a trench at 9.30 pm on the night of 30 September when he was hit above his left eye by a piece of shell. By 2 am on the morning of 1 October he was in a Casualty Clearing Station where he was operated on. Friends visiting him that day found him by turns lucid and delirious but the next day he lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 1.15 pm.
Educated at Merchiston College, Edinburgh, Hugh had spent one term at Corpus Christi College, Oxford before taking a commission in the 14th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders where he served with distinction being Mentioned in Despatches and achieving the rank of captain at the early age of 21.
His mother chose his inscription; his father, the distinguished cartographer John George Bartholomew of the map-making firm, having died in 1920. It's a line from a poem by Alfred Noyse, The Victorious Dead. This was first published in a special souvenir edition of the Daily Mail on 30 June 1919 to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, and later included in a collection of Noyes' verse called The Elfin Artist and Other Poems.
Noyse claimed that Britain's hills and valleys, crags and glens reverberate with the presence of the dead:

There's not one glen where happy hearts could roam
That is not filled with tenderer shadows now.
There's not one lane that used to lead them home
But breathes their thoughts to-day from every bough.
There's not one leaf on all these quickening trees,
Nor way-side flower but breathes their messages

But the heart. of the poem comes at the end of verse 4 - "Make firm, O God, the peace our dead have won":

For folly shakes the tinsel on its head
And points us back to darkness and to hell,
Cackling, "Beware of visions," while our dead
Whisper, "It was for visions that we fell".



Yesterday's inscription introduced Chaucer's knight, today's summarises his qualities - he was a perfect example of masculine nobility and refinement. Such was the lure of medieval chivalry in the late nineteenth century that the families of many soldiers referred to it one way or another in inscriptions - the same reason so many people and institutions chose stained-glass, bronze or stone knights in armour for war memorials. Interestingly, despite the inverted commas and the archaic spelling, this isn't an accurate rendition of the original, which is generally spelt - "He was a verray, gentil, parfit knyght".
Berry had great difficulty enlisting; he was refused twice on the grounds of health - in fact the State Library of Victoria website has the badge he was entitled to wear, which says 'Volunteered for active service - Medically unfit". This was to prevent people like Berry being labeled 'slackers'. Berry's problem was that he had a weak heart as a result of a bout of typhoid fever. However, on 30 October 1916 he was eventually accepted and sailed for England that December. After training to be a signaller - and securing full marks in the qualifying exam - he arrived in France on 8 September 1917. Less than a month later, on 4 October, he received gunshot wounds to his chest and knee and died in a Casualty Clearing Station the same day.
Berry was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne. Their website has more information about his life and death together with some lovely photographs.



Birmingham Daily Post
Thursday 23 August 1917

Second Lieutenant Holroyd Birkett Barker, R.G.A. who ... died in a military hospital on 15th inst., aged 30, was the eldest son of Councillor T. Birkett Barker, J.P., M.I.M.E., ... He volunteered for military service in 1915. Lieutenant Birkett Barker was a prominent golfer, and won the gold medal for Warwickshire in 1912-13-14. In 1914 he lost the Midland Counties Championship by one stroke and in the same year competed in the Amateur Championship at Sandwich.

In January 1916 the same newspaper reported that all four of Mr T Birkett Barker's sons had now enlisted but that Fred, who had returned from farming in Canada, had just been invalided home suffering from partial paralysis and neuritis, the after effects of a severe illness. The 20 April 1917 edition carried the news that Greville Birkett Barker was in a London hospital suffering from shock and wounds having been shot down while flying at the front. Four months later it announced Holroyd's death from malaria in Salonika and in September 1918 that Allen Noel Birkett Barker had died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station in France.
Both Holroyd and Allen have the same inscription - "Beloved and honoured as far as he was known". It comes from Wordsworth's The Excursion:

All but a scattered few, live out their time,
Husbanding that which they possess within,
And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds
Are often those of whom the noisy world
Hears least; else surely this Man had not left
His graces unreveal'd and unproclaim'd.
But, as the mond was fill'd with inward light
So not without distinction had he lived,
Beloved and honoured - far as he was known.



Private Donaldson's father chose the first line of a poem by the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) for his son's inscription. The poem, 'Friendship', talks about the meaning a friend gives to life:

Through thee alone the sky is arched,
Through thee the rose is red,
All things through thee take nobler form ...

Perhaps the Donaldsons meant to imply that their son had given meaning to their lives; it would be quite natural for them to say this. However, taken out of context, the first line seems to be making a statement about the power or the influence of a brave man (their son) being greater than that of the sea. The Donaldsons, a baker and his wife from Sandport in Kinross, were proud of their soldier son and show it in their choice of inscription.
John Kerr Donaldson originally served with the Argylll and Sutherland Highlanders. I suspect he would have received his machine gun training with them. These gunners were usually strong men of above average intelligence who understood their guns and how to use them - and knew that they would be called upon to place themselves in dangerously exposed positions during attacks. They were detached from their original regiments when the Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915.
Donaldson served with the 58th Company Machine Gun Corps and died of wounds in hospital at Rouen, where he is buried. There is no information about when or where he was wounded.



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.

Verse 1 The Bivouac of the Dead
Theodore O'Hara 1820-1867

'Fame's eternal camping ground' is therefore the war cemetery and the 'silent tents' are the dead soldiers' graves. The poem goes on to explain how, now dead, the soldier will be spared all further troubles and nothing will ever diminish 'one ray of glory's light that gilds your deathless tomb'.
Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries 'glory' is assured - he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the day he was killed when:

"his company was held up by enemy machine-gun fire from concrete emplacements. Organising a party, he rushed one emplacement, capturing four machine guns and thirty-five prisoners. He then led his company forward under extremely heavy artillery barrage and heavy machine-gun fire to the objective. Later, he again organised a successful attack on a machine-gun emplacement, capturing two machine guns and thirty more prisoners. This gallant officer was killed during the attack, but it was entirely due to his bravery and initiative that the centre of the attack was not held up for a lengthy period. His example had a most inspiring influence."

Jeffries' body was not recovered from the battlefield until September 1920 when it was discovered in an unmarked grave and identified by the three stars of his captain's rank and the initials CSJ on the groundsheet in which he was buried. Clarence Jeffries was his parents' only child.



Unnamed at times, at times unknown,
Our graves lie thick beyond the seas;
Unnamed, but not of Him unknown; -
He knows! - He sees

And not one soul has fallen in vain.
Here was no useless sacrifice.
From this red sowing of white seed
New life shall rise.

All that for which they fought lives on,
And flourishes triumphantly;
Watered with blood and hopeful tears,
It could not die.

The world was sinking in a slough
Of sloth, and ease, and selfish greed;
God surely sent this scourge to mould
A nobler creed.

Birth comes with travail; all these woes
Are birth-pangs of the days to be.
Life's noblest things are ever born
In agony.

So - comfort to the stricken heart!
Take solace in the thought that he
You mourn was called by God to such
High dignity.

The Nameless Graves
John Oxenham

Just in case you don't read the whole poem, Oxenham is holding out to the bereaved that a new world will be the result of all these these deaths: 'that for which they fought' will live on', replacing the 'slough of sloth, and ease, and selfish greed' into which the old world had fallen. This is why 'not one soul will have died in vain'.
Ivan Lancelot Stockhausen was born and brought up in Jamaica where his family owned sugar plantations. He joined the British West India Regiment, came with it to Britain in 1915 and was gazetted a second lieutenant that December. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in November 1916 where he served with 17 Squadron on reconnaissance and scout duties on the Struma front in Salonika.
Stockhausen and his twenty-year-old fellow airman Lieutenant Charles Victor MacGregor Watson were killed in aerial combat over enemy lines near Seres on 3 October 1917. How do we know? The record of Stockhausen's death contains the note, 'Message dropped by Germans'. This wasn't usually done to gloat but just to inform - evidence of a different age.



I don't know what made Oswald Strong's father think that Longfellow wrote these words as they are the most famous lines of a now little-known American writer, Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867). They come from the first verse of his poem, 'On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake', another now little-known poet who died in 1821:

Green be the turf above thee,
Friend of my better days!
None knew thee but to love thee,
Nor named thee but to praise.

Oswald Strong was a chemistry student at Imperial College, London when the war broke out. He joined up immediately. In January 1916 he was posted to Egypt and then in June 1916, attached to the 2nd Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry, went to Salonika. The regiment were in the trenches at Neohari on the Struma front until December 1917. Strong, a member of a Trench Mortar Battery, was wounded by shellfire on 4 August 1917 and died the next day.



The poetry and songs of the American Civil War are the source of several original personal inscriptions. This one comes from 'Ode Recited at the Harvard Commemoration July 21 1865' by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891). On 21 July 1865, Harvard held a commemoration service to honour their 590 alumni who had served in the Civil War, 1861-1865, and in particular the 99 who had died. It was a huge, solemn and emotional occasion and Lowell's Ode made a deep and lasting impression.
Lowell , who was the Smith Professor of Modern Languages at the university, acknowledged that,

"We sit here in the Promised Land
That flows with Freedom's honey and milk;
But 'twas they who won it, sword in hand,
Making the nettle danger soft for us as silk."

And yet,

"In these brave ranks, I only see the gaps,
Thinking of dear ones whom the dumb turf wraps,
Dark to the triumph which they died to gain:"

It was from the following section that Lewis Whitfield's father chose his inscription:

We rather seem the dead that stayed behind.
Blow, trumpets, all your exultations blow!
For never shall their aureoled presence lack:
I see them muster in a gleaming row,
With ever-youthful brows that nobler show;
We find in our dull road their shining track;
In every nobler mood
We feel the orient of their spirit glow,
Part of our life's unalterable good,
Of all our saintlier aspiration;
They come transfigured back,
Secure from change in their high-hearted ways,
Beautiful evermore, and with the rays
Of morn on their white Shields of Expectation!

Just as in Shelley's 'Adonais' and Binyon's 'For the Fallen', these youthful dead are now 'secure from change', and 'beautiful evermore'. The comfort such words offer the bereaved is obvious.
I can find out very little about Lewis Hayes Whitfield. He was born in Fulham in October 1898, his father Lewis Lincoln Whitfield, was a solicitor and he had one sibling, a brother who was four years younger than him. Educated at Clayesmore School, then in Middlesex, he joined the Royal Flying Corps and died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 30 October 1917 aged 19.



Edward Blackburn volunteered in May 1915 when he was 18. He was keen, his elder brother Joseph, who was 21, didn't volunteer until that November. Edward's keenness can be sensed in the inscription his parents chose. It comes from The Empty Chair by John Oxenham, a prolific poet whose poems were very popular during the war and feature in many inscriptions.
The Empty Chair belonged to the dead volunteer, "that heroical great heart that sprang to duty's call". Oxenham's comfort to the bereaved is to ask:

Think! Would you wish that he had stayed
When all the rest The Call obeyed?
- That thought of self had held in thrall
His soul, and shrunk it mean and small?

Surely not, you should be glad: " - That setting duty first, he went at once, as to a sacrament".
Edward Blackburn served with the 12th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and died of wounds, judging from the war diary most probably caused by gas or HE shells, on 12 September 1917. His brother, Joseph Blackburn, who served with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, survived the war.



Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has troubles enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

This is the first verse of the popular American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox's (1850-1917) most famous poem, Solitude, and Private Vassar's inscription is its most famous line. It's not just that people do 'not need your woe', so that you are forced to 'weep alone' and 'drink life's gall' alone, but the fact is that we must all die alone:

But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Vassar enlisted in July 1915 when he was still only 18. He served in France from 23 February 1916 until he was wounded seven months later on 12 September. He didn't return to the front until 24 July 1917. There is no record of when he was wounded again but he died of these wounds two months later in a base hospital in Boulogne.




The blank line after 'Of Crewe' was specially requested by Frank Tipping's father, making a distinction between the factual detail of his son's address and the quotation from Frances Ridley Havergil's (1836-1879) poem, The Message of the Aeolian Harp:

For I know
That he who is not lost, but gone before,
Is only waiting till I come; for death
Has only parted us a little while,
And has not severed e'en the finest strand
In the eternal cable of our love:
The music of his life
Is nowise stilled, but blended so with songs
Around the throne of God, that our poor ears
No longer hear it.

Just as you can't see the beam of a torch in broad daylight so you no longer make out the voice of someone who has died because it is drowned in the clamour round God's throne.
It's an appropriate choice of inscription for Frank Tipping who had a precocious musical talent. He took up playing the violin at the age of 9 and, aged 10, was playing for the Crewe Philharmonic Orchestra. Aged 13 he won a scholarship to the Royal Manchester College of Music, and aged 15 joined the Halle Orchestra.
Aged 19 in the summer of 1915 he graduated with distinction from the College of Music and in September joined the army. Tipping served originally with the Royal Garrison Artillery before joining the Royal Flying Corps. Aged 21, he was killed 'while flying over enemy lines'.



Military Hospital

Dear Madam,
In reply to your letter of Nov: 26th re: illness and Death of Pte E.T. Kennedy. He was admitted to this Hospital on 6-7-17, suffering from Bronchitis. On 17.7.17 his diagnosis was changed to Tubercle of Lung. Everything possible was done for him, but he did not improve at all, gradually grew worse, & died on 7-8-17 to our great regret.
He is buried in Tidworth Military Cemetery. Grave no.313 Plot C. The funeral took place on 18-8-17.
The Sister-in-Charge of the ward has written to his relatives.
Yours truly,
G. Rickleton
for E.M.Denne

This letter to the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau would have been in answer to an enquiry from them. The Bureau did the most amazing work and I hope that someday, someone does justice to Vera Deakin, the twenty-four-year-old Australian woman who founded the Bureau in Egypt in October 1915 in order to help people find out what had happened to their relations. Her efforts were not exactly welcomed by the authorities, but she kept it going until the end of the war. The Bureau's digitised files on the Australian War Memorial site provide details about the deaths of thousands of Australian soldiers - like Even Thomas Kennedy.
Kennedy's inscription comes from 'The Day is Done' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1808-1882). There is a fine, elegiac quality to the words, which were chosen by Private Kennedy's mother. She is saying that her son's presence, his footsteps, continue to reverberate around her down through the years, which is not what Longfellow was saying. Longfellow, in search of some words of consolation for his melancholic mood, was rejecting the words of the 'grand masters' and 'bards sublime, whose distant footsteps echo through the corridors of time', in favour of 'some humbler poet, whose songs gushed from his heart'.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.



This declaration of eternal grief comes from Swinburne's Itylus, based on the Greek legend of Aedon who accidentally kills her young daughter, Itylus, and is stricken with grief and remorse. The gods take pity on her and turn her into a nightingale. In Swinburne's poem, a nightingale sorrowfully contrasts a swallow's carefree existence, its ability to carry on its life as if nothing has happened, with its own unending heartbreak.
Many of the bereaved must have felt the same - how could the world carry on as though nothing had happened. John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunckerley 1852-1941) touched on it in his poem, To You Who Have Lost:

I know! I know!
The ceaseless ache, the emptiness, the woe, -
The pang of loss, -
The strength that sinks beneath so sore a cross,
" - Heedless and careless, still the world wags on,
And leaves me broken ... Oh, my son! my son!"

Oxenham's comfort was to tell relations:

He died the noblest death a man may die,
Fighting for God and Right and Liberty; -
And such a death is immortality.

Swinburne's nightingale received no comfort.

Douglas Farrier, the son of a sea captain, had been a Bank Clerk in civilian life. In December 1915 he married Netta Jemima Beale, it was she who chose his inscription.



These lines come from John Masefield's play, The Tragedy of Pompey the Great (1910). They form part of a brief mediation on death over the body of Pompey's youthful commander, Valerius Flaccus. The 1st Centurion, looking at the body, remarks: "Man is a sacred city, built of marvellous earth", to which the 2nd replies, "Life was lived nobly here to give this body birth". The 4th Centurian brings the conversation to the end a few lines later with the comment: "Death opens unknown doors. It is most grand to die".
Impressed by the conversation, Ivor Gurney set it to music in a six-line song called 'By a Bierside'. Gurney was serving in the front line at the time and wrote to tell a friend that, "events yesterday gave one full opportunity to reflect on one's chances of doing that grand thing".
Bauman was the son of the Punch cartoonist and book illustrator, Lewis Bauman. Educated at Winchester College, Bauman won a Classical Scholarship to New College, Oxford but instead of going up in 1914 on leaving school, he joined up. He was still only 17 so it was January 1916, just after his nineteenth birthday, before he was sent to France. He served with the 86th Battery Royal Field Artillery and was killed near Langemarck when the battery came under fire.
According to the Winchester College website, Baumer was "running to the assistance of some of his men who had been buried by the burst of a shell" when he was wounded and died a few hours later. His commanding officer told his parents that this was typical behaviour of a man who had become "one of my best subalterns and an officer of the very best type". What made him of "the very best type"? "Under fire he was always cool".



Born in Crieff, Perthshire, Archie Stuart Thom had only been in Australia for three years before he enlisted and returned to Britain as a member of the 47th Battalion Australian Infantry. His wife chose his inscription, hinting at his continuing loyalty to the land of his birth.
The Gathering of the Clans is a traditional piece of music for bagpipes, it is also a term for an event where members of various clans gather, and it's the title of a poem by Sir Walter Scott, a call to arms.

Awake on your hills, on your islands awake,
Brave sons of the mountain, the firth, and the lake!
'Tis the bugle - but not for the chase or the call,
'Tis the pibroch's* shrill summons - but not to the hall.
'Tis the summons of heroes for conquest or death,
When the banners are blazing on mountain and heath;
They call to the dirk, the claymore, and the targe,
To the march, and the muster, the line, and the charge.

The pibroch's, the piper's, summons "to the march, and the muster, the line, and the charge".
Thom was killed in the assault on Passchendaele Ridge. According to the war diary, "Weather conditions horrible & going very slow. Men bogged, country in a very bad state & much churned by shell fire. No cover for men all ranks cheery". At 5.45 on the morning of the 12th, "enemy heavily shelled Battn H.Qrs shell fire killing 24 and wounding 10 men ... Nearly all signallers, runners & scouts casualties ... many valuable lives lost, that will be hard to replace".



Herbert Rosa's wife chose his inscription. It comes from Rudyard Kipling's poem, 'The Thousandth Man" . The thousandth man is a very special person, more close than a brother he believes in you, sees you for what you are, always stands by you and is utterly trustworthy.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

To Marie Rosa, her husband was 'the thousandth man'.
Rosa was born in Hammersmith, London three years before his father, Carl Rosa, "a natural born subject of the Empire of Germany", became a naturalised British citizen. Educated at Clifton College, on leaving school he became a tea merchant in London and a member of the Honourable Artillery Company. When the war broke out Rosa was living in Ireland but rejoined the HAC and served with them in Egypt, returning to take a commission in the Royal Field Artillery in 1916.
He served with the 8th Division Ammunition Column. Wounded in action near Wytschaete, he died in a field ambulance dressing station in Poperinghe.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot - and after!



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

This is the first and last verse of Invictus, a four-verse poem by W.E. Henley (1849-1903), which many people felt epitomised the British spirit of fortitude in adversity.
Private Carew's mother chose her son's inscription and I would suggest that it was to her unconquerable soul that she was referring, that it was her head that was "bloody but unbowed" (verse 2). Five weeks after her son, Francis James, died of wounds received in action at Passchendaele Ridge, her husband, Francis Joseph, was killed when the SS Mont-Blanc, loaded with high explosives, collided with the SS Nimo in Halifax harbour, caught fire and exploded causing the largest explosion then know to man. Almost 2,000 people were killed and in the region of 9,000 injured. Francis Joseph Carew, a foreman stevedore, appears as number 844 in the Halifax Book of Remembrance.



This is yet more evidence of the popularity of Tennyson's poetry in headstone inscriptions. Frederick Miller's comes from In Memoriam, the poem Tennyson wrote following the death of his friend, Arthur Hallam. Hallam was only 22, yet Tennyson was able to believe that Hallam's youthful life wasn't wasted by his death since his potential would be fulfilled in the next life.

Nor blame I death, because he bare
The use of virtue out of earth:
I know transplanted human worth
Will bloom to profit, otherwhere.

The only thing Tennyson's blamed death for was that:

He puts our lives so far apart
We cannot hear each other speak.

An enquiry by Miller's family to the Australian Red Cross in October 1918 elicited the following witness statement:

"This man was killed by my side on the 5th October 1917 and was buried by myself and another man on the morning of the 6th October 1917. He was buried in the field. It was impossible to get his body back to a soldiers cemetery as the shelling was very heavy and the cemetery was so far away. This man was a short dark man."

Another witness told the Red Cross:

"Miller was my mate. This grave position has been smashed up since, as the Huns came through, it was on the right of Zonnebeke. Broodseinde road (from Zonnebeke) just below Daisy Wood."

Miller was 'buried in the field'. It was not until December 1924 that his body was discovered in an unmarked grave, identified by his clothing and his discs. This was three years after the Graves Registration Unit had stopped scouring the battlefields for bodies and yet plenty continued - and continue - to turn up.



"All who know him will feel a sense of personal loss on hearing that Thomas Hanson Averill has been killed in action. His was so bright and attractive a personality that we do not wonder at the affectionate way in which his brother officers have written about him. For him one cannot feel sorry at all, for his parents one cannot feel sorry enough; although they have so much reason to be proud of such a son."
Witley (Worcs) Parish Magazine
October 1917

His Commanding Officer wrote:
"I and all the officers and men of the battalion feel your son's death most keenly; he was always a keen hardworking and cheerful officer. We shall all miss him very much as he was very popular, and was such a genuine and straightforward man, always reliable - one whom, in these times, we can ill afford to lose."

The second and third lines of Thomas Averill's inscription come from Tennyson's poem, The Higher Pantheon. To Tennyson, God could be found in nature, in "The sun, the moon, the stars, the hills and the plains", He was everywhere. But whereas to Tennyson "Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet" refers to God, I have a feeling that to the Averills it was their son they were referring to. The clue is in the first line of the inscription, "There is no death". This is the title of a well known book on Spiritualism written by the British author Florence Marryat in 1891.

The personal information on Thomas Hanson Averill comes from Sandra Taylor's research for the website Remember the Fallen.



Private Izzatt's widow, Margaret, chose his inscription. It's a relatively well-known quotation from a virtually unknown poem, The Hero, by a now almost forgotten American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. (1807-1892). The poem celebrates the actions of another American, Samuel Gridley Howe, who, inspired by Byron, went to fight for Greece in its War of Independence. Whittier's claim is that you don't need to lament the passing of the age of chivalry because wherever freedom is in danger the Bayards and the Sidneys, the knights 'without reproach or fear' can still be found. However, to Whittier, a fervent abolitionist, you didn't need to take up arms in a military manner in order to fight for freedom.

But dream not helm and harness
The sign of valour true;
Peace hath higher tests of manhood
Than battle ever knew.

Izzatt served with the 1st Battalion Black Watch and was killed within three months of the outbreak of war. This suggests to me that he was a regular soldier, his army number, 5857, indicating that he joined up in 1894. He would have been 18. Before that the 1891 census shows that at the age of 15 he was a miner.
The Black Watch crossed to France on 14 August 1914 and had been in action ever since, taking part in the fighting retreat and the race to the sea. Izzatt was killed at Gheluvelt. His body was not recovered until April 1921 when he was identified by his kilt and his spoon. Given the number of times a spoon is recorded as the means of identification, I am assuming that many were marked with the serviceman's initials and number.
Izzatt is buried in Bedford House Cemetery, a concentration cemetery where there are only 2,194 identified graves out of 5,139 burials.



"Your son was without exception the finest specimen of the young British officer I have ever met. His loss to the battalion is irreparable. Since our former Colonel (sic. should it be captain?) left he has been my Adjutant, and I relied implicitly on him. Brave to a fault, brimming over with energy and kindness, a prime favourite with officers and men, he also possessed a very old head on young shoulders. Personally, I loved your boy as if he had been a son of my own, and I have never been so cut up over any loss in this war."
Lt. Colonel Thomas David Murray
Quoted page 257 Volume 3 of the Marquis de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour

Stevenson was studying Chemistry at Manchester when the war broke out. He joined up immediately and was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 2 September 1914 arriving in France on 2 February 1915. Promoted lieutenant on 27 September 1915, and captain on 10 August 1917, he was wounded three times before being killed in action by a sniper at Polderhoek on the Menin Road. Stevenson, who had been awarded an MC in January 1917, received a posthumous bar to it in November 1917.
His father, Francis Stevenson, chose his inscription. It's a quote from a very obscure poem called 'To All Who Love, written by Lieutenant Colonel J. Berkley and published in The Spectator on 24 February 1917:

If Death should claim this mortal shell of me
Which you have seen and touched and thought to be
Needful to happiness,
I pray you shed no tear as though this life
Held all, or were but passing phase of strife
'Tween pleasure and distress.
I pray you clothe yourself in gala hue,
Purging your soul of that self-pitying view
That calls for mourning black.
For I would have you mingle with a throng,
Bright-hued, exulting, cheering me along
The road that leads not back,
That I may pass beyond the SOLDIERS' GATE,
Whose arch is SACRIFICE and threshold FATE,
Unburdened by regret;
To greet my battle comrades who have bled
For ENGLAND'S sake, and, risen from the dead,
Rest, clear of Honour's debt.

I pray you, urgently, to see your woe
As just that jarring note you would forgo
Could you but feel at heart,
How, grieving, I could have no other grief
Than helplessness to bring you dear relief,
Being near - yet far apart.

Four years after Talbert Stevenson's death his sister, Mrs Margaret Philip, had a son who she named Talbert Stevenson Philip after her brother. He was killed in action in Normandy on 19 August 1944. Lt Colonel Murray's sons were both killed in 1943.

There is more information about Talbert Stevenson on this Great War Forum site.
A portrait of Captain Talbert Stevenson MC & Bar by Anton Abraham van Anrooy hangs in the Black Watch Castle and Museum, Perth, Scotland



Gunner Handley's inscription comes from the last line of a little-known poem, 'To Women', by Laurence Binyon, author of the spectacularly well-known verse from his poem, 'For the Fallen':

They shall grown not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Published in The Times just two weeks after the outbreak of war, 'To Women' acknowledges the front-line role women will play in the war, not that they will actually be present on the front line but every bullet, sword or lance wound suffered by a soldier will be suffered by them too.

For you, you too to battle go
Not with the marching drums and cheers
But in the watch of solitude
And in the boundless night of fears.

But, despite their fears and and their suffering, Binyon acknowledges that the women of Britain are prepared " to bleed, to bear, to break, but not to fail".

The War Graves Commission records don't show who chose Handley's inscription but I would suggest that the quality of endurance, the person who might break but won't fail, is in this case the soldier. Born in Yorkshire the son of an agricultural labourer, at the age of 17 Harry Handley was living with a farmer in Hull and described in the census as 'Lad among the horses'. He served with the Royal Horse Artillery and was killed on 23 April 1917 during the Battle of Arras.



This inscription, chosen by Private Featherstone's father, is fairly popular on both headstones and 'In Memoriam' columns, yet it has become so separated from its author that few people would imagine it had one. In fact both poem and author have virtually disappeared from sight.
Called 'Somewhere', it was written by an American, Julia Caroline Dorr (1825-1915) and published in 'Friar Anselmo and Other Poems' in 1879. The poem begins with the question:

How can I cease to pray for thee? Somewhere
In God's great universe thou art today:

The loved one may well be dead but the writer has no intention of not continuing to ask God to take care of them since, "Somewhere within His ken thou hast a place", "Somewhere thou livest and hast need of Him:". It is obvious that to the writer there is, of course, still life after death, which leads to the final lines:

O true, brave heart! God bless thee, whereso'er
In His great universe thou art to-day!

The youngest in a family of four, Private Featherstone came from Amersham in Buckinghamshire and was educated at Dr Challenor's Grammar School. Featherstone served with the 1st/14th London Regiment (London Scottish) and was killed in action just outside Arras on the 28 May 1918 as the German Spring Offensive began to run out of steam. But if people at the time thought the end was in sight, many would have thought that 'the end' would be a German victory.



Robert Browning's (1812-1889) Epilogue to Asolando, his final poem, was published on the day he died. The famous verse from which this inscription comes is generally considered to be Browning's description of himself:

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

The sentiments chimed with many families who chose various of the above lines for personal inscriptions, even changing the personal pronoun so as to be able to use them for a VAD.
Frederick Charleston's father, Thomas William Charleston, chose the inscription for his only son but gave no other family details to the War Graves Commission. However, in 2002, Dix Noonan Webb sold Frederick's medals and his memorial plaque in "mint perfect condition". Their research is always excellent and it is their website that describes how Charleston "died on July 7th 1915, at No. 12 Field Ambulance Dressing Station, of wounds received in action at Pilkem, near Ypres". Their information comes from The University College London Memorial Book, where Charleston had been an engineering student. The book describes how an officer with the Field Ambulance wrote to Charleston's father to tell him:

"Several of the men of his Company were wounded at the same time and brought in to us. I got the same tale from them all - of his gallantry and courage in the trenches. He was in charge of a machine-gun section, and stood to it until it was put out of action. The same shell that injured the men gave him his death wound."

Among the medals sold in 2002 was Charleston's 1914 Star. Out of the country when the war broke out, Charleston, who had been in the London University OTC, returned immediately and was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. He disembarked in France on 24 October 1914, thus easily meeting the date criteria for this award, 5 August to 22 November 1914.
Charleston had two sisters, Susan Ellen and Irene Lavinia. In May 1960, forty-five years after her brother's death, Irene presented Guildford Cathedral with an exquisitely embroidered banner featuring a descending dove, two angels, one with a harp and one with a trumpet, and the badge of the Lancashire Fusiliers. The banner is Irene's work, which she dedicated:

AMDG in memory
of F Charleston
Ypres 7 July 1915.



The records don't show who chose this inscription but I would assume it was 'Toby' Long's wife. I'm curious because there is nothing heroising or romantic about it. Is this Wordsworth's duty, "the stern daughter of the voice of God"?

Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring and reprove;
Thou, who art victory and law
When empty terrors overawe;
From vain temptations dost set free;
And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity!

It's interesting that the word 'duty' should have featured prominently in The Times' report of his death:

"The death of General Long will be lamented by a wide circle of friends. He was the best type of officer of the old Army, adored by his soldiers, and a man to whom duty always came first. He was never off duty for a day while in France"

Brigadier General Long had been in France since he crossed with the Expeditionary Force in August 1914 as a captain in the Scots Greys. He was 37 when he was killed in January 1917 while inspecting the trenches at Hebuterne. He had a distinguished career behind him and the expectation of an even more distinguished career in front of him. As General Haig wrote to his father:

"his death deprives the Army of one of our best Brigadiers. As a soldier he was so practical and thoroughly up to his work. I always felt he was sure to attain high rank, and as a man, he was loved and admired by us for his manly straight forward ways."

Walter 'Toby' Long was the son of Walter Long, who at the time of his son's death was Secretary of State for the Colonies. Elevated to the peerage as 1st Viscount Long of Wraxall it was his thirteen year-old grandson, Walter Francis David Long, who inherited the title in 1924. Walter Francis David, 2nd Viscount Wraxall, was killed in action during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. The title went to his father's brother, Richard, whose younger son inherited the title in 1967, his older brother, a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, having died in 1941.

To humbler functions, awful Power!
I call thee: I myself commend
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
O, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;
The confidence of reason give;
And in the light of truth thy bondman let me live!
Ode to Duty
William Wordsworth 1770-1850



This is yet another way of expressing your belief in the fact that there is life after death. For many people this was the only thing that brought them any comfort as they faced the future without those they loved. The belief is so prevalent, as evidenced by inscriptions, that I sometimes wonder whether people could have carried on supporting the war without it.
The words here come from poem by the prolific Scottish hymn writer, Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). When we die it is the evening of our life on earth but the morning of our life in heaven

The evening brings all home. For that we wait,
Which is at once our evening and our morn,
The end of evil and the dawn of good.

Stansfield enlisted on 28 October 1916 at the age of 18 and 11 months. After eight months training he arrived in France on 30 June 1917 and was killed at the front exactly two months later. When he enlisted, Stansfield gave his occupation as 'weaver'. He had been in the industry for at least five years as the 1911 census shows him as a thirteen-year-old 'reacher in cotton'. This is someone who is responsible for creating the pattern in the fabric by correctly organising the threads from several beams. The 'reacher' does the work under the supervision of a 'drawer-in'. And this is not the only old trade I learnt whilst researching Wilson Stansfield: his father was a whitesmith, someone who makes objects out of metal, especially tin.



Serjeant Lees' inscription combines a line from Rudyard Kipling's very famous poem, Recessional, with some lines from a very obscure poem, Tombe des Anglais, so obscure that there only seem to be about three mentions of it on the Internet. It was written by Hagar Paul, about whom there is even less information.

Sleep, in this forest plot,
Unknown for ever.
Though France forgetteth not
Your last endeavour,
Your own shall find the spot
Never, ah, never!

Sun on the forest wide,
But not for your seeing,
Nor how down each green ride
Red deer go fleeing.
Bright youth, a martyr, died,
France, in thy freeing.

Boyhood's scarce conscious breath
Cheerfully given -
None to record each death,
How each had striven -
Greater love no man hath
This side of Heaven.

The poem references the Guards Grave in the Foret de Retz where the 4th Guards Brigade fought a fierce rearguard action on 1 September 1914. After the battle, many of the soldiers were buried by the people of the nearby village of Villers-Cotterets. The soldiers now lie in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, which makes me wonder whether the poem was written quite soon after the battle, whilst the graves were still only known to the French villagers.
Unlike the guardsman, Lowry Lees was killed in the final months of the war. A Protestant Irishman from Antrim, he served with the 2nd/14th Battalion London Scottish. If Lees had joined the regiment in 1915, when he was 19, his first deployment (April 1916) would have been to southern Ireland to help police the troubles there. In fact the 2nd/14th didn't stay long and by June 1916 it was in France from where it was sent to Salonika, arriving on 25 December 1916. In May 1917 it was sent to Palestine and then in May 1918 returned to France. Lees was killed on 14 August near Wijtschate in Belgium.
The line from Recessional - Lest we forget - has become associated with military remembrance, lest we forget the sacrifice of our soldiers. But that was not what Kipling meant. Written in 1897, at the end of the celebrations to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, Kipling was warning against triumphalism, all Empires are transient and in our pride of the moment we should never forget the human values we should have learnt from God.

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Ninevah and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget.



William Wilson Kelso created his son's inscription, combining a very short poem by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1809) with a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife,
To all the sensual world proclaim
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

Mordaunt's poem, The Call, was at one time thought to have been written by Sir Walter Scott who used it as the motto to Chapter XIII in Volume II of An Old Mortality. W.E.Henley (1849-1903) certainly attributed it to Scott when he used it on the title page of Lyra Heroica, his collection of poetry for boys.
The phrase was frequently used as a shorthand to describe a certain type of person. Vera Britain used it to describe her fiance Roland Leighton:

"I know you're the kind of person who would risk your life recklessly; I was talking to someone a short time ago and I said I thought you were the kind who believes in the 'one glorious hour of crowded life' (sic) theory; is it true?"

There's something rather touching about the way John Kelso's parents recorded that he "left school to join the Colours in February 1916". I expect he was just 18 because they record equally carefully that he was 19 and a half when he died a little over a year and a half later. John was the fifth of their six children and their only son.
Kelso served with the 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, part of the 51st Highland Division. This went into the trenches near Langemarck on 20 August 1917 and remained in the area until 20 September. The History of the 51st Division remarks that this was an interesting period on three counts: "First the mud ... the ground throughout the whole front was so sodden with rain and churned up by shell-fire as to be impossible to troops in any numbers". Second was the "consistently lavish use of the recently-introduced mustard gas, which caused numerous cases of slightly-gassed men, and a lesser number of men seriously gassed. The latter suffered indescribable agonies, and either ultimately died or made an insufficient recovery ever to return to the ranks as whole men". The third feature was the aerial bombing, which the Germans began to use increasingly at this time. The bombing was "difficult to deal with, as shelters for the men could not be provided by means of dug-outs in the clay soil of Flanders".
Kelso died of wounds at a field ambulance on 2 September, whether from gas, mud, shell or bomb we don't know.

After life's fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,
Can touch him further.
Macbeth Act III Scene ii



This haunting inscription comes from the first lines of Coronach, a poem by Sir Walter Scott of which the last four lines read:

Like dew on the mountain,
Like the foam on the river,
Like the bubble on the fountain,
Thou art gone - and forever.

It was chosen by Captain Munro's father the at one time well-known Scottish author Neil Munro.

Munro, a newly qualified doctor, was called up on the outbreak of war in his capacity as a territorial soldier. He served in France and was killed on 22 September 1915 as the result of what the local paper described as "a foul German trick".

"A party had been out on picket duty when a German flag was noticed stuck in the ground some distance off. Lieut Munro went to bring in the flag but on pulling it up a bomb tied to the stick exploded and killed him instantaneously."

The newspaper went on to report how the experience proved instructive when shortly afterwards some soldiers came across the body of a French soldier. The officer was about to give orders to have the man buried when he remembered how Munro had been killed. He checked the body carefully and discovered that it too had been booby trapped.



I see my way as birds their trackless way -
I shall arrive! what time, what circuit first,
I ask not: but unless God send His hail
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet, or stifling snow.
In some good time - His good time - I shall arrive:
He guides me and the bird. In His good time!

James Langstaff's inscription comes from Paracelsus, a long narrative poem by Robert Browning, 1812-1889. It was chosen for him by his widowed mother.

"Major J.M. Langstaff
Killed in action at Vimy Ridge, March 1st 1917. James Miles Langstaff, son of the late Dr James Langstaff, was born at Richmond Hill, Ontario, July 25th 1883. He had a brilliant intellect. Rarely has his career as a student been equalled. After passing the highest actuarial examinations, he entered law graduating at Osgoode Hall in 1912, with the Gold Medal and the Van Koughnet Scholarship. As a soldier at the Front - 75th Battalion, CE.F. - he rose rapidly in rank, was mentioned in despatches, and later was recommended for the Military Cross."
From Canadian Poets of the Great War. Edited by John Garvin 1918

War Shaped Destiny, one of the poems published in the above volume, was found with his effects after his death.

I never thought that strange romantic War
Would shape my life and plan my destiny;
Though in my childhood's dreams I've seen his car
And grisly steeds flash grimly thwart the sky.
Yet now behold a vaster, mightier strife
Than echoed on the plains of sounding Troy,
Defeats and triumphs, death, wounds, laughter, life,
All mingled in a strange complex alloy.
I view the panorama in a trance
Of awe, yet coloured with a secret joy,
For I have breathed in epic and romance,
Have lived the dreams that thrilled me as a boy.
How sound the ancients saying is, forsooth,
How weak is Fancy's gloss of Fact's stern truth.

Much of this information is copied from the Canadian Virtual Memorial site.



Mrs Ethel Wilkinson chose this inscription for her husband. It comes from the last verse of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Musician's Tale; the Saga of King Olaf. Mrs Wilkinson uses the lines to imply the permanence of her love, and her belief that the time is not far off before she and her husband will be reunited. Longfellow is asserting the permanence of God's love:

"The dawn is not distant,
Nor is the night starless;
Love is eternal!
God is still God, and
His faith shall not fail us;
Christ is eternal!"

Walter Wilkinson died on 1 January 1917, three days after his only child's third birthday. The inscription on his parents' headstone in Kirkheaton Lane Side Cemetery, Huddersfield, Yorkshire refers to the fact that Walter was "accidentally killed". In 2014 the Huddersfield Daily Examiner interviewed Walter's grandson. He told them that Walter had been suffocated when a newly dug trench collapsed.



The War Graves Commission make a particular point of telling the stone carver that the 'e' at the end of Bronte should have two dots over it. Unfortunately the database I'm using doesn't allow for them.
Private Milton Ray's inscription comes from a short poem by Emily Bronte (1818-1848), The Old Stoic.

Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream,
That vanished with the morn:

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, "Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!"

Yes, as my swift days near their goal:
'Tis all that I implore;
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.

Milton Ray's brother Valentine signed for his inscription, did he choose it? Who is it asking for the courage to endure - Milton, the soldier, or his widowed mother, Fanny? Surely Fanny who wants the courage to endure the rest of her life before she is set free in death.



This inscription is based on John McCrae's incredibly popular poem, In Flanders' Fields. The poem was so popular that there were many, many responses to it: poems that promised to keep the torch held high, promised not to break faith with those who died. This inscription comes from one such poem, which was apparently printed on a highly illuminated card by a New York publishing house:

Rest in peace, ye Flanders's dead,
The poppies still blow overhead,
The larks ye heard, still singing fly,
They sing of the cause which made thee die.

And they are heard far down below,
Our fight is ended with the foe.
The fight for right, which ye begun
And which ye died for, we have won,
Rest in peace.

There is little trace of the poem now, in fact, had it not been quoted in The Sunny Side of Grub Street, an essay by Christopher Morley that appeared in Mince Pie, a collection of his writings, it would probably have disappeared completely. Morley was not impressed by either the poem or its sentiments declaring that, "The man who wrote that ought to be the first man mobilized for the next war". However, that's obviously not how Private Irish's American parents saw it.
Howard Otis Irish was born in Barberton, Ohio in 1893. When he was 20 he and his parents went to Australia. Howard enlisted in March 1916, embarked from Australia in June and was killed in the trenches in December.



In May 1922, King George V made a visit to the battlefields of the Western Front. It was his wish that the visit should be accompanied by as little fanfare as possible; he was coming to pay his respects to the dead as their King. A few days after the visit ended, The Times published a poem by Rudyard Kipling called The King's Pilgrimage, which is what the King's visit to the Western Front came to be called. Captain Adam's widow quoted from the first verse of the poem for her husband's inscription:

Our King went forth on pilgrimage
His prayers and vows to pay
To them that saved our Heritage
And cast their own away.
And there was little show of pride,
Or prows of belted steel,
For the clean-swept oceans every side
Lay free to every keel.

Robert Sefton Adams was born in London but brought up and educated in New Zealand where his father was a doctor. He returned to England to study law, first at Trinity College, Cambridge and then in London. In 1913 he married Mary Carpenter and they had two children. When the war broke out he was living in Southsea, Hampshire. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and served with 12th Battery, 35th Brigade. Killed in action on 5 October 1917, his body was located in January 1920 under a temporary wooden grave marker. This grave marker is now in St Mary's Anglican Church in his parent's home town of Silverstream, New Zealand.
Interestingly, had Adams served in a New Zealand Regiment, rather than in the Royal Field Artillery, he would not have had an inscription. The New Zealand Government made the decision not to allow them since in their opinion the War Graves Commission's decision to make family's pay 3 1/4d per character infringed the Commission's principles of equality and uniformity.
Kipling's poem ends with a typical Kiplingesque flourish, which makes me wonder what he, and the dead, would think about our current perceptions of the First World War:

All that they had they gave - they gave -
In sure and single faith.
There can no knowledge reach the grave
To make them grudge their death
Save only if they understood
That, after all was done
We they redeemed denied their blood,
And mocked the gains it won.



I think that few people will be able to identify the poem this inscription comes from and yet this is the next verse:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

This is Laurence Binyon's 'For the Fallen', published on 21 September 1914, just two months after the outbreak of war. The verse resonated with people at the time and still resonates with people today.
George Harrison's parents however chose to quote from the previous verse:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their face to the foe.

There is such a terrible splendour in this - "straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow", "staunch to the end", "odds uncounted" ... too terrible.
George Harrison was the eldest child of Ernest Harrison, a commercial traveller in cigars. The family lived in Leicester. In the 1911 census George gave his occupation as a cutter in the tailoring trade. He served with the 3rd Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment but was among fourteen officers who were attached to the 6th Battalion on 26 September 1917. Harrison was killed four days later but the transcript of the war diary only refers to a "working party of 50 as on previous night".



Serjeant Alexander's mother chose his inscription; it comes from the last verse of 'The Song of the Camp' by the American poet, Bayard Taylor (1833-1908). On the night before the attack on the Redan fortress, during the Crimean War (1853-56), the soldiers ask for a song: "'Give us a song!' the soldiers cried" ...

There was a pause. A guardsman said,
"We storm the forts tomorrow;
Sing while we may, another day
Will bring enough of sorrow."

So the soldiers sing, not of fame and glory but of love:

Each heart recalled a different name,
But all sang 'Annie Laurie'.

Voice after voice caught up the song,
Until its tender passion
Rose like an anthem, rich and strong, -
Their battle eve confession.

The next day they stormed the Redan fortress and many of the soldiers who had been singing tenderly of love, and thinking of their girlfriends back home, were killed:

Sleep, soldiers! still in honoured rest
Your truth and valour wearing:
The bravest are the tenderest, -
The loving are the daring.

An insurance clerk in civilian life, like his father, Alexander served with the First Surrey Rifles. The regiment went into the line on 10 September 1916, near High Wood on the Somme. Five days later it was involved in the taking of High Wood but by that time Alexander had been killed.



Henry Hammel's mother quotes from a rather beautiful poem by a British born, Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870). In the poem, Thora's Song, two lovers part before the autumn ploughing, a whole a year passes and the harvest is ready to be gathered in, but the lover does not return. The inscription comes from the last verse:

Waiting and watching ever,
Longing and lingering yet,
Leaves rustle and corn stalks quiver,
Winds murmur and waters fret;
No answer they bring, no greeting,
No speech save that sad refrain,
Nor voice, save an echo repeating -
He cometh not back again.

An assayer and metallurgist in civilian life, Hammel was wounded in action at Borre in May 1918. A letter to the Secretary of the Information Bureau, Australian Red Cross Society, from No. 14 General Hospital in Wimereaux gives the details of his death.

"Lieut H.E. Hammel 2 Field Co Australian Engs: was admitted to this hospital on the 7th May 1918, suffering from shell wounds in legs and chest (severe). He was placed on dangerously ill list on 15/5/18 and death took place on the 22nd May at 7.20 pm. He was buried in the Boulogne Cemetery on 24th May and his grave is no. 6777."



In June 1917 King George V instituted a new Order, that of the Companions of Honour. It was to be "conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition ...". Companions were awarded an elaborate oval medallion and, inscribed around its blue border were the words: "In action faithful and in honour clear".
The words did not originate here, they were a quote from a poem by Alexander Pope: 'Verses Occasioned by Mr Addison's Treatise on Medals". Although written in 1715, the poem was not published until 1720 when the last few lines were added having been written by Pope for the tomb of his friend James Craggs in Westminster Abbey:

Statesman, yet friend to truth; of soul sincere,
In action faithful, and in honour clear;
Who broke no promise, serv'd no private end,
Who gain'd no title, and who lost no friend;
Ennobled by himself, by all approved,
Prais'd, wept and honour'd by the Muse* he lov'd.
[* The muse was Alexander Pope]

I would suggest that it was the wording on the medallion that inspired James Rutherford's choice for his son's headstone inscription rather than Pope's poem, but I thoroughly approve of what I assume must have been his reasoning. Although the award is now given for major contributions to the arts, science, medicine or government, the first awards were all for services to the war and who better, in his father's opinion, to be given this accolade than a young man who had given his life.
Norman Edwin Rutherford served with the 7th Battalion the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, which was raised in Lancaster in September 1914. The battalion arrived in France in July 1915 and served there, taking part in all the major engagements, until it was disbanded in February 1918. It fought on the Somme, attacking at La Boiselle on 6 July 1916 and at Bazentin le Petit on the 23rd. But by then Rutherford was dead. He died of wounds on 21 July at a Casualty Clearing Station in Mericourt-l'-Abbe and was buried there.



A Miss J Marshall of 128 Devonshire Road, Walkerville, Ontario, Canada, chose Thomas Marshall's inscription - his elder sister? He certainly he had a sister called Jane who was two years older than him according to the 1911 Census. Thomas Marshall was born in Glasgow but I couldn't find him in the 1911 census. He served with the 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders, part of the 51st Highland Division, whose divisional history describes the circumstances in which he met his death:

"On 6th September the 5th Seaforth Highlanders attempted a raid on the enemy's posts in front of Pheasant Trench, 3 officers and 100 other ranks being employed. The raiding party failed to reach the enemy's lines owing to the intensity of his rifle and machine-gun fire; but they obtained some valuable information, and caused the enemy serious losses by the energetic use of their rifles ... The raiders could not regain our lines during daylight, and remained in shell-holes until dusk, when they returned having lost 1 officer and 19 men killed, 2 officers and 18 men wounded, and 9 men missing."

Marshall was one of the nine missing men, his body not discovered until February 1920. His inscription comes from the nineteenth verse of Robert Burns' The Cotter's Saturday Night.

"From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs
That makes her love'd at home, revere'd abroad:"

Miss J Marshall might have been referring to the kind of scenes described above in the divisional history, but Burns was referring to the sight of a happy cottager's family contentedly going about their Sunday routines: attendance at church before the family gather together to share a meal.
The final line of the inscription comes, of course, from the Lord's prayer and is one of the most popular of all inscriptions on War Grave Commission headstones.



The book is completed,
And closed, like the day;
And the hand that has written it
Lays it away.
Dim grows its fancies;
Forgotten they lie;
Like coals in the ashes,
They darken and die.
Song sinks into silence,
The story is told,
The windows are darkened,
The hearth-stone is cold.
Darker and darker
The black shadows fall;
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all.

Harold Milne's inscription comes from this, the second verse of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'Curfew'. His mother signed the form confirming the choice.
Milne, born in Galashiels in Scotland, emigrated to Australia in 1907 when he was 24. He enlisted in September 1915 and served with the 14th Field Company Australian Engineers. He was killed in action on 25 October. The Company's war diary for October 1917 gives precise details of all the work the Company carried out on its sector of the line: from the Leinster Road to the Hanebeek River. But it doesn't mention any casualties until the end of the month when it lists the fact that, between 16 September and 31 October, 18 members of the Company were killed, 2 died of wounds, 31 were wounded and 1 gassed.



To love your fellow man is evidence of your love for God, and it's the way that God likes you to love Him. This certainly was the conclusion of the poet Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) in his famous poem, Abou Ben Adhem. In the poem, an angel appeared to Ben Adhem one night. It was writing in a book and when asked what it was writing it replied, "the names of those who love the Lord". Ben Adhem asked if his name was there and the angel replied that it was not. Ben Adhem was not unduly concerned and replied, "cheerily", "I pray thee, then, write me as one that loves his fellow men". The next day the angel appeared again:

"And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest."

The poem was far and away Leigh Hunt's best-known work, and the words, 'One that loved his fellow men' were not only carved on his headstone in Kensal Green Cemetery but became a popular tribute to men who were thought to have done good in their lives.
Captain Sherman had been married for nearly a year when he died. However, it wasn't his wife, Mrs Dorothy Raffles Sherman, who signed for his inscription but his mother, Mrs Marion Elizabeth Sherman.
As for having done good in his life, Sherman was a doctor. Trained at St Batholomew's, he joined the RAMC in December 1914 and went to France the following February. He served with the 4th Field Ambulance throughout 1915 and 1916 including at Loos and the Somme. A letter from his colonel to his family, published as part of his obituary in The Times on 23 October 1917, described how he met his death:

"He was shot in the chest while visiting the forward aid-posts and died peacefully in the dressing station some hours later".

Another officer and friend told them:

"Everyone is quite heart-broken and everywhere you hear nothing but words of regret at his death. He was always the centre of any fun or frolic and always ready to take a large share of any hardships that were going.He was a large-hearted, generous man, and as brave as a lion."



Owen Lloyd's father chose his inscription, adapting a line from Joseph Lee's, 'Our British Dead'. The poem was first published in the Spectator in January 1917 and opens with a quote from Simonides:
"O stranger, bring the Spartans word, that here,
Obedient to their command we lie."

Here do we lie, dead but not discontent,
That which we found to do has had accomplishment.

No more for us uprise or set of sun;
The vigilant night, the desperate day is done.

To other hands we leave the avenging sword,
To other tongues to speak the arousing word.

Here do we lie, dead but not discontent,
That which was ours to do has had accomplishment.

Forget us not, O Land for which we fell -
May it go well with England, still go well.

Keep her bright banners without blot or stain,
Lest we should dream that we have died in vain.

Brave be the days to come, when we
Are but a wistful memory ...

Here do we lie, dead but not discontent,
That we which found to do has had accomplishment.

Simonides' dead simply ask that their country is told that they have done what was asked of them; Lee's dead, who have also done what was asked of them, want to feel that the country they have died for will be worthy of their deaths, "Lest we should dream that we have died in vain".
Lloyd was wounded on 20 September, the opening day of the Battle of Menin Road. He died two days later. An obituary in The Times on 5 October gave the details, quoted from the letter Lloyd's colonel had written to his parents:

"He was a very gallant soldier and an exceptionally fine leader of men. We attacked on the 20th ... Captain Lloyd saw the attack developing on his right, and got up and led his company on, and it was as he was doing so that he fell, hit by two bullets. The ground was open and raked by machine gun fire, and the advance by Captain Lloyd was a very fine effort. Although not immediately successful, it all bore good fruit, because next day ... we not only captured the mound and its garrison, but absolutely wiped out the whole storm troops of the division opposite us. The men of his company, at the risk of their lives, went to your son, bandaged him up, and took him to the aid post. He died there, after thanking the men who took him down ... I liked him personally so much. I think he would rather have died that way than any other."



Mark Twain used a similar inscription to this on his daughter's headstone, which led people to assume that he had written it. He hadn't, but he had adapted it from 'Annette', a poem by Robert Richardson. Richardson's 'Annette' concludes:

Warm summer sun, shine friendly here.
Warm western wind, blow kindly here;
Green sod above, rest light, rest light,
Good-night, Annette!
Sweetheart, good-night!

The inscription on Twains daughter's headstone reads:

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind blow softly here,
Green sod above lie light, lie light -
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.

Private Jenkins' father adapted it differently and referred to the wind rather than to the sun:

Green sod above
Blow light, blow light
Good night dear, good night

Jenkins, in civilian life a railway porter from Gulargambone, N.S.W., enlisted on 16 October 1915 and embarked from Sydney on 5 June 1916 with the 13th reinforcements for the 18th Battalion Australian Infantry. Wounded on 15 April 1917, he was back in action by 28 August. He then died of wounds at No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station on 22 September 1917.
The Battalion War Dairy records that on the 20 September it attacked at Bellewaarde Ridge with 200 casualties among the soldiers. After heavy shelling on the 21st, it was relieved the next day; the Diary commentating: "Casualties during the relief were slight. Casualties Lieut W.S. Moors (wounded) O. Ranks estimated around 60".
A report in the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files states baldly: "Private Jenkins died 22.9.17 from G.S.W. (gun shot wound) compound fracture R.Leg and Wd R. Hand. He was buried at Lijssenthoek Cemetery Plot 22. No. H 14B."



Joseph Irvine's epitaph comes from one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's best known short poems. In fact it was so well known that Irvine's widow, who chose it, would automatically have assumed that everyone would have known where the opening and closing verses of the poem were leading:

Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

In the two sentences, 'I would that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me', and 'the tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me', Tennyson perfectly expresses the inarticulate grief of the bereaved and their desperate longing for a past that will never return.

Joseph Irvine was killed on the opening day of the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1916. There are several rather strange things about this man. The War Graves Commission has his name as Joseph Irvine and his wife as Agnes J Doak, formerly Irvine, indicating that she had married again. But she hadn't because Joseph Irvine was in actual fact Joseph Doak. He first enlisted in February 1915 as Joseph Doak, and then enlisted again in September 1915 as Joseph Irvine. In September 1917 he was court martialled after apparently threatening a soldier and shaking another one. He was severely reprimanded. Early the following month he was killed in action.
His brother, Christopher Charles Doak, serving with the South African Veterinary Corps, died in South Africa on 16 April 1916. In fact, to be brutally frank, he committed suicide. As the letter from the Department of Defence in Pretoria to the Secretary for Defence in Melbourne, Australia, says, "his death was the result of an overdose of morphia administered by Doak himself and was in no way connected with active service".



I have a friend whose father was killed in the Second World War and this is the inscription his mother put on her husband's grave. My friend has always hated it, feeling that his mother had insulted father's memory by describing him as a gung-ho, trigger-happy soldier. He had no idea that the term 'happy warrior' derived from a poem by William Wordsworth and that it described a soldier of quite different qualities.
Wordsworth asks the question, in his 1807 poem, "Who is the happy warrior? Who is he, that every man in arms would wish to be?". He then gives the answer: a man who is brave, modest, faithful, resolute, diligent and magnanimous, an honourable man, a man of high endeavour guided by reason and duty, a home loving man and thus "more brave for this, that he hath much to love".
The term gained in stature throughout the nineteenth century, enhanced by G.F. Watts painting titled 'The Happy Warrior', which shows a young knight on the point of death being embraced/greeted by an ethereal figure, presumably welcoming him to heaven. By the beginning of the twentieth century the phrase had become a universal term of approval for someone who had led a good, productive life serving the state.
Having told him all this, my friend realised that he had done his mother - and his father - a disservice.
Harry Noel Lea, a bank clerk from Sydney, enlisted on 15 January 1917, served with the 17th Australian Infantry, part of the 2nd Australian Division, and died of wounds received on 9 October when the Division were in action at Poelcapelle.



Tom Hepworth's inscription comes from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 'The Musician's Tale; the Saga of King Olaf'. The poem challenges mankind's traditional way of fighting evil - with weapons of war - and recommends instead that it should be:

Cross against corselet,
Love against hatred,
Patience is powerful;
He that overcometh
Hath power o'er the nations!

The 'weapons' of faith are more powerful than conventional weapons:

Stronger than steel
Is the sword of the Spirit;
Swifter than arrows
The light of the truth is,
Greater than anger
Is love, and subdueth!

Tom's father, a furniture salesman in Halifax, Yorkshire, chose the inscription. Tom himself had been a cabinet maker before he joined up. He served with the 1st/5th King's Own Royal Lancashire Regiment and was killed on 31 July 1917 when the 55th Division attacked at Pilkhem Ridge.



'How can man die better than facing fearful odds'? Lieutenant Carl Hansen died "while leading his men" on the opening day of the third Battle of Ypres, the battle which became known as Passchendaele, according to The Times' death announcement. Hansen, serving with the Machine Gun Corps and attached to the 9th Battalion The King's (Liverpool Regiment), would have been in charge of his Lewis gun team. We don't know what happened to him but the battalion war diary reported that:

"Four minutes after zero, the enemy put a heavy barrage of H.E. shells on Oxford Trench - several men were hit there, a Lewis Gun team was knocked out, and the reserve Lewis Gun ammunition blown up".
F.M. Drew Lieut. Colonel Commanding 1/9 Bn. The King's L'pool Regt. T.F.
In the Field
Aug 1st 1917

Some time later Major E.G. Hoare, who was in command of the battalion on 31 July, wrote a poem called 'The Valley of the Shadow - 31st July 1917'. This vividly describes conditions on that day. These are verses three and four of the seven-verse poem.

Down in the valley the barrage fell,
Fountains of water and steel and smoke,
Screams of demons and blast of hell,
The flash that blinds and the fumes that choke.
The mud and the wire have chained the feet,
You are up to the knees in swamp and slime,
There's a laugh when the crossing is once complete,
But a setting of teeth for the second time.

Down in the valley the shambles lay
With the sordid horrors of hate revealed,
Tattered khaki and shattered grey
And the splintered wrecks of a battlefield.
Thank God for the end that is sure and swift,
For the fate that comes with a leap and bound,
But what if God leaves you alone to drift
To the lingering death in the pestilent ground.

Did Hansen meet a sure swift death, or a lingering one 'in the pestilent ground'?

Hansen's inscription was confirmed by his father. It comes from 'Horatius at the Bridge', a long narrative poem by Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay (1800-1859), a stalwart of poetry anthologies throughout the nineteenth century. In the face of overwhelming odds, Horatius decides that he will take a stand on the bridge in a valiant effort to prevent the invading hordes from taking Rome, since:

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.



On 8 April 1917 Alexander Davidson wrote a letter to his sister, Jean M Davidson:

In twenty-four hours we go out to face the enemy, and [I] feel constrained to write you a few words, not farewell ones I hope and pray, but you can understand that there are thoughts and feelings to which I would give expression ... If it be God's will that we do not meet again on earth, you must not mourn for me as having left you for ever. Whatever happens I am all right. Should I fall in the fight in my country's great cause, then I would like that the great feeling in your heart was one of pride that your brother was privileged to lay down his life - a willing sacrifice - for his country's good:
Nothing is here for tears,
Nothing to wail or knock the breast,
No weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise or blame,nothing but well and fair
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
We are going into the fight, confident in the righteousness of our cause. God give me strength to lead my men fearlessly; that is my prayer. I know it must be yours.

Davidson was killed the next day. His sister chose his inscription since both his parents were dead. Addressing him by his pet name, 'Algy', she quotes from the poem that her brother himself quoted from in his last letter: 'Samson Agonistes' by John Milton (1608-1674).
The letter was quoted by the Revd Ranald Macdonald in an appreciation he gave during the service in the United Free Church in Dingwall on the Sunday following Davidson's death. All this information comes from the Ross-shire Journal quoted on the Ross and Cromarty Heritage website.



William Herbert (Bertie) Anderson was the eldest of William and Eleanora Anderson's four sons and the last to be killed. His wife, Mrs Gertrude Campbell Anderson, chose his epitaph. It's a modified quote from the poem 'To M.C.N' by 'Laurence Hope', the pen name of Adela Florence Nicolson (1865-1904). The poem is quite difficult to find on the Internet so I have included the whole of it here:

Thou hast no wealth, nor any pride of power,
Thy life is offered on affection's altar.
Small sacrifices claim thee, hour by hour,
Yet on the tedious path thou dost not falter.

To the unknowing, well thy days might seem
Circled by solitude and tireless duty,
Yet is thy soul made radiant by a dream
Of delicate and rainbow-coloured beauty.

Never a flower trembles in the wind,
Never a sunset lingers on the sea,
But something of its fragrance joins thy mind,
Some sparkle of its light remains with thee.

Thus when thy spirit enters on its rest,
Thy lips shall say, "I too have had the best!"

Mrs Anderson changed the word 'thy' for 'my' in the last two lines of the poem. And, it's the same inscription she had inscribed on her own grave in Invershin Cemetery, Creich, Sutherland after she died in 1967. She was buried under her husband's original wooden grave marker which, as it says on the base, was "brought from Mariecourt, France, by his wife".
Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Anderson was killed on the fourth day of the German Spring Offensive when for some weeks afterwards it seemed as though they would sweep all before them and win the war. The fight was desperate, as evidenced by the circumstances in which Anderson won his Victoria Cross.
This site describes the war service and deaths of all four of the Anderson brothers. It is based on a novel written by Robin Scott-Elliott, 'The Way Home', which he in turn based on the story of the Anderson brothers.



When the war broke out Donald Morton Bunting was a dental student at Guy's Hospital, London. Educated at Rydal Mount School in Colwyn Bay, he had enlisted in the 21st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, the 4th University and Public Schools Battalion before the end of August 1914. Many of the recruits, like Bunting, preferred to serve with their friends in the ranks rather than take commissions in other regiments. After training for over a year, the Battalion eventually went to France in November 1915, the last of the battalion arriving on the 21 November. Bunting was killed three days later on the 24th.
His inscription comes from the last lines of 'O May I Join the Choir Invisible', the best known and best regarded poem by the novelist George Eliot (1819-1880) in which she articulates her extremely unconventional Christian vision of the afterlife. To Eliot, the only afterlife is that which comes to those whose reputations live on because of the contribution they made to the betterment of the world.

O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence:

Bunting's father chose the inscription. I wonder how it went down with Donald's grandfather a Wesleyan Methodist Minister with whom he had been living whilst studying dentistry.



Godfrey Mackay was born in Aberdeen in February 1894. He emigrated to Canada in September 1912 and when he enlisted in February 1915 he was working as a cook in Montreal, naming his mother, Mrs Isabella Ogilvie of 22 Anderson Street, Montreal as his next of kin.
His inscription quotes 'A Fragment', a poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835). Hemans was once a very popular poet but perhaps she became a victim of her popularity and is now best known for her most parodied line from the poem Casabianca, "the boy stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled". In 1916 Andrew Macphail included 'A Fragment' in his comprehensive collection of poems on death, 'The Book of Sorrow', which perhaps gave it renewed prominence.

Rest on your battle-fields, ye brave!
Let the pines murmur o'er your grave,
Your dirge be in the moaning wave -
We call you back no more!

Oh! there was mourning when you fell,
In your own vales a deep-toned knell,
An agony, a wild farewell; -
But that hath long been o'er.

Rest with your still solemn fame;
The hills keep record of your name,
And never can a touch of shame
Darken the buried brow.

But we on changeful days are cast,
When bright names from their place fall fast
And ye that with your glory passed,
We cannot mourn you now.

Godfrey Mackay died of pneumonia, in all probability a complication of influenza, on 5 February 1919. His mother chose his inscription and although I have no evidence for this, something makes me think that the hills she had in mind were back home in Scotland not Canada.



Private P Smith served with the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to the Highland Mounted Brigade. After service in Gallipoli the brigade was transferred to Egypt where it became part of the Western Frontier Force. Based at Minia, a town 150 km south of Cairo on the banks of the River Nile, its task was to monitor the movement of the Senussi who were being encouraged by the Turks to take up jihad against the British. The heat was tremendous, 43°C / 109.4°F, and the men suffered terribly from heatstroke and from the lack of sanitation. Private Smith died from typhus on 27 January 1917.
His inscription quotes a seventeenth-century playwright and poet, James Shirley (1596-1666). Shirley's verse has all but disappeared from view but during the nineteenth century this poem, 'Death the Leveller' was included in Palgrave's 'Golden Treasury'. This best-selling book, familiar in many households, was the source of a large number of inscriptions.
The poem, which bears a resemblance to some of Shakespeare's lines, starts:

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

We will all die whether we be kings or commoners, famous or humble, and "Only the actions of the just (Private Smith's mother added 'and brave') smell sweet, and blossom in their dust".
Smith was originally buried in Minia War Cemetery but in April 1960 his body was exhumed, along with all the others, and reburied in Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.



Stewart Ridley's inscription quotes the final line of a poem by John Drinkwater, which he wrote in Ridley's memory. The poem is called 'Riddles' R.F.C. - Riddles being Ridley's nickname.

He was a boy of April beauty: one
Who had not tried the world: who while the sun
Flamed yet upon the Eastern sky, was done.

Time would have brought him in her patient ways -
So his young beauty spoke - to prosperous days,
To fullness of authority and praise.

He would not wait so long. A boy, he spent
His boy's dear life for England. Be content:
No honour of age had been more excellent.

'The Saturday Review' published the poem on 5 August 1916 with the following note:

"Lieut. Stewart G. Ridley, Royal Flying Corps, sacrificed his life in the Egyptian desert in an attempt to save a comrade. He was twenty years of age."

Ridley enlisted in September 1914, took a commission in February 1915 and in July 1915 transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He received his wings in December and was posted to north Africa where the Turks were encouraging the Senussi, a religious sect active in Libya and Egypt, to raise jihad against the British in Egypt. The Royal Flying Corps flew patrols over the Libyan desert for reconnaissance purposes.
On Thursday 15 June 1916, Ridley set out on a routine patrol over the desert in company with another aircraft. Ridley's plane was forced to land and the other plane returned to base to get help. The brief account of his story says that, with water running out, Ridley decided to shoot himself in order to give his observer, Garside, a chance to survive. Garside died the next day.
The October 12 1916 edition of Flight magazine gives the whole story. Had Ridley and Garside stayed where they were they would have been found but they moved on, and not just once but twice. Garside kept a rough diary from which the information comes.
The search party discovered the bodies on Tuesday 20 June and five days later an army chaplain went out into the desert and buried them under a heap of stones marked with a wooden cross. In April 1960 the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.



This lovely inscription comes from Robert Louis Stevenson's (1850-1894) poem 'Requiem', which was engraved on his own gravestone on Mount Vaea on the island of Samoa.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Peter Campbell, a graduate of the University of Glasgow, came from Helensburgh on the West Coast of Scotland. His father had been a postman and he became a primary school teacher. Campbell volunteered on the outbreak of war and served with A Company the 6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders. Something of their training and of their involvement in the Battle of Loos can be read here.
Campbell was wounded during the battle on 26 September at Hill 70. He died of his wounds four days later.



Private Dickinson's inscription is based on the poem 'Stanzas to the Memory of the Spanish Patriots latest killed in resisting the Regency and the Duke of Angouleme by Thomas Campbell 1777-1844. Campbell's poem actually says that, "The patriot's blood's the seed of Freedom's tree", but the way the Dickinson parents have phrased it is how the quotation is usually known. Campbell's poem, written during the Napoleonic Wars, articulates many concepts that would have been familiar to those who fought in the First World War: "There is a victory in dying well for Freedom, - and ye have not died in vain"; "And looking on your graves, though trophied not, as holier hallowed ground than priests could make the spot"; "Glory to them that die in this great cause".
Private Dickinson was killed in an early morning attack towards La Boiselle-Grandcourt, the 14th Battalion's War Diary gives the details, with the second page of the diary here. The attack appears to have been successful, and many German prisoners were taken, but Private Dickinson was among eight soldiers from the Battalion to be killed that day.



Twenty-year-old William Alfred Samways' active service career was very brief. He served with No. 49 Squadron RFC, which was formed in April 1916. In November 1917 No. 49 went to France as a day bombing squadron. The squadron made its first raid on 26 November and met no opposition but three days later, on another bombing raid, it ran into von Richthofen's Flying Circus. Despite a fierce battle only one British plane was shot down, DH4 A7704. Both the pilot and the observer were killed: Lieutenant Charles Campbell and Air Mechanic First Class William Samways.
Samways' inscription quotes a line from a poem by Maurice Baring (1874-1945), which he wrote for his friend Julian Grenfell. The poem was first published in The Times on 5 June 1915, nine days after Grenfell's death.

To Julian Grenfell
Because of you we will be glad and gay,
Remembering you we will be brave and strong;
And hail the advent of each dangerous day,
And meet the great adventure with a song.
And, as you proudly gave your jewelled gift,
We'll give our lesser offering with a smile,
Nor falter on the path where, all too swift,
You led the way and leapt the golden style.
Whether you seek new seas or heights unclimbed,
Or gallop in unfooted asphodel,
We know you know we shall not lag behind,
Not halt to waste a moment on a tear;
And you will speed us onward with a cheer,
And wave beyond the stars that all is well.



I really thought that this inscription had its origins in Spiritualism, but I was wrong. It's a quotation from stanza 42 of Shelley's 'Adonais', his lament for the death of the poet John Keats. The poem is a popular source of inscriptions but most quote lines from either stanza 39 or 40: "He hath awakened from the dream of life" or "He hath outsoar'd the shadow of our night". These lines attempt to assure us that Adonais is now removed from the pains of life, unlike the living who still have to suffer them. Stanza 42 is different, telling us that although Adonais might be dead he is now everywhere:

He is made one with Nature: there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where'er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own;
Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.

John Wallace volunteered at the outbreak of the war whilst an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford. A former pupil of Rugby School his obituary in the School's magnificent seven-volume 'Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War' says that:

"He was struck in an advanced trench near Ypres by a mortar bomb, but refused to be carried off until he had handed over the trench to his Commanding Officer. He was taken to a dressing station about a mile in the rear, but died there shortly afterwards on April 22nd, 1915. Age 20."

A letter from this Commanding Officer was quoted in Wallace's obituary in The Times on 7 May 1915:

"His pluck and unselfishness after he was hit will always be remembered in the Scots Fusiliers. His one idea was that the men wounded at the same moment should be cared for first ... I can only say that his loss to us is irreparable."



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.



This inscription is a contraction of the second verse of one of the best known poems of the whole war, 'In Flanders Fields' by John McCrae.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Initially published in 'Punch' in December 1915, the poem achieved immediate popularity. McCrae himself, a doctor with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, died of pneumonia in January 1918, but the poem lives on as an integral part of remembrance services in all parts of the English speaking world.
Strangely however, for all its fame and popularity, the poem is not very popular as a source of headstone inscriptions. Possibly it was too new and people preferred the comfort of the old poets like Tennyson and Browning. And interestingly, it seems as though this wasn't a contemporary inscription but one put up as late as 2003. I can't imagine why this should be.
Private Walters - have you noticed that he was only 16 - serving with the 9th Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, was killed on 7 July 1916 in an attack on Ovillers. Buried in Mash Valley Cemetery his grave was lost in subsequent battles. As a result Walters, and the thirty-four other Fusiliers buried in Mash Valley, have Special Memorial headstones in Ovillers Military Cemetery.



The poem from which this inscription comes was once extremely popular and the sentiment it expresses once caught the spirit of the age. It has now gone completely out of fashion and today the poem is much more likely to be derided than admired. The inscription is a slight modification of the opening line of Rupert Brooke's sonnet, 'Peace', one of the poems in his sensationally popular '1914 and Other Poems', which included 'The Soldier', with its immortal lines:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever, England.

The opening lines of 'Peace' read:

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,

Greenhow's mother (his father had died in 1913) says 'match'd him' rather than 'matched us', but this scarcely affects the sense. God is to be thanked for having sent the youth of the day, or more particularly Denys Greenhow, the opportunity to match his skills and abilities with a great cause, the chance to rise above a world grown 'old and cold and weary,' and the opportunity to demonstrate the nobility of which he was capable.
For all that it is derided today as ridiculous and naive - how on earth could anyone have thought that going to war was in any way like a swimmer 'into cleanness leaping' (line 4) - the poem did express what many people thought. And not just early in 1915 when it was first published and the war was in its infancy, it still resonated with people in 1919 when the war was over and the next-of-kin were being asked to chose their inscriptions despite all that had happened.
Denys Greenhow was an observer in the Royal Flying Corps. He left school, Lancing College, in December 1915, was commissioned into the RFC in July 1916 and promoted Flying Officer in January 1917. On 6 March 1917, he and his pilot were returning to base with engine trouble when they were attacked by five enemy planes. Greenhow was shot and fatally injured, dying soon after the pilot managed to bring the plane down. Many good things were said about men in the letters of condolence their senior officers wrote to their families; Greenhow's Flight Commander wrote this in his diary, which gives it an extra impact:

In Greenhow we have lost one of our best and cleverest observers, one of the cleverest I have ever known.



This seemed such a strange inscription, even after I discovered that it was a quotation from Robert Browning's poem 'A Grammarian's Funeral' it still made little sense:

Others mistrust and say, "But time escapes:
Live now or never!"
He said, "What's time? Leave Now for dogs and apes!
Man has forever."

The capital letter for 'Now' gives a little hint: leave 'now' i.e. the present, to dogs and apes, man has forever to fulfil his destiny. It's an idea that appeared in more than one of Browning's poems:

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?
('Andrea del Sarto')

And in 'Rabbi Ben Ezra':

Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:

Matron Jessie Jaggard's husband used an extract from this last quotation for the inscription on her headstone in Gallipoli. Charles McKerrow's widow was therfore not the only relation to find comfort in the idea that regardless of our fate on earth, mankind has an immortal destiny that will be found in the world to come.
McKerrow was a GP in Ayrshire, with a First Class degree from Cambridge, before he took a commission in the RAMC in June 1915 and, attached to the 10th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, crossed with them to France in August 1915. In January 1915 he had married Jean Craik and that November they had a son. His letters in December 1916 look forward to the leave he was hoping to get in late January 1917. But on 21 December Mrs McKerrow received a telegram telling her that her husband had been dangerously wounded in the abdomen by a shell. In fact he was already dead.
The Imperial War Museum has a large collection of McKerrow's papers covering the period from August 1915 to his death in December 1916. Dr Emily Mayhew has used them to write about McKerrow in this blog post for the Surgeon's Hall Museum, and in her book 'Wounded: the long journey home from the Great War'2014.



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.



This inscription is an abbreviation of the last verse of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 'The Reaper and the Flowers: a psalm of death'. Although the reaper is death this is not death the grim reaper: when he scythes the flowers, the children, that grow among the ripened grain he doesn't do it out of cruelty but because God wants them with him, to remind him of his time on earth when he too was just a child.

"They shall all bloom in fields of light,
Transplanted by my care,
And saints, upon their garments white,
These sacred blossoms wear."

And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.

Oh, not in cruelty, not in wrath,
The reaper came that day;
'T was an angel visited the green earth,
And took the flowers away.

The poem is headed by a line from 'They are all gone into the World of Light' by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695): "Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the just".

In 1911 William Ewart Eaton was an apprentice joiner. He served with the 126th Field Company Royal Engineers, part of the 21st Division, and died in a base hospital in Etaples on 18 October 1917. It's not possible to tell when he was wounded but in the past month the Division had been involved in the battles of the Menin Road, 20-25 September; Polygon Wood, 26 September - 3 October; Broodseinde 4 October and Poelcappelle, 9 October.
Eaton's father, George Henry, signed for the inscription. There is no mention of the angel - and only one flower ... his son.



I have come across this inscription twice and in the other example the words "the lad" are in inverted commas. The inscription carries an echo of Elisha's question to the Shunammite woman:

"Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well."
[2 Kings 4:26].

The Shunammite woman's son is dead but Elisha brings him back to life so I don't think this is the direct source of the inscription. However, it is quite possibly the indirect source.
There is a poem by the American author Mrs Schuyler Van Rensselaer (1851-1934) called 'It is Well With the Child'. First published in the magazine 'The Atlantic' it was reprinted in 1918 in 'Patriotic Pieces from the Great War'. The poem begins:

The word has come - On the field of battle dead.
Sorrow is mine but there is no more dread.
I am his mother. See, I do not say,
'I was'; he is, not was, my son. Today
He rests, is safe, is well; he is at ease
From pain, cold, thirst, and fever of disease,

Although "Sorrow is mine and streams of lonely tears", now that her son is dead the mother has nothing more to fear for him:

At eventide I may lay down my head,
Not wondering upon what dreadful bed
Perchance - nay, all but certainly - he lies;
And with the morn I may in turn arise,
Glad of the light, of sleep, of food, now he
Is where sweet waters and green meadows be
And golden apples. How it was he died
I know not, but my heart is satisfied:
Never again of all my days shall one
Bring anguish for the anguish of my son.

In its turn, Mrs Schuyler Van Rensselaer's poem quite possibly owed something to Christina Rossetti's 'Is It Well With the Child?'

Safe where I cannot die yet,
Safe where I hope to lie too,
Safe from the fume and the fret;
You, and you,
Whom I never forget.
Safe from the frost and snow,
Safe from the storm and the sun,
Safe where the seeds wait to grow
One by one,
And to come back in blow.

Except Mrs Saxby knew she could not look forward to being buried with her son.
In 1911, the fifteen-year-old Frank Saxby was a solicitor's clerk living at home in Wentbridge near Pontefract, Yorkshire, where his father was a coachman at one of the big houses. He served with the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment and was killed on 20 August 1916 either in the heavy German bombardment of the Regiment's front line trenches or in the ensuing raid that evening. However, for his mother at least "There was no more dread".



I have to say that I admire Mrs Janet Peattie, Private Peattie's mother, she has not only chosen a beautiful inscription that is strangely uncommon, but in filling in the biographical information for the War Graves Commission she has managed to provide brief but pertinent information. Thanks to her we know that her son was an apprentice cabinet maker, that he enlisted on 1 June 1915, was wounded on 8 July 1917 and that therefore it took him ten days to die at a Casualty Clearing Station in Proven. Mendinghem, along with Bandagem and Dozinghem, were the popular names the soldiers gave to these hospitals
The inscription comes from the last line of the first verse of Sir Cecil Spring Rice's poem 'I Vow to Thee My Country'. Rice wrote the original poem in 1908 and called it 'Urbs Dei', the City of God. In 1918 he added a new first verse, the one Janet Peattie has quoted from. This replaced the old first verse and very movingly reflects the terrible sacrifice Britain has asked the nation, and especially its young men, to make. Set to music by Gustav Holst in 1921, and published in the hymn book 'Songs of Praise' in 1926, the hymn is now a firm favourite and for many years was a stalwart of Remembrance Day services. This link gives all three verses but Rice always intended the current first verse to replace the second verse that is shown in this link.
I said at the beginning that William Peattie's inscription was strangely uncommon, considering the poem's sentiments, and that it refers specifically to the war dead, I might have expected to have seen it more often, but I haven't. So this is something else I admire Mrs Peattie for. This is verse one:

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.



George Belcher's sister chose his inscription, she was his next-of-kin since their father and mother had died in 1901 and 1903 respectively. George was her only sibling. The inscription comes from a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley called "To ...", published in 1824.

Music when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap'd for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou at gone,
Love itself shall linger on.

George and Louisa Belcher were brought up by an uncle and aunt. Before joining the army in October 1915, George worked as a clerk at the Railway Passengers Assurance Company, and his sister as an elementary school teacher. He served initially with the 13th Battalion the London Regiment but at the time of his death he was attached to the 8th Battalion the Royal Irish Rifles. The regiment was part of the 36th Ulster Division, which went into action outside Ypres on 2 August 1917. Belcher died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek on the 5th.



"We live or die who wear the rose of Lancaster" is the motto of the 55th (West Lancashire Division), which they adopted from a poem that Leonard Comer Wall had himself written.
It was during the First World War that the 55th Division took the red rose of the House of Lancaster as their emblem. This apparently prompted Wall, a young officer serving with the Division, to write a poem, which was published on 13 April 1917 in the Liverpool Daily Post. It's actually more a piece of patriotic verse promoting Lancashire than a poem:

Red Roses

When Princes fought for England's crown,
The House that won the most renown,
And struck the sullen Yorkists down,
Was Lancaster.

Her blood-red emblem stricken sore,
Yet steeped her pallid foe in gore,
Still stands for England evermore,
And Lancashire.

Now England's blood like water flows,
Full many a lusty German knows,
We win or die - who wear the rose
Of Lancaster.

Wall was killed two months later, on 9 June 1917, and the following announcement appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post on the 14th:

"WALL - June 9 killed in action in his 21st year, Leonard Comer Wall (Lieutenant R.F.A.) only and most-beloved child of Charles Comer and Kate Wall, Hill Top, West Kirby, and the affianced husband of Irene Dorothy Bryan, Braxted Rectory, Sevenoaks, Kent. (We win or die who wear the rose of Lancaster)

Either the death announcement or the original poem came to the attention of General Jeudwine, the 55th's Divisional Commander, who ordered that the final words should become the Division's motto, which they did. And at the end of the war all 55th Division graves had an enamel badge, with the rose and the motto, attached to their wooden cross. When the time came for Mr and Mrs Wall to chose an inscription for their son's permanent headstone, they chose the last line of his poem, having changed the word "we" to "they".

There is another lovely story associated with Lieutenant Wall, an officer in the Royal Field Artillery. Wall was killed by shrapnel, which injured his horse, 'Blackie', and killed his groom. After the war, "Blackie' returned to England and when he eventually died in 1942 this notice appeared in the 14 December edition of the Liverpool Daily Post:

"At the Horses' Rest (R.S.P.C.A.), Hunts Cross, on December 10, BLACKIE, truest comrade in England, France and Flanders (1915-1917), of the late Leonard Comer-Wall, Lieutenant, A Battery, 275th Brigade, RFA, 55th Division, and the late Driver Frank Wilkinson, his groom. Ubique."

This was twenty-five years after the death of Blackie's rider and groom. I wonder who inserted it? Leonard Wall's father died in 1928 but his mother was still alive. Two days later, the 'Gloucester Citizen' elaborated on the story reporting that, Blackie, "was buried with the medals of his master, Lieut. Leonard Comer Wall ... who while riding 'Blackie' was killed in France." The story is repeated several times on the Internet but I haven't discovered whether it is true or not.
Blackie has a headstone, which reads:

Aged 35 years
A Battery - 275th Brigade R.F.A. 55th Division
France and Flanders 1915-1918

Does this tell us anything else? Yes, that although his rider and groom were killed in 1917, someone in the Wall or Wilkinson family kept track of the horse and brought him home to England in 1918 to live out his days in peace. Someone who cared enough to insert a notice of his death in the local paper and to erect a headstone for him. My money would be on Leonard's mother, who died in 1954.



"Pass friend - all's well!" is the sentry's reply to someone who gives the correct response to his challenge: "Halt, who goes there!". It is a not uncommon inscription on war memorials in this country with its double sense that we who pass by are able to do so because those who died made it safe for us. In this it reflects the Simonides-based epitaph: "Tell England ye that pass this monument, we died for her and here we rest content". In its second sense it implies that those who died correctly met the challenge of life and have therefore been allowed to pass into eternal life.
I know that Stephen Walter was educated at Wellington College otherwise I might have thought he was a Harrovian, perhaps his father was. This is because the refrain in one of Harrow's patriotic, school songs is, "Pass, Friend, All's well", which is used as a dedication on a memorial in the School. The second verse reads:

You stand where your brothers stood,
And pray where your brothers prayed,
Who fought with Death as brave men should,
Not boasting and not afraid.
For the blood and the lives that your brothers gave,
For the glory that you share,
The message comes from beyond the grave,
The challenge "Who goes there - you?
Pass, Friend, All's well."

There is another possible source, a piece of patriotic verse by "G.W.T.P." who is otherwise anonymous. This begins:

All's well, all's well with England!
Pass to your great reward,
All you whose lives were given
That freedom be restored.
Who faced your task undaunted,
And for our honour fell.
In answer to the challenge:
Pass, friend, all's well!

At 6.05 on the morning of 31 July 1917, DH5 no. B369, piloted by twenty-year-old Lieutenant Stephen Walter, took off from Droglandt to take part in a four-aircraft ground attack on the German lines. The cloud base was low and just north of Vlamertinge Walter's port wings were sheared off by an unseen balloon cable. The aircraft crashed to the ground and Walter was killed. Walter was an 'ace', having shot down six enemy aircraft during July 1917.
The only child of his parents, Stephen and Marion Walter, they dedicated a stained glass window to his memory in St Mary's East Farleigh and installed beside it his original battlefield grave marker, which his friends had made out of his aeroplane propeller.



My interest in Adie Wale was aroused by his exquisite stained glass memorial window by Richard J. Stubington in St Mary's Church, Lapworth, Warwickshire, which features in Peter Cormack's equally exquisite book Arts & Crafts Stained Glass. If he had such a beautiful and original memorial did he have an equally original inscription? It certainly comes from an unusual source even if the sentiment isn't unusual.
It comes from Killed in Action, by the writer and Liberal politician R.C.Lehmann, 1856-1929. Lehmann was a major contributor to Punch and this is where the poem originally appeared. It was then included in 'The Vagabond and Other Poems from Punch', published in 1918. 'Rupert', the subject of the poem, was a mature, married man killed leading his men over the top in an attack, Adie Wale was a single man aged 24 who was killed when a German plane bombed No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Doullens on the night of 29-30th May 1918. But despite these discrepancies, there are similarities that Adie Wale shares with 'Rupert':

"When the great summons came he rushed to arms,
Counting no cost and all intent to serve
His country and to prove himself a man."

Wale was an undergraduate at Oxford when the war broke out - a panel in the window shows him, encouraged by an angel, discarding his gown in order to join up. Wale abandoned his studies and was commissioned into the Royal Artillery on 13 October 1914. The window shows a gun crew in action and in another panel the wounded Wale being blessed by Christ.
Adie Wale, educated at Uppingham School, was the only son of William Henry Wale a Birmingham mattress manufacturer, who chose his inscription.



If Ivan Bennett had not had such distinctive initials his body would probably never have been identified. Shot in the head whilst leading an attack on Trones Wood on 13 July 1916 (this was the day of the attack in which he was killed even though the War Graves Commission gives his date of death as the 14th), his body was not recovered from the battlefield until it was discovered in December 1931. There was no identity disc on the body, which was wearing an officer's tunic with the buttons of The Queen's West Surrey Regiment, but among the effects discovered with it was a whistle, a cigarette holder and a pencil case engraved with the initials I.P.W.B.
Bennett was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. This cemetery was designed to hold the bodies of 300 French and 300 British soldiers of which only 61 British and 57 French bodies were identified. The intention was to symbolise the joint sacrifice made in this region by the soldiers of both nations, especially the unidentified 'missing' whose names were among the 72,000 recorded on the memorial.
Ivan Bennett's inscription was chosen by his cousin Mrs Dorothy Joyce Bousted (nee Husey-Hunt). His mother was still alive, widowed in 1908 when her husband, from whom she was separated, committed suicide in Bournemouth. Following which, Ivan, who was 17 and in the Lower Sixth at Wellington College, left school and became articled to a firm of solicitors in Guildford. On the outbreak of war he took a commission in The Queen's, went to France in July 1915, and was promoted Captain that November.
Ivan was one of five children, three boys and two girls. One of his brothers, Vere Cyril Wentworth Bennett, died of pneumonia in Italy in October 1918 whilst serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. His mother chose his inscription - "Honourable, loving and beloved". She was still alive when Ivan's body was discovered but neither she nor one of the sisters chose his inscription. In the 1901 census, ten-year-old Ivan is staying with his uncle and aunt and their five-year-old daughter Dorothy Joyce Husey-Hunt in Hove, Sussex. His parents and siblings were living in Bedford. Does this mean that his cousin had a particularly close relationship with Ivan, is this why she chose his inscription?
The lines come from 'Rupert Brooke', a poem by Alfred Dodd published in 1918 in a small collection called 'The Ballad of the Iron Cross'. The poem echoes the style and rhythms of Brooke's 'The Soldier' and outlines Dodd's belief in the survival of the spirit after death, not as in the Christian belief in eternal life but as in the world of Spiritualism.

"If I should die before I've reaped my mind
Of all its fruits - its tares as well as grain,
Think not half-empty hands have toiled in vain
A meagre harvest ... scattered to the wind!
Think not that destiny hath dealt unkind
With heart-emotions, ... surging thoughts of brain,
And that my sheaves are rotting in the rain,
Washed by the pitiless years I've left behind.

Think, rather, this: That I on other fields
Have joined the happy reapers who are free
To garner all the wealth that summer yields, ...
Thoughts beauteous with the fire of holy truth, ...
And, unafraid of winter, think of me,
Crowned with the sunshine of immortal youth."



This inscription comes from the first line of 'The Soldier's Dream' by Thomas Campbell, 1824-97. Private Campbell's mother chose it.

"Our bugles sang truce, for the night-cloud had lower'd,
And the sentinel stars set their watch in the sky;
And thousands had sunk on the ground overpower'd,
The weary to sleep, and the wounded to die."

And what was the soldier's dream?

"Methought from the battlefield's dreadful array
Far, far I had roam'd on a desolate track:
'Twas Autumn, and sunshine arose on the way
To the home of my fathers, that welcomed me back."

Surrounded by the sights and sounds of his home and his loved ones, the soldier vows never to leave it again. But then he wakes up and realises that it was all just a dream.

"But sorrow return'd with the dawning of morn,
And the voice in my dreaming ear melted away."

James Campbell served with the 13th Battalion the Royal Scots, a New Army battalion. He was killed when the regiment was in the trenches near High Wood where their casualties, from German shelling, were in the region of 30 a day.



The inscription is a quotation from George Meredith's 'The Thrush in February'. The poem itself is in a sense a Darwinian exposition of the purposes of life - to work throughout the generations for greater civilization, greater humanity. To this end, there are those who cleave the way and those who follow, "we breathe but to be sword or block". However, whilst this may be the meaning of the poem I believe the meaning of the inscription his father chose is much simpler, though very beautifully expressed - his son might be dead but he will not be forgotten.
Edward Holme was an engineering clerk before the war. He joined the 20th Battalion the Manchester Regiment, formed in November 1914, and after training crossed with them to France in November 1915. After a relatively quiet time, the regiment took part in the attack on 1 July 1916 in which 110 members of the regiment, including Edward Holme, were killed.



Jacques Montague D'Alpuget was killed in action in France on 17 July 1916. His sister, Blanche, chose his inscription. It comes from a poem by Nina Murdoch called 'Jacques', published in the University of Sidney magazine, 'Hermes', in August 1918, "In memory of Lieut. Jacques M. d'Alpuget (54th Battn. A.I.F.), Athlete and Soldier, killed in action in France. He lies buried in an old orchard, three miles behind the firing line".
Nina Murdoch, who became a well-known Australian traveller, journalist, author and broadcaster, was a friend of Jacques d'Alpuget's sister, Blanche. History does not relate what she was to Jacques.
The poem begins:

The calmness of the orchard's breast
Was broken for a little season,
When he that loved all clean things best -
Rigour of sport, the warrior's zest
And kindliness and gentle reason -
Was carried there to take his rest.

The writer takes comfort from the apple blossom spilling on his grave, the song-bird's trill and the sunbeams keeping "laughing watch" - "Where in this, is cause to weep?" The inscription comes from verse 4.

Now when summer swoons and sighs
Memory on him lays her finger.
Shut behind his quiet eyes
Are visions of Australian skies,
And when Spring days about him linger,
Boronia fragrance to him flies.



Leslie Coulson was a pastoral poet with a lyrical love of nature. Even after he went to war nature featured prominently in his poetry, it still referred to lanes and larks and cornflowers but against this now the guns thundered, the shells screamed and the dead lay, causing him to ask:

Who made the Law that men should die in meadows?
Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?
Who gave it forth that gardens should be boneyards?
Who spread the fields with flesh and blood and brains?

His father included this poem, found among Coulson's effects after his death, in the short collection he published in 1917: 'From an Outpost and Other Poems'.
Like so many soldiers, Coulson's life and war service was sanitised and romanticised by the people remembering him. His father wrote: "He was gentle and affectionate, and like all sympathetic natures shrank from inflicting pain", quoting his Colonel's words: "A gallant hero; one of the best men we ever had, loved and honoured by all". That may be, but Coulson himself didn't shirk the fact that his hands had been "trained to kill".
Leslie Coulson was a journalist, the assistant foreign editor of the London Standard. He enlisted in September 1914 went overseas in December and served in Malta, Egypt and Gallipoli before being sent to France in April 1916. By now with the 12th London Regiment, The Rangers, who were heavily involved on the Somme, Coulson was shot in the chest on 7 October in an attack on Dewdrop Trench and died the next day.
Frederick Coulson quoted from the opening lines of Milton's 'Samson Agonistes' for his son's inscription:

Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.

Nothing for tears? Only the fact that Leslie Coulson would never go home:

When I come home, and leave behind
Dark things, I would not call to mind,
I'll taste good ale and home-made bread,
And see white sheets and pillows spread.
And there is one who'll softly creep
To kiss me ere I fall asleep,
And tuck me 'neath the counterpane,
And I shall be a boy again
When I come home!
[When I Come Home. Leslie Coulson]



Before the war, Captain Baker DFC, MM and Bar was a clerk with the Bank of New South Wales. Enlisting in July 1915, he served originally with the 6th Australian Field Brigade. He won his first Military Medal in December 1916 and the Bar in June 1917. That September he applied to join the Australian Flying Corps as a mechanic and was accepted instead for flying training. He began active duty in June 1918 and was credited with seven aircraft and one balloon destroyed, and four planes brought down. Then on 4 November, when returning from a bombing raid, his plane was brought down behind enemy lines. His body was not recovered.
There is an extensive Australian Red Cross file on the incident, which is well worth reading. Extraordinarily it contains a request to the "Commanding General of the Flying Corps" from the Commander of Flying Squadron 5 for an acknowledgement of "the 26th air victory of the Airshipdriver Lieut. von Hantelman", who says:

"At 11.35 noon I attacked near Le Chesne a single-seated flying machine and shot it down. The adversary was smashed to pieces in falling down. von Hantelmann."

Why is the document in English, who is writing to who? The document is stamped Australian Red Cross Society, Prisoner of War Mission, Berlin W.8, Wilhelmstrasse, 70. Is it a translation of the German documents concerning the incident, translated so as to help the Red Cross locate Baker's body?
In September 1920 an unknown British Flying Officer's body was exhumed and reburied in Escanaffles Communal Cemetery. The exhumation report stated that the body was too broken and decayed for there to be any indication as to its hair colour or height, the clothing had rotted away and there was no identity disc, in fact there was nothing to identify the body other than the date of death, 6.11.18 - which wasn't of course the date Baker was shot down.
The bottom of the report has a pencil note - "Copy to Dame Livingstone". Dame Adelaide Livingstone was a remarkable American woman who, at the end of the war, "was appointed the Army Council head of the War Office mission to trace British soldiers reported as ‘missing’ in France and Flanders. In this capacity she travelled widely in Europe, managing a staff of officials from both Germany and England. Between 1920 and April 1922 she was assistant director of Graves Registration and Enquiries in central Europe, with headquarters in Berlin and with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. For her wartime services she was among the first women to be created DBE in 1918." [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography]
Thomas Baker's body was eventually identified and his mother was given the opportunity to chose an inscription. This comes from verse 6 of a poem written by Harold Begbie in 1905 called 'Trafalgar Day - the Good End':

Dishonour tarnished not his flag, no stain upon his battles lay,
Forth from the conflict, unashamed, he passed victorious on his way;
Forth from the conflict, unashamed, with thanks to God, without a sigh.
So died for England's sake, this man, and whispered it was sweet to die.
Draw near and mark with reverent mind
How die the Captains of Mankind.



Private Stone's inscription illustrates the impact of patriotic propaganda. Recruiting posters encouraged men to rally round the flag, whilst poetry from the South African War still cast its spell. Poems and Songs on the South African War (1901), featured an anonymous verse, The Union Jack, with the lines:

It's only a small piece of bunting,
It's only an old coloured rag,
Yet thousands have died for its honour,
And shed their best blood for the flag.

All this sentiment played into Private Stone's inscription but whereas for a soldier, 'the colours' usually mean the regimental flag, here it's the red, white and blue of the union flag around which, "Britons conquer, or die, but ne'er yield".

And how did Private Stone "shed his heart's blood"? A friend, reported:
"I saw him killed on the 30.12.17 at Warneton. He was caught by a shell and killed instantly. We were in the line at the time. I knew him very well, I went to school with him at Callie, W.A. His people are box manufacturers there. He was buried on New Year's morning at a little cemetery at Red Lodge near Warneton, I saw his grave, which was marked with a cross bearing his number, name and unit.
Pte. H Campbell 6423"
Report Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files



"Who is the happy warrior? Who is he, that every man in arms should wish to be?" Wordsworth asked the question in his 1807 poem and his answer was a man who was brave, modest, faithful, resolute, diligent and magnanimous, an honourable man, a man of high endeavour guided by reason and duty, a home loving man and thus "more brave for this, that he hath much to love".
A hundred years later and the term happy warrior had been transmuted through GF Watt's 1884 painting of the same name, and though numerous attributions to famous men whose lives had been triumphantly dedicated to noble struggles, into a widely used term of praise for a certain type of man, a thoroughly good sort..
Before the war, Stanley Russell had been a Unitarian minister at Ullet Road Church, Liverpool. In September 1914 he enlisted as a private in the Liverpool 'Pals' and in February 1915 was commissioned into the Herefordshire Regiment. He served in Gallipoli and Palestine and won the Military Cross in April 1917 during the First Battle of Gaza. He was killed in the second battle in November that year.
In an unpublished memoir by the Rev. Arnold H. Lewis, quoted in the Christmas 1918 edition of The Bookman, Stanley Russell is described as:
"a man of great personal charm and variously gifted: an accomplished reciter, a speaker and preacher of originality and power, a clever writer. He was unusually handsome and of a most engaging address. Unfailing good temper and a deep understanding of and love for human nature and an indomitable spirit gave him influence and leadership alike at the university, in the Church and in the Army".
Lewis's manuscript was lodged at Manchester College, Oxford and provides the information for
'Killed Fighting for their Country: Two Unitarian Ministers by Alan Ruston on the website Faith and Freedom.



This is a line from the third verse of Laurence Binyon's famous poem 'For the Fallen'. Published in The Times on 21 September 1914 the fourth verse has become as well known as any lines associated with the war:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Verse three reads:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their face to the foe.

Before the war, William Abbott worked as a clerk in the accounts office of the Great Eastern Railway. He joined up in January 1916 and was promoted Lance Corporal on 5 February 1917. He was killed in an attack on the heavily defended German trenches at Bucquoy a month later.

"At 11 am the following morning [15 March 1917] Col. Ward received orders to send two strong patrols forward into Bucquoy, and expostulated with the Brigade-Major, telling him that it was hopeless, and that the position was held in considerable strength, as the enemy had been seen moving about outside their trenches in the early morning. This was repeated to the Brigade Commander on the telephone, but the answer was that strong patrols must be sent. A platoon from "A" and "B" Companies was therefore sent forward in extended order at two o'clock in the afternoon. Before they had advanced some hundred yards they came under heavy fire, and of course lost heavily. This was reported to Headquarters and orders were received to move the Battalion towards Bucquoy, but no sooner did "D" Company show up in the open than they were heavily shelled. ...
It is difficult to speak too highly of the gallantry and dash with which "A" and "B" Companies advanced, though it seemed to everyone that men were being thrown away on a very hopeless undertaking."
The Honourable Artillery Company in the Great War 1914-1919 pp 304-5
Edited by Major G. Goold Walker DSO, MC
Published London 1930

I don't imagine that William Abbott's father, who chose his son's inscription, can have had any idea how well his choice of inscription matched the circumstances of his son's death: Staunch to the end against odds uncounted.



Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temple of his gods.
Horatius at the Bridge
Thomas Babbington, Lord Macaulay

Lance Corporal Hutchinson's inscription quotes Macaulay's famous poem, frequently anthologised in Victorian collections. The poem describes how, in a superb act of gallantry, Horatius prepared to sacrifice himself to save Rome but with great fortitude and endurance manages to save both himself and the city.
There was plenty of gallantry, fortitude and endurance shown by the Australians at Lone Pine between 5.30 pm on the 6 August 1915 and nightfall on the 9th. In their attempt to capture and hold the Turkish trenches, seven Australians won VCs and 2,300 were killed or wounded. In the end the Turks recaptured the trenches and the majority of the Australian dead lay out on the battlefield unburied until the end of the war. No one knows when many of them died so their date of death is given as 6/9 August, as is Lance Corporal Taylor's.
Johnston's Jolly Cemetery was created after the war when the bodies were brought in from the battlefield, but identification was virtually impossible. Of the 181 burials, 144 are unidentified. However, there are 36 named men whose graves carry the words 'Believed to be buried in this cemetery', Lance Corporal Taylor is one of these.



Whilst some inscriptions quote Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington that "The path of duty was the way to glory", others quote Gray's Elegy in Country Churchyard:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour: -
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Percy Edwin Ind died of wounds received in action on the first anniversary of the outbreak of the war. By this date deaths among British Empire forces amounted to something in the region of 117,293 men.



Second Lieutenant Edmund Cave's full inscription reads:

One moment stood he
As the angels stand
High in the immanence of air
The next - he was not
To the fatherland
Departed unaware

The inscription has 120 characters, including spaces, almost double the permitted number, which was 66. This means that Twitter couldn't carry it in full with its blog link, which is why I have written it out in full. The words come from the second verse of Frederic Myers' poem, On a Grave at Grindelwald, although the words of the inscription are not exactly the same as those of the poem - nor is the spelling of the word eminence.
Grindelwald, a village in the Swiss Alps, is the base for climbers wishing to climb the north face of the Eiger. The poem, which describes a climber's death, transfers rather well to that of an airman.

Here let us leave him; for his shroud the snow,
For funeral lamps he has the planets seven,
For a great sign the icy stair shall go
Between the heights to heaven.

One moment stood he as the angels stand,
High in the stainless eminence of air;
The next, he was not, to his fatherland
Translated unaware.

Edmund Cave was shot down whilst on a line patrol near Vignacourt, spotting and attacking tanks. Born in London where his father, also Edmund Cave, was a solicitor in Hatton Garden, Edmund Cave junior had gone to Canada for health reasons and at the time of the outbreak of war was managing a fruit ranch in British Columbia. He enlisted in the Canadian Infantry but on arrival in Britain transferred to the Royal Air Force. His uncle, Sir George Cave, was Conservative Home Secretary 1916-1919 in Lloyd George's cabinet. This might explain why Edmund Cave's parents felt they could disobey the restrictions of length of inscription. However, the evidence seems to show that providing you were prepared to pay the War Graves Commission were prepared to allow their ruling to be broken, whoever you were.



Private Frank Turner's inscription was chosen by his widowed mother, Fanny Turner. She kept the Tim Bobbin Hotel on Padiham Road, Burnley, where Frank was working as a waiter according to the 1911 census.
After the war, the hotel dedicated its own Roll of Honour to the 100 men associated with the house who had served in the war, with a framed photograph of the five who died. Frank Turner was wounded at Passchendaele Ridge and died in a Base Hospital at Etaples on 24 November 1917.
Frank Turner's inscription comes from Tennyson's Break, Break, Break, which was often quoted in memorial inscriptions both military and civilian for its perfect evocation of longing for a time and a person that can never return

Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue would utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill:
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.



Private Mayne's inscription comes from the third verse of Robert Browning's Epilogue:

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

Leonard Everard Mayne was born in Plymouth in 1893 where his father, Henry W Mayne was a dental surgeon. He enlisted in Valcartier, Quebec on 23 September 1914, giving his occupation as a bank clerk. His mother was by this time a widow living in Bexhill on Sea.



Allen Rhys Griffith's inscription is a quotation from Death, Be Not Proud, Holy Sonnet 10 by John Donne (1572-1631).

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'rt slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swellst thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Educated at Winchester College and commemorated on their website, Allen Rhys Griffiths was working on a tea plantation in Ceylon when the war broke out. He returned to Britain to volunteer in December 1914. Gazetted into the Royal Field Artillery in March 1915, he went out to France early in July and was killed the following month on 9 August 1915.
A Miss C. Griffiths confirmed his inscription. I would hazard a guess that she was a sister. His father had died in February 1919 and although mother was still alive it's Miss C. Griffiths of the Three Arts Club, Marylebone Road, London, who signed the form confirming the inscription. I wonder if his sister is the reason why Allen Rhys Griffith's original wooden cross hangs in the church in Wivelsfield, Sussex where neither Allen nor his parents ever appear to have lived.



Sidney Ravell was a labourer from Coogee, NSW. He enlisted in Holsworthy, now a suburb of Sydney, embarked for Europe on 20 December 1915 and died of wounds in hospital in Lijssenthoek on 29 October 1917.
His mother confirmed his inscription, which comes from Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage:

But these are deeds which should not pass away,
And names that must not wither, though the earth
Forgets her empires with a just decay,,
The enslavers and the enslaved, their death and birth;
The high, the mountain-majesty of worth
Should be, and shall, survivor of its woe,
And from its immortality look forth
In the sun's face, like yonder Alpine snow,
Imperishably pure beyond all things below.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Canto the Third LXVII
Lord Byron

Sidney Ravell's foster-brother, Michael Noble Smith was killed in action on 19 July 1916. He is buried in Ration Farm Military Cemetery, La Chapelle-D'Armentieres and his headstone carries the same personal inscription as Sidney Ravell's.



Comfort? comfort scorn'd of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
Locksley Hall,
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Private James Lamerton is buried in Brandhoek Military Cemetery. Constructed beside the Field Ambulance Dressing Stations, just behind the lines, this would imply that Private Lamerton died not long after being wounded at the front.



This epitaph comes from the final line of Robert Browning's 'Fifine at the Fair':
'I end with "Love is all and death is naught" quoth She'.
It was chosen by Captain Birdwood's wife Helen, the mother of his two children. Christopher Birdwood was fatally wounded on 4 June 1915 in an attack on Achi Baba. He died in a Casualty Clearing Station three days later.
Birdwood was one of the five children of William Spiller Birdwood, formerly of the Indian Army, all three of whose sons died before him: George was 22 when he died in 1910 following an operation; Gordon was 19 when he was killed in action on 19 September 1914 and Christopher, 33, when he died of wounds in Gallipoli in 1915. Their sister Gladys died in 1918, which left one surviving child, Elinor.
William Spiller Birdwood's brother was Herbert Birdwood whose son, Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood, was the commander of the ANZAC forces on Gallipoli when his cousin Christopher was killed.



Of such as he was, there be few on earth;
Of such as he is, there are few in Heaven:
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.
Extract from In Memoriam
In affectionate remembrance of
John William Spencer, Earl Brownlow, died 1867
By Gerald Massey 1828-1905

Captain Barrett was an Australian who served in the British army. On 13 April 1917 during the Second Battle of Arras he was injured in the leg whilst leading his men at Guemappe. He carried on until he was hit in the face by a bullet, which shattered his jaw and pierced his tongue. Even this did not stop him to begin with, as a brother officer wrote in a letter to his parents:

"Unable to speak, he sat down and delivered his orders in writing; it was only after seeing that everything was in order that he left the scene of carnage."

Sent back to a base hospital in Etaples, he died there three days later. In 1921 his diaries were published as 'The Diary of an Australian Soldier'. A memoir written by Henry Gyles Turner, a friend of Keith's parents, can be read here



Douglas Oliphant was a publisher who joined the Inns of Court OTC on 1 February 1915 as a private. He was later promoted sergeant and in November 1915 was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards. He was killed leading his men in an attack on the Somme. Douglas Oliphant's inscription comes from a twelve-verse ode by Ben Jonson, 'To the immortal memory and friendship of that noble pair, Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H Morison'. The relevant verse reads:

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make a man better be;
Or, standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log, at last, dry, bald, and sear:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far, in May,
Although it fall, and die that night;
It was the plant, and flower of light.
In small proportions, we just beauties see:
And in short measures, life may perfect be.



This is a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson's beautful poem 'My Wife':

Trusty, dusky, vivid, true,
With eyes of gold and bramble-dew,
Steel-true and blade-straight,
The great artificer
Made my mate.

Honour, anger, valour, fire;
A love that life could never tire,
Death quench or evil stir,
The mighty master
Gave to her.

Teacher, tender, comrade, wife,
A fellow-farer true through life,
Heart-whole and soul free
The august father
Gave to me.

Guy Farnden's wife, Edith, chose his incription, transferring the qualities Stevenson had bestowed on his beloved and greatly valued wife onto her own husband to whom she had been married for ten years.



This inscription, chosen by Captain Christian's wife, comes from a poem written at the time of the Boer War by William Alexander, the Protestant Primate of All Ireland. It's a long poem from which these are the relevant verses:

They who marched up the bluffs last stormy week,
Some of them, ere they reached the mountain's creek,
The wind of battle breathing on their cheek,
Suddenly laid them down.

Like sleepers - not like those whose race is run -
Fast, fast asleep amid the cannon's roar,
Them no reveille and no morning gun
Shall ever waken more.

The morning gun was fired at the same time as the first bugle note of reveille and summoned the soldier from sleep.



Sidney Scott was killed in action at Ginchy on 15 September 1916. The younger son of Isabella Scott, a widow, his elder brother, Basil, had been killed on 23 October 1914. Educated at Eton, on leaving school in October 1915 he took a commission in the Coldstream Guards and went with them to France in May 1916. His inscription is a quotation from Tennyson's Crossing the Bar, which reflects Tennyson's own quiet acceptance of his approaching death. Acceptance must have been very much more difficult for Isabella Scott whose sons were only nineteen and twenty when they were killed.

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning at the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.



This inscription comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Voluntaries, written in 1863. The relevant verse reads :

In an age of fops and toys,
Wanting wisdom, void of right.
Who shall nerve heroic boys
To hazard all in Freedom's fight, -
Break sharply off their jolly games,
Forsake their comrades gay,
And quit proud homes and youthful dames,
For famine, toil, and fray?
Yet on the nimble air benign
Speed nimbler messages,
That waft the breath of grace divine
To hearts in sloth and ease.
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.

The poem is Emerson's tribute to the young men who volunteered to fight for the Union in the American Civil War. The last four lines of the verse are among Emerson's best-known lines and regularly appear on memorials to veterans of all subsequent wars.
Alan Shaw volunteered on the outbreak of war in 1914. He was killed the following May by an unlucky ricochet from a stray bullet which pierced his spine.



These are the words Andrew Marvell used to describe the actions of King Charles I on the scaffold:

He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try.
Nor call'd the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless plight,
But bowed his comely head
Down as upon a bed.

I can't work out who the Mrs E Walton of 13 Gerard Road, Harrow, Middlesex, who chose this inscription, can have been. Ralph White never married so this isn't the name of his remarried widow under her new name. Whoever she was, however, she evidently intended to imply that forty-year-old Second Lieutenant White, who in the 1911 census had been an insurance agent in Gosforth, accepted his destiny with great dignity and without complaint. Forty is quite old to be a Second Lieutenant, had he been promoted from the ranks or perhaps he had only recently been conscripted.



Maxwell Green's parents have adapted a passage from Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book. During his lifetime this was Browning's best selling publication, a verse poem running to 21,000 lines. The subject of the poem is a seventeenth-century Roman murder case in which a husband is accused of killing his wife and her parents because he suspects she's been having an affair. The lines from which the inscription is taken read:

The heart and its immeasurable love
Of my one friend, my only, all my own,
Who put his breast between the spears and me.
Ever with Caponsacchi! ...
The day-star stopped its task that makes night morn!
O lover of my life, O soldier saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death!

The murdered wife is Pompilia and the man who is accused of being her lover, Caponsacchi, did indeed love and worship her but as one might love and worship the Virgin Mary. Caponsacchi is Browning's idea of heroic manhood - passionate, earnest and good hearted.
Maxwell Green was scarecely more than a school boy. He was educated at Haberdashers' Aske. The records say that he enlisted in August 1914 and further information relates that had attended the University of London and worked in insurance. As he was only 19 when he was killed I think it's more likely that he had a place at university but joined up instead and that the reference to insurance was to his father whose business if definitely was.



Edward Bodel's inscription quotes 'Life', a poem written by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825), or rather it nearly quotes it. I imagine there was no poetry book to hand and this is how the family remembered the lines. Barbauld was a very popular poet in the early years of the 19th century. In 'Life' she lightly questions what exactly life is:

Life! I know not what thou art,
But know that thou and I must part;
And when, or how we met,
I own to me's a secret yet.

Bodel's inscription comes from the final verse:

Life! we've been long together
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not Good night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me Good morning.

Edward Bodel was born in Shankill, Co. Antrim and lived in Belfast. He joined the army in 1905 when he was 19 and in 1911 was serving with the 6th Dragoons in India.



In his poem, 'The Character of the Happy Warrior', published in 1807, William Wordsworth enumerated the qualities of the soldiers on whom the security of Great Britain depended during the Napoleonic Wars. One hundred and ten years later he could have been describing the young men on whom Britain's security again depended.
Second Lieutenant Martin's inscription quotes Wordsworth's poem and can perhaps be best understood by reading the rest of the section in which it appeared. In answer to the the question, 'Who is the Happy Warrior? Who is he whom every man in arms should wish to be?' Wordsworth enumerated his numerous qualities, which included:
... who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which heaven has join'd
Great issues, good or bad for human-kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness like a Man inspired;
And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:

The lines had a great resonance with the soldiers of the First World War, as can be seen by the following letter, which Second Lieutenant Alexander Gillespie wrote to his father on the eve of an attack.

Trenches: September 24 1915
My Dear Daddy,
... Before long I think we shall be in the thick of it, for if we do attack, my company will be one of those in front, and I am likely to lead it; not because I have been specially chosen for that, but because someone must lead, and I have been in the company the longest. I have no forebodings, for I feel that so many of my friends will charge by my side, and if a man's spirit may wander back at all, especially to the places where he is needed most, then Tom himself will be here to help me ...
It will be a great fight, and even when I think of you, I would not wish to be out of this. You remember Wordsworth's 'Happy Warrior':
Who if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad, for human kind,
Is happy as a lover, and is attired
With sudden brightness like a man inspired.
Well, I never could be all a happy warrior should be, but it will please you to know that I am very happy, and whatever happens, you will remember that. Well, anything one writes at a time like this seems futile, because the tongue of man can't say all that he feels - but I thought I would send this scribble with my love to you and Mother.
Always your loving

'Bey', Alexander Gillespie, was killed the next day. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, hence he has no grave and no inscription. The Tom he refers to was his brother, Lieutenant Thomas Gillespie, who was killed in action on 18 October 1914 and also has no grave.



On 10 March 1915 the British army launched its first major planned offensive against the German lines. Soldiers from the Indian Army made up half the attacking force and suffered heavy casualties, the 39th Garhwal Rifles losing four officers and 120 men that day.
Captain Richard John Clarke, the son of Major Charles James Clarke, Royal Engineers, was born in Sydney, Australia in 1879. In 1911 he was serving with the 8th Rajputs in Hong Kong, and in 1914 he was in Peshawar. He was killed leading a frontal attack on the German trenches.
His inscription is adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, Requiem, which is inscribed on Stevenson's own grave in Samoa.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and glady die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.



Algernon Percy Clarke was killed by a German shell that burst in the room where he and two other officers were resting. His brother Harold Percival Clarke had been killed ten weeks earlier on the 9 May. Harold has no grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Algernon's inscription comes from Dedication, one of Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads. In the realm of the dead -

'Beyond the path of the outmost sun through utter darkness hurled -
Further than ever comet flared or vagrant star-dust swirled -
Live such as fought and sailed and ruled and loved and made our world.'

These dead have been 'cleansed of base Desire, Sorrow and Lust and Shame', but the latest to join their number came just as he had been on earth -

'He scarce had need to doff his pride or slough the dross of Earth -
E'en as he trod that day to God so walked he from his birth,
In simpleness and gentleness and honour and clean mirth.'



Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) Passage to India

Athelstan Moore, a professional soldier, served in the South African War where he was awarded the DSO. After this he served in West Africa and then in 1911 went to New Zealand as instructor to the Ortago Military District, serving with the Ortago Infantry. He went with them to Gallipoli in 1915 and then to France. In August 1916 he transferred to the Munster Fusiliers and then in April 1917 took command of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He died of wounds on 14 October 1918, the opening day of the Battle of Courtrai.
Married with one child, the form confirming his inscription was signed by his mother.



Commonly used today as a plea not to forget those who lost their lives in the First World War, this was not the original meaning of the words. They come from Rudyard Kipling's poem Recessional, written in 1897 the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. However, the poem was not a celebration of the Jubilee and of the Empire it was more a warning against pride, complaceny and jingoism. What Kipling intended his readers not to forget was what they owed to Christ, both by way of his teaching and his sacrifice. For, when 'the Captains and the Kings depart' and 'our navies melt away', the British Empire, like all other Empires, will pass away and may God forgive us for our boastfulness and arrogance if we have forgotten him. Interestingly, Kipling is seen as the poet of Empire, the proponent of the values he warned against - his detractors obviously haven't studied his poems very closely.



"An honest man's the noblest work of God" according to Alexander Pope (1688-1744) who wrote in Epistle IV of An Essay on Man:
A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod;
An honest man's the noblest work of God.
Fiftly years later, Robert Burns quoted Pope in his own poem, The Cotter's Saturday Night:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
"An honest man's the noblest work of God;"
Private Sloggett, a draper and mercer from Manildra New South Wales, was killed by shellfire whilst making breakfast in his dugout:
"He was a signaller attached to A Co. at the time of his death. I was in the Intelligence Section. We were at Co. HQ at Broodseinde Ridge, in a dug out, on 21st Oct. when he was blown up by a shell and killed outright. I saw his body and buried it right there. I put a little cross on the grave".
Private Dabell to the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau January 1918.
Both Sloggett's fate and the location of the grave were lost in the subsequent fighting, hence the Red Cross enquiry. However, it was redicovered in 1919 once the war was over and the task of recovering bodies from isolated and unidentified graves was begun. Sloggett was identified by his identity disc and reburied in Tyne Cot Cemetery.



Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife,
To all the sensual world proclaim
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

This poem, The Call, written by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1809) was at one time thought to have been written by Sir Walter Scott who used it as the motto to Chapter XIII in Volume II of An Old Mortality. W.E.Henley (1849-1903) certainly attributed it to Scott when he used it on the title page of Lyra Heroica, his collection of poetry for boys.
The phrase, which Harry Steane's mother has slightly misquoted, was frequently used as a shorthand to describe a certain type of person. Vera Britain used it to describe Roland Leighton:
"I know you're the kind of person who would risk your life recklessly; I was talking to someone a short time ago and I said I thought you were the kind who believes in the 'one glorious hour of crowded life' (sic) theory; is it true?" (Vera Brittain, Chronicle of Youth, 1981, page 139).

Harry Steane, who was born in Warrington, England, enlisted on 5 October 1914 in Australia. After his death his mother wrote, "But the best of all in my idea is he volunteered for his country at once and was in the first landing on Gallipoli and I think that is a very great honour".



Raymond Bayliss was a twenty-three-year-old farmer from Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia whose brother, Ernest Foord, was also killed. Raymond's inscription is a quote from Hallowed Ground by Thomas Campbell (1777-1844).
But strew his ashes to the wind
Whose sword or voice has served mankind,
And is he dead, whose glorious mind
Lifts thine on high?
To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.



"I was with Parsons in a trench near Zonnebeke ... I had just moved away from him for a moment when some shrapnel burst over us, and I saw Parsons hit in the throat and killed immediately ... We lifted Parsons from the trench on to the parapet and covered him up with his groundsheet. He was buried at dusk just behind our trench. I don't know if a cross is put up to him." This eye-witness account was given to the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau on 15 March 1918 by Private G Todd, in response to enquiries instigated by Sergeant Parson's wife.
It was Mrs Parsons who chose the inscription, the last two lines of 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' by Richard Lovelace 1618-1658.

Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of that chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this incontancy is such
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.



Hugh MacInnes's inscription is a quotation from a Gaelic song, a lament, 'Cumha na-h-Oighe', 'Lament for a Maiden'. Despite my best endeavours I had been unable to find a translation for it until Stuart Sinclair saw my Twitter plea. He took it to a Gaelic speaker, Stewart Macleod, who sent a complete translation of the song. The phrase 'Thug thu barrachd ann am beus', from the second verse, means, 'you displayed superiority in manners'. Although the song is written about the death of a young woman, the grief it describes is just as applicable to those mourning the death of a young man. The inscription appears to have been chosen by Mrs Flora MacInnes, Hugh's mother.

Maid of my heart, maid of my love!
Cold today is your resting place,
Your leaves have withered, your bloom has faded,
And they have laid you in the earth.
I am so grief-stricken and wretched,
Missing you night and day.
They locked my joy in the grave,
And neither lamenting nor sorrow will release her.

You were gentle, you were kind;
Every element was in love with you.
It was your soft smooth brow,
That first enticed my love for you.
You displayed superiority in manners,
You were fairer than hundreds.
Your form was without fault or blemish;
Sad is my state, missing you.

You have vanished, star of virtues,
You left the sky too swiftly;
It was the cloud of death that tore you from me,
And ill starred and melancholy is my course.
You were as a guiding light to me,
Radiant star, jewel of my eyes,
I am now like a rudderless ship,
With no harbour in mind without you.

But there is a sky up in heaven
Over which passes neither mist nor cloud;
A bright sky of the greatest beauty
And you will be radiant there anew.
Shine down into my heart
And guide me to the land
Where it is my desire to be with you,
Forever, without want, without care.
Calum MacPharlain 1853-1931

Private MacInnes enlisted in Canada where he had joined the Canadian Bank of Commerce in January 1911. Born and educated in Oban, Argyll, where his father was a crofter and the ferryman for the Kerrara-Gallanach ferry, Hugh MacInnes enlisted in Manitoba in January 1916. He was killed in action on 30 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele. He had already been wounded twice on that day but had voluntarily remained on duty.



This inscription is a quotation from 'Dedication', one of Rudyard Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads. The full line reads, "And they rise to their feet as He passes by, gentlemen unafraid". 'They' are those who have died, and 'He' is God, visiting the dead. And the sort of men the poet is talking about are those who:

"Borne on the breath that men call Death, my brother's spirit came.
He scarce had need to doff his pride or slough the dross of Earth
E'en as he trod that day to God so walked he from his birth,
In simpleness and gentleness and honour and clean mirth."

An excellent website dedicated to the history of the Royal Engineers lists Driver Light as having died, not died of wounds, on 29 October. It is my guess that he will have died from influenza.



Harold Jameson was 20 when he died and, according to his parents' entry in the Cemetery Register, he had been serving in France since 10 August 1914 when he was only 17. During that time he had been awarded the MC, DCM and the French Medaille Militaire. He was shot down over the German lines whilst directing artillery and crash landed in flames. His observor was killed outright and Harold died the next day in a Casualty Clearing Station in Lijssenthoek.
Harold was the brother of the novelist Storm Jameson. She dedicated 'A Richer Dust' (1931), the third novel in her trilogy 'The Triumph of Time', to his memory.
Harold's inscription comes from Shelley's 'Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats', with its comforting words to those who mourn a youthful death:
He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny, and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not again;
From the contagion of the world's slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain;
Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn,
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.



The lines come from 'Not Forgotten', a brief poem written by the Welsh bard Hedd Wynn, Private Ellis Humphrey Evans, to commemorate a friend killed in action in the early months of the war. The friend cannot have been Evan Evans because he was killed on the same day as Hedd Wyn himself.
Written in Welsh, the lines translate as, 'Neither his sacrifice nor his dear face will be forgotten. Mother'. The poem is inscribed on a plaque fixed to a statue of Hedd Wyn in his home town of Trawsfynydd. In translation it reads:

Neither his sacrifice nor his dear face will be forgotten
Though the Germans have stained their fist of steel in his blood



Mrs Bullock has modified a poem by Robert Burns, 'To Mary in Heaven', substituting her pet name for her son for that of Mary. In the poem, it is the anniversary of Mary's death and Burns is remembering his last meeting with her, little realising at the time that it would be his last.

Thou ling'ring star, with lessening ray,
That lov'st to greet the early morn,
Again thou usher'st in the day
My Mary from my soul was torn.
O Mary! dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?

Arthur Bullock died at the base hospital at Etaples from the effects of gas. Although Mrs Bullock has quoted from verse one, I have a feeling that the final verse would have echoed her own sentiments too:

Still o'er these scenes my mem'ry wakes,
And fondly broods with miser-care;
Time but th' impression stronger makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.



This is a line from 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard' by Thomas Gray (1716-1771). It was chosen by Private Gray's wife and implies that those who have achieved the trappings of greatness should not underestimate the value of those whose lives appear to have been more humble - John Gray may only have been a private but he played his part in life and in the war. It's the following stanza that is much better known and to which perhaps Mrs Gray wanted to draw attention:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour: -
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.



George Morris died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station at Estaires. His widowed mother chose his inscription. It would not have been the sort of inscription that the War Graves Commission originally had in mind. They were thinking in terms of simple dedications and religious texts. Nevetheless, although they had the power to censor inscriptions, they were happy with this one. And Mrs Morris wasn't the only person to choose it. It doesn't insult the Germans, the British Government, or the Army etc, it just laments man's inhumanity to man. The quotation comes from verse seven of 'Man Was Made to Mourn' by Robert Burns (1759-1796).

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!



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!



James Lincey had been in Tasmania for three years when he returned to Europe as a soldier in 1916. Born in Menstone-in-Wharfdale, England, he emigrated with his parents in 1913. His father died two years later. His mother therefore chose his inscription, "For ever England". The quotation is taken from the third line of Rupert Brooke's famous poem, The Soldier:
If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.



Sir Philip and Lady Henriques chose the last line of Rudyard Kipling's patriotic, 1914 poem, For All We Have and Are, for their son's headstone inscription:

No easy hope or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sacrifice
Of body, will, and soul.
There is but one task for all -
One life for each to give.
What stands if freedom fall?
Who dies if England live.

They used the same quotation in a memorial window to their son in St Mark's Church, Normandy, Surrey. Lieutenant Philip Henriques died in a casualty clearing station at Lijssenthoek of wounds received in the Second Battle of Ypres.