ROMAN CATHOLIC PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD
O MOST COMPASSIONATE
GRANT HIM ETERNAL REST
"Our Wally" had the most splendid Christian name: Wallenstein, it was his mother's maiden name.
Wallenstein Ryan-Lewis was a qualified Mining Engineer and a member of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. From various mentions in the The Mining Magazine you can see that in 1912 he was working for the Amo Tin Mines in Northern Nigeria, and that in early 1914 he was "returning to Russia".
He served with the 284th Army Troops Company, a pool of Royal Engineers held at Army level as, if I have understood their role correctly, technical consultants for some of the big military engineering and construction projects: heavy bridges, railway systems, water supplies etc. Ryan-Lewis was a valuable man.
He died of wounds on 25 March 1918. I haven't found any information about his death but the citation for the award of his Military Cross is both significant and suggestive.
The enemy having captured a village, he counter-attacked, under heavy shell fire, established his company in front of it, and dug in. He held the position with great courage and coolness, for seven hours, and till nearly surrounded, and then successfully withdrew. Whilst holding the position he was wounded.
London Gazette 29 July 1918
First of all, what was a Royal Engineer doing counter-attacking with his company and holding out for seven hours before withdrawing? This is not the normal role of a Sapper in wartime. And, was the wounding referred to the cause of his death? The date of his death, 25 March 1918, makes me wonder if he was wounded on that day, the day the German Spring Offensive reached Noyon. The rate of their advance eventually leading General Haig to issue his famous 'backs to the wall' order on 11 April:
There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.
In the face of the German attack was it a question of all hands to the deck, is that why Captain Ryan-Lewis RE found himself fighting in the role of an infantry officer? The location of his burial would certainly support this. He was originally buried in Noyon Old British Cemetery, a cemetery made by the 46th Casualty Clearing Station and the 44th Field Ambulance, close to the railway station in the town. Noyon fell to the Germans and the identity of the men's graves was lost in the subsequent fighting. After the war the bodies were exhumed and reinterred in Noyon New British Cemetery with the words 'Buried near this spot' on their headstones.
Ryan-Lewis's sister, Evelyn, chose his inscription. The first part quotes his diminutive in inverted commas, the second part a classic Roman Catholic formula, which would suggest that the family were Roman Catholics.
SWEET JESUS HAVE MERCY
ON HIS SOUL
Although I have no firm evidence for this, I would suggest that Patrick John Archdeacon was a Roman Catholic since this is a classic Roman Catholic inscription. Archdeacon died when his ship, HMS Black Prince, bombarded at close range by at least five German ships during the night of 31 May 1916, caught fire and sank off the coast of Jutland. As the circumstances of his death denied him the last rites - the necessary prayers and rituals that prepared a soul for death - Archdeacon's mother chose this formulaic prayer for her son's headstone in the hope that it would ease the progress of his soul through purgatory.
Archdeacon's is the only war grave in the churchyard in Stenbjerg, a remote community in Jutland on the west coast of Denmark. There is another member of the Black Prince crew buried at Skagen on the most northerly tip of Jutland, one in Kviberg, Sweden and two in Norway, one close to the Swedish border at Fredrikstad and one just to the west at Tonsberg.
Patrick John Archdeacon, born in Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland, joined the Royal Navy in 1900 whilst he was still 16. Aged 17 he was serving on the battleship HMS Majestic stationed at Gibralter and in 1911 was at HMS Fisgard, the naval training establishment at Portsmouth. He qualified as a petty officer in December 1911 and had been on the Black Prince since 4 April 1914.
SACRED HEART OF JESUS
HAVE MERCY ON HIS SOUL
Officer Killed in the Fog
A verdict of "Accidental Death" was returned at a Kensington inquest yesterday on the body of Lieutenant Chas. Sydney Morgan, aged 29, of the R.F.C. (sic), whose home was at Walton, Liverpool.
In the dense fog last Thursday night Mr Morgan stepped off the platform at West Brompton (District) Station, and was crushed between the wheels of a Wimbledon train and the live rail. In order to extricate him the officials had to raise the coach with jacks, and this took an hour. It was found that his toes had been crushed, his thigh broken, and that he was badly burned by the current. He died two days later.
The Times February 6 1918
O SACRED HEART OF JESUS
HAVE MERCY ON HIS SOUL
James Saddington was a Roman Catholic and it was his mother who chose a classic Roman Catholic text for his inscription. The manner of his death, killed in action, would have deprived him of the last rites so the text was therefore a plea to Jesus to secure his path through purgatory.
REQUIESCAT IN PACEM
Lieutenant Dease was awarded one of the first two Victoria Crosses of the war for his actions on the 23rd August. The citation reads:- "Though two or three times badly wounded he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd August, until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds." The London Gazette, 16 November 1914. The Latin words of the inscription translate as 'may he rest in peace' and come from the Roman Catholic service for the burial of the dead.
SON OF THE 7TH EARL OF GRANARD
KILLED AT MONS R.I.P.
OF YOUR CHARITY
PRAY FOR HIS SOUL
Captain Forbes was killed on the first day of the Battle of Mons, Britain's first engagement of the war. The Earldom of Granard is an Irish peerage but relatively unusually the family were Roman Catholic as Captain Forbe's inscription indicates.