WHAT'S BRAVE - WHAT'S NOBLE
HE DID IT - AND MADE DEATH
PROUD TO TAKE HIM
Godfrey Goodwin joined the Royal Navy just before he became 18 in August 1916. He served initially as a naval rating on torpedo patrol boats until October 1917 when he began pilot training in the Royal Naval Air Service. After three days leave he went to France on 1 March 1918 and died 'whilst flying' eleven days later.
A friend wrote to tell his parents that he'd heard that,
"Godfrey was landing from his fourth or fifth raid on enemy territory on the morning of the 12th inst, when his engine choked, igniting or exploding the petrol tank. And you may take it that he had not a sporting chance of escaping death."
His commanding officer said of him that,
"He was a steady painstaking officer, quick at learning the art of flying, brave and confident in himself, and with his machine he made rapid progress in his course, getting through in under five months. Your son chose the most dangerous branch of the service, and it is wonderful to see these young men eager to serve their Country and so willing to make the supreme sacrifice. My sympathy is but a poor comfort in your irreparable loss."
Godfrey Goodwin, born in Kings Norton, Birmingham on 1 August 1898, was the eldest child of John Goodwin, a commercial traveller in soap, and his wife, Mary Whitehouse. His father chose his inscription from some lines Cleopatra speaks towards the end of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra, as she contemplates following Anthony and killing herself:
"and then, what's brave, what's noble
Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,
And make death proud to take us."
Much of this information for this article has been taken from the Nottinghamshire County Council 'Roll of Honour' site.
"LET ALL THE ENDS
THOU AIM'ST AT BE
OF THY COUNTRY'S, THY GOD'S
Horace Ellis's mother chose a quotation from Shakespeare's Henry VIII for her son's inscription. In the play, the time has come for Thomas Cromwell to say farewell to his mentor, Cardinal Wolsey. To Cromwell, Wolsey has been a good, noble and true master. But Wolsey has some advice for him - "fling away ambition: by that sin fell the angels":
Be just and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's; then if thou fall'st,
Thou fall'st a blessed martyr!
For all their current obscurity, one wouldn't have to have known Shakespeare to know these lines. They featured in dictionaries of quotations, as mottos for newspapers, as dictation exercises for school children, passages to be learnt off by heart for elocution lessons or to be written out in handwriting copy books.
Before the outbreak of war, Horace Ellis was a lithographic artist working for a general printers. He was also a member of a territorial regiment, the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry. Serving with them, he reached the rank of acting sergeant before he took a commission in the Machine Gun Corps, serving with the 6th Squadron. He was killed on 9 October 1918 in the Second Battle of Le Cateau. The first battle had taken place on 26 August 1914, twenty-two days after he outbreak of war, and was part of the British army's fighting withdrawal. The town remained in German hands until the last month of the war..
O GOD OF BATTLES
William Windsor's younger brother, George, chose his inscription from Shakespeare's Henry V. It comes from the first line of Henry's prayer on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt:
O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed number
Pluck their hearts from them.
It's a prayer for bravery in the face of a forthcoming battle.
Corporal William Windsor, served with the 20th Battalion Manchester Regiment, part of the 25th Division, and took part in the capture of Beaurevoir on 5 October 1918. He died in German hands the next day and was buried with eleven other members of the 20th battalion in Beaurevoir Communal Cemetery German Extension - eleven men: one sergeant, five corporals and eight privates all buried in one grave marked by two crosses. It wasn't until 1924 that the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Beaurevoir British Cemetery.
Windsor was born in Openshaw and grew up nearby in Gorton, Manchester. His father was a horsekeeper for the corporation and Windsor himself was a dental technician. He volunteered before the introduction of conscription, entering a theatre of war, France, on 9 November 1915, which entitled him to the 1915 Star. The battalion moved to Italy in November 1917 and only returned to France three weeks before Windsor was killed.
HIS BODY TO FAIR FRANCE
HIS PURE SOUL
UNTO HIS CAPTAIN CHRIST
The name Bernard Richard Penderel-Brodhurst has a particular air about it, something that would seem to be totally appropriate for the heir to the perpetual pension settled on his ancestor, Humphrey Penderel, for his services in concealing King Charles II and aiding his escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Penderel-Brodhurst was the only surviving son of James George Joseph Penderel-Brodhurst, the editor of The Guardian. His brother, Charles, had died at the age of 17 in 1899. Educated at St Paul's, Bernard was articled to a firm of architects when the war broke out. He enlisted three weeks later and served in Britain until, having been commissioned into the Royal Engineers in July 1917, he went with them to France in April 1918.
On the evening of 1 October Penderel-Brodhurst was in an area of the front line that was not thought to be dangerous when he was shot by a sniper concealed in a pill-box no more than 40yards away. He died three hours later having never regained consciousness - three days before his 28th birthday and his first wedding anniversary.
His inscription comes from Shakespeare's Richard II. The words are spoken of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk by the Bishop of Carlisle who tells Bolingbroke that the exiled Norfolk is dead:
Many a time hath banish'd Norfolk fought
For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field,
Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross
Against black pagans, Turks and Saracens;
And toil'd with works of war, retir'd himself
To Italy, and there, at Venice, gave
His body to that pleasant country's earth,
And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
Under whose colours he had fought so long.
Penderel-Brodhurst may have been buried in France rather than Venice but his father, who chose the inscription, believed that his son too had been fighting for Christ.
WHY THEN, GOD'S SOLDIER BE HE!
Arthur Jagger's inscription, chosen by his father the former headmaster of Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Mansfield, comes from Macbeth Act 5 Scene 8:
ROSS: Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt:
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.
SIWARD: Then he is dead?
ROSS: Ay, and brought off the field: your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end
SIWARD: Had he his wounds before?
Ross: Ay, on the front.
SIWARD: Why then, God's soldier be he!
Had I as many sons as I have hairs
I would not wish them to a fairer death:
And so, his knell is knoll'd
Siward's pride in the manner of his son's death - his wounds were in the front of his body not in his back - overcomes any feeling of grief he may have had for his death. Could the Jaggers have been so insouciant about their own son's death; Arthur was their only child.
Jaggard was educated at Malvern College from where he went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in January 1917. That December he was commissioned into the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, joining them in France on 27 June 1918. He died on 1 October 1918 of wounds received the previous day, 30 September. The battalion war diary gives a perfunctory report of that day:
30 September 1918
A & D companies under light barrage took part in an operation and successfully advanced line taking 10 prisoners and 1 machine gun. Our casualties were 3 officers wounded (of whom 1 died of wounds) 11 other ranks killed & 38 other ranks wounded.
I am assuming that Jagger was the officer who died of wounds. He's buried at Chocques Military Cemetery, which in September 1918 was a field ambulance cemetery for casualties who hadn't got very far down the casualty evacuation chain.
FEAR NO MORE
THE HEAT O' THE SUN
NOR THE FURIOUS
These words, from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, are spoken by Guiderus over the body of Cloten who he has just killed:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldy task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Guiderus' brother, Arvirargus, speaks the next lines and together they complete what is now best known as a poem, without the separate speaking parts.
Long before Shelley assuaged his grief for the death of John Keats in his poem Adonais with the assurance that 'He hath awaken'd from the dream of life':
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.
And Binyon attempted to comfort those mourning the dead of the First World War with the thought that:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grown old:
Age shall not weary them or the years condemn.
Shakespeare was assuring those who mourned that at least nothing could ever hurt the dead again and that they would now never have anything to fear.
Johnston Hughston, also known as John and Jack, was an Australian doctor, a former pupil of Scotch College, newly qualified from the University of Melbourne. Scotch College have a detailed biography of him on their website from which I shall quote.
Johnston and his brother Edward, also a doctor, were among a group on one hundred Australian doctors who went to England in 1915 to help support Kitchener's New Armies. They were all on one year contracts. Johnston joined the 68th Field Ambulance and went with it to Salonika in October 1915. In April 1916 his contract with the army came up but he signed on again.
In May 1918 he went home to Australia for a few weeks in order to recover from malaria. He returned to the Salonika front and on 3 August was wounded in the chest by a shell fragment. He spent a month in hospital before returning to the front when he was again hit by shrapnel whilst visiting some advanced dressing stations. Although he was with another doctor who immediately did what he could, and was despatched to hospital as quickly as possible, he died nineteen hours later.
His mother chose his inscription, but added to the War Grave Commission records the comment that he was 'A young Australian who freely gave his life when duty called'. Johnston Hughston was one of eight of the original hundred doctors to die.
FATE RULES OUR DESTINIES
ROUGH HEW THEM AS WE MAY
This isn't exactly what Shakespeare's Hamlet says in Act 5 Scene 2 but I'm sure that Mrs Elizabeth Bratt had Hamlet's words in mind when she chose her husband's inscription.
Hamlet, speaking to his friend Horatio, says that however much we might attempt to 'rough hew' our destinies, control them ourselves, it is God who in fact does so:
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will
I wonder whether Mrs Bratt mis-remembered Shakespeare's words or whether she made a conscious decision to ascribe fortune to fate rather than to God. But, had Mrs Bratt seriously not believed in God, she would have told the War Graves Commission that she didn't want a cross on her husband's grave; it was only a matter of saying 'yes' or 'no' beside the question on the Family Verification Form. There is a cross on Richard Bratt's grave, which would suggest that Elizabeth Bratt was no atheist. It could be that she preferred to think that 'fate' had removed her husband from her, not God. The popular headstone inscription, 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee' was not for her.
The couple had been married for nine years and in the 1911 census had a ten-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. Richard was a letter-press printer and the couple lived in Islington. His medal card indicates that he didn't join a theatre of war until 1916. In August 1918 he was serving with the 5th Battalion London Regiment. On the night of the 26th/27th August the battalion made a frontal attack on the German trenches in front of Croisilles. The battalion war diary speaks of heavy casualties from machine gun fire. Bratt died of wounds on the 27th.
I SWEAR HE IS TRUE-HEARTED
AND A SOUL NONE BETTER
IN MY KINGDOM
People often ask me if there's a difference between the inscriptions chosen by the families of officers and those chosen by the families of soldiers. In answer I say that it would be less usual for an officer's family to choose something like, "Too dearly loved to be forgotten", or "A silent thought a secret tear will keep his memory of ever dear" but that doesn't mean that the more literary inscriptions come from officers' families. Private Walls' is a case in point.
Mrs Mary Jane Walls chose her husband's inscription and it comes from Shakespeare's Life of King Henry VIII, Act 5 Sc. 1. The King says of Archibishop Cranmer, in his presence, that:
"He's honest, on mine honour. God's blest mother!
I swear he is true-hearted; and a soul
None better in my kingdom."
The context is not relevant to Private Wall's inscription, which doesn't alter the fact that the choice of this quotation is not only very appropriate but also very original.
William Walls was a coal miner, a hewer of coal, so someone who actually worked underground at the coal face. He volunteered when he was 37, before the introduction of conscription, and entered a theatre of war on 25 September 1915. He served with the 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. This was originally a bantam battalion, one that was formed from men below the minimum height requirement for a soldier. This varied over the first few months of the war, originally being 5'3" before settling on 5'2". Many of Walls' fellow soldiers were also miners.
Walls was killed in action on 22 October 1917 in the British attack on Poelcapelle.
THE REST IS SILENCE
This is a very bleak inscription however you look at it. These are Hamlet's dying words from Shakespeare's play of the same name. Of all the possible meanings the words could have they certainly mean that for Hamlet, once he's dead, the voices in his head, the guilt, the anguish he has felt ever since his father's death, will be over. What did Private Gibson's father intend them to mean?
Gibson served with the 6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment which attacked from an assembly line NE of Naves at 9 am on 11 October 1918. The war diary notes the initial lack of resistance and the number of German prisoners that flocked back. However, at mid-day the Germans counter-attacked with tanks, forcing the British to withdraw 500 yards to the sunken road. But overnight the Germans withdrew to a new position.
There are 53 casualties of the 11 October 1918 in Iwuy Communal Cemetery, all but three of them from the West Riding or West Yorkshire Regiments. By this stage in the war the number of German soldiers giving themselves up was very notable and, despite the fact that they were able to mount a counter-attack, the German withdrawal to a new line meant that the end was nearing. There was just exactly one month more of the war to go.
So what might Mr John Gibson, a railway worker from Newcastle on Tyne, have meant by his son's inscription? That death was the end - certainly; that there was nothing after it, no eternal life - perhaps. Perhaps it was also a reference to spiritualism, a refutation that there was or ever could be any contact with the dead, his son was gone and forever. As I said at the beginning - it's a bleak inscription.
NEVER TASTE OF DEATH
The words of this inscription come from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, begs him to stay at home because she fears for his life. Caesar replies:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
The inscription, chosen by Gunner Moore's father a fisherman from Gravesend in Kent, is a literary way of saying that his son was a brave man, who knew the risks he was taking when he enlisted in November 1915. Moore wasn't an original volunteer but by November 1915 he knew conscription was coming and joined up before he was called up.
I'm curious about this inscription, or rather about the Moores. They weren't obviously educated people - both father and son were fishermen, sister was a servant, mother was 'at home', yet they have chosen an eloquent, original and appropriate inscription that I haven't noticed before.
Moore served with the 96th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, which went to France in May 1916, whether Moore was with it at that date is never easy to ascertain but he was certainly with it when he died of wounds on 16 August 1917. The Battery had newly transferred to the Canadian Corps and in mid-July was at Lievin. The Historical Record of 96th Siege Battery R.G.A. records the circumstances of his death:
"On the night of August 14th, the eve of the assault [on Hill 60], the Battery was heavily shelled with gas and H.E. In spite of this, 120 rounds were fired and many lorries of ammunition unloaded. Bombardier Staines, Gunner Wain, Gunner Neill, and Gunner Moore were killed on this most unpleasant night, and Gunner Taylor was wounded."
According to the CWGC records, Gunner Moore died of wounds, which is born out by the fact that he's buried in a Casualty Clearing Station Cemetery and that his date of death is given as the 16th, not on either the 14th or the 15th, the night of the heavy shelling.
THEY WHO LEAVE THEIR
VALIANT BONES IN FRANCE
SHALL BE FAMED
Sapper Bayley's mother has contracted a speech from Shakespeare's Henry V to make an appropriate and original inscription for her son. Montjoy, the French herald, has just taunted Henry with the image of his soldiers poor dead bodies, which will soon lie festering in the fields of France. Henry retorts that he's quite sure many of his soldiers will return home to die in the fulness of time in their English beds:
And those that leave their valiant bones in France,
Dying like men, though buried in your dunghills,
They shall be famed;
Bayley, a clerk in a brewery at the time of the 1911 census, was the son of a tool maker in a nut and bolt works. His medal card indicates that he didn't enter a theatre of war until 1916 even though he served with the 9th North Midland Field Company, a territorial company of the Royal Engineers.
Bayley was killed on 9 August 1917 in the continuing Battle of Arras. He was originally buried on the outskirts of the town at St Laurence Blangy . His body was moved to Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery in 1924.
SLEEP THAT KNITS UP
THE RAVELL'D SLEAVE
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast -
Sleep has the ability to sort out the tangled threads of our lives, it provides us with relief from our troubles, it soothes our minds - as of course does death, although with death the 'solution' is permanent. The quotation comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth Act 2 Sc. 2. The words are spoken by Macbeth who, by murdering Duncan, fears he has murdered his ability to sleep and so will no longer be able to benefit from its soothing balm.
I can tell you very little about Trooper Norris. The War Graves Commission do not appear to have an age for him nor the details of his parents, neither their name nor their address. His inscription was chosen by a Miss MJ Norris of 76 Chapter Road, Cricklewood NW2 - a sister or an aunt perhaps. However, his medal roll index card tell us enough - he was entitled to the 1914 Star having arrived in France on 6 October 1914, and he died on 11 September 1917. The cause of death? "Suicide whilst temporarily insane". Trooper Norris's 'hurt mind' had been unable to find peace in this life and so he had chosen to end it.
O MONSTROUS WORLD
TO BE DIRECT AND HONEST
IS NOT SAFE
Alfred Dunne's father, Frederick, chose his inscription. Alfred was the fourth of his seven sons to die during the war and a fifth was to die in February 1918. There is no evidence that the first, William Oscar Dunne, was a soldier when he died in Kingston, Surrey, but the other four were. Arthur was killed in action on 13 May 1915, Walter Edwin died of pneumonia on 18 October 1915, Alfred died of wounds in October 1917 and Montague died of wounds in February 1918. Frederick Dunne was entitled to call it a 'monstrous' world.
The inscription comes from Shakespeare's Othello, Act 3 Sc. 3, where it is spoken by Iago who, far from being direct and honest, is a scheming liar. So what can Major Frederick Dunne, a long-serving soldier who was promoted from the ranks at the outbreak of war, have meant by his choice? Is he questioning his reward for being a loyal subject? And does the fact that Alfred was only 17 when he died have anything to do with what sounds very much like bitterness?
The Surrey Advertiser, 27 October 1917 suggests further evidence for this view: in reporting Alfred's death it mentions that two of Major and Mrs Dunne's son-in-laws have also been killed in the war.
O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world,
To be direct and honest is not safe.
I thank you for this profit, and from hence
I'll love no friend, sith love breeds such offence.
"THE ELEMENTS BE KIND TO THEE
AND MAKE THY SPIRITS
ALL OF COMFORT"
Arnold Bloomer's inscription comes from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra: an appropriate source for someone who was educated at Shakespeare's own school - King Edward's Stratford-upon-Avon. They are the words Octavius speaks to his sister Octavia in Act 3 Sc. 2 as she leaves Rome with her new husband Antony:
Farewell, my dearest sister, fare thee well:
The elements be kind to thee, and make
Thy spirits all of comfort! fare thee well.
Bloomer died on 3 August 1917, the Birmingham Daily Post reported his death under the headline: Casualties Among Midland Officers.
Lieutenant Arnold Grayson Bloomer of the Lincolns, who received a mortal wound on 31 July, was the second son of Mr. and Mrs. G.F. Bloomer of Stratford-on-Avon, and grandson of the late Mr. George Yates, surgeon, of Birmingham. He was educated at King Edward VI's School, Stratford-on-Avon, and on the outbreak of war he joined a Birmingham City Battalion. After training he was given a commission and went to France, where he remained for about eighteen months. He came home on sick leave, under-went a serious operation, and returned to France in May last. He was 31 years of age.
Bloomer received his 'mortal wound' on the opening day of the Passchendaele Campaign, 31 July 1917. He died at a Casualty Clearing Station at Brandhoek, three days later after receiving all possible care and attention as his parents were assured by both a sister and a chaplain of 32 Casualty Clearing Station, Brandhoek, .
"LET DETERMINED THINGS
TO DESTINY HOLD
UNBEWAILED THEIR WAY"
Henry Hannaford Scholey chose a beautifully phrased, fatalistic statement from Shakespeare's 'Anthony and Cleopatra' for his brother's headstone inscription. It comes from Act III. vi. 82. Caesar tells his sister Octavia:
Be ye not troubled with the time, which drives
O'er your content these strong necessities;
But let determined things to destiny
Hold unbewailed their way.
Abraham Lincoln might have put it more prosaically but fundamentally he was saying much the same thing when he would quote one of his favourite aphorisms: "What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree".
Lance Corporal Gilbert was killed on the third day of the Somme campaign. At 3 am on the morning of 3 July, the 10th Worcestershire Regiment attacked at La Boiselle. The attack witnessed savage hand to hand fighting and saw two Victoria Crosses awarded. By the end of the day the Worcesters had taken the village - and 116 men from the battalion had been killed .
Henry Hannaford Scholey was Sidney Claude Gilbert's brother (and by the time he chose his brother's inscription he had emigrated to Australia). Sidney's parents were called Max and Helen Scholey, so why was he called Sidney Gilbert? I don't know the answer but it looks as though the Scholey family had begun to disintegrate by 1901. Helen Scholey was dead: Max Scholey was now married to someone called Winnie and they had a one-year-old child called Hector. By 1911 Hector was living with his married step-sister and there is no sign of Max or Winnie. And, in neither the 1901 or the 1911 census is there any mention of a child called Sidney Claude Scholey. Yet, in the UK Register of Soldiers' Effects, Sidney's name appears as Sidney Claude Gilbert, alias Scholey. And what is more, he's definitely of the correct family because he leaves his money divided between his brothers and sisters, including little Hector.
HE WAS A MAN
TAKE HIM FOR ALL IN ALL
I SHALL NOT LOOK UPON
HIS LIKE AGAIN
It has been very difficult to identify Frank Ford and I'm not sure that I have. This is a pity because he has a very beautiful inscription. It was chosen for him by 'Mrs Ford' and I'm definitely not sure who she was. The War Graves Commission says that his parents were William and Rebecca Ford 'of Birmingham'. I thought I may have found him in the 1871 census as a six-year-old boy born in Paddington and living with his widowed mother, Rebecca, who was 44. The records don't mention a wife so it could have been this Rebecca Ford who was the Mrs Ford who chose his inscription. However, in 1919 but she would have been over 90. This Frank Ford grew up to be a London warehouseman, which is another reason why he doesn't fit very well.
Another problem in identifying Frank Ford has been his age. If he was 47 when he died of pneumonia in 1918 then he was not six in 1871. Nor can he have been 26 in 1881 when a Frank Ford is listed as being a soldier in Canaley Barracks, Chorlton, Manchester. In 1891 there is a Frank Ford aged 26 who is a gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery in Eastney Barracks, Portsea. Then in 1901 there is a Sergeant Frank Ford, aged 31, serving in the R.M.L.I. in Gibralter. This could be our man but according to the census he was married, which the War Graves Commission doesn't mention. This Frank Ford would fit with our Ford holding the rank of Quartermaster Captain in 1918 as this is a rank traditionally held by someone commissioned from the ranks. Had he left the marines by 1914 or is he someone completely different altogether?
His beautiful inscription comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hamlet and his friend Horatio are discussing Hamlet's dead father and Horatio says: 'He was a goodly king', to which Hamlet replies:
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
FRAMED IN THE PRODIGALITY
YOUNG, VALIANT, WISE
With these words, Shakespeare's Richard III describes the young prince Edward of Westminster, killed fighting for the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471:
A sweeter and lovelier gentleman,
Framed in the prodigality of nature,
Young, valiant, wise and, no doubt, right royal,
The spacious world cannot again afford;
Nature richly endowed this young man with every gift it could bestow, it will never be able to afford to be so lavish again.
Joseph Polack chose this inscription. He and his wife, Sophia, lost two of their sons in the war, Ernest's elder brother, Benjamin, had been killed in Mesopotamia only three months earlier on 9 April 1916. Sophia herself died on 28 March 1918, before the end of the war.
Joseph was a schoolmaster, a Jewish minister and the master of the Jewish boarding house at Clifton College, Bristol. Both his parents were German Jews, born in Hamburg, who had come to England in 1853.
Two letters from Ernest Polack survive, both published in Laurence Housman's 'War Letters of Fallen Englishmen', and in both of them he quotes Shakespeare. In one, to the father of a friend who has been killed, he quotes Friar Francis from 'Much Ado About Nothing', and in the other, his last letter to his parents on the eve of the opening of the Battle of the Somme, from 'Anthony and Cleopatra', 'Julius Caesar', and a misquote from 'Hamlet'. It therefore only too appropriate that his father should quote from Shakespeare for him.
Benjamin Polack has no grave and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.
THOU THY WORDLY TASK
HOME ART GONE
AND TA'EN THY WAGES
Donald Morrison's mother chose his inscription, an extract from the first verse of a beautiful funeral poem, Fear No More the Heat of the Sun, from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, Act IV Sc. 2.
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.
Donald Morison was 19 when he was killed in action near Zillebeke on 8 August 1917. After the war his body was discovered at map reference J.19.d.7.2 and identified by his identity disc and pay book. His body was exhumed and re-interred in Hooge Crater Cemetery.
AFTER LIFE'S FITFUL FEVER
HE SLEEPS WELL
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 3 Sc. 2
James Cooper was a fireman from Southern Cross, Yilgarn, Western Australia who emigrated from England in 1912 when he was 32. He enlisted in 1916 and embarked for Europe on 23 November 1916. Born in Reigate, Surrey he served for 12 years in the Royal Field Artillery before moving to Australia.
His wife, Edith, chose his inscription. Macbeth is speaking to his wife telling her that Duncan the king is dead, he has killed him. However, one gets the sense that even in his, the murderer's mind, there is an element of envy for the freedom from fear and danger in which Duncan now rests.
At the time Mrs Cooper confirmed the inscription she was living in St George's Hostel in Katanning, Western Australia. This imposing building was built in 1913 to house itinerant workers drawn to the town by the booming agricultural prosperity of the area.
SMALL TIME BUT IN THAT SMALL
MOST GREATLY LIVED
THIS STAR OF ENGLAND
"We greatly regret to record the death in action on September 15th of Lieutenant Raymond Asquith, Grenadier Guards, by which the Prime Minister loses his eldest son and the country a man of brilliant promise."
The Times, September 19th 1916
Raymond's epitaph is spoken by the Chorus in the Epilogue to Shakespeare's Henry V and was chosen by his wife, Katherine. It is often said that Raymond was one of the most brilliant men killed in the war. He was brilliant but never ambitious for his brilliance. As his friend John Buchan put it, Raymond had about him 'The suggestion of some urbane and debonair scholar-gipsy, who belonged to a different world from the rest of us'. In addition, 'he scorned the worldly wisdom which makes smooth the steps of a career'.
On 15 September 1916, the Guards attacked at Lesboeufs. John Buchan later wrote that, 'Their front was too narrow, their objectives too far distant, and from the start their flanks were enfiladed'. Raymond was shot in the chest as he led his men into a hail of bullets. He was taken to a dressing station, putting on a magnificent show of nonchalance and smoking a cigarette to disguise the extent of his injuries.
Margot Asquith, Raymond's stepmother, broke the news of his death to her husband the Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith who, 'put his head on his arms on the table and sobbed passionately'. Later Asquith wrote that, 'Counsellors tell me that I ought not to be sorrowful. But I am: like a man out of whose sky the twin stars of Pride and Hope have both vanished into lasting darkness'. 'Twin stars', 'this star of England', the same stellar image occurred to both father and wife.
Before he died, Raymond had asked the medical orderly to send his water bottle to his father, and his father, who had apparently never written to his son once whilst he was at the front, is said to have kept his son's flask by his bed for the rest of his life.
Raymond was educated at Winchester College whose website Winchester College at War gives more details about his life.
NATURE MIGHT STAND UP
AND SAY TO ALL THE WORLD
'THIS WAS A MAN'
Arthur Callander's inscription was chosen by his older brother, Henry. Their father had died when Arthur was 4 and Henry 17, and their mother when Arthur was 7 and Henry 20. Henry was quite possibly Arthur's next-of-kin. As an orphan, Arthur had attended the Commerical Travellers School for Orphan and Necessitous Children. His father had been a commercial traveller in the tea trade but Arthur went to work in a shop. By the time he joined up in 1914 he was the manager of the Costume Department at Messrs Green & Co. Oxford Circus. He went to France in March 1915 and was killed two months later.
His inscription comes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and refers to Brutus. Brutus has killed himself, by running on his sword, having taken part in the murder of Caesar. Antony, a fellow murderer, says:
This was the noblest Roman of them all:
All the conspirators save only he
Did that he did in envy of great Caesar.
He only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world 'This was a man!'
"I WOULD NOT WISH HIM
TO A FAIRER DEATH"
Captain Percy Dodd was killed in the first hour of the first day of the battle of Neuve Chapelle "gallantly leading his men" in an attack on the German trenches. His inscription quotes Siward, leader of the victorious English army in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Siward's son, Young Siward, is killed in the fighting. The context of the quotation gives it extra meaning.
Ross: Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt: He only lived till he was but a man; the which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd in the unshrinking station where he fought, but like a man he died.
Siward: Then he is dead?
Ross: Ay, and brought off the field: your cause of sorrow must not be measured by his worth, for then it hath no end.
Siward: Had he his hurts before?
Ross: Ay, on the front.
Siward: Why then, God's soldier be he! Had I as many sons as I have hairs, I would not wish them to a fairer death: And so, his knell is knoll'd.
"Had he his hurts before?" "Ay, on the front". Were his wounds on the front of his body? Yes. Young Siward, like Percy Dodd, was facing the enemy when he was killed. John Dodd, Percy's father, had been a soldier in the 78th Highlanders. Like Siward, knowing the manner of his son's death would have brought him some comfort.
'IF WE ARE MARKED TO DIE
WE ARE ENOUGH
TO DO OUR COUNTRY LOSS'
John Henry Rayner, a warehouseman from Islington, was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme. His parents' inscription quotes Shakespeare's Henry V on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. The King, overhearing the Earl of Westmoreland lament the fact that the English army is so small, tells him that he would not wish for one man more: if they are all about to die then there are quite enough of them to "do our country loss", but if they are about to live then there will be fewer people to have share the honour with. This is the beginning of Henry's famous St Crispin's Day speech in which he assures his listeners that "From this day to the ending of the world", we will all be remembered: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers".
HE SAW BEYOND THE FILTH
OF BATTLE, AND THOUGHT DEATH
A FAIR PRICE TO PAY
TO BELONG TO THE COMPANY
OF THESE FELLOWS
This beautiful inscription with its Shakespearian resonances was composed by Stanhope Forbes RA for his son. Although inscriptions were meant to be restricted to 66 characters this one has 91, and the small pencilled figures on the bottom of the War Graves' form calculate the total cost as £1 6s 6d.
William Alexander Stanhope Forbes, known as Alec, was the only son of Stanhope and his first wife Elizabeth, who were both artists and together founded the Newlyn School of Art. Alec was educated at Bedales and then went on to the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He was 21 when the war broke out but was initially declared unfit for military service. As a result, he joined the Railway Operating Division as a Railway Transport Officer, eventually securing a transfer to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He joined his regiment in France on 16 August 1916 and was killed eighteen days later leading his platoon in an attack on Guillemont.
After his death his father painted a portrait of his son of which there are two copies: one is still in the family and one is in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Museum at Bodmin Castle.
The portrait forms the basis of Alec's memorial plaque in St Creden Church, Sancreed, Cornwall. The plaque was designed by his father and features a tower and bridge behind the portrait, which were taken from two of Alec's own prize-winning drawings.
HE WAS A MAN
This simple but beautiful inscription is a quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Horatio says of Hamlet's father: "I saw him once; he was a goodly king." And Hamlet replies:
"He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again."
The implication of Hamlet's words being that he considers his father to have been the ideal example of a man, 'the sum and pattern of excellence'. And this, however modestly put, would have been the implication behind the inscription Mrs Hannah Hanks chose for her son.
FOLLY, AGE AND COLD DECAY
At first reading this inscription looks as though it's saying the same as Binyon's poem: age will not wither him because he will never grow old. However, this is not the meaning of the words in the sonnet Shakespeare wrote, Sonnet XI. Shakespeare, who is addressing this sonnet sequence to a young man, tells him that:
She [nature] carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.
If the young man doesn't have children then all that nature has endowed him with will age and decay and be lost.
Captain Wright was 49 when he was killed, beyond the age of compulsary military service. He had been born and brought up in Brazil, was a former broker and bank manager and had married a Brazilian woman. Who knows whether he had childen, who knows how his inscription was meant, although I find it interesting that the layout of the lines of the inscription, specified by the Mr CPD Wright who confirmed it, aren't the same as those of the sonnet:
Herein lies wisdom, beauty and increase;
Without this folly, age and cold decay:
HE LOVED HONOUR
MORE THAN HE LOVED LIFE
Thomas Eustace, born in Newfoundland in 1888, was a graduate of Bishop's University, Quebec, where he was studying for the ministry of the Church of England when he enlisted. According to the war diary, his squadron had just gone into the trenches at Hill 63 when he became the regiment's first casualty. The diary doesn't record how he died but mentions that German snipers had been very active. He was buried the next afternoon, "Simple burial service carried out. Corporal Hodge of the 4th CMR officiated." Corporal Hodge, a serving clergyman, was injured by a shell the following day and died of his wounds the day after that.
Thomas Eustace's inscription is not a direct quote but has echoes of Brutus's speech to Cassius when he declared, "For let the gods so speed me as I love the name of honour more than I fear death," [Julius Caeser, Act 1 Sc. 2] and also of the seventeenth-century poet, Richard Lovelace, whose 'To Lucasta, going to the Wars' ends: "I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I nor honour more".