POPULAR SONGS


OH! IT'S QUIET DOWN HERE
BUT GOD IS VERY NEAR

SECOND LIEUTENANT EDWARD STONEY ARMITAGE


This seemed to be rather an rather blunt inscription - where is "down here" meant to be - the grave"? The words come from a song by an Australian composer, May Hannah Brahe (1885-1956) with the lyrics by PJ O'Reilly. But, even if I give you the lyrics you will still wonder where "down here" is meant to be. Here they are:

Oh! it's quiet down here
Yes, as quiet as a mouse
Save the sigh of the wind
And the clock in the house
Oh! it's quiet down here!

Oh! it's quiet down here
If a bird-note should break,
All the easy going folk
In the village would wake -
Sure, it's quiet down here.

Oh! it's quiet down here,
And thro' the long day
To the great God of Peace
I feel I must pray
Oh! it's quiet down here,
But God is very near.

You can hear it sung here.
The only clue I have been able to discover is a contemporary print in a New Zealand collection called 'Down Here'. This shows a clearing in a forest. However, I can't help feeling that Edward Armitage's parents were referring to the quiet of the grave.
Armitage was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in June 1917 when he was 19. However, he didn't get to the front until June 1918. Two months later he was killed in action serving with the 76th Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery.


WILL YE NO COME BACK AGAIN

PRIVATE WILLIAM ALEXANDER LOGAN


This song has such strong associations with Scotland that I assumed William Logan was a Scotsman. But no, he was an Englishman, born and bred in the Home Counties. Nor was his father a Scotsman, having been born in Liverpool. But then I saw where his mother came from - Alvah in Banffshire - so that was the Scottish connection.
The song's best-known words commemorate 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), following the 1745 Rebellion. It's possible however that the tune belonged to a traditional Scottish song of farewell long before Carolina Oliphant (Lady Nairne 1766-1845) added the Bonnie Prince Charlie dimension. The words come from the chorus:

Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be,
Will ye no come back again.

William, the son of a nurseryman in Enfield, Middlesex, served with the 1st Battalion The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. In August 1918 the regiment were in Flanders and whatever was happening in France, where the British had just launched the Battle of Amiens, it was business as usual in Flanders. The regiment were based near Erie Farm where the war diary reported that on the 6th they were "Called upon to furnish a party to proceed to La Lovie Chateau & line the avenue to cheer H.M. the King as he passed along ... The party got very wet". There were no casualties on the 7th, nor on the 8th but on the 9th it reported "hostile artillery active on front left during night 3 ORs killed". The 10th was another quiet day. Was Logan one of the three ORs killed on the night of the 9th. It looks like it.


THOUGH LOST TO SIGHT
TO MEMORY DEAR

GUNNER ROBERT SAMUEL BARBER


Until I did the research for yesterday's inscription, it would never have occurred to me that this was a quotation. 'Though lost to sight to memory dear' is so popular on both civilian and military headstones, and it appears so regularly on In Memoriam cards and the In Memoriam columns of newspapers that I had just assumed it was something that you said, no author required. But this appears not to be the case. The words are in fact the first line of a song written by George Linley (1798-1865) who wrote it originally for Augustus Braham (1819-1889). This is the first of its seven verses:

Tho' lost to sight, to memory dear
Thou ever wilt remain;
One only hope my heart can cheer -
The hope to meet again.

Some have argued that Linley didn't compose the first line he just quoted from what was already a popular headstone inscription. It is possible that this was the case. Certainly there's another poem, strictly speaking I suppose it's verse rather than poetry, where it's the final line of both of the two verses - the authorship is disputed but it postdates Linley. This is the second verse.

Sweetheart, good bye! One last embrace!
O cruel fate, two souls to sever!
Yet in the heart's most sacred place
Thou alone shall dwell for ever.
And still shall recollection trace,
In fancy's mirror ever near.
Each smile, each tear, that form, that face,
Though lost to sight to memory dear.

However, I am perfectly prepared to admit that the many hundreds of people who chose this inscription, and it is one of the most popular, had no idea that they were quoting either Linley or anyone else. To them it was just a conventionally popular headstone inscription.
In this instance it belongs to Gunner Robert Samuel Barber, who before the war had been helping his father on his dairy farm in Yandina, Queensland, Australia. Barber enlisted on 23 September 1915, embarked from Australia on 11 May 1916, arrived in Britain on 10 July and embarked for France on 24 November. He was killed by a shell on 3 October 1917.
A witness (Sergeant H. Canfield 18849) who described Barber as "about 5 feet 6 inches high, nuggety build, clean shaven, fair complexion, aged about 25", told the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing File what happened:

"Informant states that they both belonged to the 25th Battery, 7th Field Artillery Brigade, Barber being a lumber gunner and under Informant's charge. On or about 3.10.17 the Battery was in front of Ypres in action, firing at different targets. Barber was working with him and left him to go over to his gun, No. 1, and went into a little dugout that he was building alongside the gun. He had only been there about a minute when a stray shell came over and killed him instantly. Informant was only a few yards away at the time and saw his body. He was buried not far from the Battery and informant made a cross for his grave."

The cross survived and after the war it was found with Barber's body at map reference I. 6. b. 8. 1. just as Sergeant H. Canfield had made it, inscribed with the words:

In memory of
No. 18641 Gunner Barber R.S.
C of E
Killed in action 3-10-1917





EVER OF THEE
AM I FONDLY DREAMING

PRIVATE HARRY SMALL


Harry Small's inscription, chosen by his wife Ethel, comes from an old love song composed in 1858 by Foley Hall with lyrics by George Linley. This is the first of its two verses:

Ever of thee I'm fondly dreaming,
Thy gentle voice my spirit can cheer;
Thou wert the star that mildly beaming,
Shone o'er my path when all was dark and drear.
Still in my heart thy form I cherish,
Ev'ry kind thought like a bird flies to thee;
Ah! never till life and mem'ry perish,
Can I forget how dear thou art to me;
Morn, noon and night where'e'er I may be.
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee,
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee!

Although more than 50 years old at the time of the First World War, the song's popularity was revived in 1915 when Edison recorded it as a duet beautifully sung by Elizabeth Spencer and Thomas Chalmers, which you can listen to here.
At the time of the 1911 census, Harry Small was an assistant at Affleck and Brown a large drapery store, later a department store, in Manchester. He lived in Ardwick Hall Residence for Shop Assistants where he was one of its 156 residents. I am assuming that he was a territorial soldier as he served with the 1st/4th a territorial battalion of the Royal Scots. He went with them to Gallipoli in June 1915. After the evacuation the 4th Royal Scots served in the Suez Canal region before going to Palestine. Small was killed during the Third Battle of Gaza.
I have found no trace of his wife Ethel, who chose such a loving inscription for her husband.

Ever of thee when sad and lonely,
Wand'ring afar my soul joy'd to dwell;
Ah! then I felt I lov'd thee only;
All seem'd to fade before affection's spell.
Years have not chill'd the love I cherish;
True as the stars, hath my heart been to thee;
Ah! never till life and mem'ry perish,
Can I forget how dear thou art to me;
Morn, noon and night where'e'er I may be.
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee,
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee!


HOW I MISS THE SUNSHINE
OF YOUR SMILE
MOTHER

RIFLEMAN FREDERICK THOMAS MILLER


Frederick Miller's mother referenced a popular love song, The Sunshine of Your Smile, for her son's inscription. Written in 1913 with lyrics by Leonard Cooke and music by Lilian Ray, the song was recorded several times during the war years - you can hear this 1916 recording by John McCormack here.

Dear face that holds so sweet a smile for me,
Were you not mine, how dark the world would be!
I know no light above that could replace
Love's radiant sunshine in your dear, dear face.

Refrain:
Give me your smile, the love-light in your eyes,
Life could not hold a fairer Paradise!
Give me the right to love you all the while,
My world for ever, the sunshine of your smile!

Shadows may fall upon the land and sea,
Sunshine from all the world may hidden be;
But I shall see no cloud across the sun;
Your smile shall light my life, till life is done.

Refrain:

Frederick Miller was the eldest of his parents' seven surviving children - six boys and one girl. At the time of the 1911 census the family - parents, children and grandmother - lived in four rooms in Poplar where father, Henry, was a house and ship painter. Frederick served with the 21st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps and died of wounds in a casualty clearing station on 14 August 1917. The battalion war diary records:

"On the morning of the 14th August a raid was attempted against enemy dugouts. The heavy condition of the ground and the heavy enemy machine gun fire prevented the party from reaching their objectives and they returned with slight casualties."

Was Miller one of the 'slight casualties'?


REST SOLDIER REST

PRIVATE HERBERT RAMSDEN


William Ramsden, Herbert's elder brother, signed for this inscription. The parents were both still alive but perhaps their literacy was uncertain. The words come from the chorus of a popular song written in 1916 by an Australian singer, song writer called Alfred Morley.

Rest, soldier rest,
In thy grave on the hill-side,
Far from the ones you have left o'er the foam.
Rest till God's trumpet shall call you from slumber,
To meet once again in your heavenly home.

Despite the fact that it's a very Australian patriotic song:

Let all the world know Australia's story,
How her brave sons faced that curtain of shell,
"Boys fix your bayonets, charge! for Old England,"
Into the jaws of death, into that hell

And that it's concerned with the dead of Gallipoli:

Sweet be their rest on Gallipoli's hillside
Calm be their sleep in a soldier's last grave

The song must have circulated in Britain for the Ramsdens to know it.
Herbert Ramsden, 35 years and 10 months old, and 5' 4" tall as itemised on his attestation form, was a coal miner, born and bred in Yorkshire. In 1911 he was boarding with his sister-in-law, Jane, whose husband, Tom Ramsden, had been killed in a mining accident in 1910. Herbert joined up on 11 January 1915 and arrived in France on 1 May that year. He served with the 1st/4th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, part of the 49th West Riding Division, and was killed in an attack near Potijze Chateau, one of the 160 casualties - killed, wounded and missing - that the battalion suffered that day.


HE MARCHED
IN A DEATHLESS ARMY

PRIVATE JOHN JAMES GUSTHART


A deathless army is one made up of the old, dead soldiers of the past who march with their living comrades, swelling their ranks. It's an ancient idea that gave rise to numerous First World War legends, including that of the Crecy archers helping the soldiers at Mons.
John Gusthat's widow chose his inscription, quite possibly inspired by an old Imperial marching song called 'The Deathless Army', written in 1891 with music by H. Trotere and words by F.E.Weatherly. Whilst the soldiers sleep in a city square on the night before an attack a phantom army gathers:

Solemnly, silently, through the night,
Grim set faces and eyes so bright,
As heroes look when they march to fight
At the head of a mighty army.
And then I knew, in the still night-tide,
What men were must'ring side by side,
They were the men who had fought and died
In the ranks of our brave old army.
And their gallant swords may broken lie,
Their bones may bleach 'neath an alien sky,
But their souls, I know, will never die, -
They march in a deathless army.

The idea of 'deathless' also implies immortality, soldiers whose memory and reputations will never die. It's not the same as the Christian concept of eternal life, which comes from the resurrection of the body. To the ancient world you gained an everlasting name by dying for your country in battle - as John Gusthart had done.
Gusthart served with the 28th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed on 20 May 1917.

28th Battalion Canadian Infantry War Diary
May 20th
Vimy
Battalion in Support along BAILLEUL - RIAMONT - LOOS Line. Headquarters at T.27.d.4.5. During day enemy shelled our "A" Company front (Right Coy.) causing two Officer casualties. Lieuts. R.D'A STRICKLAND and D.J.CLARKE. Intermittent shelling throughout the whole day along the whole of B - R - L Line resulting in several O.R. casualties. Work parties carrying wire and consolidating B. - R. - L. Line at night. Weather fair.


WILL YE NO COME BACK AGAIN

PRIVATE WILLIAM ALEXANDER LOGAN


The words come from the chorus of a traditional Scottish Jacobite song, written some years after the 1745 rebellion by Lady Nairne (1766-1845) whose father, Laurence Oliphant, had been a leading supporter of the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

Will ye no' come back again?
Will ye no' come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be
Will ye no' come back again.

There's no evidence that William Logan's mother was still alive when the inscription was chosen. She's not mentioned in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, but she's the one who came from Scotland, from Alva in Banffshire; the rest of the family were all born in or around London where William Logan Senior was a nurseryman.
Private Logan served with the 1st Battalion The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment and died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station on 10 August. The Battalion had been in and out of the front line for the last two weeks in July. The War Diary regularly reported, without naming any names, casualties in the region of one or two every day. I assume one of these casualties must have been Logan.

Bonnie Charlie's noo awa
Safely o'er the friendly main
Mony a heart will break in twa
Should he ne'er come back again.


A SOLDIER AND A MAN

LANCE CORPORAL WILLIAM GAYNER SMITH


William Smith's parents and his wife all lived in Bristol, England but he himself had emigrated to South Africa sometime before 1904 where he joined the South African police force. At the outbreak of war he returned to Europe as a member of the South African Infantry. Wounded in July 1916 he must have convalesced at home in Thornbury, Bristol where in October 1916 he married Mary Annie Gayner, a distant cousin. The Bristol Mercury commentated that, "owing to the bridegroom having only recently recovered from wounds received in action in July last in France the wedding was of a quiet nature". He returned to France and was killed in action on 15 October 1917 during the First Battle of Passchendaele.
Smith served with the Second Battalion South African Infantry. John Buchan, in his History of the South African Forces in the Great War, writes that:

"On the night of the 13th the 2nd and 4th South African Regiments moved up to the front line, taking over trenches held by part of the 26th and 27th Brigades, which had been engaged in that attack on the 12th which was foiled by the disastrous weather. The relief was very difficult, for the whole country had become an irreclaimable bog, and the mud was beyond all human description. There was intermittent shelling during the 14th and 15th, and much bombing from enemy planes."

Smith was killed either by the 'intermittent shelling' or the 'bombing from enemy planes' but the mud in which men literally drowned could have been a factor too.

His wife, Marjorie Annie Smith, chose his inscription; it's a phrase that had been made popular from songs and films of the period. There were two films with the title and in both a wronged man proves himself worthy of the name soldier. In one of the songs a young woman explains what has made her pick a particular man to marry:

Though he's a soldier, a common soldier
He has got the pluck and muscle for a soldier
And I'm proud to say the dear's
One of the Dublin Fusiliers
And he's proved himself a soldier and a man.

The other song is more mournful. It features in a set of Bamforth postcards - which, by the way, reveal a total ignorance of the life of a soldier - and in this song the soldier dies. The last verse concludes:

Oh! Father, who in heav'n above, hath all things in Thy span,
Remember him who yields his life, is a soldier and a man.


WE SHALL MEET
BUT WE SHALL MISS HIM
THERE IS STILL
HIS VACANT CHAIR

PRIVATE ALBERT GIBBS


This inscription comes from 'The Vacant Chair', a poem by H.S. Washburn written to commemorate the death of Lieutenant John William Grout who was killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff on 21 October 1861. Set to music by George Root, it became one of the most popular songs of the American Civil War.
I've copied out the whole poem as it illuminates the inscription. The family gather for their annual Thanksgiving Dinner and reflect on the fact that one of their number will be missing. In the last verse they are assured he will be everlastingly wreathed in glory but appear to receive limited comfort from the thought.
The tenor John McCormack recorded 'The Vacant Chair' in 1915, giving it a new lease of life among the bereaved of the First World War. Strangely, but I suspect significantly, the last verse was omitted from the recording.

We shall meet but we shall miss him,
There will be one vacant chair;
We shall linger to caress him,
While we breathe our evening prayer.
When a year ago we gathered,
Joy was in his mild blue eye,
But a golden cord is severed
And our hopes in ruin lie.

At our fireside sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell,
At remembrance of the story,
How our noble Willie fell;
How he strove to bear our banner
Through the thickest of the fight,
And upheld our country's honour,
With the strength of manhood's might.

True they tell us wreathes of glory
Evermore will deck his brow.
But this soothes the anguish only
Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, O early fallen!
In thy green and narrow bed;
Dirges from the pine and cypress,
Mingle with the tears we shed.

In the 1911 census, Albert Gibbs was a general labourer working in Bristol. He served with the 2nd Battalion the York and Lancaster Regiment, part of the 6th Division, and was killed in the trenches near Hooge on 4 November 1915.


"EVERYBUDDY'S BUDDY"

PRIVATE P.F. HISLOP


The quotation marks are definitely there but what are the words a quotation from? Perhaps this is just what everyone said about Private Hislop, whose Christian names I haven't been able to discover. However, there's just a chance that they are a quote from a popular song.
It took years for the War Graves Commission to complete these cemeteries and one of the wonderful thing about their records is that all amendments and alterations show on the original document - unlike today when an amendment to a Word document overwrites what was there before. There are numerous dated amendments to the Railway Cutting Cemetery report forms, the latest being 6 May 1925. This would mean that there was plenty of time for Hislop's next-of-kin, Mr D. Hislop - who was not his father - to quote from a song written in 1920. The song is called 'Everybody's buddy'. It may not be exactly 'everybuddy's buddy' but it's close, and the lyrics are very appropriate. This is an extract:

Buddy, he was everybody's Buddy from the time he was a kid.
He'd get the coal, chop the wood, he'd even run the errands for the neighbourhood.
Buddy, he would help the kids to study, he was everybody's friend.
One day the angels in the heavens above
Found out they needed someone up there to love -
They called for Buddy, our Buddy - I wish they'd send him home again.


THAT FROM THIS
GREAT BIG WORLD
YOU'VE CHOSEN ME

SECOND LIEUTENANT REGINALD OTHO WEBER


Somehow I just assumed that these were the words of a hymn with the meaning that from this "great big world" God had picked out Reginald Weber for a special destiny. However, they don't come from a hymn, they come from a song by the American composer Jerome Kern from the musical, 'The Girl From Utah'. The song is a love duet, 'They Wouldn't Believe Me'. The relevant verse reads:

And when I tell them,
And I'm certainly am going to tell them,
That I'm the man whose wife one day you'll be.
They'll never believe me,
They'll never believe me,
That from this great big world
You've chosen me!

Reginald Otho Weber was the youngest son of Frederick Weber, a wealthy, German-born fur trader, now based in London. Weber served with the 3rd Battalion the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment but at the time of his death was attached to the 8th Battalion. They went into the front line on 30 August 1917, where they remained until the 5th September. During that time the regimental history records that Weber and eight Other Ranks were killed.
Strictly speaking, Weber died of wounds - "gunshot wounds to spine" - in No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station, Lijssenthoek. His death was announced in The Times on the 8 September where his wounds were described as "shell wounds".
Interestingly there is one other casualty with the surname Weber buried in Lijssthenthoek Military Cemetery - Gefreiter Karl Weber of the German army.



WHEN THE FIELDS
ARE WHITE WITH DAISIES
I'LL RETURN
IN LOVING MEMORY

PRIVATE GEORGE EDWARD BEAVIS


George Beavis' inscription comes from a popular Irish song written some time around the end of the nineteenth century. The words of the song originally referred to a sailor:

"I once stood in a harbour, as a ship was going out,
On a voyage unto a port beyond the sea.
I watched the blue-clad sailor, as he bade his last farewell
To the lassie who he loved most tenderly.
I heard the sailor promise to the lassie now in tears,
"When the fields are white with daisies I'll return."

During the war, Bamforth produced one of their three-card picture postcard series featuring this song. The card with the first verse shows a sailor but the card with the words of the chorus shows a khaki-clad soldier.
What is a bit strange about this inscription is that it was chosen by his mother, Mrs Sarah Jane Beavis, not by a wife or sweetheart. However, it must be for the words of the second verse that she chose it. The sweetheart learns that the ship has sunk and as she stands there weeping she hears a voice reassuring her that they will meet again:

"God has spared me for your keeping, and the promise once I made,
When the fields are white with daisies I'll return."

George Beavis died of wounds in a casualty clearing station in Dickebusch. According to a letter from the Officer in Charge of the 1st Field Ambulance, written on 1 February 1918 to the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau:

" ... he was admitted to the Dressing Station of this Ambulance on the night of 20.9.17 with shell wound of right leg, the wounds being so extensive as to necessitate amputation of the leg. He was suffering a good deal from shock, and died next morning. The burial took place at Military Huts Cemetery Dickebusch."


CHARLEY, YOUR PLACE IS VACANT
IN OUR HOME
WHICH CAN NEVER BE FILLED

PRIVATE CHARLES JOHN MANN


The vacant place or vacant chair was once a common euphemism for death. The idea probably predates the American Civil War but a song from that era, recorded in 1915 by John McCormack, spread its popularity beyond the shores of America. It was originally written to mourn and honour a dead Union soldier:

At our fireside, sad and lonely, often will the bosom swell,
At remembrance of the story how our noble Willie fell;
How he strove to bear our banner though the thickest of the fight,
And uphold our country's honour in the strength of manhood's might.

And it kept that association into the First World War. The original song referred to the family gathering for Thanksgiving but is relevant to all family occasions. These are the words of the chorus:

We shall meet but we shall miss him
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our evening prayer.

Charles Mann was killed in action in January 1917. Buried close to the front line, his body was exhumed in August 1920 and reinterred in Lesboeufs. 'Charley's' father confirmed his inscription - giving it added poignancy by addressing his son rather than the reader.


TRUMPETER
WHAT ARE YOU SOUNDING NOW

PRIVATE FRANK PLOWS


This inscription comes from what was at one time an immensely popular song, The Trumpeter. Written and composed in 1904, it was a mainstay of many wartime concerts. Stirring without being patriotic, rousing without romanticising war, the song in fact declares that war is hell, although this line is often omitted in the recorded versions:

"There's a madd'nin' shout as the sabres flash out,
For I'm soundin' the 'Charge,' - no wonder!
And it's Hell!" said the Trumpeter tall.

The trumpeter sounds reveille in the first verse, the charge in verse two and the rally in the last verse. Splendidly sung in this YouTube version the final verse is hardly more than whispered:

Trumpeter, what are you sounding now?
(Is it the call I'm seeking?)
"Lucky for you if you hear it at all,
For my trumpet's but faintly speakin'.
I'm callin' 'em home - come home! come home!
Tread light o'er the dead in the valley,
Who are lyin' around face down to the ground,
And they can't hear me sound the 'Rally.'
But they'll hear it again in a grand refrain,
When Gabriel sounds the last 'Rally.'"

Eighteen-year old Frank Plows went to France with the 18th Battalion the Durham Light Infantry, the Durham Pals, in March 1916. He was killed on the 25 June, five days before the battalion went into action on the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.


M.A. (HONS) POSTH. GLAS. UNIV.
SON O' MINE
CAPT. J. ERSKINE
GORDON HDRS. & R.A.F.

CAPTAIN THOMAS BARRIE ERSKINE MC


Thomas Barrie Erskine was reading Medicine at Glasgow University when he decided to enlist on the outbreak of war. He served with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders and was killed on 20 July 1915, five days after being awarded a Military Cross for "gallantry during active operations against the enemy".
Erskine's father composed his inscription, recording the award of his son's posthumous degree and his own wartime service. James Erskine lost both his sons, Ralph and Thomas, in the war, his wife had died of consumption in 1901 and a baby daughter in 1896. His only surviving child, Agnes (Nancy) also lost her husband in the war when Captain Jack Lee was killed in action on 31 July 1917. And, in the final act of the tragedy, Ralph's son, who was born within two weeks of his father's death, was killed in action in Tunisia on 23 April 1943.
It's not possible to be sure of the source of the phrase "Son o'mine" but one that fits well is a song from Maurice Baring's four-act play The Death of the Black Prince (1903).

From the bleak sand and the grey sand
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
To the shore of gold and the cornland
To conquer or to die.

The low cloud and the grey cloud
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
It hangs and lowers like a shroud
Across the blood-red sky.

The soft sound and the loved sound
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
"Mother, I have a mortal wound,"
It is my own son's cry.

The horn call and the glad call
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
"Now dig the grave and weave the pall,
For I am soon to die."

The lone bell and the sad bell
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
"Tell them, mother, before I fell,
That I fought gallantly."

The known tread and the strong tread
(O son o' mine, good-bye):
"One told me you were cold and dead.
But I heeded not the lie."

By sunshine or by moonshine
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
"Come back to me, O son o' mine,
I've waited patiently."

The loud song and the strange song
(O son o' mine, good-bye),
I've watched and waited now so long,
Come back before I die"

From the bleak sand and the grey sand
(O son o' mine, good-bye),:
To the shore of gold and the cornland,
To conquer or to die.


ENOUGH
HE LIKE A SOLDIER FELL

LANCE CORPORAL BERT TRACEY


On December 4th "General Seely came into the lines and asked for volunteers to raid the barrier [across the Wulverghem-Messines road]. The raiding party was to get prisoners for identification purposes, if possible; find out the reasons for such a barrier; make reconnaissance and return within an hour. ... The raid was to take place behind a screen of an artillery bombardment but unfortunately this drew the enemy's fire in a counter-bombardment and put the opposing troops on the alert. ... Due to the bombardment there were several casualties. Captain Mackay, Privates B. Tracey and R. Sears were killed and four men wounded."
4th Canadian Mounted Rifles 1914-1919
Captain S.G.Benett MC, late Royal Engineers
Published 1926

Bert Tracey's parents lived in Stockport, Cheshire. He enlisted in Toronto on 27 November 1914. These are the only two firm facts I have been able to find out about his background. His mother chose his inscription. It comes from a broadside ballad, which, if it was written by William Vincent Wallace and Edward Fitzball, would have to have been written by 1873 when Fitzball died. The inscription is based on the final three lines. You can listen to the song here on a site called Music From the Works of James Joyce. The words vary on different sites but these are the ones printed on the broadsheet.

Oh let me like a soldier fall
Upon some open plain?
This breast expanding for a ball
To blot out every stain.
Brave manly hearts confer my doom,
That gentler ones may tell;
Howe'er unknown forgot my tomb
He, like a soldier fell.
He, like a soldier fell.

I only ask of that proud race,
That end its blaze in me -
To die the first and not disgrace
Its ancient chivalry.
Though o'er my grave no banner waves,
Nor trumpets swell;
Enough, they murmur at my tomb,
He, like a soldier fell,
He, like a soldier fell.


"LOCHABER NO MORE"

PRIVATE JOHN NEWLANDS


"Lochaber no more" is the title of a Gaelic air known as early as 1701. The poet Allan Ramsay composed words for it in 1724: a soldier's lament as he leaves his homeland and his girlfriend, perhaps for ever. The first verse reads:

Farewell to Lochaber! and farewell, my Jean,
Where heartsome with thee I hae mony days been;
For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more,
We'll maybe return to Lochaber no more!
These tears that I shed they a' for my dear,
And no for the dangers attending on wear,
Though borne on rough seas to a far bloody shore,
Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.

Lochaber is a region of the Western Highlands. The main town, Fort William, is where John Newlands was born. The family later moved to Glasgow where Newlands enlisted. He died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek in Belgium.


O MEMORIES
THAT BLESS AND BURN
O BARREN GAIN
AND BITTER LOSS

SECOND LIEUTENANT R.F. BATH


This is another inscription, like Epitaph 253, that comes from The Rosary, a hugely popular romantic song about loss and the acceptance of loss, written in America in 1898 by Ethelbert Nevin and Robert Cameron Rogers. It became one of the most popular songs of the early twentieth century, and was made even more popular by Florence L Barclay's deeply romantic novel of the same name in which the song plays a central part. Barclay's book was published in 1909 and immediately became a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic; by 1924 it had sold a million copies.

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me.
I count them over every one apart,
My rosary.
Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung.
I tell each bead unto the end - and there
A cross is hung.
Oh memories that bless - and burn!
Oh, barren gain - and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross,
Sweetheart,
To kiss the cross.

The inscription for Second Lieutenant RF Bath, whose Christian names I have been unable to discover, was chosen by his wife, Ethel.


WHEN THE EBB TIDE FLOWS

PRIVATE JAMES EMERSON PROCTER


" ... at 3pm [on 20 May 1915] the Germans blew the mine, killing 11 men and wounding 22 others of the 1/5th Lincolnshires, four men also being missing believed killed."
Records of the 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment

Private James Emerson Proctor was killed in this explosion, as was his only brother Private Ernest Arthur Proctor. The 1911 census records a sister in the family but it doesn't appear that there were any other children.
James Emerson's headstone inscription comes from a popular song, 'When the Ebb-Tide Flows', written in 1906 by Clifton Bingham with music by Stanley Gordon. His brother's inscription is of a completely different hue - 'Died for home, country and honour'. It makes me wonder whether their mother, Lillie Proctor, chose James' inscription and their father, John Walton Proctor, Ernest's.
The song is featured in a set of Bamforth's song cards. Originally they depicted the sailor as a fisherman but a wartime set shows him in uniform. There were three cards, each with a separate verse.

Out with the tide at the dawn of the day, under the morning star,
Gaily the fisher lad sailed away, over the deep afar
"Mother dear" cried the sailor lad,
Don't be lonely at home or sad
Though wild the storm and wide the foam,
There's One above will guide me home!"

I shall come home, when the ebb-tide flows,
Go where I may, there is One who knows.
Fierce though the gale, still His care will prevail,
I shall come home when the ebb-tide flows.
Over the foam, I shall come home, when the ebb-tide flows.
Father Eternal, though I may roam, guide Thou me home.

Grey haired and silent upon the quay there is a mother lone,
Never again to her heart came he, though the long years have flown.
Sound he sleeps in the trackless main,
Tides have ebbed and re-flowed again,
But still she smiles, because she knows
She'll meet him when Life's ebb-tide flows.


MATE O' MINE

MAJOR JOHN EDWIN SERGEANT


Major Sergeant was killed by a shell high above Anzac Cove on the first day of the Gallipoli landings. The men of the 8th Battalion Australian Infantry, led by Colonel William Bolton, captured what became known as Bolton's Ridge on this first day. A photograph of Sergeant's grave at the top of a steep precipice with the sea far below illustrates the Australians' amazing achievement. The photograph was taken by Lieutenant Jack Duffy and can be seen on Trevor Henshaw's blog Original graves at Gallipoli. However, they never managed to make much further progress and during the entire nine months the Allies were on the peninsular this position always remained close to the Turkish front line.
Major Sergeant's wife chose his epitaph. It comes from the song Mate o' Mine: music written by the British composer, conductor and violinist, Percy Elliott, words by Leslie Cooke.

We set out together, mate o' mine,
When youth was in its prime,
Life - the path that lay before us,
Life - the hill we had to climb.

We neither of us knew the road,
How long the journey, great the load;
Nor I how deep the debt I owed
To God for mate o' mine!

We set out together, mate o'mine;
We've wended road and hill;
Now it's homeward through the valley
We must wander at God's will.

We neither of us fear the gloam,
Love still shall light the path we roam;
Should you be the last returning Home,
I'll greet thee, mate o' mine!

John Sergeant was 45, a grazier and vigneron who had served in the South African War. He re-enlisted as a Captain on 28 August 1914 and embarked for Egypt on 19 October. It was his wife, Annie, who in the words of the song became "the last returning Home". Her choice of inscription, and the song it came from, sadly encapsulating the unknown journey you set out on at the beginning of married life.


THE HOURS I'VE SPENT
WITH THEE DEAR HEART
ARE AS A STRING OF PEARLS
TO ME

PRIVATE FRED HAMPTON


This inscription comes from The Rosary, a hugely popular romantic song about loss and the acceptance of loss, written in America in 1898 by Ethelbert Nevin and Robert Cameron Rogers. It became one of the most popular songs of the early twentieth century, and was made even more popular by Florence L Barclay's deeply romantic novel of the same name in which the song plays a central part. Barclay's book was published in 1909 and immediately became a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic; by 1924 it had sold a million copies.

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me.
I count them over every one apart,
My rosary.
Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung.
I tell each bead unto the end - and there
A cross is hung.
Oh memories that bless - and burn!
Oh, barren gain - and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross,
Sweetheart,
To kiss the cross.

It was Fred Hampton's widow, Eleanor, who chose his inscription. Her husband had been killed during the night of 3 July whilst part of a working party repairing the wire out in no-man's-land. Initially no one knew what had happened to him and Eleanor initiated a search by the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Bureau. One wonders how much of what the Red Cross found out was relayed to her. Witnesses describe how Fred Hampton was "struck by a shell which carried away the lower part of his face". The witnesses then disagree about whether "he lived only a few minutes" or was "taken to a dressing station where he died after about 30 minutes". The fact that he has a grave in a cemetery inclines me to think that it's the latter that's true. Either way, the news for Mrs Hampton will not have brought her any comfort - " I tell each bead unto the end - and there a cross is hung".


OLD PAL
WHY DON'T YOU ANSWER ME

PRIVATE JAMES CONGREVE FERN


At first I thought this had to be a reference to spiritualism and imagined that James Fern's father was complaining that he had not been able to make contact with his son in the spirit world. And in a way it is: Old Pal, Why Don't You Answer Me? is the title of a mournfully romantic popular song, written by Jerome K Jerome in 1920, in which a man expresses his loneliness to his dead wife, wishing she would answer his prayers and presumably send him some sort of sign.
James Fern Snr was a widower, his wife had died in 1916, and James Jnr was their eldest child. Although the song wasn't written until after the war, work didn't start on Abeele Aerodrome Cemetery until 1923, which explains how a quote from a post-war song can provide the inscription for a 1918 casualty.

Old pal, old gal,
You left me all alone;
Old pal, old gal, I'm just a rolling stone.
Shadows that come stealing,
Thru' the weary night;
Always find me kneeling,
In the candlelight.

Old pal, old gal,
The nights are long and drear;
Old pal, old gal,
Each day seems like a year.
No one left to meet me,
After all I've toiled;
No one here to greet me,
It's an empty world.

The long night through I pray to you,
Old pal why don't you answer me?
My arms embrace an empty space,
The arms that held you tenderly.
If you can hear my pray'r away up there;
Old pal why don't you answer me?

Words Sam M Lewis & Joe Young
Music Jerome K Jerome


FAR DISTANT, FAR DISTANT
LIES SCOTIA THE BRAVE
HERE LIES A TRUE HIGHLANDER

DRIVER HECTOR MACMILLAN


Hector Macmillan's inscription comes from the first line of a traditional Scottish song, 'Jamie Foyers'.

Far distant, far distant, lies Scotia the brave,
No tombstone memorial shall hallow his grave,
His bones they are scattered on the rude soil of Spain,
For young Jamie Foyers in the battle was slain.

Jamie Foyers was a real soldier from Campsie in Stirlingshire who died fighting in the Duke of Wellington's army at the seige of Burgos in 1812. Hector Macmillan was, as his parents said, a true highlander, a native of Campbeltown despite the fact that at the time of his death the family were living in Cambuslang, a suburb of Glasgow. He enlisted in August 1914 at the outbreak of war and died at Delville Wood during the Battle of the Somme.


A SOLDIER AND A MAN

PRIVATE W BROWN


This inscription, which sounds like a plain statement, is in fact the title of both a 1916 film - about a general's son framed by a spy for cardsharping who enlists as a private and saves his father and girlfriend from capture - and of a music hall song.

A soldier stood on the battlefield
His weary watch to keep,
While the pale moon covered her mantle
O'er the souls that 'neath her sleep.
"Ah me!" he sighed with tearful eye,
And called on him above,
"I'm far away from my children dear
And all on earth I love."
At the bugle sound he turned once more
The battlefield to scan,
"I am, whate'er my fate,
A soldier and a man."

The bugle called, he hastened forth,
The bravest in the battle's van.
Remember him who yields his life,
He is a soldier and a man.

The night-watch o'er the morn dawned,
Her light on earth to show,
And the soldier true to his country's call,
Advanced to meet the foe.
Amid the din of shot and shell
He fought with heart so brave,
'Till reeling from his faithful steed,
He found a soldier's grave.
Oh, Father! who in heaven above
Hath all things at Thy span,
Remember him who yields his life
Is a soldier and a man.

We know very little about Private W Brown other than that he was a regular soldier serving with the 1st Battalion the Gordon Highlanders. The regiment crossed to France on 14 August 1914 and was involved in very heavy fighting, suffering many losses, during the first few months of the war. By the time he died, eighteen-year-old Private Brown would have earned his epitaph, 'A soldier and a man'.