ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
THIS EARTH HAS BORNE
NO SIMPLER, NOBLER MAN
This inscription comes from the epitaph Tennyson wrote for his friend General Gordon, killed in the Sudan in January 1885:
Warrior of God, man's friend, and tyrant's foe
Now somewhere dead far in the waste Soudan,
Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know
This earth has never born a nobler man.
It is difficult to overestimate Gordon's fame; he was one of the Victorian era's biggest military heroes, his achievements summarised on his memorial in St Paul's Cathedral:
Major General Charles George Gordon, C.B.
Who at all times and everywhere, gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.
Born at Woolwich 28 January 1833
Slain at Khartoum 26 January 1885
He saved an Empire by his warlike genius, he ruled vast provinces with justice, wisdom, and power.
And lastly obedient to his sovereign's command, he died in the heroic attempt to save men, women and children from imminent and deadly peril.
Tennyson's epitaph for his friend does not feature either on his memorial in St Paul's or on his memorial in Westminster Abbey but in the Gordon Boys' National Memorial Home, Woking, one of a series of boys' homes established throughout the country in his memory .
Edward Hills Nicholson was educated at Winchester College, and is remembered on their commemorative website. On leaving school he joined the regular army and fought in South Africa. After a period of service in India, he was posted to the Western Front in June 1915, and then to Salonika that November where he remained until he returned to the Western Front in July 1918. He was killed in the taking of Richmond Copse, a German stronghold, on the morning of 4 October.
Edward Nicholson was one of seven children; his parents had four sons and three daughters. Bruce Nicholson was killed on 3 May 1917 and Victor two months later on 9 August. Biographies of all three brothers appear on page 132 of the fifth volume of the Marquis du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour. The fourth brother, Walter, died suddenly in 1943 whilst serving with the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
In April 1912, Nicholson married Ethel Frances in Bombay Cathedral. She chose his inscription.
NEVER MORNING WORE
BUT SOME HEART DID BREAK
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
IN MEMORIAM VI 2-4
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.
IM MEMORIAM VIII 1-3
SUCH A SLEEP THEY SLEEP
THE MEN I LOVED
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,
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
HE CROSSED THE BAR
FOR HIS COUNTRY
IN THE GLORIOUS CHARGE
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.
THOU O'ER LOOK'ST
THE TUMULT FROM AFAR
AND SMILEST, KNOWING
ALL IS WELL
This is yet another inscription from Tennyson's In Memoriam. It comes from section CXXVII, the section that begins:
And all is well, tho' faith and form
Be sunder'd in the night of fear;
The poem goes on to describe an apocalyptic scene before asserting that even in the midst of all this chaos, even while "compass'd by the fires of Hell",
Thou, dear spirit, happy star,
O'erlook'st the tumult from afar,
And smilest, knowing all is well.
The smiling person is Tennyson's dead friend Arthur Hallam, and the implication is that once we are dead and with God in heaven, we can be assured that all will be well whatever is happening on earth.
Robert Evans was a solicitor. He served initially as a serjeant with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Commissioned in March 1917, he served with the 57th training reserve battalion before going to France in 1918. He was killed during the Battle of Albert; shot dead by a German prisoner.
A married man with one child, I think it was his wife, Edith, who chose his inscription. The War Graves Commission's records say Mrs AC Evans but that's probably a mis-type for Mrs RC Evans.
READY IN HEART READY IN HAND
TO MARCH TO DEATH
FOR HIS NATIVE LAND
Frederick Golding's eldest sister created a rhyming couplet from some lines in Tennyson's poem 'Maud'. In the poem the narrator hears Maud singing in a meadow:
"A passionate ballad, gallant and gay
A martial song like a trumpet's call
Singing of men that in battle array
Ready in heart and ready in hand
March with banner and bugle and fife
To the death, for their native land.
Maud was written in 1855 at the time of the Crimean War (1853-56) when Tennyson could write that Maud was "Singing of death, and of Honour that cannot die". Tennyson, the most popular of the nineteenth century poets, seems from the evidence of this project to be the most popular of the poets quoted in personal inscriptions too. You can see how deep the association of war and honour and death must have run in British society, contributing to a culture that associated the concept of fighting and dying for your country with a noble death.
Frederick Thomas Golding was the son of a wheelwright in Chelmsford, Essex. In 1911 Golding was working in an ironmongery warehouse. Four years later he entered a theatre of war on 12 August 1915. He was killed in the 3rd Battle of Gaza whilst serving with the 1st/4th Battalion Essex Regiment.
"SO HERE SHALL SILENCE
GUARD THY FAME"
TENNYSON'S IN MEMORIAM
According to the War Graves Commission, 'Iringa is on the top of a mountain, 505 kilometres west of Dar-Es-Salaam' in what is now Tanzania. It's a long way from England and all things English. The cemetery holds 131 graves from the Empire forces. Many of them belonging to Africaaners, Dutch Boers, with inscriptions like 'Ono dink aan jou', which I have an idea means I think of you, probably the equivalent of 'not forgotten'. And many of them belong to British South Africans born and brought up in the country. But some of them belong to men who were born and brought up in Britain as Sergeant JM Evan's makes plain: '1, Alban Square, Aberayron, S. Wales'.
A Mrs VH Flemming chose Barrett's inscription, perhaps his married eldest sister whose Christian names were Violet Helen. She quotes a line from Tennyson's In Memoriam, giving the reference as if to make sure that anyone reading it in that faraway place would know where it came from:
So here shall silence guard thy fame;
But somewhere, out of human view,
Whate'er thy hands are set to do
Is wrought with tumult of acclaim.
Hugh Treherne Barrett was born in Cheshire in 1883. His father, a commercial traveller, was dead by the time of the 1891 census. The next time Hugh Barrett appears in the record it's in the London Gazette of 9 June 1916 with the announcement that as from 23 March 1916 he has been granted the temporary rank of lieutenant in the Nyasaland Field Force. This newly formed force was made up of soldiers from various South African and Rhodesian military and police forces. Barrett's medal card shows that he joined a theatre of war on 5 September 1914 indicating that he had been in some form of military service before the formation of the Nyasaland Field Force in which he served as Chief Intelligence Officer.
Barrett's next appearance in the record is again in the London Gazette. The 26 April 1917 edition records the award of a Military Cross for an action on 27 October 1916 during fighting near the border of German South West Africa:
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He reconnoitred the enemy's position, and subsequently guided a column three miles by night, enabling them the deploy unobserved between picquets of the enemy to within 250 yards of the position"
The three miles was over swampland that the Germans had thought impassable but through which Barrett found a way.
Barrett died on 6 November 1917. His body was originally buried in Mahenge but after the war the graves from here were concentrated in Iringa.
TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST
TO HAVE LOVED AT ALL
6 November 1917
"A gloom was cast over the city this morning with the announcement of the death in action on October 18 of Wilfred Read Eidt, eldest son of Dr and Mrs E Eidt of Cambria Street. The young soldier was one of Stratford's popular young men, with a bright and promising career, but he sacrificed all in the cause of King and country ..."
The Eidt family originally came from Germany. Dr E Eidt, a dentist, was a well-known local politician, an Alderman of the city of Stratford, Ontario. Wilfred Eidt was training to be a teacher when the war broke out. He joined up in November 1916 and served with the 1st Canadian Siege Battery in France. On 18 October 1917 the battery's war diary recorded:
"Oct. 18th 3.50 pm 335007 Gr Eidt WR was killed by a stray shell of 4.2 calibre. Two other men who were alongside of him, at the time, were untouched.
Oct. 19th 3.00 pm The above mentioned was buried in Bully Cemetery where a service, attended by the reliefs off-duty, was held."
Further, rather gruesome, information comes from the diary of a fellow gunner in the battery, Gunner Frank Byron Ferguson, who reported that Eidt had been walking up to the guns at Philosophe with the preacher, a man called Wilson, when a shell hit him, leaving the preacher "with little other than a shrapnel helmet and a cloud of red mist".
Dr Eidt chose his son's inscription. It comes from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam A.H.H.', his extended meditation on life and death, which followed the death of his friend Arthur Hallam in 1833, when Hallam was 23. The relevant canto, no. 27, reads:
I hold it true, what'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most:
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
FORGIVE MY GRIEF
FOR ONE REMOVED
WHOM I FOUND SO FAIR
John Porteous Hill's inscription quotes the ninth stanza of Tennyson's In Memoriam, his extended lament on the death of his friend Arthur Hallam:
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
John Hill's father, a commercial traveller, chose it for his eldest son who joined the army in Edinburgh on 10 July 1916 when he was 18 and 9 months. By June 1917 Hill was in France, serving with the 15th Battalion Royal Scots. On 28 August he received gun shot wounds in his back and arm and was admitted to No. 6 General Hospital , Rouen. On the 29th his condition was described as 'serious', two days later it was upgraded to 'dangerous'. He died that day.
HUMAN WORTH WILL BLOOM
TO PROFIT OTHERWHERE
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.
"SWEET IT IS TO HAVE DONE
THE THING ONE OUGHT"
Private Wilson's inscription comes from Tennyson's The Princess, published in 1847, which addresses the idea of the education of women. Whilst the context of the poem throws little light on Wilson's inscription the sentiment is very pertinent. Many men would have recognised this feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you were doing your duty. Lavinia Talbot recognised it in her son Gilbert's army career, writing in the memoir she compiled:
"I think the definite, and, until the war was over, the unquestioned rightness of his serving in the army produced a feeling of quiet and satisfaction which made his soldier's life very happy."
Talbot was killed in July 1915. William John Wilson's life was very different from Gilbert Talbot's. Talbot was the son of the Bishop of Winchester, educated at Winchester and Oxford and related to some of the grandest families in England. Wilson was a farmer from Warbrook in Western Australia whose education had been gained by correspondence course, yet both men took satisfaction from knowing that they were doing "the thing one ought".
Wilson, who served with the 48th Battalion Australian Infantry, died of wounds received in the savage fighting at Pozieres when the War Diary recorded:
"The Battalion casualties 5th to 7th [August] inclusive were: 6 officers killed ... , 14 officers wounded ... 98 other ranks killed, 404 other ranks wounded, 76 others ranks missing."
THERE IS NO DEATH
CLOSER IS HE THAN BREATHING
NEARER THAN HANDS AND FEET
"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
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.
I SHALL SEE MY PILOT
FACE TO FACE
WHEN I HAVE CROST THE BAR
War Diary 3rd Canadian Divisional Signal Company
15 June 1917
Working party of 50 for buried cable work. All other work progressing favourably. Lt Uglow seriously wounded by sniper while looking over new points for extension of buried cable system.
16 June 1917
Only small working party for cable burying. Work commenced on installing new Signal office at Adv Div HQrs. Other work of air line construction and tunnel work progressing. Lt.Uglow died of wounds at No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station.
17 June 1917
Lt Uglow buried at Noeux Le Mins. All other work in hand being carried on satisfactorily.
Uglow's mother, Charlotte, chose his inscription. It comes from Tennyson's much-loved poem, Crossing the Bar, except that Tennyson wrote "I hope to see my Pilot face to face when I have crost the bar", whereas Uglow's mother wrote , "I shall see my Pilot face to face when I have crost the bar".
MAN AM I GROWN
A MAN'S WORK MUST I DO
ELSE WHEREFORE BORN
Is there a personal story behind this inscription? We shall never know but the context suggests that there might be. The inscription comes from Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King'. Gareth, the youngest of his parents' sons, wants to go and join his brothers as a knight at Arthur's Round Table. But his mother wants to keep him safe and refuses to let him go, telling him, "Stay my best son! ye are yet more boy than man', and trying to persuade him that he can train for manhood by following the deer, in other words by hunting in the forest. Gareth replies:
... O mother,
How can ye keep me tether'd to you? Shame.
Man am I grown, a man's work must I do.
Follow the deer? follow the Christ, the King,
Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King -
Else, wherefore born?
Clarence Fowle was 18 when he was killed, technically too young to be at the front unless he had his parents' signed permission. Do we think he persuaded an unwilling mother to let him go? We shall ever know. It was his mother who chose his inscription.
Fowle, serving with the 1st Regiment South African Infantry, was killed in the attack on Frezenberg Ridge on the opening day of the Battle of Menin Road. Of the 20 September 1917, John Buchan's 'History of South African Forces in the Great War' said, "That day's battle cracked the kernel of the German defence in the Salient. It showed only a limited advance ... but every inch of the ground was vital". However, in Buchan's opinion:
"Few struggles in the campaign were more desperate or carried out in a more gruesome battlefield. The mass of quagmires, splintered woods, ruined husks of pill-boxes, water-filled shell holes, and foul creeks which made up the land on both sides of the Menin road was a sight which, to the recollection of most men, must seem like a fevered nightmare. ... the elements seemed to have blended with each other to make it a limbo outside mortal experience and almost beyond human imagining."
THAT WHEN IT MATES
MAKES A MAN
Tennyson's poetry is turning out to be the most popular source of secular personal inscriptions. This one comes from Geraint and Enid, one of his Idylls of the King. As used by Gunner Cook's father, it makes a lovely epitaph implying that his son combined gentleness, the quality of being kind, agreeable and courteous, with the manly qualities of courage and integrity, which together made him a man.
Leslie Cook served with B Battery, 74th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, attached to the Guards Division. He died at a Casualty Clearing Station in Proven on 14 September. There is no individual information about his fate but on 13 September the 74th Brigade's war diary reported that the enemy put up a box barrage, a defensive barrage round Ney Copse and Ney Wood. It could have been in this incident, or any like it, the Cook was fatally wounded.
THE PATH OF DUTY
WAS THE WAY TO GLORY
Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington offers the assurance that glory is achieved by doing your duty.
Yea, let all good things await
Him who cares not to be great,
But as he saves or serves the state.
Not once or twice in our rough island-story,
The path of duty was the way to glory:
Louis Balding did his duty. He was called up on 22 July 1916. He was 29, which means that he was conscripted, conscription having been introduced in March 1916. The March act applied only to single men; Balding had got married on 26 December 1915. However, in May 1916 conscription was extended to include married men; Balding signed up in July. He went to France in October 1916 and served with the 185th Siege Battery. He died of wounds along with three other men of the Battery on 7 August 1917.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
(Elegy Written in a country Churchyard by Thomas Gray 1716-1771)
The path of duty leads to glory, and the path of glory leads but to the grave.
HE WORE THE WHITE FLOWER
OF A BLAMELESS LIFE
... He seems to me
Scarce other than my King's ideal knight,
The shadow of his loss drew like an eclipse,
Darkening the world. We have lost him: he is gone:
We know him now: ...
... and we see him as he moved,
How modest, kindly, all-accomplished, wise,
... through all this tract of years
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life,
This, much abbreviated, is an extract from Tennyson's dedication at the beginning of his Arthurian poem, 'Idylls of the King', which, as he said, "I consecrate with tears" to Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert. The words of the dedication resonated with Ellen Brierley, Edgar Brierley's wife, who quoted from it for her husband's inscription.
Brierley was born and brought up in Lancashire. He married there and his first son was born there in 1908. Sometime after this, the family moved to Canada where another son was born in 1915. This is the year Brierley joined up. He served with the 7th Battalion Canadian Infantry and died on 10 November 1917 when it took part in an attack towards Musselmarkt in the final stage of the Third Ypres campaign.
The Battalion war diary recorded the aftermath of the battle:
"It was impossible during the 10th to clear the wounded from the Regimental Aid Post, owing to exceptionally heavy shell-fire, with the result that the Post was crowded with stretcher cases during the night. These were cleared during the 11th by a brigade party of 300 Other Ranks which came up in the early morning, and by 8 p.m. (11th) all wounded of the Brigade had been cleared from Musselmarkt.
Owing to the exhaustion of the men and the constant shell-fire, it was impossible to bury many of the dead and no means were at hand for marking the graves of those that were buried."
Brierley's body was recovered from an unmarked grave in May 1920 and buried in Passchendaele New British Cemetery.
The 7th Battalion's war diary narrative for the 10 November 1917 can be read here: page 59, page 60, page 61.
BREAK, BREAK, BREAK
ON THY COLD GREY STONE
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 HOPE TO SEE MY PILOT
FACE TO FACE
WHEN I HAVE CROSSED THE BAR
This inscription comes from the last verse of one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's most popular poems: 'Crossing the Bar'. The whole poem is an extended metaphor for coming to the end of one's life, 'sunset and evening star', and dying, 'crossing the bar': the bar of sand that builds up at the mouth of a harbour and which could be said to separate the water of the harbour from that of the open sea. It really is a lovely image: death is equated with that moment when the incoming tide, which has come 'from out the boundless deep', stills for a moment before it begins to ebb, 'turns again home', carrying with it the dead person to meet 'his Pilot', Christ.
For though 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.
In 1911, seventeen-year-old Horace Albert Millard was a Civil Service boy clerk working for the Post Office. From his army number it appears he enlisted aound November 1915. He served with the 1st/5th London Regiment, the London Rifle Brigade, part of the 56th London Division, and died of wounds on 17 August 1917. The previous day the 56th London Division had taken part in the opening attack of the Battle of Langemarck. This turned out to be a very costly failure, which generated a legend that the British plans had been betrayed by a deserter. But it's more likely that the failure was due to the exceptionally soggy, rain-sodden ground, the German artillery and the existence of several undetected machine-gun pill boxes.
GOD'S FINGER TOUCHED HIM
AND HE SLEPT
The poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) is a popular source for inscriptions and in particular 'In Memoriam A.H.H.', which is where this quotation comes from:
My blood an even tenor kept,
Till on mine ear this message falls,
That in Vienna's fatal walls
God's finger touched him, and he slept.
LXXXV : 5
Tennyson uses a particularly beautiful metaphor to describe the death of his twenty-two-year-old friend, Arthur Henry Hallam. And although Hallam's death - he died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep - can bear no relation to the way in which Lance Corporal Ross died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station in Flanders, it makes rather a beautiful inscription too.
James Ross enlisted in Ayr and joined the 12th Battalion Highland Light Infantry formed in Hamilton in September 1914. The Battalion became part of the 15th (Scottish) Division and served in France and Flanders from 10 July 1915. On 31 July 1917 it took part in the attack on Pilckem Ridge on the opening day of 3rd Ypres, Passchendaele. Ross could have been wounded then, or on 2 August when the 15th Division were subject to a fierce German counter-attack.
DEATH HAS MADE HIS DARKNESS
BEAUTIFUL WITH THEE
This lovely inscription comes from Tennyson's In Memoriam, LXXIV - the darkness of death has been made beautiful by this man's presence. The War Graves Commission's records say that the inscription was chosen by Mrs L May. I can't tell who this is as William May's mother was called Selina and his father, Charles.
Twenty-two-year-old William Henry May was a sergeant with a Military Medal and Bar when he died of wounds in hospital in Etaples on 1 October 1918, having been wounded, according to the 3rd Battalion Canadian Infantry War Diary on 27 September.
This is an excellent war record for a young man who in the 1911 census was an inmate in the reformatory school in Kingswood, Somerset. Whilst here boys were educated and taught a trade and some were given grants to help them emigrate once they were released. William May went to Canada. Here he joined up in September 1914, giving his trade as an actor. He served throughout the war and was wounded seven times before he died.
I HAVE FELT
WITH MY NATIVE LAND
I AM ONE WITH MY KIND
Serjeant Francis Albert Hawes was the son of a professional soldier, Staff Serjeant Francis Anthony Hawes, who chose his inscription. It comes from the penultimate line of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, Maud (1855).
For all the hilarity of its most famous line: "Come into the garden Maud", this is a dark, cynical and controversial poem. Who knows whether Francis Anthony was aware of this. It's likely however that he was impressed by the last two stanzas, which tell of a country (Britain) that has lost for a little its lust for gold, and its love for "a peace that was full of wrongs and shame", and is prepared to embrace war in order that "God's just wrath shall be wreak'd on a giant liar". Tennyson was referring to the Crimean War. Many will have seen a similarity with the Great War. Now, "The blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire" has begun to burn -
"Let it flame or fade, and the war roll down like a wind,
We have proved we have hearts in a cause, we are noble still
And myself have awaked, as it seems, to the better mind
It is better to fight for the good, than to rail at the ill;
I have felt with my native land, I am one with my kind,
I embrace the purpose of God, and the doom assign'd."
To have been a serjeant at 25, less than two years after the outbreak of war, it's possible that Francis Albert Hawes was a professional soldier like his father. He served with the heavy guns, the Royal Garrison Artillery, and died on 11 July 1916.
"HIS MEMORY LONG
WILL LIVE ALONE
IN ALL OUR HEARTS"
Frank Bird was born in 1884 in Harbury, Warwickshire where his father was a painter, plumber and glazier. At some unknown date he emigrated to Canada, where he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry on the outbreak of war and returned to Europe to fight. He died on 10 August 1916 at a Field Ambulance Station at Reninghelst, Flanders. Bird's inscription was chosen by his mother, Mrs Ellen Jane Bird, who was still living in Warwickshire. It comes from "To J.S." a poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson for his friend James Spedding following the death of Spedding's brother, Edward. Full of tender comforting words, all of which must have been felt to be appropriate, the poem concludes:
Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul,
While the stars burn, the moons increase,
And the great ages onward roll.
Sleep till the end, true soul and sweet.
Nothing comes to thee new or strange.
Sleep full of rest from head to feet;
Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.
THE PATHS OF GLORY
LEAD BUT TO THE GRAVE
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.
OH FOR THE TOUCH
OF A VANISHED HAND
AND THE SOUND OF
A VOICE THAT IS STILL
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.
"A SORROW'S CROWN
OF SORROW IS
REMEMBERING HAPPY THINGS"
Comfort? comfort scorn'd of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
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.
ONE CLEAR CALL
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.
A PURE KNIGHT OF GOD
It was Sir Galahad who was the perfect knight, who in Tennyson's poem could boast:
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
It was because he was the perfect knight that he was permitted to achieve the grail quest. And it was as a pure knight that he died having achieved it.
Lieutenant Watts' father specifically uses the term 'knight' to describe his son, but the inscription definitely has resonances of Christ's teaching at the Sermon on the Mount:
Blest are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
George Watts is commemorated on his parents' headstone in Payneham Cemetery, Adelaide with the inscription: 'A true knight of God'.
ALL IS OVER AND DONE
RENDER THANKS TO THE GIVER
"He is my very best officer. I don't know what I shall do without him," wrote Colonel Barker of the 22nd (Kensington) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, on hearing that Captain Richard Roscoe had been dangerously wounded by shell fire, losing a leg whilst asleep in A Company's HQ post after 48 hours in the front line. "He was splendidly brave and as clever as a man of 40, although just 20". According to the War Graves Commission records Captain Roscoe was in fact still only 19. He had been gazetted Lieutenant on 19 October 1914 when he can only have been 17. "He is now my Senior Captain and one in whom I had the most implicit confidence," Colonel Barker continued. However, despite the stretcher bearers taking immense personal risks themselves to get Roscoe medical treatment, he died the following day.
Captain Roscoe was vouched for from another source too. He was Hector Hugh Monro, Saki's, Company Commander and Munro's friend, Corporal Spikesman, described Roscoe as "one of the finest fellows". Monro was chatting to Roscoe moments before he was shot, just after he'd uttered his immortal last words, "Put that bloody cigarette out".
Richard Roscoe's inscription, confirmed by his father Philip Roscoe, is a quotation from Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington:
All is over and done:
Render thanks to the giver,
England, for thy son.
Let the bell be toll'd.
Much of the information on Roscoe comes from G.I.S. Inglis's book The Kensington Battalion: Never Lost a Yard of Trench. Although not published until 2010, the book benefits from the fact that Inglis did much of his research whilst many of the survivors were still alive.