I LIVED, I FOUGHT
AND FOR MY COUNTRY'S SAKE
What to choose for the very last inscription in this project - for the person who died on the last day of the war, the day the Armistice was signed - exercised me for some time. In the end it came down to three inscriptions:
To my dear son, one of three
Who gave their lives
For the country
This is the inscription for Private Leonard Brock who died of wounds in a German prisoner of war camp on 11 November 1918. One of his brothers had died of wounds in November 1916 and the other in March 1917.
Another possible inscription was:
Ad finem fidelis
Faithful to the end. It belongs to Captain Duncan Mackay who enlisted in September 1914. He was commissioned in November 1915 before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. On 10 November 1918 he and his observer were shot down whilst on a daylight bombing raid. Mackay died in a German hospital the next day.
And the third inscription was:
I lived, I fought
And for my country's sake
Eventually I decided on this last one. The other two are included in my book, 'Epitaphs of the Great War the Last 100 Days'.
This last inscription belongs to Charles William Ablin, a telephone engineer in civilian life who joined up in September 1915 when he was 19. He served with the Royal Engineers in the 40th Air Line Section. This had nothing to do with aeroplanes. The air line sections dealt with telephone and telegraph lines that ran on poles in the air, not along on or under the ground. After three years service he died in hospital at Le Trepot of bronchial pneumonia, probably caused by influenza.
His mother, Mrs Ethel Eugenie Ablin, composed his inscription - a British mother's inscription for her British son. But, the sentiment could apply to virtually every other mother's son of whatever nationality who died in the war whether he came from France, Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Italy, the United States of America, Portugal, Japan, Serbia, the Ottoman Empire (which at the time embraced not just Turkey but much of the Middle East), the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which covered most of eastern Europe) and the British Empire (which included at the time New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, the West Indies, Burma, India, Egypt, the Sudan, Northern and Southern Rhodesia and South Africa). Although the British remain fixated on their own wartime activities, especially those on the Western Front, it was a global war with global consequences, which still reverberate today.
So this is the last inscription in the project, one that acknowledges the casualties on all sides. Over the past 1,561 days I have tried to give 'life' to the deaths of a tiny fraction of the many multitudes who died as a tribute to every one of them. Thank you for being my companions along the way. History tends to emulsify the past, to render it into a single voice when in fact it consists of myriads of voices. Epitaphs of the Great War has shown us 1,561 of them.
UTTERLY REGARDLESS OF FEAR
HE DIED FOR GOD
KING AND COUNTRY
Captain Arthur Moore VC MC was killed in action on 7 November 1918 when the 21st Division took the village of Limont Fontaine. The Division had crossed the Sambre the previous day and was in pursuit of the retreating Germans. However, the German rearguard made a stand at Limont Fontaine, which was "strongly garrisoned and stoutly defended", and there was some fierce hand-to-hand fighting.
Moore's obituary in The Times describes how he had been 13 years with the Cape Mounted Rifles in South Africa, joining it as a trooper and rising to the rank of sergeant, before returning to Britain in 1915 to take a commission in the Durham Light Infantry. He served originally with the 3rd Battalion and was wounded on the Somme in September 1916. On recovering he returned to the front and on 15 June 1917 led a daylight raid on the German lines at Loos with the aim of capturing some prisoners. The raid was successful and for his actions that day Lascelles was awarded a Military Cross. Six months later, on 4 December 1917, he was severely wounded in an action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The 'terrible day' is very vividly described on this English Light Infantry website
Lascelles' right elbow had been smashed in the action and his right arm was useless. Nevertheless, when he recovered his strength he insisted on returning to the front. He joined his unit, this time the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, on 27 October and was killed eleven days later.
Arthur Lascelles was the son of John and Mary Elizabeth Lascelles of Milford Hall, Newtown, Powys. In 1907 whilst in South Africa he married Sophia Hardiman. They had one son, Reginald George. He was named after Arthur's younger brother who had drowned in India in 1904 whilst serving out there with the Durham Light Infantry. Sophia Lascelles chose her husband's inscription.
WE LIE DEAD
IN MANY LANDS
SO THAT YOU MAY LIVE HERE
On the 1 November 1918 the Germans decided to make a stand at Valenciennes, the last French city in German hands. Its capture was vital to the Allies' progress but the presence of a large civilian population made the attack difficult. George Smart's regiment, the 2nd South Staffordshires, were in support on the 1st but the war diary does refer to shelling by the enemy with 77 mms and 4-2s, perhaps this is when Smart was killed. His body was not discovered until April 1920, it had not been buried in a marked grave.
Smart is buried in Romeries just south of Valenciennes. There are 703 burials in the cemetery, five of them from the very earliest days of the war - the 24th, 25th and 26th August 1914, one from October 1916 and all the rest from the last month of the war. The war was returning to where it had begun.
George Smart's mother chose his inscription. It is not a common one but it was used on public war memorials in communities across the Empire. Seemingly composed in the immediate post-war era it has an echo of Simonides as reflected in 'Our British Dead' a 1917 poem by Joseph Lee which has the lines:
Here do we lie, dead but not discontent,
That which we found to do has had accomplishment.
That accomplishment? - that we, the survivors, may live in peace.
I WAS GLAD TO DIE
FOR MY COUNTRY
AND FOR MY
MOST BELOVED PARENTS
Dudley Mein's father, Colonel Alexander Lechmere Mein, chose his son's inscription. It raises an interesting question. Who is actually speaking here? The voice is obviously meant to be that of the son, Dudley Mein, but the words were chosen by the father. Do the words express the father's sentiments or the son's. We're not going to know.
All the voices in these inscriptions are the voices of the bereaved. Occasionally quotation marks indicate that the dead person is being quoted but even then the choice has been made by the next of kin, the bereaved. And whether they are grief stricken, angry, proud or loving they have had to make a decision on what to say, and they have had to limit it to 66 characters whereas there were probably a million things they could have said. Some people will have said what they thought they should say, some people will have said what people conventionally say and some people will have wanted to say something that brought them comfort. The ones I admire are the ones that say something totally original - 'He would give his dinner to a hungry dog and go without himself', Love and kisses from Mother, Yes my love the same your wife, Ethel'. I suspect I would have said something deeply conventional.
Dudley Mein was born in India in 1898 and educated at Junior King's School Canterbury and Kelly College. After school he entered the Wellington Cadet College, Madras and in April 1916 took a commission in the 31st Duke of Connaught's Lancers. He served in Egypt, Palestine and on the North West Frontier before returning to Palestine in April 1918 attached to the Mysore Lancers.
His Military Cross was awarded for an action on 23 September when he captured two guns and 110 prisoners. He was killed on 26 October in an event described in General Allenby's dispatch:
"Early on the morning of October 26th the armoured cars and the 15th Cavalry Brigade, moving round the west side of the town, followed the enemy along the Aleppo-Katma road and gained touch with him south-east of Haritan. The Turkish rearguard consisted of some 2,500 infantry, 150 cavalry, and eight guns. The Mysore Lancers and two squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers attacked the enemy's left; covered by the fire of the armoured cars, the Machine Gun Squadron and two dismounted squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers. The Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers charged most gallantly. A number of Turks were speared, and many threw down their arms, only to pick them up again when the cavalry had passed through, and their weakness had become apparent. The squadrons were not strong enough to complete the victory, and were withdrawn till a larger force could be assembled."
Much of this information comes from The King's School Canterbury Roll of Honour website.
HE DIED FOR ME
AND ME ONLY
Albert William Hall was his parents' eldest son. They only had two children. He lived in Gloucester where his father was a "deal porter" someone who handled baulks of softwood, unloading them from ships and stacking them sometimes 60ft high in warehouses.
In 1911, Albert, aged 16, was a telegraph messenger, someone who delivered telegrams. His brother, Walter, aged 14, was a 'Corporation employee'.
Albert enlisted soon after the outbreak of war. He served with the 8th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, which was raised in Bristol in September 1914. The battalion went to France on 18 July 1915, the day Albert's medal index card says he arrived in France. He died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 31 July 1916. The previous day the battalion war diary had recorded:
"Attacked the German intermediate line, A & B Coys in front line, C & D Coys in second line. Our attack was held up by enfilade machine gun fire and concealed snipers from the right. Our men returned to their original front line at 9.30 pm. Casualties, Officers killed 8, 3 wounded, 3 missing. The Co Major Thynne was wounded in the body while urging on the second line. Other ranks 160."
Unfortunately whoever wrote up the diary never indicated whether that was 160 other rank casualties - killed, missing and wounded - or 160 killed. Nevertheless, it had been an 'expensive' raid in term of casualties. Albert Hall was most probably one of the wounded; the battalion had not been in the front line for some considerable time before it.
Hall's mother, Henrietta Hall, chose his inscription. Whilst there were several hymns that declared Christ "died for me", there are none that say "he died for me and for me only" so it would seem that Mrs Hall was not quoting but giving a piece of her own mind.
It's rather an extraordinary inscription. There are plenty that say 'He died for us', 'He died for others', 'He died for you', 'He died for you and me' but I have not come across another one that says 'He died for me and me only'. Mrs Hall was not going to share her son with anyone else - even his father and his brother.
HE DIED FOR HIS MEN
FIGHTING TO COVER
This is such a specific inscription that it is a shame I haven't been able to find out any more details.
Stephenson served with the 1/7th Battalion The King's (Liverpool Regiment) but their war diary doesn't cover June 1916, or if it does the online diary doesn't. The 1/7th were part of the 55th Division and the divisional war diary does exist. This records: "28 June 1916 Raids on German trenches". The following appendices are full of the exact detailed plans for the raids, which conclude with a "Special Order of the Day by Major General HS Jeudwine CB, Commanding 55th (West Lancashire) Division published on 29 June:
"Yesterday six raids on the enemy's trenches were carried out by the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers and the 1/4 Loyal North Lancashire Regiment of the 164th Brigade and by the 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/9th King's Liverpool Regiments of the 165th Infantry Brigade assisted by detachments of the Royal Engineers. These raids were carried out in daylight, in unaccustomed and very difficult circumstances, and in the face of very determined opposition. In spite of these obstacles the results aimed at were successfully obtained and great damage and loss inflicted on the enemy. The gallantry, devotion, and resolution shown by all ranks was beyond praise, and the Major-General Commanding is proud to be able to congratulate the West Lancashire Division on the discipline and soldierly spirit exhibited - a discipline and spirit which most seasoned troops could not have surpassed. [...] He deeply regrets the loss of those who fell, but the spirit they showed will have its effect on the enemy. When the opportunity comes of avenging their deaths the Major-General Commanding is confident that the Division will not forget them."
Arthur Stephenson was the son of the Revd Robert Stephenson and his wife Philippa. He joined the army soon after the outbreak of war and was in France in on 6 June 1915. Seven days after his death the Liverpool Post & Mercury carried the following announcement:
"Official intimation has also been received that Lieutenant Theordore Stephenson, 7th King's (Liverpool Regiment) is reported missing, believed killed. He was the son of the late Rev. Robert Stephenson, who for over 30 years was vicar of St Jame's, Birkdale. He possessed marked ability as a pianist and frequently gave classical recitals at Southport."
HE DIED FOR HUMAN LIBERTY
Kenneth Ian Somerville was a student at Toronto University when the war broke out. He enlisted in the 33rd Canadian Infantry Battalion in October 1915 and went overseas in April 1916. In June 1916 he joined the 60th Battalion at the front and served with it at Ypres, the Somme and Vimy Ridge. He transferred to the 5th Mounted Rifles in May 1917 and served in the battles of Lens, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.
On 15 March 1918 the battalion conducted a raid on the German trenches. Somerville, another officer and four soldiers were killed in the action. Somerville was in fact originally badly wounded in the face. This blinded him. His was being taken back to the front line when he was caught in an enemy barrage and wounded a second time, this time in the left thigh. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station but failed to survive an operation the following day.
All this is documented on the Veterans Affairs Canada site on which there is also a letter his father, Charles Ross Somerville, wrote to a niece:
"My poor Kenneth was killed in France on the 16th March. I should have sent you word sooner but have been all broken up it is such a shock. After about 2 years in the fighting line I had hoped that he would have come through - but it was not God's purpose for my dear boy."
Charles Somerville chose his son's inscription: "He died for human liberty". Where did he get this idea from? On 8 January 1918 President Woodrow Wilson addressed both Houses of Congress. He outlined his Fourteen Points, setting out what could be the terms on which to base peace. Wilson spelt out how behind everything he proposed was the principle of justice, people's "right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak". He pledged the people of the United States to maintain this principle, "the moral climax of this, the culminating and final war for human liberty".
TO UPHOLD CIVILIZATION
OF THIS WORLD
Robert Emerson was 21 when he was killed in action on the 2 September 1918 in the capture of the Drocourt-Queant Line. A fisherman from Clark's Harbour, Nova Scotia, he had joined up in March 1916 and been in France since February 1917. Wounded twice, once in the face and once in the arm, he also spent some time in hospital with Scarlet Fever in June 1917.
His elder brother Warren, who had been badly gassed, returned to Canada to recuperate and was about to be sent back again when the war ended. A younger brother, Frederick, wounded at Passchendaele, had his leg amputated and another brother, Minard, died of influenza.
What gave his father, who chose his inscription, the idea that his son had died to uphold world civilization? It would have been the Allied Victory Medal awarded to all the combatants of every Allied nation with the same agreed wording in the various different languages on the reverse - 'The Great War for Civilisation'.
Warren Nickerson and his wife, Jacobine, called their son, born in 1920, Robert Emerson Drocourt Emerson, Warren's brother's names with the addition of the location where he had been killed. Robert joined the Canadian Air Force on the outbreak of the Second World War. He qualified as a pilot and was killed over Cheshire flying a Hurricane which crashed due to a leak of glycol.
HE DIED FOR JUSTICE
AND FOR FREEDOM'S SAKE
FOR EMPIRE , KING AND RIGHT
"I state that Lieut Rannard was killed by a shell - wounded in the neck and died at once at Sec-Bois on April 17th 1918. He was buried there, with other members of Battalion by a Padre and a cross, a very nice one, was erected. He was a fine little chap.The ground was held.
Description:- Dark, thin face, grey eyes, medium height.
Informant: Byrne. GB. Lieut. (Entirely reliable)
3rd London General Hospital
Lieutenant Bytne may not have been an eyewitness but there were plenty in this Red Cross Wounded and Missing file and unusually they all agree. Rannard was giving orders whilst a barrage was on, "I saw him killed by a piece of shrapnel, back of neck, instantly fell back dead in my arms".
Rannard's inscription is very much influenced by propaganda: recruiting posters such as - "Take up the Sword of Justice" - and the memorial plaque given to the next-of-kin of all the dead which states that whoever received it had died for 'freedom and honour', together with numerous pleas in posters and the press for Australians to fight for their King and the Empire.
Richard Rannard was born in Australia and enlisted as a private in September 1915. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in December 1916 and promoted Lieutenant on May 1917. The son of William and Margaret Rannard of Maylands, Western Australia, it was his wife Edith, who chose his inscription.
HE DIED FOR ENGLAND
As the centenary draws to an end, I thought it would be interesting to see what some next-of-kin gave as the cause for which they believed their family members had died. Yesterday's casualty, Thomas Scott Brodie, gave his life for the Empire.
Ralph Harwood, who served with the 3rd Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action in Gallipoli on 30 November 1915, 'died for England'. The son of Ralph Harwood and his wife Mary Frances Buckley, Ralph jnr was born in Liverpool, England and emigrated with his parents to Australia in 1898 when he was two. He enlisted in May 1915 when he was 18 and 9 months and embarked for Egypt two months later. He was killed a month before the Allied forces were withdrawn from the peninsula.
His mother chose his inscription and filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia. In this she wrote that "He was grandson of Major TNJ Buckley VC, RE (Indian Mutiny). Major Buckley obtained this for the blowing up of the magazine at Delhi,"
Ralph Harwood WAS the grandson of Thomas Newton John Buckley, and Major John Buckley WAS awarded a VC for his actions in blowing up the Delhi magazine and so saving it from falling into the hands of the rebels, but they weren't the same person.
One of the tragic aspects of John Buckley VC's life is that although he was married three times and fathered eight children, two of his wives died and all eight of his children, some from disease and some killed during the rebellion. Thomas Newton John Buckley also served in the Royal Engineers but it looks very much from this forum as though he was a deserter.
The things you find out.
BLOW SOFTLY, O, SOUTH WINDS
BLOW SOFTLY O'ER HIS GRAVE
FOR HIS LIFE FOR THE EMPIRE
HE WILLINGLY GAVE
Thomas Scott Brodie was a volunteer - 'his life for the Empire he willingly gave'. He joined the 1st Scottish Horse Yeomanry and went with them to Gallipoli in August 1915. On 2 September they landed at Suvla Bay and after three months were evacuated to Egypt on 28 December. In October 1916 the 1st Scottish Horse Yeomanry were merged to form the 13th (Scottish Horse Yeomanry) Battalion Black Watch. This served in Salonika until June 1918 when it was posted to France.Brodie was killed in action on 17 October in the crossing of the River Selle.
The son of John and Marie Brodie of Govan, Lanarkshire, his father was a ship builder's clerk. Marie Brodie chose her son's inscription because her husband was dead. It is a variation of an In Memoriam verse that appeared in various forms in the local newspapers during the war. This is one version:
"Somewhere in France", a brave heart beats no more,
He has finished his bit, and the tumult is o'er;
In the garb of his King, with his feet to the foe,
"Somewhere in France," how calmly he sleeps.
Blow softly O south winds blow soft o'er his grave,
His life for the Empire he willingly gave,
And sweetly he rests with the heroes of God.
Here is another:
Far away from his home and his loved ones,
Laid to rest in that far away land;
Never more shall are eyes here behold him,
Never more will we clasp his dear hand.
Somewhere in France, how calmly he sleeps,
While the songbird her singing all the day keeps;
Blow softly O south winds, blow softly o'er his grave,
His life for the Empire he willingly gave.
The south wind is traditionally the wind that brings comfort, refreshment and quietness.
GOD GAVE TO RIGHT
TRIUMPHANT OVER WRONG
It was all so simple once - Britain and her allies were in the right and Germany and the Central Powers were in the wrong. And in the end right had triumphed over wrong as she should. This was how Mrs Mary McIntosh saw it when she signed for this inscription for her son James. The wife of a coachman, in 1901 she, her husband and six children lived in Pitlochry.
James had served with the 8th Battalion the Black Watch. There is no date of entry into a theatre of war on his medal index card and he was not entitled to a 1914-15 Star so he was probably not a volunteer.
He was killed on 14 October 1918 when the battalion attacked towards Winkel-St Eloi. The attack began at 05.30 with D Company leading, B C and A Companies in support. At 06.00 D Coy was held up at Mogg Farm at map reference F26a. B and C companies were ordered to assist and Mogg Farm was cleared.
Almost two years later, McIntosh's body was exhumed and reburied in Dadizeele New British Cemetery. It had been discovered with three other members of the 8th battalion at map reference F26a.3.5. McIntosh had been a casualty of the hold up' at Mogg Farm.
It was 28 days before the end of the war.
IN THE ETERNAL FLANDERS
YOU FELL; WHERE FOR
ENGLAND'S FREEDOM AND GLORY
YOUR FOREFATHERS BLED
Miss N McMahon of 3 Stacy Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, chose Private James McMahon's inscription - a sister perhaps? He is said to have been the son of William McMahon but I have not been able to identify either William or James in any of the censuses.
James McMahon was a volunteer. He first entered a theatre of war, France, on 22 October 1915 serving originally with the Northumberland Fusiliers and then with the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was killed on 13 October 1918 in the crossing of the River Selle, east of Cambrai, which had fallen on the 8th.
Whoever Miss N McMahon was she knew her history. Her 'eternal Flanders' is often known as 'the cockpit of Europe', the battleground of numerous campaigns throughout history. McMahon was killed less that 15 miles from Ramillies and Malplaquet, the sites of the Duke of Marlborough's famous victories of 1706 and 1709. Agincourt, Crecy and Waterloo were themselves only just over 70 miles away. McMahon joined the long line of Englishmen killed in the struggle to keep a strong power out of the Low Countries whether that power was France, Spain or Germany.
HAS FALLEN IN THE FIGHT
FOR JUSTICE, FREEDOM
AND FOR RIGHT
Mrs Kate Scurlock had no misgivings about the cause for which her son had died, unlike yesterday's mother who was obviously deeply against war. It's strange to think how many people passionately believed that their menfolk had died for abstract concepts like 'justice, freedom and for right' when that's not how most people think today. Yet how things are perceived is how people believe they are - and it's good to think sometimes of how people in a hundred years time might judge our present-day perceptions.
Frederick Scurlock was born in Pembroke Dock where his father was a fitter in the dockyard. He worked as a clerk in a timber yard in Haverfordwest until he was called up.
Scurlock served with "C" Bty. 102nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, part of the 23rd Division, which went to Italy late in October 1917. He was wounded in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto and died in a Casualty Clearing Station behind the lines.
ONE OF THREE DEAR SONS
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
FOR KING AND COUNTRY
William and Amy Martin had seven children, five sons and two daughters. Herbert William was the oldest. A warehouseman in London where the family lived, he volunteered in September 1914 and went to France with the 23rd Battalion London Regiment on 14 March 1915. He was killed in action just over two months later in the Battle of Festubert. He was 28. His body was never identified and he's consequently commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.
Alan Stewart, at the age of 15 working as a junior clerk, volunteered in November 1914. He served with the Royal Engineers and was present in Gallipoli from the landing at Suvla Bay on 25 April 1915 to the evacuation in December. He served in France with the 29th Divisional Signal Company and was wounded at Merris on 12 April 1918. He died in hospital at Wimereux a month later, the day after his younger brother, Wilfred John, serving with the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment had been killed in action near Arras.
Wilfred, who had volunteered in February 1915 when he was only 16, served in Dublin during the 1916 rising. He went to France on 31 March 1918 and was dead within six weeks. He was 19.
Both Wilfred and Alan have the same inscription, signed for by their father. The single adjective giving it a simple, affecting poignancy.
FOR HIS ENGLISH AND FRENCH
BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Elmer Laing's father, William Drake Laing, chose his inscription, very specifically giving the cause for which his Australian son had fought and died.
Born in Australia, educated in England and Marburg, Germany, Laing returned to Australia in 1911 when he was 18. He became a fruit grower, an orchardist, but joined up on 14 September 1914, barely a month after the outbreak of war.
He served with the 12th Battalion Australian Infantry, the first battalion to go ashore at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. The battalion remained on Gallipoli until the evacuation in December. It was then deployed to France, fighting at Pozieres where Laing was awarded a Military Cross:
"Lieut, Laing was in command of his platoon in the attack at Pozieres which he led with conspicuous bravery and coolness. On the night of 24th July 1916 he commanded a patrol sent out to the N.E. corner of Pozieres to cover a party of Engineers digging a strong post and when they were driven back by machine gun fire he assisted to bring back a wounded man and by his coolness and courageousness fully got his patrol back to our line."
In the autumn of 1917 the battalion were engaged at Third Ypres and in the Spring of 1918 in attempting to halt the German offensive in the same region. On 4 May 1918 the 12th Battalion relieved the 4th in the line "east & south east of Strazeele". Laing was killed on the 8th, the war diary recorded:
"Heavy barrage of 4.2's & 7.7's on the two left companies & support company at 3 am during which Lieut E.W.D.Laing M.C. was killed."
"For his English and French brothers and sisters."
BRITAIN IS FREE
FOR THIS OUR HEROES DIED
April 22nd 1918
"At 7-30 pm 35th & 38th Divisions attacked - 19th Durham L.I. taking part. The attack as far as the 19th Durham L.I. were concerned was not a success - the right Coy. suffering severe casualties. The Battalion had to wait 8 minutes after Zero before advancing to conform to the Barrage and thus possibly gave the enemy M.G.s time to get ready".
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Friday 3 May 1918
"Sec-Lieut. James Bell, Durham L.I. who was killed in action on April 22, was the elder son of Mr John Bell, of 6 Lowthian Road, West Hartlepool. He joined the Honourable Artillery Company in November 1915, and was with them in France for seventeen months. He was granted a commission in February last. Formerly he was a Second Division clerk at Somerset House, and later was with the Health Insurance Commissioners at Buckingham Gate."
John Bell, a ships plater in the naval dockyards at Hartlepool, chose his son's inscription. To Mr Bell, his son had given his life so that Britain might be free. Imagine telling him that today people think the war was a futile waste. It's not just that he wouldn't believe you but he would be insulted - and he would consider that you had insulted his son ... and perhaps you had. As people like Mr Bell saw it, Germany had threatened to destroy Britain and her Empire and people like his son had saved it ... and perhaps they had.
I FOUGHT AND DIED
IN THE GREAT WAR
TO END ALL WARS
HAVE I DIED IN VAIN?
Is there doubt in this question or is it more of a prompt? Is Clara Ball, Sergeant Ball's sister, doubting that the Great War was the war to end all wars or is she reminding people of what it was meant to be and that they need to make sure it comes about?
It's not possible to tell but as it seems that Ball's permanent headstone was in place by 1920 it's more likely to be a prompt. Doubt about the war didn't creep in until later in the decade.
How could people see it as the war to end all wars? It was simple, German/Prussian militarism needed to be crushed for all time and then world peace would be possible. In the fifty years prior to 1914 Prussia had fought its neighbours - Denmark, Austria-Hungary, France - and in more recent years it had had the temerity to challenge the British Empire and the Royal Navy. Would defeat and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles bring an end to German threats, and would the people of the world put their backs into being worthy of the dead and into supporting initiatives like the League of Nations.
Philip James Ball was born in Birmingham to Henry George and Emily Ball. His two eldest siblings were born in England but the next three were born in Australia where Henry George had gone to try his hand at farming. However, by the time of Philip's birth in 1897 the family had returned to Britain. Nevertheless, in 1914, at the age of 17, Philip went to Australia where he worked in the dairy industry. He enlisted in the Australian Infantry on 24 January 1916 and embarked for Europe on 6 June 1916.
Ball served with the 44th Battalion Australian Infantry and went missing on 28 March 1918. Enquiries to the Red Cross elicited the following response:
"Bell came from West Australia; was medium build, fair & had the MM ... About March 28th we were at Sailly le Sec. About 11.30 pm we went to try & locate the Germans & had advanced about 1000 yards beyond our first line when we came on a nest of M.G. We retired about 100 yards & dug in behind the crest of a small hill. I saw both men when we started on our attack but neither returned. We searched the ground the same night and got in all our wounded but could get no news of the men named. If the bodies had been there I think they would have been found. So I think they must have got & wandered into the German lines."
In September 1918, Ball's body was discovered buried in a shell hole. After the war it was exhumed and reburied at Villers-Bretoneaux.
SACRIFICED TO MONARCHICAL AMBITION
This is a very blunt inscription. I wonder whether there was any correspondence over it between Rutherford's parents and the War Graves Commission. We'll never know as this sort of correspondence was not kept when the Commission moved out of London in the 1970s. If there was, presumably the Rutherford's argued that the monarchical ambition they were referring to was the German Kaiser's and had nothing to do with the British monarchy.
Archibald Rutherford died in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony. Germany's plans to establish a Deutsch-Mittelafrika (German Central Africa), part of the Kaiser's 'monarchical ambitions', had brought her into conflict with other European countries trying to maintain their own influence in the area, particularly Portugal and Great Britain. The outbreak of war gave the Germans the opportunity to expand out of German East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) into Mozambique, the northern part of which they occupied 1914. They ran a very successful campaign throughout the whole war in the region, tying up valuable allied troops that could have been used elsewhere.
Rutherford served in the Royal Engineers, as a dispatch rider in a Lines of Communication Signal Company. The announcement of his death in The Scotsman says that he 'died on active service'. This could have been as a result of an accident but disease accounted for the majority of deaths among European troops in this region: dysentery, malaria, influenza, pneumonia.
Rutherford's father, William Duncan Rutherford, a manager in the Edinburgh biscuit manufacturing company of R. Middlemass and Son, signed for his inscription. Many people, then and since, believed that Kaiser Wilhelm's territorial ambitions were a major cause of the First World War. Others blamed it on Great Power rivalry in which Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia were all equally to blame.
I wonder what William Duncan Rutherford really thought his son had been sacrificed for?
OUR LOVING SON
DIED IN THE DEFENCE
OF ENGLAND AND POLAND
Stanislaw Rauch is known as Stanley Stanistaw Rauch by the War Graves Commission, and Stanley Ranch on his Medal Index Card. However, he was registered at his birth as Urbon Stanislaw Rauch, the son of Wilhelm Rauch and his wife, Stanislawa Baderski.
All the couple's ten children were born in London, where Wilhelm and Stanislawa were married in 1892. In the 1911 census, Wilhelm gives his birthplace as Warsaw, Russia and Stanislawa as Mikstadt, Germany. In the 1891 census, she describes her place of birth as Prussian Poland. As both places are now in Poland, it gives you an idea of the situation in the country, which at the start of the First World War was partitioned between Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany.
America's entry into the war, and Woodrow Wilson's attempt to use the war to spread democracy and national self determination, gave Poles the hope that the war might liberate their country. This is how the Rauch's could say that their son had died in the defence of Poland. I like the way they included their adopted country in this too.
In 1911, Stanislaw was a hairdresser's assistant. He didn't join the army until after 1915 when he served with D Battery, 79th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station close to the villages of Rocquigny and Estcourt, which were overrun by the Germans just over a month later.
PRO DEO ET PATRIA
"MOTHER DEAR I MUST GO"
Macully was a volunteer, every Australian soldier was a volunteer as there was no conscription in Australia. But it was an issue that bitterly divided country. In October 1916 the Government held a referendum on the issue and was defeated by 72,000 votes. It held another referendum in December 1917 when it lost by 166,588 votes.
It may not look like it but Mrs Macully is referring to conscription in her son's inscription. Arnold Macully had recognised that he had a duty to fight for God and his country - the Latin 'Deo et patria' lending gravitas to the sentiment. But she hadn't forced him to do his duty: "Mother dear I must go" speaks of a tender but determined son and a mother who is unwilling to part with him. The implication is clear, Arnold Macully was no shirker and Mrs Macully had not forced her son to enlist.
Macully served with the 14th Brigade Australian Artillery. All the Australian divisions had been withdrawn from the Western Front for rest and recuperation after the Battle of Montbrehain on the 5 October. Not only were they exhausted having been in continuous action since August but there weren't enough Australian reinforcements to make up the casualties and some battalions were operating at less than half their strength. However, some artillery units remained to support the British and American infantry. The 14th Brigade was one of those that remained. On 23 October they were engaged at Le Cateau, providing a creeping barrage for a British attack.
Macully's Red Cross file states that he was admitted to the 55th Casualty Clearing Station on 23 October and died the next day. A witness told his mother:
"It happened at dusk one evening late in October, and Gunner Macully was in his dugout in the waggon lines when he was badly wounded by a shell in the thigh and side." His mate helped place "him on a stretcher, and carried him to an Ambulance by the road-side. He was quite conscious and chattered cheerfully to the Drivers Saunders and Edwards, telling them how to apply the Field Dressing. He was then taken away, and they learnt later that he has succumbed to his wounds."
A SON OF VENEZUELA
WHO FOUGHT AND DIED
FOR GOD'S JUSTICE ON EARTH
Manuel Bermudez attested in Montreal on 16 March 1916, giving his address as the Victoria Hotel, Montreal. Was he living and working in Montreal or did he come from Venezuela specially to enlist? He gave his occupation as 'Correspondence Spanish'. Was he perhaps a correspondent on a Spanish newspaper? I can't tell.
Venezuela was strictly neutral during the First World War, although its president, Juan Vincente Gomez, was widely suspected of being pro German. Bermudez's inscription does not sound as though it comes from a strictly neutral Venezuelan citizen ... far from it. A Mr JF Bermudez of Caracas, Venezuela chose it and was very specific that Manuel Bermudez had fought and died: 'For God's justice on earth'. JF Bermudez was not Manuel's father whose name was Manuel Bermudez Lecuna. However, it's possible that the family had pro-British sentiments since at one time the father had been the Venezuelan Consul in the British territories of Grenada and St Vincent.
Manuel Bermudez served with the 14th Battalion Canadian Infantry. He was killed in action during the battle of the Canal du Nord on day the Canadian Corps captured the village of Sancourt where Bermudez is buried in a joint grave with an unknown soldier.
GOD, MOTHER, ENGLAND
This is the fourth night in succession that the epitaph has identified a soldier's reasons for fighting: 'To uphold British prestige"; "for England's honour"; "To end all wars" and now for "God, Mother, England".
If I'm not much mistaken, John Albert Nadon was really Jean Albert Nadon since the family were French Canadians hailing from Quebec. Nadon was born in Mattawa, Ontario where his parents, Joachim and Exilda, had married in 1885 and where his father was a farmer. This makes Nadon's inscription all the more interesting. It was signed for by his mother and it's not only the order of priorities that makes it interesting, nor the fact that his father was still alive, but that this French Canadian should identify England, not Canada or the Empire as a reason for fighting, which some Canadians, especially French Canadians, would have done. Today England is a very specific place but at one time the word was loosely used for the whole of Great Britain. And England was the motherland, the heart of the world-wide Empire.
There is very little personal information on John Albert Nadon, just that he served in the 52nd Battalion Canadian Infantry and that he died on 28 August 1918. On the 27th and the 28th the battalion took part in an attack on the village of Bois-de-Vert and Artillery Hill. It was a successful operation but a costly one, the war diary noted that at the end of the day, "our four companies only numbered one hundred".
TO END ALL WARS
To Private Martin's father's, his son had died in the war to end all wars. The phrase, which became one of the catchphrases of the war and is always associated with the American president Woodrow Wilson, in fact owes its origins to the title of a book by HG Wells, published in late 1914, containing a number of newspaper articles he'd written in August 1914. The title of the book was, 'The War That Will End War'. And how would it end war? By smashing German militarism.
"We are fighting Germany ... we have to destroy an evil system of government and the mental and material corruption that has got hold of the German imagination and taken possession of German life. We have to smash Prussian Imperialism" which "has been for forty years an intolerable nuisance in the earth. Ever since the crushing of the French in 1871 the evil thing has grown and cast its spreading shadow over Europe. Germany has preached a propaganda of ruthless force and political materialism to the whole uneasy world. "Blood and iron," she boasted, was the cement of her unity, and almost as openly the little, mean, aggressive statesmen and professors who have guided her destinies to this present conflict have professed cynicism and an utter disregard of any ends but nationally selfish ends, as though it were religion."
I think you will have got the picture by now. It's worth following the link to have a look at the book as it certainly illustrates what some people thought they were fighting for and why it would be the war to end war. It wasn't, as we know, but then Wells himself said:
"There can be no diplomatic settlement that will leave German Imperialism free to explain away its failure to its people and start new preparations. We have to go on until we are absolutely done for, or until the Germans as a people know that they are beaten, and are convinced that they have had enough of war."
And that of course didn't happen until after 1945.
I have been able to find out virtually nothing about Private H Martin, except that his father was Mr JJ Martin, that he lived at 3 West Beech Road, Wood Green, London, and that he was killed in action on 27 August 1918 when the 3rd London Regiment Royal Fusiliers, with which he was serving, took the village of Maricourt.
TO UPHOLD BRITISH PRESTIGE
Upholding British prestige throughout the world has always been a matter of concern for British politicians and diplomats. Was it one of the factors that took us to war in 1914? Probably. Did Harry Wright's father, Walter Wright, who chose the inscription, think it a cause worth fighting for? I'm going to say again - probably. Just as concern for British sovereignty played its part in the vote for Brexit in 2016, so upholding British prestige will have played a part in Britain's decision to go to war in 1914.
Harry Wright joined up on 23 August 1915 when he was 17. He didn't get to France until 13 February 1917, presumably by which time he was 19. Promoted Lance Corporal on 22 May 1917, he was demoted on 5 August 1918 for "when on active service failing to relieve a sentry".
According to his surviving service record, Wright was wounded on the 22 August and died on the 24th. According to the war diary the battalion was resting on the 21st and 22nd August so it seems more likely that he was wounded on the 20th when the Germans attacked the British lines just south of the River Scarpe and secured a footing in the Loyal North Lancashire's trenches, forcing them to withdraw to the lines they had originally held on the 18th. A total of five other ranks were killed and twenty-four wounded during thi three-day period. One of them being Harry Wright, who died 'to uphold British prestige'.
A SACRIFICE TO RIGHT
"They are members of a team playing together in the greatest game of all. Their common heroism, their common sufferings in a common cause binds them with a tie such as never before been forged.
We British are not fighting merely to defend our commerce or even our homes from aggression; you Americans have not crossed the Atlantic merely to protect your shores; it is a higher cause that has brought us into the field together.
It is to protect the weak, to insure the reign of freedom and justice among future generations.
It is to defend right against might.
These are the highest ideals that men can live for. Those men at the front are sacrificing themselves for this ideal and for the good of the coming generation.
So you younger citizens owe a pretty big debt to your fathers and brothers who are standing for you at the front today. It is up to you to make their sacrifice worth while by yourselves playing the game in turn."
'Playing the Game' by Lt General Robert Baden-Powell
published in Boys Life The Boys Scouts [of America] Magazine July 1918
This article may have been published in an American magazine but you can see how Mr and Mrs Wright got the idea that their son Bert had sacrificed himself for right against might. It wouldn't have been the first time such sentiments had been expressed; they must have been commonplace in the Boy Scout movement throughout Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth - and not only in the Boy Scout movement.
Herbert Wright served with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and was killed in action near Boesinghe on 14 September 1917. His body was found two years later, six months after the death of his father.
DIED FOR CIVILISATION
AND FOR KING AND COUNTRY
Private Corrall's widowed mother chose his patriotic and idealistic inscription, these were the causes for which her son had served and died - civilisation, humanity, King and country. We don't see it like that today but as John Humphreys said recently on the Today programme, perception is everything. Mrs Corrall was one of the vast number of people who 'perceived' the war this way.
What will have influenced her thinking? Well, having been born in 1851 the popular culture she imbibed from newspapers, fiction and the music halls, would have been full of patriotic stories of heroism and valour, and dying in the service of the crown. It's what made John Oxenham's poetry so popular. In fact the foreword to his best-selling book of verse, All's Well, quite possibly influenced Mrs Corrall's thinking:
"Those who have so nobly responded to the Call, and those who with quiet faces and breaking hearts, have so bravely bidden them 'God speed!' - with these, All is truly Well, for they are equally giving their best to what, in this case, we most of us devoutly believe to be the service of God and humanity.
War is red horror. But better war than the utter crushing-out of liberty and civilisation under the heel of Prussian or any other militarism."
Alexandra Corrall had joined the army, the 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment, in 1907 when he was 18. He was certainly still serving with it in 1911 but I have a feeling that he must have been on the reserve when the war broke out. According to his medal card, he entered a theatre of war on 20 September 1914. However, the 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment didn't return from Malta until November 1914 so he couldn't have still been with them.
Corrall served with the 9th Battalion Royal Scots, part of the 51st Highland Division. In reserve on the 31 July, they went into the frontline trenches on 2 August where they remained until the 4th. They did not take part in any attacks, raids or counter-attacks but as the war diary recorded:
August 2nd: Enemy heavily shelled front and support positions day and night ...
August 3rd: Enemy continued to shell front and support positions at times heavily ...
August 4th: Enemy artillery fire not as heavy or as continuous as on previous days ...
Corrall died in a casualty clearing station on 5 August, presumably wounded by the enemy shelling.
I'll finish by quoting this passage from the popular, music-hall star Harry Lauder's war-time memoir, A Minstrel in France. His son John, his only child, was killed in France in December 1916.
"John died in the most glorious cause, and he died the most glorious death it may be given to a man to die. He died for humanity. He died for liberty, and that this world in which life must go on, no matter how many die, may be a better world to live in. He died in a struggle against the blackest force and the direst threat that has appeared against liberty and humanity within the memory of man. And were he alive now, and were he called again to-day to go out for the same cause, knowing that he must meet his death - as he did meet it - he would go smilingly and as willingly as he went then. He would go as a British soldier and as a British gentleman, to fight and die for his King and his country. And I would bid him go."
A Minstrel in France Harry Lauder page 77
Andrew Melrose Lts 1918
BONNIEST OF BOYS
HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR OTHERS
It won't surprise you to learn that Norman Cheetham's mother chose his inscription; her description of him has such a proudly informal, affectionate tone. She spoke no less than the truth. There's a photograph of Cheetham on the Australian War Memorial site and he is indeed a good looking boy.
It was his mother too who filled in the form for the Roll of Honour of Australia. Here she states that he was precisely 20 and 6 months old when he was killed on 31 July 1917. This means that he can't have been 19 when he embarked from Australia on 6 July 1915 as it says on the embarkation roll. He must have been only 18 and six months. If you look at the information at the bottom of the photograph you can see that it says that at 19 he was underage. Well he wasn't, at 19 you could serve abroad without parental permission, but not at 18, which was his true age. However, there is also a copy of a note from his parents: "Dear Norman, Father, mother give consent to enlist. We commit you to God's care."
His parents' comfort was that he had given his life for others. How did people rationalise this? According to this argument, the Germans, and their allies the Ottoman Turks, were a threat to the stability and safety of the civilised world. They were murderous barbarians. This poster, warning the women of Queensland that the Germans would treat them worse than they had treated the women of Belgium shows the thinking. It also demonstrates how Mrs Cheetham was able to console herself with the idea that her son had given his life for others.
HE DIED FOR US
IN OUR HEARTS
AND THE VALHALLA OF HEROES
The destination of dead British soldiers tended to be heaven, or some Classical haven of heroes and gods where they would achieve immortality. I've not seen Valhalla mentioned before. It's an appropriate place since it's the Nordic destination of those who have died in combat, a place to which they are led by Valkyries. However, as the nineteenth century progressed Valhalla became increasingly associated with Germanic heroes, especially after the operas of Richard Wagner brought both Valhalla and the Valkyries into greater prominence in Germany.
Herbert Henry Renshaw was the second of his parents' seven children. His younger brother, Arthur Edwin, signed for his inscription. Father Renshaw was an insurance agent, Herbert Henry Renshaw was an assistant in a furniture shop. He joined the East Anglian Cycle Corps in May 1915 and served with them in France and Flanders from August 1916. He later transferred to the 11th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and was with them when he was killed on 25 September 1917.
The 11th Battalion war diary does not make any mention of casualties on 25 September:
"Battalion moved up to assembly position in Tower Hamlets sector relieving the 12th Royal Sussex Regt. Relief complete 11 pm."
The next day the entry reads:
"Bn attacked at 5.50 pm and captured all objectives and about 40 prisoners"
Renshaw's body, together with those of two other soldiers from the Royal Sussex Regiment, was not found until April 1919. Renshaw was identified by his disc and his paybook. The other two soldiers were never identified.
HE DIED ON HONOUR'S FIELD
FOR GLORIOUS LIBERTY
'TWAS HARD TO PART
BUT GOD KNEW BEST
Private Martin served with the 58th Battalion Canadian Infantry, which was 'In the Field' 10 km north-east of Arras on 13 September 1917. The entry in the battalion war diary for that day reads:
"1 O.R. killed. Wind west ten miles per hour. Situation quiet."
That one O.R. was Thomas Frederick Martin from North Bay, Ontario who had enlisted in North Bay on 5 April 1916. There is no indication as to what caused this one O.R.'s death but Martin is buried in Beehive Cemetery, so called after a German machine-gun emplacement in the area that was known as The Beehive.
Martin's father chose his inscription, describing his son's place of death as 'honour's field, and 'glorious liberty' as the cause for which he died. Both of these deeply romantic phrases seem rather at odds with the rather brutally matter-of-fact report of Martin's death - '1 O.R. killed'.
The inscription finishes with a sentiment that is often found expressed in one form or another in the war cemeteries whether it takes the form 'Thy will be done' or as here, 'God knew best'.
FOR COUNTRY, HONOUR TRUTH
PROUD TO HAVE PAID THE PRICE
What a difference a hundred years makes. That may sound strange but just look at what Percy Marston's widowed mother and sisters thought the war was about - 'country, honour, truth' - and how much do we now think that all that was at stake a hundred years ago? And how much could we now all say that it was worth the price - the price of hundreds and thousands of young men losing their lives, their health and their sanity, let alone the collapse of empires, the displacement of millions of people and etc etc? And yet, that IS how many people saw it - it's just how it was. Not, of course, that they knew what they were letting themselves in for when the war began.
And who was it who was proud to have paid the price - does Mrs Marston mean she and her daughters were, or was it her son she was referring to? Whichever it was, the conviction would have brought with it consolation as Mrs Marston mourned her only son.
Percy Marston, educated at Ripon Grammar School and a clerk at the National Provincial Bank in Knaresborough, enlisted in October 1915. He served on the Western Front from March to September 1916 when he was invalided home. On recovering, he took a commission in the Durham Light Infantry, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on 15 July 1917, returned to France in August and died on 20 September of wounds caused by a bomb dropped from an enemy plane.
WHO GAVE HIS LIFE
IN THE BELIEF
THAT HE WAS MAKING
FUTURE WAR IMPOSSIBLE
Today the description 'the war to end war' is used of the First World War with patronizing cynicism. How could people have been so naive to think this was possible. Well people did, and one of these people was Owen Ellis Augustus Allen - or his mother.
Although the phrase is always associated with Woodrow Wilson, the US President, it was in circulation long before Wilson rose to prominence. The War to End War, published in 1914, was the title of a collection of writings by HG Wells known pre-1914 for his pacifist views. Wells was someone who believed that the war was the result of the build up of German militarism, which needed to be stamped out. He thought that the war would be terrible but that as a result mankind would realise the imperative of working for peace - hence this would be the war to end war. "Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war - it is the last war!"
Owen Allen was just about to take up a teaching job at an elementary school in Essex when the war broke out. He joined up immediately and was commissioned into the 9th Suffolks in September 1914. He went with them to France in August 1915 and after ten months in and out of the front line around Ypres and the Somme, Allen transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.
It was whilst he was acting as an instructor at RFC Brattleby that his plane collided with another one as they came into land, the pupil pilot broke his leg, Allen and the pilot of the other plane was killed.
Allen was buried in his home town of Cambridge. His mother chose his inscription.
IT WAS FOR VISIONS
THAT WE FELL
Hugh Bartholomew's siblings compiled a charming memoir of their brother for their parents, which has been digitised and can be read online. The publication includes copies of the diaries he kept whilst at the front, his letters home and some of the letters of condolence his parents received. One friend, Alan Smith who was himself killed in September 1918, told them that Hugh had been standing in a trench at 9.30 pm on the night of 30 September when he was hit above his left eye by a piece of shell. By 2 am on the morning of 1 October he was in a Casualty Clearing Station where he was operated on. Friends visiting him that day found him by turns lucid and delirious but the next day he lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 1.15 pm.
Educated at Merchiston College, Edinburgh, Hugh had spent one term at Corpus Christi College, Oxford before taking a commission in the 14th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders where he served with distinction being Mentioned in Despatches and achieving the rank of captain at the early age of 21.
His mother chose his inscription; his father, the distinguished cartographer John George Bartholomew of the map-making firm, having died in 1920. It's a line from a poem by Alfred Noyse, The Victorious Dead. This was first published in a special souvenir edition of the Daily Mail on 30 June 1919 to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, and later included in a collection of Noyes' verse called The Elfin Artist and Other Poems.
Noyse claimed that Britain's hills and valleys, crags and glens reverberate with the presence of the dead:
There's not one glen where happy hearts could roam
That is not filled with tenderer shadows now.
There's not one lane that used to lead them home
But breathes their thoughts to-day from every bough.
There's not one leaf on all these quickening trees,
Nor way-side flower but breathes their messages
But the heart. of the poem comes at the end of verse 4 - "Make firm, O God, the peace our dead have won":
For folly shakes the tinsel on its head
And points us back to darkness and to hell,
Cackling, "Beware of visions," while our dead
Whisper, "It was for visions that we fell".
CONSTRAINED HIM TO THIS
Belgian resistance to the German invaders came not only from the army but from civilians too. This encouraged the Germans to introduce a policy of 'schrecklichkeit', frightfulness. The newspapers made the most of these atrocity stories, as did recruiting posters - not that all the reported atrocities were propaganda.
Private Lewis was one of those motivated to enlist by what became known as the 'Rape of Belgium'. Interestingly, Private Lewis's parents made a point of mentioning in the Cemetery Register that he had been, "Rejected as 'unfit'. Underwent operation in Llanelly Hospital to render himself 'fit'."
FOR GOD, HIS KING
AN' AULD SCOTLAND
HE GAED - HE GAED HIS A'
Gaed' , a Scots word, is the past tense of 'go' i.e. 'went'. It therefore means gave. A' means al so the phrase means, 'he gave his all'. the
HE FOUGHT AND DIED
AND THE HONOUR OF HIS RACE
Private Armstrong's mother quoted from a popular piece of memorial verse:
He marched away so bravely
His head so proudly held
His footsteps never faltered
His courage never failed.
Then on the field of battle,
He calmly took his place.
He fought and died for Britain
And the honour of his race.
HE DIED FOR ULSTER
WE GAVE OUR BEST
This is a proud and a political inscription. Nineteen-year-old Richard Fowler served with the 9th Battalion the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, raised in Omagh, Co. Tyrone in September 1914 from the Tyrone Volunteers. This was a branch of the Ulster Volunteer Force formed in 1913 and prepared to offer armed resistance to the British Government should it attempt to force through Home Rule for Ireland. Deeply loyal to the British Crown, the Ulster Volunteers raised three battalions for the three Irish regiments drawn from the Six Counties of Ulster: the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
The combination of Richard Fowler's inscription, his regiment and his home town, Omagh, indicate that he, or at least his parents, were Ulster Unionists if not actually members of the Ulster Volunteers.
The 9th Battalion formed part of the 36th Ulster Division, which performed with great dash, success - and huge casualties - on 1 July. The Battalion War Diary gives the details of the day recalling that:
Every Officer and Man was eager for the fray & determined to do their utmost that day. All ranks realised that the great test had arrived & that the Honour of Ulster & the reputation of their Regiment was at stake.
The honour of Ulster was upheld that day, the day the 9th Battalion lost 475 officers and soldiers killed, wounded and missing and that Ulster gave "our best".
FOR THE GLORY OF ENGLAND AND
THE HONOUR OF BRISTOL
By the time Vaulx Hill Cemetery was constructed Lieutenant Cook's wife had married again. His parents chose this inscription. They lived at 390 Stapleton Road, Bristol.
RIGHT AND LIBERTY
Rifleman Burtt's inscription was inserted by his wife
HE LOVED ME
AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME
Corporal Livermore's parents chose this inscription, a quotation from Galatians 2.20: "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me".
KING AND COUNTRY
The usual epitaph is 'For God, King and country'. Both Private Snooks' parents were still alive when this inscription was chosen.
FOR KING AND COUNTRY
Private Nunn's inscription exactly matches the phrase on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. A veteran of the South African War, Private Nunn was born in England but served with the Canadian forces. His parents were dead and his next of kin is listed as Miss E Nunn, 17a Seagrave St, Clapton E4