30TH OCTOBER 1917 AGE 27


It has been difficult to track down the source of this quotation, "How many hopes lie buried here". It's not an uncommon inscription on a child's grave and the words do appear in The Little Robe of White, a poem about the funeral of a baby girl , which was published in an American journal in 1865. But somehow this poem didn't seem an appropriate source for a soldier's grave, yet the quotation marks indicate that it is a quotation. Then I found it. It comes from A Night View of the Battle of Raisin and was written in 1813 by an obscure American poet called William Orlando Butler (1791-1880) who was wounded in the battle of Raisin in January 1813 when the United States was at war with the British and Native American Alliance.
The poem appears to have remained in manuscript form until 1912 at which point it came to modest prominence. The poet surveys the field in the aftermath of the battle:

The battle's o'er the din is past!
Night's mantle on the field is cast,
The moon with sad and pensive beam
Hangs sorrowing o'er the bloody stream.

The inscription comes from verse seven of this thirty-one verse poem:

For sad's the Dirge the Muse must sing
Fallen are the Flowers of the land.
How many hopes lie buried here?
The Father's joy, the Mother's pride.

You might wonder how Richard Cox's mother came by the poem and the answer probably lies in the fact that for all that he served in the Canadian Infantry, Richard Cox was an American, born in New York, whose parents lived in Long Beach, California. He was one of the many American citizens who joined the war long before their country did.
Cox served with Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, Eastern Ontario Regiment. On the morning of 30 October 1917 the regiment attacked at Meetcheele Ridge. Conditions were appalling, as their Commanding Officer made clear in a letter:

"The condition of the ground beggars description. Just one mass of shell-holes, all full of water. The strongest and youngest men cannot navigate without falling down. The people we relieve tell me in the attack, a great many of their men drowned in shell holes for want of strength to pull themselves out when dog-tired."

Major Papineau, Officer Commanding No. 3 Company, looking at the Ridge they were about to attack, and at the German defences, remarked to a fellow officer that the attack was suicide - Papineau was one of the first to be killed. We don't know at what point Cox was killed but his body was found at map reference v.30.D.2.1. almost exactly two years later.