5TH AUGUST 1917 AGE 28


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