8TH AUGUST 1917 AGE 26


I find it strange when families choose to use their home address as a personal inscription. The casualty's address was automatically recorded by the War Graves Commission, there was no need to make it the inscription. But perhaps it was a way to bring the dead man home, to reclaim him from the battlefield. The repatriation of bodies having been forbidden, this was a way to tell the world, or at least any one who walked past his grave, where he belonged, where he'd come from.
Number 51 Evelyn Gardens was quite a grand address; a large, eleven-roomed house in a very smart part of London where in 1911 Mr and Mrs Thomas Estall lived with their 20 year-old son, Arthur Cecil, and three members of staff - a cook and two parlour maids. Mr Thomas Estall was Senior General Manager of the National Provincial Bank, Arthur Cecil was a clerk at the Bank of England. Yet I don't think it was the status of the address that made his father chose it as the inscription, plenty of other relations chose very humble addresses as inscriptions, I do think it was a matter of bringing the dead man home to where he belonged.
Cecil, as he was known, had been a member of the Honourable Artillery Company since 1909. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for foreign service and went with the 1st Battalion to France in October 1914. He was invalided home on 29 December 1914. There is no information as to what happened to him but page 25 of 'The Honourable Artillery Company in the Great War' relates how appalling their conditions had been:

"Our trenches had been made by the French, and were nothing but ditches full of liquid mud; there was no wire in front, and no material of any kind, nor were there any communication trenches. The only way the front line could be approached was over the open through a sea of mud, and across a bullet-swept area. Bullets came though the parapets as though they had been butter. In some of the trenches, the parapet was only breast high, and in order to get cover the men had to sit in the mud on the floor of the trench, and very often a man would find himself sitting on the chest of a mutely protesting Frenchman who had been lying there for a month or six weeks."

By the end of December, "a great number of men were suffering from exhaustion, exposure and frostbite. It turned out afterwards that this turn in the trenches cost the Battalion 12 officers and 250 men".

In March 1915, Estall received a commission in the Army Service Corps and in August joined the newly formed HQ Company Guards Division Train, a unit of the Army Service Corps. On 15 February 1917, The Times announced the news of his engagement to Miss Brenda Perronet Sells and then on 11 August, almost exactly six months later, the news of his death:

ESTALL - On the 8th Aug. of wounds received in action on the 6th Aug. Captain Arthur Cecil Estall, 51 Evelyn Gardens, SW, aged 26.

Every 8 August for the next twenty-six years, Cecil's mother remembered his death in The Times:

ESTALL - In memory of my only son A.C. Estall, "Cecil", who was wounded at Ypres 6th August 1917, died on the 8th, 7th Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, and was buried at the Eastern Cemetery, Boulogne.