PRIVATE EDMUND CULLINGFORD
WEST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
9TH OCTOBER 1917 AGE 26
BURIED: CEMENT HOUSE CEMETERY, LANGEMARK, BELGIUM
What is self-sacrifice? It's giving up one's own interests, happiness and hopes for the sake of duty. This inscription is a salutary reminder that the men who fought in the First World War weren't naive enthusiasts for war but were doing their duty - and some men had to submit themselves to it. At the distance of a hundred years many people today can comfortably assume that those who fought were in some way different from themselves, they wanted to go, they wanted to fight, they were happy to give up their current lives, they were even happy to give up their lives. But this inscription shows the firmness with which some men had to speak to themselves in order to do their duty.
The lines come from Wordsworth's Ode to Duty. The poet claims that there are some people who just naturally do their duty - "Who do thy [duty's] work, and know it not". And then there are other's, like him, who "deferred the task, in smoother walks to stray". But now, recognising the peace that comes from knowing that you are doing your duty, he asks:
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;
Edmund Cullingford was a volunteer. He served with the 9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, which was raised in York in September 1914. According to his medal card, he went with the Battalion to Egypt in December 1915. In July 1916, it returned to Europe and on 9 October 1917 it took part in the attack at Poelcappelle.
The British barrage was terrific, it moved at a rate of 100 yards in four minutes with the soldiers advancing behind it over ground that had been churned into an endless mass of shell holes and mud so as to be almost impassable. However, despite the fierce barrage the German gun emplacements remained virtually impervious and the British troops were met by murderous machine gun fire from these 'pill-boxes', which relentlessly thinned their ranks. At the end of the day the 9th West Yorkshires had lost 12 officers and 203 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. Cullingford was one of the missing, his body located at map reference V.20.a.3.8 in September 1919 and identified by his disc. Think of what he faced and think again about the inscription his father chose for him, "Give unto me ... the spirit of self-sacrifice".