PRIVATE ROY DOUGLAS HARVEY
ROYAL SCOTS (LOTHIAN REGIMENT)
11TH AUGUST 1918 AGE 26
BURIED: BOUCHOIR NEW BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE
Roy Harvey's inscription comes from WE Henley's poem, Margaritae Sorori, Sister Margaret, which he wrote after the death of his five-year-old daughter, Margaret, in 1894. The poem likens death to the end of a day:
... The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night -
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.
So be my passing!
My task accomplished and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gathered to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,
It's a beautiful image which can bear no resemblance to Harvey's death except for the fact that it was the end of his day.
Harvey was a pupil at Hillhead High School in Glasgow and his war service is covered in their war memorial volume. According to their account:
"Three days after the sweeping British advance on the 8th August, in a gallant and successful attack by his battalion, the 5th/6th Royal Scots, he was struck by a bullet, and killed instantaneously."
This wasn't quite how the battalion's war diary saw it. The 5th/6th were certainly part of the attack on Parvillers that day but the attack failed, according to the diary writer:
"for the following reasons, (a) the tanks were half an hour late and were all put out of action before crossing our front line (b) barrage line 400 yds too far advanced and missed German front M.G. positions (c) wire almost impenetrable."
Initially prevented from joining the army, as the Hillhead volume put it: "by a physique which fell below the standard then required", it was October 1917 before he got to the front. Harvey must have been about 5' 2", the minimum height requirement varied between 5' 3" and 5' 6" during the early months of the war before settling on 5' 2" in February 1915. Although men as small as 4' 10" were accepted by the bantam battalions.
The school described Harvey as a reserved, thoughtful boy, noted for his thoroughness, accuracy and precision. For this reason they found it totally in keeping that on his body should have been found both a diary, written up to the previous day, and a Collins Gem dictionary.