LANCE CORPORAL HERBERT CARPENTER
19TH AUGUST 1918 AGE 26
BURIED: BAGHDAD (NORTH GATE) WAR CEMETERY, IRAQ
This inscription must reference Rudyard Kipling's poem The Ballad of East and West, but whether Lance Corporal Carpenter's father, Charles Carpenter, used the idea as Kipling intended or as critics have assumed it does not seem possible to tell. The poem begins and ends with the same four lines:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!
There are those who argue that Kipling's poem is racist and asserts the superiority of the white races. However, without wishing to be too rude, I would suggest that these people haven't read the poem since Kipling in fact describes how two men from completely different religious and cultural backgrounds, one from the east and one from the west, come to respect each other's courage, and tells how this mutual acknowledgment of bravery results in the swearing of a solemn oath of brotherhood:
They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.
Lance Corporal Herbert Carpenter died on 19 August 1918 in Mesopotamia. I don't know whether he was killed in action, died of wounds or disease, or of heatstroke as many men did. He's buried in Baghdad North Gate Cemetery which took men who had died in the hospitals and casualty clearing stations there, or were gathered in after the war from graves in northern Iraq and Anatolia. The enemy was the Ottoman Turk. Did Charles Carpenter's choice of inscription reflect a respect for these representatives of the east, or scorn?
Herbert Carpenter was the eldest of his parents' four children. Father was a commercial traveller in groceries and in 1911 Herbert was a draper's assistant in Marshall and Snelgove, a big department store on Oxford Street. He served with the 1/6th Hampshire Regiment, which served in India before arriving in Basra on 16 September 1917. His youngest brother, Carl, was killed in action on 15 February 1915. Carl's body was not found until 1928 so although he now has a grave in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, his name had already been carved onto the Menin Gate.