13TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 32


Private Cross's wife means this literally; James Cross was a prisoner of war and death did set him free. Usually when inscriptions talk about the freedom of death they mean that the dead person has been set free from the cares of this world:

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
ADONAIS Percy Bysshe Shelley

But this is not what Evelyn Cross meant, her husband had escaped captivity by dying.
Cross died of pneumonia in a German hospital in Hautmont. The town had been in German hands since the earliest days of the war and wasn't captured by the British until 8 November. James Cross had been in German hands since the 16 April 1918.
Cross served with the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. On the evening of the 12/13th April 1918 the battalion went into the front line in the Wytschaete Sector. The war diary gives up at this point and says that the ensuing period, 12-
16 April, is best described by reproducing verbatim the official account of the operation sent by Brigadier-General GH Gater to the Higher Command.
The battalion were to be responsible for holding the line from Bogaert Farm to Stanyzer Cabaret cross roads. On the night of the 15/16th this was extended to Scott Farm. At 4.30 am on the morning of the 16th the Germans subjected the line to a heavy and continuous bombardment until 5.45 am before attacking under cover of dense fog. They succeeded in breaking the line. The British found it impossible to tell what was going on until the Germans were at close quarters. However, the Lincolnshires stood firm,

"and fought it out to the last. No officer, platoon or individual surrendered and the fighting was prolonged until 6.30 am. ... The withdrawal was covered by the Adjutant, Captain McKellar, with revolver and bombs, firing into the enemy at close quarters."

James Cross was one of the many missing after the engagement. Eventually his wife was informed through the offices of the International Red Cross that he had been taken prisoner. His death on 13 October from pneumonia was probably a result of influenza.

[Gater's report is in turn reproduced virtually verbatim in The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918.]