LANCE CORPORAL ALEXANDER MACK MM
5TH NOVEMBER 1918 AGE 32
BURIED: BUSIGNY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, FRANCE
Alexander Mack died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station six days before the end of the war. His mother chose his inscription. Is it a last message from her son, or are they words she has put into her son's mouth?
Lance Corporal Mack could well have known that victory was in sight. Although the Germans were still putting up fierce resistance, the Allies were daily pushing them further and further back towards Germany. Mack may not have known this but, Austria-Hungary had signed an armistice with the Italians on 3 November, a month after the Germans had approached President Wilson to see if they could negotiate a truce. Two days after Mack's death, General Hindenburg, head of the German army, opened peace negotiations with the Allies.
So Mack could well have known that military victory was in sight, but is this what the words mean? When Christians talk of victory they mean Christ's victory over death.
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15: 54-56
This famous passage from the bible was the inspiration for a hymn by the Scottish-born presbyterian minister William H Drummond (1772-1865) of which this is the first verse:
Thanks be to God, the Lord,
The victory is ours;
And hell is overcome
By Christ's triumphant pow'rs!
The monster sin in chains is bound,
And death has felt his mortal wound.
It's not impossible to think that Mrs Mary Mack was conflating Christ's victory over death with the British victory over the Germans, and that to her the 'monster' was Germany.
Alexander Mack was the son of James and Mary Mack. Born in Edinburgh, as were both his parents, the family moved to London soon after Alexander's birth. James Mack was a printer's machine minder, as were at least two of his sons, including Alexander. This was the person who was responsible for the overall look of the printed sheet, for the flow of the ink and the pressure of the rollers. Mack served with the 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment and from the position of the Casualty Clearing Station where he died, was wounded in the fighting for the Sambre-Oise Canal.