SECOND LIEUTENANT ARCHIBALD HUNTER
KINGS OWN YORKSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
7TH NOVEMBER 1918 AGE 19
BURIED: DOURLERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, FRANCE
The word kismet derives from the Turkish word 'qismet' or the Arabic 'qismat'. In these cultures it means the will of Allah. To the West it is a secular word meaning fate, chance, destiny. Archibald Hunter's inscription is not unique but its use definitely increases among the casualties of these last few weeks of the war. It's also the inscription on the grave of Lance Corporal Lenard, a veteran of the South African War and of the North West Frontier, who was killed in action on 23 August 1914, the day the British army first engaged with the enemy on the Western Front.
Archibald Hunter, the son of Archibald Hunter, a Grocery Manager, and his wife, Margaret Jane, was a schoolboy in Durham when the war broke out. He was only commissioned into the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on 30 July 1918. He served with the 9th Battalion and was killed in action in the taking of the villages of Limont Fontaine and Eclaibes. These extracts from the war diary describe the day:
"08.45 hrs Success seemed certain, the weather was favourable - a heavy mist overhung the field of operations ... Despite this, however, the advance was held up, the objective could not be reached because of intense artillery and machine gun fire." Later that afternoon, at 15.50 hrs another attack was launched, led by the 9th K.O.Y.L.I. "From now onwards this Battalion, ably led, made excellent progress, and literally carried everything before it by sheer determination and will to win. A strong stand was made by the enemy, but all to no purpose. In the fierce fighting that took place in front and in the streets of the villages, men of the 9th K.O.Yorks. L.I. refused to be denied the victory, which they has set out to gain. Once again the enemy were entirely outmanoeuvred and outfought. By 21.30 hrs. so great had been the force of the assault, the villages of Limont Fontaine and Eclaibes - thoroughly cleared of the enemy, were added to the growing list of Allied gains."
The war had four days to run and Hunter, who had been at the front for only three months, was dead.
In 1911, Kismet, a very popular play written by Edward Knoblock appeared on the London stage, where it ran for two years and was then made into a film in 1914. It was only a very slight love story but it elevated the word in the public's consciousness, not as 'the will of Allah', and definitely not as the will of God, but as random chance.