CAPTAIN HERBERT HENRY THOMPSON
ARMY PAY DEPARTMENT
2ND JANUARY 1918 AGE 33
BURIED: ALDERSHOT MILITARY CEMETERY, UK
'Doll', Mrs Kate Thompson, Captain Thompson's widow, quotes the words of the extremely popular American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) for her husband's inscription:
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
First published in June 1895 in The Century, a popular American quarterly magazine, it was later republished as the first verse of Wilcox's poem Voice of the Voiceless, which pleaded for kindness to animals.
Herbert Henry Thompson, born in Aldershot in 1884, was the son of Sergeant Major Herbert Henry Thomson and his wife Isabella. By 1901 Isabella was a widow running a fancy goods shop in Aldershot and Herbert was a grocer's assistant. She herself was an army daughter. Her father, John James Harvey, had been an army bandsman who had served in India where her younger sister was born.
I lost track of both Herbert Henry and Isabella in the 1911 census but wonder whether Herbert had gone to Africa. His military record notes that he served in the West African Frontier Force followed by the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having arrived on active service in Alexandria in August 1915. At some point he was mentioned in despatches but by the time of his death, cause unspecified, he was working for the Army Pay Department in Aldershot.
Scorned as a lowbrow, popular poet as opposed to a literary one, Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poems regularly appear in anthologies of bad verse, but I have rather a soft spot for her insouciant words of wisdom:
Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep and you weep alone;
The good old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame wind that blows.
'Tis the set of the sails,
And not the gales,
That tell us the way to go.
[The Winds of Fate]
All love that has not friendship for its base,
Is like a mansion built upon the sand.
Love, to endure life's sorrow and earth's woe,
Needs friendship's solid masonwork below.
[Upon the Sand]