2ND MAY 1918 AGE 22


Did you recognise it?

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

Rupert Brooke's lyrical description of the English countryside forms an ironic contrast with the the sun of the last few months of Harold Howarth's life. He served with the 1st/5th Devonshire Regiment, which had been fighting in Palestine since June 1917. Of the march to Jerusalem that October the regimental history says, it "was a torment of heat, dust, thirst and exhaustion". Howarth is buried in Ramlah War Cemetery, beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with green lawns and flowers as in the gardens of England, but he's very far from home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
[The Soldier, from '1914' by Rupert Brooke

The 7 May edition of the 'Western Morning News' reported Howarth's death:

"Lt Harold Victor Howarth, who died on May 2 of wounds received in action in Palestine on April 21, was the younger son of Mr Frank Howarth (water engineer) and Mrs Howarth. Lt Howarth was previously dangerously wounded in July 1917, in the head with shrapnel, but recovered and went back to the front in Dec. Only on Sunday last three cheerful letters were received from him, in one which he congratulated himself on having gone through without being hit, the same action in which Maj. Spooner was killed. He was educated at Plymouth College and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, having won an open exhibition to the latter in the year before the war broke out. After being a year at Cambridge he obtained a commission in the - Devons in July 1915, and took a draft out to India the following year. He accompanied the battn. to Palestine and was dangerously wounded at Gaza. Mr and Mrs Howarth's elder son holds a commission in the Machine Gun Corps, and is serving in Mesopotamia, having gone to India in Dec. 1914."