PRIVATE HEDLEY RIMMER
MACHINE GUN CORPS
1ST JULY 1918 AGE 21
BURIED: ST HILAIRE CEMETERY EXTENSION, FREVENT, FRANCE
This American Civil War poem has been the source of more than one British First World War epitaph. Hedley Rimmer's comes from 'Ode Recited at the Harvard Commemoration July 21 1865' by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), the Smith Professor of Modern Languages. This particular commemoration service was designed to honour the 590 former members of the university who had served in the Civil War and in particular the ninety-nine who died.
Although the poet tries to celebrate the outcome of the war, Lowell can only think of those who never came home:
In these brave ranks, I only see the gaps,
Thinking of dear ones whom the dumb turf wraps
Dark to the triumph which they died to gain:
Their only consolation is that:
Virtue treads paths that end not in the grave;
No ban of endless night exiles the brave;
And to the saner mind
We rather seem the dead that stayed behind.
Hedley Rimmer was the youngest of his parents' five children. Born and brought up in Seacombe, Cheshire where his father was a general warehouseman, Rimmer joined the army when he became 18 in 1915. He went to France the following year, serving with the 57th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. There is nothing to indicate how he was wounded but he died in a hospital, casualty clearing station centre on 1 July 1918.