PRIVATE CHARLES ALBERT ROLLINGS
18TH JULY 1917 AGE 26
BURIED: VILLERS STATION CEMETERY, VILLERS-AU-BOIS, FRANCE
Although the inverted commas surround the first seven words of this inscription, I'm relatively sure that it's not a quotation but an amalgamation of words and ideas from Wilfred Owen's poem 'Strange Meeting'. Probably written sometime early in 1918, the poem was first published the following year in Edith Sitwell's 'Wheels, An Anthology of Verse', and then in 'Poems by Wilfred Owen, published by Chatto and Windus in 1920 with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon.
In his poem Owen meets the man he killed the previous day:
"Strange friend," I said, "here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said that other, "save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also;
A few lines later Owen refers not to the cruelty of war but to, 'The pity of war, the pity war distilled'. I believe Rollings' father, who signed for the inscription, was referring to both these passages.
This is only the third time that I've noticed a reference to any of Wilfred Owen's poems in a headstone inscription. Owen's parents quoted, or rather slightly misquoted, 'The End', and one of the graves at Fromelles, where the inscriptions were chosen by the families during the first decade of the twenty-first century, quoted from the lines, 'Red lips are not so red/As stained stones kissed by the English dead'.
Charles Albert Rollings came from Malton in Ontario and served with the 52nd Canadian Infantry. He died at a field ambulance on 18 July 1917 and was buried in the adjacent cemetery.
The War Grave Commission limited inscriptions to sixty-six characters, not that it appears to have enforced this, Rollings' inscription comes to 65, which is presumably why the word brothers had been abbreviated to 'bros'.