31ST AUGUST 1915 AGE 18


Jack Thrower was his parents' only surviving child. He enlisted on 15 September 1914 giving his age as 19 and one month. The records tell a different story: his birth was registered in the fourth quarter of 1897 therefore in September 1914 he was still only 16. Three months after his enlistment he was discharged from the army, not because he was underage but because of defective vision, which meant he was "not likely to become an effective soldier". Nevertheless, the same Jack Thrower, or shall we say someone called Jack Thrower who lived in the same tiny village of Aspall in Suffolk, whose father had the same name and who was the same age as the Jack Thrower who had been discharged from the army, died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in France on 31 August 1916. He was 18 and if the army knew his correct age he would have needed his parent's signed permission to be at the front.
Robert Edward Thrower signed for his son's inscription - his mother had died in 1913. 'Drink of my cup'. The words come from St Matthew 20: 22-23. 'The mother of Zebedee's children' asks Christ if her sons can sit on either side of him 'in thy kingdom'. Christ replies, 'Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of ...?' In other words are you prepared to face the agonising death that I know I must face. The sons reply, 'We are able' to which Christ says: 'Ye shall drink indeed of my cup".
The inscription is one of the many that show how relations equated the death of their sons and husbands with that of God's son. As it said in Sir John Arkwright's hymn:

These were his servants; in His steps they trod
Following through death the martyr'd Son of God:
Victor He rose; Victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of Sacrifice.

If they sacrificed themselves as Christ had they to would gain a place with him in the kingdom of heaven.
The words in the King James Version are 'Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?'. The only place where I have found the words written exactly as on Jack Thrower's inscription is in the Jehovah Witness Magazine, Watch Tower, where they appear as the yeartext for 1915, "Are ye able to drink of my cup?" However, many Jehovah's Witnesses were pacifists and far from volunteering were conscientious objectors.