RIFLEMAN ROBERT HERKES
LONDON REGIMENT (CITY OF LONDON RIFLES)
8TH JULY 1918 AGE 18
BURIED: TERLINCTHUN BRITISH CEMETERY, WIMILLE, FRANCE
This plea for peace was written by Robert Burns in 1794, more than a hundred years before David Herkes repeated it on his son's headstone. Burns' poem, 'On the Seas and Far Away' expresses a parents' yearning for peace so that their sailor son's life might be saved:
Bullets, spare my only joy!
Bullets, spare my darling boy!
Fate, do with me what you may -
Spare but him that's far away.
Robert Herkes was 18 when he died of wounds in a base hospital in France. At one time this would have meant that the soldier had his parents' signed permission to be serving abroad, but by this stage of the war more and more eighteen-year-olds were being sent to the front without this.
Although Herkes served with the London Regiment he was born and brought up in Leith, Scotland where his father was a dock porter. From the 1901 census it would appear that his mother was dead and that his grandmother, Isabella Herkes, was looking after the family of two children.
'On the Seas and Far Away' echoes the sentiment of Burn's earlier poem, 'Man was Made to Mourn' 1784, which has the famous line, 'Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn'. In this later poem he says:
Peace, thy olive wand extend,
And bid wild war his ravage end,
Man with brother man to meet,
And as a brother kindly greet: