SAPPER CHARLES WILLIAM ABLIN
11TH NOVEMBER 1918 AGE 22
BURIED: MONT HUON MILITARY CEMETERY, LE TREPOT, FRANCE
What to choose for the very last inscription in this project - for the person who died on the last day of the war, the day the Armistice was signed - exercised me for some time. In the end it came down to three inscriptions:
To my dear son, one of three
Who gave their lives
For the country
This is the inscription for Private Leonard Brock who died of wounds in a German prisoner of war camp on 11 November 1918. One of his brothers had died of wounds in November 1916 and the other in March 1917.
Another possible inscription was:
Ad finem fidelis
Faithful to the end. It belongs to Captain Duncan Mackay who enlisted in September 1914. He was commissioned in November 1915 before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. On 10 November 1918 he and his observer were shot down whilst on a daylight bombing raid. Mackay died in a German hospital the next day.
And the third inscription was:
I lived, I fought
And for my country's sake
Eventually I decided on this last one. The other two are included in my book, 'Epitaphs of the Great War the Last 100 Days'.
This last inscription belongs to Charles William Ablin, a telephone engineer in civilian life who joined up in September 1915 when he was 19. He served with the Royal Engineers in the 40th Air Line Section. This had nothing to do with aeroplanes. The air line sections dealt with telephone and telegraph lines that ran on poles in the air, not along on or under the ground. After three years service he died in hospital at Le Trepot of bronchial pneumonia, probably caused by influenza.
His mother, Mrs Ethel Eugenie Ablin, composed his inscription - a British mother's inscription for her British son. But, the sentiment could apply to virtually every other mother's son of whatever nationality who died in the war whether he came from France, Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Italy, the United States of America, Portugal, Japan, Serbia, the Ottoman Empire (which at the time embraced not just Turkey but much of the Middle East), the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which covered most of eastern Europe) and the British Empire (which included at the time New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, the West Indies, Burma, India, Egypt, the Sudan, Northern and Southern Rhodesia and South Africa). Although the British remain fixated on their own wartime activities, especially those on the Western Front, it was a global war with global consequences, which still reverberate today.
So this is the last inscription in the project, one that acknowledges the casualties on all sides. Over the past 1,561 days I have tried to give 'life' to the deaths of a tiny fraction of the many multitudes who died as a tribute to every one of them. Thank you for being my companions along the way. History tends to emulsify the past, to render it into a single voice when in fact it consists of myriads of voices. Epitaphs of the Great War has shown us 1,561 of them.