20TH AUGUST 1916 AGE 20


I have come across this inscription twice and in the other example the words "the lad" are in inverted commas. The inscription carries an echo of Elisha's question to the Shunammite woman:

"Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well."
[2 Kings 4:26].

The Shunammite woman's son is dead but Elisha brings him back to life so I don't think this is the direct source of the inscription. However, it is quite possibly the indirect source.
There is a poem by the American author Mrs Schuyler Van Rensselaer (1851-1934) called 'It is Well With the Child'. First published in the magazine 'The Atlantic' it was reprinted in 1918 in 'Patriotic Pieces from the Great War'. The poem begins:

The word has come - On the field of battle dead.
Sorrow is mine but there is no more dread.
I am his mother. See, I do not say,
'I was'; he is, not was, my son. Today
He rests, is safe, is well; he is at ease
From pain, cold, thirst, and fever of disease,

Although "Sorrow is mine and streams of lonely tears", now that her son is dead the mother has nothing more to fear for him:

At eventide I may lay down my head,
Not wondering upon what dreadful bed
Perchance - nay, all but certainly - he lies;
And with the morn I may in turn arise,
Glad of the light, of sleep, of food, now he
Is where sweet waters and green meadows be
And golden apples. How it was he died
I know not, but my heart is satisfied:
Never again of all my days shall one
Bring anguish for the anguish of my son.

In its turn, Mrs Schuyler Van Rensselaer's poem quite possibly owed something to Christina Rossetti's 'Is It Well With the Child?'

Safe where I cannot die yet,
Safe where I hope to lie too,
Safe from the fume and the fret;
You, and you,
Whom I never forget.
Safe from the frost and snow,
Safe from the storm and the sun,
Safe where the seeds wait to grow
One by one,
And to come back in blow.

Except Mrs Saxby knew she could not look forward to being buried with her son.
In 1911, the fifteen-year-old Frank Saxby was a solicitor's clerk living at home in Wentbridge near Pontefract, Yorkshire, where his father was a coachman at one of the big houses. He served with the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment and was killed on 20 August 1916 either in the heavy German bombardment of the Regiment's front line trenches or in the ensuing raid that evening. However, for his mother at least "There was no more dread".