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
I died

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.



TELEGRAM to Gow, Parkhouse Lane, Duke St, Glasgow
Regret 14482 Gow Cameron Highlanders reported dangerously ill gun shot wounds groin penetrating abdomen at 3 Australian Casualty Station France. Regret permission to visit him cannot be granted.

James Gow enlisted on 9 November 1914 and disembarked in France on 22 February 1915. This is such rapid training period that I wonder whether he was already a territorial soldier. He served throughout the war with the Cameron Highlanders being invalided home with cellulitis in December 1916 and hospitalised for 74 days with malaria in 1917. On recovering he was sent to France again, disembarking on 21 June 1918 and joining the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders. He was wounded on 5 October and died just over a month later. All this information comes from Gow's service file which is one of the few to have survived.
The families of 'dangerously ill" soldiers were regularly given permission to visit them in the base hospitals in France. The Army would even pay the fares of those who would otherwise have been unable to afford it. Why Mrs Gow should have been refused permission to visit her son cannot be known but it is unusual.
Andrew and Jemima Gow had five children, four of them sons, James was the fourth child. The family lived in Glasgow where Andrew, the father, was a prison warder. At the time of his enlistment, James was a clerk.
Jemima chose her son's inscription - plain, simple and so affecting, the Scottish dialect adding to its simple honesty. Was he her favourite child?



"Signaller's Fatal Wounds
Mr and Mrs J. Fletcher Jones, of 121 Mount Road, New Brighton, received official notification on Tuesday of the death from wounds of their eldest son, Lance-Corpl. William Fletcher Jones, which occurred in Flanders on November 9th. He had just turned 17 years of age when he joined the 4th West Lancashire Royal Field Artillery (Howitzer Brigade) in August 1914. He was drafted to Ypres in 1915 with the 2nd Canadian Division of which they formed part of the Artillery.
Sometime afterwards the 55th Division was formed with which they were embodied, and he was with the famous Division through the battles and hard fighting they experienced. After the battle of the Somme, he became attached to the Royal Engineers, having during the quiet periods made a special study of signalling, coming through the various examinations with the highest honours, and at the time of his death he was away on special duty in charge of the Brigade wireless.
Lance-Corpl. Jones was educated at Vaughan Road School, and for several years was a member of the 4th Wallasey (Emmanuel) Scouts, in which he took a most active and enthusiastic interest. Much sympathy has been extended to the parents in the loss of a gallant young life, just at the close of the fighting after 4 1/2 strenuous years."

William Fletcher Jones was born on 7 May 1897, the eldest child of John and Alice Jones of New Brighton, Cheshire. As his inscription records, Jones enlisted on 8 August 1914, four days after the outbreak of war. He died of wounds two days before the end. Jones was 17 and three months when he enlisted and 18 and four months when he disembarked in France on 29 September 1915. He was therefore underage. Soldiers were meant to be 19 before they could go to the front - unless they had their parents signed permission.
It's not possible to tell exactly when Jones was wounded but he is one of only six First World War soldiers buried in Chercq Churchyard. All six soldiers died on either the 8th or 9th November, casualties of the crossing of the River Escaut/Scheldt during that night when the 166th Brigade reported heavy enemy machine gun fire as they began to cross the river.
John Fletcher Jones signed for his son's inscription. The second part is a quotation from the last verse of the hymn, 'O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end':

Oh, let me see Thy footmarks,
And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in Thy strength alone.
Oh, guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then to rest receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend.

[Some of this information has been acquired from the excellent History of Wallasley website.]



William Hansen came from Argentina to fight for Britain. Argentina was resolutely neutral throughout the war despite the fact that there was huge pressure on the president, Hipolyto Irigoyen, to support the Allied cause. Many British, German, French and Italian residents returned to Europe from Argentina to fight for their countries. Hansen was one of them.
He joined the RAF as an Air Mechanic Third Class and was a member of 115 Squadron, a night bombing unit based at St Ingelvert in northern France. Hansen and nine other men of 115 Squadron were killed in an accidental bomb explosion on the 8 November 1918. The accident is said to have occurred at Roville - there are no other identifying hints as to its location. All 10 casualties are buried at Charmes Communal Cemetery Extension, 215 km from St Inglevert. Hansen and five others are buried in what looks like a communal grave, their headstones standing touching each other. Whilst Hansen and Linley have individual grave references - I.F.16 and I.F.18 - the other bodies have a single reference - I.F.17. It was obviously not possible to distinguish one body from another.
Hansen was the son of Rudolph and Jane Woolven Hansen of Paseo Colon 532, Buenos Aires. Jane Hansen chose her son's inscription; Rudolph was dead. Despite its poetic ring, the inscription does not appear to be a quotation. Honour motivated her son's decision to return to Britain - to help, to fight, to die. I have not been able to find out anything about the accident but ... a night bombing unit, ten dead airmen, a mass grave ... the clues are there.



Captain Arthur Moore VC MC was killed in action on 7 November 1918 when the 21st Division took the village of Limont Fontaine. The Division had crossed the Sambre the previous day and was in pursuit of the retreating Germans. However, the German rearguard made a stand at Limont Fontaine, which was "strongly garrisoned and stoutly defended", and there was some fierce hand-to-hand fighting.
Moore's obituary in The Times describes how he had been 13 years with the Cape Mounted Rifles in South Africa, joining it as a trooper and rising to the rank of sergeant, before returning to Britain in 1915 to take a commission in the Durham Light Infantry. He served originally with the 3rd Battalion and was wounded on the Somme in September 1916. On recovering he returned to the front and on 15 June 1917 led a daylight raid on the German lines at Loos with the aim of capturing some prisoners. The raid was successful and for his actions that day Lascelles was awarded a Military Cross. Six months later, on 4 December 1917, he was severely wounded in an action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The 'terrible day' is very vividly described on this English Light Infantry website
Lascelles' right elbow had been smashed in the action and his right arm was useless. Nevertheless, when he recovered his strength he insisted on returning to the front. He joined his unit, this time the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, on 27 October and was killed eleven days later.
Arthur Lascelles was the son of John and Mary Elizabeth Lascelles of Milford Hall, Newtown, Powys. In 1907 whilst in South Africa he married Sophia Hardiman. They had one son, Reginald George. He was named after Arthur's younger brother who had drowned in India in 1904 whilst serving out there with the Durham Light Infantry. Sophia Lascelles chose her husband's inscription.



John Kingsland was wounded on 28 October 1918 in the 1st/4th Seaforth Highlanders' attack on Mont Houy during the Battle of Valenciennes. He died nine days later in a Casualty Clearing Station in Cambrai.
Kingsland's father, John Padden Kingsland, a Congregational minister and an artist, chose his son's inscription. Whilst I can imagine that the family called John junior, Jack, I feel sure that the first line of the inscription is a reference to Rudyard Kipling's poem, 'My Boy Jack'. Many assumed that the poem, written in 1916, was a lament for his own son, John Kipling, but it is in fact a haunting generic lament for the thousands of dead sailors, 'Jacks', who died at the Battle of Jutland 31 May/1June 1916.
The poem may apply to sailors but the sentiment is appropriate to any grieving parent:

"Have you news of my boy Jack?"
Not this tide
"When d'you think he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
"Oh dear, what comfort can I find?"
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind -
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.

The second part of the inscription is a quotation from Luke 24:6. On the Sunday after the crucifixion the Mary, Jesus' mother, and Mary Magdalene, arrived at Christ's tomb to find that the body had gone. The distressed women found themselves addressed by two figures in shining garments who asked, "Why seek ye the living among the dead. He is not here but is risen". This evidence of the resurrection, of the fact that in Christ there is no death, brought great comfort to many mourning families.

22ND AUGUST 1984 AGE 94


Esther Jane Draisey died in 1984. Her husband, William Mark Draisey, died of wounds in 1918. The mother of his three sons - Donald, Trevor and William - Mrs Draisey had been a widow for 66 years. She will not have been the only wife in 1918 who faced a long future on her own.
Mark Draisey was a gunner with 85th Battery, 11th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery who arrived in France on 24 December 1915. I do not know when he was wounded but for Draisey to have been buried in Swansea, as he was, he must have died in the UK, in other words he must have been so badly wounded that he was hospitalised in Britain.
Obviously his wife did not choose this inscription since she was dead. However, the War Graves Commission's paper records show that the inscription she chose was:

Greater love hath no man
Than to lay down his life
For his friends

This has subsequently been crossed out and replaced with the new words - with a note beside it saying, "PI added by authority". The family had therefore received permission to alter the personal inscription for this a new headstone.
I'm going to make a sweeping statement here but, based on observation, it would appear that if a man were buried in the UK his inscription could be altered so as to refer to the subsequent death of a parent, wife or child but that this is not, or has not to date, been permitted in the cemeteries abroad.



Mr and Mrs William Hawdon had five children, four sons and one daughter. Three of the sons died in the war, two in action and one of influenza five days after it ended.
The inscription belongs to Rupert who was the third son. He served with the Royal Garrison Artillery receiving his commission in September 1914 and joining his unit the following September. Rupert served throughout the war and was killed near Le Quesnoy seven days before the end by German rifle fire whilst reconnoitering for new positions for his guns. He was 24.
The eldest brother, the Revd Noel Elliot Hawdon, a chaplain in the Army Chaplains Department, died twelve days later of influenza. He was 33. Their youngest brother, Cecil, had been killed with three of his men on 27 June 1916. Delayed trying to cut the German wire prior to a trench raid, they were killed when the British artillery opened up. Cecil was 20
The remaining brother, Hugh, served throughout the war with the Durham Light Infantry.
Cecil's inscription, like Rupert's, was signed for by his father:

His two brothers also fell
In death they are not divided

The last line comes from 2 Samuel 1:23

"Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided."

William Hawdon also chose Noel's inscription:

He kept the faith
Deo dante dedi

All four sons were educated at Charterhouse where 'Deo dante dedi', God having given I give, is the Charterhouse motto. The first line is a quotation from 2 Timothy: 4/6

"The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

Much of the information here has been taken from The Middlesborough Roll of Honour of the Great War. The Hawdon family lived at Upsall Grange, Nunthorpe Yorkshire. William Hawdon, an engineer, was the managing director of an iron works in Middlesborough.



Gordon Robinson's inscription comes from the third verse of the hymn: How Bright These Glorious Visions Shine. Written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the hymn is based on a passage from the Book of Revelation 7:13: 'And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?' The answer was: 'These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'
Verse three of Watts' hymn describes how:

Now with triumphal palms, they stand
Before the throne on high,
And serve the God they love, amidst
The glories of the sky.

Private Gordon Robinson served with the 1st/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, part of the 75th Brigade. The brigade had been in action throughout October 1918, the battalion diary reporting on the 12th that they had either been fighting or under enemy fire for the preceding seven days during which time they had advanced 13 miles, taken three villages, captured over 300 prisoners and many enemy guns. Their casualties had been 4 officers and 76 other ranks killed, and 24 officers and 469 other ranks wounded.
The battalion were rested for several days at Serain before going back into action for an attack on enemy positions south of Le Cateau on the 17/18 October. The attack met unexpectedly high resistance in the taking of the village of Bazuel. I think this is when Robinson would have been wounded. By the 3 November, the day he died, the battalion were 13 km away further east.
Robinson is buried in Le Cateau Military Cemetery where the majority of the graves belong to soldiers killed either in August 1914 or October/November 1918.
Mr George Henry Robinson signed for the inscription for Gordon, his middle son. At the time of the 1911 census the family were living at 42 Queen Street, Derby. When George Robinson gave his address to the War Graves Commission it was: 'Le Cateau', Belper Road, Derby. The Robinsons had named their new home after the cemetery where their son was buried. It was not an unusual custom. I wonder if the house still has that name today?



On 28 October 1918 the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment were in billets at St Armand having been withdrawn from the line on the 20th after a period of fighting. The war diary for the 28th records 'A/Capt. JF Farrar admitted hospital sick', and then for 1st November '2Lt (A/Capt) JF Farrar died at 62nd CCS from influenza'. The War Graves Commission gives his date of death as 2 November.
Farrar had originally joined the army as a private in the Cameron Highlanders. It looks as though he first entered a theatre of war, France, on 12 July 1916. A year later he was commissioned into the West Yorkshire Regiment and although still officially a Second Lieutenant at the time of his death he held the rank of acting captain.
His mother, Sarah Farrar, chose his inscription from 'Justice' a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which was published in The Times on 24 October 1918, syndicated to at least 200 other newspapers and later included in several collections of his work. For all the honourable sounding intent of these the last two lines, the poem is a vehement plea that there should not be a negotiated peace with Germany. The 'sword of justice' must be used on her, Germany, 'evil incarnate', must be made to answer for her atrocities:

For agony and spoil
Of nations beat to dust,
For poisoned air and tortured soil
And cold, commanded lust,

Germany must be made to 'relearn the law' so that her people will never again develop 'the heart of beasts'. This retribution will be the means -

Whereby our dead shall sleep
In honour, unbetrayed
And we in faith and honour keep
That peace for which they paid.



On the 1 November 1918 the Germans decided to make a stand at Valenciennes, the last French city in German hands. Its capture was vital to the Allies' progress but the presence of a large civilian population made the attack difficult. George Smart's regiment, the 2nd South Staffordshires, were in support on the 1st but the war diary does refer to shelling by the enemy with 77 mms and 4-2s, perhaps this is when Smart was killed. His body was not discovered until April 1920, it had not been buried in a marked grave.
Smart is buried in Romeries just south of Valenciennes. There are 703 burials in the cemetery, five of them from the very earliest days of the war - the 24th, 25th and 26th August 1914, one from October 1916 and all the rest from the last month of the war. The war was returning to where it had begun.
George Smart's mother chose his inscription. It is not a common one but it was used on public war memorials in communities across the Empire. Seemingly composed in the immediate post-war era it has an echo of Simonides as reflected in 'Our British Dead' a 1917 poem by Joseph Lee which has the lines:

Here do we lie, dead but not discontent,
That which we found to do has had accomplishment.

That accomplishment? - that we, the survivors, may live in peace.



This is a lovely inscription and although there are no quotation marks it seems to me that this will have been a tribute from Albert Bates' officer. My father was an officer in the Second World War and to the end of his life the highest compliment he could pay a young man was to say, 'He would make a good soldier'.
Albert Bates was just 20 when he died. He served with the 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment. On the night of the 30th/31st October 1918 the battalion took part in forcing a passage across the River L'Escaut. The crossing was effected by 00.30 hours on the 31st but by the early morning 'the Boche' were reported as massing for a counter attack. Over the next few hours the battalion suffered heavy casualties, some caused by the RAF. At 08.30 the casualties were reported as '12 OR wounded (through RAF) 1 killed, probably incomplete'. By 15.10 casualties were estimated to be 'about 80'. The war may only have had eleven days to run but the Germans were still trying to defend every river crossing and strategic location.
Bates and one other soldier from the battalion, Private Montague Augustus White, are the only two to be buried in Odomez Communal Cemetery; their bodies buried on 20 November 1918. The battalion's other casualties of the day are buried about 15 km away in Valenciennes.
Mrs Laura Bates chose her son's inscription. The family lived at 45 Marsden Road, Redditch where father, Henry Bates, worked as a toolmaker in a cycle works. Albert was one of their four children.



Harry Rivers was taken prisoner on 27 May 1918. At 9 pm the previous evening the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment received information from Brigade Head Quarters that two German prisoners had warned them of an attack timed to start at 3 am the following morning, to be preceded by a bombardment that would begin at 1 am. This is what happened. It was the opening day of the Third Battle of the Aisne, what the Germans called Operation Bluecher. By the end of the day the Germans had broken through the Allied lines, in some places to the extent of 15 miles.
On 30 May the 7th Battalion war diary recorded that although only two officers and fifteen soldiers were known to have been killed, 19 officers and 431 soldiers were missing.
Rivers was one of the missing, he was taken prisoner and held with more than 1,500 Russian, French, Belgian, Portuguese, Italian, Serbian and British prisoners of war at Altdamm, 8 km east of Stettin on the Polish-German border. Rivers' death was recorded on the 31 October 1918 at the Register Officer in Altdamm as having taken place at 8 pm the previous day. No cause was given for his death.
Harry Rivers attested in September 1916 when he was 17 and 6 months. His mobilization in April 1917 was announced and then withdrawn, perhaps because he was only just 18 and therefore too young to be sent abroad. It was 31 March 1918 before he went to France. He had scarcely been there two months before he became a prisoner.
Rivers' mother chose his inscription, his father was dead. It comes from 'When We Two Parted', a poem by Lord Byron (1788-1824) in which the poet laments a faithless lover who betrayed him by going off with another man.



In 1914 Albert Bates was a regular soldier serving with the 27th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. In the summer of 1914 the brigade was in Ireland. Mobilised immediately on the outbreak of war it was sent to France, arriving on 19 August just fifteen days later. Bates died of wounds received in action 0n 29 October 1918, thirteen days before the war ended
He had served throughout the war, transferring at some point to the 37th Trench Mortar Battery Royal Field Artillery, formed in May 1916. In October 1918 this was part of the 37th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. By now the war was a war of movement, of pursuit, as the Allies pushed the Germans ever eastwards. On 23 October the Division crossed the River Scarpe at St Amand and four days later they had arrived at the Scheldt Canal.
It's not possible to tell when Bates was wounded but he died on 29 October, the day before the 12th Division was withdrawn for rest. The war was over before it went back into the line.
Bates' wife, Florence May Bates, chose his inscription. The couple cannot have been married long as Florence May Firman only applied for a marriage licence on 24 November 1917.
Florence Bates described her husband as 'one of England's unknown heroes'. As someone who served for 1,532 days and died just one day before he would have been safe, Albert Bates deserves to be rescued from obscurity.



On 27 October 1918 the 12th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, part of the 23rd Division, attacked across the heavily defended Piave River during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in Northern Italy.
George Harwood was killed the next day, the 28th. He is buried in Giavera British Cemetery. Yesterday's casualty who died on 27 October 1918 is buried in Tezze British Cemetery. Giavera cemetery is for those who died on the west bank of the river, Tezze for those who died on the east bank. Many many soldiers died in the river itself, swept away by the fast flowing stream or killed by machine gun fire.
Harwood was a married man with two sons aged 4 and 2 at the time of his death. His wife, Ellaline chose his inscription. It comes from a piece of verse regularly seen in newspaper In Memoriam columns:

Duty called him he was there
To do his bit and take his share;
His heart was good, his spirit brave
His resting place a soldier's grave.

To do your bit was a colloquial way of saying that you were making a contribution to the war, playing your part in it.
In April 1919 Ellaline Harwood married William Robins; she was Mrs Robins when she chose her former husband's inscription. A week after Harwood's death the Austrians surrendered and the war in Italy was over.



Herbert Downs was killed in action during the crossing of the Piave River on 27 October 1918. He was buried in the Italian village of Tezze. It's a long way from Stockport Cheshire where his parents and brothers and sisters lived.
You can see his mother's distress in the inscription she chose. The British Army banned the repatriation of bodies early in 1915 and reinforced this ban after the war ended. It was deeply unpopular and caused much angry criticism, especially from those families who could easily have afforded to pay to repatriate the bodies of their own family members.
The ban remained in force however, the authorities determined that the war cemeteries were not going to be just for those whose families couldn't afford to repatriate their bodies. This was one of the many reasons why the Commission also did not permit private headstones since this would distinguish the rich dead from the poor dead and the Commission wanted to emphasise the equality of sacrifice of all the dead. Everyone had to accept a regulation Imperial War Graves Commission headstone, which caused more distress, but perhaps by way of compensation families were allowed to personalise the headstone with their choice of inscription.
Herbert Downs was the third of his parents five children. Father, Matthew Downs, was a builders' labourer. Herbert initially joined the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment but was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers and went with them to Italy in November 1917.
Eight days after HerbertDown's death the Austrians signed an armistice - the war on the Austro-Italian front was over.



Dudley Mein's father, Colonel Alexander Lechmere Mein, chose his son's inscription. It raises an interesting question. Who is actually speaking here? The voice is obviously meant to be that of the son, Dudley Mein, but the words were chosen by the father. Do the words express the father's sentiments or the son's. We're not going to know.
All the voices in these inscriptions are the voices of the bereaved. Occasionally quotation marks indicate that the dead person is being quoted but even then the choice has been made by the next of kin, the bereaved. And whether they are grief stricken, angry, proud or loving they have had to make a decision on what to say, and they have had to limit it to 66 characters whereas there were probably a million things they could have said. Some people will have said what they thought they should say, some people will have said what people conventionally say and some people will have wanted to say something that brought them comfort. The ones I admire are the ones that say something totally original - 'He would give his dinner to a hungry dog and go without himself', Love and kisses from Mother, Yes my love the same your wife, Ethel'. I suspect I would have said something deeply conventional.
Dudley Mein was born in India in 1898 and educated at Junior King's School Canterbury and Kelly College. After school he entered the Wellington Cadet College, Madras and in April 1916 took a commission in the 31st Duke of Connaught's Lancers. He served in Egypt, Palestine and on the North West Frontier before returning to Palestine in April 1918 attached to the Mysore Lancers.
His Military Cross was awarded for an action on 23 September when he captured two guns and 110 prisoners. He was killed on 26 October in an event described in General Allenby's dispatch:

"Early on the morning of October 26th the armoured cars and the 15th Cavalry Brigade, moving round the west side of the town, followed the enemy along the Aleppo-Katma road and gained touch with him south-east of Haritan. The Turkish rearguard consisted of some 2,500 infantry, 150 cavalry, and eight guns. The Mysore Lancers and two squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers attacked the enemy's left; covered by the fire of the armoured cars, the Machine Gun Squadron and two dismounted squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers. The Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers charged most gallantly. A number of Turks were speared, and many threw down their arms, only to pick them up again when the cavalry had passed through, and their weakness had become apparent. The squadrons were not strong enough to complete the victory, and were withdrawn till a larger force could be assembled."

Much of this information comes from The King's School Canterbury Roll of Honour website.



Private Joseph Pugh served with the 7th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, part of the 21st Infantry Brigade, 30th Division. He died on 25 October 1918 and was buried in a Casualty Clearing Station Cemetery at Hazebrouck. It is difficult to think where he might have been wounded or killed. At the time of his death his battalion were 50 km further east near Zaandvoorde. The Casualty Clearing Stations only returned to Hazebrouck in October and even on 1 October the battalion were 30 km away in Comines. Nevertheless, Pugh, who served originally with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died on 25 October 1918 and is buried in Hazebrouck.
Pugh was not an Irishman. He came from Tregynon a small community near Newtown in Wales where his father was a farmer. It was his wife, Sarah, who chose his inscription. Her address was Tan y Bryn, Sarn, Newtown, another small farming community not far from Tregynon.
It is a traditional inscription, one that chimes with all those relations who chose 'Thy will be done', or 'Not my will but Thine be done O Lord' or 'God knows best', an attitude of acceptance that we today find difficult to comprehend, especially perhaps for someone who was killed within two weeks of the end of the war.



Alan Yardley was 19 and serving with the 3rd Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) when he was killed in action on 24 October 1918 during the Battle of the River Selle . The Germans having withdrawn from the Hindenburg Line had set up a new defensive line to the east of the Selle. On 23 October the British First, Second and Third Armies crossed the Selle and advanced six miles in two days, forcing the Germans to withdraw to a new defensive line at the Sambre-Oise Canal.
Yardley in buried in the Capelle-Beaudignies Road Cemetery where there are only 53 burials, all from a two-week period 21 October to 5 November. More than half the graves relate to the two days 23 and 24 October.
Born in King's Norton, Warwickshire, Yardley was his parents' only son, the eldest of their two children. In 1911 the father, Charles Yardley, was a 'pianoforte agent' in Sheffield. At the time of Alan's death the family were living in Plymouth, Devon and it's in the West Country that Charles Yardley died in 1959 and Bertha Yardley in 1965. This being the case - that the authorities knew where his parents were living - it's strange that Alan Yardley's medals were never delivered. His medal index card just says that they were retained, undisposed. The Service Medal and Award Rolls has the word 'Returned' beside Yardley's name. It was not unknown for next-of-kin to refuse to receive medals, scrolls and memorial plaques. They wanted nothing to do with the authorities who had 'killed' their family member. It looks as though the Yardleys could have been one such family.
Charles Yardley signed for his son's inscription. It comes from Byron's poem 'Don Juan'. However, the quotation had a life of its own apart from the poem since it was frequently used as a fatalistic acceptance of what life had thrown at you.



Private Bennett served in "C" Company, 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. On 10 April 1918 the battalion were holding the front line between Wambeke and the Blauwepoortbeek in the Messines Sector. "C" Company with their officers Captain Kingdom, Lieutenant Jones and Second Lieutenants Avens and Fisher had been placed in three advanced picquet posts, out in front of the front line, to keep a watch for the enemy.
At 2.30 am the Germans began to shell the front line with gas and high explosive shells. Between the first entry at 2.30 am and 6.35 am there are 13 entries in the battalion war diary as the shelling gets heavier and German soldiers get closer. The rest of the day is also minutely recorded although it is difficult to get a sense of exactly what is happening, just that by the time 9.30 pm arrived Battalion HQ had been moved back at least three times.
The battalion were not relieved until the 18 April when the casualties were assessed as 13 officers and 453 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. Among the named officer casualties were Second Lieutenant Fisher, gassed, and Captain Kingdom and Lieutenant Jones missing, three of the four "C" Company officers. Private Ernest Bennett was among the 207 missing other ranks.
Bennett had been taken prisoner. The Red Cross records show that he was "taken on 10.4.18 at Messines" and had "arrived from the Front at Friedrichsfeld". The 'UK, Army Register of Soldiers' Effects' finishes the story - Bennett died on 23 October 1918 whilst a prisoner of war at Kassel of influenza (pneumonia).
He is buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, one of the four permanent British war cemeteries in Germany where those who died as prisoners of war are now buried having been exhumed from sites all over Germany. Bennett's father, Walter Bennett, signed for his inscription, a magnanimous and inclusive inscription for the eldest of his seven children.



Albert William Hall was his parents' eldest son. They only had two children. He lived in Gloucester where his father was a "deal porter" someone who handled baulks of softwood, unloading them from ships and stacking them sometimes 60ft high in warehouses.
In 1911, Albert, aged 16, was a telegraph messenger, someone who delivered telegrams. His brother, Walter, aged 14, was a 'Corporation employee'.
Albert enlisted soon after the outbreak of war. He served with the 8th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, which was raised in Bristol in September 1914. The battalion went to France on 18 July 1915, the day Albert's medal index card says he arrived in France. He died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 31 July 1916. The previous day the battalion war diary had recorded:

"Attacked the German intermediate line, A & B Coys in front line, C & D Coys in second line. Our attack was held up by enfilade machine gun fire and concealed snipers from the right. Our men returned to their original front line at 9.30 pm. Casualties, Officers killed 8, 3 wounded, 3 missing. The Co Major Thynne was wounded in the body while urging on the second line. Other ranks 160."

Unfortunately whoever wrote up the diary never indicated whether that was 160 other rank casualties - killed, missing and wounded - or 160 killed. Nevertheless, it had been an 'expensive' raid in term of casualties. Albert Hall was most probably one of the wounded; the battalion had not been in the front line for some considerable time before it.
Hall's mother, Henrietta Hall, chose his inscription. Whilst there were several hymns that declared Christ "died for me", there are none that say "he died for me and for me only" so it would seem that Mrs Hall was not quoting but giving a piece of her own mind.
It's rather an extraordinary inscription. There are plenty that say 'He died for us', 'He died for others', 'He died for you', 'He died for you and me' but I have not come across another one that says 'He died for me and me only'. Mrs Hall was not going to share her son with anyone else - even his father and his brother.



This is such a specific inscription that it is a shame I haven't been able to find out any more details.
Stephenson served with the 1/7th Battalion The King's (Liverpool Regiment) but their war diary doesn't cover June 1916, or if it does the online diary doesn't. The 1/7th were part of the 55th Division and the divisional war diary does exist. This records: "28 June 1916 Raids on German trenches". The following appendices are full of the exact detailed plans for the raids, which conclude with a "Special Order of the Day by Major General HS Jeudwine CB, Commanding 55th (West Lancashire) Division published on 29 June:

"Yesterday six raids on the enemy's trenches were carried out by the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers and the 1/4 Loyal North Lancashire Regiment of the 164th Brigade and by the 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/9th King's Liverpool Regiments of the 165th Infantry Brigade assisted by detachments of the Royal Engineers. These raids were carried out in daylight, in unaccustomed and very difficult circumstances, and in the face of very determined opposition. In spite of these obstacles the results aimed at were successfully obtained and great damage and loss inflicted on the enemy. The gallantry, devotion, and resolution shown by all ranks was beyond praise, and the Major-General Commanding is proud to be able to congratulate the West Lancashire Division on the discipline and soldierly spirit exhibited - a discipline and spirit which most seasoned troops could not have surpassed. [...] He deeply regrets the loss of those who fell, but the spirit they showed will have its effect on the enemy. When the opportunity comes of avenging their deaths the Major-General Commanding is confident that the Division will not forget them."

Arthur Stephenson was the son of the Revd Robert Stephenson and his wife Philippa. He joined the army soon after the outbreak of war and was in France in on 6 June 1915. Seven days after his death the Liverpool Post & Mercury carried the following announcement:

"Official intimation has also been received that Lieutenant Theordore Stephenson, 7th King's (Liverpool Regiment) is reported missing, believed killed. He was the son of the late Rev. Robert Stephenson, who for over 30 years was vicar of St Jame's, Birkdale. He possessed marked ability as a pianist and frequently gave classical recitals at Southport."



Kenneth Ian Somerville was a student at Toronto University when the war broke out. He enlisted in the 33rd Canadian Infantry Battalion in October 1915 and went overseas in April 1916. In June 1916 he joined the 60th Battalion at the front and served with it at Ypres, the Somme and Vimy Ridge. He transferred to the 5th Mounted Rifles in May 1917 and served in the battles of Lens, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.
On 15 March 1918 the battalion conducted a raid on the German trenches. Somerville, another officer and four soldiers were killed in the action. Somerville was in fact originally badly wounded in the face. This blinded him. His was being taken back to the front line when he was caught in an enemy barrage and wounded a second time, this time in the left thigh. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station but failed to survive an operation the following day.
All this is documented on the Veterans Affairs Canada site on which there is also a letter his father, Charles Ross Somerville, wrote to a niece:

"My poor Kenneth was killed in France on the 16th March. I should have sent you word sooner but have been all broken up it is such a shock. After about 2 years in the fighting line I had hoped that he would have come through - but it was not God's purpose for my dear boy."

Charles Somerville chose his son's inscription: "He died for human liberty". Where did he get this idea from? On 8 January 1918 President Woodrow Wilson addressed both Houses of Congress. He outlined his Fourteen Points, setting out what could be the terms on which to base peace. Wilson spelt out how behind everything he proposed was the principle of justice, people's "right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak". He pledged the people of the United States to maintain this principle, "the moral climax of this, the culminating and final war for human liberty".



Robert Emerson was 21 when he was killed in action on the 2 September 1918 in the capture of the Drocourt-Queant Line. A fisherman from Clark's Harbour, Nova Scotia, he had joined up in March 1916 and been in France since February 1917. Wounded twice, once in the face and once in the arm, he also spent some time in hospital with Scarlet Fever in June 1917.
His elder brother Warren, who had been badly gassed, returned to Canada to recuperate and was about to be sent back again when the war ended. A younger brother, Frederick, wounded at Passchendaele, had his leg amputated and another brother, Minard, died of influenza.
What gave his father, who chose his inscription, the idea that his son had died to uphold world civilization? It would have been the Allied Victory Medal awarded to all the combatants of every Allied nation with the same agreed wording in the various different languages on the reverse - 'The Great War for Civilisation'.
Warren Nickerson and his wife, Jacobine, called their son, born in 1920, Robert Emerson Drocourt Emerson, Warren's brother's names with the addition of the location where he had been killed. Robert joined the Canadian Air Force on the outbreak of the Second World War. He qualified as a pilot and was killed over Cheshire flying a Hurricane which crashed due to a leak of glycol.



"I state that Lieut Rannard was killed by a shell - wounded in the neck and died at once at Sec-Bois on April 17th 1918. He was buried there, with other members of Battalion by a Padre and a cross, a very nice one, was erected. He was a fine little chap.The ground was held.
Eye-witness: -No
Description:- Dark, thin face, grey eyes, medium height.
Home address:-
Informant: Byrne. GB. Lieut. (Entirely reliable)
2nd AIF
3rd London General Hospital

Lieutenant Bytne may not have been an eyewitness but there were plenty in this Red Cross Wounded and Missing file and unusually they all agree. Rannard was giving orders whilst a barrage was on, "I saw him killed by a piece of shrapnel, back of neck, instantly fell back dead in my arms".
Rannard's inscription is very much influenced by propaganda: recruiting posters such as - "Take up the Sword of Justice" - and the memorial plaque given to the next-of-kin of all the dead which states that whoever received it had died for 'freedom and honour', together with numerous pleas in posters and the press for Australians to fight for their King and the Empire.
Richard Rannard was born in Australia and enlisted as a private in September 1915. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in December 1916 and promoted Lieutenant on May 1917. The son of William and Margaret Rannard of Maylands, Western Australia, it was his wife Edith, who chose his inscription.



As the centenary draws to an end, I thought it would be interesting to see what some next-of-kin gave as the cause for which they believed their family members had died. Yesterday's casualty, Thomas Scott Brodie, gave his life for the Empire.
Ralph Harwood, who served with the 3rd Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action in Gallipoli on 30 November 1915, 'died for England'. The son of Ralph Harwood and his wife Mary Frances Buckley, Ralph jnr was born in Liverpool, England and emigrated with his parents to Australia in 1898 when he was two. He enlisted in May 1915 when he was 18 and 9 months and embarked for Egypt two months later. He was killed a month before the Allied forces were withdrawn from the peninsula.
His mother chose his inscription and filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia. In this she wrote that "He was grandson of Major TNJ Buckley VC, RE (Indian Mutiny). Major Buckley obtained this for the blowing up of the magazine at Delhi,"
Ralph Harwood WAS the grandson of Thomas Newton John Buckley, and Major John Buckley WAS awarded a VC for his actions in blowing up the Delhi magazine and so saving it from falling into the hands of the rebels, but they weren't the same person.
One of the tragic aspects of John Buckley VC's life is that although he was married three times and fathered eight children, two of his wives died and all eight of his children, some from disease and some killed during the rebellion. Thomas Newton John Buckley also served in the Royal Engineers but it looks very much from this forum as though he was a deserter.
The things you find out.



Thomas Scott Brodie was a volunteer - 'his life for the Empire he willingly gave'. He joined the 1st Scottish Horse Yeomanry and went with them to Gallipoli in August 1915. On 2 September they landed at Suvla Bay and after three months were evacuated to Egypt on 28 December. In October 1916 the 1st Scottish Horse Yeomanry were merged to form the 13th (Scottish Horse Yeomanry) Battalion Black Watch. This served in Salonika until June 1918 when it was posted to France.Brodie was killed in action on 17 October in the crossing of the River Selle.
The son of John and Marie Brodie of Govan, Lanarkshire, his father was a ship builder's clerk. Marie Brodie chose her son's inscription because her husband was dead. It is a variation of an In Memoriam verse that appeared in various forms in the local newspapers during the war. This is one version:

"Somewhere in France", a brave heart beats no more,
He has finished his bit, and the tumult is o'er;
In the garb of his King, with his feet to the foe,
"Somewhere in France," how calmly he sleeps.
Blow softly O south winds blow soft o'er his grave,
His life for the Empire he willingly gave,
And sweetly he rests with the heroes of God.

Here is another:

Far away from his home and his loved ones,
Laid to rest in that far away land;
Never more shall are eyes here behold him,
Never more will we clasp his dear hand.
Somewhere in France, how calmly he sleeps,
While the songbird her singing all the day keeps;
Blow softly O south winds, blow softly o'er his grave,
His life for the Empire he willingly gave.

The south wind is traditionally the wind that brings comfort, refreshment and quietness.



Nowell Cooper, who served with the 1st Huntingdon Cyclist Battalion attached to the 2nd Battalion Suffolk Regiment, died of wounds in No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station Beaulencourt on 16 October 1918.
His medal card doesn't indicate when he joined the cyclist battalion but it was formed in February 1914. Initially used exclusively for home coastal defence, eventually small groups of cyclists were transferred to the Western Front where by late 1918 they had become useful for reconnaissance work. The trench warfare was over; it was now a war of movement and bicycles had become an important means of transport. They were silent, fast and light, the latter meaning that they could be carried over difficult terrain. Bicycles were in effect a form of calvary whose 'steeds' were not so expensive to maintain.
Nowell Cooper was the middle of his parents three children. Father was a railway accountant's clerk and the family lived in Dinas Powis in Glamorganshire.
It was his father who signed for this very touching inscription - Dear lad, good bye.



It was all so simple once - Britain and her allies were in the right and Germany and the Central Powers were in the wrong. And in the end right had triumphed over wrong as she should. This was how Mrs Mary McIntosh saw it when she signed for this inscription for her son James. The wife of a coachman, in 1901 she, her husband and six children lived in Pitlochry.
James had served with the 8th Battalion the Black Watch. There is no date of entry into a theatre of war on his medal index card and he was not entitled to a 1914-15 Star so he was probably not a volunteer.
He was killed on 14 October 1918 when the battalion attacked towards Winkel-St Eloi. The attack began at 05.30 with D Company leading, B C and A Companies in support. At 06.00 D Coy was held up at Mogg Farm at map reference F26a. B and C companies were ordered to assist and Mogg Farm was cleared.
Almost two years later, McIntosh's body was exhumed and reburied in Dadizeele New British Cemetery. It had been discovered with three other members of the 8th battalion at map reference F26a.3.5. McIntosh had been a casualty of the hold up' at Mogg Farm.
It was 28 days before the end of the war.



Miss N McMahon of 3 Stacy Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, chose Private James McMahon's inscription - a sister perhaps? He is said to have been the son of William McMahon but I have not been able to identify either William or James in any of the censuses.
James McMahon was a volunteer. He first entered a theatre of war, France, on 22 October 1915 serving originally with the Northumberland Fusiliers and then with the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was killed on 13 October 1918 in the crossing of the River Selle, east of Cambrai, which had fallen on the 8th.
Whoever Miss N McMahon was she knew her history. Her 'eternal Flanders' is often known as 'the cockpit of Europe', the battleground of numerous campaigns throughout history. McMahon was killed less that 15 miles from Ramillies and Malplaquet, the sites of the Duke of Marlborough's famous victories of 1706 and 1709. Agincourt, Crecy and Waterloo were themselves only just over 70 miles away. McMahon joined the long line of Englishmen killed in the struggle to keep a strong power out of the Low Countries whether that power was France, Spain or Germany.



Yesterday's casualty died a month later than today's but it took five years for the War Graves Commission to ask Private O'Neill's parents for an inscription as opposed to one year for Private Milner's. Constructing the cemeteries took many years, combing the battlefields, exhuming bodies where necessary, reburying them, acquiring the land, designing the cemeteries - there was no standard style - communicating with the next of kin. In fact it was 1938 before the final memorial to the missing was completed. And then of course the next year was 1939.
O'Neill was a volunteer from Ballylongford Co. Kerry. He enlisted in Listowel and went to France in December 1915 serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers. On September 2 1918 the battalion took part in the capture of the Drocourt-Queant line.A week later it went into the support trenches near Moeuvres and spent the 8th to the 12th, according to the war diary, undertaking 'various reconnaissances'. Having survived the attack on the Drocourt-Queant line it would appear that O'Neill was killed in one of the 'various reconnaissances'.
His elder brother, Patrick, serving with the 8th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers, was killed in action on the Somme on 9 September 1916. His body was never recovered and his is one of the 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.



William Milner was killed in action in Italy one hundred years ago today. His father chose his inscription. William was one of his parents' twelve children of whom five had died before 1911. Mrs Mary Milner, William's mother, died in 1915, as did his twenty-two-year-old brother Harry who died at home in Droitwich. Florence, his older sister died in 1917. Leaving five - four siblings and their father - to mourn William's death.
William Milner served with the 7th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, which was posted to Italy in November 1917. The battalion were part of an Allied contingent sent to help the Italians in the Trentino where it was feared the Austrians were getting the upper hand. Milner was killed on 11 October 1918 on the Asiago Plateau during a raid on the Austrian trenches.
Italy was a completely different battle front from the flat lands of France and Flanders, and from the desert heat of Palestine and Mesopotamia. It was rugged, mountainous and inhospitable and the cemetery where Milner is buried is rarely accessible between November and April due to deep snow.
For all its inhospitableness it would appear that Barenthal was one of the very first cemeteries to be built. Mr W Milner must have been asked for his choice of inscription in 1919. Next-of-kin don't seem to have been asked for this information until the War Graves Commission were ready to build the cemetery as I've seen inscriptions that refer to three, five and even eight years having passed since the soldier died.



There is more to this inscription than meets the eye. What sounds like a simple injunction to never disturb Jones' body is in fact a famous inscription - if you know your American literature. It comes from the grave of Natty Bumppo, the hero of James Fenimore Cooper's five American frontier novels known collectively as The Leatherstocking Tales.
Natty Bumppo, a white boy raised by Indians, is a 'good' white man, a frontiersman who helps people in trouble. At the end of 'The Prairie' (1827), Bumppo dies in the fulness of time and the Indians pay him this tribute:

"A valiant, a just, and a wise warrior has gone on the path, which will lead him to the blessed grounds of his people."

Bumppo was buried "beneath the shade of some noble oaks" and his grave "has been carefully watched to the present hour by the Pawnees of the Loop, and is often shown to the traveller and the trader as a spot where a just whiteman sleeps."
Later, a "stone was placed at its head, with the simple inscription, which the trapper had himself requested [...] "May no wanton hand ever disturb his remains!" This is the last line of the novel.
By choosing this inscription, Evan Jones' father, William Jones, associated his son with "a valiant, a just, and a wise warrior". Jones served with the first Battalion the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and was killed in action on 8 October 1918 when the battalion attacked at 5.10 am under a creeping barrage on the opening day of the Battle of Cambrai. The battalion war diary reported a 'great numbers of prisoners soon began to come back, which meant attack was going well'. The attack did go well but nevertheless the battalion suffered over 100 casualties killed and wounded.
Ten days before Evan Jones died his brother, Albert Rees Jones serving with the 2nd/4th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, was killed in action at the Canal du Nord. However, William Jones had no opportunity to choose an inscription for his younger son because Albert's body was never found. He is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois memorial to the missing.
William Jones was a farmer at Pantau Farm, Llanddew, Breconshire. Evan and Albert were two of his nine children all of whom worked with him on the farm. His wife, Mary died in 1912, his daughter Sarah in 1915 and two of his sons in 1918.



FLIGHT October 24 1918
"Lieutenant Robert Stannard Herbert, RAF, who died abroad on October 8th shortly after a collision in the air, was 19 years of age, and son of Mr and Mrs Leonard Herbert, of Argyll Mansions, W14. He was educated at Bedford School, had only just joined his squadron, and had been offered an instructorship in England, but made special application for active service abroad."

Lieutenant Herbert left school in December 1916. After qualifying as a pilot he went to France to serve with 108 Squadron. The squadron was based in Dunkirk and flying DH9s on daylight bombing raids. Herbert was killed whilst practicing formation flying; his plane collided in mid-air with another machine and he and his observer were both killed.
Herbert's father chose his inscription, a very masculine tribute from a father to a son but one of total admiration and approval.



Rifleman John Killick died of wounds in a Casualty Station, his father also John Killick, signed for his inscription. The first two lines come from 'Hail and Farewell' by the popular poet John Oxenham.

They died that we might live,-
Hail!-and Farewell!
-All honour give
To those who, nobly striving, nobly fell,
That we might live!

That we might live they died,-
Hail!-and Farewell!
-Their courage tried,
By every mean device of treacherous hate,
Like Kings they died.

Eternal honour give,-
Hail!- and Farewell!-
-To those who died,
In that full splendour of heroic pride,
That we might live!

The second two lines of the inscription are Mr Killick's own words and reflect a popular sentiment of the time: that those who lived on had an obligation to the dead to look after the world and make it a better place, one where such a terrible event would never happen again, a world that would be worthy of the dead.
It is a relevant point today, remembrance itself is not enough. If the dead did leave the future in trust to us, that should be the subtext of 'all remembrance mantras - 'Lest we forget' the responsibility they hoped we would assume.



Private Johns was killed in action on the 29 September 1918 in the attack on the St Quentin Canal. His body was not discovered until December 1926 when it was found with five other bodies at map reference 62c.F.12.a.65.75. There was no cross on the grave so it hadn't been previously registered. The body was identified by "Clothing, boots, numerals and two paper discs". The form asks "Were any effects forwarded to base?" and the answer was "Yes. Gold cased watch guaranteed 20 years. Discs fell to powder after being exposed. See covering letter."
There is an interesting note at the bottom of the form: "Reward is not to be paid in this case as the as the remains were reported by the American Graves Services, Q.M.C. in Europe". This refers to the fact that French and Belgian farmers were paid for each body they discovered to discourage them from failing to report it and just ploughing it back in to the ground.
David Jones was the only son of Thomas and Elizabeth Jones who ran the Junction Hotel in Abercynon, Glamorganshire. In 1911 David Jones was assisting his parents in the business. By the time his body was discovered his father was dead.



George Smith left school, Rugby, at Easter 1915 with a Classical Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. He immediately took a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and after training went to France in June 1916. He was promoted captain that September. In November he was awarded a Military Cross for carrying out "a daring raid against the enemy with great courage and determination".
In November 1917 he returned to England for six months home duty before returning to France in May 1918. He was killed six months later by a shell whilst leading his Company into action on 28 September 1918.
Smith's inscription, chosen by his father, George Smith Master of Dulwich College, comes from Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra, a philosophical poem in which Age addresses Youth and tells it, "Grow old along with me the best is yet to be". This is because in Age we acquire the wisdom and insight that Youth, too concerned with living in the moment, doesn't have. However, these are the very qualities that twenty-two-year-old Smith was admired for. As his Colonel wrote to his parents: "Though young in years, he had an old head, with much discretion. I could trust any duty to him knowing that it would be well and faithfully carried out".
The poem holds that our life on earth is but one step on the journey of our soul, which will continue after death. To his parents, George Smith was setting out "Once more on my adventure brave and new".



William Hill was the only son of Peter Hill, a grocery branch manager from Tyldesley in Lancashire, and his wife Mary Ellen. A volunteer, he joined up as a private and went to France in November 1915. A year later he received a commission in the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He was killed on 8 August 1918 in the capture of the village of Sailly-Laurette on the opening day of the Battle of Amiens.
His father chose his inscription. It is based on a Hindu mantra from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a treatise on the soul composed sometime around the year 700 BC.

Lead us from the unreal to the real.
Lead us from the darkness to the light.
Lead us from death to immortality.

It is a very unusual inscription from a very unusual source. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad does not appear to have been well known in Britain. It had been translated into English in 1805 but I can't see that either the book or the mantra were widely known so it would be interesting to know how Mr and Mrs Hill came across it.



This is such a heartbreaking inscription. It comes from a poem by Kathleen Chute-Erson (1879-1966) called Killed in Action, which was published in her 'War Stanzas and Other Poems' in November 1916. I've neither heard of Chute-Erson before nor ever seen this poem. It's the kind of sentimental verse that the twentieth century rejected but it's the type that must have expressed many a mother's feelings:

Yes, I am proud, I shall not weep, my son –
Boy of the high, brave spirit, who lies slain,
Blent with the earth grown hallowed for the stain
Of thy young life-blood. Boy, who on my breast
Has lain, so small, so dear, in infant rest;
Whose tiny, clinging hands and nestling head
Seemed God and life to me - dear son, now dead.

Son of the strong, young frame, the fearless heart,
Vibrant with life and thought, the coming man
Shadowed in graver mood, the finished plan.
My mother-love foresaw and knew content,
And when, all youthful fire and courage blent,
You said good-bye, I smiled (Oh, God! that day
Fear clutched my heart!) I would not have you stay.

Boy! you have died, as we would have you die.
Yes, I am proud, my son, I shall not weep,
But, oh! within the hours of broken sleep
I see your dear, loved form, your eyes, your hair,
And clench my arms to clasp and hold you there;
Then wake and know the glory you have won.
Yes, I am proud, indeed, but - Son, oh, Son!

Those three words - 'Son oh son'. For all that the mother has tried to convince herself that she's proud that her son has died 'as we would have you die', and that she is determined that she 'shall not weep', remembering him as a baby and and 'on the verge of manhood' is actually too much for her. William Stephen was 18 when he was killed in action on the day the 51st Highland Division took Marfaux with very heavy casualties.



"Willie we are calling you". William London's father chose his inscription. I can only imagine that he is telling his son that his mother and father have been trying to 'call' him through a spiritualist medium. And I can only imagine that they have not had any answer. It's rather a haunting inscription.
Belief in spiritualism, the belief that it was possible to make contact with the dead beyond the grave, was very popular after the First World War. There were numerous charlatans out there but some people genuinely believed that they were speaking to their dead relations. And not everyone who believed was a gullible innocent. Sir Oliver Lodge, a British physicist who played a key part in the development of radio, firmly believed that he was in touch with his son Raymond who had been killed in action on 14 September 1915.
William London was the younger of his parents' two children. He served with the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment and was killed in action on 20 July 1918. There is a gap in the battalion war diary between the end of June and the beginning of November so it's not possible to tell how he might have died.



'Follow the gleam', this is a phrase that has passed out of usage; once upon a time everyone would have known what it meant. It comes from Tennyson's poem 'Merlin and the Gleam' where the gleam is a glimmer of the holy grail, that intangible quality that man should attempt to follow in his life:

Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Not of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow the Gleam.

This will have been the source of the inscription but it could have been a second-hand source. In 1920 Sallie Hume Douglas and Helen Hill composed a song for a YWCA - Young Women's Christian Association - competition. The song won and became a YMCA anthem, which is still sung today. Based on Tennyson's poem the song encourages young people to follow the gleam:

To knights in the days of old,
Keeping watch on the mountain height,
Came a vision of Holy Grail
And a voice through the waiting night.

“Follow, follow, follow the Gleam,
Banners unfurled o’er all the world;
Follow, follow, follow the Gleam
Of the chalice that is the Grail.

“And we who would serve the King,
And loyally Him obey,
In the consecrate silence know,
That the challenge still holds today:

“Follow, follow, follow the Gleam,
Standards of worth o’er all the earth,
Follow, follow, follow the Gleam,
Of the Light that shall bring the dawn.

Horace Edgar Kingsmill Bray enlisted in the Canadian Mounted Rifles in January 1915. He served in France and Belgium and then, having been wounded, transferred to the Royal Air Force. He finished his flying training and was just about to be sent to France when he had a head-on collision in the air and was killed.
His father, the Revd Horace E Bray chose his inscription. His mother had died when his sister was born. Bray's patriotic poetry was included in several Canadian anthologies.
This YouTube film, They Are Not Here, feature Bray's life and death.



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:



This inscription takes us far away from Western Europe to southern Persia, now Iran, where the British had formed the South Persia Rifles in an attempt to counter German influence among the region's tribes.
There was much local hostility to the British and the loyalty of many members of the Rifles had became uncertain. In June 1918 the Rifles' garrison at Abadeh mutinied and joined the enemy, laying siege to the town. A small Indian Army detachment had recently joined the fortress to take control of the supplies and ammunition in case of just such an eventuality. On 2 July the enemy succeeded in breaking the bank of the irrigation channel, diverting the water so that it flowed directly towards the mud walls of the garrison fortress. Gwynne-Griffiths went out under heavy fire to mend the breach and was killed. The breach was eventually mended but Abadeh was not relieved until the 17 July.
On 2 August a detachment of troops left Abadeh taking Gwynne-Griffiths body with them back to Shiraz, a journey of 180 miles in the scorching heat. You must be thinking what I'm thinking. How did they keep Gwynne-Griffith's body from being unspeakable. I don't know but they didn't want it left among the hostile local people.
We wouldn't have known about this if his mother hadn't told us via his inscription. His comrades' actions must have brought her great comfort.
Gwynne-Griffiths was buried in Shiraz British Cemetery but in 1963 all the burials here were concentrated in Teheran War Cemetery.



Radivojem Chetkovich served in the 2nd Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Brigade under the name Harry Melin. Born in 1889 in Boan, Uskosi (now Uskoci), Montenegro he was living in Canada and working as a labourer when he volunteered in Sidney, British Columbia on 1 July 1916.
The battalion diary exists and shows that it was out of the line for most of June 1918. It doesn't mention suffering any casualties but it does mention that many of the men had 'three-day fever' and some of them had Spanish Flu and were very ill. Chetkovich died in Pernes, a large Casualty Clearing Station centre two years to the day after he had volunteered.
His father, who still lived in Boan Uskosi, chose his inscription, highlighting the seemingly strange fact that his Serbian son should die in Belgium fighting in the British Army.
The First World War began when a Bosnian Serb assassinated the Crown Prince of Austria on the 28 June 1914. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia mobilised against Austria-Hungary to protect Serbia, Germany declared war on France to support Austria-Hungary and Britain declared war on Germany when she invaded Belgium to attack France. Serbia and Britain were therefore on the same side, both fighting Austria-Hungary and her ally Germany.



Mrs Kate Scurlock had no misgivings about the cause for which her son had died, unlike yesterday's mother who was obviously deeply against war. It's strange to think how many people passionately believed that their menfolk had died for abstract concepts like 'justice, freedom and for right' when that's not how most people think today. Yet how things are perceived is how people believe they are - and it's good to think sometimes of how people in a hundred years time might judge our present-day perceptions.
Frederick Scurlock was born in Pembroke Dock where his father was a fitter in the dockyard. He worked as a clerk in a timber yard in Haverfordwest until he was called up.
Scurlock served with "C" Bty. 102nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, part of the 23rd Division, which went to Italy late in October 1917. He was wounded in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto and died in a Casualty Clearing Station behind the lines.



Leslie Rose died of meningitis whilst a German prisoner of war, his body later exhumed and buried in Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery. The War Graves Commission records this exhumation and the record includes the evidence of identity. This says, "Plate on coffin". I'm pretty sure that British soldiers were normally buried in ground sheets not coffins yet this is the second time I've come across the mention of the plate on a coffin and that too was of a soldier buried by the Germans. At this time the Germans were so short of some raw materials that shoes and boots were being made out of vegetable matter. Yet they were burying soldiers, including enemy soldiers, in coffins with coffin plates.
Rose's mother chose his inscription. It's a stern rebuke to everyone, she is not blaming the other side she's saying that it takes two to quarrel - "war cannot be on one side". She then follows this statement up with the reference to a passage in Deuteronomy. She's identified it as Deuteronomy 17:5 but most people would say 5:17. And what is the quote"? "Thou shalt not kill."



George Helliwell Harding was the Red Baron's 73rd victim. He had only been with 79 Squadron since 2 March when he became von Richthofen's third kill of the day.
All the following information is taken from Mike O'Connor's excellent book 'Airfields and Airmen Somme'. Harding was attacking a German fighter when von Richthofen came from behind and shot him down. Harding's plane caught fire and broke up in the air. Two years later, Harding's sister, Ruth, an actress, was in France entertaining American troops. She wanted to identify her brother's grave - the implication being that he had been buried as an unknown airman. She identified a grave and insisted on the body being exhumed for her to identify the remains. It must have been indescribably gruesome. Her brother would have been horribly burnt and had been in the ground for a year. She did identify him and George Harding was buried in Dive Copse Cemetery.
Just under a month later Manfred von Richthofen was killed.
Harding was an American citizen from South Minneapolis, Minnesota. After America's entry into the war he tried to enlist in the American army but so many Americans were volunteering that he became impatient at the delay and crossed the border into Canada to enlist in the Flying Corps. He arrived in England in August 1917 and after further training, he went to France on 2 March. Twenty-five days later he was dead.
His father, Mr GF Harding, chose his inscription from Algernon Swinburne's poem 'The Halt Before Rome': Republican Rome, for whom the soldiers in the poem are fighting:

She, without shelter or station,
She, beyond limit or bar,
Urges to slumberless speed
Armies that famish, that bleed,
Sowing their lives for her seed,
That their dust may rebuild her a nation,
That their souls may relight her a star.



Harry Aaron came from Newport, Rhode Island and volunteered to join the British Army in time to be in France on 15 September 1915. There's no indication as to why he volunteered, it could have been the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915 in which so many American citizens died, or perhaps the fact that there's a Star of David on his headstone. This sign of his Jewish faith might have been a significant factor. Anti-semitism was rife in certain parts of Germany and within certain sections of German society. His family could have been refugees.
Aaron was a driver in the Military Transport Section of the Army Service Corps, attached to the 94th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps. The 94th's war diary reports his death in an entry on 25 February 1918:

"Court of Inquiry held respecting death of Dvr M2/077183 P. Aaron who died at 30 CCS as the result of an accident while driving Ford Ambulance on duty on the 20.2.18. Death resulted on 22.2.18 from extensive rupture of liver."



Born in Clapton, London in the first quarter of 1898 and educated at Hackney Downs School, Ernest Dunn was just 19 when, according to his medal index card, he went to France in May 1917. He was killed the following month. His parents' only child; his father had died in 1913.
Dunn enlisted originally in the Artists Rifles but in January 1916 received a commission in the 10th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment, the Liverpool Scottish. At the time of his death he was attached to the Machine Gun Corps. The Hackney Downs School memorial site, records that Dunn was killed by a shell.
Originally buried where he died, Dunn's body was exhumed and reburied at Orchard Dump Cemetery in March 1920. The site of the cemetery was donated to the War Graves Commission by the widow of a Captain in the French 72nd Infantry killed in action in August 1914.



Mrs Alice Whelan had thirteen children of whom nine survived to adulthood. Widowed before 1911 she and her one daughter described their occupations as ironers.
Thomas was her eldest child. She says of him in the War Graves Commission records that he had had 15 years military service. It is likely that this service had come to the end before the war and that he rejoined on the outbreak. He died of wounds in the hospital centre of St Sever on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Thomas was 'the first to fall'. Two years later James Whelan, sixteen years younger than his older brother, died of wounds close to the front line on 26 June 1918.

Eight of my sons
Answered the call
You, dear Jim, were the second
To fall - sleep on



Stanley Jenkin's inscription comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's beautiful, passionate love poem 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways'. It was signed for by his father.
Jenkins enlisted on 1 June 1915 and went to France with the 16th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 2 December 1915. The battalion was sent first to a quiet part of the line to acclimatise themselves to the trenches before being sent into the front line at Givenchy on 17 February. The next day the British artillery bombarded the German trenches from 8 to 11 pm. The war diary recorded that the enemy's retaliation was 'moderate' and that one soldier was killed. The next day, the 19th, is described as "Very quiet - nothing unusual happened. Enemy fairly active with rifle grenades &c Casualties Pte M Hughes & Ptr SG Jenkins killed".
In civilian life Jenkins had been an engine driver in a colliery in Ogmore Vale, Glamorganshire. In 1911 he was living in Ogmore with his grandmother, Anne Davies, without his parents, as he had been aged 7 in 1901. On his attestation form he named his grandmother as his next of kin and left his money to her in his will.
However, by 1920 she was dead and it was his parents, Evan and Esther Jenkins of Brodawel, Twyn, Garnant, Carmarthenshire, who received his medals, next-of-kin memorial plaque and scroll. To do this they had to fill in Army Form W. 5080 giving the names and address "of all the relatives of the above-named deceased soldier in each degree specified below that are now living". This revealed that all his grandparents were dead and that he had no brothers or sisters.



The death has occurred "somewhere
in France," of pneumonia of Major Halford
Claude Vaughan Harrison RFA, late of
Cote Grange, Westbury-on-Trym. He was
52 years of age.
Clifton and Redland Free Press
7 April 1916

At the time of the 1911 Census, Major Halford Claude Vaughan Harrison RA described himself as on the retired list. On the outbreak of war he rejoined the army and was in France by March 1915 with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, meaning that he would hold the rank for the duration of the war.
Harrison was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in 1882. He came from an army family. His father had served with the Madras Native Infantry and his grand-father had been a major-general in the Royal Artillery.
In France he served with the 16th Division Ammunition Column and as the newspaper reported, died of pneumonia.
His wife, Beatrice, chose his inscription. It comes from Robert Louis Stevenson's Requiem, the poem that appears on his own grave in Samoa:

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Mrs Harrison has contracted the words to read as she wanted them to read. Her husband, after a long career in the army, was lying among his fellow soldiers in the battlefields of France.



When relations quoted from this hymn they usually quoted the first three words of the first verse: 'Abide with me', or the last line of the last verse: 'In life in death O Lord abide with me'. James Dick's parents have quoted from the second verse:

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not abide with me!

James Dick was a apprentice engineer in Gateshead-on-Tyne when he enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry soon after the outbreak of war. His medal card shows that he disembarked in France on 20 April 1915. He was a private. His military career shows his quality. Over the next two years he was awarded a Military Medal, promoted corporal, then acting sergeant and on 29 May 1917 he received a commission. Five months later, almost to the day, he died of wounds in one of the Casualty Clearing Stations at Proven.
He is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery. This was one of the humorous names the troops gave to this group of Belgian Casualty Clearing Stations, along with Bandaghem and Dozinghem.



The subject of my tweets, blog and books is inscriptions. They come first and the person and their story comes afterwards. What I mean is that I don't look around for a person and then see what their inscription says, it's the other way round. This has led me along some interesting byways from very under age soldiers, men serving under false names, huge family tragedies, examples of incredible fortitude, to suicide and murder. This inscription has led me nowhere; I could find out even less than I usually can about a soldier and certainly nothing about Lee as a musician. Yet the inscription is one of the most powerful I've come across.
William Arthur James Lee was born in Chingford, Essex the son of Arthur James and Sarah Ann Lee who lived at 43 Higham Station Avenue in Chingford. This much it says in the War Graves Commission Register but I can't identify him with any certainty in any census.
William AJ Lee's medal card does not indicate when he enlisted nor when he arrived in France. We know he served with the 25th Tyneside (Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, that he died of wounds in hospital in Etaples on 3 May 1917 and that's it.
Arthur James Lee signed for his son's eloquent inscription - he did well.



Robert George Allen's inscription was signed for by Mr EW Allen, I think this will be his youngest brother, Edward Wilfred Allen because his father was Ernest J Allen. The words "Don't worry" are in inverted commas, which would suggest that they are the words of the dead man and no, I don't think they mean don't worry that I'm dead because I shall now be alright. I think that brother Edward was fully conscious of the irony of his choice. His brother had gone off to war telling them all not to worry - and look what happened.
Robert Allen had gone off to war in October 1915 when he was 18. He had been out at work since he was 14 when he was a door boy in a restaurant. Ernest J Allen was a baker in Battersea and in 1901 the family had, Jacob Buss, another baker, living with them. Buss was a naturalised German citizen.
Allen served with the 1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade and died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station behind the lines in Pernes. There's no indication in the war diary when the wounds might have been received.
Edward Wilfred Allen was too young to have served in the war but if you follow up Ernest J Allen, Ernest Jones Allen, he was killed in action on 25 September 1918 whilst serving as a driver with the Royal Horse Artillery.



Alexander Graham, serving with the 9th Battalion Black Watch, died of gas poisoning in a hospital in Bethune. The battalion had gone into the front line at Vermelles on 26 April 1916. The Germans launched a gas attack on the 27th but the gongs sounded the alert and the men all got their smoke helmets on in good time. Even though the gas was so dense that one could not see more than 8 to 10 feet little harm was done. However, on the 29th the Germans subjected the line to the most intense bombardment using every form of shell including gas shells and lachrymatory shells (tear gas). This time casualties were very high probably, it was concluded, because the men had been advised to remove their helmets too soon. Graham died in hospital the following day.
Isabella Graham chose her youngest son's inscription. It comes from Edwin Arnold's poem, 'The Song Celestial'. This poetic translation of the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, was very popular, especially with Theosophists who were interested in Eastern mysticism. The passage is based on Book 2

"Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak'st
Words lacking wisdom! for the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die. [...]
He who shall say, "Lo! I have slain a man!"
He who shall think, "Lo! I am slain!" those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; Never was time it was not; end and beginning are dreams! Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!"



William Larkin's sister, Edith, chose his inscription. She was his only living relation their parents having both died by 1911. She chose a line from verse 3 of the hymn 'For all the saints'.

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor's crown of gold,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The siblings had not had an easy life. Father was a groomsman and domestic gardener who died in 1908. Their mother was deaf and had been since she was 25. Edith spent two years in the care of the Maidstone Poor Law Union between the ages of five and seven, and aged fourteen was living with her mother's sister. William doesn't appear in the 1901 census but by 1911 he was a grocer's assistant in Rottingdean.
William Larkin joined the 12th Battalion Sussex Regiment. The battalion were in France by March 1916 where they were heavily involved in the Somme campaign. On 8 October they relieved the 14th Battalion in the trenches at Auchonvillers. The war diary brackets the next three days with the comment:

"Our artillery & TMs (trench mortars) active in wire cutting & bombardment of enemy line. Enemy retaliated to some extent with TMs and 77 mm shells. Our trenches slightly damaged, but repaired each night. Enemy appear to have few heavy guns opposite us on this sector. 5 OR (Other Ranks) wounded, 3 OR killed."



John Tweddell, a stoker, fireman on the railways, embarked from Australia in October 1915 to serve with the Australian 1st Field Ambulance. He died of wounds - two fractured lags and laceration of his eye - in the 1st Anzac Main Dressing Station, France, on 6 November 1916.
His widowed mother chose his inscription and to me it has an echo of the Roman poet Catullus's farewell to his brother.

By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side I am come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath taken thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, their heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell,
Take them, all drenched with a brother's tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!

Hail and Farewell - Ave Atque Vale. Catullus had come a great distance to visit his brother's grave, to salute him and say 'for all time' good-bye'. Mrs Tweddell sent her inscription from a great distance to say 'for all time' remembrance. It sounds very much like a quotation to me but I can't find it anywhere, only as this inscription.



This is Kipling - do you recognise it? If you can keep your head, trust yourself, dream, think ... meet with triumph and disaster, force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone ... :

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

This is Kipling's poem 'If', written in 1895. Strangely, for all its popularity, I've not come across any reference to the poem in an inscription before.
Geoffrey Gidley was the second youngest of George and Annie Gidley's seven children. Some might think he was a man already because he was out at work, as a clerk in a barrister's office, by the time he was 14 in 1911.
As it was, he joined the 9th Battalion London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) on the outbreak of war. Went with them to France on 17 August 1915 and died of wounds, aged 20 in a Casualty Clearing Station on 30 May 1916.



James O'Rorke served with the 6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders and died on 26 July 1918. There is no individual mention of his death but the battalion war diary records that, whilst they were being relieved from the front line trenches at Missy au Bois on the 25th, they were subjected to very heavy gas shelling resulting in 9 officers and 180 other ranks being admitted to hospital. It seems likely that O'Rorke was one of these casualties.
His father chose his inscription. There's another version of it that is fairly common as a general 'In Memoriam' inscription: "There came a mist and a blinding rain and life was never the same again". Mr Edward O'Rorke, however, quoted it correctly from the poem 'Sweet Peril' written by George MacDonald (1824-1905). It's a love poem and the quotation comes from the first verse:

Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.



Ralph Hamilton's father signed for his inscription. It comes from Lord Byron's narrative poem 'The Bride of Abydos', a story of Turkish love and revenge. Ralph Hamilton was killed in France but his battalion, the 14th (Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) Battalion Black Watch had been fighting in Palestine until their return to Europe in May 1918. They were therefore familiar with the land Byron describes: the land of cypress and myrtle of cedar and vine, 'where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine ... and all, save the spirit of man, is divine?' The actual passage George Hamilton quotes refers to the two lovers:

The winds are high on Helle's wave,
As on that night of stormy water,
When love, who sent, forget to save
The young, the beautiful, the brave,
The lonely hope of Sesto's daughter.

The quotation has an interesting after life. Byron died in 1824 and for many years afterwards an In Memoriam notice would appear in The Times and Morning Post on the anniversary of his death:

Byron - George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron, died nobly for Greece, at Missolonghi, April 19 1824.
"When love, who sent, forgot to save
The young, the beautiful, the brave

The story was that a lady bequeathed money to ensure that on the anniversary of his death a wreath of Marechel Niel roses was laid at the foot his statue in Hamilton Gardens, London W1, and the notices appeared in the papers, 'until the Authorities of Westminster Abbey shall sanction the erection of some memorial in the Poet's Corner'. The 'immorality' of his life making him unacceptable to the Abbey authorities.
I haven't looked up to see how long the notices kept appearing but it was not until May 1969 that Byron got a memorial in Westminster Abbey.
Hamilton's battalion had been brought back from Palestine to meet the German offensive. the regimental history tells of how they had to receive instruction on a different kind of warfare. They had certainly had no experience of gas but the experts sent to train them in fighting with bayonets soon found 'we had not much to learn in that line'.
Hamilton was killed on 2 September 1918. The battalion successfully attacked across the Canal du Nord when 'murderous machine-gun fire opened up from the left and their rear.

"The battalion of Londoners on our left north of Moislains had withdrawn, the village of Moislains itself was never mopped up, and the eight Bosche machine-guns holding Moislains seeing this moved quickly to the south of the village and opened on our backs. In addition to this we were being subjected to very heavy fire on our left flank, which was now completely in the air, and we could actually see their gun teams working the 77's on the crest of the ridge. The Bosche had paid us the compliment of rushing up his best troops to meet our Division, and certainly the Alpini Corps were most gallant fighters. To advance unsupported was out of the question, and our casualties were by now very heavy, so there was nothing left but to withdraw to the west side of the Canal again and reorganise the remains of the companies."



Christian Phillips was born in March 1880. His mother died in 1884 and his father in 1888 leaving him and his older sister and brother, Rachel and Edward, to be brought up by their mother's spinster sisters.
Commissioned into the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on 5 May 1900, he served in the South African War and remained in the army until he retired in 1914. He rejoined his old regiment on the outbreak of war and was in France by 16 January 1915. Attached to the 15th Battalion Welsh Regiment, he was promoted Temporary major on 1 July 1916.
It was a rank he held for ten days. On 10 July the battalion took part in the attack on Mametz Wood and Phillips was killed.
His brother, Edward, a farmer in Ampthill Bedfordshire, chose his inscription from Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the fire was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole world I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid.



Mrs Rose Ward's lovely description of the lost past comes from a poem by Frederick W Myers who is better known today as a Spiritualist. The poem, which doesn't appear to have a title, seems to describe a magical visit to the Lake District near Helvellyn, the memory of which is printed on the poet's mind:

Within, without, whate'er hath been,
In cosmic deeps the immortal scene
Is mirrored and shall last -
Live the long looks, the woodland ways.
That twilight of enchanted days -
The imperishable past.

Alfred Ward volunteered soon after the outbreak of war and joined the 61st Field Company Royal Engineers. His medal index card shows that he went with the regiment to France on 25 May 1915. They were based in Belgium - Hooge and Bellewaarde - until the summer of 1916 when they moved to the Somme. Ward was killed at Delville Wood where, among all the fighting, the sappers were laying on water supplies, creating tramway trenches, machine gun emplacements and shell-proof shelters.



This has all the hallmarks of a brother's inscription: hearty, blokey and unemotional. And it is a brother's inscription, chosen by William Merrifield's younger brother, Leonard. Their parents were both dead - mother died in 1905, father in 1915 and their older sister had died in 1914.
William Merrifield died on 4 August 1920. The war had been over for nearly two years. Merrifield had served since the outbreak and been in France since 24 June 1915. He was 'disembodied' on 15 February 1919; disembodied is a military term which indicates that Merrifield had been a territorial soldier before the war. The fact that he was disembodied in February 1919 would seem to imply that he had survived it unwounded. Yet when he dies in his home town of Newton Abbot just over a year later he is entitled to a military grave. There is no indication as to the cause of Merrifield's death but, if you died before 31 August 1921 of any cause where your war service could have been a contributory factor, you were entitled to a war grave.
I said the inscription Leonard chose for his brother was unemotional, but two things: first he chose an inscription, and paid five shillings and sixpence for it, and secondly, he acknowledges his comradeship with his brother. That doesn't come from the use of the word 'Matey' but from the 'Au revoir', the French word for 'good-bye'. Leonard served with the Devonshire Regiment and had been in France since October 1915. He was discharged 'Class Z' on 12 November 1919. Class Z meant that you were discharged to the reserve and if war broke out again you would be called up.



Ada Green chose her eldest son's inscription, reflecting her own stoical acceptance of the situation. There was nothing she could do except 'smile and wait', wait until her own death when she would meet him in heaven. It was all she had been able to do through the war too. Her husband, also James, an army reservist, rejoined immediately on the outbreak and, if I'm reading his service record correctly, he was in France with the BEF on 24 August 1914. He survived the war.
The family lived in Coventry where James senior was a motor engine fitter, he served with the Army Service Corps. James Green junior, a blacksmith's striker, served with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards. Unfortunately, his medal index card has no details other than the name of his regiment and his army number; not even the fact of his death.The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guard's war diary doesn't appear to have been digitised so we know nothing of what was happening in the days around his death. We only know that Green died in a Casualty Clearing Station in Meaulte, just south of Albert, on 6 March 1917.



Geoffrey Foley was an engineer's apprentice when he enlisted in September 1914. By the following August he was in France with his regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry. A former public school boy, it wasn't long before he was selected for a commission, which was gazetted in December 1915.
On 13 March 1916, he was severely wounded when he was shot in the thigh by a sniper. On recovery he returned to the front but in October was hospitalised at Etaples with shell shock. Returning again to the front he was leading his men in an attack at Roeux Wood on 3 May when in was severely wounded again in the left leg, this time by a machine gun. Taken to a Casualty Clearing Station, his leg had to be amputated. At first he appeared to be recovering but his conditioned worsened and he died.
Foley's father chose his inscription from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Christian has braved the Valley of the Shadow of Death, negotiating a narrow path in pitch darkness with a dangerous quagmire on one side and a deep ditch on the other. He has been surrounded by flame and smoke and hideous noises, seeing and hearing frightful sights and sounds - a continual howling and yelling as of a people in unutterable misery - until he reaches the other side and the day breaks, at which point Christian says: "He hath turned the shadow of death into the morning".
Christian's Valley of the Shadow of Death sounds very like the Western Front; Robert Foley had been there too.



This inscription comes from the last verse of Sir Francis Doyle's (1810-1880) poem 'The Private of the Buffs', which he based on a supposed incident in China during the Second Opium War:

"Some Sikhs and a private of the Buffs, having remained behind with the grog carts, fell into the hands of the Chinese. On the next morning they were brought before the authorities, and commanded to perform the kow-tow. The Sikhs obeyed; but Moyse, the English soldier, declaring that he would not prostrate himself before any Chinaman alive, was immediately knocked upon the head and his body thrown on a dunghill."
The Times 1860

Never mind that if the event took place at all Moyse may have been imbibing too much from the grog carts, the event was seized on by the British press and Moyse turned into a hero.

Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
Bewildered and alone.
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
He yet can call his own,
Aye, tear his body, limb from limb,
Bring cord, or axe, or flame;
He only knows that not through him
Shall England come to shame.

It is in fact a very unpleasant, jingoistic poem in which Moyse's 'brave' action is contrasted with that of the native soldiers who 'whine and kneel', unlike the 'English lad' who:

... with eyes that would not shrink,
With knee to man unbent,
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink
To his red grave he went.

The poem concludes with the warning that the mightiest fleets with all their guns are as nothing:

"Unless proud England keep untamed
The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through England ring -
A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta's King
Because his soul was great.

Peter Pennington, a miner from Golborn, was a lance-corporal in the South Lancashire Regiment. He had a been a Territorial before the war, was mobilised on the outbreak and in France on 13 February 1915. On 8 September that year he was with a working party in the trenches when he was wounded in the abdomen and died the next day. His father, also a coal miner, chose his inscription.



Doomed to know not Winter, only Spring, a being
Trod the flowery April blithely for awhile,
Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing,
Came and stayed and went, not ever ceased to smile.

Arthur Skene's inscription comes from the second verse of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'In Memoriam F.A.S', written to commemorate an eighteen-year-old boy, Francis Albert Sitwell, who died of consumption in Davos in 1881.
Skene, who worked for the 'Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company', joined the Territorials in June 1914 and was called up immediately on mobilization that August. He served with the 1st/4th Gordon Highlanders and was in with them France from 19 February 1915. He was killed two years later. His Lieutenant wrote to Skene's mother, telling her:

'Whilst up reconnoitring with his officer and company sergeant major yesterday a shell burst close to them, killing the officer and company sergeant-major, and severely wounding your son. He was at once taken to a dressing station but died the same day. He will be greatly missed by officers and others of his company; his capabilities and his cheery manner caused him to be liked by all.'

Skene's youngest brother, Peter (Pat), was killed in action on 25 October 1918, seventeen days before the end of the war. His widowed mother chose the same inscription for both her sons.

Yet, O stricken heart, remember, O remember
How of human days he lived the better part.
April came to bloom and never dim December
Breathed its killing chills upon the head or heart.
[Verse 1]



This is a rather touchingly incongruous inscription for Captain Hall RFC, whose Military Cross was awarded for conspicuous gallantry in flying not only in the worst weather and at very low altitudes, but once at an extremely low altitude and under very heavy enemy fire in order to range the artillery's guns. But then 'mummie', who chose it, was quite an usual woman.
Born Ethel Beatrice Lloyd in Toungoo, Burma, her father died when she was two. The next time she surfaces it is as Ethel Sydney performing in a musical in New York. In the 1901 census, as Ethel B Hall, actress, she is staying in digs in Fylde, Blackpool with her three-year-old son Durham Donald George Hall. After this the records show that she divorced Sydney Donald Edward Hall in 1903 and married Samuel Robinson Oliver who divorced her in 1912 at which point she married the co-respondent, John Upston Gaskell. He left her in 1923 and the following year she married Alastair Ian Matheson who, born in 1899, was just younger than her son would have been.
You can perhaps see why her son was her 'sweet ideal'.
Durham Donald George Hall was born in 1898 and educated at Charterhouse. He left school in the summer of 1914 and was commissioned into the Yorkshire Regiment before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. In January 1918 he went to France with the newly formed 80 Squadron. On the 26 March he failed to return from a patrol. Witnesses saw him bring his plane down near Albert. It is thought it had been damaged by enemy ground fire. Hall had been wounded and died of his wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station the next day.



This is a really unusual inscription, unusual because I have not previously come across one that quotes the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon. The quotation comes from Aftermath, which Sassoon wrote in 1919. From the reference to 'your men', it's as though Sassoon is reminiscing with a fellow officer, but his intention is to remind everyone that, however much people might now be looking back at the camaraderie of the trenches, the whole thing was appalling:

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack, -
And the anger, and blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.

Private Thomas Boote volunteered in 1914 when he can only have been 17. He served with the 5th Cheshire Regiment and went with it to France in February 1915, earning the 1915 Star. After this the trail goes cold. He died on 12 January 1917 and was buried in the cemetery of his home town, Runcorn in Cheshire. This indicates that he died in Britain but whether of wounds or illness I haven't been able to find out.
Boote's War Grave Commission headstone was not issued until 1997. If he had never had one before I believe the War Graves Commission are prepared to provide one now, with an inscription. That therefore must have been chosen by members of his family in 1997.
Sassoon was a powerful poet but a minority poet in 1919. His position was very different in 1997. His sentiments were not popular with those who were choosing inscriptions in the immediate post-war years, nor were those of Wilfred Owen, despite their popularity now. I've seen Owen quoted twice, once by his parents on his own headstone, and once on a grave at Fromelles. But again, that is a modern inscription chosen sometime in the early twenty-first century.
Thomas Boote's younger brother, James, served in the Royal Navy and went down with his ship, HMS Gloucester, when it was sunk by German bombers off the coast of Crete on 22 May 1941.



Richard Vidal, a farmer from Manitoba, was one of his parents nine children. He enlisted on 14 February 1916 and served with the Canadian Cyclists Corps. Trained as an elite to carry out intelligence work, members of the corps underwent an intensive course that included musketry, bombing, bayonet fighting and the use of Lewis guns, as well as signalling and range-finding. Despite this, cyclists tended to be used for traffic control or as trench guides, ambulance drivers or even for burying the dead. However, during the last one hundred days, as the war became a war of movement, the cyclists came into their own and were finally able to do the intelligence work for which they had been trained. They could be sent in advance of the infantry to keep in touch with the retreating enemy, they were used for reconnaissance and scouting and some of them took part in direct combat.
All this was far more dangerous than their earlier work had been and they became known as the suicide battalions. Richard Vidal was killed near Wancourt just outside Arras on 2 September 1918 during the Second Battle of Arras.
His mother chose his inscription, acknowledging that the price of victory had meant the loss of her son.



Noel Finucane's inscription comes from a popular love song written in 1911 by Eileen Newton and Arthur F Tate and recorded in 1916 by John McCormack.

Dusk and shadows falling,
O'er land and sea;
Somewhere a voice is calling
Calling for me!
Night and stars are gleaming,
Tender and true;
Dearest! my heart is dreaming,
Dreaming of you!

Finucane was with a working party on the night of 4 January 1917 when he was shot 'through the heart'. He had only been in France since 13 November the previous year. Nevertheless, although his military career may have been short his civilian life beforehand had been fairly exciting.
A steward on the transatlantic liners, he had been on board the Lusitania when she was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland on 7 May 1915. Finucane had escaped from the liner just before she sank and was picked up by a boat . The People's Stories website has a detailed, and rather more colourful accountof this event than I've given - it's worth reading!
After the Lusitania, Finucane served on another Cunard ship, the Aquitania, which was being used as a hospital ship off Gallipoli. He enlisted on 12 December 1915, just before the Allies evacuated the peninsula.
Finucane's widowed mother chose his inscription for her youngest child. Sentimental postcards that feature the song usually show a pair of lovers - with any luck this link will show you an example. But a mother can yearn to hear her son's voice just as much as a wife or girlfriend.



Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal
Friday 14 December 1917
"Local cricketers will extend their sympathy to Mr and Mrs Statham, 90 Kedleston Rd, Derby, who have just received the sad news of the death of their son, Private Arnold Statham of the Seaforths. In a letter to the parents the chaplain states that he met his death on the 20th in the fighting before Cambrai. Joining the army soon after leaving school, he was drafted to France about March 1916, took part in the fighting in High Wood, and on the Somme. At the latter place he was wounded in the knee, and was brought over here, and sent to a hospital in Glasgow. Returning to Ripon, it was understood that he was not to be sent away until he was 19. However, at his own request, he returned to the fighting area two months before that time arrived, and met his death as stated. He lies in a corner of a foreign land which will be for ever England. His parents take this opportunity of thanking all those kind friends who have sympathised with them in their terrible loss."

Arnold Statham was born on 30 January 1899. He was therefore just 17 when he went to France 'about March 1916' and 18 and 10 months when he returned to the front two months before his nineteenth birthday. He must have been killed almost immediately in the 51st Highland Division's attack on Flesquieres.
On the second anniversary of his death, his family inserted the following announcement in the In Memorial column of the Derby Daily Telegraph:

Statham - To the Glory of God and in loving remembrance of our dear son and brother Pte Arnold Statham and his gallant comrades of the Seaforth Highlanders, who gave their lives for King and country Nov. 17 1917 at Cambrai. "Never shall their glory fade".

Statham's body was originally buried in the 51st Divisional Cemetery, but thirteen years later all the bodies here were exhumed and reburied in Orival Wood Military Cemetery. It was at this point that the families would have been asked to provide a personal inscription. Ten years after the In Memoriam announcement, it wasn't that the memory of their son had faded but Mr and Mrs Statham perhaps no longer associated his death with glory. 'School, war, death' is a bleak summary of a short life.



Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 14 April 1917
"A private cable message was yesterday received by Mr Frank A Davenport, stating that his youngest son, Lieut. Guy Kennedy Davenport, of the Australian Field Artillery, was killed in action in France on the 10th inst. The deceased officer, who was a member of the firm of Frank A Davenport and Son, was educated at King's College, Goulburn, and was 26 years of age. He was recently awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery. Lieut. Davenport has left a widow - the daughter of Mr WR Cowper, manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney at West Maitland."

"7 April 1920
Dear Madam,
I am returning herewith circular (form "A") in respect re your husband, the late Lieutenant GK Davenport, MC, 4th Field Artillery Brigade, in order that the personal inscription you desire may be inserted thereon. It is noted that you have stated "same message". Evidently you sent another form at the same time, but as each one is separately dealt with it is necessary that the inscription be shown on each form.
Yours faithfully
Officer i/c Base Records"

April 16th
Dear Sir,
In reply to your letter of April 7th I have never sent or filled in any form to you except the one enclosed - the words I wish put on my husband's headstone are "Same message" - simply and only [underlined] those two words - I understand we can have what we wish as long as we pay the cost of the engraving. I do not want any mistake about this, all I wish are those two words [last three words all underlined]. Would you please let me know if it is clearly understood ...
Your truly
Mabel Davenport"

"14 May 1920
Dear Madam,
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 16th April, which has been forwarded to this office by the Secretary, Department of Defence, and note you desire simply the two words "Same message" to appear as the personal inscription on the permanent memorial over the grave of your husband, the late Lieutenant GK Davenport MC ..."
Yours faithfully
Officer i/c Base Records"

I wonder what the same message was - 'I will always love you' perhaps?



This inscription is in German. John Matucha was an Austro-Hungarian citizen born in Bohemia where his parents, Wenzl and Maria Matucha, lived in Manetin vei Pilsen. According to his medal index card, he joined the British Army some time after the beginning of January 1916, served with the 7th Battalion East Kent Regiment and died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinghe on 27 September 1917. His mother signed for his inscription, Ruhe sanft in fremde erde, rest peacefully in foreign earth.
All the above is fact, this is surmise. Matucha died in a Casualty Clearing Station, he hadn't been moved back to a base hospital so his wounds were likely to have been quite recent. The 7th Battalion had not been in the trenches during September. On 29 September they were in camp at Sint Jan ter Biezen, just west of Poperinghe. At 7.20 pm a German aeroplane dropped four bombs on the camp killing one officer and 26 other ranks and wounding three officers and 63 ORs. I would suggest that this was when Matucha was wounded. A soldier only had to have arrived alive at some form of aid post for it to be said that he had died of wounds. Even if his death followed soon after the wounding. Matucha must have died before midnight.
What was an Austro-Hungarian citizen doing in the British Army? This is even more of a surmise. Bohemia, post-war Czecho-Slovakia, wanted independence from Austria-Hungary. Some Bohemians joined the Czech Legions and fought with the Allies - most however did not. Some, and perhaps Matucha was one of them, joined the Allied armies.



Harry Griffiths died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing station at Duisans. Does the inscription his father chose refer to the fact of his death, the wounds that he suffered or the fact that he had to be involved in the war at all? We're not going to know.
Griffiths was a volunteer who served originally with the 15th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, formed in Birmingham in September 1914. He went with it to France, landing in Boulogne on 27 November 1915. At the time of his death he was with the 1st Battalion. It's not possible to tell when he was wounded but the battalion had attempted an attack on the German lines on 31 March. They were driven back by heavy machine-gun fire, rifle grenades and artillery, suffering twenty-five Other Rank casualties killed and wounded.
His parents, Mr and Mrs Henry H Griffiths, lived at 8 Princess Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, but I haven't been able to find out anything else about him or his family.



These words form the last line of each of the three verses of Sir Henry Newbolt's poem 'Vitai Lampada'. This is the torch of life, which each generation nurtures before passing it on to the next, its flame intact. The flame is nurtured by each person playing his part, playing the game, to the benefit the whole team, regiment or country.
Massively popular in its day, the poem has come in for much subsequent ridicule, particularly for its second verse:

The sand of the desert is sodden red, -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'

The words don't mean that war is a game, they were simply a colloquial way of saying, do what you know to be right for the greater good not for yourself. As an inscription the meaning is to those still living to take up the torch the dead have dropped and carry on playing the game. Haworth's father chose it.
Haworth, the son of a Blackpool saddler, served with the 8th Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. On 6 June 1917, the battalion took part in the attack on the Messines Ridge, which followed the explosion of several large mines.



Arthur Edwards died of wounds in a base hospital in Boulogne. His father chose his inscription, still obviously stunned by the suddenness of his son's death. It seemed to him as though one minute he'd received a post card from his son saying that he was quite well and the next a letter informing him that his son was dead.
I have a feeling that the postcard Mr William Edwards was referring was a Field Service postcard. It's likely that his son was given one to fill at some point before he was wounded or even when he was first admitted to hospital. These cards were a means by which soldiers could quickly keep in touch with home. But their use was very prescribed.
The card was printed with a number of statements that the soldiers could cross out, leaving the one that applied. There was however a fierce warning printed across the top that nothing else was to be written on it except the date and signature - "If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed". The first statement on the card was, "I am quite well".
The letter informing soldiers' families of their deaths did not mention anything about nobly falling, it just baldly stated that the soldier had either been killed in action or died of wounds. But Edwards' officer would have written a letter of condolence to his parents and someone at the hospital usually wrote one too. This is probably where the reference to nobly falling came from.



Robert Currie was killed in air raid on Etaples. I don't know whether he was a patient in one of the hospitals or whether he was in one of the camps. The Times, reporting the event on the 24 May, made much of the fact that Etaples was a hospital area, but it was also a huge training camp.

"Sunday's raids lasted from soon after 10 at night till after midnight. There was a short interval at half-past 11, and evidently two separate parties were employed, numbering between them over a score of machines, from which a great number of bombs were dropped, many of the very largest size, making craters in the ground 15 and 20 feet across ... Some of the enemy machines came down and used their machine-guns, raking the hospital tents and attendants quarters with fire from low altitudes. No circumstance of savagery seems to have been omitted."

The Etaples Base Commandant's war diary recorded:

"15/9/1918 Area attacked by enemy aircraft. Casualties 1 Officer, 1 Nursing Sister, 167 OR killed; 27 Officers, 11 Nursing Sisters, 584 OR wounded; 18 OR missing."

Currie's inscription comes from a popular piece of 'In Memoriam' verse in which the pronoun is interchangeable:

Oh why was he/she taken so young and so fair
When earth held so many it better could spare;
Hard was the blow that compelled us to part
With out loving son/daughter, so dear to our heart.



Wilfred Bidstrup, an accountant from South Australia, was killed in action on 3 April 1917 leading a group of bombers in a night attack on the German trenches. Witness reports vary wildly but the fact of his death was never disputed.

He was killed "by a Boche machine gun while advancing to the attack. His platoon met a German strong-point and had a bad time".

"I saw casualty killed at Noreuil, France by a machine-gun bullet whilst on a bombing raid. He was killed under my eyes, not instantly but he died of wounds shortly afterwards."

"He was found by a search party, sent out to look for him, dead, riddled with bullets and his revolver empty".

"I found his body next day, with his revolver lying by his side. All the cartridges had been fired off. I could see no marks of a wound on his body, so he must have been killed by a bullet."

Bidstrup's mother, Minna, chose his inscription from a poem called 'To S.H. Killed in France (From his First Schoolmaster)" by W. Snow which was published in The Spectator on 15 May 1915. This is the first verse:

You, killed in action, leading men!
I hardly yet believe it true:
For me you're still the boy of ten,
Blue-eyes and curly-haired, I knew.

The poem recounts the triumphs of his schooldays, of his year at Oxford before he volunteered, forsaking the 'magic' gown' for duty. This is the last verse:

And is this all? was all in vain
The life that you so early gave?
No life is short that's nobly spent,
No hero's death is premature.

The inscription, particularly the penultimate line of the poem, is much better known than the rest of the poem and is quite regularly found on war graves.



Richard Douglas Salmon, a stockbroker's clerk from Willesden, enlisted in the 22nd Battalion London Regiment at the outbreak of war. On 15 March 1915 the regiment disembarked in France. Just over two months later Salmon was wounded in action. It was 23 May, his 21st birthday. He died the following day.
Salman's inscription comes from 'The Second Lieutenant' by 'Touchstone', the pen name of the journalist Claude Edward Cole Hamilton Burton, who was known as 'The Daily Mail' poet because his poems appeared so regularly in that newspaper.
'The Second Lieutenant' was first published in the paper in May 1915, the same month Salman was killed. It was reprinted in 'The Mystery of the Daily Mail 1896-1921', a history by FA McKenzie of the paper's first twenty-five years.
McKenzie claimed that Touchstone's poems 'are cherished by thousands as among their most familiar and treasured possessions, the best known, 'A Second Lieutenant'. It obviously made an impression on Salmon's family.
I have written the poem out in full as you are unlikely to be able to find it very easily anywhere else.

Somewhere in Flanders he lies,
The lad with the laughing eyes;
And I bade him good-bye but yesterday!
He clasped my hand in a manly grip;
I can see him now with a smiling lip,
And his chin held high in the old proud way.

Salt of our English earth,
A lad of promise and worth,
Straight and true as the blade at his side,
Instant to answer his country's call,
He leapt to the fray to fight and fall,
And there, in his youth's full flood, he died.

Victor yet, in his grave,
All that he had he gave;
Nor may we weep for the might-have-been,
For the quenchless flame of a heart aglow
Burns clear that the soul yet blind may know
The vision splendid his eyes have seen!

Weep but the wasted life
Of him who shrinks from the strife,
Shunning the path that the brave have trod;
Not for the friend whose task is done,
Who strove with his face to the morning sun,
Up and up to his God!



"On the evening of 30/31st January 1916, a party of bombers in conjunction with a number of scouts made a raid on the enemy front line trench. During the raid, Sergeant Armstrong was killed instantly by rifle and machine gun fire."
Canadian Casualty Report

Thomas Armstrong was born in Ayrshire in 1890. In 1914 he was working as a carpenter in Canada when he joined the Canadian Infantry on 24 October 1914. The battalion sailed from Montreal on 29 May 1915, by which time Armstrong had already been promoted corporal. Disembarking in France on 18 September 1815, he was promoted sergeant on 4 January 1916 and killed three weeks later.
Armstrong appears to have been the youngest of his parents' seven children. His eldest sister, Janet, was twenty-three years older than him. His mother signed for his inscription, confessing to a feeling that must have been very common among all parents although seldom voiced.



Hugh Buckley was an Australian born and bred, this was the country he loved. His wife, the mother of his two daughters, chose his inscription; these were his dear ones at home.
Buckley, who had been a member of the militia for eleven years, joined up in March 1915. He was soon promoted captain and adjutant of the 22nd Battalion, which left for Gallipoli on the 8 May. He was wounded nineteen days later. Hospitalised first in Malta and then in England, he didn't return to France until April 1916.
Having recently attended a grenade-handling course, Buckley was giving a course of instruction himself when a grenade exploded in his hand - he was killed instantly. A witness related what happened:

"He [Buckley] was at the bomb school giving instructions how to use a certain bomb, and this particular one if you hit it with your hand will go off, and poor old Buck said to them, don't hit it like this and he brings his hand down on it and hit the detonator, it exploded and killed three of them."



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.



'Even so, Father' might sound enigmatic to us today but in an age more familiar with the bible it would have been recognised as the equivalent of 'Thy will be done'. The words are spoken by Christ, 'Even so Father for so it seemed good in Thy sight', St Matthew 11:26. The meaning is the same as the much more popular inscription: 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee'.
Henry and Abigail Turner had two sons, Henry and Gordon, and two daughters, Muriel and Winifred. Gordon joined the London Rifle Brigade in 1912, serving first with the 1st Battalion and then with the 5th. He died of wounds in a base hospital on 7 May 1915. Henry, serving with the 23rd Battalion London Regiment was killed in action nineteen days later - 26 May.
Henry Turner had been due to marry Evelyn Worley. Her brother, Robin Worley, serving with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Gallipoli, died of wounds on 28 August. Her sister's husband, Charles Saunders had been killed in action on 28 April.
'Even so Father for so it seemed good in Thy sight.'



Neilson Youhill was 19 when he died in the Second Eastern General Hospital, Brighton on 9 December 1916. He had been in hospital, undiagnosed, since the 7th, feverish and restless when he suddenly took a turn for the worse and died at 5 am on the 9th. A post-mortem revealed cerebro-spinal fever (meningitis). From looking at his service record, it would appear that having enlisted on 15 December 1915 he arrived in Britain on 5 July 1916 but never joined his regiment in France. This is confirmed by the fact that he was only entitled to the British War Medal; to be entitled to the Victory Medal a soldier needed to have served in a war zone.
His father, Samuel Youhill, signed for his inscription: 'Our baby boy'. Youhill named his grandmother, Mrs Elizabeth Riley, as his next-of-kin. She was also described as his foster-mother on official forms. She received his memorial plaque. His step-sister, Miss E Riley, received his medals. To the three of them he was their 'baby boy'. I would imagine that his mother was dead.



This was a very common feeling after the First World War, after all, according to the British Victory Medal, it had been 'The Great War for Civilization', and according to the next-of-kin memorial plaque your relation had 'died for Freedom and Honour' . In the British narrative, right had triumphed over might, culture over 'kultur', justice over tyranny in the war to end all wars. Now, therefore, it was up to those who lived on to see that the world became the better place for which the dead had died.
It's interesting to see the way Walter Chick's parents expressed this. 'Playing the game' is thought to be such a public school expression that it's unexpected coming from a family where Walter Chick, at the age of fourteen, had been a tailor's apprentice. But it was not a public-school expression. Around this time an American, Henry Grantland Rice (1880-1954), encapsulated the idea in a verse that it is still quoted today:

For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the game.

Walter Chick disembarked in France on 17 April 1915. Within a month he had been hospitalised with tonsillitis and by July was back in England with pleurisy. It was 1 September 1916 before he returned to France with the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment. On the 30th he was hospitalised with a gun-shot wound that penetrated his chest. He died on 6 October.



Roger Wilkinson was eighteen when he died of wounds on 21 November 1916 - too young to be on active service in France without his parents signed permission.
On 13 November his regiment, the 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, took part in an attack on the German front line between Beaumont Hamel and the right bank of the River Ancre. The attack came under heavy machine-gun fire and Wilkinson received severe gun-shot wounds in his left leg and shoulder. He died just over a week later, his parents having been telegrammed permission to visit him in hospital in France on the 19th. He died on the 21st.
In his letter of condolence, Wilkinson's company commander told his parents:

'What worried him most was the possibility of not being allowed to take his platoon into action on the 13th, as I had previously sent his name as being under age. In fact he went to HQ, quite unknown to myself, and begged the C.O. to allow him to go.'

His father signed for his inscription. It comes from 'April' by the American poet Alice Cary (1821-1871), prettily expressing the belief that life continues on the other side after death:

So, even for the dead I will not bind
My soul to grief: Death cannot long divide;
For is it not as if the rose that climbed
My garden wall, had bloomed the other side?



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'.



The War Graves Commission have misread this inscription; the word is definitely readiness not 'neadeness'. It's a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hamlet confesses to his friend, Horatio, that he has misgivings about taking part in the forthcoming fencing match. Horatio advises him to obey his instincts and withdraw. Hamlet says no, if his time to die has come then it's come, and if it hasn't then it hasn't. To Hamlet, when you die is much less important than the fact that you are prepared for death - 'the readiness is all'.
John Matley, the son of Thomas Matley a railway engine driver in Manchester, was a fitter in a locomotive department in Farnworth. He served in the Royal Garrison Artillery, his experience with locomotives giving him a valuable skill with the heavy engines that moved the guns. At the time of his death, Matley was serving with the 106th Battery Royal Field Artillery. He died in a hospital centre in Doullens.
L Matley, 31 Gorse Road, Preston chose his inscription. This was probably John Matley's brother, Luke, who at the time of the 1911 census had been a solicitors' clerk. It's an impressive choice: apposite, original and literary.



NEVILLE - Lance-Corpl John Oliver Neville, Special Company, Royal Engineers, killed by shell splinter whilst leaving the line on June 4 1917, aged 22 years, the dearly beloved youngest son of F. and M.F. Neville of 57 Hayward Road, Barton Hill.

Lance-Corporal Neville served with "O" Special Company Royal Engineers, formed early in May 1915 in response to the introduction of gas warfare. "O" Company's job was to try to develop protective measures to minimise the impact of chemical warfare.
Neville was one of the two children of Frederick Neville, a railway engine driver from Bristol, and his wife Mary Frances Neville. Frederick Neville signed for his son's inscription. It comes from Matthew Arnold's 'Stanzas in Memory of the Author of 'Obermann', Etienne de Senancour (1770-1846), whose philosophical melancholy of an earlier era reflected Arnold's own.



Leonard Coppard's brother, George, chose his inscription. It sounds like a brother's inscription, as though he's describing Leonard as 'rock hard'. But he isn't, he's just saying that Leonard was a member of the 6th Battalion the City of London Regiment whose nickname was the 'Cast Irons'. It is thought that the name came about because the buttons on the 6th's tunics were made of black iron rather than silver or brass.
Leonard Coppard served with the 6th Battalion City of London Regiment and was taken prisoner in the first part of 1917. His Red Cross file says that he was taken prisoner at 'Buttecourt on 20 May 1917'. There is nowhere called Buttecourt but there is somewhere called Bullecourt and although the 1st Battalion were out of the line on the 20 May, the 2nd Battalion were in the trenches at Bullecourt. On the 20th they were subjected to a very heavy enemy barrage, which 'caused some casualties'. The next day the battalion made an attack on Bovis trench: 'Our troops gained objective but were forced to withdraw by a hostile counter attack'. It could have been at this point that Coppard was taken prisoner. The battalion was relieved that evening and the war diary recorded 13 officer and 226 O/R casualties over their four day tour of the trenches.
The Red Cross file states that Coppard was wounded in the right knee and that he died in the camp hospital at Dulmen on 7 July 1917. Not that news of any of this seems to have been passed on to his family until May 1919.
After the war, the War Graves Commission exhumed the bodies of British prisoner-of-war from 180 cemeteries scattered across Germany. They were reburied in four British cemeteries within Germany of which Cologne Southern is one.



Harold Hanson was a partner in his father's firm of Abbey & Hanson, Surveyors, Huddersfield, which is still trading today as Abbey Hanson Rowe, AHR. He was also a Territorial soldier in the 4th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Hanson volunteered for foreign service immediately - his death announcement in the Yorkshire Post says that he had served since September 1914. His medal roll index card gives his date of entry into a theatre of war as 17 May 1917.
Territorial soldiers were only committed to service at home. However, come the outbreak of war they were all asked if they would be prepared to serve abroad. Many said no. Hanson must have said yes, fully aware of what it might mean and happy to pay the price. This is what his father put as his inscription.
Hanson died of wounds on 1 December 1917 but on the 3rd most of the local Yorkshire papers were still only reporting that he had been dangerously wounded. However, on the 6th came the announcement of his death.

15 MAY 1916


Second Lieutenant John James Andrew died on 29 April 1917 of wounds received twenty days earlier on the opening day of the battle of Arras. Andrew initially served as a private with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders before being commissioned into the 20th Northumberland Fusiliers. His medal index card records that he was entitled to the 1914-1915 Star having first entered a theatre of war in late May 1915. It was year later that he told his family, 'If I die for my country I am happy' - and a year after this that he did.
Born in Carluke, Lanarkshire, Andrew was the son of John Andrew an elementary school teacher who served in the First Garrison Battalion Cameron Highlanders. This was a short-lived battalion soon absorbed into the Royal Defence Corps. This was involved in either home protection or observation duties. It was John Andrew senior who signed for his son's inscription. A patriotic and affirmative choice that says as much about the father as it does about the son.



For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
[Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam XXII]

Edward Fitzgerald's translation of quatrains said to have been written in the 11th Century by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam was published in 1859 as the Rubayait of Omar Khayyam. Initially attracting little attention, by the 1880s the poems were extremely popular throughout the English speaking world, and their popularity only grew. Some of the quatrains, such as this one, perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.
Frank Carson had been shipping clerk in Liverpool in civilian life and Scoutmaster of the 33rd Liverpool Scout Troop, Mossley Hill, Merseyside. His medal index card does not indicate that he was a volunteer. He served originally with the 6th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment before being transferred to the 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers whilst he was still a private.
He was killed in action two weeks before the end of the war. On 28 October the Battalion, in reserve, were being subjected to very heavy enemy shelling at intervals during the day, many of the shells were gas shells. There's no report of Carson's death just this bleak announcement in the Liverpool Daily Post on 21 November, ten days after the end of the war:

CARSON - Mrs and Mrs Carson and Family desire to thank all kind friends for expressions of sympathy in their great sorrow.
29 Faulkner Street, Liverpool



There are two possible sources for this inscription, or it could of course just be that Fred Buttery's wife plucked it out of the air. However, it might be that she had seen it written about in the popular press as a translation of the inscription the Revd Sabine Baring-Gould placed on his wife's gravestone when she died in 1916. Baring-Gould was the well-known author of Onward Christian Soldiers and both at the time of Mrs Baring-Gould's death and again in 1924 when her husband died the inscription was a topic of note.
The inscription - Dimidium animae meae - means half my soul. This in turn is a quotation from a valedictory poem Horace wrote for his friend Virgil, describing him as half my soul. Baring-Gould would have been aware of Horace but none of the newspaper writers mention this source.
There is another possible source and this too was occasionally printed in the press as a curiosity. It comes from a grave in St Peter's Churchyard Barton-on-Humber belonging to a young wife who died in 1777. It was composed by her husband:

Doom'd to receive half my soul held dear,
The other half with grief, she left me here,
Ask not her name, for she was true and just,
Once a fine woman, but now a heap of dust.

Thomas Frederick Buttery and Elizabeth Anne Hobson were married in Leeds in October 1915. Buttery, who in 1911 was a cloth finisher, served with the 8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. By the summer of 1918 he was a serjeant. He was killed in action on 28 July 1918 in the fighting near Jonchery-sur-Vesle and was buried on the battlefield with four other soldiers from his regiment. Their bodies were exhumed and reburied in Danzig Alley in November 1919.



Like yesterday's inscription, Errol Sidney Plowes' comes from the first verse of Sir John Arkwright's poem, which later became a hymn, O Valiant Hearts:

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Proudly you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Plowes' parents chose the last line, which is more usually quoted than the line above. However, unusually, they have identified 'the land he loved' - it was South Africa, the land where he was born and brought up and where his father, Sidney Arnold Plowes, worked for the Union Castle Shipping Line in Cape Town.
Born in Rondebosch on 22 February 1898, Plowes joined the 1st South African Infantry as a private in 1916 when he was just 18. On 8 April 1917, just after his 19th birthday, he received a commission into the Royal Field Artillery, serving with the 379th Battery, 169th Brigade. He was killed in action during the fighting for Hangard Wood, part of the German's Spring Offensive, a year and a day later when he was just 20.



Wilfred Bowles was killed in action on 10 July 1916 in the Welsh Division's attack on Mametz Wood. He was shot by a sniper. A theology student at King's College London, Bowles gave up his studies in June 1915 to join the Inns of Court OTC. Five months later he was commissioned into the 5th Battalion, Essex Regiment and three months after this he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France on 4 June 1916 and was killed five weeks later.
William Spencer Bowles was the son of Tom and Alice Bowles of Les Rochettes, Pontac, St Clements, Jersey. His father was a house painter and his mother a school mistress who by 1911 was the head teacher of a church school on the island. This makes her one of the very few mothers in this project to have an independent career, least of all one with three children and a living husband.
Bowles' father signed for his inscription. It comes from the first verse of Sir John Arkwright's famous hymn, 'O Valiant Hearts', once a stalwart of Remembrance Day services before its sentiments went out of fashion:

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Proudly you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.



Despite the fact that it has been truncated and has rather eccentric punctuation, this is still recognisably an inscription composed by J. Maxwell Edmonds, a Classics don at Cambridge:

Ye that live on 'mid English pastures green,
Remember us and think what might have been.

The inscription was originally published in The Times on 6 February 1918 under the heading: Four Epitaphs. Edmonds' original four inscriptions together with five others were included in the Victoria and Albert's booklet, 'Inscriptions Suggested for War Memorials', published in 1919. The best known of these is still part of some Remembrance Day services:

When you go home, tell them of us and say
"For your tomorrows these gave their today."

Fountain, who served with 410th Battery, 96th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action on 1 August 1918. His father, Thomas Fountain, an iron master in Stamford Lincolnshire chose his inscription.



Put "Luke Taylor" etcher into Google and then go to 'images' and the first few rows will all show Taylor's work. Some of it will be pencil studies of trees and landscapes for his own work and some will be etchings for the reproduction of the work of artists like Constable and Turner.
Born and brought up in York where his father was a cabinet maker, Taylor was living with his widowed mother at the time of the 1901 census. He described himself as an artist living on his own account. By 1911 he was living in London at 197 Bedford Hill, Balham. He still described himself as an artist and was emplying a married couple as cook and general servant. He also had eight boys living in the house aged between 14 and 18, some still at school and some apprenticed. He has bracketed them together and written, "This is a boys' home and these boys are under my care".
At this time Taylor was teaching etching at the London County Council Central School of Arts and Crafts. In later days Ernest Blaikley remembered him as "not only a good etcher but also a man of exceptionally high ideals. He had a burning desire to serve his fellow men and at the earliest moment he was in uniform and went out to the war in the spirit of a crusader, losing his life after an all too short period of service".
Taylor joined the Inns of Court OTC on the outbreak of war before taking a commission in the 8th Battalion the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The battalion went to France in September 1915. Taylor lasted nine months. He was wounded during the fighting on 21 May when the Germans made a determined attack on Broadmarsh Crater. He died at No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station, Aubigny and was buried there the following day.
Both his parents being dead, his brother Arthur chose his inscription.



Captain Steuart's older brother, Major Charles Basil Steuart, chose his inscription. It comes from 'Horatius at the Bridge', a long narrative poem by Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay (1800-1859), part of his Lays of Ancient Rome. The poem was a stalwart of poetry anthologies throughout the nineteenth century and this is very much the sort of heroic inscription one brother might choose for another - although most people who quote the poem quote the third and fourth lines of the verse:

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.

In the face of overwhelming odds and with only two companions by his side, Horatius faces Lars Posena and the Tuscan horde and prevents them crossing the bridge across the Tiber and by so doing saves Rome.
The Steuarts were a military family, the father, Robert Stueart had been a captain in the Indian Army and had taken part in suppressing the Indian Rebellion in 1857. All four of the Steuart brothers served in the First World War: Alan John Steuart who served with the Canadian Engineers was killed in action on 30 April 1915.



Percy Powis's inscription comes from To You Who Have Lost by John Oxenham, pseudonym of the poet William Arthur Dunckerley (1852-1941), from his 1915 collection 'All's Well':

I know! I know!
The ceaseless ache, the emptiness, the woe, -
The pang of loss, -
The strength that sinks beneath so sore a cross,
" - Heedless and careless, still the world wags on,
And leaves me broken ... Oh, my son! my son!"

Yet - think of this! -
Yea, rather think on this! -
He died as few men get the chance to die, -
Fighting to save a world's morality.
He died the noblest death a man may die,
Fighting for God and Right and Liberty; -
And such a death is immortality.

Powis's grandparents, John and Mary Martha Morris, are buried in Cannock Chase Town Cemetery, Staffordshire. Their gravestone includes a mention of Lance Corporal Powis, 'the dearly loved son of George and Agnes Powis and the idolized grandson of John and Mary M Morris'. This is followed by the fifth and sixth lines of the second verse of Oxenham's poem. Not only was Oxenham one of the most popular poets of the First World War but the last three lines of the second verse is a popular inscription both on headstones and on war memorials.
Percy Hartland Powis served with the 6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, a territorial battalion. He was mobilised soon after the outbreak of war and crossed to France on 5 March 1915.
On 25 May 1917, the Germans subjected the South Staffordshire's line to two heavy barrages, one at 4 am and one at 11 am. They followed this up at 11.30 am with a counter-attack 'made in considerable force'. In the twenty-four hours the battalion suffered thirty-eight casualties of whom five were killed, among them Percy Powis.



This is the third day running that the man commemorated hasn't been killed in action or died of wounds. Two days ago it was Private Manaton who died of tuberculosis, yesterday Major Seton who was murdered, and today Sapper Nix who died from dysentery. But whatever the cause of death, if you died between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921 and were serving in any branch of the armed forces you were deemed to be a casualty of the war.
William Nix was a plumber from Nottingham who was working in Canada when he enlisted late in 1915 in the 8th Battalion Canadian Engineers. The battalion landed in France on 30 March 1916 and in September 1916 were at Flers-Corcelette on the Somme. Nix is not mentioned in the diary by name but it would seem that an unusual number of soldiers seemed to be reporting sick in the days surrounding Nix's death.
His wife chose his inscription, which is not only unusual but its relevance seems pretty obscure. The line comes from the fifth stanza of Wordsworth's 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood'.

Our birth is a but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

When we are born some of the radiance of heaven, from which we came, still clings to us. Perhaps the inscription is an assurance that at our deaths we shall return to this glory.



Well I certainly didn't expect this when I looked up this curious inscription. Mind you, it wouldn't be quite so curious if it wasn't set out like this, this is probably how it was meant to be: 'Ung loy - ung foy - ung roy'. But it would have been even clearer without the dashes. It's the Seton family motto and it's in Old French and means, 'One law, one faith, one king'.
However, that's not what I didn't expect. Major Seton died on 13 January 1919. I assumed it would be from wounds or influenza but it wasn't. Seton was murdered by a fellow officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Cecil Rutherford, as The Times reported on 15 January:

"Late on Monday night Major Miles Charles Cariston Seton, CB, Australian Army Medical Corps, was shot dead in the drawing room of the house of his cousin, Sir Malcolm Cotter Cariston Seton, CB, in Clarendon Road, Holland Park, W. Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Cecil Rutherford, DSO, RAMC, (TF), was charged at the West London Police Court yesterday morning with causing his death."

The murder caused a sensation and events were closely followed in the press. Rutherford, who had shot Seton eight times, made no attempt to escape and waited patiently for the police to arrive at which point he was arrested. Two weeks later an inquest concluded that he should be sent for trial on a charge of murder.
Rutherford came to trial in April and pleaded 'not guilty'. The jury heard that Seton had become very familiar with Mrs Rutherford and her children, and that Mrs Rutherford wanted a divorce. Throughout the trial her reputation was constantly protected, the story being that Rutherford believed that Seton was turning his children against him. Rutherford was found not guilty but insane and was sentenced to be detained at His Majesty's pleasure in Broadmoor.
Undoubtedly Rutherford's war record, both his DSO and the fact that he had been buried alive by a shell, as well as a family history of insanity, told in his favour. He was released after ten years and spent he rest of his life abroad in Canada, Vienna, Persia and South Africa where he died in 1951.
Seton was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery and his sister, Isobel, chose his inscription. He may not have died as a result of the war but anyone serving in the armed forces of King George V, who died between 4 August 1914 the 31 August 1921 from whatever cause - including murder - was deemed to be a casualty of the war and entitled to a war grave.



The Times
29 July 1918

Mr George Aubrey Manaton, who died on July 25, at the age of 26 years, was a journalist of great promise. Early in 1914 he joined the editorial staff of The Times from the London News Agency, and in the early weeks of the war he rendered good service as a Special Correspondent at the French ports. Although far from strong, he volunteered for military service and joined the Inns of Court OTC. After a few weeks of brave endeavour he broke down in training and was discharged from the Army suffering from consumption. To the deep regret of his colleagues he was unable to resume his work in Printing House Square, and, after spending some months in a sanatorium, he went home to Braunton, North Devon. There he did a great deal of journalistic work, including a series of articles in the style of the chief war correspondents, for the Newspaper World, and awaited the inevitable with the cheerful courage of a fine character. The funeral will take place in Braunton this afternoon.

George Manaton was one of the five children of William and Sarah Manaton of Bruanton, Devon. His elder brother, Frederick, had died of wounds received at Thiepval on 17 September 1916.



The first thing I discovered about Rex Pryce-Jones was that Rex wasn't his real name. It was Reginald Ernest Pryce Pryce-Jones. His family called him 'Sunbeam' for the light he brought into their lives.
Born in Wales, in Kerry Montgomeryshire, 'Rex' was the grandson of Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones whose company, the Royal Welsh Warehouse in Newtown Montgomeryshire, is credited with being the first large-scale mail order business in the world. In 1910, Rex Pryce-Jones' parents moved to Canada to set up an arm of the business in Calgary, the Pryce-Jones Department Store.
Rex, who had always been a very keen cadet, enlisted in the Canadian Infantry as soon as he'd had his eighteenth birthday in October 1914. He sailed from Canada to England in October 1915, and went to France in August 1916 with the 50th Battalion Canadian Infantry. There's a published letter from a soldier in one of his trench working parties who described Pryce-Jones as, 'quite young and decidedly English'.
On the 18 November 1916, the last day of the Somme campaign, two companies of the 50th were ordered to attack the German lines in front of Regina Trench. Enfilade fire from the German machine guns forced the Canadians back to their original position with very heavy casualties. Pryce-Jones was one of ten officers and 111 other ranks who were either killed or missing believed killed that day.



One year after Private Gallen's death his parents inserted the following 'In Memoriam' in the North Wales Chronicle:

Gallen - In memory of our beloved boy Alexander Llewelyn Gallen (Alex) who fell in action in France 10th April 1916, aged 21 years.
Dylassa, Bettwsycoed

Requiescat is not my bidding -
That is the weary man's right speeding;
You, O child, full of life laughter,
Joy to you now and long days hereafter.

Many a game and goal be given
To you in the playing fields of heaven,
Be, as you were, a light shape of joy,
Glad in the strength and the grace of a boy.

Dear and young, here's the prayer I pray for you -
Heaven be full of new life and play for you -
Swift as an arrow, light as a swallow,
So may we find you, boy, when we follow.

First published in The Windsor Magazine in April 1916, these are three verses from a four-verse poem, , written by the Irish poet Katharine Tynan in memory of Yvo Alan Charteris, youngest son of the Earl and Countess of Wemyss who was killed in action on the 17 October 1915. Tynan is saying that it was not her wish to write a 'requiescat', a prayer for the dead, for Yvo, that sort of 'speeding', an old fashioned word for a blessing as in 'God speed you', is meant for much older men. However, as he is dead, this is her prayer for him: may heaven be a wonderful place for you and may we find you 'swift as an arrow, light as a swallow' when we follow you there.
Alex Gallen was his parents' only child. Born and brought up in Bettwsycoed, where his father was a game keeper and his mother an artist/sculptor, he volunteered in 1914 and served with the 16th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in France from 2 December 1915. On 10 April 1916, although the battalion were in reserve it provided a team of machine gunners for the Division in action that day. Gallen was killed by a sniper.
The War Graves Commission have Gallen's first name as Roland, the 1911 census records it as Ronald and his parents don't appear to use it all but call him Alex.



Leslie Foster was the eldest of his parents three sons. The family lived in Radstock near Bath in Somerset where father, Thomas Foster, was a building contractor. At the time of the 1911 census Leslie gave his occupation as 'In joiners shop and student'.
Foster served originally as a private in the Somerset Light Infantry, reaching the rank of corporal before receiving a commission in the 13th Battalion The King's (Liverpool Regiment) on 28 August 1917.
On 9 April 1918 the German's renewed their offensive in what has become known as the Battle of the Lys. At the time the 13th were out of the line but they were ordered to 'stand to' and bussed to Bethune where they were placed in reserve. During the 10th the battalion repulsed several enemy advances round Loisne. On the 11th they were involved in very heavy fighting as the Germans advanced in great numbers round Festubert and Cailloux, the regimental history reporting that 'The enemy's shell-fire on the 11th was terrific', going on to add, 'The men were now very tired and shaken, for two days they had been fighting and had had practically no sleep". Nevertheless, 'D' company of the 13th were involved in a counter-attack during the night of the 12/13 April that recaptured Route 'A' Keep, which the enemy tried to retake but were repulsed.
Foster died on the 13th. His father asks 'why?'. In military terms because the fighting was desperate and the 13th played a vital role in slowing the German advance, but then Mr Thomas Foster's question is really asking why we were at war at all and what had his son's death achieved. It's a big question.



John Wood was killed in action near Epehy during a trench raid on the British lines, which began with a heavy barrage at midnight on 12 July. The barrage lifted at 1.15 am when the Germans were observed in front of the British wire. The British opened up with rifle and Lewis gun fire at which, in response to two green lights sent up from the German lines, the hostile barrage recommenced. It slackened at 2 pm and finished at 2.30. By this time twenty-three members of the 15th Battalion Sherwood Foresters had become casualties, among them John Wood who was dead.
His wife, Lilian, chose his inscription. It comes from, A Jacobite's Epitaph by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859). The exiled Jacobite laments the fact that he has lost everything by his support for the Stuart kings in the 1715 and 1745 rebellions. From Italy he pines for his native land and dreams each night of home:

Till God, who saw me tried too sorely, gave
The resting-place I'd ask'd, an early grave.
O thou, whom chance leads to this nameless stone,
From that proud country which was once mine own,
By those white cliffs I never more must see,
By that dear language which I spake like thee,
Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
O'er English dust. A broken heart lies here.



There's a memorial in the North Road Cemetery, Carrickfergus, County Antrim to William John Anderson Johnston, "only and beloved son of William and Jane Johnston", who died of yellow fever at Rio de Janeiro on the 30 January 1873 aged 18. The verse on the stone reads:

Oh sad was his fate,
He, the youthful and brave,
Had crossed the wild billows,
And found but a grave;
Yes, with strangers a grave
On a far foreign shore,
And the land of his heart's hope
He never saw more

Thomas McDowell came from Carrickfergus; his family lived at McKeen's Row, which if it's anywhere near McKeen's Avenue is today was a short walk from the cemetery. The headstone must have been familiar to someone in the family.
McDowell enlisted in the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on the outbreak of war. Many of those who joined came from the Down Volunteers and were fiercely pro the Union with Great Britain. The battalion arrived in France on 6 October 1915. A very full website gives its history, including an account of the 1 July 1916 when McDowell was taken prisoner during the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. He was held in Dulmen prisoner-of-war camp where he died on 22 October 1918. The cause of death is unrecorded.



James Twamley died of wounds on Gallipoli three days after the last Allied troops had been evacuated from Suvla and Anzac, and five days before the decision was taken to evacuate Helles, which is where Twamley died. A volunteer, he had been on active service for two months, since he had arrived in the Balkan theatre of war on 26 October.
Twamley was one of the fifteen children of Charles Twamley, a carpenter, and his wife Alice of Yoxall, Staffordshire. At the time of the 1911 census all the children were still alive: the eldest, Edith, 27 and the youngest, Ben, one.
Alice Twamley chose her son's inscription. It is proud, patriotic and original. I can't find any source for her poetic description of James as, 'the son of a thousand years', a son in a million.
Alice also had to choose another son's inscription. One of James' older brothers, John Brightland Twamley, went to Canada where he worked as a carpenter. He enlisted in the 13th Battalion Canadian Infantry on 13 September 1914, sailed for overseas on 3 October 1914 and was killed in action on 7 March 1915. Unlike the very original inscription she chose for James, John's inscription was one of the most popular:

'Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away'.



Arnold Fletcher died on 28 April 1917. Wounded by a shell on 18 April during the defence of Wancourt, he died twelve days later in hospital in Rouen with his father, who had come from Ireland, beside him. Two days earlier his younger brother, Donald, had been killed in Salonika. He was demonstrating how to throw hand grenades when one exploded prematurely and killed him.
Although Arnold was eight years older than Donald, the brothers had always been close. They both joined the army in May 1915, Donald had only recently left school but Arnold was already a respected geologist. They both initially served with the 4th Leinster Regiment but early in 1916 Donald transferred to the 6th Battalion. He went with it to Salonika in June 1916. Arnold meanwhile transferred to the 193rd Machine Gun Company and went it to France in December 1916. The brothers died within ten days of each other and both have the same inscription which their father, George Fletcher, chose, suggesting that the brother's closeness encouraged Arnold to follow Donald into death.
Arnold and Donald were the second and fourth children of George and Henrietta Fletcher. Their eldest child, Constance, became famous in later life as the cookery writer, Constance Spry.

[There is a lot of detail about the Fletcher fsmily on this Century Ireland site.



Edward Dockrill's brother, Harold, chose his inscription. Although Edward was a married man and the father of three children it appears that he and his wife were estranged.
Dockrill volunteered on 3 September 1914. He was 44, a painter living with Harold and his wife. A few days earlier the embargo on news from the front had been lifted and the public learnt for the first time that the British army was in retreat having suffered huge casualties. As a result, the numbers of men volunteering to join the army went up hugely and the third of September 1914 saw 333,204 men enlist, the highest daily total of the whole war. The upper age limit for recruits at that time was 38. However, Edward Dockrill obviously felt that at 44 he was not too old to go. He must have feared that he would be considered too old though because he told the recruiting officer that he was 34.
Dockrill served with the 8th Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and went to France on 22 September 1915. He was wounded in action on 21 May 1916 when the regiment fought a desperate action at Broadmarsh Crater on Vimy Ridge. Dockrill died in a Casualty Clearing Station eight days later from 'gsw' wounds, which meant either gun shot or shrapnel wounds, that had penetrated his right lung and spine.

PRES. O.U.B.C. 1908-1909


The Times 3 April 1917
An Oxford Rowing "Blue"
Captain Alister Graham Kirby, London Regiment (Staff Captain Divisional Artillery), who died in hospital abroad on March 29, while on active service, was one of the most famous oarsmen of the last decade. He was the younger son of the late A.R. Kirby and of Mrs Kirby of 81, Cromwell Road S.W.. and was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He secured a commission in the London Regiment in August 1914, and saw much active service. Captain Kirby started his rowing career at Eton ... [He went up to Magdalen in 1905] A stylish and powerful heavy-weight oarsman, there was never any doubt about his Blue and he rowed against Cambridge in each of the four years he was in residence. In the first three of his races, D.C.R. Stuart stroked Cambridge to Victory, but Captain Kirby had the satisfaction of winning his last race, and the unexpected victory of Oxford was largely due to the way in which he backed Bourne at stroke .... He was captain of the Leander Club in 1912, and the duty of selecting a representative eight for the Olympic Regatta at Stockholm devolved upon him. He rowed '7' in the crew, which at Henley lost the final of the Grand to Sydney (N.S.W.), but at Stockholm three weeks later turned the tables on the Australians and carried off the trophy for eight-oar rowing. A man of kindly and unassuming character he was very popular with a wide circle of rowing friends.

Alister Kirby's brother, Claude, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy, chose his inscription. Although their mother was still alive theur father was dead. Captain Kirby died in hospital at Marseilles of an unspecified illness.



'My Alf' was Mrs Emily Forfar's eldest son, Alfred Forfar. There is something infinitely touching about informal inscriptions like this. Mrs Forfar has not chosen anything religious, heroic or conventional she has just used the tender endearment - my Alf.
Forfar was a territorial soldier before the war, serving with the 9th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment and working as a parcels' clerk at Liverpool Central Station.
He volunteered for foreign service in October 1914 and was posted overseas in March 1915. On 20 June 1916 he was in a forward area mending the telephone wires when he was wounded, according to his Captain, by a bomb. He died of 'gun-shot wounds' in his left side two days later.
William Wilson Forfar and his wife, Emily, had six children, of whom three, all of them daughters, died before they were seven: Grace born and died in 1907, Doris and Olive in 1909 aged seven and six respectively. William Wilson Forfar does not appear in the 1911 census, it would appear that at some point he went to Australia without his family and died there. In 1911 Emily Forfar was supporting herself working as a household helper in the West Derby Union Workhouse.

[Much of this information has come from the excellent research on Forfar done by the Merseyside Roll of Honour website.]



'Keep smiling' was a popular expression of the time, a cheerful, stoic phrase in response to any eventuality - including in this instance the death of your son. But to be positive, not to allow pessimism to creep into your thinking was instilled into the British public during the war. It was an attitude summed up in the chorus to a popular marching song written in 1915 by George Henry Powell and set to music by his brother, Felix.

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile,
While you've a lucifer to light your fag,
Smile, boys, that's the style.
What's the use of worrying?
It never was worthwhile, so
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile.

Robert James Price's service file still exists and it shows how valuable it would have been if so many hadn't been destroyed in the blitz. It's not that Price's file says anything special but that there is so much detail in it.
Price, an assistant to a wholesale cigar merchant in 1911, was a territorial in the 7th Battalion the Middlesex Regiment. He reported for duty on 6 August and on 3 September went to Gibraltar. The battalion remained there until 14 February 1915 when it returned home and after a month in England went to France.
On the 28 August 1915 Price was wounded in action - with gun shot or shrapnel wounds and a compound fracture of his left thigh and right knee. He was treated first at a Field Ambulance 'in the field'. On the same day he was admitted to No 7 Casualty Clearing Station at Merville and transferred the next day to No 5 Stationary Hospital, Dieppe. He died there six days later.
In January 1916 the army returned his personal effects: pockets case and photographs, post cards, pipe and lighter (broken), book and pencil, dictionary, belt.
Price was the only son of Frank and Sarah Ann Price of Southend on Sea. His parents had two daughters: Gertrude Sarah and Margery Sarah. Gertrude died in Rochford Essex in December 1917. I haven't been able to find out the cause of her death.



Thomas Hunter's inscription comes from a verse that Laurence Binyon wrote specially for Sir Edward Elgar's choral work Spirit of England (1917), his requiem for the war dead based on three of Binyon's poems: Fourth of August, For the Fallen and To Women. The verse is similar to one in For the Fallen:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

This is the specially written verse:

They fought, they were terrible, nought could tame them,
Hunger nor legions, nor shattering cannonade.
They laughed, they sang their melodies of England,
They fell open-eyed and unafraid.

Thomas Hunter was a soldier before the First World War. In the 1911 census he is serving with R Battery Royal Horse Artillery in Meerut, India. However, I think he had left the army and was on the reserve when the war broke out. He served with 113th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, which went to France on 12 June 1916. This was two weeks after he'd married Beatrice Alice King in St Paul's Gloucester. He was killed three months later.
From the burial evidence, it looks as though Hunter's gun received a direct hit. He and four members of the 113th were buried at map reference 62c.A.14.b.5.4., their graves discovered, registered, exhumed and reburied in February 1920.



At the time of his death, Frederick Saunder's children were: Rose 14, Chrissie 13, Blanche 12, Florence 10, Daisy 9, Frederick 7, Cyril 6, Louisa 4, Ethel 3 and Agnes 2. A builder's labourer in Southborough near Tunbridge Wells in Kent, Saunders was in the army by September 1917.
Although a private in the 24th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Saunders joined the army as a sapper in the Royal Engineers and it's in a sapper's role that he worked for the Manchesters, digging and mending trenches and generally effecting other repairs. He served originally in Belgium before the battalion were withdrawn to Italy at the end of October 1917. Here they were based at Paderno where they spent the early months of 1918 on the Montello Hill near the River Piave constructing camouflaged areas for the artillery. It was here on 23 April, whilst he and his platoon were marching to work, that a shell burst among them. Saunders was severely wounded and died that day.
How did Mrs Saunders manage after the death of her husband? She married Lionel Skinner in the second quarter of 1919. Previously unmarried, he was 35, had lived with his parents in Southborough before the war and was a maker of cricket bat handles at Twort and Sons. The firm are known for their hand-made cricket balls but they must have made bats, or at least bat handles, too.
The last line of Saunder's inscription - Peace perfect peace - is one of the most popular of all inscriptions, and not just in war cemeteries. The words begin six out of the seven verses of a hymn written by Bishop E.H. Bickersteth, which questions how there can be peace, perfect peace in a world of sin, with our thronging duties, surging sorrows, loved ones far away, future unknown and the shadow of death hanging over us and those we love. The answer is to put our trust in Jesus,

It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus calls us to heaven's perfect peace

Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser
Friday 16 September 1927
The funeral of the late Mr Lionel Skinner of 23 Edward Street, who died at the General Hospital, Tunbridge Wells last week after a painful illness patiently born, took place on Saturday at Southborough Cemetery ....

[The majority of this information comes from the Imperial War Museum's Lives of the First World site.]



Mr Thomas Bethel Toop chose his son's inscription. The words imply that nothing could have held him back from joining the war effort. It's a image from Shakespeare's Henry V, who tells his men before the battle of Harfleur that: 'I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start'.
Arthur's brother, Thomas Westray Toop, was already in the navy when the war broke out. Arthur, a carpenter and joiner, enlisted on 6 August 1915, at the height of the Gallipoli campaign. He embarked from Australia on 14 October that year, arriving in Egypt where soldiers received further training before going into active service. But Toop died of typhoid fever the following month whilst still in Egypt.



This is certainly the first and, probably, the only example of an inscription written in the universal language of Esperanto but then, as the inscription says, Harold Bolingbroke Mudie was the president of the British Esperanto Association.
Mudie, the son of Alfred and Annie Mudie of the Mudie circulating library family, was a member of the London Stock Exchange. A brilliant linguist who spoke fluent French, German and Flemish, he taught himself Esperanto in 1902. In 1908 became the first president of the Universal Esperanto Association and in 1910 of the British Esperanto Association.
Despite his international associations, Mudie joined up immediately on the outbreak of war. Commissioned into the Army Service Corps, he was in charge of a Remount Depot near Forges-les-Eaux. Remount depots were where requisitioned horses were trained and redistributed for the war effort. He was killed when the car in which he was a passenger in was hit by a train on a level crossing.

Most of this information comes from the site Great War London on which there is a very detailed article about Mudie.



Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal
Saturday 4 May 1918
Our readers will learn with regret that Lieut. Roy Agnew Moon, younger son of Dr G.D. Moon of Derby, died in hospital at Rouen on Saturday night from an illness following upon wounds. It was on the day of his other son's wedding at Montrose that Dr Moon received a telegram stating that Lieut. Roy Moon was seriously ill. He left Derby immediately, and arrived in Rouen on Friday evening, but his son died the following night from septic poisoning. Lieut. Moon, who was 21 years of age ...joined the Foresters in 1915, transferred to theMachine Gun Corps and was sent to France in September 1916. Soon after he contracted trench fever, and was in England till November last. He then returned to the fighting line and was wounded as stated, early in the commencement of the present German "push" [4 April]. This is the second of Dr and Mrs Moon's war bereavements, their eldest son, Surgeon George Bassett Moon R.N., having been killed in action in the battle of Jutland whilst attending to the wounded on H.H.S. Lion.

George Moon has no grave, the inscription on Roy's, which was signed for by his mother, comes from Robert Browning's verse poem 'Pippa Passes:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew pearl'd;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven-
All's right with the world!



Johnston (John) Hughston was one of a group of a hundred newly qualified Australian doctors who were sent to Britain in 1915 to help support the New Armies being raised there. Their contract was only for twelve months, but many, like Hughston, stayed on for longer in the knowledge that they were doing vital work.
Posted to Salonika in April 1916, he was granted a few weeks leave back in Australia to recover from a bout of malaria in May 1918. On 13 August, Hughston was doing the rounds at one of two advanced dressing stations when the Bulgars fired a salvo of shells. He was hit in the back by some shrapnel. He was taken down the mountain by stretcher and driven by motor ambulance to a Casualty Clearing Station where he died in the early hours of 14 August.
His widowed mother chose his inscription from a poem in Shakespeare's Cymbeline:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task has done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Hughstone was educated at Scotch College in Melbourne whose website carries a biography of Hughston.



Both yesterday and today's inscriptions begin with the single word 'gone' but there the similarity ends. Sergeant Woodnoth's parents have lost their only child and their inscription is bleak - 'Gone/and the light/of all our life/gone with him' - Lance Corporal Blyth's, using the high diction of John Oxenham's poem Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) projects pride .
The poem was included in Oxenham's collection, The Fiery Cross, published in 1918 for 'all who feel the vital need for a return to God and a higher spiritual life throughout the world'. Blyth's inscription comes from the first verse:

Gone! in the unutterable splendour
Of your immortal youth!
Gone unto Him who made, and making gave you
Passion for truth;
Made you heart-bold to brave the wrath
Of this world's evil;

Thomas Blyth served with the 7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was in France by 15 December 1914. He was killed in the trenches on 28 May 1916 when at "1.4 am enemy exploded a mine in front of battn on our left. Heavy bombardment followed till 2.30 am. Casualties, killed 5 OR, wounded 6 OR".
Blyth's inscription was chosen by Nurse BM Blyth, Eastern District Hospital, Duke St, Glasgow. I think this was probably one of his sisters. The family came from Crook of Devon, Kinross and on the Roll of Service in the Crook of Devon Institute a Nurse Bessie Blyth is listed as serving at Crookston War Hospital, as is Lance Corporal TJW Blyth.



Harry Woodnoth was his parents only child, as you can gather from his inscription. His father, Frank, was a boot repairer in Wolverhampton and Harry was a labourer when he went to Australia in 1911 aged 22. He appears to have been back in England in January 1915 when he enlisted in the Australian Infantry.
Woodnoth served in Gallipoli from where he was evacuated with the rest of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 1 January 1916. He served with the 21st Battalion Australian Infantry, which joined the BEF in France on 26 March 1916. On 2 August that year, Woodnoth was severely wounded in the face, neck and right arm. Hospitalised in England, he returned to the front that November.
He died on 1 August 1918, the words on his record card read - 'wounded in action gassed'.
His mother, Elizabeth, signed for his inscription. She died in Wolverhampton in 1949 and her husband the following year.



Cyril Riley's 'devoted mother', Sarah Riley, had been a widow since before he was six. He was her only child. In both the 1901 and 1911 censuses she and Cyril are living with her parents in Hull. She earned her living as a dressmaker; in 1911 Cyril was a clerk.
On the outbreak of war Cyril joined the 7th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment and in December 1915 embarked for Egypt. Three months later the battalion returned to the Western Front. At midnight on the 3/4 June 1916 the British began a heavy bombardment of the enemy's trenches, which lasted until 1.20 am; the German retaliation lasted until 1.40 am. At 6 pm on the 4th the battalion was relieved, the war diary reporting two officers killed and two wounded, twenty other ranks killed and forty-seven wounded. Riley died ten days later in hospital in Rouen.
The 7th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment were known as the Hull Pals. Their website has a biography of Riley and a photograph of his mother standing by his grave with her hand resting on his headstone. She lived on until 1949.
I have a feeling that 'The summer days are ended' is the first line of a hymn but I haven't been able to find the words to it. I have found a poem by Frances Laughton Mace [1836-99], 'Only Waiting' that could be the source. The words aren't exactly the same but people didn't always have books to hand in which they could check the precise words. If it isn't the source I think it probably represents how Sarah Riley felt. This is the second verse:

Only waiting till the reapers
Have the last sheaf gathered home,
For the summer time is faded
And the autumn winds have come,
'Gather reapers, gather quickly,
The last ripe hours of my heart,
For the bloom of life is withered
And I hasten to depart.



Alexander Campbell was brought home to Shetland be buried. That's a long way from Plymouth where he died in hospital two days before the end of the war. In fact, I'm not sure that Campbell ever got to the war. He tried to join up but was rejected six times on account of his defective eyesight. However, he was eventually accepted in June 1917. He seems to have been stationed at the 'Palmerston' fort of Picklecombe, part of the naval defences of the port of Plymouth, when he became ill with influenza and died of pneumonia.
Campbell was born on Shetland, the son of Alexander Campbell the borough surveyor, and his wife Mary Ann. He was educated on the island at the Anderson Educational Institute where he was 'the dux' for 1911 - the highest academic-ranking pupil at the school. He acquired a degree from the University of Edinburgh and then taught Classics at the Hamilton Academy near Glasgow.
His inscription comes from Ave Atque Vale (Hail and Farewell) by Algernon Swinburne, Swinburne's tribute to the French poet Charles Baudelaire in which, like Shelley's Adonais, he speaks of the calm in which the dead now live, free from all cares:

Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done;
There lies not any troublous thing before,
Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more,
For whom all winds are quiet as the sun,
All waters as the shore.

Mrs Mary Ann Campbell signed for her son's inscription.



This inscription comes from 'To "My People" before the "Great Offensive" a poem written by Captain Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson MC on the eve of the Battle of the Somme and published in 'Soldier Poets - Songs of the Fighting Men' in September 1916. Wilkinson was killed in action on 9 October 1917.
In the poem, Wilkinson attempts to assure 'his people' - a very old fashioned way of referring to one's extended family - that if he is killed they should "mourn not for me too sadly" because he has been for months living the exalted life of a king, and if his crown is to be death they are not to begrudge it because for him it was worth it, because for "those brief months life meant more than selfish pleasures".

Grudge not then the price,
But say, "Our country in the storm of war
Has found him fit to fight and die for her,"
And lift you heads in pride for evermore.
But when the leaves the evening breezes stir
Close not the door.

The poem then moves into the section that Atherton's parents seem to have identified with. Wilkinson says that if death is followed by any form of consciousness, "then in the hush of twilight ... I shall come home",

... listen to the wind that hurries by,
To all the Song of Life for tones you knew.
For in the voice of birds, the scent of flowers,
The evening silence and the falling dew,
Through every throbbing pulse of nature's powers
I'll speak to you.

Walter Atherton was the only son of Samuel and Emma Atherton of Meole Brace, Shewsbury. Samuel Atherton was a colliery owner, Walter, at the time of the 1911 census was a trainee accountant. He served with the 1st/4th Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry, which would imply he was a Territorial soldier before the war. The 1st/4th served in India from December 1914, returning to the Western Front in July 1917. Atherton's medal card states that he first entered a theatre of war (France) on 27 July 1917, which would fit. He was killed in action five months later.



Private Amies' mother mixes biographical information with a line from Rupert Brooke's The Soldier and a toast to France - 'Vive la France', long live France.
Amies was born in Faversham on 17 December 1884 the son of the Reverend Stuart Amies and his wife, Frances. He was educated at St John's, Leatherhead and Denstone College, Staffordshire. In August 1905 he went to Canada. He remained there for fifteen months before moving to Guatamala City where he became a coffee planter. He returned to Britain immediately war broke out and enlisted on 1 September 1914. He went to France on 1 June 1915 and was killed by a stray explosive bullet while returning from listening-post duty. His captain told his mother:

"I got to know him well and value his good qualities. He was a keen and earnest soldier, who never grumbled at whatever job he had to do (and many of them must have been distasteful to a man of his education), and, moreover, did it well. He was a great favourite with the other men, and had a great influence for good over them, and they all feel his loss deeply. He had done particularly well in his platoon over here, and seemed to enjoy every minute of life in the trenches."
Du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour Volume 2



Mrs Frances May Sames, Second Lieutenant Gilbert Sames' mother, chose his inscription? How did she know what had happened to her son? There are three letters still in the family's possession that describe how he was wounded. The letters don't all agree about the manner of his wounding - sniper, shell, machine gun - but at least one tells of how he was trying to bring in twenty-five-year-old Lance Corporal John Benstead, a member of his tank crew, when he was shot in the chest. It was 5 am. Sames died in a Casualty Clearing Station the next day. Benstead had died of his wounds the previous day. Both men are buried in Premont British Cemetery.
Sames was twenty, he had been commissioned into the Tank Corps on 3 February 1918 and arrived in France on 13 August to serve with the 10th Battalion. On 23 October the battalion took part in an action at Bousies. The war diary notes the various successes and otherwise of its tanks. This one sounds as though it could have been Sames' tank; he would have been the OIC, the officer in charge:

9172 OIC and 4 men wounded. Fired 53 rounds 6 pdr, 275 SAA
Tank left Sp. at 01.30 and proceeded along laid down route. On reaching the sunken road in k36d.9.2 the driver was wounded and the engine stopped. The enemy threw 2 bunches of bombs at the stationary tank, the tank was restarted but one track was found to be broken. The tank was abandoned at k36d.9.2; the OIC and 4 crew were wounded whilst evacuating.



Walter Croft's inscription comes from a line in Tennyson's The Princess. Is it a coincidence that the words describe a man called Sir Walter:

No little lily-handed Baronet he,
A great broad-shoulder'd genial Englishman,
A lord of fat prize-oxen and of sheep,
A raiser of huge melons and of pine,
A patron of some thirty charities,
A pamphleteer on guano and on grain,
A quarter-sessions chairman, abler none;
Fair-hair'd and redder than a windy morn;

Walter Croft was, however, no scion of an ancient house, no son of a wealthy landowner but the son of James Croft, a railway clerk in Derby, and his wife, Edith.
His death attracted quite a lot of coverage in the local Derbyshire newspapers and one of the things they mentioned in particular was his 'sturdy physique', which was expected to help him pull through his wounds. It's curious that both inscription and newspaper reports comment on his physical appearance.
Croft had been a 'privileged' apprentice with the Midland Railway Company at Derby and was 'devoted to mechanics, and excelled in their study'. He volunteered in September 1914 and served with the Royal Fusiliers where he saw much action. After being wounded he returned to England and trained as a signaller. On 5 November 1916 he received shrapnel wounds 'down the left side from head to knee'. When he'd written to his parents on the 11th he'd told them that that he confidently expected to be back in England by Christmas, but complications set in and he died a week later.



Arthur Hooley was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps on 29 April 1915 and went to France on 25 August 1915, which entitled him to the 1915 Star. He died of accidental injuries on 9 February 1919. There is no information as to how the injuries occurred.
His father, Dr Arthur Hooley, chose his inscription. It sounds like a tribute from a letter of condolence rather than something composed by Dr Hooley himself. It also sounds like a fairly conventional tribute but it does imply that Hooley had seen active service. At some point in the war Hooley had been awarded a Military Cross (I have not been able to discover the citation), and mentioned in despatches. At the time of his death he was attached to The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment.
However conventional the tribute, the fact that Dr Hooley used it for his son's inscription shows that it brought comfort to his family as it was intended to do.



Born in London in 1882, Hackney's mother died in 1884 and his father, a surgeon, in 1886. Information about his life comes from his brother, Mr C Hackney of Westwood, Hythe, Kent who composed the inscription and told the War Graves Commission that his brother had served in the South African War.
Hackney's Canadian Attestation form was filled in on 6 July 1917. On it he revealed that he had served with the Aukland Battalion, New Zealand Expeditionary Force from 1914 to 1917 before being discharged. He confessed that the reason for his discharge was 'eyesight'. The accompanying medical form measured his eyesight on the Snellen Scale as 20/32 for his left eye and 20/80 for his right eye and pronounced him 'fit' for the Canadian Over Seas Expeditionary Force.
Hackney served with the 29th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed on the second day of the Battle of Amiens when their advance was met by German rifle and machine gun fire well concealed in gun pits among the bushes and brush.

"The men did good shooting at the retiring Hun, both with rifles and machine guns from the hip ... eventually the Bosche was dislodged ... leaving dead and prisoners."



Choosing casualties for their inscriptions rather than for their name, fame or rank has led to many random discoveries about people's lives at this time, the sort of lives that don't usually feature in history books.
Charles Savegar had a rough life. In 1891, aged 2, he was a boarder in an agricultural labourer's household in Cradley, Worcestershire. The head was unable to say where he had been born. On 29 September 1895, he and a brother, Joseph, were admitted to the Greenwich Union Workhouse, their mother being dead and their father in prison. It would seem that this wasn't their only time in the workhouse.
By 1911, Charles Savegar, now aged 23, was a coal miner, a hewer, working in Ynysybwl, Pontypridd and boarding with a family there. He enlisted on the outbreak of war and joined the 13th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, going with them to France on 1 December 1915. He was killed on the 16 March 1917 when the battalion war diary reported that they had been the object of hostile shelling.
Charles Savegar's wife chose his inscription from a popular song called The Rosary. Written by Ethelbert Nevin and Robert Cameron Rogers in 1898 , the song became even more popular when it featured in Florence L Barclay's 1909 novel of the same name. During the war, Bamforth published the three verses of the song on one of their sentimental sets of postcards, which further increased its popularity. I haven't been able to discover when Charles and Margaret Savegar were married, but Mrs Savegar wasn't the only person to quote from the song for a husband's inscription.

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me.
I count them over every one apart,
My rosary.

Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung.
I tell each bead unto the end - and there
A cross is hung.

Oh memories that bless - and burn!
Oh, barren gain - and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross,
To kiss the cross.

[The tweeted inscription should read 'each pearl a prayer' not each pearl and prayer, I have corrected it here.]



Ernest Hick's assurance that he'd 'come back' was not to be. Despite the fact that his service with a Military Transport Company of the Canadian Railway Troops meant that Hicks was not a front-line soldier, with all the dangers that that entailed, he did not return. There is no record of how he met his death but there is a large chance that he was a victim of the influenza pandemic, which flared up again in February 1919.
Hicks was born in Eastbourne, Sussex in 1897; the youngest of his parents' four children. The family were still in Eastbourne in 1911 but all of them, except the eldest, Herbert, appear to have emigrated to Canada. Ernest and his parents were certainly in Canada when he enlisted in October 1917.
Hicks was a coil winder in civilian life, which perhaps indicates a certain mechanical skill and explains his service with an MT Company. However, although soldiers were employed for their technical skills, the Canadian military authorities insisted that they should all be trained as soldiers so that they could fight if necessary. And it was certainly necessary at least once when members of the Canadian Railway Troops were ordered to help defend Amiens during the last few days of March 1918.
William Richard Hicks chose his son's inscription. He wasn't the only parent to highlight the tragic irony of a casualty's words: Lieutenant Hill's inscription reads,"I'm all right mother, cheerio"; Private Cole's, His last words at home were "I shall be alright mother",and Private Hutchinson's, Tell mother not to worry.



This is a very curious inscription, one I've thought about for a long time. Others might disagree with me but I've come to the conclusion that Flanagan's father, Michael Flanagan, who signed for it, wanted to avoid any hint of patriotism, any suggestion of God or king, and any reference to honour, freedom, liberty or any other intangible quality that some people felt they had been fighting for. However, he did want to acknowledge that his son had felt a sense of obligation, of duty, to the state that had nurtured him.
Lawrence Flanagan, the son of Michael and Mary Flanagan, was born at the RA Barracks, Barrackpore, Bengal, India in 1881. In 1901 the family were living in Dublin but by the time they chose their son's inscription they were living in Borth-y-Gest, Portmadoc, Wales.
In 1911 Lawrence Flanagan was working as a Civil Servant on the staff of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in London; his name is on their war memorial in Millbank House, Westminster. He volunteered soon after the outbreak of war, served with the 15th Battalion London Regiment (Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles). The regiment joined the BEF in France on 17 March 1915. Flanagan died of wounds in hospital in Etaples eighteen months later.
Further rather tortuous research into Laurence Flanagan's family history has revealed that his cousin, Sinead Flanagan, married the anti-British, Irish republican leader, Eamon de Valera, one of the commanders of the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising and a member of Sinn Fein who ended his career as President of Ireland 1959-1973.
Michael Flanagan, Lawrence's father, was born in Ireland but his wife was English. He had been a school teacher in the British army in India. A Roman Catholic, he spoke both English and Irish, which indicates at the very least an interest in Irish culture. However, two of his sons, Lawrence and Stanislaus, served in the British army during the First World War. Lawrence was killed just six months after the Easter Rising in which de Valera was arrested and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted. You can perhaps see why Michael Flanagan chose such a neutral, guarded inscription for his son ... and why he and his wife moved to North Wales.



David Arnott enlisted on the outbreak of war and joined the BEF in France on 11 May 1915, serving with the 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The son of James and Grace Arnott from Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, his father was an iron moulder, as were his three older brothers so it seems likely that David too became an iron moulder when he left school.
Arnott was killed in action during the battle of Arras. Both his parents were dead and it was a Mrs Arlow who chose his inscription. This was one of his sisters with whom he had been living before the war. The line comes from verse one of the hymn, 'Call of the Roll',from 'First Truths or Lessons & Hymns for Christian Children', published by the SPCK in 1843.

Sadly from the field of conflict,
Where the wounded and the slain
Lay with pale and upturn'd faces,
Some in peace and some in pain -
Slow we bore a dying soldier,
Who had fallen in the fight;
And to us he faintly whisper'd,
"Comrades, let me sleep tonight."



Che sara sara - what will be will be. This is an old phrase that predates by centuries the Doris Day song which will have made the words familiar to many people today. The phrase, which always seems to have a fatalistic edge to it, is a contraction of the Italian phrase, 'Quel che sara sara' (There are accents over the second 'a' of sara but the database won't accept them.)
This would seem to be appropriate for the inscription Mrs Jenny Eleanor Russell chose for her husband. Russell had been a soldier since he was commissioned into the East Lancashire Regiment in 1893. He had served in India for many years but his regiment were in South Africa when the war broke out. They left South Africa at the beginning of October 1914 and were in France by the 6 November.
The regiment took part in the opening day of the battle of Aubers Ridge when many of them were killed by the British artillery firing short rather than by the German guns - 'Che sara sara'.



Wallace Johnstone's parents had read 'Boy of My Heart'; they have to have done. This was the book the popular novelist, Marie Connor Leighton, wrote in memory of her son, Roland Leighton. Roland was a prize-winning scholar from Uppingham School, the apple of his mother's eye, and Vera Brittain's fiance. (I have written more extensively about the book here.)
Roland was killed in December 1915 and the following year Marie published this hugely sentimental and over-the-top book. Under the title 'Boy of My Heart', there's a pencil portrait of Roland drawn by his sister the artist Clare Leighton, under which are the words:

Though life and all take flight
Never goodbye!"

The quotation, actually a purposeful misquotation, comes from WE Henley's poem, 'Echoes'. Henley's words are:

"Good-night, sweet friend, good-night:
Till life and all take flight,
Never good-bye."

Wallace Johnstone served in the 2nd Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery and was wounded in action on 23 February 1917. He died in hospital on 6 March. A week later, the hospital received an enquiry from the Australian Red Cross, asking if they could provide details of Johnstone's wounds, death and burial for his friends back in Melbourne. The hospital replied:

"From the O/C 18 General Hospital BEF
In reply to your letter of the 12th inst regarding the late No 3312 Pte WR Johnstone 2nd Aust TMB, please note he died at 9.am 6/3/17. He suffered from G.S. [gunshot] wounds in the left thigh which had been amputated, & also wounds of the R. arm. He was buried on the 7th ult at the British Military Cemetery, Etaples & the grave number is Q19."



Private Dawson's inscription, and the fact that he's buried in Brookwood Cemetery, put together with the date of his death all suggest catastrophic injuries - and this was the case.
Dawson served with the 26th Battalion Canadian Infantry. On 15 September 1916 he was blown up by a shell during the battle of Flers-Courcellete. This left him not only shell-shocked but paraplegic. Shipped back to England, he was operated on several times in an attempt to return some movement and reduce his pain. But very little could be done and in August 1917 he was admitted to the newly opened Star and Garter Home in Richmond, Surrey for severely injured servicemen. He died on 26 March 1919.
Dawson was the son of Dr Alfred Dawson and his wife, Helen. Born in Cockermouth, he emigrated to Canada in 1911. He returned to England with the Canadian Infantry in July 1915 and joined the BEF in France on 26 October that year.
His mother, Helen Dawson, chose his inscription.

(Much of this information comes from the Canadian War Museum site.)



Second Lieutenant Whitrod's inscription comes from Charles Kingsley's 'The Heroes: or Greek Fairy Tales for My Children', published in 1856. The book was classic fare for the Victorian and Edwardian child. The quotation comes from the story of Perseus.
Pallas Athena came to him in a dream and 'looked him through and through, and into his very heart', telling him,

"'I know the thoughts of all men's hearts, and discern their manhood or their baseness. And from the souls of clay I turn away, and they are blest, but not by me. They fatten at ease, like sheep in the pasture ... But to the souls of fire I give more fire, and to those who are manful I give a might more than man's. These are the heroes, the sons of the Immortals ... Through doubt and need, danger and battle, I drive them; and some of them are slain in the flower of youth ... and some of them win noble names ... Tell me now Perseus, which of these two sorts of men seem to you more blest?'
Then Perseus answered boldly: 'Better to die in the flower of youth, on the chance of winning a noble name, than to live at ease like the sheep, and die unloved and unrenowned'."

This is the sort of reading matter that created the hearts and minds of so many men - and women - of the era. It's an attitude of mind that is conventionally thought to have belonged to the public-school-educated officer, schooled in the Classics. But Whitrod was no public school boy. He left school at 14 and joined the Coldstream Guards as a boy soldier. He was a corporal with nine years' service behind him when the war broke out.
His regiment landed in France on 12 August 1914, eight days after the outbreak. By late 1917 Whitrod was a serjeant. Early in 1918 he returned to England to take a commission in The King's (Liverpool Regiment). He arrived back in Flanders on 14 May 1918 and was killed by a shell two weeks later whilst returning with a working party from the front.
Whitrod was the son of Ramaiah Whitrod, a police constable, and his wife, Eliza. In July 1915, he married Minnie Wesson and in 1916 they had a daughter, Margaret. Minnie Whitrod chose her husband's inscription.



William James Gordon Burns was a Chemistry Fellow at Victoria College, University of Toronto, Canada. He joined the Canadian Field Artillery in August 1915, was promoted Captain in June 1916 and went to France the following month. In December 1917 he was promoted Major. His obituary in the University of Toronto Roll of Service relates how:

'During more than two years of continuous service he served through the battles of the Somme, Vimy (where he was wounded on April 17th), Hill 70, Passchendaele, Amiens and Arras. In the battle of Cambrai he was instantly killed by splinters from an shell when he was on a reconnaissance for a forward battery position at Bourlon Wood. Buried at Ontario Military Cemetery near Bourlon Village. In November 1918 his name was Mentioned in Despatches, and in January 1919 it was announced that the D.S.O. had been awarded to him for his service through the year, and particularly for his skill and courage in directing the work of his battery through the battles of Amiens and Arras."

'Major Burns
8th Army Brigade
Canadian Field Artillery
Killed in Action
While on reconnaissance, East of Bourlon on the morning of September 28th, 1918, he was hit in the region of the heart and lungs by splinters from an enemy shell. He also received minor wounds in the left arm and leg. Death was instantaneous.'
The Canadian Circumstances of Death Register

There are two scholarships at the University of Toronto, both set up by Burns' parents: the Reverend Robert Newton and Mary Jane Burns. The first, the James Burns Scholarship, in memory of Major Burns, is awarded to a second-year student whose studies have included three science courses. The second, the Mary Gladys Burns Scholarship, established in memory of his sister who died in 1929, is awarded to a female student whose second year included two courses in English.



Frederick Crook and Eva Rose Matthews were married in the first quarter of 1908. The next year their son, Frederick, was born, and the following year a daughter, Ethel Rose.
Frederick, a French polisher working in Bristol, was called up and served with the 5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. He was killed in action on 26 August 1918.
Three years later, in September 1921, his wife died leaving their children, by now 12 and 10, orphaned. Private Crook's permanent headstone had not been erected by this date. When it was, the inscription was chosen by Mr JR Matthews, either Eva's brother or her father who were both called John Richard Matthews.
And that's unfortunately where we have to leave the story because there's nothing more I can discover.



William and Emma Pipe had four children: Percy, William, Robert and Edmund. All four were killed in the First World War - all within a year of each other.
William John, the second brother, was the first one to die; a Private in the Honourable Artillery Company he was killed in action on the 3 May 1917 just under two months after his arrival in France. He was 28. Private Pipe's body was never found and he's commemorated on the Arras Memorial.
Edwin George, the youngest brother, served as a Lance Corporal in the 2nd/4th Battalion Ox & Bucks Light Infantry and was killed in action on 10 October 1917. He was 21. Lance Corporal Pipe's body was never found and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
The eldest brother, Percy Dalby, a Private in the 2nd/4th Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, died on the opening day of the German Spring Offensive, 21 March 1918. He was 32. Private Pipe's body was never found and he's commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.
Eight days after his eldest brother's death, Serjeant Robert Henry Pipe, 2nd/4th Battalion Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, died of wounds in a base hospital at Etretat. He was 26. He is buried in the churchyard there. His father chose his inscription.



On 28 October 1916 Australians voted on whether to introduce conscription or not. The answer was, 'not', by 1,160,033 votes to 1,087,557. It was a deeply divisive, bitter and controversial subject. One year and two months later, on 20 December 1917, the public were asked again whether they would support the introduction of conscription and the answer was an even bigger 'no': 1,015,159 in favour and 1,181,747 against. One of the most vehement opponents of conscription, and the leader of the No-Conscription Campaign, was the Labour leader, Arthur Rae (1860-1943).
Rae had five sons, three of military service age; twins Charles and William and their younger brother, Donald. William and Donald enlisted on 28 December 1915, Charles on 27 December 1916, seven days after the no-conscription plebiscite, which his father had done so much to initiate.
William served with the 20th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action on the opening day of the Battle of Amiens. Donald Rae served with the 19th Battalion and was taken prisoner at Hangard Wood on 12 April 1918. Repatriated to Britain on 11 December 1918, he died a month later of pneumonia following on from influenza.
Donald Rae is buried in Dumfries Cemetery, Scotland. His father chose his inscription:

Through fire, wounds, prison
Came safely
Then gazing homeward

Arthur Rae chose his other son's inscription too, exposing his hostility to the war in which his sons had died.



This "Fallen hero" of the Siege of Kut died in hospital in Aldershot twelve months after the British surrender. This was long before those who had been besieged with him were released from captivity, if indeed they ever were released from captivity as about one third of those taken prisoner died of dysentery, ber-beri, scurvy, malaria and enteritis whilst prisoners of war of the Ottoman Turks. Why wasn't Willsteed with them?
Willsteed served with the 5th Hampshire Howitzer Battery, Royal Field Artillery. His medal card shows that he arrived in Mesopotamia with the battery on 22 March 1915. A plaque in the Freshwater Memorial Hall outlines the battery's war record:

Advance to Amarah, Nasiryieh, Capture of Kut
Ctesiphon and retirement to Kut
Siege of Kut 3-12-15 to 29-4-16

Kut surrendered on the 29 April and almost 12,300 British and Indian soldiers were taken prisoner. However, within three months of the surrender, a few badly injured officers and other ranks were exchanged for similarly incapacitated Turkish soldiers under the terms of the Geneva convention. I've seen the number 345 suggested but I haven't been able to check this.
On 8 July 1916 the Isle of Wight County Press published the following short article:

"Mr and Mrs G Willsteed, Top Barn Farm, Rowbridge, near Carisbrooke, have received letters from their son, Driver E Willsteed, 1/5th Hants (Howitzer) Battery RFA, in hospital in Bombay, after returning from Kut-el-Amara with exchanged prisoners of war, in which he says: "When we surrendered the whole garrison was starved out. It was terrible to see men dying every day for want of food. Our day's ration was 4 oz of bread and a pound of horseflesh, no tea, only water to drink. I stuck it till about three days before we gave in."

Just under a year later the same newspaper published a follow up.

"We regret to announce the death of Dvr EG Willsteed ... Deceased was one of the Island Howitzers who took part in the fighting under Gen, Townshend at Kut, and was taken prisoners by the Turks at the fall of that place. He was afterwards exchanged amongst the sick and wounded and following a severe illness at Basra and India was invalided home to England ... "

Three members of the battery who had also been taken prisoner at Kut attended his funeral in Aldershot. Seventy five members of the battery never returned but died in Turkish captivity.



The quotation marks indicate that these are the dead man's words. Thomas White died of wounds in hospital in Abbeville. Quite when he spoke or wrote the words we'll never know. Who chose them for his inscription? Well it looks like his younger brother, Sydney White, he's certainly the person who signed for it and there seems to be something rather gruffly brotherly about it.
The White family lived at 11 Burton Street, London WC1. Father, Thomas White who died in 1918, was a printer's machine minder, Thomas was a compositor and Sydney was a monotype operator. Thomas Junior joined the 1st (City of London) Battalion. At first I thought he was old for a soldier: he was 38 in 1914 when the war broke out. But as from 23 October 1914, 38 was the upper limit for volunteering and from 31 May 1915 this rose to 40. The upper age limit after conscription was introduced in January 1916 was 41, and by April 1918 this had been extended to 50.
29,570 men and women between the ages of 40 and 50 are commemorated by the War Graves Commission, and 3,813 between the ages of 51 and 60. 606 died between the ages of 61 and 70, one of whom was General Kitchener who was 65 when his ship was sunk in the North Sea. There are 21 who were between the ages of 71 and 80, and four who were over 80, including Field Marshall Roberts who was 85.



Harold Guthrie was the son of William and Ellen Guthrie who were both school teachers. It was unusual at the time for a married woman with children to have a job outside the home. I have not come across many in the course of this project.
In 1901, Mr and Mrs Guthrie and their two children Harold and Bede were living in Hambledon, Buckinghamshire. In 1911 William Guthrie was teaching in Lancashire and boarding with a farmer in Carnforth, Mrs Guthrie was teaching in Norfolk and living in Fring, Harold was working as a bank clerk in London and Bede was still at school in Norfolk.
Harold volunteered soon after the outbreak of war and by 6 March 1915 was in France, serving with the Royal Fusiliers. He lasted three years before he was killed in action on 16 April 1918 during the Battle of Arras.
His mother chose his inscription, quoting from a poem written by Thomas William Hodgson Crosland, an outspoken journalist and poet described by Siegfried Sassoon as a 'vigorous versifier' and 'a human battleground of good and evil'. The poem is called 'Sursum', which means 'on high' in Latin. It was first published in 1917 in a collection of Crosland's poetry, and then again in 'Valour and Vision' (1919). The poem has not stood the test of time:

I saw his dread plume gleaming,
As he rode down the line.
And cried like one a-dreaming
"That man, that man, is mine!"

They did not fail or falter
Because his front so shone;
His horse's golden halter
With star-dust thick was sown.

They followed him like seigneurs,
Proud of both mien and mind -
Colonels and old campaigners
And bits of lads new-joined.

A glittering way he showed them
Beyond the dim outpost.
And in his tents bestowed them -
White as the Holy Ghost.

And by the clear watch-fires,
They talk with conquerors,
And have their hearts desires,
And praise the honest wars.

And each of them in raiment
Of honour goeth drest,
And hath his fee and payment.
And glory on his breast.

O woman, that sit'st weeping -
Close, like the stricken dove, -
He is in goodly keeping,
The soldier thou dids't love!

At the end of the war, Mrs Guthrie was living a few miles from Fringle in Brancaster Straithe. The village war memorial includes not only the name Harold Guthrie but also that of his brother, Bede. Lance Corporal Bede Guthrie was killed in action on 16 August 1918; he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial.

LOOS-1915, LYS-VIMY-1916
ARRAS-1917, CAMBRAI-1917


Memorial Plaque
All Saints' Church Husband's Bosworth, Leicestershire

Quirquid notuit ferit quirquid habuit dedit is qui plus potest praeredit
To the Glory of God
And in memory of
John Shenton
Captain of Cavalry in the Royalist army
Who fought at Naseby (1645) & Worcester (1651)
And is buried at Barwell
His sword rests here
Also of
Austin Kirk Shenton MC
Of the IXth generation from the above
Captain his His Majesty's Corps of Engineers
Who fought at Loss (1915) The Somme (1916)
Arras (1917) Cambrai (1917) Montdidier (1918)
And is buried at Grovy near Amiens
His sword rests here
To all who knew him, most loving and beloved
As a soldier, his fellow-soldiers write from the field
"A most gallant"
"He lived a
Splendid life"
"He didn't know
What fear was"
"His company was
In splendid order"

The Newsman 17 August 1918
Capt Austin Kirk MC RE whose death as the result of a riding accident took place on the Amiens front, was the eldest surviving son of the Rev GD Shenton rector of St Anthony's, Stepney and for some time vicar of Elmstead. He gained his MC for exceptionally good work in command of a cable section during the battle of Arras, and was gazetted Captain after gallantly establishing and maintaining a forward telephone post across the Cambrai Canal during the attack on Nov 23-30 1917. His last post was on the Head-Quarters Staff. His fellow-soldiers describe him as "one of the coolest men under fire and one of those who don't know what fear is. He has done good work for us in many unpleasant places, and his services were invaluable, but we valued him most for his cherry good nature. One of the finest characters we have ever known. He has played the game all through."

I have not seen the memorial in All Saints' Husband Bosworth but it must be worth a visit - for a start it would be good to see the Latin inscription as there's a suspicion that it has been incorrectly copied for the Imperial War Museum's online record since it's virtually untranslatable. But it would also be very interesting to see the two swords and the two cannon balls which are also part of the memorial and which apparently came from the Battle of Naseby (1645). In addition, Shenton's Military Cross is reported to be part of the memorial.



There was the Door to which I found no Key:
There was the Veil past which I could not see
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There seem'd - and then no more of Thee and Me.

Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And - "A Blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

Then to this earthern Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur'd - 'While you live,
Drink! - for, once dead, you never shall return."

The poem is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the author Edward Fitzgerald. Private Rennell's inscription comes from quatrain XXXIII, but what his wife, Mrs Rose Ellen Rennell, meant by it is difficult to tell - even more difficult when you learn her story, which is related in two letters a descendant has put on Ancestry:

Dear Mrs Rennell,
Your husband wishes me to write and tell you he was wounded on the 25th July. I saw him as he passed through [the] dressing station, and he particularly wished me to send his love and to assure you not to have any anxiety about him.
I sincerely hope you will get good news of him soon.
Yours sincerely,
(Signed) C.T.Richards C.F.
Chaplin 7th London Regiment

1 Aug. 1918
Dear Mrs Rennell,
I am very sorry to have to give you news that your brave husband died on July 26th at a casualty Clearing Station, the day after he was wounded. When I saw him the day before, I knew matters were serious, but he wished me to reassure you, so I did not say all I felt about him.
Since returning to the Battalion, I have found that your husband received his wound in doing a very gallant and splendid action. He went out under very heavy fire to bring in a wounded man of another attacking battalion; was himself so severely wounded that he had to return; but in spite of the severity and pain of his wound he went out again, and succeeded in dragging in his man and getting back himself. All through he showed the utmost pluck and endurance, and I understand that he was highly recommended for his magnificent deed.
Please accept my very deep sympathy in your trouble. I know the blow will be a heavy one, and I do feel for you, especially too as your husband told me that your house was destroyed by a bomb not so very long since.
May you find comfort in the thought that he gave of his very best, and lived and died a real hero, his soul assuredly now in God's keeping. His one thought when I was with him was that you should not worry or be anxious about him.
Yours very sincerely,
(Signed) CT Richards C.F.
Chaplain 7th London Regt.

On the night of the 19/20 May 1918, at about 12.15 pm, a Gotha dropped three bombs - one 300g and two 50g - over Stratford East London. The larger bomb demolished two houses in Maryland Square, damaged fifty others, killed two people and injured seven others. Mrs Rennell and her two children lived at 48 Maryland Square.
The Gotha was shot down by a Bristol fighter over East Ham.
So what did Mrs Rennell mean by her choice of inscription? Was it that understanding is not necessary, you should just put your faith in God because whatever happens is His will? Perhaps, but then she could have found a more Christian source than this to say so. Or does she mean that fate strikes randomly and there is no sense in anything? Who can tell.

[The information about the bombing of East London comes from Ian Castle's wonderfully detailed and informative website: Zeppelin Raids, Goths and 'Giants' Britain's First Blitz 1914-1918.]



Ernest Albert Isaac Taylor gave up his job at the Union of London and Smith's Bank, Nottingham on the outbreak of war and was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in December 1914, serving with the BEF in France and Flanders from May 1915, first in the Second Battle of Ypres and second at the Battle of Loos. The following month, October 1915, his battery was posted to Salonika.
The British army went to Salonika to prop up Serbia but by the time in got there Serbia had been defeated. Nevertheless the army remained in the region, establishing the Macedonian Front that stretched 480 km from Albania to Eastern Thrace. The front was designed to prevent Bulgaria's advances into the region, part of the country's plan to gain overland access to the Mediterranean.
In July 1918, Taylor was wounded by a bursting shell. One report says that he died two weeks later, another that he died the same day. His colonel told his father:

"Captain Taylor's death has cast a gloom over the whole brigade, as he had endeared himself to both officers and men by his devotion to duty and his kindly nature. He was one of my most capable officers, and a most loyal and loveable comrade."

Taylor was born in Japan where his father, the Revd Isaac Taylor, was a missionary with the British and Foreign Bible Society. It was his father who chose his inscription, which despite appearances has nothing to do with the First World War but is a quote from the New Testament:

"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately, we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them"
Acts 16: 9-10

However, from his choice of inscription, the Revd Isaac Taylor implies that the British Army was doing God's work in Macedonia.



"An ever joyous life" was not the only thing Van Dyke Fernald freely gave up; in January 1916 he freely gave up his American citizenship and became a naturalized British subject in order to be able to join the British Army.

"Lieut. Van Dyke Fernald R.A.F., who is now reported as having died as a prisoner in Austrian hands, was born in San Francisco in 1897, and was the son of Mr Chester Bailey Fernald, the dramatic author. His American ancestry dated from 1630, through a long line of English colonial blood. At the period when America's entry into the war seemed doubtful, his protest was to surrender his American nationalitiy in order to enter the British Army. From Trinity College, Oxford, he entered the Univeristy Training Corps, and was gazetted second lieutenant in the Royal West Surrey Regt. He was subsequently attached to the R.F.C., qualified as an observor, and saw six months' service on the Western Front. He then qualified as a pilot, and was sent to Italy. He was last seen on July 23rd over the Austrian front, where, having finished a reconnaissance, it is believed he stayed behind his escort, on the joint initiative of himself and his observer, Lieut. Watkins, in the hope of meeting an enemy."
Flight magazine October 3 1918

One thing surprises me about this inscription: the use of the word 'barbarian', or to be more accurate, the fact that the War Graves Commission allowed Van Dyke Fernald's father to use the word barbarian. The Commission, which had given itself the right to censor inscriptions, refused: "He died the just for the unjust", where the Germans were the "unjust", since they didn't like inscriptions that insulted the Germans. I would have thought that calling the enemy "barbarians" was much worse but this one was permitted.



Just a few graves along from John Goodall's, Private Wakeling's inscription reads:

He died a hero
Facing the foe
Defending his country
From terror and woe

And a few graves along in the other direction, Private Smith's says:

One of the unreturned heroes
One of the noble dead

This is not how Private Goodall's parents viewed their son's death, in fact they saw no glory in any of the country's deaths, for them the general sorrow outweighed everything. But then Goodall's father was a carpenter at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital in Cannock Chase and he would have been only too familiar with the broken men who were still being treated there until the hospital closed in 1924.
John William Goodall was the only son of William FitzHerbert and Mary Ann Goodall of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. In 1911, aged 13, John was an assistant to a sanitary worker, which might mean that he assisted in the making of pottery sanitary ware ... and it might not.
Goodall was a volunteer, serving first with the 9th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, which joined the BEF in France on 28 July 1915, and then with the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. In July 1918 the battalion were in the trenches at Ayette when the war diary reported that on the 18th and 19th July the trenches were heavily shelled with gas causing two officer and eleven other rank casualties. It later commented that four of the casualties later died. It would appear that Goodall was one of these casualties.



There's a famous Australian recruiting poster that shows an Australian soldier with his legs bestriding the Dardanelles and his hands cupped round his mouth shouting, "Coo-ee- Won't you come?" to the men back home. Mrs Gladys Powell had this in mind when she chose her brother's inscription.
Durrant, a saddler from Rockhampton, Queensland, enlisted in October 1917. This was a year after the Australians had voted against the introduction of conscription by a majority of 72,476, and two months before a second vote rejected it by 166,588. He served in France with the 25th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action on 17 July in an attack designed to "shorten and straighten our line" {Battalion War Dairy'.

F.R.C.O. F.T.C.L.


Harry Gray was an organist, a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (F.R.C.O.) and of Trinity College London (F.T.C.L.). His father chose his inscription, using two interesting words: detested and atmosphere. Harry Gray "detested the whole atmosphere of war".
Gray, his mother, Elizabeth Sarah Gray, and his two siblings Elsie and Vivian, were born in Queensland, Australia. However, by 1901 they were all living in Hertford, England, where their father, also Harry Gray, a carpenter and joiner, had been born.
Gray originally joined the 28th Battalion London Regiment, the Artists Rifles, as a private. In March 1917 he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion the Queen's Own West Kent Regiment. That November he was awarded a Military Cross for:

"Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in maintaining direction as leader of an assaulting wave. When his company commander became a casualty he reorganised the company, which had lost over 60 per cent, and beat off several minor attacks. He remained with his men in a shallow trench when they were being heavily shelled, when he might have gone to headquarters. The good work done by the company was mainly due to his splendid example."

On 19 June 1918 Gray was promoted lieutenant and just under a month later he died of wounds in a casualty clearing station in Aire. It's not a bad military career for someone who "detested the whole atmosphere of war". Was it war he hated, or the prevailing mood that surrounded it? We're never going to know. But as his father said, "He did his duty". As did his other son.
Second Lieutenant Vivian Gray of the King's Liverpool Regiment was killed in action on the Somme on 18 August 1916. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.



This is so obviously a quotation and yet it was incredibly difficult to find the poem it came from. Eventually I found it published on 17 December 1917 in the New Castle Herald, a local paper from New Castle, Pennsylvania, USA. It's not exactly a quotation but a contraction of two lines. Quite how the poem was known to Reginald Read's mother, who at the time she chose it was living in Broadstone, Dorset, I don't know.
It appeared in a published sermon written by the Revd MB Williams of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Williams was inspired by the publication of a young soldier's last letter home in which he told his parents that he was happy to die as "we shall live forever as the result of our efforts". I've copied out the whole of the poem, which is not great poetry nor even very comprehensible but you are unlikely to find it anywhere else:

What chaunt is this that thou dost sing,
Beside the shadow of the Wing
And marked for Victory and for Sting -
"But we shall live forever!"
What rose of wonder hast thou prest
With a gold pin to thy young breast
That in such pride thou goest dreast? -
"But we shall live forever!"

Thou saws't the Earth and all her spires,
Dreams and dominions and desires,
Fade from thee: and thy heart still quires,
"But we shall live forever!"
And while into the dark thou'rt flung
By irremediable wrong,
Yet boasteth thy submissive tongue,
"But we shall live forever!"

O child, O stripling, O dead boy,
That on the threshold of thy joy
Beheld the godness past the toy,
So shalt thou live forever!
Oh such as thou, men shall record:
"They break the terror of the sword
And built the garden of the Lord
And 'stablished it forever".

Reginald Read, the son of Albert Read, a ship's steward, and his wife Jessie, was born in Newhaven in October 1900. He joined the RAF in July 1917 whilst still only 16. He went to the RAF Boys Wing Training Establishment at Cranwell in Lincolnshire where he achieved the rank of Acting Lance Corporal before he died of pneumonia in hospital in Lincoln. His body was returned to Newhaven to be buried.



James Masters had been a serving soldier for six years when he died of wounds in 1918. He'd joined the Royal Artillery in October 1912 and served with the 13th Brigade in India from November 1913 until it was recalled on the outbreak of war. Leaving India on 21 September 1914 the brigade was in France on the 21 October.
Wounded in the shoulder in October 1917, Masters was hospitalized in England, returning to the front in April 1918. On 2 July he was wounded in the chest, the form says 'GSW wounds', meaning gun shot wounds' but shrapnel wounds were described with the same initials. He died the same day.
Before the war, Masters had been a carter on a farm in Ripe, Sussex where his father was a cowman, It was his father who chose his inscription as his mother had died when he was a boy. It's a very emphatic statement with which it would be hard to disagree. And yet I feel that the dead would want more than our undying gratitude, and more than to be never forgotten, they would like to think that individuals did everything they could to try to avoid such a murderous situation arising again.



This American Civil War poem has been the source of more than one British First World War epitaph. Hedley Rimmer's comes from 'Ode Recited at the Harvard Commemoration July 21 1865' by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), the Smith Professor of Modern Languages. This particular commemoration service was designed to honour the 590 former members of the university who had served in the Civil War and in particular the ninety-nine who died.
Although the poet tries to celebrate the outcome of the war, Lowell can only think of those who never came home:

In these brave ranks, I only see the gaps,
Thinking of dear ones whom the dumb turf wraps
Dark to the triumph which they died to gain:

Their only consolation is that:

Virtue treads paths that end not in the grave;
No ban of endless night exiles the brave;
And to the saner mind
We rather seem the dead that stayed behind.

Hedley Rimmer was the youngest of his parents' five children. Born and brought up in Seacombe, Cheshire where his father was a general warehouseman, Rimmer joined the army when he became 18 in 1915. He went to France the following year, serving with the 57th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. There is nothing to indicate how he was wounded but he died in a hospital, casualty clearing station centre on 1 July 1918.



In a way Gordon Wilson chose his own inscription because his wife found the lines on a newspaper cutting in his writing case when it was returned to her after his death. Wilson had cut out the first two lines of an epitaph that was relatively well known in the eighteenth-century, one of the earliest and best-known examples being on the grave of James Handley who died in 1694 and is buried in the churchyard at Redmile, Leicestershire:

This world is a city full of crooked streets
Death is a market place where all men meet.
If life were merchandise that men could buy
Rich men would ever live and poor men die

Even earlier occurrences of the epitaph can be found, including a variation in Shakespeare's Two Noble Kinsmen, written in 1614-5, where these lines are given to the Third Queen:

This world's a city full of straying streets,
And death's the market-place, where each one meets.

But perhaps Shakespeare in his turn was just quoting a familiar epitaph. Whichever, Wilson's wife chose the lines for her husband.
Gordon Chesney Wilson, a regular soldier who had served in South Africa, was by 1911 in command of his regiment, the Royal Horse Guards. The regiment went to France on 7 October 1914 and was involved in all the fierce, close fighting around Ypres. He was killed leading an attack on 6 November, one of the many well-trained, experienced soldiers that the British army could ill afford to lose.
Born in Australia in 1865, Wilson was the son of Sir Samuel and Lady Sarah Wilson. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford he was commissioned into the Royal Horse Guards in 1888. In 1891 he married Lady Sarah Spencer-Churchill, sister of Lord Randolph Churchill and aunt of Winston Churchill.
The new commander of the regiment, Lord Tweedmouth, wrote to Lady Sarah, his aunt, to tell her:

"I cannot express my sympathy sufficiently with you over poor Gordon's loss, and it was a great disaster for us as a regiment: he was so active and keen, brave as a lion and full of sympathy for the men and officers. I feel his loss tremendously, as we had been so much together in the last month, and he has been very kind to me."



Vivian Frederic Newton was his parents only child - their great joy and hence their great sorrow. Except it was his mother's great sorrow as her husband, Vivian's father, had died in 1911.
Vivian was educated at Cheltenham College, left school and went straight to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Gazetted into the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in October 1915, his medal index card shows that he went to France on 24 May 1916. He was wounded on the Somme on 15 September 1916 and died that same day in hospital at Rouen.



Bertram Ransome was forty-five, a director of the family firm, Ransome, Sims and Jefferies of Ipswich, married and with six children when he joined the Royal Defence Corps on its formation in March 1916. The corps was intended only for home duties: guarding ports, bridges and prisoners of war. But a year later Ransome transferred to the Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Section and went to France.
Ransome was a mechanical engineer, his firm, which made agricultural equipment, turned out aeroplanes during the war. In France he was involved with the building of the hospitals at Trouville. In 1917, he transferred to the 8th Auxiliary Steam Co. which was beginning to use steam vehicles to move heavy equipment and guns. In June 1918 he became ill with influenza and died from pneumonia in hospital in Le Havre.
His wife, Phyllis Ransome, chose his inscription from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's A Psalm of Life. Despite knowing very little of the man, from the little I've discerned from websites like this, the words of the poem would seem to suit him well. These are the last three verses:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.



This is a very bitter inscription. It's not unusual to come across ones where the family have put a brave face on it and said: 'We asked life for him and thou gavest him life for evermore'. There are other inscriptions where the relations express their disappointment that God has not answered their prayers in the way they wanted but they are willing to acknowledge that God's will must be done, or that God knows best. This is not how Private Ellerington's mother felt; his family wanted him to live and God denied their prayers.
'Denied', it's a strong word, indicating the strength of Clara Ellerington's anger. But did Christ not say:

Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.
St John 13:13-14

To her thinking, her prayers had been denied.
Reginald Ellerington was a regular soldier. In 1911 he was with the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment in India but at the outbreak of war he was with the 2nd Battalion in Malta. They returned to Britain in September and were sent to France on 5 November. The date qualified Ellerington for the 1914 Star. Between then and his death in June 1918, Ellerington served with 179 Tunnelling Co. Royal Engineers, with 18th Corps HQ and with the 15th/17th West Yorkshire Regiment. He died of wounds in St Omer, a large hospital centre, on 30 June.
Ellerington's younger brother, Herbert, was in the Merchant Marine serving on board the cargo ship SS Trewyn. The ship was carrying ore from Algiers to Middlesborough. She passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on 25 March 1916 and was never seen again.



It's possible that Mrs Hannah Stacey has slightly misquoted a song from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado for her husband's inscription. These are the words of the song:

Hearts do not break!
They sting and ache
For old love's sake,
But do not die,
Though with each breath
They long for death
As witnesseth
The living I!
The living I!

The song goes on to ask why someone can't just die when all hope is gone. The words could easily be appropriate to a grief-stricken wife, even if in the operetta they are sung by an unsympathetic woman, Katisha, who's discovered that the man she hoped to marry is going to marry someone else.
John and Hannah Stacey married on 8 August 1914. In the 1911 census both were working in the cotton industry, John as a doffer and Hannah as a twist doubler. From his medal card it doesn't appear that Stacey was a volunteer. He served with the 11th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, the Accrington Pals, and was killed in action at La Becque on 29 June 1918 following the battalion's capture of Beaulieu Farm on the eastern fringes of Nieppe Forest.



Thomas Slack's inscription comes from a piece of memorial verse that often appeared in the 'In Memoriam' columns of newspapers. This is one of the longer versions:

There's a lonely grave in France
Where a brave young hero sleeps;
There's a cottage home in England
Where his dear ones sit and weep.
We think of him in silence,
Whose name we often call,
Though there's nothing left to answer
But his photo on the wall.

Slack was one of William and Eliza Slack's fifteen children, of whom ten had survived. William Slack was a coal miner in Tibshelf, Nottingham, as were his sons who went to work in the mines when they left school at 14.
Thomas volunteered when the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters was raised in Derby in September 1914. He went with it to France on 27 August 1915, thus qualifying for the 1915 Star. The battalion took part in the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915; in July and October 1916 it was engaged on the Somme and in 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres. It was during this battle that Slack was awarded a Military Medal: "For gallantry and devotion to duty when in the attack near Zillebeke, near Ypres, on 20th September 1917".
In November 1917, the battalion was posted to Italy where it served on the Asiago Plateau. This had been a fairly quiet sector until the 14/15th June 1918 when the Austrians attacked in great force along the line. Slack was killed on the 29th.



Well-Known Young Scottish Artist Killed in Action
Lance-Corporal (sic) George Hutchison K.O.S.B., who has been killed in action, was a son of Mr R. Gemmell-Hutchison R.S.A., who is meantime residing at Coral Den, Carnoustie.
Deceased, who was about 22 years of age, was well known in Scottish artist circles. Following in the footsteps of his distinguished father, he had attained a high place in artist circles. He had pictures shown in the Royal Academy, London, the Royal Scottish Academy, and at all the important exhibitions in Great Britain. One of his drawing masters said of him the other day that George Hutchison gave promise of being one of the finest animal picture artists in this country.
Dundee Courier
Monday 8 July 1918

George Jackson Hutchison served with the 2nd Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers and died of wounds received in action at Merville, according to the inscription on his father's headstone in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.
Following her brother's death, his sister, Marion Maude Hutchison, instituted the George Jackson Hutchison Memorial Prize at the Royal Scottish Academy, which is still awarded every year for the best painting or drawing of an animal.
Hutchison's father signed for his inscription - 'Tell mother not to worry' - the irony cannot have been lost on anyone.



Joseph Houston died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station. It was the custom for the matron, or a senior nursing sister, to write to the next-of-kin and tell them of their relation's death. This would be how Mrs Annie Houston learnt of her son's dying words.
Annie Houston was a widow who ran a grocery shop in Dromman More, Armagh. In the 1911 census, Joseph was the only other occupant of the household. He gave his occupation as shop assistant - in the grocery shop perhaps?
Joseph volunteered in 1915; his medal index card showing that he was entitled to a 1915 Star having entered a theatre of war - France - on 4 October 1915. He served with the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers whose war diary has been transcribed for the dates 1 September 1917 to 9 June 1919. It shows that the battalion had not been in action during either May or June and any time they had spent in the trenches had been very quiet.



Private Walters served with the 4th Battalion British West Indies Regiment, raised in Jamaica in May 1916. Many Caribbean men were very patriotic and keen to serve their King, but the War Office was much less keen to accept them. However, in May 1915, after the intervention of King George V and the Colonial Office, the policy was altered.
It is estimated that over 16,000 volunteers came from the Caribbean islands. They served in all the theatres of war but much as many of them wanted to see combat, they were mostly used in labouring, supply and guard roles. Over 1,500 of them died, the majority from disease. They were the object of both casual and overt racism as well as acceptance and respect. But they were not treated equally and many returned home with their loyalty to Britain diminished.
Walters' mother, Louise Tingle Walters, chose her son's inscription. In all the thousands of inscriptions I've looked at, I've not yet come across another one that thanked anyone - King, Army, Government or War Graves Commission - for putting up a headstone for their relation. There were many families who were furious that they weren't going to be able to bring the bodies home, others objected vociferously to the fact that no private headstones were to be allowed in the war cemeteries, some to the fact that the uniform headstone was not going to be a cross and people today are outraged that relations were made to pay 3 1/2d a letter for the inscription, but no one has been grateful that the authorities paid for the burial and commemoration of their dead relation.
There is a bit of a problem with Private A Walters, service number 8403. His mother did not provide the War Graves Commission with either his Christian name or his age and whilst there is a Medal Index Card for a Private Walters 8403, his Christian name is given as Nathaniel. So we will never know any more about Private Walters other than the fact that his parents lived at Three Hills Retreat, Jamaica and that his mother was a polite and gracious woman.



Numerous inscriptions look forward to the happy time when the writer will be reunited with their loved one beyond the grave. Others rail against God for taking away their reason for living. Hannah Alderson simply demands that God sends her son back to her. Here is a mother who seven years after her son's death has still not been reconciled it. But why would she be; Ernest was her only surviving child.
I say seven years because I can see that it was March 1925 before Ernest Alderson's body was exhumed from where the Germans had buried it in Asfeld la Ville German Cemetery. This is when Mrs Alderson would have been asked to choose an inscription and confirm her son's details for his permanent headstone.
Ernest Alderson was the son of Israel and Hannah Alderson of Sedgefield, Co. Durham. Israel, born in Sedgefield, was a plate layer with the North Eastern Railway. Ernest served with the East Yorkshire Regiment. The record states that he served with the 1st Battalion but it was the 1st/4th that was caught in Operation Blucher-Yorck on 27 May 1918. The battalion's casualty statistics for June tell their own story: one officer believed killed, twenty-two missing; three other ranks killed, fifty-two wounded, 566 missing. This left three officers and 107 other ranks available for service. The following month the 1st/4th East Yorkshire Regiment was reduced to cadre strength and ceased to exist as a fighting unit.
Without any real supporting evidence for this, other than the fact that the Yorkshires were in the trenches at Craonne and Asfeld, where Alderson was originally buried, is not far from there, I suspect that Ernest was serving with the 1st/4th when he was taken prisoner and that he died in German captivity.



Richard Pawson was killed in a famous, or perhaps one should say, infamous, incident when a German U-boat fired on a group of six trawlers returning to their home port in Hull from a fishing trip in Icelandic waters. The trawlers were 55 miles south of the Faroe Islands when U-53 opened fire. Five of the trawlers had guns and after a three and a half hour engagement the trawlers eventually saw off the U-boat. The incident received much press publicity where it was viewed as a classic David and Goliath event since there was only one RN officer among the trawler crews, the rest of them were all civilian fishermen.
Richard Pawson was a 'spare hand' on the trawler SS Aisne. It was Aisne that achieved a direct hit on the U-boat just as the trawlers' ammunition was running out and the order 'prepare to ram' was about to be given. But Aisne herself had been badly hit: one crewman, Pawson, was killed and four others wounded.
Aisne returned to port and Pawson was buried in Hull Western Cemetery. His grave was not originally marked as a war grave but his name was included on the Mercantile Marine Memorial on Tower Hill. However, from the records, it looks as though his grave acquired a Commission headstone in 1998 and someone, the records do not record who, chose an inscription from the 'sailors' hymn:
Eternal Father strong to save
Who arm does bind the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.



This wonderful metaphor for death comes from the last two lines of The Light of Asia, Sir Edwin Arnold's long narrative poem, first published in 1879, which introduced Western readers to the philosophy of Buddhism. The words appear twice in Book 8:

Never shall yearnings torture, nor sins
Stain him, nor ache of earthly joys and woes
Invade his safe eternal peace, nor deaths
And Lives recur. He goes
Unto Nirvana! He is one with life
Yet lives not. He is blest, ceasing to be.
Om, Mani Padme, Om! the Dewdrop slips
Int the shining sea.

Arnold's words have a distinct echo of Shelley's Adonais:

He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world's slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;'

Gross's precise inscription appears in the last two lines of the poem:

The dew is on the lotus! - Rise, Great Sun!
And lift my leaf and mix me with the wave.
Om Mani Padme Hum, the sunrise comes!
The Dewdrop Slips into The Shining Sea!

'Om mani padme hum', is a Bhuddist mantra which cannot really be translated into English since it is hardly more than a transformative, meditative collection of sound syllables all intended to bring the speaker closer to the way of the Bhudda. Arnold himself had spent some years in India and was keen to introduce Bhuddist philosophy to the Western world.
Arthur Gross died in hospital in Hounslow. At the time of his death he was an Air Mechanic Third Class at the Armament School in Uxbridge. I have been unable to discover whether the cause of death was accident or illness. His body was taken back home to Suffolk where he is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Boynton. His father, Dr Charles Gross, chose his inscription, did he just like the words or was he interested in Bhuddism? Whichever, it's an interesting inscription in an English churchyard.



If ever "the voice of a schoolboy rallied the ranks" it was nineteen-year-old Second Lieutenant Robert Kestell-Cornish at Hill 60 on the 1 May 1915. Hill 60 is not much of a hill being merely displaced spoil from the building of the Ypres-Comines railway line. Nevertheless, in the flat fields of Flanders it was of huge strategic importance.
On 1 May 1915 the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment were holding the front line when the Germans launched an assault on their trenches, preceding the attack with a devastating gas attack, killing and immobilising many of the men. With the line fatally weakened and a German attack imminent, Kestell-Cornish called four other survivors to mount the parapet and fire through the mist of gas into the approaching German soldiers. Convinced that the line was much more securely held than they had expected, the Germans withdrew just as British reinforcements arrived. For his bravery and prompt action Kestell-Cornish was awarded an immediate Military Cross, 'in the field'.
Robert Kestell-Cornish left school, Sherborne, at the end of the Summer term 1914 destined for Worcester College, Oxford. But when war was declared, he joined up immediately. A month after the award of his Military Cross, he was promoted Lieutenant and eight months later, in February 1916, to Captain. The following February he received a Bar to his MC for 'marked courage and ability'.
In September 1917 he joined the Staff attached to the Divisional HQ. He was wounded on 8 March 1918, the only information I've found says that he was "wounded beside his general". Perhaps they were on a tour of inspection. Kestell-Cornish's leg had to be amputated and he died in hospital in Wimereux three months later.
His father, Vaughan Kestell Kestell-Cornish, for many years the British Consul in Brest, chose his son's inscription. It comes from an elegy written by Maurice Baring (1874-1945) in memory of Julian Grenfell who died of wounds in May 1915 aged 27. The poem was published in The Times nine days later.

To Julian Grenfell
Because of you we will be glad and gay,
Remembering you we will be brave and strong;
And hail the advent of each dangerous day,
And meet the great adventure with a song.
And, as you proudly gave your jewelled gift,
We'll give our lesser offering with a smile,
Nor falter on the path where, all too swift,
You led the way and leapt the golden style.
Whether you seek new seas or heights unclimbed,
Or gallop in unfooted asphodel,
We know you know we shall not lag behind,
Not halt to waste a moment on a tear;
And you will speed us onward with a cheer,
And wave beyond the stars that all is well.



Mrs Isabella Hulley quotes from a children's night-time prayer for her nineteen-year-old son's inscription:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lie on.
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch and one to pray
And two to bear my soul away.

Except that for Mrs Hulley there are six angels round her son's bed.
Frank Hulley's is one of the few service files to have survived to the present day. He was one of Alfred and Isabella Hulley's five children. The family lived in Gresford near Wrexham in Denbighshire where Alfred Hulley was a coal miner, a hewer. At the time of his enlistment, in April 1917, Frank too was working at the colliery, as an above ground worker.
Hulley served with the 7th Battalion Border Regiment in France from 28 October 1917. He was wounded on 8 June 1918. It would appear that he was one of the casualties of a German barrage that occurred just as the battalion were being relieved on the night of the 7th/8th.
On 16 June 1918, 'Attestone' Preston received the following telegram from Proelicus Ave:

"Gen Hos Rouen telegraphs 16 June died 16 6 18 35164 Pte F Hulley 7 Border Regt gsw comp fract rt femur"

GSW stands for gunshot wounds, the letters being applied to shrapnel wounds too. Hulley also had a compound fracture of his right femur. 'Attestone' would have passed on the news to Hullley's parents simply telling them that their son had died of wounds without giving them the details, which they might have already received when first informed that he's been wounded. Private Hulley had taken eight days to die.



Educated at Malvern, Eastbourne and Worcester College Oxford, Sheppey-Greene attended Lincoln Theological College and was ordained in 1907. The Latin tag on his headstone, 'Miserere Jesu', Jesus mercy, suggests he may have been a Roman Catholic, but Sheppey-Greene was a Church of England clergyman, albeit High Church. Between 1907 and 1915, when he joined the army, Sheppey-Greene was a curate at St Chad's, Haggerston, an east end Anglo-Catholic church; St Cyprian's, Clarence Gate, a mission church in Marylebone, and St Thomas's Clapton another High Anglican Church.
Despite being a priest, Sheppey-Greene served as a soldier. It would be interesting to know why he decided to do this rather than serve as a padre but there doesn't appear to be information on this. In September 1915, he was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, and Lieutenant in March 1918. At the time of his death, he was attached to the 7th Battalion. The war diary makes no mention of any action on or around the 14th June but nevertheless Sheppey-Greene died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station at Halloy-les-Pernois and is buried in the adjacent cemetery.



Some parents are astonishingly magnanimous, as Mrs Julia Clayton has been here. She thanks God that for twenty years her family of two sons and two daughters has been untouched by sorrow. All this changed when her son, Milton Clayton, serving with the 23rd Howitzer Battery, 5th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, was killed on 14 June 1918. The war cemetery register records that he 'died of accidental injuries'. The military record states:

"The gun on which Gunner Clayton was engaged was firing at the time and he was assisting in the supply of ammunition. Several rounds were fired when a premature occurred directly in front of the muzzle of the gun, several pieces flying back into the gun pit, one striking him in the chest. He was placed on a stretcher, dying while on the way to the dressing station, presumably from hemorrhage."



25th Battalion Canadian Infantry War Diary
Neuville Vitasse
At 2.00 am on 13 6 1918 [the diary says 1917 but this is a mistake] the Royal Engineers put over a gas projection on the lines opposite our front, which was accompanied by heavy artillery fire. In reply to this, the enemy put down a barrage on our front and support lines, which lasted until 2.45 am. [...] Casualties - killed in action, Lieut. E.C.C. Bing and 8 Other Ranks; wounded Capt. W.A. Livingstone and 21 Other Ranks.

This was the enemy barrage that stilled Corporal Noble's heart and broke his mother's.
James Edward Noble attested in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia on 31 March 1916. He was nineteen and one month. He served with the 25th Battalion Canadian Infantry, the Nova Scotia Rifles.
Noble's parents, William and Agnes, had ten children, two of whom died in infancy. James was killed in 1918 and his younger brother, George Ross Noble, died of tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Nova Scotia on 30 March 1921. He was 22. George had been a soldier. He'd served in France for a year with the 193rd Battalion, which it was believed had brought on his condition. He's buried under a War Graves Commission headstone with an inscription chosen by his wife, Ruby: 'Sadly missed and lovingly remembered'.



Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7

This vehement assertion of the power of love was chosen for Alice Lancaster by her father, Thomas Lancaster JP of The Cliffe, Monk Bretton, Barnsley, Yorkshire. Alice went to France as a Special Military Probationer Nurse attached to the Territorial Nursing Service at the end of May 1918. A week later her father received this letter:

6 June 1918
It is with deep regret that a report has been received in this Office stating that Miss Alice Hilda Lancaster, Special Military Probationer, was drowned while bathing on the 3rd of June, 1918.
I beg that you will accept this expression of my sincere sympathy.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant.

Sir Alfred Keogh
Director General
Army Medical Services

According to a Court of Enquiry, both Alice and the friend she went swimming with were caught by a strong current. The friend managed to get ashore but Alice was drowned.
There is more information about Alice Lancaster and her family on the Barnsley Historian Blogspot.



One might have thought it was a wife who signed for this inscription but no it was a father, Frederick Goodman, a china-clay labourer from St Stephen's-in-Brannell, Cornwall. Wesley was one of his parents' four children: their only son. In 1911 he too was working in the china clay industry.
Wesley served in the 1st Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. At the beginning of June 1918 the battalion was in the left sub-sector of the Le Sart front. Their casualty list for the month records that Private Goodman was wounded on 3 June and died the same day. The war diary records that 3 June was a quiet day and a quiet night. The previous day had passed very quietly too until 10.30 pm when a patrol of ten men under Second Lieutenant Eveleigh attacked an enemy post, "capturing one prisoner, wounding one and killing one - the remainder bolted". Although unmentioned, this sounds like the occasion when Goodman was wounded.



Gunner McKie's wife, Kate, signed for his inscription, asking particularly that the War Graves Commission note the inverted commas, stops and exclamation mark. This suggests that she was quoting from something, most probably a letter of condolence, and wanted it reproduced exactly. It's a lovely tribute.
McKie was the manager of his parents' grocery store, which his mother had been running on her own since the death of her husband in 1897. He served with the 153rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. The battery had been in France since August 1916. The siege batteries fired the heavy guns, aimed at the enemy's strongpoints: dumps, stores, railways and artillery ... and they were in turn the object of the enemy's fire.
On 27 May 1918 the German's launched an attack with an artillery bombardment of 4,500 guns and seventeen infantry divisions along a nine mile front on the opening day of the Third Battle of Battle of the Aisne. Thomas McKie died of wounds six days later.



This is to certify that I the undersigned, father of George Duncan Radnell of Tarnagulla whose age is eighteen years and five months, hereby grant my consent to his enlistment as a unit of the Expeditionary Forces now being trained at Broadmeadows, Victoria.
Wm J Randall
Dated at Tarnagulla this 19th day of Jan. 1915

At the beginning of March 1915, Radnell embarked from Australia with the 14th Australian Infantry for Egypt. A month later, on 14 April, the battalion set sail from Alexandria and on 26 April went ashore at 'Kaba Tepe', Anzac Cove. On 21 August Randell went sick with enteritis - dysentery - and was hospitalized in England, only returning to his unit at the end of November, just in time for the evacuation from the peninsula.
The battalion transferred to France and on 28 August 1916 Radnell was wounded in the left arm, 'shell wound'. Hospitalized again in England, he returned to the front at the beginning of January 1917. Wounded and hospitalized in England again in September, he returned to France in January 1918.
In September 1917, Radnell was awarded a Military Medal:

"During the operations near Zonnebeke on 26 September 1917, Pte Radnell displayed great courage and initiative by getting together a party of 7 men and rushing an enemy post in which were 10 Germans, killing four and taking the remainder prisoners."

On 31 May Radnell was wounded for a third time, this time in the shoulder, face and legs. He died in a Casualty Clearing Station the next day.

Now look at his inscription: "George, a Tarnagulla lad, celebrated his 16th birthday at Anzac in 1915". George was not 18 and five months when he enlisted, as his father must have known only too well. He was 15. But he wanted to be with his elder brother and cousins who had all gone to fight. His brother, Charles Victor Radnell, was killed on 27 February 1917, and one of his cousins, Joseph Charles Radnell, on 4 August 1916.



Archibald Anderson attested in Canada on 15 May 1917, arrived in England on 5 July, was hospitalized in England with German measles from 25 January to 4 February 1918, and then again with mumps from 5th to 25th March. He went to France on 28 May and died three days later on the 31st. Born on 6 April 1899, he was one month past his nineteenth birthday. His service file indicates that he served with the McGill University Siege Artillery, and it states that he was killed in action, 'hostile aircraft'. On the night of the 31 May 1918 there were many casualties when the camp and hospitals at Etaples were bombed by German aircraft. Archibald Anderson was one of the casualties. It looks as though he got no further than the base camp before he was killed.
Anderson's inscription comes from 'Better Far to Pass Away' by Captain Richard Molesworth Dennys (1884-1916), 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who was killed in action on the Somme in August 1916.
Dennys' poem repeats the ancient theory that it is better to die young:

Better far to pass away
While limbs are strong and young,
Ere the ending of the day,
Ere youth's lusty song be sung.

The poet's reasoning - how he could enjoy the things he loves so much - "the hills, the sea, the sun, the winds, the woods, the clouds, the trees" when he's an old man.

Come when it may, the stern decree
For me to leave the cheery throng
And quit the sturdy company
Of brothers that I work among.
No need for me to look askance,
Since no regret my prospect mars.
My day was happy - and perchance
The coming night is full of stars.

We find it difficult to believe that young First World War soldiers really had this insouciant attitude towards death. In my head I hear these lines by AE Housman (1859-1936):

Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.



Eighteen-year-old Charles Edwin Morris was his parents' only child, born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire and raised in Coventry, Warwickshire where his father was a clerk in a cycle works. Morris enlisted in July 1917. At one time a soldier had to be nineteen before he could be sent abroad, but after the casualties of the 1918 German Spring Offensive the rule was less strictly observed.
Morris's inscription comes from 'The Victorious Dead', a poem by Alfred Noyes first published in a special souvenir edition of the Daily Mail, The Golden Peace Edition, to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in July 1919. The inscription comes from the second verse:

Make firm, O God, the peace our dead have won.
For folly shakes the tinsel on its head
And points us back to darkness and to hell,
Cackling 'Beware of visions', while our dead
Whisper, 'It was for visions that we fell'.
All that this earth can give they thrust aside.
They crowded all their youth into an hour.
And, for one fleeting dream of right, they died.
Oh, if we fail them, in that awful trust,
How should we bear those voices from the dust?

You can hear in this the echo of a very famous line from 'The Call', written by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1819): 'One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name'. But Noyes, and many like him, didn't think this was enough, the dead had died for a 'fleeing dream of right' and we will fail them if we don't try to make that dream come true. The dream is summarised in another of Noyes' poems, 'Victory':

There's but one gift that all our dead desire,
One gift that men can give, and that's a dream,
Unless we, too, can burn with that same fire
Of sacrifice; die to the things that seem;

Die to the little hatreds; die to greed;
Die to the old ignoble selves we knew;
Die to the base contempts of race and greed,
And rise again, like these, with souls as true.

To Noyes this dream is not to be achieved 'by sword, or tongue, or pen, There's but one way. God make us better men'.



War Diary: 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, Douellens
30 May 1918
"On the night of 29-30 May hostile aeroplanes were heard in the area. The night was clear and the moon was shining. About 12.25 an hostile aeroplane passed over the hospital, dropped a flare, and immediately a bomb was dropped which struck the main building over the sergeants quarters, Ward S.6 (officers ward) operating theatre and X-Ray room, which collapsed immediately. Almost instantly a fire broke out and the whole group of buildings in the upper area was threatened. .... During the work of rescue and while other members of the unit were combating the fire, the aeroplane returned and dropped more bombs ... At this time the flames were mounting sky high and the whole upper area was clearly illuminated and the buildings sharply delineated. The red crosses on the buildings being very visible so that there was no excuse for his not knowing that it was a hospital. ... Three surgical teams were on duty that night but two had completed their operation and had gone for their midnight meal. The other team (Capt. E.E. Meek, C.A.M.C. and Lieut. A.P.H. Sage, M.O.R.C. U.S.A.) were finishing their operation and they, their patient, Sisters A McPherson and E.L. Pringle, the orderlies and stretcher bearers, were all victims of the bomb. ... The night was clear and bright. There should have been no difficulty in the airmen recognising it as a hospital. The plane is stated to have been at a height of about 6000 feet. The hospital is well marked with red crosses which airmen say are quite visible from the air. There is no doubt that the occupants of the aeroplane knew it was a hospital for when they came back and dropped bombs a second time, the flames clearly illuminated the red crosses on the buildings. This hospital, being in the Citadel, is surrounded on three sides by fields and on the fourth by a French hospital. There were no camps or dumps of any description in the vicinity of the hospital."

Captain Meek was a surgeon from Regina, Saskatchewan. Born in Nova Scotia the son of Benjamin and Ella Meek, he was married and the father of a daughter when he went abroad with the Canadian Army Medical Corps in April 1916.



There is no question mark after the word 'satisfied' so no this is not Alfred Timms asking the world whether it's satisfied now that it's killed his son - and many other people's sons. I have a feeling that that's how a lot of people who see this single-word inscription today would interpret it. But that is not it at all.
The word is a quotation from Psalm 17 v 15:

"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with they likeness."

I say this confidently because I have seen the last ten words quoted fairly frequently in personal inscriptions. And what do they mean?
The psalmist asks:

"Keep me as the apple of thy eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about."

The psalmist knows that there is danger everywhere, and that there are easier and more prosperous routes to follow in this life than God's ways. But he will try to keep to God's ways so that when he dies it will be as a righteous person who will awake in God's presence. At which point he will be 'satisfied'. Alfred Timms is therefore telling the world that his nineteen-year-old son, Percy Leonard Timms, by fighting the Germans, doing God's work, will now be in God's presence and be 'satisfied'.
Timms was the eldest son of Alfred and Kate Timms' five children. He was born in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. In 1978, Howell Powell was asked by the Brize Norton Parish Council to record his memories of those who'd died in the First World War. He said of Percival Timms:

"After leaving school he worked on Tom Pratt's farm (Tom Pratt kept the Chequers [pub] as well) Perce must have put his age up to join up. He died as he was being taken to a Prisoners Camp hospital. It was his first trip to France."



"Truly ye come of The Blood; slower to bless than to ban;
Little used to lie down at the bidding of any man.
Flesh of the flesh that I bred, bone of the bone that I bare;
Stark as your sons shall be - stern as your fathers were.
Deeper than speech our love, stronger than life our tether,
But we do not fall on the neck nor kiss when we come together."

Second Lieutenant Hamilton's inscription refers to the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling's 'England's Answer'. This speaks of the blood ties that link the people of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa into the British Empire, and lauds the qualities of the British race and the responsibilities it has assumed in the world.
However, there is more going on with this inscription than just Kipling's poem. The War Graves Commission has only the most minimal information about Second Lieutenant GEAF Hamilton, no Christian names, no parentage and no age. But he was, in fact, George Edward Archibald Augustus FitzGeorge Hamilton, son and heir of Sir Archibald Hamilton and his first wife Olga Mary Adelaide FitzGeorge. Both these families came of royal blood: Olga's grandfather was the Duke of Cambridge, one of the sons of George III, and Sir Archibald was descended from James II. 'Truly ye are of the blood' is a reference not just to the binding blood of the Empire but to royal blood. After the divorce Sir Archibald was given custody of his son but it was his mother's second husband, Squadron Leader Richard Charlton Lan of the Air Ministry, who signed for the inscription.
Olga and Sir Archibald divorced in 1902 and Sir Archibald went on to have a fairly colourful career, which saw him convert to Islam and become a leading member of the British Union of Fascists.
George Hamilton was educated at Winchester, left in 1916 to go to Sandhurst, was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards - the regiment of which his great-grandfather the Duke of Cambridge had been Colonel in Chief for over forty years - joining the 1st Battalion in France in January 1918. By May 1918 the German offensive was beginning to lose steam but their artillery and aeroplanes were still very active. The regimental history records that:

"On the 17th the area occupied by the 1st Battalion was subjected to a severe bombing by aircraft; Second Lieutenant W.A. Fleet and Second Lieutenant G.E.A.A. Fitz-George Hamilton were killed, and Second Lieutenant S.J. Hargreaves and Second Lieutenant G.D. Neale were seriously wounded. The two latter never recovered from the wounds they received, and died the next day. The loss of these four keen young officers was deeply felt by the whole Battalion."



Wilby Illingworth's unusual Christian name was his mother's maiden name - Elizabeth Conyer Wilby - the mother he never knew as she died the year he was born. He was brought up by his grandparents, Edmund and Hannah Illingworth, in Ossett, Yorkshire.
The War Graves Commission records his parents as James and Elizabeth Illingworth. The excellent Ossett WW1 history site has compiled biographies of all the men of Ossett who died in the war, including Illingworth. This site suggests that Wilby wasn't James Illingworth's son because James Illingworth died in 1872, four years before Wilby was born. However, the 1881 census records four-year-old Wilby living with his grandparents and their son, James Illingworth, a widower aged 33. I have a feeling it might have been another James Illingworth who died in 1872. Among the occupants of the 1881 household was another grandson, eleven-year-old William Henry Illingworth, Wilby's brother. This is the Wm. Henry named on Wilby's inscription.
Illingworth's medal index card shows his entitlement to the 1914 Star with clasp, the date of entitlement being 19 August 1914. This is scarcely two weeks after the outbreak of war so he must have been a reservist, mobilised on the outbreak. This explains the seventeen years service mentioned in the inscription. Although both the 1901 and 1911 censuses show him working in civilian jobs, in the intervening ten years he must have been a soldier who in 1914 was still on the reserve. Men who finished their regular army service spent five years on the reserve, being paid but having to undergo twelve days annual training a year. During this time he could be called up in the event of general mobilisation.
Illingworth served with the 119th Battery, 27th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery in France, Belgium and Italy. He died in a Casualty Clearing Station on 14 May 1918 after the Brigade had been in action in the Nieppe Forest. On 26 June, the Ossett Observer reported his death and published a letter the matron had written to his fiancee, Miss Edith Winpenny, to say that Illingworth had been brought in 'severely wounded and gassed' and had died peacefully.



William and Amy Martin had seven children, five sons and two daughters. Herbert William was the oldest. A warehouseman in London where the family lived, he volunteered in September 1914 and went to France with the 23rd Battalion London Regiment on 14 March 1915. He was killed in action just over two months later in the Battle of Festubert. He was 28. His body was never identified and he's consequently commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.
Alan Stewart, at the age of 15 working as a junior clerk, volunteered in November 1914. He served with the Royal Engineers and was present in Gallipoli from the landing at Suvla Bay on 25 April 1915 to the evacuation in December. He served in France with the 29th Divisional Signal Company and was wounded at Merris on 12 April 1918. He died in hospital at Wimereux a month later, the day after his younger brother, Wilfred John, serving with the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment had been killed in action near Arras.
Wilfred, who had volunteered in February 1915 when he was only 16, served in Dublin during the 1916 rising. He went to France on 31 March 1918 and was dead within six weeks. He was 19.
Both Wilfred and Alan have the same inscription, signed for by their father. The single adjective giving it a simple, affecting poignancy.



Elmer Laing's father, William Drake Laing, chose his inscription, very specifically giving the cause for which his Australian son had fought and died.
Born in Australia, educated in England and Marburg, Germany, Laing returned to Australia in 1911 when he was 18. He became a fruit grower, an orchardist, but joined up on 14 September 1914, barely a month after the outbreak of war.
He served with the 12th Battalion Australian Infantry, the first battalion to go ashore at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. The battalion remained on Gallipoli until the evacuation in December. It was then deployed to France, fighting at Pozieres where Laing was awarded a Military Cross:

"Lieut, Laing was in command of his platoon in the attack at Pozieres which he led with conspicuous bravery and coolness. On the night of 24th July 1916 he commanded a patrol sent out to the N.E. corner of Pozieres to cover a party of Engineers digging a strong post and when they were driven back by machine gun fire he assisted to bring back a wounded man and by his coolness and courageousness fully got his patrol back to our line."

In the autumn of 1917 the battalion were engaged at Third Ypres and in the Spring of 1918 in attempting to halt the German offensive in the same region. On 4 May 1918 the 12th Battalion relieved the 4th in the line "east & south east of Strazeele". Laing was killed on the 8th, the war diary recorded:

"Heavy barrage of 4.2's & 7.7's on the two left companies & support company at 3 am during which Lieut E.W.D.Laing M.C. was killed."

"For his English and French brothers and sisters."



Alexander Child's eldest sister, Beatrice, chose his inscription. The words come from a poem written by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), 'It is not the tear at this moment shed', which he wrote following the death of a dearly loved relation.

It is not the tear at this moment shed,
When the cold turf has just been laid o'er him,
That can tell how beloved was the friend that's fled,
Or how deep in our hearts we deplore him.
'Tis the tear, thro' many a long day wept,
'Tis life's whole path o'ershaded;
'Tis the one remembrance, fondly kept,
When all lighter griefs have faded.

Thus his memory, like some holy light,
Kept alive in our hearts, will improve them,
For worth shall look fairer, and truth more bright,
When we think how we lived but to love them.
And, as fresher flowers the sod perfume
Where buried saints are lying,
So our hearts shall borrow a sweetening bloom
From the image he left there in dying!

The poem was set to music in 1901 by the Anglo-Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford and it's this that probably brought it to prominence. But Child's inscription goes to show yet again that the rank of a soldier does not define the type of his inscription, it isn't only officers whose families find profound and unusual things to say.
Child was the sixth of John and Ada Child's nine children. In 1911, at the age of 15, he was working as a shop assistant - his sister Beatrice was a coca demonstrator. He volunteered on the outbreak of war and joined the Wiltshire Regiment, going with them to France on 4 January 1915. He was killed on 7 May 1918. Originally buried in the churchyard at Marle-sur-Serre his body was exhumed a reinterred in 1924.



This blunt truism appears all over the Internet, always in inverted commas but never attributed to an author. That is, until you change the pronoun to 'he', "Come he slow, or come he fast" and then it emerges as a line from Sir Walter Scott's Marmion (1808). Writers have quoted it ever since to indicate that death and danger are old friends, or to remind us of the transient nature of life, either of which could have been in Mr Joseph Sidebottom's mind when he chose it for his son's inscription.
Harold Sidebottom served in the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment and died of wounds in a hospital in Boulogne. It's difficult to identify when soldiers can have been wounded but the 10th Cheshires had been up in Flanders, near Kemmel, when the Germans attacked on 10 April, and on the 26th they had been part of a counter-attack. Their casualties from the two operations included more than 236 wounded and 372 missing. In June the battalion was reduced to cadre strength and the 10th as a fighting unit ceased to exist.
Harold Sidebottom was a cotton weaver from Glossop in Derbyshire where his father, Joseph was a coal heaver and his mother, Ann, assisted in the business as a book keeper.



Jack Keith Curwen-Walker was the eldest of John and Lucy Curwen-Walker's seven children. John Curwen-Walker died in 1905 and the children went to live with their father's mother and his sisters. A letter from their mother, in Curwen-Walker's service file, explains that, after her husband's death, "circumstances necessitated my little sons (sic) living with his grandmother & Aunts who supervised his education until the age of 17 years when he began to care for himself".
Curwen-Walker was a keen sportsman and something of a speed merchant. He represented the State of Victoria in ice hockey and was a member of the team that won the first inter-state Goodall Cup in 1910. In 1914 he broke the Australian motor-cycling speed record over one hundred miles when he cut 47 minutes off the previous record, which had only been set three weeks earlier. Curwen-Walker, riding "an Indian machine", averaged 56 mph over the course.
The American 'Indian Motor Cycle Company', was at this time the largest manufacturer of motor cycles in the world. Such was Curwen-Walker's enthusiasm for the machines that just before the war he took up an agency for the company.
In October 1916, he joined the Australian Flying Corps, giving one of his aunts, Miss Isabella Curwen-Walker as his next-of-kin. Qualifying as a pilot in September 1917 - delayed by having to recover from a crash - he joined No. 2 Squadron in Palestine in January 1918.
On the morning of 3 May 1918, soon after taking off from the airfield, Curwen-Walker's plane was seen to spin and crash. It was thought that through inexperience he had tried to climb too quickly. Both he and his observer, Corporal Jensen were killed.
Initially it was his aunt, Isabella, as his next-of-kin, who was informed of his death, but it was his mother who eventually chose his inscription.



Did you recognise it?

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

Rupert Brooke's lyrical description of the English countryside forms an ironic contrast with the the sun of the last few months of Harold Howarth's life. He served with the 1st/5th Devonshire Regiment, which had been fighting in Palestine since June 1917. Of the march to Jerusalem that October the regimental history says, it "was a torment of heat, dust, thirst and exhaustion". Howarth is buried in Ramlah War Cemetery, beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with green lawns and flowers as in the gardens of England, but he's very far from home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
[The Soldier, from '1914' by Rupert Brooke

The 7 May edition of the 'Western Morning News' reported Howarth's death:

"Lt Harold Victor Howarth, who died on May 2 of wounds received in action in Palestine on April 21, was the younger son of Mr Frank Howarth (water engineer) and Mrs Howarth. Lt Howarth was previously dangerously wounded in July 1917, in the head with shrapnel, but recovered and went back to the front in Dec. Only on Sunday last three cheerful letters were received from him, in one which he congratulated himself on having gone through without being hit, the same action in which Maj. Spooner was killed. He was educated at Plymouth College and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, having won an open exhibition to the latter in the year before the war broke out. After being a year at Cambridge he obtained a commission in the - Devons in July 1915, and took a draft out to India the following year. He accompanied the battn. to Palestine and was dangerously wounded at Gaza. Mr and Mrs Howarth's elder son holds a commission in the Machine Gun Corps, and is serving in Mesopotamia, having gone to India in Dec. 1914."



Gunner Henson died of wounds in a base hospital in Boulogne. His wife, Mrs EJ Henson, chose a quotation from the second verse of Tennyson's famous four-verse poem, Crossing the Bar.

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning at the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be so sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Mrs Henson has chosen a very powerful image for the moment of death, that moment when whatever force it is that has driven the tide inexorably onwards suddenly slackens, eddies and withdraws taking the water - us - back into the boundless deep, that vast anonymous nothingness from whence we came.
Edwin Charles Henson was born in Leytonstone, East London to Edwin and Annie Henson. His father, who died in 1908 was a carpenter. In 1901, fourteen-year-old Edwin Charles was an office boy. Henson served with the 72nd Battery, 38th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. I haven't been able to discover how, when or where he was wounded



Major Worthington was gassed at Villers Bretonneux on 21 April 1918 and died six days later in hospital in Rouen. I've written before about dying from the effects of gas:
"The effects of mustard gas take some time to develop. First, several hours after exposure, a mild skin irritation appears. Eventually the affected areas turn yellow and agonising blisters develop. The eyes become red, sore and runny and extreme pain and sometimes blindness can follow. These symptoms can be accompanied by nasal congestion, sinus pain, hoarseness, coughing and in extreme cases respiratory failure."
Worthington was obviously an extreme case.
Walter Worthington, educated at Charterhouse and Oriel College, Oxford, was a territorial soldier who joined The Rangers in 1911. Mobilized on the outbreak of war, he was deployed to France on Christmas Day 1914 - three months after his elder brother Reginald, a lieutenant in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry had been killed in action on 16 September at the Battle of the Aisne.
His mother, Eveline, chose his inscription, choosing to highlight the manner of her son's death, the precise length of his military service, and his father's initials. George Montague Worthington, a barrister, had died in 1913 so Mrs Worthington managed to get in a reference to him too on her son's headstone. One of the things the War Graves Commission were very strict about was mentioning other family members on a soldier's headstone. You could say that the dead solider was the son of .... , you could mention by name the numerous brothers and sisters who mourned, you could mention the names of his brothers who'd also died in the war, but you couldn't include a civilian/family death on your headstone - something like "and his wife, Betty, who died in 1921" - unless you were buried in Britain. Not sure of the logic but that's how it was.



Cecil Coles was a musical genius and not just according to his wife Phoebe, who chose his inscription. Coles, whose father, Frederick, was Assistant Keeper at the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh, had composed his first orchestral work whilst still at school. He read music at Edinburgh University, won a scholarship to the London College of Music and then the following year, 1908, the Theophile Bucher Scholarship at Stuttgart University. He remained in Germany for the next five years, returning in 1913 to resume a teaching post at Morley College where Gustav Holst was his friend and mentor. During this time he continued to write several well-received pieces of music.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the years he had spent in Germany, Coles was a very early volunteer, enlisting on 2 September 1914. He served as a bandsman with the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, becoming the bandmaster, which came with the rank of serjeant.
Although at one time bandsmen always served as stretcher bearers, by 1916 they were two separate occupations. Stretcher bearers were selected for their physique and stamina, bandsmen, obviously, for their ability to play an instrument. As such they were too valuable to loose. They played at concerts, church services and funerals, medal presentations, sports days and entertainments. Their work was good for morale.
But, when times were desperate they still could be needed for stretcher bearing and times were desperate when Coles volunteered to help bring in the wounded following a heavy bombardment near Hangard Wood. However, stretcher bearers were unarmed and vulnerable; Coles was shot by a sniper as he helped to recover the casualties. This is why his wife described him as a hero. 'Of the first water' is a measure of the quality of diamonds, those of the greatest purity and translucence are described as being of the first water - a hero of the greatest purity and perfection.
Coles' reputation disappeared after his death and it wasn't until his daughter, Catherine Coles, who never met her father, rediscovered his manuscripts in 1993 that his reputation was reestablished.



Twenty-year-old Serjeant Hugh McGrogan died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Lijssenthoek. Educated at Paisley Grammar School, McGrogan would have gone to Glasgow Provincial Training College had he not joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in July 1916 when he was eighteen. When he died two years later, he was a serjeant.
Born in Paisley, Hugh McGrogan was the only son of James and Margaret McGrogan. His father, who was a tailor, died in August 1916, the month after Hugh enlisted, so it was his mother who chose her son's inscription.
It comes from The Princess,Tennyson's long narrative, serio-comic poem about the education of women and their role in public life. The inscription comes from a beautiful four-verse song, a lament for "days that are no more". These are the first two verses:

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

McGrogan served with the 263rd Siege Battery and was wounded as the Germans pushed forward in Belgium during their Spring Offensive.



This is a lovely tribute from a soldier, a bombardier, the equivalent of a lance corporal, to his officer. It was one that his father appreciated enough to chose as his son's headstone inscription. There would have been other tributes in plenty as Kurten was something of a superstar, however this was the one that most touched him.
At the time of his death, Major Peter Kurten was the officer commanding 291st Siege Battery, a rapid promotion for someone who had only joined the army in 1916. But then Kurten was an able man. He had 1st Class degrees from both Oxford and King's College, London and in 1912 had entered the Civil Service as an Upper Division clerk. Two years later, in 1914, he was appointed private secretary to Sir Matthew Nathan, Under-Secretary for Ireland.
Kurten joined the Army Service Corps in February 1916, transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery the following September, was appointed acting captain in April 1917, acting major two months later and was given command of his battery that August. He was killed by shellfire near Villers Bretonneaux during the German Spring Offensive.
Gaston Pierre (Peter) Kurten was the son of Johann Robert Kurten, a naturalised British citizen born in Germany in 1858.



John Henshall's inscription comes from the last line of 'In Memoriam A.H.' the poem Maurice Baring wrote in memory of his friend Auberon Herbert, Captain Lord Lucas RFC, who was killed on 3 November 1916. Baring asserts that it is well with those who mourn:

... because they know,
With faithful eyes,
Fixed forward and turned upwards to the skies,
That it is well with you,
Among the chosen few,
Among the very brave, the very true.

John Henshall was a lace designer from Shardlow in Derbyshire, the second youngest of his parents' seven children. He joined the army in 1916 and served with the 84th Battery Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action near Mont Rouge whilst the battery was under the orders of the French IX Corps and covering the French infantry.
Originally buried in the churchyard at Boesheppe, his body was reburied in May 1919.



Charles Desort was born Karl Dezort to a Bohemian father and a Dutch mother. His parents married in London in 1899 but at the time of the 1911 census Karl Dezort Senior was still an Austrian citizen, neither parent had taken out British citizenship, nor had they Anglicized their names. Yet Karl joined the army as Charles Desort and his father signed for his son's inscription as C Desort Esq.
The word 'Nezdar' means misfortune in Czech, although it's probably a word that doesn't translate properly into English as it has cultural resonances which we can't pick up. However, it's possible that what C. Desort Esq wrote was the word 'Nazdar'. It's a Czech word, a toast, meaning "to success", which had become associated with the Bohemian independence movement. Bohemians/Czechs were Austrian citizens but many would have preferred not to fight with Austria but against it in order to achieve their freedom. The Nazdar Company, whose battle cry was 'Nazdar', was a unit of the French army made up of Czech citizens, and the Nazdar Cemetery near Arras is where many Czech soldiers who died for France are buried.
Rifleman Desort's inscription comes with quotation marks round the word Nezdor, which makes me think it's a misspelling of the battle cry rather than the word for misfortune.
Desort served with the 13th Battalion Rifle Brigade and died of wounds at No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station, based in the Citadel at Doullens.



April 22nd 1918
"At 7-30 pm 35th & 38th Divisions attacked - 19th Durham L.I. taking part. The attack as far as the 19th Durham L.I. were concerned was not a success - the right Coy. suffering severe casualties. The Battalion had to wait 8 minutes after Zero before advancing to conform to the Barrage and thus possibly gave the enemy M.G.s time to get ready".

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Friday 3 May 1918
"Sec-Lieut. James Bell, Durham L.I. who was killed in action on April 22, was the elder son of Mr John Bell, of 6 Lowthian Road, West Hartlepool. He joined the Honourable Artillery Company in November 1915, and was with them in France for seventeen months. He was granted a commission in February last. Formerly he was a Second Division clerk at Somerset House, and later was with the Health Insurance Commissioners at Buckingham Gate."

John Bell, a ships plater in the naval dockyards at Hartlepool, chose his son's inscription. To Mr Bell, his son had given his life so that Britain might be free. Imagine telling him that today people think the war was a futile waste. It's not just that he wouldn't believe you but he would be insulted - and he would consider that you had insulted his son ... and perhaps you had. As people like Mr Bell saw it, Germany had threatened to destroy Britain and her Empire and people like his son had saved it ... and perhaps they had.



Priest: O send out thy light and thy truth: that they may lead me, and bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling.
Server: And that I may go unto the altar of God, even the God of my joy and gladness: and upon the harp will I give thanks unto thee, O God my God

These words from Psalm 43 form part of the preparation for an Anglo-Catholic Mass. Christopher Lange had written them down, slightly altered, in his pocket book. These were books that soldiers carried with them at all times. They contained everything he needed to know about matters practical, procedural, organizational and legal to do with his military service. Lange had the book on him when he died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station at Aubigny.
Christopher Lange was the youngest of Henry and Ellen Lange's twelve children. Henry Lange was a cabdriver and groom at a private house in London. He died in 1899. After his death, Ellen went out to work as an office cleaner.
It's strange the social history that emerges from the censuses. Ellen was an office cleaner, most cleaners I've come across have been charwomen. Her daughter Annie was a police detective, and two other daughters were cigarette makers. Christopher Lange had been a solicitor's clerk.



As the Cenotaph in Whitehall is taciturn so the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey is loquacious. The Cenotaph has a mere three words carved onto it - The Glorious Dead - and originally just the dates MCMXIV - MXMXIX (1914-1919). These have now been joined by two more dates MCMXXXIX - MCMXLV (1939-1945). The tomb of the Unknown Warrior has 155 words. There is the main dedication, sonorous, resonant, explicit, and then round the edge of the stone, four texts.
Albert Hampshire's inscription is one of these texts. The words come from 2 Corinthians 6:9 and suggest the comfort that even those who are not famous are 'known', and that through Christ we shall all 'live'.
Hampshire had been a regular soldier. The 1911 census shows him to have been a private in the Coldstream Guards, living in Victoria Barracks, Doncaster. But he was no longer a soldier by the outbreak of war. One of his parents' eleven children, their father, George, was a farmer in High Melton, Yorkshire. Albert's younger brother, Richard, was killed in action at Passchendaele on 9 October 1917; George Hampshire died in January 1918, and Albert was died of wounds in hospital at Etaples three months later. Richard Hampshire is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial, Mrs Eliza Hampshire, their mother, chose Albert's inscription.



Samuel Ernest Crane was a veteran of the South African War who re-enlisted in March 1915 and was given the rank of corporal. He served in Gallipoli, where he was wounded and hospitalised in England. He spent a year in England, training soldiers once he'd recovered, and being promoted to the rank of sergeant. However, he wanted to return to the front and was prepared to be reduced to the rank of private to achieve this. He served with the 6th Battalion Australian Infantry and was wounded in both legs on 16 April 1918. He died in a Casualty Clearing Station four days later.
His inscription comes from a poem called 'My Land and I' (1903), written by Henry Lawson (1867-1922). Lawson was one of the most famous and popular of all Australian writers, revered as someone who "represented the real voice of Australia". It was a voice that would have preferred Australia to be 'white'. Sites that feature his poetry today come with a warning that:

"the phrasings used in his lifetime were correct for his time period in that the usage of terms not regarded as "politically correct" today were quite acceptable at that time and were not regarded as "offensive".

'My Land and I' is a savage attack on the sort of people who insisted that Australia was dead, finished. This is the last verse.

The parasites dine at your tables spread
(As my enemies did at mine),
And they croak and gurgle, 'Australia's dead'
While they guzzle Australian wine.
But we heed them never, my land, my land,
For we know how small they are,
And we see the signs of a future grand
As we gaze on a rising star.



War Diary 5th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
19 April 1918
"Snow fell during the day. Hail and snow showers at intervals and very cold wind."

At mid-day, Gunner Truman and eight other members of his battery were gathered round a fire in an old house in the village of Lavieville waiting for their dinner when a German shell crashed through the roof killing one gunner and wounding the other eight. Truman was hit by pieces of shell all over his body and head and died soon afterwards. Truman was "a bright, high spirited chap", with a "fresh complexion, shortish, always lively".
All this information was given by various witnesses to the Australian Red Cross who conveyed it to his parents in South Africa. Truman was born in Sydney and was working there as a draughtsman when he enlisted in January 1916. His parents were by this time in Pretoria, South Africa.
His father chose his inscription. It comes from a poem, which I found published on 26 September 1918 in the Southern Reporter, a Scottish newspaper, and again in the book, 'Victory Over Blindness: how it was won by the men of St Dunstan's and how others may win it' (1919) by Sir Arthur Pearson. It's introduced in this book with the comment that it was by a 'St Dunstaner'.
I'll reproduce it in full.

The Gunner smiled as his breachblock closed,
His arm was steady, his grip was tight;
The Gunner smiled, and his face beamed bright
In the twilight flush of an autumn night.
Silent columns of moving men
Moved to a point in a neighbouring glen,
And the Gunner smiled.
The Gunner smiled as his gun spoke loud,
With deafening crash and darkening cloud;
The Gunner smiled as the darkness fell,
Smiled at the wreck of shot and shell.
The Gunner smiled with firm fixed eye
On the field of death, where brave men die.
Then he sank down slowly beside his gun,
And smiled, though his course was nearly run;
Though his heart beat faint in his wounded breast.
The Gunner smiled as he went out west.



William Crowe was killed because he went with a group of soldiers to get some straw from a haystack to make their shelter more comfortable for the night just as a German plane flew the haystack and dropped four bombs. Crowe was severely injured and two other soldiers were killed outright. Crowe died of his wounds the next day. All this comes from his Australian Red Cross file. However, I cannot believe that his brother had this in mind when he chose Crowe's inscription. In fact, it's possible that his brother never knew how Crowe died since the copy of the letter in his service file just says he was killed in action. But perhaps some of Crowe's friends passed on the facts.
So what could it mean? Are the speech marks significant? Is it a reference to Emily Dickinson's poem:

Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me,
The carriage held but just ourselves -
And immortality

Or perhaps it's just a fatalistic comment - because ... It's another one to add to the list of enigmatic inscriptions.
Crowe was an iron moulder from Camperdown, Sydney, New South Wales. He enlisted in January 1916 and served with the 17th Battalion Australian Infantry. They had just come out of the line at Gentelles and were about to bivouac for the night at Bois de Blangy.



This heartfelt piece of verse was written by Private Arnold's father. It was, of course, extremely difficult for the bereaved when the soldiers came home to great rejoicing. For some relations these were the hardest days of all.
David Arnold enlisted in September 1915 aged 18. He left Australia in January 1916 and served with the 55th Battalion Australian Infantry in France from 12 August 1917. He was killed by a shell in the trenches on 16 April 1918. A witness told the Australian Red Cross:

"I knew both the above [Lieutenant Collins and Private DE Arnold] - they were in No. 1 Platoon. We were in the front line at Villers-Bretonneux ... I did not see them killed but was told that a shall burst in the trench and killed six of them ... This was in the morning. That same night, as I was doing despatch running, I saw Collins and Arnold being carried out of the trench, and I subsequently saw the Pioneers making crosses for their graves ... I knew them both well. Arnold was a stretcher bearer. He was a nuggety fellow - a bit deaf - fairish complexion - we called him Dave."



I never stand above a bier and see
The seal of death set on some well-loved face
But that I think, "One more to welcome me
When I shall cross the intervening space
Between this land and that one 'over there';
One more to make the strange Beyond seem fair".
The Beyond v3
Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850-1919

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a popular American poet whose status can be judged by the fact that none of her poetry was included in The Oxford Book of American Verse (1950) and yet fourteen of her poems were published in Best Loved Poems of America (1936). Gunner Forsyth's wife, Ada Nellie Forsyth, quoted from The Beyond.
According to the Burnley Express of 24 April 1918, Forsyth , who joined up in June 1916 and was mobilised in February 1917, died of multiple gun shot wounds. His service record shows that these were received on 12 April 1918. He died two days later.
Ada and John Forsyth were married in December 1905, He was a grocer, tea and drapery dealer in Burnley. Childless at the time of the 1911 census, they had a daughter in July 1914 who was therefore three when her father died. Ada Forsyth died in 1974, fifty-six years after her husband.

And so for me there is no sting to death,
And so the grave has lost its victory.
It is but crossing - with a bated breath,
And white, set face - a little strip of sea.
To find the loved ones waiting on the shore
More beautiful, more precious than before.



Private Edman's father, George Hunston Edman, chose some lines from The Song of the Dardanelles by Henry Lawson for his son's inscription. It's a very nationalistic poem heroising the Australian landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915:

The sea was hell and the shore was hell,
With mine, entanglement and shell,
But they stormed the heights as Australians should,
And they fought and they died as we knew they would.
Knew they would -
Knew they would;
They fought and they died as we knew they would.

Edman, who served with the 20th Battalion Australian Infantry, landed on Gallipoli on 22 August 1915. After the battalion was withdrawn in December, it was sent to France. Here, on 12 April 1918, Edman was one of two soldiers wounded when the Germans shelled the town where they were billeted. He was admitted to hospital with a compound fracture of his left femur and died two days later.
His father, who filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia, told how Edman's eldest brother had lost an eye in a bayonet charge at Armentieres and another brother had been wounded in April 1918 during the Battle of the Lys.



Both Vincent Anderson's parents were born in England but he himself was born and brought up in South Africa. However, as his inscription hauntingly conveys - England took him.
Anderson's inscription comes from, Sir Richard's Song in Kipling's 'Puck of Pook's Hill'. Sir Richard is Sir Richard Dalyngridge, a Norman knight who comes to England with William the Conqueror. He comes as a conqueror but is conquered himself by his love for a Saxon lady - and for the country - and he sends back messages, each message a verse, to his father, mother, brother and sister, which each end telling them, 'England hath taken me'.

Anderson enlisted in the Inns of Court OTC in December 1915. He was 18. On 24 October 1916 he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps and joined the 1st Machine Gun Company in France on 31 July 1917. In February 1918 this became part of the 1st Machine Gun Battalion. Anderson died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Lapugnoy on 13 April. As the battalion were involved in the Battle of Estaires, 9-12 April, it is possible that this is when he was wounded.

I had my horse, my shield and banner,
And a boy's heart, so whole and free;
But now I sing in another manner -
But now England hath taken me!



On 28 March 1918 the 8th/10th Battalion Gordon Highlanders were in the support trenches near Tilloy when at 3 am:

"The enemy opened a terrific bombardment consisting of a large amount of gas & HE shells which lasted till 7 am. Soon afterwards an attack was launched under a terrific barrage. The 7th Cameron Highlanders who were there holding the front line were badly knocked about and we sent two companies to assist them and who did fine work there greatly checking the German advance. Fighting continued intermittently all day and at about 12.30 pm orders were received to withdraw to the Army Line as the enemy had turned the flanks of the Divisions on our Right and Left. This was carried out in good order, the men fighting a heroic rearguard action the whole way. As casualties were heavy the Battalion was relieved by the 8th Bn Seaforth Highlanders and withdrew to trenches behind Telegraph Hill."
War Diary 8th/10th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Thomas Potter was wounded on 28 March 1918 and died as a German prisoner on 11 April 1918. It was April 1919 before his widowed mother received definite news of his fate. Buried originally in Dechy Communal German Extension, his body was exhumed and reburied in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery in 1923.
Mary Potter chose her son's inscription from a popular memorial verse:

Could I, his mother, have clasped his hand
The son I loved so well
Or kissed his brow when death was near,
And whispered, My son, Farewell,
I seem to see his dear, sweet face
Through a mist of anxious tears
But a mother's part is a broken heart
And a burden of lonely years.



This is a very popular inscription from an equally popular piece of memorial verse regularly printed in the 'In Memoriam' columns of newspapers:

We think we can see his smiling face
As he bade his last good-bye,
When he left his home forever
In a foreign land to die.
He sleeps beside his comrades
In a grave across the foam,
But his name is written in letters of love
On the hearts he left at home.

Ronald William Reschke was a labourer in Kyogle, New South Wales when he enlisted on 31 October 1916. He served with the 31st Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed on the 10 April 1918.
On the night of the 9/10 April, the 31st Battalion relieved the 58th in the Corbie sector of the front line. The war diary reports that the enemy was very quiet during the relief but that their artillery became very active during the day:

"At 1.30 pm enemy shelled farm occupied by us in J.34 central with 40 rds of 5.9" and 4.2". Three direct hits on the farm caused 27 casualties ... "

Reschke was one of the 27 as these were the only casualties to be reported that day.



In January 1910, Gertrude Sadler married George William Mayne. Their son Harry was born in February the following year. George was a printers' machine feeder in Armley, Yorkshire. He was called up in 1916 and served with the 2nd/8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. On 20 February 1917 he died of wounds at a Field Ambulance Dressing Station in Aveluy, France.
Gertrude joined Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps. This was instituted in 1917 in order to release men for the front line it having been decided that women could do the jobs that had kept men on home service and working in the base camps abroad. They could cook and clean, fill roles in military offices and stores, and even drive and repair vehicles.
There is no evidence that Gertrude ever served abroad. She died at home on 9 April 1918 and was buried in Armley. There is nothing to indicate the cause of her death, but it's too early to have been the flu pandemic as this didn't really hit the UK until the following month.
Harry Mayne, his parents seven-year-old son, was now an orphan. His grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Sadler chose both his parents' inscriptions. His fathers' says:

We could not spare you
Daddy dear
In God's keeping



Walter Dakin was an only child. The 1911 census shows that his parents, Joseph and Mary Jane Dakin, had had four 'children born alive' but that three of them had subsequently died. Joseph Dakin was a coal miner, a hewer, in one of the collieries in Mexborough, Yorkshire.
Walter Dakin was called up in 1917, when he was 18. He served with 'B' Battery, Royal Field Artillery, and was killed in action, along with three other members of the battery, on 9 April 1918
His inscription says all it needs to of his parents' grief.



'Empty chair' is the gentle euphemism for the dead that was in use all over England during the war years and after, both in sentimental poetry and in newspaper columns:

There's a sadness in the landscape,
There's a stillness in the air,
Save the sound of someone weeping near at hand;
There's many an empty chair
For the Reaper - Death - is stalking through the land.
[From The Reaper by Percy A Gamble October 1918]

Lionel Buckman was his mother's only child. The 1901 census shows them to have been living alone in Marylebone where Mrs Buckman worked as a dressmaker. She was still a dressmaker in 1911 and seventeen-year-old Lionel was working as an errand boy for a builder.
Buckman didn't go out to France until January 1917. From his entry in Service Medal and Award Rolls, it would appear that he was wounded in February 1917. He was back in action in April that year and served until he died of wounds in hospital in Abbeville on 7 April 1918.
His mother, obviously, chose his inscription. By this time she was living in Burgh, Suffolk, a few miles from where she'd been born. She still had "his empty chair".



This is a very different inscription - extraordinary in fact. What can his mother have been thinking of? Edward Gibbons was the son of Patrick and Louisa Gibbons. Patrick was a 'carman' in the furniture trade, in other words someone who delivered furniture. The couple had five children, Edward was the third.
Edward Gibbons served with the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade which was in the front line just east of Flavy-le-Martel at Jussy on 21 March 1918 when the German assault opened. On 22 March the war diary reported:

"enemy put down a heavy machine gun barrage all day .. enfilading Canal Bank. During the afternoon enemy artillery shelled area between Canal Bank and Flavy. Heavy casualties to Battalion sustained."

The 8th Battalion's casualties were huge: on 1 March the battalion's fighting strength had been 16 officers and 354 men. By the 31st March it was 5 officers and 27 men. (See 1914-1918.invasionzone.com).
It's not possible to tell exactly which day Gibbons was wounded but he died of wounds in a hospital in Etaples on 6 April.
"Missed by few forgotten by many" ... it's such a dismissive inscription. I wonder if we'll ever know what lies behind it? Next time I go to Etaples I shall visit his grave (XXXIII E 25) just to show that he hasn't been completely forgotten.



On the 21 March 1918 the 8th Battalion Black Watch were in the trenches between Gouzeaucourt and Sorel when the Germans opened their Spring Offensive. From then until the 27th they withdrew and withdrew and withdrew, fighting all the way in an attempt to stem the speed of the German advance. Eventually on the 27th the battalion arrived in Baizieux almost 70 kilometres from where they had been on the 21st. During this time more than 250 soldiers had gone missing, among them James Brown.
James Brown came from Alyth in Perthshire where his father was a grocer. On 26 April 1918 the Alyth Guardian reported that his parents had received word that he was a prisoner of war in Germany. This was confirmed by the Red Cross at the beginning of October but then immediately 'negatived'. Private JF Brown had died on 2 April in a German hospital at Le Cateau of "paralysis of both legs" and had been buried in a German military cemetery.
You can see why his parents chose the inscription they did, young James Brown had helped to hold the line at a desperate time for the British army.



On the 28 March 1918 the 40th Battalion Australian Infantry were rushed up to the front to try and close the gap that was developing between the British 3rd and 5th Armies under pressure from the German offensive. The Germans were held for a short while but eventually the Australians were forced to withdraw, having suffered huge casualties, among them Private Edwin Martin.
Martin was first treated for a fractured femur, and for gun shot wounds in his thigh and side at a Field Ambulance on the 28th. He was passed the same day to a Casualty Clearing Station. Four days later he was admitted to a hospital in Etaples. Here his left leg was amputated but he died that same day, 1 April 1918.
Martin's brother, Howard Martin, chose his inscription - who was sacrificing who? Christ sacrificed himself on the cross to save mankind. I would suggest Edwin Martin sacrificed himself.
There was no conscription in Australia, every Australian soldier was a volunteer. It was a deeply controversial issue but despite there being two referendums on the issue, the public never voted for it. Martin enlisted on 14 November 1916, just two weeks after the first referendum had voted 1,087,557 in favour and 1,160,033 against; a majority of 72,476 against conscription. Martin sacrificed himself for what he saw as his duty.



By 1918 the Royal Naval Division was a British Army division, the 63rd. However, it began life in 1914 as a division of Royal Naval and Marine reservists who, as the Navy didn't need them, fought on land as soldiers. Their soldiers used naval ranks, which is why Joseph Davies was an Able Seaman, the equivalent rank to Private.
On 24 March 1918, Hood Battalion were caught up in a complicated fighting retreat from Flesquieres, just east of Bapaume. Davies died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station cemetery at Doullens on 1 April.
His mother chose his inscription - At the end of a perfect day. It comes from 'A Perfect Day', a popular, sentimental song written by Carrie Jacobs-Bond in 1909. In the song, the singer looks back over a perfect day, taking pleasure from its memories but feeling sorrow at the need to part with friends. Verse two transfers these thoughts to life:

Well, this is the end of a perfect day,
Near the end of a journey, too;
But it leaves a thought that is big and strong,
With a wish that is kind and true.
For mem'ry has painted this perfect day
With colours that never fade,
And we find at the end of a perfect day
The soul of a friend we've made.

Joseph Davies was John and Fanny Davies' eldest child. He was born and brought up in Wolverhampton where his father was a turner in an electrical engineering works. His mother too had a job, one of the very few women I've come across in this project who had a job outside the home - and this despite the fact that in 1911 she had a six-month-old baby. Fanny Davies worked in an enamel works where it looks as though her job was a 'swiller'.



Lance Serjeant Wayland's inscription, chosen by his wife, Lilian, comes from 'Smilin' Through' a popular song written by Arthur A Penn, which was first published and recorded in 1919.

There's a little brown road windin' over the hill
To a little white cot by the sea;
There's a little green gate
At whose trellis I wait,
While two eyes o' blue
Come smilin' through
At me!

There's a gray lock or two in the brown of the hair,
There's some silver in mine too, I see;
But in all the long years
When the cloud brought their tears,
Those two eyes o' blue
Kept smilin' through
At me!

And if ever I'm left in this word all alone,
I shall wait for my call patiently;
For if heaven be kind,
I shall wake there to find
Those two eyes o' blue
Still smilin' through
At me!

Wayland joined the army as a territorial soldier in April 1912 when he was 19 and four months. In February 1916, a clerk in a solicitor's office, married and with two children, he transferred to a service battalion. He was sent to Salonika with the 2nd/23rd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), part of the 60th London Division, in December 1916, and went with them to Egypt in June 1917. In the first three months of 1918, the allies attempted to extend their hold over the lower Jordan valley. Wayland was wounded in the attack on Amman and died the same day.

[You can hear Richard Tauber sing 'Smilin Through' here.]



Is there doubt in this question or is it more of a prompt? Is Clara Ball, Sergeant Ball's sister, doubting that the Great War was the war to end all wars or is she reminding people of what it was meant to be and that they need to make sure it comes about?
It's not possible to tell but as it seems that Ball's permanent headstone was in place by 1920 it's more likely to be a prompt. Doubt about the war didn't creep in until later in the decade.
How could people see it as the war to end all wars? It was simple, German/Prussian militarism needed to be crushed for all time and then world peace would be possible. In the fifty years prior to 1914 Prussia had fought its neighbours - Denmark, Austria-Hungary, France - and in more recent years it had had the temerity to challenge the British Empire and the Royal Navy. Would defeat and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles bring an end to German threats, and would the people of the world put their backs into being worthy of the dead and into supporting initiatives like the League of Nations.
Philip James Ball was born in Birmingham to Henry George and Emily Ball. His two eldest siblings were born in England but the next three were born in Australia where Henry George had gone to try his hand at farming. However, by the time of Philip's birth in 1897 the family had returned to Britain. Nevertheless, in 1914, at the age of 17, Philip went to Australia where he worked in the dairy industry. He enlisted in the Australian Infantry on 24 January 1916 and embarked for Europe on 6 June 1916.
Ball served with the 44th Battalion Australian Infantry and went missing on 28 March 1918. Enquiries to the Red Cross elicited the following response:

"Bell came from West Australia; was medium build, fair & had the MM ... About March 28th we were at Sailly le Sec. About 11.30 pm we went to try & locate the Germans & had advanced about 1000 yards beyond our first line when we came on a nest of M.G. We retired about 100 yards & dug in behind the crest of a small hill. I saw both men when we started on our attack but neither returned. We searched the ground the same night and got in all our wounded but could get no news of the men named. If the bodies had been there I think they would have been found. So I think they must have got & wandered into the German lines."

In September 1918, Ball's body was discovered buried in a shell hole. After the war it was exhumed and reburied at Villers-Bretoneaux.



Mrs Annie Reid quoted the last two lines of Harold Begbie's famous, or should I say infamous, recruiting poem, 'Fall In', for her husband's inscription. The poem appeared in numerous local papers during the first weeks of the war, designed to shame men into volunteering by asking them how they were going to feel when they were shunned by girls for not being a soldier, how they would cope when their children questioned the role they'd played in the war, and how they would feel when they were old and their mates were reminiscing and they were excluded. The poem concludes:

Is it naught to you if your country fall,
And Right is smashed by Wrong?
Is it football still and the picture show,
The pub and the betting odds,
When your brothers stand to the tyrant's blow,
And England's call is God's!

How could you stand aside when your 'brothers' are fighting for God against tyranny.
James Reid was born in Stirling, Scotland, the son of John and Marion Reid. He served with the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) and from his service number it would appear that he enlisted in the second half of 1915. He was killed on 27 March 1918 as the regiment fought to contain the German advance across the Crozat Canal, through Teignier Wood, Noreuil and Chauny. Reid is buried in Chauney Communal Cemetery British Extension.



Private Playle's father, also William Springfield Playle, who chose this inscription, is referencing very directly Henry Newbolt's famous poem Vitae Lampada [1897] [The Torch of Life], which was based on a passage from De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things] by the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretius:

"Thus the sum of things is ever being renewed, and mortal creatures live dependent one upon another. Some species increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures are changed and, like runners, pass on the torch of life"
Book II line 75

In Newbolt's poem, at a crucial point in a school cricket match - "ten to make and a match to win" - the last batsman is inspired not by the thought of the glory that could be his but by: "his captain's hand on his shoulder" and the words: "Play up! play up! and play the game": play for your team and not for yourself. To Newbolt, it's this same spirit of selflessness that can rally a group of soldiers who find themselves in a desperate situation:

The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

It's a spirit of selflessness, of responsibility to others, transferred from the cricket pitch to the field of battle. And writ large - transferred from the cricket pitch to life:

This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The poem is always thought to have epitomised the public school ideal of selfless service to the community. But Playle was not a public schoolboy. He was educated at Rotherham Grammar School, which shows that this ideal of 'playing' for others and not for yourself was not limited to the public schools
William Springfield Playle was the eldest son of William Springfield Playle Senior, a quantity surveyor from Eccleshall in Yorkshire, and his wife, Minnie Kate. He served with the 17th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. In March 1918 the battalion was involved in a fighting retreat in the face of the German offensive. Playle, who had been at the front since January 1918, was said to have been killed by a sniper whilst carrying a wounded comrade.



"I met Boyle in Egypt; he and I were in the same Squadron. He came from Nundle or Trundle. He was slim and athletic - standing about 5'9", fair, clean-shaved. He played football well. On 28th March 1918 C & D Troop were lining a ridge at Amman in support of "B" Squadron. Lying in front of our position, 30 yards away, was a wounded B Squadron man. Boyle walked from D Troop to C Troop to get a better look at the wounded man; as he was walking over he said "There should be a good chance of getting him in" - just then he was shot through the head and was killed instantaneously. I recovered all his personal property from his body, including a little round bone identification disc - on it was "Mother-Hundle" (or Trundle). Six months later we came back to Amman and found Boyle's body lying where it had fallen. Sergeant McNair and I buried the body, McNair painted Boyle's name on the cross over the grave. Boyle was a very good fellow."
Informant: No. 571 Corporal NJ Ausburn
Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files 2869 Trooper Edward Boyle 6th Light Horse

The 6th Light Horse had been ordered to make an attack on Amman but were met by stubborn Turkish resistance. On the 28 March they took up positions on the extreme left flank of the brigade:

"At 14.00 A and B Squadrons made a dismounted attack on Amman from the North with 7th LH Regt on their right. At 1530 they were forced to withdraw owing to the great strength of the enemy on this flank. Casualties 6 officers, 50 O/Ranks killed & missing."
War Diary 6th Australian Light Horse

Edward Boyle was the son of George and Caroline Boyle of Waterloo, New South Wales. He enlisted on 1 February 1916 and embarked from Australia on the 19 September the same year.



John Edward Cattrall's inscription comes from a prayer written by John Henry Newman (1801-1890):

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen and the evening comes, the fever of life is over and our work done; then Lord, in thy great mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Cattrall, an ordained Congregational Minister, served throughout the war with the 44th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Service Corps. Dedicated to being a soldier of Christ in civilian life, he saw it as his duty to be a soldier of his King during the war, albeit in a non-combative role.
In March 1918 the 44th were stationed just south of St Quentin on the Crozat Canal. At 5 am on the morning of 21 March the Germans launched their Spring Offensive, the force of the onslaught pushing the British back from their lines. 'With the Forty-Fourths Being a Record of the Doings of the 44th Field Ambulance (14th Division)', apart from providing a colourful account of the doings of the unit throughout the war, relates what happened to it in the face of the German advance:

"Back, back, back we went by degrees, doing what we could for the wounded at hastily extemporised dressing stations at Flavy-le-Martel ... , Villeselve, Beaumont-en-Beine and Guiscard. Shall we ever forget the packed state of the roads, the ebb southwards of the mauled units, and the coming through of the reliefs, especially the cavalry? It was grim satisfaction to know that the cavalry-men put up such a fight round our old quarters along the canal, that the channel was literally packed level with German dead. ... we had nearly reached Noyon. We were congratulating ourselves that we were almost outside the maelstrom, when a Fritz airman managed to plump a bomb right in the middle of us as we halted by the roadside. As bad luck would have it, the bomb fell on the hard road, with disastrous results. It killed eight of our lot ... "

QMS Cottrell was among those killed. Cottrell was the second of John and Mary Cottrell's seven children - six of them sons. His younger brother, Edgar, the fifth son, was killed in action serving with the 6th Battalion Shropshire Light Infantry on 26 August 1916.



As you might have noticed, this inscription is seven lines long and has almost double the amount of characters stipulated by the War Grave Commission. The Commission nowhere states formally that excessive inscriptions will be permitted, but there's plenty of evidence that this is so. It seems that if you made a special case, and were prepared to pay, then sixty-six characters was not the limit. Both Lt Horace Allenby and Lt.Col. Percy Machell have inscriptions that are also over a hundred characters, whilst Captain Willock's is over two hundred.
Why has Brigadier General Stannus Geoghegan C.B. Indian Army used up valuable letters on himself you may ask. It's not because he was proud of himself but because, as many parents felt, their sons were still boys and not having had a chance to make their own mark in the world their identity was still linked to that of their family.
Geoghegan's entry in de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour Volume V tells the story of his brief life and military career:

"b. Naini Tal, India, 3 July 1898; educ. Sangeen, Bournemouth; St Winifred's, Kenley; Marlborough College, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst; gazetted 2nd Lieut. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 16 Aug 1916; promoted Lieut. 16 Feb. 1918; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from Aug. 1917, and died of wounds received in action near Passchendaele, a few hours previously. Buried in Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinghe. His Company Commander wrote: "He had been in my company for six months, and I had a great affection for him. He was one of the bravest and most willing subalterns I have ever met with, and I feel his loss very deeply. He was always a great favourite in the mess."



Frank Curzon was his mother's only child. His father, Frank Joseph Curzon, died when he was three. His mother, Florence Stringer, remarried in 1909, a 'professional trainer of horses', ten years younger than herself and a 'resident United States of America'.
Curzon served in the Royal Engineers as a signaller with the 47th Heavy Artillery Brigade. He was killed in action on 23 March 1918 and buried originally in Marchelepot British Cemetery, which almost immediately fell into German hands. It was August 1920 before his body was exhumed and reburied at Roye, and it may have been even later than this before his next-of-kin were asked to choose an inscription.
In the summer of 1916, Frank had married Margaret Shepherd. She would have been his next of kin, presumably even after she remarried in December 1919. But when the time came for the choice to be made, Margaret was dead so the next-of-kinship reverted to his mother and she could once more claim him for herself:

Mother's only one
Dearly loved



"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen ... "
St Matthew
Chapter 28:1-6

This is the central tenet of Christianity, the belief that Jesus Christ:

"for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
And was made man,
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven ... "
Nicene Creed
Book of Common Prayer 1662

In this way, Christ overcomes death making it possible for mortals to enter the kingdom of heaven:

Jesus lives! henceforth is death
But the gate of life immortal:
This shall calm our trembling breath,
When we pass its gloomy portal.
Hymn 207
Hymns Ancient & Modern

Lieutenant Wark's father, the Revd James Reid Wark, chose his inscription. Wark himself was destined for the ministry but when the war broke out he was in his third year at Aberdeen University reading English. He immediately tried to get a commission in the Gordon Highlanders, but was prevented by poor eyesight so he enlisted in the ranks and served in the Territorials for a year before eventually being commissioned in December 1915.
Wark served in France and Flanders with the 6th Battalion Gordon Highlanders for two years and four months before being killed while in the line on 14 March 1918. There is no mention of any deaths in the battalion war diary, which simply says that all available men who were not actually in the front line were "in Support and Intermediate lines working 8 hours per day on wiring and general trench repair."



Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they [the women from Galilee] came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen."
St Luke 24:1-6

By his death, Christ overcame death therefore don't look for those who are alive among the dead. The comfort of the resurrection, the idea that the dead live beyond the grave, which is one of the central tenets of Christianity, is a very strong theme in personal inscriptions. It's not therefore surprising to see it on the grave of an army chaplain.
The Revd David William Abbott died from pneumonia in hospital in Dieppe three weeks after the end of the war. Deaths from pneumonia were often a consequence of the influenza pandemic raging through the world at this time and Williams was in the most vulnerable age group, adults between the ages of 20 and 40. However, a report in the Boston Guardian on 21 December 1918 stated that the pneumonia followed on from a chill he'd contracted whilst officiating at military funerals.
Abbott, the son of a vicar, trained at Lichfield Theological College and was ordained in 1909, the same year he married Ruby Williamson. The couple had two sons. Abbott became a Chaplain to the Forces in June 1918 and went to France that August.
In July 1922 a memorial was unveiled at Litchfield Theological College to the six priests and four laymen from the College who had died in the war.

"The Bishop, in the course of his address, pointed out that war was always an evil. The wickedness of man brought it about [so] that sometimes he had only a choice between two evils. He ought then to choose the lesser evil. The Bishop stated that it was his firm belief that the country rightly chose the lesser evil in 1914. So did those who offered their lives for their country who were being commemorated. But it was not enough for them to die for the cause of justice and mercy. We had to complete their work by living for it. And no class of people could do more for that cause than the priesthood to which his hearers were hoping to attain."
Staffordshire Advertiser
22 July 1922



"And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. ... And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
St Luke Chapter 23 v 32-42

Christ's words provide the evidence that his death will save mankind from the consequences of its sin - 'To-day thou shalt be with me in paradise'. If this is to be true of the malefactor being crucified beside Christ then it must be true for everyone. Private James' mother chose her son's inscription, finding comfort in the reassurance of these words.
Samson Frederick James was the son of Thomas and Ellen James of 23 Chestnut Street, Worcester, England. He enlisted in the Canadian Infantry in July 1917 giving his address as, 662 Lexington Avenue, New York and his occupation as valet. He left Canada on 3 February 1918 and after several more months training in Britain joined the 14th Battalion, the Royal Montreal Regiment, in France on 14 August.
Two weeks later, the battalion took part in a major operation to capture the Drocourt-Queant Line. Pages 238 to 243 of the regimental history give the details of the operation: two days of endurance and bravery, enemy treachery and enemy magnanimity, which resulted in the loss of thirty-seven officers and 260 other ranks. Many of these casualties would have died had Major EE Graham, Chaplain of the 13th Battalion, not taken command of the German prisoners, who were surrendering in large numbers, and used them to carry casualties to the rear.
The cemetery where Private James is buried was used by fighting units, which suggests that he was not among the wounded but was killed in action.

S. LUKE 23.34


Citation for Award of Victoria Cross
London Gazette 26 November 1918
"For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice in the attack across the Canal du Nord, near Graincourt. On the morning of the 27th September, 1918, Lce Cpl. Jackson was the first to volunteer to follow Capt. C.H. Frisby, Coldstream Guards, across the Canal du Nord in his rush against an enemy machine-gun post, with two comrades he followed his officer across the Canal, rushed the post, captured the two machine-guns, and so enabled the companies to advance. Later in the morning, Lce. Cpl. Jackson was the first to jump into a German trench which his platoon had to clear, and after doing further excellent work he was unfortunately killed. Throughout the whole day until he was killed this young N.C.O. showed the greatest valour and devotion to duty and set an inspiring example to all."

Two days later, the Sheffield Evening Telegraph elaborated on the story:
"Lce. Cpl. Thomas Norman Jackson ... was the elder son of Mr and Mrs Edward Jackson 3, Market Street, Swinton, near Mexborough ... he enlisted voluntarily in 1916. He went to France in October 1917, and in a few days took part in the great Tank drive to Cambrai ... Up to September 27 last he had come through some of the severest fighting imaginable without receiving a scratch. The only hint he conveyed to his parents of the nature of his work was a passage in one of his letters which ran: 'Fancy such as me standing up to the Germans and bayoneting them without turning a hair!' He was a leading member of the Primitive Methodist church and Bible class at Swinton, and possibly he had that in mind."

"A leading member of the Primitive Methodist church", this comment is probably the clue to Jackson's inscription: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do". These, the words Christ used to ask God to forgive the men who had just nailed him to the cross, are the words Mr Thomas Jackson chose for his son's inscription. Was he asking forgiveness for his son's killers? Perhaps, but if he too, like his son, was a Primitive Methodist, he was asking forgiveness for the whole of mankind for indulging in the war. Two days before the outbreak in 1914, Arthur Guttery, the President of the Primitive Methodists, had given an impassioned anti-war speech:

"A wave of madness has swept over Europe and Britain is invited to plunge into a fury that is insane ... It is the policy of bedlam and it is the statecraft of hell."

Never mind that a week later Guttery had changed his mind and was prepared to encourage his followers to fight for liberty against tyranny, some of his followers never changed their minds. Lance Corporal Jackson's father was possibly one of these. That is how I read the inscription: Mr Thomas Jackson is criticising the madness and insanity that has gripped the world. A world that not only killed his son but had him glorying in the bayonetting of Germans. Would it have been any consolation to have learnt from his son's lieutenant that, "Your son was magnificent - his example altered the course of the whole battle".



Private Quinn's father quotes Christ's words in the Garden of Gethsemane for his son's inscription. Knowing what is to come, Christ prays that he might be spared:

"And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

This is not just the acceptance of God's will as in, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven', but a declaration that this is not what I want to happen but if it is God's will then I will accept it.
John Joseph Quinn was born in Ireland to John and Mary Quinn. He grew up in Altrincham, Cheshire where his father was a domestic gardener. He served from 1916 with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment.
On 21 March 1918 the battalion war diary records that they were in the reserves at Hervilly when at 4.30 am they were ordered:

"to take up battle positions owing to enemy activity. This was done through heavy gas bombardment which caused about 30 casualties. The Battalion went into action and continued in action until April 1st."

The next few days saw constant enemy attacks, counter attacks, withdrawals and regroupings until 31 March when the battalion were finally relieved. Knowing this you can understand why Quinn's date of death is given by the War Graves Commission as between 21st and 31st March. In the chaos it was impossible to keep track of the fate of every soldier. However, on the 31st the diary writer records:

"During the time from March 21st/31st, the Battalion was continuously in action and fought very hard. The casualties were 25 officers and 630 ORs."

What happened to Quinn? Red Cross records show that he was taken prisoner by the Germans and then buried by them in the military cemetery at Bohain. In March 1925 his body was exhumed and reburied in Premont British Cemetery.



9th Battalion Australian Infantry War Diary
Enemy commenced a heavy gas shell bombardment at about 4 pm which lasted approximately four hours. Area shelled was mainly the reserve line in the vicinity of Battalion H.Q. and 'D' Company.
As a result of yesterday's bombardment the following officers [9] in addition to about 150 other ranks were evacuated gassed."

The next day, Private Hay was admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station suffering from mustard gas poisoning. He died on the 13th.
The Hays received the news that their son had been wounded on the 18 March, five days after his death. Ten days later, on 27 March, a notice appeared in their local newspaper, the Townsville Daily Bulletin, saying:

"Mr W Hay, Prairie, who for many years was a very prominent member of the Salvation Army in Charter Towers has received the distressing news of the death in France of his son, Oliver, Rumble Hay, who was killed by gas shells on March 13th."

The effects of mustard gas take some time to develop. First, several hours after exposure, a mild skin irritation appears. Eventually the affected areas turn yellow and agonising blisters develop. The eyes become red, sore and runny and extreme pain and sometimes blindness can follow. These symptoms can be accompanied by nasal congestion, sinus pain, hoarseness, coughing and in extreme cases respiratory failure. Hay was an extreme case. He took seven days to die but not before he had sent his mother a proud message - 'I died at my post'.

Hay, a drover, who had been born in Charter Towers, enlisted on 29 June 1916. He embarked from Brisbane on 21 October 1916 and arrived in England on 10 January 1917. He spent a month in hospital with mumps and then joined the 9th Battalion in France on 3 May 1917.



The words of this hymn by John Henry Newman (1801-1890) have provided many inscriptions, usually from the first and last verses of this three-verse hymn:

Lead kindly light, amid the encicling gloom,
Lead Thou me on.
The night is dark and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.


So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

The theme of stoically enduring this life, sustained by the hope of the eternal life to come, struck a note not only with the Victorians but with later generations too, as shown by the fact that it was one of the hymns regularly depicted in postcard series, like these Bamforth cards.
Ernest Creasy Hall was the younger son of Charles and Laura Jane Hall of Withernsea, East Yorkshire. Born in 1899, Ernest didn't come of military age until 1917 and wasn't old enough to serve abroad until 1918. He can't have been at the front for very long.
Hall served with the 2nd Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and was killed in action on 13 March 1918 when the battalion were in the front line.



John Lodge's inscription comes from Herbert Asquith's poem, The Volunteer, which he wrote two years before the outbreak of war but which is always assumed to have been written after it.
Asquith writes of "a clerk who half his life had spent, toiling at ledgers in a city grey". As he worked at his books, his ledgers, the clerk assumed his life would drift away, "with no lance broken in life's tournament". Yet he cannot rid his mind of romantic images of war:

The gleaming eagles of the legions came,
And horsemen, charging under phantom skies,
Went thundering past beneath the oriflamme.

But then his life changes and the chance of war does come and the clerk is killed.

And now those waiting dreams are satisfied
From twilight to the halls of dawn he went;
His lance is broken; but he lies content
With that high hour, in which he lived and died.

John Lodge, the son of Adam, a railway signalman, and his wife Phoebe was not a clerk but a Post Office letter sorter. He enlisted in September 1915 and served originally as a bombardier in the Royal Artillery, rising through the ranks until he was commissioned in July 1917. In March 1918 he was with the 190th Siege Battery when he died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station in Lijssenthoek. His mother signed for his inscription.
The poem concludes:

And falling this, he wants no recompense,
Who found his battle in the last resort
Nor needs he any hearse to bear him hence,
Who goes to join the men of Agincourt.



The 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers' war diary for the month of March 1918 does not exist. The following is extracted from the report Lt. Colonel Feilding submitted to the Brigade in April 1918.

At 4.30 on the morning of 21 March the Germans began an intense and extensive bombardment that fell on the 6th battalion, in reserve at Villers-Faucon. By lunchtime the village in front of them, Ronssoy, had been lost and the battalion were ordered to take part in an immediate counter-attack with the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusliers. The attack began at 3.45 pm:

"It was pressed with the greatest gallantry" but "As C Coy under Captain Norman advanced they saw what at first they thought was the 1/RMF but soon discovered to be the enemy lining the factory ridge to their right front, as well as parties of the enemy approaching along the Ronssoy St. Emile Road." ... "C Coy immediately engaged the enemy forming a defensive flank along the Ronssoy-St. Emilie road, but all the officers and the greater part of the company becoming casualties, they were soon compelled to fall back on the Brown Line, together with the few that remained of A and B Coys who had also suffered very severely,"

Early that evening Feilding reported to Brigade HQ to be told: "that the orders for the counter-attack should have been cancelled: he [the Brigadier] added that they had been cancelled in the case of the 1/RMF, but that he had not been able to communicate with me in time."

Quote from the Connaught Rangers Association website:
"On 21 March 1918 the 6th Batallion Connaught Rangers was caught in the middle of the Great German offensive and suffered such heavy casualties that the battalion could no longer be sustained and was disbanded in April 1918."

Private Henry McEwan served with the 6th Battalion and was killed in action on 21 March. One of the eleven children of Henry and Elizabeth McEwan, he came from Borrowstounness on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. A Mrs Mary M. Millan chose his inscription. I do not know who she was but she may have been his oldest sister, Mary.
It's a strange inscription: "Whispering sister do not fret". Is this the soldier telling the sister not to grieve for him because he is now in a better place, somewhere where age shall not wither him nor the years condemn, or where he is "With Christ which is far better". But the next part of the inscription, "I did my duty to the last", sounds as though he's telling his sister not to fret because she can rest assured that he did his duty by his country until the last and this conjures up the image of the recruiting poster that says, "Women of Britain say 'Go'", or of the music-hall song: 'We don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go'. Had she encouraged him to war?



There no definite source for this inscription, which expresses a patriotic culture that venerates the national flag. 'True to the Flag' is best known today as the title of an American marching song, written in 1917. The American flag, the star spangled banner, or Old Glory, is more prominently revered in the United States in the twenty-first century than the Union Jack is in Britain, but in the early years of the twentieth century, especially in the years surrounding the South African War, British poems like this showed the same sentiment:

It's only a small piece of bunting,
It's only an old coloured rag;
Yet thousands have died for its honour,
And shed their best blood for the flag.

After the next sixteen lines that boast of how Britons never yield, and about the number of countries in the British Empire over which the flag flies, the poem concludes:

We hoist it to show our devotion
To our Queen, to our country and laws;
'Tis the outward and visible emblem
Of advancement and liberty's cause.
You may say it's a small bit of bunting,
You may call it an old coloured rag;
Yet freedom has made it majestic
And time has ennobled the flag.

You can see therefore how the four words, 'true to the flag' encapsulate a whole world of patriotic, martial pride, a pride in which Mr Alfred Bowland, baker and confectioner of Norton Malton, Yorkshire, could find comfort in the face of his son's death.
Stanley John Bowland was one of Alfred and Elizabeth Bowland's eight sons: George, Charles, Frederick, Stanley, William, Leonard, Harold and Thomas Octavius.
George served with the RAMC and survived the war; Charles, a reservist with the 1st Grenadier Guards, was recalled immediately on the outbreak and was in France by November 1914. Frederick was a baker like his father and I can't find a medal index card for him, Stanley, who served with the 1st/5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales Own) died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 23 March 1918, and William was killed in action eight days later. I can't find medal index cards for either Leonard or Harold but nineteen-year-old Thomas Octavius was killed in action on 27 September 1918.
'True to the flag' is a sentiment in which I've just said Mr Bowland could find comfort in the face of his son's death - but the apostrophe needs moving - it should be, in the face of his sons' deaths.



There are many ways of expressing submission to the will of God 'Thy will be done', 'Not my will but thine O Lord', but this one seems particularly stark. The words come from Psalm 39 verse 10 and are closer to the version in the Book of Common Prayer than in the King James Bible: "I became dumb, and opened not my mouth: for it was Thy doing".
Leslie Peaston was the youngest of the four sons of George and Caroline Peaston of 66 Narbonne Avenue, Clapham Common. Caroline Peaston, by now a widow, chose the inscription. Whatever she might have felt like saying, however she might have felt like complaining, Mrs Peaston felt she couldn't because she knew that it was the will of God that her son Leslie had to die and that therefore she must submit herself to it.
Peaston served originally in the Royal Fusiliers, rising to the rank of corporal. He transferred to the Middlesex Regiment and was then commissioned into the Fusiliers in June 1917. He served with the 1st Battalion and was one of two officers killed in action at Vendelles on 21 March when the Germans subjected their lines to a heavy bombardment of HE and gas shells.
As with many of the casualties on this first day of the German offensive, Peaston's body was not initially buried. In September 1919, it was exhumed from map reference 62c R2 B5-6 and identified by the fact that his shirt had his name on it.



"He always understood", what a lovely thing for a father to say of his nineteen-year-old son. Who knows what Gaspard Ridout understood but from his obituary in the Eton Chronicle it sounds as though he possessed both intellectual and emotional intelligence:

"Gaspard Ridout was a very quiet boy, who nevertheless, had devoted friends, and took an intense interest in all aspects of school life. He was endowed with considerable talent, and when he tried for Woolwich he was the only Etonian who passed. The work interested him, and he made his mark there, and passed out third in his year."

Born on 1 September 1898, Ridout was the younger son of George Arthur Ridout, manager of Lloyds Bank in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and his wife Beaujolois Mabel Fanshawe. Educated at Eton - Floreat Etona, may Eton flourish, is the School's unofficial motto - Ridout was gazetted second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery on 25 January 1918. He went to France on 6 February and was killed in action on 21 March, the opening day of the German offensive.
Ridout was with the 331st Brigade RFA, part of the 66th East Lancashire Division, based at Carpeza Copse, close to the village of Hesbecourt, east of Roisel, when they were overwhelmed by the German advance. His body was unburied but later discovered at map reference 62c L15c .5.5 and buried at Jeancourt in August 1919.
Many parents of young soldiers felt the need to identify themselves on their son's headstones. Not because they were proud of themselves - although no doubt some were - but just because this is who the dead boy was - their son.



9th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps War Diary
Trenches March 21 1918
"At about 4.45 am an intense bombardment was opened on the Battalion front and on back areas. Wires to Brigade Headquarters were broken at once, and a heavy ground mist made visual signalling impossible. The bombardment continued until about 9.30 am, gas shells being extensively used for the last two hours. The German infantry then came over in small columns.
Information as to what actually happened is almost entirely lacking but it would appear that the enemy came in on our left flank, and not on our front, as the first warning of the attack was the appearance of Germans moving down the St Quentin Road. C and A Coys were killed or captured to a man. A few men of B Coy escaped, together with Capt Webber "OC" "B Coy" who was wounded early. The Germans would seem to have lost direction in the mist and to have remained in some force round our front line for several hours. "Funny" and "Frosty" works and "Excellent" (Bn. HQ) were reported by Col Bury to be holding out at 11 am. The Red Smoke Signal for the closing of barrage lines had been sent up, but it is almost certain that the gunners were unable to see either this signal or the SOS which had been sent up from Battalion Headquarters at 10.00 am.
D. Coy in Lambay Switch had seen no signs of the enemy at 11.20 am, but very shortly after this small columns of his infantry began to press forward into the Bois de Lambay, and over the Urvillers Lambay ridge. A pigeon message from Col Bury stated that Battalion Headquarters were still holding out at 12.20 pm but no further information was received from the front line, or from D Coy, one or two men escaped from D Coy and it would appear that the Lambay position was not seriously attacked, at any rate until about 2 pm by which time the enemy had occupied Benay and had reached the Battle Zone and had thus entirely cut off Lambay Farm. Sounds of M.G. fire were heard later in the day from the direction of Lambay which would suggest that the company held out for some time after being surrounded.
Mention should be made of Cpl Harber who escaped from the Vauban PO and, after being twice in the hands of the Germans, made his way by compass to Brigade Headquarters and gave very clear report as to the situation in the front line.
March 22
By the evening of March 21st the Battn had apparently ceased to exist."

The 9th Battalion was one of the many to find itself in the eye of the storm when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. At its full establishment a battalion had approximately one thousand men, but it is unlikely that at this stage of the war the 9th Battalion had exactly this number. However, come the end of the month, the adjutant summarised March's casualties as 23 officers and 630 ORs. Casualties for the previous month, February 1918, had been 7 ORs wounded.
Lance Corporal Reginald Jones was buried by the Germans in Urvillers, along with fourteen other soldiers of the 9th Bn KRRC, all killed on 21 March. They now have 'Kipling Memorials' in St Souplet British Cemetery. These look like normal CWGC headstones but commemorate casualties known to have been buried in a particular cemetery whose graves have subsequently been lost. Rudyard Kipling chose the words from the Book of Ecceliasticus that are carved on these headstones: 'Their glory shall not be blotted out'.
Jones joined the army after 1915. The son of Evan and Susannah Jones, he was born in the City of London. His father had been a general clerk but by 1911 his mother was a widow. Jones and his sister, Annie Emma, lived with their mother in three rooms in Plaistow. Reginald was a sculleryman at a Club and Annie was a restaurant counter hand.
Annie Emma, by then Mrs AE Foster, chose her brother's inscription from the words Shakespeare's Mark Antony speaks over the body of Brutus:

"This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the rest of the conspirators acted out of jealousy of great Caesar. Only he acted from honesty and for the general good. His life was gentle, and the elements mixed so well in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, "This was a man".
Julius Caesar Act 5 Scene 5



Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year!

From 'To the Cuckoo'
Authorship disputed

This eight verse poem was either written by John Logan (1748-1788) or by his friend Michael Bruce (1746-1767). Logan edited and published Bruce's poems and added some of his own. 'To the Cuckoo', thought to be the best in the collection, was one Logan claimed for himself but Bruce's friends hotly disputed this. The poet sees the cuckoo as forever associated with spring and summer, making it a beautiful image for a young person who dies before their time, someone born to "know not winter, only spring" ['In Memoriam F.A.S.' by Robert Louis Stevenson].
Stuart Stirling Gemmell was 19 when he was killed on the afternoon of 21 March 1918 "during hostile bombardment" whilst his battalion were in the trenches at Les Fosses Farm off the Cambria Road. Gemmell served in the 3rd Battalion Cameron Highlanders but at the time of his death was attached to the 7th. All through February and March 1918 the British army had been expecting the German offensive. The 7th Battalion's regimental history notes that for many weeks beforehand neither officers nor men had taken their clothes off as they worked hard to prepare belts of wire and improve the trench systems in anticipation of the attack. Although the 21st was the day the Germans launched their offensive, it was not in the location of the 7th Battalion. They had to wait until 3 am on the morning of the 28th before the onslaught reached them.
Stuart Gemmell was the youngest of the three sons of John Edward Gemmell, a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, and his wife Margaret Ann of Beechlands, Mossley Hill, Liverpool. Educated at Uppingham School, Gemmell took up his place at Cambridge University until he was old enough to join up. He was gazetted second lieutenant in July 1917 and had been at the front since September. His older brother, Lieutenant Kenneth Alexander Gemmell of The King's Liverpool Regiment, was killed in action at Bellewaarde on 16 June 1915. He does not have a grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.



Robert Kiddle's inscription comes from Lycidas, John Milton's (1608-1674)threnody, his lament, for his friend Edward King who was drowned in 1637 whilst on his way to visit his family in Ireland. King was twenty-five, five years older than Kiddle when he met his death. Both of them dead before their prime. Milton claimed that there was no one left who was King's peer, his equal, and this is the line Kiddle's father chose for his son.
Robert Henry Kiddle was the younger of John and Elizabeth Kiddle's two sons. How could the father say that Robert had not left anyone who was his equal when he had another son? The announcement of Robert's death in the Liverpool Echo of 20 March 1918 makes the reason clear:

Kiddle - 15 March, died of wounds, at Casualty Clearing Station. Signaller Robert Henry Kiddle K.L.R., aged 20, only surviving child of John Henry and Elizabeth Parker Kiddle, now of 75, Urmston Road, Wallesy.

Kiddle, who was twenty in February 1918, was a qualified signaller serving with the 10th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment. He had been in France since January 1917. He died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 15 March, the Sister in charge writing to tell his parents that he'd been brought in seriously wounded in the head, thigh, arm and abdomen, and that his condition was hopeless from the first.
It's not possible to tell what date Kible was wounded but the 10th Battalion were in the front line near Festubert at the time he died. On the 13th the war diary records that it had been an "exceptionally quiet day"; on the 14th that their sector was subjected to a heavy bombardment, which left two of their men dead, and on the 15th, "Enemy artillery very aggressive, and 4 casualties were sustained (1 killed, 2 died of wounds, I wounded)". That suggests to me that Kibble died of wounds received on the same day.



This is yet another inscription that reveals Ireland's complicated relationship with England after the First World War. Walter Carey joined the British army long before the war. In the 1911 census both he and his elder brother, Francis, were serving in India with the 1st Munster Fusiliers.
It would appear that Carey was still in the army on the outbreak of war as his medal card shows that he landed in France on 28 August 1914, and then that he transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 27 May 1916. However, when he died he was serving with the 1st Garrison Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers which at the time of his death was in Italy on Lines of Communication Duty for the British Salonika Force. The information given to the War Grave Commission states that he died of wounds and that he'd previously been wounded in France. He's buried in Legnago Communal Cemetery, the only serviceman to be buried there.
Having served voluntarily in the British army in India, where these Irish brothers could have argued that they were defending the British Empire, his family then chose to say that this son of Ireland gave his life for England. This isn't how the Royal Munster Fusiliers recruited in the areas from which they drew their soldiers. This is one of their posters:

Royal Munster Fusiliers
are earning eternal
fame fighting
Will the fine lads of
Kerry, Cork, Limerick & Clare
do nothing to help
their kinsmen?
Come along and assist in destroying the
German Menace

Carey's family obviously didn't see it like this, in their eyes the war was nothing to do with Ireland. The Careys were Roman Catholic. The Irish census form asks your religion, and even if it didn't we could tell from the final two lines of Walter Carey's inscription. However, it's not possible to tell what side the family were on in the Irish Civil War. Most of south-west Ireland, including Cork, was in the hands of republicans who opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Savage fighting between those Irish who were pro- or anti the treaty lasted until April 1923, causing much lasting bitterness within Ireland and beyond.
I said at the beginning that Carey's was yet another inscription that revealed Ireland's complicated relationship with England in the aftermath of the First World War. These are some of the others:

He died for Ulster
We gave our best

Religion Church of Ireland
An Irishman loyal to death
To King and Country


"An Irish Volunteer"
He died for the freedom
Of small nations



Raymond Murray 'answered the call', in other words volunteered, in September 1914, serving originally as a private in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He transferred to the 155th Coy Machine Gun Corps where he rose to the rank of serjeant before being commissioned on 30 November 1916.
The 155th Coy served in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign during 1917 and early 1918, taking part in the Battle of Tell Asur, 8 to 12 March 1918, a successful attempt to broaden the area held by the Allies before they began their Transjordan operations at the end of the month. Murray was killed in action on the 12th.
Raymond Hugh Murray was the son of George and Elizabeth Murray of Colesberg, Cape Province, South Africa, one of more than eight brothers and sisters. Both his parents died in 1901 and so it was his eldest brother, George John Murray, who chose his inscription. There could hardly be a more charming tribute: 'He answered the call cheerfully and with quiet courage'.



Godfrey Goodwin joined the Royal Navy just before he became 18 in August 1916. He served initially as a naval rating on torpedo patrol boats until October 1917 when he began pilot training in the Royal Naval Air Service. After three days leave he went to France on 1 March 1918 and died 'whilst flying' eleven days later.
A friend wrote to tell his parents that he'd heard that,

"Godfrey was landing from his fourth or fifth raid on enemy territory on the morning of the 12th inst, when his engine choked, igniting or exploding the petrol tank. And you may take it that he had not a sporting chance of escaping death."

His commanding officer said of him that,

"He was a steady painstaking officer, quick at learning the art of flying, brave and confident in himself, and with his machine he made rapid progress in his course, getting through in under five months. Your son chose the most dangerous branch of the service, and it is wonderful to see these young men eager to serve their Country and so willing to make the supreme sacrifice. My sympathy is but a poor comfort in your irreparable loss."

Godfrey Goodwin, born in Kings Norton, Birmingham on 1 August 1898, was the eldest child of John Goodwin, a commercial traveller in soap, and his wife, Mary Whitehouse. His father chose his inscription from some lines Cleopatra speaks towards the end of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra, as she contemplates following Anthony and killing herself:

"and then, what's brave, what's noble
Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,
And make death proud to take us."

Much of this information for this article has been taken from the Nottinghamshire County Council 'Roll of Honour' site.



Alexander Cordiner was the master of the SS Heworth. At the beginning of August 1914 the ship was berthed on the River Elbe near Hamburg. At 12.15 am on the morning of 5 August the British Foreign Office issued a statement that concluded:

"His Majesty's Government have declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11 pm on Aug. 4."

If, as Cordiner's inscription states, he was interned on 3 August 1914 the German Government rather jumped the gun as the two nations were not yet at war.
Cordiner and his crew were interned for the duration in Ruhleben Spandau a camp on a Berlin racecourse, which held about 4 to 5,000 internees of various nationalities. There were a total of nearly one thousand British internees held in Germany during the war, people who had been living, working or on holiday when the war broke out and who were then held by the German Government as enemy aliens.
Cordiner was one of them and after three years and seven months of internment he died of heart failure after an intestinal operation at the Red Cross Hospital in Charlottenburg, Berlin.
Born in Nova Scotia, the eldest son of Charles and Mary Cordiner, Alexander Cordiner was a master mariner. In 1881 he married Georgina Garton in South Shields, County Durham. The couple had four children, the eldest, Charles, was accidentally drowned in 1905 whilst serving as an apprentice on the barque Marion Lightbody. Georgina Cordiner died in 1925.



The architect of the universe is how the sixteenth-century reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564) regularly referred to the Christian God. The Great Architect of the Universe is how Freemasons sometimes refer to their undefined deity who could be called God, Krishna, Buddha, Allah or by any other name according to the member's belief.
Alfred Edward Ikin's father, who went by the same name, chose his son's inscription. There is no evidence that he was either a Calvinist or a Freemason but the omission of the word 'Great' inclines me to think that if he was either it was probably the former.
Alfred Jnr was the eldest son of Alfred and Eliza Ikin. Alfred Snr was a scientist and an educationalist who retired as the Director of Education for Blackpool. Alfred Jnr's obituary in the Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer on 23 March 1918 explains in what way he was a promising mathematician:

"At 14 [he] gained honours in Cambridge Local Examinations and passed the London Intermediate Science Examination three years later. Afterwards he won a Board of Education Exhibition of £50 a year at Cambridge and also an open scholarship at Clare College."

Ikin never took up these scholarships. Instead, on leaving school he enlisted in the 28th London Regiment before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.
Reports of his death simply state that he was killed while flying in France. The 4 April 1918 edition of Flight Global records that,

"For two months before going to France Mr Ikin had been engaged in night flying against enemy raiders; but more recently he had taken part in night-bombing over the enemy lines and on other special flight work."

The newspaper account of his death concludes with these words from his commanding officer:

"The service has lost a keen and intrepid pilot, and I have lost one of the most efficient officers of my flight."



Captain Harry Webber, aged 23 when he was killed in action on 10 March 1918, is not to be confused with his namesake, Lieutenant Harry Webber, who was 68 when he was killed on the Somme by a stray shell on 21 July 1916. Lieutenant Harry Webber is thought to have been the oldest man to have been killed at the front in the First World War.
Captain Webber enlisted on 20 August 1914. Webber, a turner and fitter, was already a sergeant in the Australian militia, the 92nd Infantry Regiment based in his home town of Launceston, Tasmania. He embarked from Hobart for Egypt on 20 October 1914 and served on Gallipoli after the landings in April 1915 where he was wounded and hospitalised. He rejoined his battalion in France and was wounded again. In January 1918 he was mentioned in dispatches. The recommendation reads:

"For conspicuous devotion to duty. He has always shown great energy, initiative and efficiency as Lewis Gun Officer, 2nd in Command & Company Commander. Although one of the youngest of the officers in the Bn he always sets an excellent example to the others. Was recommended for gallantry in action on 25/27 Feb. 1917."

His father, Henry Webber, signed for his inscription, describing his son as noble, in other words as having fine moral principles, and referring to the duty, the sense of moral responsibility, that his son felt towards God, King George V and his parents. There is something infinitely touching about the juxtaposition of these three, and for an Australian-born soldier it shows the unity his parents still felt with Britain, the Motherland of the Empire.



A wink from Hesper, falling
Fast in the wintry sky,
Comes through the even blue,
Dear, like a word from you.
Is it good-bye?

Across the miles between us
I send you sigh for sigh.
Good-night, sweet friend, good-night:
Till life and all take flight,
Never good-bye.

It's far more usual to see this lovely poem by WE Henley misquoted than it is to see it correctly quoted in headstone inscriptions. Henley wrote, "till life and all take flight, never good-bye", whereas most inscriptions deny that death is the end and write, "though life and all take flight never good-bye". There is, of course, much more consolation in the latter.
Serjeant Crew's mother, Eliza Crew chose the inscription. Thomas Oliver Crew was his parent's eldest child. The family lived in Poplar, east London, where the father, John Crew, was a marine engineer. In 1911, Crew was a clerk working for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He enlisted in June 1915 and served for a year with Queen Victoria's Rifles, a territorial battalion before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France in July 1916 attached to the Royal Fusiliers.
Crew's is one of the few service files to exist and it records that on 9 March 1918 he was admitted to a Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek with gun shot wounds penetrating his abdomen and both legs. He died the same day.



'Ron' Moore was two months short of his nineteenth birthday when, according to Flight Global (28 March 1918), he and his observer, 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Walter Ashdown Green, were killed when their plane crashed in flames whilst on a practise artillery patrol. To the end of her life, his mother, Katherine von Kusserow Moore, inserted an In Memoriam in The Times on the anniversary of his death:

Moore, 2nd Lt. Charles Ronald, 59th Sqdn. R.F.C. - Killed in aerial combat, March 8, 1918, aged 18. Sleeping Achiet-le-Grand Cemetery, Flanders - Mother, Con and Barney
The Times, Thursday March 8 1951

Mrs Moore died in February 1952. The next month 'Con and Barney' put the same message in The Times but they never did so again.
Charles Ronald Moore was still at school, Trinity College, Glenalmond, when the war broke out. He joined the RFC as a cadet in April 1917 and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in September 1917. In January 1918, he was awarded his pilot's wings and although he was still only 18, he volunteered for foreign service. In February 1918, he was appointed to 59 Squadron in France and was killed the following month.
Moore's father, Charles Edwin Moore, chose his inscription. It comes from Matthew Arnold's, Sohrab and Rustum, a deeply dramatic narrative poem in which Rustum, a famous Persian warrior, kills Sohrab, the son he never knew he had, in single combat. Distraught, Rustum tries to kill himself, but the dying Sohrab stops him saying:

Desire not that, my father! thou must live.
For some are born to do great deeds and live,
As some are born to be obscur'd and die.
Do thou the deeds I die too young to do.

It's rather a strange inscription for a father to choose for his son - some people are born to do great things in their lives and others to die without achieving anything. Many families felt that dying in the service of your country was some form of 'great deed'. To Charles Moore, however, his eighteen-year-old son had had an unfulfilled life. And was he also feeling, as many survivors felt, an obligation to be worthy of the dead in their own future lives.



Seventeen-year-old Harry William Mackintosh Mackay enlisted on the 5 August 1914, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. He was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion Gordon Highlanders on 22 November 1915. By now he was 18. He served with them until the autumn of 1917 when he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, qualifying as an observer.
On 6 January 1918, Mackay and his pilot, David Arthur Stewart, brought down an enemy Albatros whilst returning from a photo reconnaissance mission. Two months later, they were returning from bombing an enemy dump near Carvin when they were intercepted by three formations of enemy aircraft. In the next ten minutes, Stewart and Mackay brought down four enemy planes - two at 11.15 and two at 11.20 - but they were surrounded and their plane badly damaged. Stewart just managed to land behind the British lines. The time was 11.25 and Mackay, shot in the chest, was dying. He didn't survive long enough to get to hospital.
His father, William Mackay, Editor of the North British Agriculturalist, signed for his son's inscription - Tell them at home it is all right. I am presuming that the words originally came from Harry Mackay, but quite what he meant, and quite what his father meant by quoting them, I can't tell. Perhaps his father was trying to signify that his son had philosophically accepted his fate.



Ebenezer Miller's inscription comes from Psalm 90, the beautiful psalm that begins:

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

And continues:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night.

And has the well known words:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Then it asks the question:

Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

Which it answers:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

So the message is, in effect, don't let's waste our all-too-short-days on this earth in the sort of activities that earn us God's wrath. Private Miller's mother, Mary Albertha, chose his inscription and I think we can read it as a reprimand.
Ebenezer Horatio Miller was born and brought up on Tobago. He enlisted on 22 November 1916 in Bellevue, Ontario and on 16 May 1917 was discharged as medically unfit. The reason? He was tall, 5'9", and very slim, with a 29 and a half inch chest, and a one and a half inch expansion. In the medical officer's opinion he was "not likely to stand the strain of military service". Why? Because he "seems a man would be subject to tuberculosis", even though he was in good health at the moment.
Miller's record notes that his conduct was good, his habits were good and his temperance was good. And under the section asking about distinguishing features the officer has written, "None, only colored". Ebenezer Miller was black.
The form also asks how long it is thought he will be medically unfit and the answer is - "permanent". So it's rather surprising to see that Miller enlisted the next day and appears to have been accepted. The verdict on his health was "Slight defects, not enough to cause rejection".
Miller joined the 21st Battalion Canadian Infantry in France on 21 December 1917 and was killed in action on 4 March 1918. The 21st had only just taken over a section of the front line at Lens, the relief being completed at 11.30 pm the previous day. At 5.45 am the next morning the Germans launched a large-scale raid on their section of the line but were driven back.
A few days later the Toronto Star published a heroic account of the raid, describing how three hundred specially picked enemy assault troops were driven off:

"Our chaps killed a great many Boches in the trenches, and during his retirement many Germans were lying dead in No Man's Land. Not a man of ours is missing, so he failed absolutely in his mission, which we learn from prisoners was himself to take prisoners and gain information."

'Not a man of ours is missing'; no but three officers were wounded, three other ranks killed and 38 wounded. Ebenezer Horatio Miller was one of those killed.
I had meant to finish here but the name Horatio fascinated me. There were nine West Indian sailors listed as being on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Perhaps one of them was Ebenezer Miller's ancestor and the name was a legacy.



Mrs Jemima Dunn has quoted from the Book of Samuel, substituting her son's name for that of King David's deeply loved son Absalom, his favourite child, who was killed fighting in a rebellion against his father. After he hears the news of his son's death,

"the king was much moved, and went up to the Chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
[2 Samuel 18:33]

It's a passage echoed in 'To You Who Have Lost', a poem by John Oxenham, (William Arthur Dunckerley 1852-1941), which was published during the war:

I know! I know!
The ceaseless ache, the emptiness, the woe, -
The pang of loss, -
The strength that sinks beneath so sore a cross,
" - Heedless and careless, still the world wags on,
And leaves me broken ... Oh, my son! my son!"

Wilfred Dunn came from Cassava River, a district of Glengaffe in Jamaica. He served with the British West Indies Regiment, formed during 1915 from Caribbean volunteers. Dunn was with the 11th battalion, like all the other battalions in the regiment a non-combatant labour battalion - an indication of the British government's reluctance to use coloured troops in combatant roles.
Dunn is buried in Taranto, a town on the southern tip of Italy. The town had been used by the Royal Navy since Italy entered the war on the Allied side in May 1915. After the summer of 1917, its importance increased greatly when it became the main port, at the end of the overland route from Cherbourg, for supplying men and materials to the war in the eastern Mediterranean. The British West Indies Regiment was used for loading and unloading vessels and numerous other labouring roles, much to the disappointment, and in some cases increasing dissatisfaction, of many of those who served in it. The cause of Dunn's death is not known.



This is a very blunt inscription. I wonder whether there was any correspondence over it between Rutherford's parents and the War Graves Commission. We'll never know as this sort of correspondence was not kept when the Commission moved out of London in the 1970s. If there was, presumably the Rutherford's argued that the monarchical ambition they were referring to was the German Kaiser's and had nothing to do with the British monarchy.
Archibald Rutherford died in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony. Germany's plans to establish a Deutsch-Mittelafrika (German Central Africa), part of the Kaiser's 'monarchical ambitions', had brought her into conflict with other European countries trying to maintain their own influence in the area, particularly Portugal and Great Britain. The outbreak of war gave the Germans the opportunity to expand out of German East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) into Mozambique, the northern part of which they occupied 1914. They ran a very successful campaign throughout the whole war in the region, tying up valuable allied troops that could have been used elsewhere.
Rutherford served in the Royal Engineers, as a dispatch rider in a Lines of Communication Signal Company. The announcement of his death in The Scotsman says that he 'died on active service'. This could have been as a result of an accident but disease accounted for the majority of deaths among European troops in this region: dysentery, malaria, influenza, pneumonia.
Rutherford's father, William Duncan Rutherford, a manager in the Edinburgh biscuit manufacturing company of R. Middlemass and Son, signed for his inscription. Many people, then and since, believed that Kaiser Wilhelm's territorial ambitions were a major cause of the First World War. Others blamed it on Great Power rivalry in which Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia were all equally to blame.
I wonder what William Duncan Rutherford really thought his son had been sacrificed for?



Dread sound of guns, and hurrying feet,
The dying groans of the sore distressed;
And then - the peace that is deep and sweet,
And another soul "Gone West".

"Gone west" - with the glory of the setting sun,
To an endless day of a well-earned rest;
For another hero's part is done,
And another soul "Gone West".

The sky is aflame with its burnished gold,
Red is the land with the blood of our best,
Whose bodies are lying so strangely cold,
Whose spirits have all "Gone West".

The earth is darkened with clouds of gloom,
Its new made graves, and its laws transgressed;
But see! - how angels from the tomb
Bear all the souls "Gone West".

Gone West by Winifred A Cook
First published in Bibby's Annual c. 1917

The use of the phrase 'Gone West' to mean to die came into use during the First World War. And whereas today we might use it in a fairly colloquial fashion, in those days it had a certain majesty. So much so that some local newspapers listed the names of their of casualties under the heading, 'Gone West'.
Although many column inches were dedicated to puzzling over the origins of the phrase, and many bizarre explanations put forward, the association of death with the setting sun in the western sky is an ancient one. Sophocles used the analogy in Oedipus, writing of the 'western shore' where 'soul after soul is known to take her flight'. The dying sun and the splendour of the sunset provided a vivid analogy for the blaze of glory to be associated with those who died for their country.
The phrase provoked many execrable pieces of verse, which were liberally quoted in newspaper In Memoriam columns, but Winifred A Cook's seems to have become the most popular. A writer of children's books and occasional verse, very little is known about her.
James Maxwell, the son of John and Agnes Maxwell, enlisted in Dumfries on 14 September 1914 and embarked for France on 8 July 1915. He served in the 6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders and was killed in a German air raid near Monchy-le-Preux on 21 February 1918.



Mrs Hannah Robinson had five children, four sons and a daughter. Her eldest son, John Marsden Robinson was killed in action on 21 March 1918, just over a month after her youngest son, Hugh. Her daughter, Mary, signed for the inscription. It looks as though she must have composed it too - 'My mother's greatest sacrifice'.
Hugh was her youngest son, named after her husband who died before Hugh Jnr's first birthday. Hugh, a window cleaner, was still living at home in Buxton, Derbyshire when he joined up. The Buxton War Memorial site says that he was a small man - really small - 4 ft 11 inches and weighing 6 stone 10 lbs. He enlisted in August 1916 and served with the Labour Corps, embarking for France on 23 March 1917. There is no record of the cause of his death, but he died at a Casualty Clearing Station between the villages of Rocquigny and Equancourt on 16 February 1918.
A month later his brother, John, (also remembered on the Buxton War Memorial site) aged 41 and serving with the 36th Labour Corps, was killed on 21 March 1918, the opening day of the German Spring Offensive. He's buried in the village of Favreuil, which was overrun by the Germans before the end of the month. His wife chose his inscription:

Until we meet again
Ever remembered by
His loving wife & children



Stanislaw Rauch is known as Stanley Stanistaw Rauch by the War Graves Commission, and Stanley Ranch on his Medal Index Card. However, he was registered at his birth as Urbon Stanislaw Rauch, the son of Wilhelm Rauch and his wife, Stanislawa Baderski.
All the couple's ten children were born in London, where Wilhelm and Stanislawa were married in 1892. In the 1911 census, Wilhelm gives his birthplace as Warsaw, Russia and Stanislawa as Mikstadt, Germany. In the 1891 census, she describes her place of birth as Prussian Poland. As both places are now in Poland, it gives you an idea of the situation in the country, which at the start of the First World War was partitioned between Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany.
America's entry into the war, and Woodrow Wilson's attempt to use the war to spread democracy and national self determination, gave Poles the hope that the war might liberate their country. This is how the Rauch's could say that their son had died in the defence of Poland. I like the way they included their adopted country in this too.
In 1911, Stanislaw was a hairdresser's assistant. He didn't join the army until after 1915 when he served with D Battery, 79th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station close to the villages of Rocquigny and Estcourt, which were overrun by the Germans just over a month later.



The brothers Stanley and Roy Lambert both had the same inscription. Stanley was killed on 17 February 1918, having only joined his unit in France a month earlier. Roy, who was 21, was killed on 11 July 1918 having been on active service since February 1916.
Soldiers' photographs were often framed in elaborate patriotic frames - especially if they had been killed - and one such frame features 'He heard the call and answered' in a banner across the top of the frame, along with the Australian flag and a vase of foliage that I can't quite make out but is probably made up of oak, laurel and wattle.
The second line of the inscription comes from Laurence Binyon's famous poem, For the Fallen, interestingly, from a verse that is now usually omitted:

They fought, they were terrible, nought could tame them,
Hunger, nor legions, nor shattering cannonade.
They laughed, they sang their melodies of England,
They fell open-eyed and unafraid.

The very next verse begins: 'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grown old'.
The Lambert brothers were both born in Australia. Roy was a poultry farmer when he enlisted in September 1915, and Stanley, who enlisted in November 1916, was an electrician. Stanley spent most of 1917 in England before joining his unit, the 24th Coy Australian Machine Gun Corps, on 26 January 1918.
According to a witness to the Australian Red Cross, Lambert was killed at a place called Sherwood Dump on Hill 60:

"He had been caught by a shell, pieces of which hit him about the head and side. He was badly hit and I think death must have been instantaneous."

Roy Lambert was similarly a casualty of shell fire. Sergeant Lewis reported to the Red Cross:

"On July 11th at night time, he was in charge of a ration party and passing a dangerous gully, was, I understand, killed instantly, owing to heavy enemy barrage; there was no wound and death was from concussion. I did not see the body but was told by C/S/M A King 82, of A Co. that he had seen it and there was no mark whatever on it."

Roy Lambert had done well in the army and was promoted to sergeant in December 1917. However, there is a curious incident on his record sheet, which relates that, whilst at Codford Camp, a large ANZAC training and transfer camp, he was seriously reprimanded and docked three days pay for being absent without leave from midnight on 19 February 1918 to 3 pm on the 22nd. What day had his brother been killed? The 17 February. It sounds to me as though Roy went on a 'blinder'. Interestingly, the reprimand had no effect on his rank.



The day Neville Elliott-Cooper was taken prisoner was the day he earned his Victoria Cross and the day he received the wound from which he died just over two months later. Two days before his VC was announced in the London Gazette.
Elliott-Cooper, a regular soldier who passed out of Sandhurst in 1908, was a lieutenant at the outbreak of war. On 14 May 1916 he was awarded a Military Cross for successfully taking and holding a section of the Hohenzollern Redoubt at Chord. He was promoted to Captain.
On 17 July 1917 he earned a DSO for rallying his battalion and leading a patrol that captured vital information and twenty German prisoners. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel. On 30 November 1917, his VC citation records how on "hearing that the enemy had broken through our outpost line, he rushed out of his dug-out, and on seeing them advancing across the open he mounted the parapet and dashed forward calling on the Reserve Company and details of the Battalion Headquarters to follow".
Although unarmed he made straight for the enemy and under his direction they were driven back. However, before long he was badly wounded and realising that his men were seriously out numbered he ordered them to withdraw - and to leave him behind. His action delayed the enemy advance long enough for reserves to move in and hold the line.
Elliott-Cooper was held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Munster. A fellow prisoner, Frank Vans Agnew, wrote in his memoir:

We had Colonel N.B. Elliott-Cooper with us, badly wounded in the hip joint. He suffered pains of the the damned, but never whimpered once. His language was very bad but a joy to hear, and, when at his worst, he hurled things about ... the poor chap died in Hanover Hospital a month later. If he had gone to Hanover from Le Cateau he would be alive today in my opinion.

Elliott-Cooper died in hospital No. 1 at the prisoner-of-war camp at Lazaret in Hanover on 11 February.
Neville Bowes Elliott-Cooper was the third son and sixth child of Sir Robert Elliott- Cooper and his wife, Fanny. Sir Robert was a wealthy and successful Civil Engineer; his son's were educated at Eton where, more than five years after Neville's death, Sir Robert erected a memorial plaque that reads:

In loving memory of
Gilbert D'Arcy Elliott-Cooper
Major Royal Fusiliers
Died on March 7th 1922 from the result of
Wounds received in action on Aug. 13th 1915
Aged 42 years
At Eton 1893-1897
Also of Neville Bowes Elliott-Cooper VC DSO MC
Lieut-Col. Royal Fusiliers Died a prisoner of
War at Hanover on Feb. 11th 1918 of wounds
Received at Cambrai on Nov. 30th 1917
At Eton 1901-1907
Etonam nacti exornaverunt
Floreat Etona

Of all the things Sir Robert could have chosen to say about his son, Neville, it was the fact of his dying of wounds whilst a prisoner-of-war that he most wanted to record for posterity - both on this plaque and on his headstone. Neville may have been a lieutenant colonel with a VC, a DSO and an MC but to his father he was his twenty-eight-year-old son who died of wounds far from home as a prisoner of war.



Robert Alexander Duff was born and brought up on a farm in Ballinluig a small community in Perthshire, close to the confluence of the rivers Tummel and Tay, just as his father, Duncan Duff, said on his inscription. It's a beautiful part of the world with its pastures and woodlands and distant mountains, all evoked very simply by just the two words Tummel and Tay.
Duff appears to have been mobilised on the outbreak of war, which would indicate that he was either a territorial or a regular soldier. However, he was discharged as medically unfit one month later. Nothing daunted, he re-enlisted in the Army Service Corps and served with the 3rd Army Auxiliary Horse Transport Company in France and Flanders from 4 September 1915.
At some point he volunteered as an observer with the Royal Flying Corps and was attached to 22nd Squadron based at Auchel. On 30 January 1918 Duff, with the pilot Second Lieutenant Godfrey Gleeson Johnstone a New Zealander, were on an offensive patrol when their plane was seen to fall in flames during aerial combat. Reports say that, Duff, without any flying training, tried to bring the plane down on the allied side but the plane crashed and he died soon afterwards from burns and injuries.
Whilst Duff's inscription evokes his home in Scotland, the pilot's ties him to the land of his birth:

Born Motuotaraia, Hawkes Bay
New Zealand



William Vazie Langdale Simons' inscription was signed for by his brother, Robert John Jermyn Simons (the brothers were known as Vazie and John). 'Vale' is the Latin word for farewell and it's possible that John was inspired by a poem written by the Roman poet Catullus, which he addressed to his dead brother who, like Vazie, was buried far from home.

By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side I am come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath taken thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, their heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell,
Take them, all drenched with a brother's tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!

The last line, 'Atque in perpetuam frater ave atque vale', is one of the most famous lines in Latin literature. And if John didn't know it from Catullus, he may have been aware of Tennyson's poem, Frater Ave Atque Vale, which Tennyson wrote in the year following his own brother's death, after visiting Catullus' villa at Sirmio.
Vazie and John were the sons of Vazie and Maud Simons. The parents married in Australia, where Maud was born and where their eldest child, Clara, was also born. By the time Vazie Jnr was born in 1893, the family had returned to Merthyr Tydfil for Vazie Snr to join the family law firm, Messrs Simons and Plews. In 1907, Vazie Snr committed suicide - shooting himself through the heart at his office desk.
Vazie Jnr joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1912 as a territorial. He was called up on mobilization and served with the BEF in France and Flanders from November 1915. In 1916 the battalion went to Egypt and served through the Palestine Campaign, taking part in the two battles of Gaza. Vazie was awarded a Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in the field during the first battle.
In late 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and was killed during flying training on 25 January 1918. He is buried in Ismailia, a small town on the west bank of the Suez Canal.



Private Foot's wife, Alma, quotes from the still very popular hymn, 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways', for her husband's inscription. The hymn, adapted by W. Garrett Horder (1841-1922) from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, 'The Brewing of Soma', attempts to encourage us to live simpler, more sober lives, seeking out silence and selflessness in order to be able to hear God's 'still, small voice of calm'. The inscription comes from thee penultimate verse:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Thomas Harris Foot was born in Exeter in 1883, the son of John Spettigue Foot, a fruit merchant, and his wife, Annie. He married Alma Florence Matilda Little at St Paul's Kensington and Chelsea on 10 February 1916, giving his occupation as grocer and his address as Oare, Faversham, Kent.
Foot served originally in the Royal Engineers and then with the Army Ordnance Corps at the O.K.D. railhead. He's buried in Baillleul, which was a large hospital centre until it was overrun by the Germans just over two months after Foot's death. There is no indication as to the cause of his death.



This is an old epitaph, several versions of which appeared in a number of Victorian epitaph collections in the 1870s. The addition of some extra punctuation and a couple of words helps make the sense clearer:

"Who plucked this flower?"
"I" said the master
And the gardener
Held his peace

Later people felt the need to expand the story:

Once a gardener had a choice flower that he tended and valued above all the flowers of the garden. One morning it was missing. He thought a servant had taken it, and went about asking them all if they had plucked it.
Then a servant said: "I saw the master walking in the garden early, and he plucked it."
The gardener said: "It is well. The flower was his. For him I nursed and tended it, and as he has taken it, it is well."

As with the flower, so with a young life; God has taken it, it was his to take.
Nathan Whitehead was one of the three children of Jonathan and Mary Whitehead of Tebay in Westmorland. Father was a platelayer with a railway company and in 1911, sixteen-year-old Nathan was a shop assistant. He served with the 5th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, not joining them until after they had been evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915. They spent the rest of the war in Egypt and Palestine where Whitehead died of dysentery - as did so many soldiers in this part of the world - on 17 January 1918.



Born and brought up in Atherstone, Warwicksire, Richard Lauder Sale was one of the four sons of Alfred and Gertrude Sale. In 1913, Richard married Dorothy Mary Northcott, the third daughter of the Vicar of Atherstone. She too had been born in the town. One imagines that the couple had known each other all their lives. This makes the inscription she chose for her husband all the more poignant.
It comes from the poem 'Missing' by Geoffrey Dearmer (1893-1996), which was published in 1918 in a collection of his verse. Dorothy Sale knew her husband wasn't missing, she knew he was dead, she'd placed an announcement of his death in the 22 January edition of The Times, but the words of the poem still rang true for her:

How should I grieve? His life inspired in me
A joy that shall outlive eternity,
Wrought out, complete, unsnared by time and age
My jewelled past my precious heritage.
Shall misery usurp my realm of years
And leave me drowning in self-pitying tears,
A derelict in my own whirlpool swirled -
Me - whom Love crowned an empress of the world?

When the war broke out, Richard Sale was in practice as a solicitor with his father, Alfred, and his brother, Edward. Early in 1915 he joined the Inns of Court OTC and that September was commissioned into the Household Cavalry. He served at the front from February 1916 until his death in January 1918. In June 1916 he became his regiment's sniping and patrol officer and early in 1917 was promoted to brigade sniping officer. It was his duty among other things to make daily reports about the location of sniper posts and to liaise with the artillery for their removal. Sale died of wounds received in a raid on 15 January 1918.



This beautiful inscription comes from the last verse of a love poem, One Day, by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). The 'one day' is the day the lovers will be united when the second one dies.

When shall they meet? I cannot tell,
Indeed, when they shall meet again,
Except some day in Paradise:
For this they wait, one waits in pain,
Beyond the sea of death love lies
For ever, yesterday, to-day;
Angels shall ask them, 'Is it well?'
And they shall answer, 'Yea'.

In 1911 Horace Topps, aged 17, was living at home with his parents and six brothers and sisters, in Sutton Surrey: father, George Topps was a house painter, mother, Elizabeth was a charlady, Horace worked in a fishmonger's, sixteen-year-old Kate was a daily girl, Charlie, 14, Ethel, 10, twins Agnes and Helena 8, were at school, and three year old Ena was a 'baby at home'.
By 1918, three of the family were dead: George died in December 1917, Horace in January 1918 and Helena in December 1918. By the time Elizabeth chose Horace's inscription she had much to mourn.
The themes of undying love and meeting again are among the most popular of all personal inscriptions; Mrs Topps has chosen a particularly beautiful way of expressing this.
Horace Topps was a volunteer who entered France on active service on 27 August 1915. He served with the 21st Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps, which was sent to Italy in December 1917 to relieve the Italians on the Piave front. They were not involved in any particular military operations but in carrying out patrol work across the River Piave. Topps was the second battalion casualty of the tour.



This is an unusual quotation from Edward Fitzgerald's the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. When other families have quoted from this beautiful but fatalistic poem they have tended to choose passages that lament the fleeting nature of life. The quotation comes from the 26th quatrain. The 24th makes the point that we will soon all be dust so we may as well make the most of our lives whilst we can.

Ah make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and sans End!

The 26th quatrain scoffs at those supposedly wise men who discuss the future, what do they know and what's more, what will anyone care when they're dead:

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two worlds so wisely - they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scattere'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

Horace Holton's father, William Henry Holton, signed for his inscription. The family lived in Leicester where William was a boot finisher and in 1911, fourteen-year-old Horace was working in a wholesale chemists. His medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having entered a theatre of war on 28 July 1915. It looks therefore as though he volunteered on the outbreak of war when he was 18. His medal card says he served with the 9th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. The War Graves Commission records say it was the 1st/5th. The 9th Battalion arrived in France on 29 July 1915, which would tie in with the date on Holton's medal card. However, neither of these battalion's war diaries give any indication of hostile activities on the day he was said to have been killed in action.
So, what could the Holton's have meant by their choice of inscription? Does it just mean that their son is dead - his mouth full of the dust of the earth he's buried in? That seems a bit literal. Did they mean that it is pointless listening to those who think they 'know' what they're talking about - politicians and opinion formers? It could. Or were they aware, as Fitzgerald must have been, that putting your mouth in the dust is an Oriental form of submission as when you prostrate yourself in obeisance before a superior being as a sign that you are prepared to accept their will? So is it just a superior way of saying, Thy will be done?



But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
St Luke 6:27-8

It would appear to me that Mrs Sarah Ann Salt, Herbert Salt's mother, was making a statement against war when she chose her son's inscription. It was something she really wanted people to hear. The family were Welsh speakers. They filled in the census return in Welsh, yet Salt's inscription is in English. Many, many Welsh families composed Welsh inscriptions but filled the census up in English. With the Salts it was the other way around. The message was too important to limit to Welsh speakers.
The Salts lived in Cwm-y-Glo, a small slate-mining community in Caernarvonshire where father, Joseph Salt, was a quarryman. Herbert was his parents only son. He had three sisters, one was his twin, Hilda.
Salt served with the 19th Battalion Welsh Fusiliers and was killed in action on the 8 January 1918. At that time the battalion were in the trenches near Bullecourt. The war diary brackets the dates 5-9 January with the words: "Everything quiet during this tour. Fighting patrols were sent out each night".
Salt is buried in Mory Abbey Military Cemetery, as are four other soldiers of the 19th Battalion who were all killed on 8 January. It sounds to me as though some members failed to return from one of these fighting patrols. Nevertheless, in the terms of the diary writer everything was quiet during this tour. Relatively speaking, it probably was.



Private Skipper was 5 ft 6 inches tall according to his medical records, not that little by the standards of the day. His brother, Michael John Skipper, his next of kin, chose his inscription. They sound like Thomas James' own words.
Thomas James Skipper was 43 when he enlisted in 1916 - comparatively old. His brother said he was an accountant, Skipper himself said he was a gold prospector. He had certainly been a prospector; there's a newspaper cutting from The Daily News, Perth, dated 21 September 1899, showing his claim to a parcel of land under the terms of The Goldfields Act 1895. There's no indication he made any money from it.
Skipper enlisted in February 1916 and embarked for France the following November. He served with the 51st Infantry Battalion and on 2 April 1917 was wounded in action with a gunshot wound in his knee. He was hospitalised in Britain he was never again fit for active service and in July 1917 was posted permanently to the No 3 Command Depot at Hurdcott, Wiltshire.
On 31 December 1917, he became seriously ill. Admitted to the military hospital at Fovant, he died on January 7th of phthisis, tuberculosis.
In his own words, he had done his best.

Much of this information comes from the Compton Chamberlayne War Graves site.



Army and Navy Gazette 19 January 1918
Information Required
Lieut. A.N. Westlake MC RFC missing Jan 4. Will relatives of prisoners of war in Germany kindly ask for news of him?
Mrs Westlake, Wayside, Warham, Dorset

A week later Mrs Westlake, Lieutenant Westlake's mother, put another, identical notice in the Army and Navy Gazette. Nearly three months later, Flight magazine carried the following article:

4 April 1918
In the Hands of the Enemy
The following is an official list, published in Germany, of British machines which the Germans claim fell into their hands during the month of January 1918.

Among the planes listed was Bristol No B 1542 and beside it the comment Lieut AW (sic) Westlake dead.

Westlake served with 27 Squadron RFC and on the morning of 4 January he and 2nd Lieutenant Ewart took off at 09.50/10.50 from the airfield. It was reported that they were then seen "gliding down from 13,000 feet south-west of Denain in combat with EA (enemy aircraft) on return from bomb run to Denain". It's possible that B 1542 was shot down by German ace Wilhelm Reinhard who claimed his seventh victory that day in the area.
Both Ewart and Westlake were buried by the Germans at Niergnies - where they are still buried, the only two allied servicemen in the cemetery.
Albert Neave Westlake was the only son of Albert and Agnes Westlake of Wareham in Dorset. Educated at Shrewsbury School, he was the classic 'golden' schoolboy: head boy, a member of the 1st XI for both football and cricket and stroke in the 1st VIII. Not only this but he won a scholarship to New College Oxford, where he took a first at the end of the first part of his degree. However, he abandoned his degree to join the army.
Commissioned into the North Staffordshire Regiment, he was in France by August 1915. His Military Cross was awarded in the summer of 1917:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Battalion Intelligence Officer. When our attack was held up, he went forward under intense shell fire to the most advanced posts, and brought back accurate and valuable information. Later he passed through the enemy's barrage to obtain further information, and finally led a relieving company to the front line under heavy fire. His fearlessness and devotion to duty were beyond all praise."

This citation was published in the London Gazette four days after his death.
Mrs Agnes Westlake chose his inscription. It's a contraction of the words of St John Chapter 11 verse 25. Lazurus is dead and Jesus has just assured Martha that her brother he will rise again. She replies that she knows he will, in the resurrection at the last day:

And Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoseoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.



Edgar Bell died in Queen Alexandra's Hospital, Millbank, London on 3 January 1918 of wounds he'd received in France in May 1917. The only indication as to the nature of his wounds comes from the letter his officer wrote to his parents: "You will be pleased to hear that he behaved splendidly, and did not so much as make a sign that he had been wounded until I turned and saw him".
The son of Alexander Brown Bell and his wife Agnes, Edgar Bell was born in Sheffield on 13 January 1894. His father was a journalist, at the time of his son's death on the Yorkshire Evening Post. On leaving school, Edgar began to train as an architect and in 1913 joined the Yorkshire Hussars as a territorial soldier. He volunteered for foreign service and went with the regiment to France in February 1915. In March the following year, he transferred to the 6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment and was serving with them when he was wounded.
Alexander Bell signed for his son's inscription. At one time it was firmly believed to be the greeting gladiators gave to the emperor on entering the arena before a fight - Ave Impuratur , morituri te salutant, Hail Emperor, we who are about to die salute you. George Bernard Shaw, in his 1913 play Androcles and the Lion, gave the line to the Christians who were about to be fed to the lions: 'Hail, Caesar! Those about to die salute you'. However, it is now thought to have been at a one-off event when a crowd of condemned criminals, who were about to be forced to kill each other in a mock sea battle, hailed the Emperor Claudius with these words in the hope that he might pardon them. He didn't.
Why did Alexander Brown choose this inscription, what did he mean? It's possible that he had in mind the same sentiment as that implied by Simonides' famous inscription to the Spartan dead killed at the Battle of Thermopylae: "Go tell the Spartans, passer by, that obedient to their orders here we lie". Edgar Bell had done his duty by his country and had known the risks he was taking in so doing. Interestingly, it is the only instance of this inscription that I've come across. I could have imagined it being much more popular among a generation where the classics played such a large part in their education.



'Doll', Mrs Kate Thompson, Captain Thompson's widow, quotes the words of the extremely popular American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) for her husband's inscription:

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.

First published in June 1895 in The Century, a popular American quarterly magazine, it was later republished as the first verse of Wilcox's poem Voice of the Voiceless, which pleaded for kindness to animals.
Herbert Henry Thompson, born in Aldershot in 1884, was the son of Sergeant Major Herbert Henry Thomson and his wife Isabella. By 1901 Isabella was a widow running a fancy goods shop in Aldershot and Herbert was a grocer's assistant. She herself was an army daughter. Her father, John James Harvey, had been an army bandsman who had served in India where her younger sister was born.
I lost track of both Herbert Henry and Isabella in the 1911 census but wonder whether Herbert had gone to Africa. His military record notes that he served in the West African Frontier Force followed by the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having arrived on active service in Alexandria in August 1915. At some point he was mentioned in despatches but by the time of his death, cause unspecified, he was working for the Army Pay Department in Aldershot.
Scorned as a lowbrow, popular poet as opposed to a literary one, Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poems regularly appear in anthologies of bad verse, but I have rather a soft spot for her insouciant words of wisdom:

Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep and you weep alone;
The good old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame wind that blows.
'Tis the set of the sails,
And not the gales,
That tell us the way to go.
[The Winds of Fate]

All love that has not friendship for its base,
Is like a mansion built upon the sand.
Love, to endure life's sorrow and earth's woe,
Needs friendship's solid masonwork below.
[Upon the Sand]



'The Glorious Dead', these are the only words on the London cenotaph, the British Empire's memorial to its one and half million service dead of two world wars. Designed by Sir Edward Lutyens (1869-1944) in 1919, the cenotaph - an empty tomb to represent the absent dead - today receives universal approval. However, the inscription is often seen as 'problematic'. Why? Because we know there is absolutely nothing glorious about being killed in battle. It's a filthy, cruel, agonising and revolting business.
Yet, the word glorious is not meant to apply to the manner of death but to the dead themselves. The dead have acquired glory through their duty, courage and endurance. They have become glorious.
It's a clever choice of word combining Christian, classical and military associations. To the Christian, glory is associated with God; it's His magnificence, His majesty, in which the righteous all share at their own deaths. In the classical world, glory is renown, a good name acquired by noble actions. In Homer's Iliad, glory, kleos, is acquired on the battlefield, fighting bravely, risking death, dying. It's an intangible quality, something that only exists in the minds of others. It cannot be bought or awarded it can only be earned. And once a good name has been earned it bestows a form of immortality - their name liveth for evermore.
The Internet is confused as to who chose the words, some claim it was Rudyard Kipling, others Lloyd George but according to a document in the National Archives, it was Lutyens. In 1930 he wrote: "'The glorious dead', the words I put on my original sketch, also survived unchanged".
It's not an original phrase. The glorious dead had been used before to describe the illustrious dead. John Dryden, Pope, Shelley, Wordsworth all speak of the glorious dead, as did Laurence Binyon, whose poem The Fourth of August, published in The Winnowing Fan at the end of 1914, has the verse:

For us the glorious dead have striven,
They battled that we might be free.
We to their living cause are given;
We arm for men that are to be.

Albert Bethel's wife, Isabella, chose his inscription, no doubt influenced by the huge emotional attention the cenotaph attracted in the immediate post-war years. The couple had been married for four years and had two daughters. Albert, the son of Ralph and Hannah Bethel, was born and brought up in the town of Atherton, Lancashire. In 1911 he was a cotton piecer later becoming a spinner. He was still a spinner when his youngest daughter was baptised in June 1917.
Bethel served in the Mechanical Transport Company of the Army Service Corps. His company, attached to the 19th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, were responsible for hauling the heavy guns and keeping them supplied with ammunition. He died in a hospital in Rouen but it hasn't been possible to tell from what cause.
The initials I.H.S. are a sacred monogram based on the first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek.



As William Hepton's inscription shows, he enlisted within a month of the outbreak the war and died two days before the end, serving for a total of four years, two months and eight days. Fate is cruel.
Hepton's medal card indicates that he was a serjeant in the Yorkshire Hussars in August 1914. This was a territorial regiment and its soldiers were under no obligation to serve abroad. However, within the first month many territorials volunteered for foreign service and it would appear that Hepton was one of them.
He served on the Western Front from his arrival in France on 15 April 1915 until he returned to England to take a commission in the Yorkshire Dragoons, remaining with them until February 1917. After this he was attached to the 5th Dragoon Guards and was serving with them when he died of pneumonia following influenza on 9 November.
The only son of Arthur Hepton and his wife Eliza, who died in 1914, William Hepton was born in Headingley in 1884. Educated at Shrewsbury School and Oriel College, Oxford, he joined the family firm of Hepton Bros. Mantle Manufacturers of Leeds. In 1914, the company were employing 1,996 workers in the manufacture of ladies' mantles (cloaks), costumes (suits), waterproofs and raincoats.
On 20 November 1918, the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer carried a report of Hepton's death. The paper recounted his war service, and relayed the praise of his senior officer: "he always did his duty to his country, as it was always his first thought, and the only course that such a gentleman as he could ever think of taking". But rather strangely, the passage is preceded by the comment, "It would be unkind of me" to tell you how well he always did his duty to his country, and is followed by the words: "Lieut. Hepton left a bed of sickness in response to an order to go forward, and being unable to ride on horse back, was wrapped up and travelled for over three hours in a lorry". It would appear to me that William Hepton, in "doing his duty to his country", responded to an order, to the detriment of his health, which contributed to his death. It would explain why he's buried in a small cemetery close to the front line.
Hepton's inscription closes with the words, 'Love never faileth'. The reference is to 1 Corinthians 13:8 and the words come from the 1881 Revised Version of the New Testament. Without love, whatever other qualities we have are as are nothing:

Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth.



Dinna forget, the words mean do not forget, or rather more poetically, forget me not, and despite the Scottish dialect their use is not restricted to Scotland. In fact they appears regularly on sentimental postcards of the Victorian and Edwardian era, part of their love affair with all things Scottish.
It's impossible to attribute the words to any one source, there are so many instances of the phrase in poems, books and on keepsakes and jewellery. During the First World War there were even little silver pendants with entwined enamel French and British flags and the words 'Dinna Forget' sold as sweetheart necklaces and bracelet charms. Often exchanged as the soldier went off to war, they were meant to ensure that the girlfriend didn't forget him and remained faithful. But if the soldier died then they became a pledge never to forget his memory.
This is how the words are used for Fred Watson's inscription. But the young woman who chose them was his older sister, Hilda, not a sweetheart. Fred served in the Scots Guards so I wondered if the family had Scottish connections but no. They were all born and brought up in England, most of them in Yorkshire, where they all worked in the cotton industry, including Fred who at the age of 12 was a spinner piecer.
Fred served in the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and died of wounds three days before the end of the war in one of the hospitals in Rouen. There is no record of where or when he was wounded but the regiment had taken part in most of the last battles of the war from the 27 September onwards: the crossing of the Canal du Nord, the crossing of the Selle, the battle of Cambrai and the crossing of the Sambre on the 4 November.



The word kismet derives from the Turkish word 'qismet' or the Arabic 'qismat'. In these cultures it means the will of Allah. To the West it is a secular word meaning fate, chance, destiny. Archibald Hunter's inscription is not unique but its use definitely increases among the casualties of these last few weeks of the war. It's also the inscription on the grave of Lance Corporal Lenard, a veteran of the South African War and of the North West Frontier, who was killed in action on 23 August 1914, the day the British army first engaged with the enemy on the Western Front.
Archibald Hunter, the son of Archibald Hunter, a Grocery Manager, and his wife, Margaret Jane, was a schoolboy in Durham when the war broke out. He was only commissioned into the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on 30 July 1918. He served with the 9th Battalion and was killed in action in the taking of the villages of Limont Fontaine and Eclaibes. These extracts from the war diary describe the day:

"08.45 hrs Success seemed certain, the weather was favourable - a heavy mist overhung the field of operations ... Despite this, however, the advance was held up, the objective could not be reached because of intense artillery and machine gun fire." Later that afternoon, at 15.50 hrs another attack was launched, led by the 9th K.O.Y.L.I. "From now onwards this Battalion, ably led, made excellent progress, and literally carried everything before it by sheer determination and will to win. A strong stand was made by the enemy, but all to no purpose. In the fierce fighting that took place in front and in the streets of the villages, men of the 9th K.O.Yorks. L.I. refused to be denied the victory, which they has set out to gain. Once again the enemy were entirely outmanoeuvred and outfought. By 21.30 hrs. so great had been the force of the assault, the villages of Limont Fontaine and Eclaibes - thoroughly cleared of the enemy, were added to the growing list of Allied gains."

The war had four days to run and Hunter, who had been at the front for only three months, was dead.
In 1911, Kismet, a very popular play written by Edward Knoblock appeared on the London stage, where it ran for two years and was then made into a film in 1914. It was only a very slight love story but it elevated the word in the public's consciousness, not as 'the will of Allah', and definitely not as the will of God, but as random chance.



James Hargreaves Morton lived with his four older sisters: Rachel, Sarah, Fanny and Alice, all unmarried, who worked in the cotton and linen mills of Darwen Lancashire and supported him in his career as an artist. They were proud of him, as the inscription Rachel chose makes clear. They had every reason to be.
Morton received his first training as an artist in Darwen School of Art before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. After this he took a job teaching art at Darlington Technical School but decided before long that he couldn't concentrate on his painting whilst teaching. It was at this point that his mother and sisters decided he should come home and they would support him whilst he dedicate himself to his painting.
It seems he wasn't totally supported by his sisters. In the 1911 census Morton described himself as a decorative designer in wall paper, working on his own account. There were several wallpaper manufacturers in Darwen who would have bought his designs. But in the following years he became increasingly well known as an artist, exhibiting at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool and at the Royal Academy. One of his best-known paintings, Johanna, which shows a young Belgian refugee, was painted during the first years of the war, as was a rather haunting self portrait in which Morton seems to stare stoically but apprehensively into the future.
Morton was thirty-three when the war broke out. He did not enlist but in 1916 was conscripted. He served with the 5th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment and must have been a capable soldier since within two years he was a serjeant. He was killed in action on 6 November when the battalion launched an attack in the Forest of Mormal, which had to be withdrawn in the face of fierce machine gun fire and a threatened counter attack. The attack succeeded the next day.
After his death, the sisters kept all Morton's paintings, honouring his wish that they should be kept together. But after Alice's death in 1967 they were sold uncatalogued and with no record of the buyers. Recently there has been a revival of interest in his work and in 2013 James Hargreaves Morton A Short Colourful Life was published by the Friends of Darwen Library.



Alexander Mack died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station six days before the end of the war. His mother chose his inscription. Is it a last message from her son, or are they words she has put into her son's mouth?
Lance Corporal Mack could well have known that victory was in sight. Although the Germans were still putting up fierce resistance, the Allies were daily pushing them further and further back towards Germany. Mack may not have known this but, Austria-Hungary had signed an armistice with the Italians on 3 November, a month after the Germans had approached President Wilson to see if they could negotiate a truce. Two days after Mack's death, General Hindenburg, head of the German army, opened peace negotiations with the Allies.
So Mack could well have known that military victory was in sight, but is this what the words mean? When Christians talk of victory they mean Christ's victory over death.

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15: 54-56

This famous passage from the bible was the inspiration for a hymn by the Scottish-born presbyterian minister William H Drummond (1772-1865) of which this is the first verse:

Thanks be to God, the Lord,
The victory is ours;
And hell is overcome
By Christ's triumphant pow'rs!
The monster sin in chains is bound,
And death has felt his mortal wound.

It's not impossible to think that Mrs Mary Mack was conflating Christ's victory over death with the British victory over the Germans, and that to her the 'monster' was Germany.
Alexander Mack was the son of James and Mary Mack. Born in Edinburgh, as were both his parents, the family moved to London soon after Alexander's birth. James Mack was a printer's machine minder, as were at least two of his sons, including Alexander. This was the person who was responsible for the overall look of the printed sheet, for the flow of the ink and the pressure of the rollers. Mack served with the 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment and from the position of the Casualty Clearing Station where he died, was wounded in the fighting for the Sambre-Oise Canal.



A hundred years after his death Wilfred Owen is one of the most famous casualties of the war, certainly the most famous poet to have been killed, even the most famous of all the war poets. However, at the time, few people had ever heard of him. Two weeks after his death, his parents inserted an announcement in The Times but there was no follow-up obituary. Whereas three days after Rupert Brooke's death a headline in The Times read, 'Death of Mr Rupert Brooke', the article accompanied by an appreciation written by Winston Churchill, then still First Lord of the Admiralty.
But as Brooke's reputation has diminished, somewhat unfairly as he died before his poetry could reflect his experience of warfare, Owen's has soared. Yet Owen too could write like Brooke in the early days; his first poem of the war concluding with the verse:

O meet it is and passing sweet
To live in peace with others,
But sweeter still and far more meet
To die in war for brothers.

Owen's post-war fame was fostered by those members of the literary world who saw his quality, people like Harold Munro, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Edith Sitwell. Sitwell was the first person to publish a collection of Owen's work. The 1919 edition of Wheels, the magazine she edited with her brother, Osbert, not only carried seven of his poems but was dedicated to the memory of 'W.O.' By the late twentieth century his reputation had reached iconic status, where it remains. Owen is the anti-war poet of all anti-war poets, the man who portrayed war in its full repulsiveness.
Yet, when offered the ability to escape the war, as he was in the summer of 1918 following his treatment for shell shock at Craiglockhart, Owen decided he must return to the front. As he wrote in The Calls:

For leaning out last midnight on my sill,
I heard the sighs of men, that have no skill
To speak of their distress, no, nor the will!
A voice I know. And this time I must go.

Owen did not return to the front just so that he could give voice to the voiceless soldiery but to fight. The Military Cross he was awarded for his actions on 1st/2nd October 1918 was for not only assuming command when his company commander became a casualty but for personally manipulating a captured enemy machine gun and inflicting 'considerable losses on the enemy'. He was killed just over a month later, shot as he encouraged his men to face the German machine guns as they desperately tried to prevent the British army crossing the Sambe-Oise canal.
Wilfred was the eldest child of Tom Owen, Assistant Superintendent of the Joint Railways [the LNWR and GWR], and his wife, Susan. The news of his death reached the family home on 11 November, just as all the church bells were ringing to celebrate the Armistice.
When, some time later his parents were asked to choose an inscription, they chose a line from one of their son's own poems, The End. His father actually signed the form confirming the inscription although his mother is always blamed for curtailing the quotation and so giving it a meaning diametrically opposed to the one her son intended. The poem, which people have tried to see as a comment on the war, has to be a comment on the idea of resurrection, the Day of Judgement. Owen asks:

Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul, all tears assuage?

There are two questions here. The inscription, as chosen by the parents, contains a question and an answer:

Shall life renew
These bodies?
Of a truth
All death will he annul.

Owen questions the resurrection, his parents assert it. Their action is no different from the many other families who took lines out of context and in so doing altered their meanings. Mr and Mrs Owen could never have envisaged that their son's poetry would become the subject of such minute study, and in any case - it's what they wanted to say.



It is unusual to see an inscription like this, this questioning of whether death is in fact the end or whether there is something that comes afterwards. It is far more usual to see families express the firm belief that they will all meet again: 'Thinking of you 'til we meet again', 'God will bind the golden chain closer when we meet again', and one of the most popular of all inscriptions, 'Until the day dawns and the shadows flee away'. But Private Bolton's wife, Eva, was not so sure - 'Is this the end?'
Charles James Bolton was a house painter from Norwich, one of the four sons and seven daughters of Alfred and Sarah Bolton, also of Norwich. He married Eva Lawton in 1908 and the couple had one son, Sidney George.
Bolton's medal card indicates that he didn't enter a war zone until 1916. He was a married man with a wife and child and it wasn't until May 1916 that married were conscripted. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, as a stretcher bearer with the 2nd Field Ambulance, part of the 1st Division. On 4 November the Division took part in the attack on the Sambre Oise Canal. Bolton was shot by a sniper.

'Is this the end?'



War Diary
102nd Battalion Canadian Infantry
Saturday November 2 1918
The Hun started bombing and shelling at 04:00 hours. Our barrage opened at 05:30 hours ...
The Hun continued desultory shelling of the town and at about 09:00 hours, the Battalion Medical Officer, Captain Harry Dunlop MC (CAMC) was hit in the head whilst standing in the doorway of HQ and died shortly afterwards, to the intense sorrow of all.

Dunlop was working in Peru when the war broke out. He returned to Canada to enlist in March 1916 and went abroad that October. In March 1918 he married an American, Rachel Thayer, in London. In August he was awarded a Military Cross for his action near Beaucourt-en-Santerre when, "this officer followed close behind the attack, and attended to the wounded under heavy machine gun fire. He was untiring in his efforts to care for and evacuate the wounded, and undoubtedly saved many lives".
After the war, Mrs Dunlop returned to the United States. At the time she chose her husband's inscription her address was Eaton's Ranch, Wolf Creek, Wyoming, a 7,000 acre cattle ranch on the slopes of the Bighorn Mountain.
The inscription she chose comes from the last line of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the West Wind. The poem is thought to express support for the people of Europe in their struggle against authoritarian regimes. Winter in this context being the re-establishment of reactionary governments after the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 and these governments' suppression of liberal protest; just as spring always follows winter so conservative repression will be followed by liberal reforms. However, in the context of Harry Dunlop's inscription it would appear to be a reference to death and resurrection: just as spring always follows winter so death is always followed by resurrection.

EZEK. 24.16


The Bisatt's God was a fierce God, a jealous God, one who took away from the prophet Ezekial "the desire of thine eyes with a stoke": his wife. God then forbad Ezekial to either mourn or weep. It's a difficult biblical passage but it appears to be a graphic way of demonstrating to Ezekial the level of sorrow God's people should be feeling as they continue to disobey His ways. As a consequence of this disobedience the people will be punished: their sons and their daughters "shall fall by the sword" and then "ye shall know that I am the Lord God". In other words, you will be forced to acknowledge how powerful I am
George Bisatt chose his son's inscription; it would appear that he believed the war was God's way of punishing people for the callous decadence of early twentieth-century life. He wasn't alone in believing this, nor alone in believing that having purged the world of sin, the post-war world would be a better world, one where there was no more war and where mankind would live together in love and brotherhood.
Private Robert Bisatt was the eldest son of George and Sarah Bisatt of St Fagans, Cardiff. George Bisatt was a flour miller's clerk, Robert Bisatt had been a clerk with the Great Western Railway before he was called up. His nineteenth birthday was in the first quarter of 1918 so he cannot have been at the front long. He served with the 15th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and was killed in action on 2 November 1918 as the British army tried to cross the Sambre-Ojse canal, a task they achieved two days later.



Yesterday's soldier, Ernest Cartright, enlisted on 23 August 1914 and entered a theatre of war on 15 July 1915. He was killed on 1 November 1918. Arthur Skemp too joined up on the outbreak of war, and he too was killed on 1 November but in Skemp's case he had been at the front for just eight days, since 23 October.
Skemp was not unwilling to go to the front but his employers were unwilling to let him go. He was the extremely popular and able Winterstoke Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Bristol of whom a friend wrote:

"His remarkable powers as a lecturer on his subject were well known, and he was idolised by staff and students alike for his intellectual gifts, strong and virile character, his energy and enthusiasm, and his geniality and unfailing kindness of heart endeared him to all."

Skemp served as a member of the Bristol Contingent of the Officer Training Corps until he got transferred to the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and was posted to France. He arrived just as the battalion came out of the line for six days general cleaning up and training. On the 30th they took over the line NE of Mazinghein, holding posts overlooking the Canal de la Sambre. On the 31st the battalion repulsed an enemy attack, the next day the enemy attacked again:

"A Coy posts attacked by enemy. Enemy repulsed with casualties. Our casualties: Lieut A.R. Skemp and 6 O.R. killed 1 O.R. wounded. 4 O.R. wounded later."

Mrs Jessie Skemp chose her husband's inscription. It comes from Robert Browning's Prospice. The choice of author cannot have been difficult since Professor Skemp, the author of a study of his poetry, was a Browning expert. Nor can the choice of poem have been difficult either since in Prospice Browning expresses a bold determination not to hide from death but to meet it head on:

I was ever a fighter, so - one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forebore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.



When some families noted the date of enlistment in the personal inscription it was to show that the man had been a volunteer. There was pride, a cachet, in the fact that he hadn't waited to be conscripted but had volunteered. In the case of Ernest Cartwright, his wife will also have wanted to highlight the tragedy of her husband's death just ten days before the end of the war.
Cartwright had joined the West Riding Regiment as a private, going with them to France on 15 July 1915. He was commissioned in May 1918, serving, so the War Graves Commission's records show, with the 5th Battalion. But on 1 November, the day Cartwright was killed in action, the 5th Battalion's war diary makes no mention of any action. It wasn't even in the front line.

1 November: "Fine day. Battalion trained on ground west of Solesmes in morning. Recreation in afternoon. News was received that Austria-Hungary had concluded an Armistice with the Allies."

Cartwright's name isn't listed among the month's officer casualties either. He was, however, dead, the news reported in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on 18 November.
The second part of Cartwright's inscription became very popular on headstones, war memorials and In Memoriam columns. You can see its popularity grow in the pages of local newspapers: it appeared once in 1916 and once 1917, eight times in 1918 and fifty times in 1919. The earliest mentions sometimes quote the full two-verse poem. The later mentions restrict themselves to the last two lines.

Gone without one farewell message.
Mangled by a German shell,
He, whose laughter still is ringing
In the home he loved so well.

Comrade's hands, by love made tender,
Laid our warrior 'neath the sod,
And he sleeps with England's heroes
In the watchful care of God.



What a difference a hundred years makes: our understanding of the words 'straight' and 'white', especially in relation to men, has changed radically since Private Mann's officer described him as 'a straight white man'. To be straight meant to be honest and straightforward, and to be a white man meant to be decent and trustworthy.
Honesty might not, however, have been Mann's best quality. On the 2 October 1915, Thomas Harry Mann enlisted in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He said he was 19. Four months later, on 6 February 1916, he was in France. But on 3 May 1916 he was discharged from the army. Why? Because he had lied. Thomas Mann was just 16 when he enlisted. His discharge form is marked, "Discharged having made misstatement as to age on enlistment". Yet, on the bottom of the form there's a space for a character reference and it says:

"A good brave lad who has been four months at the front and he is willing and hard working."

Honesty may not have been his strong point but his seniors all thought well of him.
Thomas Mann enlisted again in September 1917. This time in the 7th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). The battalion were involved in the 3rd Ypres Campaign in the autumn of 1917. In the spring of 1918 they were in the eye of the storm of the German offensive at St Quentin, and then they were back at the front again for the final push across both the St Quentin Canal and the River Selle.
Mann was killed in action on 31 October. All the 7th Battalion's war diary says of the day is:

"During night our patrols active and a number of enemy machine guns located. A patrol under 2/Lt Gerard endeavoured to capture an enemy MG post but came under heavy fire. Bombs were thrown and the gun was afterwards inactive."

Was this how Private Mann met his end?
It is estimated that there was something in the region of 250,00 underage soldiers serving in the British army at the beginning of the war. Soldiers were meant to be 18 before they could enlist, and 19 before they could serve at the front. However, prior to the introduction of conscription you didn't have to be able to prove your age you just had to declare it. If you looked 18 the army took your word for it. Much has been written about recruiting sergeants turning a blind eye to the underage because they got a bonus for every man they enlisted. But the fact of the matter was that the army wanted men and not weaklings. Soldiers had to be able to carry their packs and march long distances. If you looked old enough and strong enough the army took your word for it.
I don't know the circumstances Mann's discharge. Did his parents track him down and tell the authorities how old he was or did Thomas himself ask to be released when faced with the reality of war?
Thomas Harry Mann was the eldest son of Thomas Henry Mann, a printer's machine assistant from Walworth in south east London, and his wife, Charlotte.



To H.T.O.

In honour, chivalrous;
In duty, valorous;
In all things, noble;
To the heart's core, clean.
St Jans Capelle 1915

This four-line verse, a tribute to H.T.O. a soldier killed near Ypres in 1915, was written by the Canadian priest and poet, Frederick George Scott [1861-1944]. Aged fifty-three when the war broke out, Scott volunteered for war service in 1914 and served in France and Flanders until the Armistice. His memoir, The Great War As I Saw It, makes an interesting and detailed read. 'To H.T.O.' was included in a collection of Scott's verse called, 'In the Battle Silences Poems Written at the Front', published in 1917.
Knighthoods are bestowed on those who have done special service to their monarch. In times gone by this would have been military service. The knights of old were considered to have been a particular breed, their qualities summarised by Scott's verse. H.T.O. and Serjeant-Major Montague have both done special service to their king and have had the qualities of knighthood bestowed on them.
Montague originally served as a private with the 3rd London Regiment Royal Fusiliers. The regiment was in India when the war broke out but returned to England in December 1914 and by January 1915 was in France. Montague's medal card gives 6 January 1915 as the date for his arrival in France. This is rather early for a volunteer. Was he already a soldier? The 1911 census describes him a publisher's assistant, perhaps he was a territorial.
At the time of his death, Montague was serving with the 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. As he died of wounds in one of the base hospitals in Boulogne, it's not possible to tell when or where he was wounded, but during September and October 1918 the 10th Battalion had been involved in the Battle of Cambrai, the Pursuit to the Selle, the Battle of the Selle, and on the 27 October the Battle of the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood.
Montague was the son of Albert Edward Montague, Assistant Secretary to the Victoria Institute Philosophical Society of Great Britain. It was a deeply conservative organization committed to defending "the Great Truths revealed in Holy Scripture against the opposition of Science falsely so called". In other words it was opposed to Darwinism. However, it wasn't either of Montague's parents who chose his inscription but his wife, Alice.



This is no 'que sera sera' but a far more definite statement, not whatever will be will be but 'whatever is, is best'. The words are both the title and the last line of a three verse poem by the popular American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox [1850-1919]. This is the last verse:

I know there are no errors
In the great Eternal plan,
And all things work together
For the final good of man.
And I know when my soul speeds onward
In its grand Eternal quest,
I shall say as I look back earthward
Whatever is - is best.

Mrs Dorothy Bell chose the inscription for her husband, 'Jack', who died of influenza in hospital in Boulogne on 30 October 1918. They had been married for nearly two years and had an eighteen-month-old son. Bell originally served in the Royal Field Artillery but at the time of his death was attached to the Intelligence Corps.



The poem from which this inscription comes, For All We Have and Are, was written by Rudyard Kipling inthe first month of the war. It begins:

For all we have and are,
For all our children's fate,
Stand up and take the war.
The hun is at the gate.

Kipling warns that we shall all have to give up our comfortable lives in order "to meet and break and bind a crazed and driven foe". However:

No easy hope or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sarcrifice
Of body will and soul.
There is but one task for all -
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?

Most families chose the last two lines of the poem, but Private Mcnamara's mother, Matilda, chose the penultimate two. They seem to issue a stark message: it is up to each person to offer their life to the cause.
Mcnamara, who served with the 6th Battalion Welsh Regiment, a pioneer battalion, was killed on 28 October 1918 when "the companies were employed on the repair of forward roads and tracks, working as far forward as possible by day without direct observation". The war diary doesn't report any casualties but presumably something went wrong.
Mcnamara is buried in the cemetery at La Vallee-Mulatre, the village where the battalion had been billeted. It's a very small cemetery, only forty-seven burials. For this reason it features on Pierre Vandervelden's website, 'In Memory' designed to encourage people to venture off the beaten track and visit some of the smaller cemeteries along the Western Front. 'In Memory' has a Guest Book and in it 'Stephen' has written: "In memory of my great uncle Llewellyn Mcnamara, he never wanted to go died 28/10/1918 he nearly came home. You may be long gone but you are certainly not forgotten." -
"He never wanted to go", the great nephews's words; "There is but one task for all - one life for each to give", the mother's choice of personal inscription. Mcnamara was a conscript, although he was 31 in 1918 he didn't enter the war until at least 1916. Did his mother disagree with his holding back or was she acknowledging that her son had had to do his duty?
Llewellyn Mcnamara was the son of Robert Mcnamara, a County Council nightwatchman in Swansea, and Matilda his wife. In 1911, Mcnamara was working as a carter for the Steam Packet Company, which ran a ferry service between Swansea and Ilfracombe across the Bristol Channel.



Robert Inglis was taken prisoner, unwounded, at Ploegsteert on 11 April 1918. The information comes from his file in the Red Cross Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives. Inglis served with the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, not the 19th as it says on his War Grave Commission record, and was captured when the Germans overran the catacombs at Hill 63 near Ploegsteert Wood as they drove all before them during their Spring Offensive.
Six months later, Inglis, who had been held at Friedrichsfeld bei Wesel prisoner of war camp, died of unrecorded causes - most probably influenza - on 28 October 1918. He was 19 and ten months.
Alexander Inglis, Robert's father, chose his inscription. It comes from the last lines of a poem written by the English-born Canadian poet Robert Service, Young Fellow My Lad, which was published in Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, 1916. In the poem, the son tells the father that he's going to join up despite the father's protestations that he's only a boy: "I'm seventeen and a quarter, Dad, and ever so strong you know". The son goes off to fight and after some time the father receives no letters from him. He's very afraid:

I hear them tell that we've gained new ground,
But a terrible price we've paid:
God grant, my boy, that you're safe and sound;
But oh I'm afraid, afraid.

The son has been killed: "They've told me the truth, young fellow my lad: You'll never come back again". But he is able to comfort himself with the thought that his son will live on:

In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you'll never die, my wonderful boy,
While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to lads like you.

Robert Inglis was the son of Alexander Inglis, a stableman, and his wife, Margaret, of Newlands, Glasgow.



John Gifford and Elsie Ellen Davies had five sons: Donald, Herbert and the triplets Algernon, Colin and Bertram. In that pre-technical medical era the survival of all three of them - and the mother - must have been quite rare. In 1849, Queen Victoria had introduced a bounty for multiple births of three or more children. A bounty that survived until 1957. However, the bounty was only for families in need and the Davies were relatively prosperous. John Gifford Davies was the founder and owner of J.G.Davies & Co. Builders and Contractors, Frodsham Cheshire.
Algernon's service papers have not survived, but Bertram's have. If Algernon followed his triplet brother, he enlisted on 27 June 1917 aged 17 and 11 months but didn't 'join for duty' until the following June, one month short of his 19th birthday. A report says that Algernon didn't go 'into the firing line' until 22 October 1918. Four days later he was wounded and admitted to a casualty clearing station suffering from gunshot wounds in the dead and neck. The sister, who wrote to his parents after his death, said there had been little hope of recovery but that she hoped it would comfort them to know that he had been given every care and attention.
Bertram and Colin Davies survived the war; Bertram dying in 1956 aged 56 and Colin in 1988 aged 88.



Owen Atkinson's father, Lieutenant-Colonel George Charles Atkinson, Indian Army, quotes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling for his son's inscription. Called The Nativity, the poem compares the anguish of the Virgin Mary over her son's death with that of a mother whose son has been killed but who has no known grave, "she knows not how he fell", nor "where he is laid".
Published in the Daily Telegraph on 23 December 1916, the poem echoes the Kipling's own grief. John Kipling had gone missing during the Battle of Loos on 27 September 1915. His body was never found and his parents had to face the agony of having to believe he was dead but hoping against hope that he was alive.
George and Margarita Atkinson did know that their son was dead. Wounded on 21 October 1918, he died six days later and was buried in the grounds of the Hautmont Abbey; his body exhumed and reburied in Y Farm Military Cemetery in February 1920.
Atkinson had already followed his father into the army before the outbreak of war. He attended the School of Military Engineering in Chatham and was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 1 April 1914. He crossed to France with his unit, the 200th Field Company, on 15 November 1914 and served with them for one month short of four years, rising to the rank of major.
He was wounded on 21 October 1918 and died six days later. The Engineers were trying to bridge the River Scheldt near Helchin and according to the war diary, Major O.D. Atkinson was "wounded while making reconnaissance for bridge across Schelte near Helchin". The Allies didn't manage to cross the River Scheldt until the beginning of November and by then the war was virtually over.
Kipling's poem has an interesting number of religious references for a man who was generally considered not to have believed in a Christian God. The phrase in the poem, "Is it well with the child" is a quote from 2 Kings 4:26. One day the prophet Elisha has an unexpected visit from the Shunammite woman, a wealthy woman who has befriended him. He sees her from a distance and sends his servant to ask:

"Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well."

In fact the Shunammite woman's child is dead but her words indicate that whatever God does 'it is well', and that 'it is well' with those who are dead too since they are with God. The last verse of Kiplng's poem indicates that this is how this mother also feels. Her child has died in God's cause, so it is well with him:

"But I know for Whom he fell" -
The steadfast mother smiled,
"Is it well with the child - is it well?
It is well - it is well with the child!"

JOHN 14:27


The words in the inverted commas aren't Thomas Rattray's but those Christ used when he warned his disciples that he wouldn't be with them for much longer.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
St John 14:27

Christ was comforting the disciples with the promise that he would leave them with his peace: the knowledge that through his death they would be assured of eternal life. This will have been the meaning of Rattray's last message, that he trusted in Christ words - presumably with the hope that they would be a comfort to his wife. As it was his wife, Mary Young Rattray, who chose the inscription, it would seem that they might have done.
Rattray came from Largo in Fife, where his father, Andrew, was a tailor clothier. He served with the 6th Battalion Black Watch, was not entitled to a 1914 or 1915 Star so can't have entered a theatre of war before 1916. He was killed in action on 26 October 1918 when the battalion, part of the 51st Highland Division, captured the village of Maing, which had been in German hands since the beginning of the war. He is buried in Maing Communal Cemetery Extension a small cemetery with only eighty-five graves, all belonging to soldiers killed between 11 October and 5 November, sixteen of them belonging to soldiers of the Black Watch killed between the 24th and the 27th.



Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
St John 14:1-3

The opening words of St John Chapter 14 offer instant comfort and most people at the time would have recognised them since the passage always was, and still is, a popular reading at funerals with its promise of a home in heaven for al- comers and its suggestion that there we shall all meet again.
William Gibbs was the son of Eli and Lizzie Gibbs of Buckland Common in Buckinghamshire. Eli described himself in 1911 as a farm servant, his sons William and Jesse as agricultural and farm labourers respectively. William served originally with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry before transferring to the 11th Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment. He died of wounds in a casualty clearing station in Moorseele, 20 km east of Ypres, twelve days after the town had been taken from the Germans.



Among the 3,879 graves in Terlincthen British Cemetery, this personal inscription seems to have a special tenderness. The graves on either side of Tonar's have very conventional inscriptions: 'Deeply mourned by his loving father, mother, brothers & sisters R.I.P.' and 'Rest in peace', which serve to highlight the informality of Tonar's.
James Tonar's father, a railway carter in Leith, was still alive but his mother, who chose the inscription, privileges herself on their son's grave.
Tonar died in hospital in Terlincthen, a town near the ports where there were a number of base hospitals. The War Grave Commission's register says he died of disease, the Leith Roll of Honour is more specific - he died of pneumonia, quite possibly a complication influenza.



Many families make their acceptance of God's will evident in their choice of personal inscription: 'Thy will be done', 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by thee', 'Not my will but thine O Lord'.
Private Parker's inscription seems rather different: there's an air of desperation to it, as though Parker's mother is trying to persuade herself that God must be right ... but can't believe that he is because how can it be right for her to lose her only child, her darling boy.
Charles Parker's parents were in the theatre. Haidee Parker was a former dancer, Frank Parker the theatrical manager of the London Hippodrome. In the 1911 census, Charles Parker's occupation is given as Box Office Keeper.
Parker served with the 1st Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and was killed in action on 25 October 1918.



This heroic statement comes from a song from the ballad opera Maritana, written in 1845 by William Vincent Wallace and Edward Fitzball.

Oh let me like a soldier fall
Upon some open plain -
This breast expanding for a ball
To blot out every stain.
Brave manly hearts confer my doom,
That gentler ones may tell;
Howe'er unknown forgot my tomb
He, like a soldier fell.
He, like a soldier fell.

You can hear it sung here in unmistakably martial tones.
There is no soldier in the opera but a roguish hero, Don Caesar, who is about to be hanged for duelling. At the last moment he is offered a soldier's death - by firing squad - rather than by public hanging. He chooses the firing squad so that it can be said of him that - he like a soldier fell.
George Horner's father chose his inscription. I doubt that he was aware of the plot of Maritana, to him the song represented a soldier offering himself for heroic martyrdom, as his son had done. Taken out of context, the song had become a patriotic rallying cry and was included in publications like The New Army Song Book of 1917. It also featured on one of Bamforth's postcard series where in a deeply romantic and unrealistic image, a group of soldiers pay their respects at a comrade's grave.
Born and brought up in Kilmarnock, George Horner was the son of John Horner, a forge labourer, and his wife Jeanie. He served with the 1st Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and was killed on 24 October 1918 - although I wonder if this is correct. On 21 October the battalion had taken part in an attack on Dados Loop and Gloster Lane. It met with intense machine gun fire and was hampered by uncut wire resulting in a number of casualties. Relieved on the night of the 22/23rd, the battalion spent the 24th cleaning up and reorganizing. Whilst Horner could have died of wounds three days after the battle, his body was at found at map reference K.16. B.9.5. and later reburied in Highland Cemetery, which is more in keeping with a battle casualty that someone who died at a medical facility.



Macully was a volunteer, every Australian soldier was a volunteer as there was no conscription in Australia. But it was an issue that bitterly divided country. In October 1916 the Government held a referendum on the issue and was defeated by 72,000 votes. It held another referendum in December 1917 when it lost by 166,588 votes.
It may not look like it but Mrs Macully is referring to conscription in her son's inscription. Arnold Macully had recognised that he had a duty to fight for God and his country - the Latin 'Deo et patria' lending gravitas to the sentiment. But she hadn't forced him to do his duty: "Mother dear I must go" speaks of a tender but determined son and a mother who is unwilling to part with him. The implication is clear, Arnold Macully was no shirker and Mrs Macully had not forced her son to enlist.
Macully served with the 14th Brigade Australian Artillery. All the Australian divisions had been withdrawn from the Western Front for rest and recuperation after the Battle of Montbrehain on the 5 October. Not only were they exhausted having been in continuous action since August but there weren't enough Australian reinforcements to make up the casualties and some battalions were operating at less than half their strength. However, some artillery units remained to support the British and American infantry. The 14th Brigade was one of those that remained. On 23 October they were engaged at Le Cateau, providing a creeping barrage for a British attack.
Macully's Red Cross file states that he was admitted to the 55th Casualty Clearing Station on 23 October and died the next day. A witness told his mother:

"It happened at dusk one evening late in October, and Gunner Macully was in his dugout in the waggon lines when he was badly wounded by a shell in the thigh and side." His mate helped place "him on a stretcher, and carried him to an Ambulance by the road-side. He was quite conscious and chattered cheerfully to the Drivers Saunders and Edwards, telling them how to apply the Field Dressing. He was then taken away, and they learnt later that he has succumbed to his wounds."



Lieutenant Charles Reynolds was a pilot with 55 Squadron, part of the Independent Air Force. If you've never heard of the Independent Air Force neither had I.
The Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918, the Independent Air Force, or the Independent Force RAF, on 6 June. The RAF was intended as a tactical force, operating in support of the army on the ground, the Independent Air Force was to be a strategic force, attacking German railways, industrial centres and airfields. By the end of October, joined by French, Italian and American squadrons, it had become the Inter-Allied Independent Air Force. However, three days after the signing of the Armistice it was dissolved.
Charles Reynolds enlisted on the outbreak of war and was commissioned into the 1st Surrey Rifles on 14 October 1914. He was eighteen. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, getting his wings in June 1917. After this he received specific bombing training before joining 55 Squadron in March 1918. The squadron flew the new DH4s on daylight bombing raids over German targets. Reynolds was wounded on 18 May 1918 having taken part in a raid over Cologne when thirty-three bombers caused widespread damage and 110 casualties. He returned to his squadron in October and was killed on the 23rd when his plane crash landed on returning from a bombing raid.
Andrew Whitmarsh's British Strategic Bombing 1917-18: The Independent Force writes of the many difficulties day bombers faced. Forced to fly at very high altitudes with rudimentary oxygen equipment, oxygen deprivation was a real issue, as were extreme cold causing frostbite, headaches and temporary deafness - all contributing to debilitating exhaustion.
Reynolds' widowed mother, Annie Delesia Reynolds, chose his inscription. It is not a quotation from Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam but Mrs Reynolds will have been referencing it:

Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.
Quatrain XXI

Fitzgerald's melancholy verses, first published in 1859, perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.

Mrs Reynolds says, "Lo, one we loved", but in fact she lost both her sons. James Reynolds also enlisted on the outbreak of the war. He did not take a commission but served as a private in the London Rifle Brigade and was killed in action on the 2 May 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate.



Ellis Jones was the son of Ellis and Margaret Jones of Blaeneau-Festiniog and the husband of Katie Jane Jones of Port Talbot. This is all I can tell you with any certainty, other than the facts that he served with the 14th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, wasn't entitled to a 1914 or '15 Star and died on 23 October 1918. I am going to assume that he died of wounds because he's buried in a casualty clearing station cemetery, and I'm going to suggest that he was wounded in the 14th Battalion's attack on the 20th October when the war diary reported:

"Attacked and captured objectives from K10d 90 95 to K11a 30 00 stubborn resistance was met with. Prisoners taken about 75 including 2 officers. The enemy left a considerable number of dead our casualties slight. The battalion was relieved by 17 RWF & returned to Billets in Bertry. Remained in billets."

But I don't know.
Ellis Jones' wife, Katie, chose his inscription. It comes from a poem written by Claude Burton, who was a regular contributor to the Daily Mail under the pseudonym Touchstone. The poem is called Unknown Grave. Ellis Jones did not have an unknown grave but Claude Burton's son did. Captain Henry Charles Claude Burton was killed in action on 27 July 1916 in the fighting at Longueval and Delville Wood. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
What does the inscription mean? In the poem, Claude Burton is saying that it doesn't matter if the soldier has no grave, we know his worth and our grief is the price we must pay for victory, to ensure that:

The banner that his hands unfurled
Still flies triumphant in the sun!

Taken out of context, as Mrs Katie Jones has done, the words are no longer the aim of victory but a statement that victory has been won.



Ernest Davison's inscription describes the death of Mr Valiant-for-Truth in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. A good man, who has aimed to follow Christ's teaching, the trumpets sound as he crosses the river of death to the Celestial City, the New Jerusalem.

"When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the Riverside, into which as he went he said, Death where is thy sting? And as he went down deeper he said, Grave, where is thy victory? So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on the other side."

And why do the trumpets sound? It's a sign that the dead man is one of those chosen by God. As it says in St Matthew 24, there will be a time of great tribulation, nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom after which Christ will "send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds ... ".
For Mr John Davison, Private Davison's father, the trumpets will sound at the death of his son to signify that he too is worthy of reaching the Celestial City because he has died in Christ's service - fighting the Germans.
Davison served with the 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment and was killed in action on the 23 October during the Battle of the Selle. Originally buried in Contour British Cemetery in a single grave with a sergeant and three other privates, his body was exhumed and reburied in Amerval Communal British Cemetery in 1923.



The Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges (1844-1930), wrote these lines for his Eton Memorial Ode, 'In memory of the Old Etonians whose lives were lost in the South African War'. The words were set to music by Sir Herbert Parry and the piece performed when King Edward VII inaugurated the Memorial Hall on 18 November 1908. In 1912 Bridges published the poem in a collection of his works but it was never particularly well known.
At one time I thought Wakeman must have been an Etonian, which would explain how his parents knew the poem. But he wasn't, he was a former pupil of William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester[ He is remembered on their War Memorial site]. However, Wakeman's inscription appears as a dedication on more than a few war memorials and this is probably attributable to the fact that it was one of the 'Inscriptions Suggested for War Memorials', a booklet which the Victoria and Albert Museum thought it would be helpful to publish in 1919.
The story of Malcolm Wakeman's death features in Jay Winter's Sites of Memory Sites of Mourning. Wakeman was called up in 1917 when he was eighteen. He joined the Royal Air Force, trained as an observer and was posted to France in July 1918. He seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of it all, his letters to his parents full of tales of derring do. Then on 2 October his plane, an RE8 on a counter attack patrol was shot down and the pilot killed. Wakeman was taken to hospital with head wounds. The German pilot, Leutnant K Plauth of Ja51 claimed the victory.
When informed, Wakeman's parents immediately set out to visit him, paying their own fare, which cost them £8 12s 8d. Despite initial optimism, Wakeman's condition deteriorated and he died on 18 October.
When Wakeman's father asked the Air Ministry to reimburse him the £8 12 8d, something it was prepared to do for parents too poor to afford it themselves, he was told that didn't fit this category. But Mr Wakeman successfully argued that he was not a rich man and why should he be punished just because he had been prudent enough to have some savings to hand. It's difficult to say how much £8 was worth in 1918 but apparently the average male earned £94 a year.
In 1923, the Wakemans, taking advantage of the St Barnabas Society's organised tours to the battlefield cemeteries, visited their son's grave. The cost of the journey this time was £4.



This is a lovely inscription, a real tribute to someone who must have been a natural leader of men. Howard Thomas left Winchester in the summer of 1915, just after his eighteenth birthday. In September 1915 he was commissioned into the Royal Scots and went with them to France the following May, just before his nineteenth birthday. Two years later, at the age of twenty-one, he was a captain with a Military Cross, which he won for his actions during the Battle of Arras in April 1917. The citation for the award reads:

"He led his platoon to the second objective with great courage, where he organised a party and outflanked the enemy, enfilading them, inflicting heavy losses. He was wounded but carried on throughout the day."

Thomas did not return to France until May 1918. Five months later, on 22 October, he was killed outright by a machine gun bullet in his head whilst leading his company in the capture of the village of Vichte.
I imagine that the quotation in Thomas's inscription comes from a letter of condolence written by a senior officer to his parents. The officer has passed on a great compliment - Captain Thomas's men would have followed him anywhere. What's more, they called him 'Tommy' without any seeming loss of respect.
The little book, A General's Letters to His Son on Obtaining His Commission (1917) offers this advice:

"In a well disciplined unit men find it almost impossible not to obey the commander's voice, however terrible the order."


"Your men will obey you because you are their officer, but you will succeed in getting infinitely more out of them if you can win their love and respect.


" ... it is as important to look after your men, and keep them fit, as it is to lead them well in action. If you look after your men, and if they know that in you they have a friend upon whom they may depend, you may rely on their never leaving you in the lurch."

It would appear that Howard Thomas, the only son of Harry and Mary Thomas of Cargilfied, Cramond Bridge, Midlothian, had learnt all these lessons.

[Much of this information comes from the Winchester at War website,. The accompanying photograph shows a whippet-thin young man with a face of earnest composure wearing a Glengarry and with his MC medal ribbon showing above his left breast pocket.]



James Hewett had been a member of the Berkshire Yeomanry since he'd served with it in the Second South African War 1899-1902. In civilian life he was a sugar boiler in a confectionery factory but he remained a member of the Yeomanry, which became a Territorial force in 1908. At the outbreak of the First World War he opted for imperial service and was posted to Egypt with the 2nd Mounted Division in April 1915. Four months later the regiment was sent to Gallipoli where it served dismounted until the evacuation in January 1916. In March 1916 the regiment became part of the 6th Mounted Division, and in April 1918 it merged into the 17th Squadron Mounted Machine Gun Corps.
Hewett served with the Division in Egypt and Palestine until his death, taking part in all three battles of Gaza and in the capture of Lebanon in October 1918. For those who served in this part of the world, it was a totally different war from the Western Front - for the most part it was a war of movement, hot, dangerous, dusty and exhausting, but presumably for someone like Hewett exciting too. As he told his family, "I would not have missed it for anything".
The information on his medal card says that Hewett 'died', as opposed to 'died of wounds' or 'killed in action'. Like so many soldiers who served in that part of the world he could have died of dysentery or heat exhaustion or from the flu pandemic that was sweeping the world at the time.
Born in St John's Wood in 1891, Henry James Hewett was the son of Charles Hewett, who died in 1890, and his wife, Mathilda. Before his father's death the family lived at Uxmore Farm, Ipsden, which was then in Berkshire. Perhaps this is where Hewett acquired his skills in horsemanship.



It hadn't occurred to me that this was a quotation until I wrote up Second Lieutenant Andrew Bennet's inscription. Bennet's inscription comes from The Vision Splendid, a poem by John Oxenham, published in 1917 in a collection of verse of the same name. It was whilst looking through this book that I came across the poem Oxenham wrote in praise of sixteen-year-old John Travers Cornwell who, although mortally wounded, remained at his post on HMS Chester throughout the Battle of Jutland with the rest of his gun crew dead around him. The poem, called Promoted, begins:

There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.

No thought of glory to be won;
There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.

Wounded when scarce the fight begun,
Of all his fellows left not one;
There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.

Why hadn't it occurred to me that this was a quotation? I'd seen other inscriptions that said, 'There was his duty to be done and he did it' and just assumed that the family were making a simple and direct statement since 'duty' was as great a motivator as patriotism - if not more so - when it came to people's reasons for joining the war. This inscription seemed to confirm it so I looked no further.
Oxenham, the pseudonym for William Arthur Dunkerley (1852-1941), was perhaps the most popular poet of the First World War. The sales of his wartime volumes, All's Well and The Vision Splendid, were phenomenal and one has to assume that the message he propounded was popular too. To Dunkerley, the outcome of the war depended on us - and he wasn't talking about whether we lost or won. Yes there had been huge material losses; yes many hundreds of thousands of men had been killed but after all the dead are only lost to us for a short while since we shall be reunited them when we too die. Despite these losses, to Oxenham the war will have been worthwhile, "if it brings us perforce to simpler living". He hoped that "the soul of the world has been shocked at last into true understanding of the inevitable and dire results of purely materialistic aims", the:

"wheels of life were skidding on the greasy ways of wealth and ease. We were leaving God out. This from which we are suffering is of our own incurring".

So that after the war:

"having paid, in blood and tears and bitterness of woe, - now with the spirit of God in us, with enlightened souls and widened hearts, we may look forward to The Vision Splendid of a new-made world".

Powerful stuff. This, however, is a view of the war that we have snuffed out. Rupert Brooke's Peace, has been much mocked for promoting a similar view:

Now, God be thanked who has matched us with his hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

It may not be a view that we can comprehend today but that doesn't mean that it wasn't a view held then. Nor was it a view imposed by Governments and elites; it was a view that emerged among some people as the spirit of the age. As we have recently learnt, the spirit of an age can have many faces.

John O'Neill was born in Liverpool, one of the two children of John and Marie Isabel O'Neill. The family lived in Birkenhead where father was a gas fitter at the shipyard. Private O'Neill served with the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers and died on 20 October 1918. This is the day that the war diary reported:

"The Batt attacked at 02.00 hours. The object of the attack being to capture the high ground E of the River Selle. All objectives were gained. Gains were consolidated and held"
9th Battn Royal Welsh Fusiliers War Diary
20 October 1918

The battalion attacked from Montrecourt, a village on the River Selle. O'Neill is buried in Glageon, over 50 km further east. Glageon had been in German hands since the beginning of the war and wasn't liberated until early November. It's where the Germans buried their own soldiers and allied prisoners. Was O'Neill already a German prisoner or was he taken prisoner on the 20th and died of wounds that day?

Britain, be proud of such a son! -
Deathless the fame that he has won.
Only a boy, - but such a one! -
Standing for ever to his gun;
There was his duty to be done, -
And he did it.



Serjeant Coutts went missing on 20 October 1918 - and remained missing until October 1990; his name carved onto the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing in 1927.
I can't say how it came about that his body was identified but there's an asterisk in red ink beside his name in the Ploegsteert Memorial Register with a handwritten note dated 22.10.90, which says: *Known to be buried in Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension*.
The date of the burial at Tournai was May 1930. This was the date when seven bodies, one of them unidentified, were exhumed from Blandain Churchyard and reburied in Tournai. Later, by whatever means, it became known that that unidentified soldier was Coutts and his family were contacted and asked to compose an inscription. The inscription record is very modern, which would match with it being created in 1990. And as with modern records, it doesn't say who signed for it. Coutts had been married to his wife Margaret for eight years when he died but I haven't come across a record of any children.
What happened to Serjeant John 'Bennie' Coutts? I can't really work it out but in October 1918 Coutts' battalion, the 11th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, were progressing though Flanders. At 10.00 on the morning of 19 October they reached Willems, fifteen minutes after the Germans had evacuated the town. At 15.30 on the same day they reached the village of Trieu de Warzon, four kilometres away, and by 17.00 they had taken it. By the 11.00 on the 20th they were in Houilly, another four kilometres further east, which they took after considerable hostile fire.
Blandain, where Coutts was originally buried, is halfway between Willems and Houilly - perhaps a casualty of the hostile fire.
Coutts wasn't buried in Blandain until September 1919 when his body was found at map reference N10c.95.45 and identified as a Sergeant Glott. As no British soldier with the surname Glott was killed in the First World War the identification was dropped and the body buried as an unknown sergeant. It would be interesting to know how the unknown Glott became Coutts but whoever did the research was able to convince the War Graves Commission, which amended their records and created a headstone for him.
Coutts' father, mother and wife were long dead. They had died in 1921, 1924 and 1971 respectively. In the absence of any known children perhaps it was a great-nephew of niece who chose the inscription. There is something slightly anonymous about it. Coutts may have been buried in Blandain but the location is not known for being the scene of any fighting. However, battle roar or no battle roar the location was certainly far from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands where Coutts had been born and brought up and where he had been a shoemaker like his father before him.



Unless I am mistaken, this is an extract from a letter of condolence sent to Private Perry's parents by his senior officer, or perhaps by one of his friends in the Field Ambulance. There are no quotation marks around the words but they sound very immediate and very heartfelt as they mix a deeply conventional image - "as brave as a lion" - with the original, if slightly clumsy, image of someone working to their last ounce.
Perry had served with the Royal Army Medical Corps since he'd come to France in July 1915. At the time of his death he was with the 55th Field Ambulance under the command of the 18th Division. Field Ambulances were not vehicles but mobile medical units consisting of about ten officers and over two hundred men with responsibilities ranging from stretcher bearer to surgeon. There's a informative article about Field Ambulances on the Long Long Trail site .
We don't know what role Perry fulfilled but we do know that in September 1917 he was awarded a Military Medal 'for bravery in the field'. We don't know how or when he was wounded but we do know that he died of wounds in a base hospital in Le Havre.



George Whitehead and his observer, Reginald Griffiths were artillery spotting over Lauwe when they were shot down at 7.50 am on the morning of 17 October 1917. The town was still in German hands and the two airmen were buried together by the Germans in a communal grave. It was five years before their bodies were exhumed and reinterred in adjacent graves in Harlebeke New British Cemetery.
I am always dubious about the parents who used their own status as a personal inscription on their son's headstone, as the Whiteheads have done. But then you see the final words - Deus vult, God wills it - and you have to acknowledge that whether the family were rich or poor, grand or humble, whether the words were written in Latin or plain English, the pain was as great for the Whiteheads as it was for any of the many families who chose 'Thy will be done', or 'God knows best' as their son's inscription.
And the Whiteheads lost both their sons. James Whitehead, the eldest son, died of war related illness on 3 March 1919 meaning that, at his death, the title went to Sir George's younger brother.
So, having confessed to prejudice about people conferring status on their sons by referring to themselves, I noticed that Reginald Grifffiths' headstone had exactly the same type of inscription and the same Latin tag:

Son of Owen
And Hetty Griffiths
Aberavon, S. Wales
Deus vult

The parents must have conferred and this I found rather touching since the Whiteheads and the Griffiths came from different worlds. It is enough to tell you that the seven members of the Whitehead family - and their seven servants - lived in Wilmington Hall, Dartford, Kent a house with six drawing rooms and eleven bedrooms, whilst the nine members of the Griffiths household lived in Aberavon, Glamorganshire in a six-roomed house that was also their shop - Owen Griffiths and Sons Fruiterer, Fish, Game and Poultry Dealer.
After the war, the Whiteheads sold Wilmington Hall and moved to Oxford. Sir George died in 1930 and left a bequest of £10,000 to the University to be known as the James Hugh Edendale Whitehead and the George William Edendale Whitehead Memorial Fund for the promotion of the study of history and/or the literature of England and her colonies.



John Sharp's inscription comes from verse three of the hymn, O For a Closer Walk With God, by the poet and hymn writer William Cowper (1731-1800):

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill,

For John Sharp's family the words must have perfectly encapsulated their feelings - even though Cowper was not mourning the loss a loved one but the loss of God's love, which he felt he had forfeited through his own unworthiness.
Sharp came from Milesmark, a mining community near Dunfermline. His mother died in 1901 when he was five. His father, Frank Sharp, was a coal miner and it's possible to assume that John Sharp was too.
Sharp served with the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders, enlisting in 1916 when he became nineteen. He was a casualty of the opening day of the Battle of the Selle, 17 October 1918, in which the battalion took part as part of the 1st Division.



This is a version of the final toast given at Masonic Lodge meetings. I haven't been able to discover whether either Arthur Hancock or his father, Thomas, a dairyman, were Freemasons but this is definitely a Masonic toast.
Hancock began the war in the Royal Navy and was entitled to the 1915 Star. At some point he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps, where he served with the 50th Battalion MGC (Infantry), part of the 50th Division, in turn part of General Rawlinson's Fourth Army.
During the period known as the Pursuit to the Selle, 9-11 October 1918, the Allied armies pushed the Germans back almost ten miles towards the River Selle, where they decided to make a stand. The Battle of the Selle opened at zero hour, 05.10, on 17 October, a day of dense mist which greatly complicated the situation.
Hancock was in A Company, of which the war diary records that their situation "had been very difficult". Ordered to cover the left flank of the 149th Infantry Brigade, they encountered very heavy shelling, causing many casualties, "including Lt. Hancock killed".
News of his death reached his home town, Liverpool, and five days later notices from family and friends began to appear in the Liverpool papers: from his 'chum' Ernest Waters with whom he had served in the navy; from his brother, Tom, serving in Egypt, and from Lillian:

Hancock - October 17, killed in action, Second Lieut. Arthur Hancock, M.G.C. My hero - Always remembered by his sorrowing Fiancee Lillian and all at 20 Vandyke Street.
LIVERPOOL ECHO 24 October 1918



Here - or hereafter - you shall see it ended,
This mighty work to which your souls are set;
If from beyond - then, with the vision splendid,
You shall smile back and never know regret.

John Oxenham (the pseudonym for the popular and prolific poet William Arthur Dunkerley 1852-1941) originally wrote this verse for his poem 'Christs All! Our Boys Who Have Gone to the Front'. Here he assures those who are fighting that:

You are all christs in this your self surrender, -
True sons of God in seeking not your own.

Oxenham then repeated the verse in a poem he wrote later, which was called 'The Vision Splendid', which was published in a collection of verse of the same name. The thrust of this poem is that those who are fighting have redeemed the world from the selfishness and sin into which it had fallen:

O, not in vain has been your great endeavour;
For, by your dyings, Life is born again,
And greater love hath no man tokened ever,
Than with his life to purchase Life's high gain.

What is the 'vision splendid'? It's that time when all the people of earth shall come together as one to worship God, as envisaged in the Book of Revelation 7:9-10:

After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

Mrs Agnes Bennet, Andrew Bennet's widowed mother, chose his inscription. To be able to envisage that your son had fought not just for victory but to contribute to the coming together of all mankind must have brought her comfort - enough comfort to cope with the fact that twelve days after Andrew's death her only other son Alexander died of wounds?
Andrew Bennet was an observer with 82 Squadron. The squadron flew Armstrong Whitworth FK8s on artillery spotting and photo reconnaissance duties. Bennet and his pilot, Captain Humphrey Flowers, were shot down over Ledeghem, some sources say in aerial combat, others by ground fire as no German fighter claimed a corresponding kill that day.



If Thomas McBride's headstone says that his parents visited his grave in September 1923 it means that his permanent headstone hadn't yet been erected since there was still time to have this statement carved on it. This means that five years after McBride's death his grave was still only marked by a temporary wooden cross. It's a good illustration of the the massive task that the War Graves Commission had undertaken.
McBride had originally been buried with twenty-six other members of his battalion in Quiery-la-Motte. Their bodies were all exhumed and re-buried in Orchard Dump Cemetery in June 1921 but their graves were not marked with permanent headstones until two years later.
There is no evidence for this but I'm going to suggest that McBride's parents made their visit to his grave under the auspices of one of the charitable organisations that offered free visits to the battlefields for families who would not otherwise have been able to afford it. My assumption that the family would not have been able to afford it is based on the fact that in the 1911 census John McBride, Thomas's father, was a cotton piecer in a cotton mill. This meant that he mended the broken threads during spinning. In 1911, fifteen-year-old Thomas was a scavenger in a cotton mill, someone who cleaned up the cotton fluff that accumulated under the machinery. Travelling on the continent was expensive, complicated and very rare for those without access to money. I think the family would have used an organization like the St Barnabas Society.
Strictly speaking, Thomas McBride's parents, John and Ellen McBride, did not visit his grave in 1923. Ellen McBride died before 1901. It was his father and his stepmother, Mary Jane, who came.



Private Cross's wife means this literally; James Cross was a prisoner of war and death did set him free. Usually when inscriptions talk about the freedom of death they mean that the dead person has been set free from the cares of this world:

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
ADONAIS Percy Bysshe Shelley

But this is not what Evelyn Cross meant, her husband had escaped captivity by dying.
Cross died of pneumonia in a German hospital in Hautmont. The town had been in German hands since the earliest days of the war and wasn't captured by the British until 8 November. James Cross had been in German hands since the 16 April 1918.
Cross served with the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. On the evening of the 12/13th April 1918 the battalion went into the front line in the Wytschaete Sector. The war diary gives up at this point and says that the ensuing period, 12-
16 April, is best described by reproducing verbatim the official account of the operation sent by Brigadier-General GH Gater to the Higher Command.
The battalion were to be responsible for holding the line from Bogaert Farm to Stanyzer Cabaret cross roads. On the night of the 15/16th this was extended to Scott Farm. At 4.30 am on the morning of the 16th the Germans subjected the line to a heavy and continuous bombardment until 5.45 am before attacking under cover of dense fog. They succeeded in breaking the line. The British found it impossible to tell what was going on until the Germans were at close quarters. However, the Lincolnshires stood firm,

"and fought it out to the last. No officer, platoon or individual surrendered and the fighting was prolonged until 6.30 am. ... The withdrawal was covered by the Adjutant, Captain McKellar, with revolver and bombs, firing into the enemy at close quarters."

James Cross was one of the many missing after the engagement. Eventually his wife was informed through the offices of the International Red Cross that he had been taken prisoner. His death on 13 October from pneumonia was probably a result of influenza.

[Gater's report is in turn reproduced virtually verbatim in The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918.]



This inscription comes from a very patriotic poem called Nationality, written by Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845). Verse one declares that a nation's voice is a solemn thing and should be respected. Verse two states that a nation's flag, unfurled in the cause of Liberty, should be guarded "till Death or Victory" - with the assurance that anyone who dies defending it will have an honoured grave:

No saint or king has tomb so proud,
As he whose flag becomes his shroud.

Verse three insists that God gave nations the right to defend themselves with the sword against a foreign yoke.

'Tis freedom from a foreign yoke,
'Tis just and equal laws,
Which deal unto the humblest folk,
As in a noble cause.

So far so good, this is England fighting for her liberty against the fear of a German 'yoke'. Except that it isn't. The nation entitled to her voice, entitled to just and equal laws, is Ireland, and the foreign yoke belongs to England.
Thomas Osborne Davis, the author of the poem, was an Irish nationalist whose nationalism was based on shared Irish culture and language rather than on Catholic Emancipation or full blown independence and republicanism. He was in any case a protestant, as were Charles Stuart Parnell and Roger Casement, two other Irish nationalist figures.
The Leonards were a Roman Catholic family from Brackaville, a rural community near Coalisland, Co. Tyrone. Who knows what the family's politics were but throughout the twentieth century Coalisland was an IRA stronghold. However, many Irish people were prepared to fight for Britain because they believed John Redmond who told them that English gratitude would ensure they were rewarded afterwards with independence. And many Irish people fought for Britain because they didn't want independence.
It's not possible to tell what motivated James 'Joe' Leonard to enlist - money, adventure, escape, principle. He was an early volunteer, his medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1915 Star having arrived in France on 29 September 1915. This was well before the British suppression that followed the Dublin Easter Rising in April 1916.
Leonard served throughout the war with the 157th Field Company Royal Engineers, part of the 16th (Irish) Division. The war diary exists and shows that in October 1918 the Company were based in Auchy constructing pontoons for crossing the Heutedeule Canal and attempting to stop a leak or a 'cut' in the canal bank. The diary for 13 October records:

"No. 3 [Section] in canal cut .Sprs Leonard and Dunnington killed and the stopping of the leak was not successful."

It sounds as though there was some kind of accident in which Leonard and Dunnington were killed. There is certainly no mention of any enemy action that day. By the way, the War Graves Commission gives the date of his death as the 12 October, the war diary as the 13th.
Mrs Sarah Ann Leonard, Sapper Leonard's mother, chose his inscription - or did she? In the 1901 census neither parent were said to have been able to read.

May Ireland's voice be ever heard,
Amid the world's applause!
And never be her flag-staff stirred,
But in an honest cause!
May freedom be her very breath,
Be justice ever dear;
And never an ennobled death
May son of Ireland fear!
So the Lord God will ever smile,
With guardian grace, upon our isle.
NATIONALITY verse four

AT 15 1/2 YEARS


Born in January 1899, Albert Knowles would have been fifteen and a half in July 1914. By implication therefore he joined up immediately on the outbreak of war. in August 1914. He was far too young. In theory you had to be eighteen before you could join the army and nineteen before you could serve abroad but in practice, in the early days of the war, if you said you were nineteen, and looked nineteen, the army took your word for it. Much is made of recruiting sergeants wilfully turning a blind eye to obviously underage boys but in fact, the army didn't want weaklings.: you needed to be able to march long distances, carrying your own equipment. But as I said, if you looked nineteen the army took your word for it.
Knowles obviously managed to convince the authorities. His medal card shows that he went to France in September 1915 when he would have been just over sixteen and a half. It was January 1918 before he became nineteen, by this time he had been in the army for over three years.
In March 1918 his eldest brother, Ernest, serving with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, died of wounds. Six months later, on 12 October, Albert was killed as the 16th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps tried to cross the River Selle.
For all that the end of the war was only a month away, for all that the Germans were already putting out peace feelers, their soldiers were still fiercely resisting allied attacks so that by noon on the 12th the 16th Battalion, which had been charged with taking the line of the Le Cateau-Solesmes railway and the surrounding high ground, had been forced to withdraw 'disorganised' with very high casualties.
Albert Knowles may have deceived the army authorities about his age but his mother put that right on his headstone. There's a sense of pride in her choice of words, not so much pride in his deception but in the fact that even though he was only fifteen he had wanted to do his duty, and that he continued to do it "till death". There is no inscription on his brother Ernest's headstone.

[Richard Emden's 'Boy Soldiers of the Great War' is the book to read on this subject.]



This might not be exactly what Rupert Brooke wrote but when Mrs Sarah Hilling chose this inscription for her daughter she had Brooke's poem, The Soldier, firmly in her mind:

If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam ...

At one time this was the most famous poem in England and Brooke, who died in 1915 on his way to take part in the Gallipoli Campaign, the most famous war poet.
I wish it had been possible to find out more about Sophia Hilling - most records give her name as Sophie, including the War Graves Commission, but the record of her baptism and all the census returns give it as Sophia.
She was born in Deptford, South London. Her father, Samuel Hilling, was a rag cutter, someone who cut up rags for paper making. He died before 1901 when her mother, Sarah Hilling, was supporting herself as a charwoman. Sixteen-year-old Sophia was a general domestic servant. Ten years later she was a sick nurse working at the Birmingham Workhouse Infirmary.
According to the information her mother gave the Commission, Sophia Hilling had had four year's war service before she died. There is no information as to where but in 1917 she was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal (Second Class) for "bravery, coolness and devotion to duty whilst on active service". At this time she was working at the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital, Whitchurch, Cardiff where soldiers received both orthopaedic and psychiatric treatment.
By October 1918 Hilling was in France working at one of the general hospitals in Trouville, France when she fell ill. On 12 October E Maud McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, recorded in her official diary:

"Wired Matron-in-Chief, War Office, and reported to DGMS that Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNS reported on the "Dangerously ill" list with pneumonia."

And then the next day:

"Wired Matron-in-Chief, War Office, and reported to DGMS that Sister S. Hilling, QAIMNS on the "Dangerously ill" list yesterday, died at 10.30 p.m."

[E Maud McCarthy's war diary is a wonderful resource. It has been transcribed by Scarlet Finders and can be read here.]



Hugh Davies's wife, Laura, chose to make a very bald statement on her husband's grave - but it speaks volumes. Her husband was a volunteer, and a very early volunteer at that. He had joined up in the first month of the war, August 1914, had survived for over four years and then been killed in its last month, October 1918. Fate is cruel.
Davies had enlisted as a private, served in Egypt from November 1914, and then in Gallipoli. He had risen through the ranks until in June 1916 he was a sergeant. That month the London Gazette recorded his award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal:

"For exceptional ability and good work. He turned out a large quantity of grenades to meet an urgent demand."

In September 1917 Davies was commissioned into the Royal Engineers. He served with the 430th Field Company and was killed on 12 October during the Second Battle of Le Cateau, the first battle having taken place in August 1914.
On the day of his death sappers had been at work around Le Cateau diverting a railway line, filling craters and trying to fix up a water supply. There's no evidence as to what Davies had been doing but as a plumber in civilian life it would seem logical that he was involved in the latter.



It may have been relatively unusual and poetic to describe the war dead as the unreturning brave but it was not unknown. A handful of British towns dedicated their war memorials to them and Australian newspapers used the phrase to head their casualty lists. Nor was it a new phrase: Lord Byron, writing about the dead of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) described how:

... Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Dewy with Nature's tear drops, as they pass
Grieving, if aught inanimate e're grieves
Over the unreturning brave.

American Civil War songs and poems often used the phrase:

O my heart is filled with love
For the unreturning brave

Another song ends each verse with a reference to eyes dimming and lips quivering, or hearts aching and tears flowing, orphans watching and widows listening, for the unreturning brave. And John W Forney's poem, The Men Who Fell at Baltimore, a skirmish between a secessionist crowd and Union troops in April 1861 talks about those who,

"... fell for right at Baltimore.
As over every honoured grave
Where sleeps the "Unreturning Brave,"
A mother sobs, a young wife moans,
A father for a lost one groans ... "

Hugh Price was the son of Daniel and Kate Price of Whitley Bay, Northumberland. His mother signed for his inscription.
Price served with the 3rd Battalion Prince of Wales West Yorkshire Regiment. However, at the time of his death he was attached to the 1st/7th Battalion the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. He was killed in action on 11 October 1918 when the 49th Division took the village of St Aubert where he is buried.

"Zero hour 9 am. An advance of 1,000 yards was made the Bn. passing through the Canadians who were holding the line. Towards noon the enemy counter-attacked with tanks & we withdrew 500 yds to Sunken Road ... where enemy were held for the night. During the night 11th-12th the enemy withdrew ... "

On the 12 October the German Government followed up their first note to President Woodrow Wilson of 3 October with a second note expressing their willingness to seek an armistice. The war had a month to run.



There is a world of pathos in this dignified inscription. David McLaren's parents have neither enhanced nor disguised their grief with either flowery imagery or a profound quotation - they have just made the simple statement that he was their only child.
John David McLaren was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia - New Scotland - Canada on 19 April 1895. Scottish families had been congregating here since the Highland Clearances of the late eighteenth century. He enlisted in March 1916 just before his twenty-first birthday, giving his occupation as 'clerk'.
After seven months basic training he left for Britain in October 1916 and underwent almost twelve months further training before going to France on 19 August 1918. He joined his unit - the 2nd Canadian Machine Gun Battalion - in the field on 1 September. From then until the time of his death forty-one days later, the Canadians were continually involved in fighting that saw them cross the Canal du Nord and take the town of Cambrai. McLaren died on 11 October of wounds received that day. His casualty record card gives the details - 'GSW L shldr legs hand' - gun shot wounds in his left shoulder, legs and hand.



The 5th Leicestershire Regiment's war diary for Friday 11 October 1918 covers almost three pages whereas at some points in the war one page would have done for at least five days.
Starting at Zero hour - 05.30 - the passing hours and in some cases half hours chart the ebb and flow of the fighting. At 10.45 the Germans retook Retheuil Farm and at 11.00, "covering his advance with very heavy machine gun fire", they retook the Chateau they had lost an hour earlier. It was also at 11.00 that "The MO Capt WB Jack RAMC [was] killed while attending the wounded with great courage".
Captain Jack had gone out to attend to a machine-gunned stretcher bearer when he was hit himself. For a little while it was too dangerous for anyone to go out to him but when the German fire slackened he was brought. He died a few hours later.
William Boyd Jack was born and educated in Scotland but in 1911 was practicing medicine in Kendal, Westmorland. Married and with three children, he joined up in March 1917, spent six months with the 1/3 North Midland Field Ambulance before being appointed Medical Officer to the 5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. He was with them for the last year of the war, throughout all the fierce fighting around the St Quentin Canal where he was awarded a Military Cross for his actions at Pontruet on 24 September 1918.
Mrs WB Jack chose his inscription. It comes from verse three of Robert Browning's Epilogue to his final volume of poetry, Asolando, which was published on the day Browning died:

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

It is generally thought that Browning summarised own attitude to life in this verse: how adversity never defeated him, how he always believed that whatever happened was for the right, and that at the end of our lives on earth we would awake to a new life in heaven. It's a very positive inscription but I look at verse one and wonder how positive Mrs Jack felt:

At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time,
When you set your fancies free,
Will they pass to where - by death, fools think, imprisoned -
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so,
- Pity me?



This is a difficult inscription and on one level I am surprised the War Graves Commission accepted it. It was chosen by Rifleman Brown's mother, Henrietta, and it sounds as though she's saying that the Lord took vengeance on the Germans and ensured they lost the war as a punishment both for starting it and for killing her son.
Considering the circumstances of her son's death you can imagine that she had vengeance in her heart. Frank Brown was wounded on 30 November 1917 when the Germans made an attack on the trenches near Bourlon. For a long time it seemed as though they would break through the British lines but the Queen's Westminster Rifles hung on until the situation stabilised. They were relieved at 1 pm on 1 December by which time the regiment had suffered 117 casualties of which 25 were missing. Frank Brown was among the missing. Taken prisoner by the Germans, he died a month later in German captivity. Perhaps his mother assumed they had done nothing to save his life.
It's not possible to tell how Brown was treated but he died in Valenciennes, about 40km behind the front line, which would indicate that he was being cared for in a German medical unit and shows that he had not been shipped straight back to Germany to die in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Brown was buried by the Germans in Valenciennes, his body exhumed and reburied in February 1922. The War Graves Commission's 'concentration' records ask what evidence of identity there has been and the answer on the form is 'plate on coffin'. I find this very interesting, especially as I'm not sure that many British soldiers were buried in coffins. It would indicate that Brown and his fellow British casualties were buried with the same dignity as German soldiers.
So, did Mrs Brown have vengeance in her heart or was she more aware of the context of the words than many of us are today?

"Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
ROMANS 12:14-21
New Testament King James Version



Robert Longden's mother composed an unusually emphatic inscription for her son. Whereas other families might say, 'Gone but not forgotten', or, 'Too dearly loved to be forgotten', Mrs Longden - Longden's father died early in 1914 - his sister, Jessie, and his two half-sisters, Minnie and Nellie, state firmly their intention to think of Robert daily until the day they die.
I sometimes think that individuals get lost in the general lament for 'the dead' of the First World War. An inscription like this reminds us of the burden of grief so many families carried with them for the rest of their lives. Mrs Longden, although by the time she chose the inscription she had remarried and was Mrs Peatfield, died in 1962.
Longden was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star; from his age I would imagine that he went abroad no earlier than July 1916, which is when he became 19. He was killed on 11 October 1918 in an attack on the village of Regncourt. The war diary reports how early in the attack two serjeants and ten men were killed by enfilade fire whilst sheltering in a ditch. It's possible that one of these men was Longden. In March 1920, Longen's body, along with that of one serjeant, one lance corporal and seven other men were recovered from an isolated burial site and reburied in Busigny Communal Cemetery Extension.



Private Lehman's inscription comes from a popular piece of memorial verse, which can still be found in newspaper In Memoriam Columns in 2017:

What happy hours
We once enjoyed
How sweet the memory still
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill

I don't know who composed the lines but they made their first newspaper appearance in January 1896. Interestingly, unlike much verse of this type, the words make absolutely no attempt to console or ameliorate the family's grief by referring to eternal life or meeting again. Lehman's inscription may not actually get as far as mentioning the aching void but the implication is there.
Irwin Percy Lehman was twenty-four when he was conscripted under the Canadian Military Service Act on 14 January 1918. On 16 April he embarked from Halifax, arriving in Liverpool on the 28th. The new arrivals were kept segregated for two weeks in case they were carrying contagious diseases. The day after they were released Lehman went down with mumps and was hospitalised for the next twenty days.
On 14 September he arrived in France and on 2 October he joined the 21st Battalion in the trenches on the Hindenburg Line. On 11 October the battalion took part in the attack on the village of Avesnes-le-Sec where they met with severe resistance.

"Zero hour had been set for 0900 hours. From 0530 hours onward the enemy shelled the assembly area intermittently with HE and Gas but few casualties were sustained. The hostile shelling had no effect upon the jump off at 0900 hours. ... The enemy's retaliation was prompt, and his machine gun fire from the right caused many casualties in the first thirty minutes of the advance, but the attack continued unbroken until the advance of the whole line, right and left, was held up on the high ground south-west of Avesnes-le-Sec. The enemy's counter measure was an attack of Tanks, and the 21st Canadian Battalion after inflicting casualties, was forced to withdraw ... Fifty per cent of our Officers, NCOs and Lewis Gunners became casualties during the first half hour of the action."
21st Battalion Canadian Infantry War Diary 11 October 1918

Lehman was one of these casualties. He's buried in Niagara Cemetery, Iwoy, a battlefield cemetery where 156 of the 199 burials died on 11 October.

D.G.C. 5.4.16


The initials at the bottom of the inscription are D.G.C. They are the initials of the casualty, David Geoffrey Collins, and since Collins' parents described him as a 'poet, botanist, mathematician and peace lover', this would suggest that Collins wrote the words himself - on 5 April 1916. I haven't been able to find anything else Collins wrote but his name is included on the Forgotten Poets of the First World War website.
Collins had an unusual upbringing. His father, Edwin Hyman Simeon Henry Collins, was a highly erudite man who spoke several languages and had a very original mind. Although his name is now unknown, he was quite well known at one time as the man who befriended the exiled Chinese nationalist leader, Sun Yatsen, and tried to help him get his work published in the English language. Edward Collins was even better known, however, as a radical educational thinker who believed fervently that children shouldn't begin formal edcation before they were nine or ten, that they should never be taught to read but should learn to read themselves when they were ready, and that all their lessons should be held outside at all times.
To Collins, the real object of education was not the acquisition of knowledge but the preparation of the mind to receive, assimilate and use knowledge. By this means children would acquire the ability to think and the power to express their thoughts and feelings in appropriate language, either spoken or written. Collins brought his children up according to these beliefs. He refused to let them go to school, which caused him to be prosecuted for child neglect. But Collins used the witness box to gain publicity for his ideas, claiming that his methods would make his children "more useful, more independent, more robust in character, better in physique and with greater powers of assimilating knowledge" than other children.
David was obviously something of a prodigy and by his late teens was teaching in a prep school. He was called up when he was 18 and sent to France in August 1918, just after his nineteenth birthday. He served with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards and died three months later of wounds received in the capture of Delsaux Farm, a German strong point.
David Collins' headstone is inscribed with the Star of David. His father, who had been born a Jew, and had trained and practised as a rabbi, had then preached for some time as a Christian Unitarian minister before returning fully to the Jewish faith. It was Edwin Collins who chose his son's inscription, using his son's own words to express his belief that death is not the end:

And after the sunset
In the unknown night
Joy cannot cease

[Much of the information for this post comes from Patrick Anderson's 'The Lost Book of Sun Yatsen and Edward Collins' Routledge 2017.



They do not die
Who fall
At freedom's call
In battle for the right.

The conflict o'er,
They rest
On Honour's breast.
Victor's by virtue's might.

In hallowed grave
The brave,
'Neath sod or wave,
Strife o'er sleep after fight.

They do but sleep:
The soul,
From earth's control
Released, sees Heaven's light.

We are the dead,
Who, bound
By earthly round,
See not horizons bright.

They live in fame,
Begirt with love,
Precious in memory's sight.

This inscription is based on the fourth verse of the above poem, The Glorious Dead, which was written by someone called Joseph Turner. The only place I have found the poem is on a website featuring one hundred poets from the town of Walsall in Staffordshire. I don't have a copy, but I think it might have originally been published in 'Songs from the Heart of England, an anthology of Walsall poetry' edited by Alfred Moss and published by T Fisher Unwin in 1920.
According to the poem it is we the living who are dead since we are unable to see the bright horizons that those who died in freedom's cause, fighting for the right, can see.
The poem having such a limited geographical circulation, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that James Edward Allen was born and brought up in Walsall, the third of his parents' four sons. Father, Herbert Allen, who signed for the inscription, was a police constable. James and his older brother worked in the town's leather trade.
James attested in August 1916 when he was 17 and a half. He was on home service until October 1917 when he was posted to France where he served with the 1st/4th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. He was killed in action on the 11 October 1918, exactly one month before the end of the war, when the Duke of Wellington's took the town of Rieux-en-Canbresis. James is buried in the town, in Wellington Cemetery where the majority of the casualties come from the Wellington Regiment and were killed on 11 October.



One of the symbols traditionally associated with the archangel Gabriel is a trumpet with which to sound the last rally - the trumpet call heralding the arrival of the Day of Judgement. Rally is a military word, used most particularly by the cavalry for a trumpet or bugle call sounded to recall the troops after a charge - to bring them home. Gabriel also calls people home, home to their father in heaven. In this way he is considered the messenger of man's salvation. This will be why Private Harvey's mother chose the words, the implication being that those who die fighting for their country are assured of salvation. Mrs Harvey will also be hoping that at the last rally, when she too is dead, she will be reunited with her son.
The inscription is taken from the last line of The Trumpeter, a song originally written in 1904 by J. Francis Barron, which became very popular during the First World War, especially after 1915 when it was recorded by John McCormack. In verse one the trumpeter sounds reveille to rouse the sleeping soldiers from their tents. In verse two he sounds the charge, and in verse three the rally.
It's an interesting song, interesting in that for all its popularity and stirring military associations it makes no concessions to the fact that wars kill people. In fact, in the often omitted last line of verse two the Trumpeter describes the aftermath of a charge as 'Hell'. In this he is echoing the words of William Tecumseh Sherman, the American Civil War Union general who famously said, "War is hell".
It's well worth listening to the song, which can be heard here. This is not McCormack's version, I don't know who is singing but it's rather more melodramatic than his version.
James Harvey, the son of a tram conductor in Glasgow, served with the 1st/2nd Lowland Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps and died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Boisleux-St Marc on 9 October 1918.

Trumpeter, what are you sounding now!
(Is it the call I'm seeking!)
"Lucky for you if you hear it all,
For my trumpet's but faintly speakin'.
I'm callin' 'em home - come home! come home!
Tread light o'er the dead in the valley.
Who are lyin' around face down to the ground,
And they can't hear me sound the 'Rally'.
But they'll hear it again in a grand refrain,
When Gabriel sounds the last 'Rally',"



It seems ironic that someone called Lieutenant Yule should die of wounds on Christmas Day, but that is the case.
Yule had been at war since 23 August 1914 when, as a corporal serving with the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, he arrived in France as part of the original British Expeditionary Force. On 7 May 1916, Yule, now a serjeant major, was commissioned into the 7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders "for service in the field".
He must have been a valuable man. Twice during attacks in 1917 he served as an acting captain whilst still only a second lieutenant. On the second occasion he was awarded a Military Cross:

"2nd Lt. (A./Capt.) John Yule, Gord. Highrs.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in an attack. When the Tanks on his front were disabled and his company was exposed to close range fire he rallied his men in a most critical situation, and by his skilful dispositions undoubtedly saved many casualties. He sent in a most valuable report to his commanding officer, and showed the greatest coolness and courage throughout."
London Gazette 22 July 1918

In December 1917, the 7th Battalion were in France. They came out of the line on the 16th and marched to Fremicourt where they spent the next six days drilling, bathing and practicing bayonetting, rapid loading, wiring, bombing and bolt drill. On the afternoon of the 22nd they moved to Loch Camp, just west of Fremicourt. On the 23rd the war diary reported:

"Between 5.30 pm and 6.30 pm several enemy aeroplanes dropped bombs on Fremicourt and on the camp, wounding Lt. Yule, and four other ranks."

Lieutenant Yule died in a nearby Casualty Clearing Station at Grevillers two days later.
His wife, Jane Neilson Yule, chose his inscription - 'Peace with honour'. The phrase means peace secured or maintained without loss of national honour. It was used by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1878 when he and his Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury, returned from the Congress of Berlin to a hero's welcome. Cheering crowds accompanied Disraeli and Salisbury from the train station back to Downing Street from where Disraeli addressed the crowd, telling them:

"Lord Salisbury and myself have brought you back peace, I hope, with honour, which may satisfy our Sovereign and tend to the welfare of the country."

It became a famous tag, not just for the Treaty of Berlin but for other international treaties, especially the Munich Agreement of 1938, which bought Europe a valuable year of peace before the outbreak of the Second World War. For Mrs Yule, her husband had secured his own peace - his death - with honour - by dying for his country
The War Graves Commission's records state that Yule served with the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders but not only is Yule mentioned by name in the 7th Battalion's war diary but the 2nd Battalion were in Italy at the time of his death.



Wilfred Smith died of wounds in Palestine on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1917. I can't tell when he received those wounds but it was most probably between 21 November and 8 December in the severe fighting that led to the Ottoman armies abandonment of Jerusalem, which General Allenby entered - on foot to show his respect for the Holy City - on 11 December.
What can Smith's parents have meant by their choice of the single word 'Hope' for Wilfred's inscription? They could have meant any number of things but I am taking a gamble that they were referring to GF Watts' most famous painting, which went by the name of 'Hope'. The painting didn't disappear into private ownership but was donated by Watts to the Tate Galley, in other words, to the nation. Here it could be seen by the general public and once it became possible to make cheap reproductions of paintings, it became the most popular of all prints. Interestingly, Nelson Mandela apparently had a print in his prison cell, and Barak Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, was inspired by Watts' painting.
Whatever the word 'hope' might conjure up for us today, I don't think it would be Watts' melancholy image of a dejected, blindfolded woman, sitting on a golden sphere in a swirling mist of blues and greens. The woman is plucking at the single remaining string of a broken lyre, her head bent close to try and catch the sound. As GK Chesterton said, the painting might as well have been called 'Despair'.
Yet perhaps this is what it's all about. We are alone in the universe, we don't know where we're going or what is going to happen to us but it is the human condition to hope, however slender the thread. By the end of the nineteenth century many people wondered where the world was going. As the old certainties faded - faith, the belief in progress, mankind's place in the great scheme of things - what would replace them? There wasn't much reason to hope but if we tried we might catch the faintest reverberations to encourage us.
And if people were discouraged by the situation in the world at the end of the nineteenth century, how much worse it must have been during the war years as Empires clashed and casualty figures mounted and hundreds of thousands of young men - including Wilfred Smith - were killed.
Many families chose inscriptions reflecting the Christian's "sure and certain hope of the Resurrection of the body unto eternal life". But Watts' painting doesn't reflect that kind of hope, and nor, I think, does Mr and Mrs Smith's inscription. Hope is something human's cling on to but there is no certainty about it.



Shelley's Adonais, his Elegy on the Death of John Keats (1821), is not an unusual source for personal inscriptions but people tend to choose line 344: 'He hath awakened from the dream of life', or line 352, 'He has outsoared the shadow of our night'. James Gore's inscription comes from the last four lines of the first verse:

Say: 'With me
Died Adonais; till the Future dares
Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
An echo and a light unto eternity!'

The inscription was chosen, or at least signed for, by Gore's younger brother John. The family lived in Liverpool where Gore had been born and where in 1911 James was working as a building lift attendant. However, at some point he must have gone to Canada because when he attested on 6 November 1916 he was working as a steward in Bellevue, Ontario, Canada.
Gore served with the 19th Battalion Canadian Infantry and arrived in France on 30 November 1917. He was killed in action on 9 October 1918 but that is not a day that the battalion were in action. In fact, all the war diary says for the 9th is that the companies were notified to move into new positions and that the move was achieved by 11.20 am. At 5.30 pm the battalion moved again to an area NE of Escaudouvees in preparation for an attack at 6 am the following morning, 10 October.
By the end of the 11th the battalion casualties amounted to one officer missing, four wounded and 139 other ranks either killed or wounded. Gore is the only person in the 19th Battalion to have died on the 9th - and it's not that he died of wounds in a hospital behind the lines because Sains-les-Marquion was a front line burial ground. His death was just part of the normal, unremarkable, wastage of war.



Horace Ellis's mother chose a quotation from Shakespeare's Henry VIII for her son's inscription. In the play, the time has come for Thomas Cromwell to say farewell to his mentor, Cardinal Wolsey. To Cromwell, Wolsey has been a good, noble and true master. But Wolsey has some advice for him - "fling away ambition: by that sin fell the angels":

Be just and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's; then if thou fall'st,
O Cromwell,
Thou fall'st a blessed martyr!

For all their current obscurity, one wouldn't have to have known Shakespeare to know these lines. They featured in dictionaries of quotations, as mottos for newspapers, as dictation exercises for school children, passages to be learnt off by heart for elocution lessons or to be written out in handwriting copy books.
Before the outbreak of war, Horace Ellis was a lithographic artist working for a general printers. He was also a member of a territorial regiment, the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry. Serving with them, he reached the rank of acting sergeant before he took a commission in the Machine Gun Corps, serving with the 6th Squadron. He was killed on 9 October 1918 in the Second Battle of Le Cateau. The first battle had taken place on 26 August 1914, twenty-two days after he outbreak of war, and was part of the British army's fighting withdrawal. The town remained in German hands until the last month of the war..



Nineteen-year-old Percy Bealey was killed in action in the taking of the village of Forceville on 8 October 1918. It must have been his father who chose his inscription. The name on the War Grave's form is Mrs Bealey, but Mrs Emma Bealey, his mother, died in 1912.
The inscription comes from the second line of John Henry Newman's famous hymn, Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom, which he wrote as a prayer. Newman longed for the consolation of Christian certitude in an age of doubt. The Bealey family, and the many other families who chose quotes from this hymn, longed for consolation in their grief and hoped to find it in God.

So long thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on;
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.



William Windsor's younger brother, George, chose his inscription from Shakespeare's Henry V. It comes from the first line of Henry's prayer on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt:

O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed number
Pluck their hearts from them.

It's a prayer for bravery in the face of a forthcoming battle.
Corporal William Windsor, served with the 20th Battalion Manchester Regiment, part of the 25th Division, and took part in the capture of Beaurevoir on 5 October 1918. He died in German hands the next day and was buried with eleven other members of the 20th battalion in Beaurevoir Communal Cemetery German Extension - eleven men: one sergeant, five corporals and eight privates all buried in one grave marked by two crosses. It wasn't until 1924 that the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Beaurevoir British Cemetery.
Windsor was born in Openshaw and grew up nearby in Gorton, Manchester. His father was a horsekeeper for the corporation and Windsor himself was a dental technician. He volunteered before the introduction of conscription, entering a theatre of war, France, on 9 November 1915, which entitled him to the 1915 Star. The battalion moved to Italy in November 1917 and only returned to France three weeks before Windsor was killed.



What does Mrs Ada Trewhella hope she is going to hear?

Master speak! They servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word.
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master, let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee;
What hast Thou to say to me?

She hopes to hear words that cheer, that bring her peace and that help her to accept God's will. Her husband, George Trewhella, is dead and she has been left with four daughters: Vera 12, Violet 11, Ada 7 and Lilian 3.

Master, speak! I do not doubt Thee,
Though so tearfully I plead;
Saviour, Shepherd! Oh! without Thee
Life would be blank indeed!
But I long for further light,
Deeper love, and clearer sight.

The words come from a hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-79).
George Trewhella worked for the Great Western Railway from 1902 until he was called up in May 1916. He was a plate layer who, according to his employer's reference, "gave satisfaction and proved himself a good workman".
Until January 1917 Trewhella was on home service but that month he went out to Salonika with the 267th Railway Coy. Royal Engineers. In August 1917, he spent a month in hospital with dysentery. Just over a year later he was admitted to hospital in Thessaloniki on 4 October suffering from influenza. He died the next day. The War Graves Commission's records say that he died of malaria but all his medical record cards say it was influenza.

Master, speak! I kneel before Thee,
Listening, longing, waiting still;
Oh, how long shall I implore Thee
Thy petition to fulfil!
Hast Thou not one word for me?
Must my prayer unanswered be?



Mrs Alice Spracklan has written a very simple but affecting personal inscription for her son, and by personal I mean personal. Albert had a father, Theodore, two brothers, William and Walter, and a sister Hilda but the message is from her, his mother - she just wants to tell him that she is always thinking of him.
The Spracklans lived in Five Bells, Watchet, Somerset where father was a carter on a farm and Albert was a farm labourer.
Unlike his brothers, Albert was not an early volunteer; he was not entitled to the 1914 or 1915 Star.. He served with the 1st/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, which after service in Italy, returned to the Western Front on 11 September 1918. The war diary records that on 5 October:

"The Battn. marched in fighting order to Lormisset (4 miles) coming under occasional salvos of 5.9s whilst passing Grandcourt & suffering 5 casualties."

Later in the afternoon, the battalion received orders to take Beaurevoir, "which 2 Brigades had failed to take". At 18.40, zero hour, they set off following a creeping barrage but "A. Coy. from over keenness advanced into our barrage, followed by B Coy on the left. Although suffering several casualties the Coys were thus able to surprise a M.G. nest holding the embankment whilst still taking cover from our barrage."

The battalion pushed on, meeting little resistance except from isolated machine guns and snipers. Casualties by the end of the engagement were one officer seriously wounded and one killed by the British barrage, nine other ranks killed, forty-two wounded and one missing.
Spracklan is buried in Beaurevoir Communel Cemetery British Extension, a battlefield cemetery, where 35 of the total 82 casualties were killed, like him, on 5th October 1918.



Recte faciendo securus - by acting justly you need fear nothing - is the Inglis family motto.
Robert and Isabella Inglis of Lovestone, Girvan, Ayrshire had ten children: four daughters and five sons. I think you might be able to tell where this is going. The eldest son, Alexander, was killed in South Africa in 1901, the youngest son, David, was killed in France on 19 December 1914, Charles, the third son, on 25 September 1915, and Robert, the second eldest, died of wounds on 5 October 1918. William was the only one of the five sons to survive.
Prior to the war, Robert Inglis had been joint factor with his father of the Bargany Estate in Ayrshire and a sergeant in the Scottish Horse Yeomanry. In September 1914, he was commissioned second lieutenant and after a period of service in England embarked on 1 January 1916 to join the Egyptian Expeditionary Force on the Suez Canal. In October 1916 the Scottish Yeomanry became the 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) and in June 1918 the battalion was moved to France. Inglis was wounded on 3 October 1918 when 'C' Company co-operated with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in an attack on Le Catelet and Gouy. The battalion war diary mentions that "there was considerable sniping causing several casualties". Inglis died the next day.
Recte faciendo securus - by acting justly you need fear nothing. The reference of course is to salvation rather than to having nothing to fear in this earthly life.



'See That My Grave is Kept Green' is a sentimental American song that was written by Gus Williams in 1876. A blues version by Blind Lemon Jackson, based on Williams' original song but with the final word of the line changed to 'clean' not 'green', is world famous among jazz aficionados. So much so that the words 'See that my grave is kept clean' appear on Jackson's headstone. However, Jackson's version dates from 1927 so it's Williams' song that Wilfred Simmons' father was quoting from in his son's inscription.
In the song, the singer asks that when he's dead his wife - I'm presuming - will keep his grave green:

When from the world and it's hopes I go,
Leaving for ever the scene
Though others are dear, ah, will you then
See that my grave's kept green.

By asking for his grave to be kept green, the singer is not just asking his wife not to forget him, "will you keep me, love, in remembrance", but also that his wife will dwell on the happy times:

Tell me you'll think of the happy past
Think of the joys we have seen.
This one little promise keep for me
See that my grave's kept green.

Wilfred Simmons was a student at the Hamilton Normal School when he enlisted in March 1916. He left Canada for England in October 1916, and in January 1917 went to France. He was attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps, in effect a military lumberjack unit, cutting down forests in England, Scotland and France to meet the army's insatiable demand for timber. Simmons served in the MT section.
In August 1918 he became ill with appendicitis. He was admitted to hospital on the 24 August and operated on. His condition seemed to improve but later he became very ill very suddenly and died of what his records say was 'recurrent appendicitis'.

Oh the days will come to you darling
When no more on earth I'll be.
Oh the days will come to you darling
When no more on earth I'll be seen.
One sweet little wish darling grant me
See that my grave's kept green,
See that my grave's kept green.



This inscription comes from the epitaph Tennyson wrote for his friend General Gordon, killed in the Sudan in January 1885:

Warrior of God, man's friend, and tyrant's foe
Now somewhere dead far in the waste Soudan,
Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know
This earth has never born a nobler man.

It is difficult to overestimate Gordon's fame; he was one of the Victorian era's biggest military heroes, his achievements summarised on his memorial in St Paul's Cathedral:

Major General Charles George Gordon, C.B.
Who at all times and everywhere, gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.
Born at Woolwich 28 January 1833
Slain at Khartoum 26 January 1885
He saved an Empire by his warlike genius, he ruled vast provinces with justice, wisdom, and power.
And lastly obedient to his sovereign's command, he died in the heroic attempt to save men, women and children from imminent and deadly peril.

Tennyson's epitaph for his friend does not feature either on his memorial in St Paul's or on his memorial in Westminster Abbey but in the Gordon Boys' National Memorial Home, Woking, one of a series of boys' homes established throughout the country in his memory .
Edward Hills Nicholson was educated at Winchester College, and is remembered on their commemorative website. On leaving school he joined the regular army and fought in South Africa. After a period of service in India, he was posted to the Western Front in June 1915, and then to Salonika that November where he remained until he returned to the Western Front in July 1918. He was killed in the taking of Richmond Copse, a German stronghold, on the morning of 4 October.
Edward Nicholson was one of seven children; his parents had four sons and three daughters. Bruce Nicholson was killed on 3 May 1917 and Victor two months later on 9 August. Biographies of all three brothers appear on page 132 of the fifth volume of the Marquis du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour. The fourth brother, Walter, died suddenly in 1943 whilst serving with the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
In April 1912, Nicholson married Ethel Frances in Bombay Cathedral. She chose his inscription.



Whilst pre-twentieth century poets dominate the authors quoted in personal inscriptions, with Shakespeare and Tennyson taking the lead in what is admittedly my very unscientific analysis based on impression rather than statistics, Rupert Brooke and John Oxenham are the most popular of the twentieth-century. Neither of their reputations have survived very well but Brooke is definitely better known than Oxenham who few people have heard of these days.
Charles Cox's mother chose his inscription. It comes from Brooke's The Dead in which the poet claimed that by dying, by being prepared to sacrifice themselves, the dead have "made us rarer gifts than gold": the restoration of the high, moral qualities that mankind seemed to have lost before 1914. But now, thanks to them, "nobleness walks in our ways again; and we have come into our heritage".
It's a deeply traditional, romantic and heroic view of war, and of fighting and dying for your country, which has helped Brooke's reputation slide to its current lowly state. But that is how many people felt then. It is however arguable that Brooke, who was an intelligent and sensitive man, wouldn't have continued to feel like this, or write like this, had he lived. As it was he died on 23 April 1915.
Brooke might have changed his view but by the end of the war it was still that of many next-of-kin, like Mrs Cox; it brought them comfort.
Charles Cox, born and brought up in Newport, Monmouthshire, served with the 1st Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment. He died of wounds on 4 October 1918. The battalion were in action on the 3rd, he could have been wounded then, or on the 4th itself when the war diary recorded:

"Orders received for "C" Coy to dispatch a strong patrol (1 platoon) at 6.30 am as far into Montbrehain as possible, under cover of our bombardment. Patrol moved off at 6.30 am but was driven back by concentrated M.G. fire from front and both flanks. Only 3 returned unwounded. The remainder of the day was comparatively quiet with the exception of enemy shelling & MG fire ... "

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, that dying has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.



I'm not sure what was going on here but it can have never occurred to Alexander Riddell that ninety-nine years after his death somebody would be looking at his attestation form and wondering what he'd been playing at.
Alexander Lorimer Riddell, army service number 706968, son of George and Margaret Riddell of Rosehearty, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, was born in Scotland in 1885. In 1906, aged 21, he went to Canada and settled in Nanamo, British Columbia where he worked as a building contractor. He enlisted in the Canadian Infantry in February 1916, sailed from Halifax in July and joined his unit in the field in February 1917. He was wounded at Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and returned to Rosehearty in December where he married Jean Arthur. After two weeks leave he returned to the front and died of wounds received in action on 3 October 1918.
That, in brief, is the life of Alexander Lorimer Ridddell. It all comes from information provided by Riddell's family for his entry in the Marquis du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour. So why, on his attestation form, does he claim that he was born in New South Wales, Australia on 16 August 1877, which would have made him 44 when he was only 33. And why does he say that his next of kin is his step-father, Donald Riddell of Lincoln, Nebraska, when he didn't have a step-father. I don't have an answer.
His wife chose his inscription. It comes from Rudyard Kipling's poem The Children and is a savage indictment of the society that led its innocent children into war. Yes Kipling was probably moved to write it by his grief for the death of his own son, John, who was killed in action at Loos on 26 September 1915, but there is much more to the poem than the self-pity that one unsympathetic critic has accused Kipling of. Riddell's inscription comes from verse 3:

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the judgment o'ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour -
Not since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her,

Never before has our earth seen 'such worth', such wonderful, valuable people thrown away, wasted in this manner. There is nothing at all heroic or triumphalist about this poem, no attempt at all to make death in war glamorous:

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed on them.

But, as Kipling acknowledges, we can rail against what has happened all we like, we can regret it, we can try to make amends, but in the end what's the point because nothing can bring our children back. "Who shall return us our children?" he asks, and the answer, of course, is no one.



These lines come from a poem called Between Midnight and Morning, which is often said to have been found on the body of an Australian soldier killed at Gallipoli; the implication being that the soldier wrote it. Well, a copy of the poem could easily have been found on the body of an Australian soldier but he most definitely didn't write it because it was written by Owen Seaman, the editor of Punch, and published in December 1914 in King Albert's Book. However, the Australian story gave the poem great traction and it became known all over the world.

You that have faith to look with fearless eyes
Beyond the tragedy of a world at strife,
And trust that out of night and death shall rise
The dawn of ampler life:

Rejoice, whatever anguish rend your heart,
That God has given you, for a priceless dower,
To live in these great times and have your part
In Freedom's crowning hour.

That you may tell your sons who see the light
High in the heavens, their heritage to take: -
"I saw the powers of darkness put to flight!
I saw the morning break!"

Thomson was born and raised in Kapunda, South Australia. He began his career as an accountant but enlisted in November 1914 soon after the outbreak of war. He served with the 3rd Field Ambulance in Gallipoli from June to December 1915 and then transferred to France in March 1916. In January 1918 he returned to England and in May 1918 was gazetted Flying Officer (Observer) in No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps. The squadron flew RE8s on reconnaissance, bombing and artillery spotting duties.
At 6 am on the morning of the 3 October 1918, Lieut Thomson and Lieut Gould Taylor took off from the airfield at Bouvincourt and never returned. Three days later a machine was found crashed at Folemprise Farm, 1,000 yards NW of Estrees. Beside the plane were two graves marked with the information that these were the graves of two unidentified Australian airmen. The plane could be identified by its number as Thomson and Gould-Taylor's and the bodies identified as their's. A year later their bodies were exhumed and buried in adjacent graves in Prospect Hill British Cemetery.
Thomson's father chose his inscription.

Rejoice, whatever anguish rend your heart,
That God has given you, for a priceless dower,
To live in these great times and have your part
In Freedom's crowning hour.



This is a rather poignant inscription for an Australian soldier who was born in England in 1888 and only went to Australia in 1912 when he was 24. It was chosen by his wife Phyllis. She too was born in England although the couple married in Australia in 1913.
Browning volunteered in January 1918. There was no conscription in Australia; he must have wanted to go. However, January 1918 is quite late to be enlisting if you were someone who was keen to get to the war. This could be explained by his answer to the question on the attestation form - Have you ever been rejected for military service? Browning's answer is 'Yes - made fit by operation'. He had wanted to go, but he needed to undergo an operation before he could be considered fit enough.
Browning's inscription comes from Wordsworth's 'I Travelled Among Unknown Men' of which this is the first verse:

I travelled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

I don't think Browning regretted going to Australia. He must have liked it since he persuaded his older brother, James, with his wife and two children, to join him in the country in 1913. But when England was in danger he realised what he felt for the old country.
Browning was killed in action at Beaurevoir on 3 October 1918, six weeks before the end of the war. The news went to his wife in Australia and his family in England only learnt of his death through friends. His sister therefore wrote to the Australian Red Cross to ask if they could tell her how he had died and whether he had been buried. They were able to assure her that he had been killed instantly and buried properly but spared her the full details, which they had learnt from the stretcher bearer who was first on the scene:

"I saw the above (all of B Coy) and one other man whose name I think was Lionel killed by one shell near Beaurevoir about 7 am during the attack about 1/2 hour or less after we hopped over. I was stretcherbearing & was following up behind them and was not 8 yards from them. Browning (killed instantly) was hit through head, Clarkson (instantly) thigh to knee badly smashed and concussion, Sgt, Crockett (instantly) all over body, Lionel (instantly) head, Langley hit on left collar bone and the artery was cut he was the only one with any life and I tried to dress the wound and succeeded in stopping the bleeding but he was dead before I finished ... Browning, Clarkson and Langley were all late joined us at Cappy, first time in line."



William Braithwaite was killed whilst charging a machine gun in an attack at Estrees on 3 October 1918. This was a preliminary action to the Battle of Montbrehain on the 5th; the Australians last engagement of the war on the Western Front.
Braithwaite served with the 22nd Battalion Australian Infantry and its Report of Operations gives a brief glimpse of the action on the 3rd October:

"There were several instances where determined resistance was offered by small groups of Machine Gunners, and an examination of the ground after the attack evidenced the fact that the bayonets had been used by our men to a greater extent than usual."

After school and university, Braithwaite joined his father's tannery, the largest employer in the town of Preston, Victoria. He enlisted in July 1916 and embarked for Europe that October, joining his battalion in France in January 1917. A collection of his private letters, now held in the Australian National War Memorial, shows that he took part in the the actions at Bapaume, Bullecourt, Ypres, Broodseinde, Villers-Bretonneaux and the August 1918 offensive. It was at Bullecourt that he was wounded in the arm and face during an action for which he was awarded the Military Cross:

"For conspicuous gallantry in leading his men into the enemy's trenches during the attack near Bullecourt on 3 May 1917. Although twice wounded he persevered with the work of consolidating the position and leading bombing parties against the enemy strongpoints."

Braithwaite was back in action by July and served throughout the Battle of Passchendaele. He was wounded again at Franvillers in June 1918, had two weeks leave in England in September and was killed soon after his return.
It was his father, also William Braithwaite, who chose his inscription. Although he and his wife had six daughters, William was their only son. William Braithwaite Senior died on 5 August 1922 whilst on a trip to Europe with his wife to visit their son's grave.



This inscription has been chosen specifically to show how long it could take to build the permanent cemeteries, and how long it could be before the next of kin were asked for for a personal inscription. William Martin died of wounds on 2 October 1918, therefore it must have been 1926 when his wife, Harriett Martin, was asked what she wanted to say. However, I have come across inscriptions which refer to the death only being a year ago so it didn't always take this long.
Martin was born in Newhaven, Sussex in 1889. In 1911 he was a police officer boarding at a house in Camden Road, Eastbourne. Among the other residents of the house was a widowed dressmaker called Harriett Rose Lakey. William Martin and Hariett Lakey were married in West Derby the following year.
Martin's medal card shows that he was entitled to the 1914 Star having entered a theatre of war, France, on 19 August 1914. This means he was a member of the original British Expeditionary Force and that he had managed to survive until the last six weeks of the war.
A gunner in 1914, Martin was a serjeant in 1918 with a Meritorious Service Medal awarded in January 1918 "in recognition of valuable services rendered with the Armies in the Field during the present war".
Martin died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station in Grevelliers, 3 km west of Bapaume, on 2 October 1918. There is no record of what happened to him.



By choosing this single Latin word, Teribus, William Beattie's father elegantly linked many aspects of his son's life. The word itself is said to have been part of the battle cry of the men of Hawick during the Battle of Flodden in 1513 - 'Teribus ye Teri-Odin'. A nineteenth-century song by James Hogg tells of the months after the battle when bands of English soldiers plundered the surrounding countryside, devastating the towns and villages. This continued until the following year when a group of brave men from Hawick turned the tide by attacking a band of English soldiers at Hornshole and carrying off their flag. The song claims that this action led to the turning of the tide against the English marauders who subsequently turned tail for home. The factual history of the event may be questionable but the legend has remained very powerful and the skirmish is still commemorated in Hawick to this day.
In June 1914, to mark the 400th anniversary, a bronze statue of a horseman holding the captured English banner was unveiled in the centre of the town. The sculptor was William Francis Beattie who had been born in Hawick, which made him a 'Teri', a Hawickman. Although the statue was unveiled in June 1914, the outbreak of war two months later meant that the final touches were not put to it until 1921, three years after Beattie's death.
Beattie had been a member of the Lothian and Border Horse since 1910, but in April 1915 he took a commission in the Royal Artillery in order to see some action. Four months later he was in France. Awarded a Military Cross in 1917 for the rescue of some wounded soldiers under a heavy artillery barrage, he was badly gassed in April 1918 and spent five months recovering before returning to the front on 20 September. He died of wounds thirteen days later in a Casualty Clearing Station in Tincourt.
On 29 July 1921 the Hawick News and Border Chronicle reported that a workman had that week finally cut the memorial inscription into the base of the 1514 monument:

"Erected to commemorate the return of Hawick Gallants from Hornshole in 1514, when, after the Battle of Flodden they routed the English marauders and captured their flag"

The work was carried out by William Beattie's father, Thomas, who also carved another inscription:

Merses Profundo Pulchrior Evenit
Sculptor: Major William F. Beattie MC RFA
A native of Hawick
Born 1886 Killed in France 1918

The paper reports that the Latin line is a quotation from Horace suggested as appropriate by Sir George Douglas, Bart, the meaning of which is - "You may overwhelm it in the deep; it arises more beautiful than ever".
William Francis Beattie was his parents' only child.



Mrs Kirkpatrick has quoted from a beautiful blessing in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 6 verses 22 to 26, for her son's personal inscription:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

I haven't really been able to identify James Kirkpatrick, other than that he was the son of Mrs M Kirkpatrick, 116 Bonnington Road, Kilmarnock and that he was entitled to the War Medal and the Victory medal which means that he wasn't a 1914 or 1915 volunteer His medal card says he is James M Kirkpatrick, and the Kilmarnock war memorial lists a James McC Kirkpatrick. From this slight information I have concluded that he is the son of David Kirkpatrick, a journeyman tailor, and Mary Kirkpatrick nee McCutcheon, and that he had two brothers, David and George, and a sister, Mary. I could very well be wrong.
Kirkpatrick, who served with the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station at Haringhe on 2 October 1918. There were three casualty clearing stations in the area known to the troops as Dozinghem, Mendinghem and Bandaghem, the soldiers' humorous Flemish names for what went on there - dosing them, mending them and bandaging them. Haringhe CCS was Dozinghem
The 7th Battalion had taken part the previous day in an attack on the village of Dadizeele when 73 other ranks had been wounded. There's no record of what happened to Jame Kirkpatrick but he may well have been one of those wounded that day.



The name Bernard Richard Penderel-Brodhurst has a particular air about it, something that would seem to be totally appropriate for the heir to the perpetual pension settled on his ancestor, Humphrey Penderel, for his services in concealing King Charles II and aiding his escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Penderel-Brodhurst was the only surviving son of James George Joseph Penderel-Brodhurst, the editor of The Guardian. His brother, Charles, had died at the age of 17 in 1899. Educated at St Paul's, Bernard was articled to a firm of architects when the war broke out. He enlisted three weeks later and served in Britain until, having been commissioned into the Royal Engineers in July 1917, he went with them to France in April 1918.
On the evening of 1 October Penderel-Brodhurst was in an area of the front line that was not thought to be dangerous when he was shot by a sniper concealed in a pill-box no more than 40yards away. He died three hours later having never regained consciousness - three days before his 28th birthday and his first wedding anniversary.
His inscription comes from Shakespeare's Richard II. The words are spoken of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk by the Bishop of Carlisle who tells Bolingbroke that the exiled Norfolk is dead:

Many a time hath banish'd Norfolk fought
For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field,
Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross
Against black pagans, Turks and Saracens;
And toil'd with works of war, retir'd himself
To Italy, and there, at Venice, gave
His body to that pleasant country's earth,
And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
Under whose colours he had fought so long.

Penderel-Brodhurst may have been buried in France rather than Venice but his father, who chose the inscription, believed that his son too had been fighting for Christ.



Know thou, O stranger to the fame
Of this much lov'd much honour'd name!
(For none that knew him need be told)
A warmer heart Death ne'er made cold.
'For R.A. Esq.'
by Robert Burns

By choosing this lovely epitaph written by Robert Burns for one of his friends, Mr and Mrs Adam Oliver have managed not only to reflect their son's Scottish heritage - he was born in Jedburgh, Roxburghshire - but to simply and effectively convey an affectionate character sketch of their nineteen-year-old son.
John Oliver served with the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, part of the 9th Scottish Division. On 29 September 1918 the Division captured the village of Dadizeele, 16km east of Ypres towards Menin. Three days later the Division pushed on towards the Menin-Roulers railway north of Ledeghem but the Germans put up a much fiercer resistance with particularly heavy machine gun and sniper fire.
Oliver was one of the twenty-three members of the battalion who were killed in action or died of wounds that day.



Albert Kick was a Oneida First Nation Canadian, born on the Green Bay reservation in Wisconsin U.S.A. whose family moved to the reservation in Muncey, Ontario. He was 29 when he was killed, the baby of the family.
'Mother still anxious for his return' - I had in my mind's eye the image of a grieving mother unable to accept that her son was dead and still hoping that he was going to come home. However, I have a feeling that this is not what the words mean. It was Albert's mother herself, Katherine Kick, who chose the inscription and I think her concern was to do with her son's spirit, perhaps even his body.
The Oneida, as with all First Nation people, have very specific customs, practices and rituals associated with the dead, all designed to facilitate the successful passage of their spirit back into the spirit world from which it came. This should start with the return of the deceased person's body to the place where they had lived. Was Mrs Kick agitating for the return of her son's body or was it his spirit she hoped would return? Either way, Albert Kick's inscription reflects a Oneida concern for the afterlife of the dead man.
Kick and his brother, Ernest, briefly attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania and when I say briefly I mean from 13 August to 20 October 1904 when they 'ran from school'. The school have digitised their records and you can read letters from both the brothers, written several years after they 'ran away', in which they seem to talk appreciatively about the time they spent at the school so I wonder whether they went back again.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the flagship Indian boarding school founded on the principle that Native Americans were the equal of European Americans and that if their children were immersed in Euro-American culture, i.e. at one of these schools, it would given them skills that would help them advance in life. The school ran from 1879 to 1918.
Albert Kick attested on 28 January 1916. He served with B Company, 4th Battalion Canadian Infantry, the same company as his brother Ernest, and was killed in action in the taking of Sancourt during the battle for the Canal du Nord. He is buried in the same grave as an unidentified soldier.



Private Copeland's father chose his inscription from a well-known hymn written by the poet William Cowper (1731-1800). Other relations chose to quote this hymn but most used the first line of the first verse - 'God move in a mysterious way' - whereas as Walter Copeland quoted from the last verse:

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

One way or another they are all saying the same as those relations who chose: 'God knows best', or 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee'.

Walter Copeland had perhaps more reasons than most to hope there was a purpose in God's actions. In June 1916 his eldest son Vivian Marshall Copeland died at the age of 21, three months later his wife, Mary Jane Copeland died at the age of 49. On the 22 March 1918 his youngest son, Harold, went missing in action and it wasn't until 16 July that Walter heard that he was a prisoner of war. Then just over two months after this his middle son, Albert Copeland died of pneumonia in Salonika aged 21.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.



Private Box's inscription comes from a patriotic Canadian song that has become Canada's national anthem and is the source of the Canadian Army's motto - Vigilamus pro te: we stand on guard for thee. It was neither of these things when Private Box's father, William Box, chose it.
Originally written in 1880, in French, the words were translated into English several times before Robert Stanley Weir's version, which he wrote in 1908, was settled on. In 1939 it became de facto Canada's national anthem but was only officially adopted in 1980. Weir himself made various amendments to his original version and changes continue to be suggested and made. This is a version that Reginald Box would have recognised:

O Canada!
Our home and native land.
True patriot love in all thy sons command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
We stand on guard, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, Glorious and free.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

It's an interesting choice of inscription for someone who was born in England and didn't go to Canada until after 1911 when the census showed him, aged 16, as a 'farm pupil' on a farm in Dymock, Gloucestershire. Box's father, William Box, a jeweller and silversmith in Gloucester, England chose it. Both his sons had gone to Canada and both of them served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force but his eldest son, Charles Henry Box, returned to England before the end of the war having been wounded. It may have been him who influenced his father's choice
Reginald Box served with the 16th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed on 1 October 1918 in the capture of the village of Sancourt during the battle for the Canal du Nord.
In 1921 Charles Henry Box and his wife had a son who they names Reginald in memory of Charles' brother.



Manuel Bermudez attested in Montreal on 16 March 1916, giving his address as the Victoria Hotel, Montreal. Was he living and working in Montreal or did he come from Venezuela specially to enlist? He gave his occupation as 'Correspondence Spanish'. Was he perhaps a correspondent on a Spanish newspaper? I can't tell.
Venezuela was strictly neutral during the First World War, although its president, Juan Vincente Gomez, was widely suspected of being pro German. Bermudez's inscription does not sound as though it comes from a strictly neutral Venezuelan citizen ... far from it. A Mr JF Bermudez of Caracas, Venezuela chose it and was very specific that Manuel Bermudez had fought and died: 'For God's justice on earth'. JF Bermudez was not Manuel's father whose name was Manuel Bermudez Lecuna. However, it's possible that the family had pro-British sentiments since at one time the father had been the Venezuelan Consul in the British territories of Grenada and St Vincent.
Manuel Bermudez served with the 14th Battalion Canadian Infantry. He was killed in action during the battle of the Canal du Nord on day the Canadian Corps captured the village of Sancourt where Bermudez is buried in a joint grave with an unknown soldier.



Arthur Jagger's inscription, chosen by his father the former headmaster of Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Mansfield, comes from Macbeth Act 5 Scene 8:

ROSS: Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt:
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.
SIWARD: Then he is dead?
ROSS: Ay, and brought off the field: your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end
SIWARD: Had he his wounds before?
Ross: Ay, on the front.
SIWARD: Why then, God's soldier be he!
Had I as many sons as I have hairs
I would not wish them to a fairer death:
And so, his knell is knoll'd

Siward's pride in the manner of his son's death - his wounds were in the front of his body not in his back - overcomes any feeling of grief he may have had for his death. Could the Jaggers have been so insouciant about their own son's death; Arthur was their only child.
Jaggard was educated at Malvern College from where he went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in January 1917. That December he was commissioned into the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, joining them in France on 27 June 1918. He died on 1 October 1918 of wounds received the previous day, 30 September. The battalion war diary gives a perfunctory report of that day:

30 September 1918
A & D companies under light barrage took part in an operation and successfully advanced line taking 10 prisoners and 1 machine gun. Our casualties were 3 officers wounded (of whom 1 died of wounds) 11 other ranks killed & 38 other ranks wounded.

I am assuming that Jagger was the officer who died of wounds. He's buried at Chocques Military Cemetery, which in September 1918 was a field ambulance cemetery for casualties who hadn't got very far down the casualty evacuation chain.



For all that this is now one of the most famous poems of the war, and certainly the most famous Canadian poem of the war, it is not often quoted in inscriptions. John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields in May 1915, prompted by the death of a young friend killed at Ypres the previous day. McCrae, a doctor, served in France throughout the war, eventually dying of cerebral-meningitis following pneumonia in January 1918.
The inscription comes from verse 3, the last verse:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In this instance 'the torch' is 'our quarrel with the foe', McCrae was exhorting his readers not to give up the struggle with Germany until the war was won. More usually, however, 'the torch' is used as a metaphor for 'the torch of life', the vitai lampada'. This refers to the duties and responsibilities to one's fellow human beings that should be passed on from one generation to another. This was the meaning Sir Henry Newbolt had in mind when he wrote his poem, Vitae Lampada.

The War Graves Commission has recorded Sergeant Hammond's name as Henry Leggo Harry Hammond but I feel sure that 'Harry' was a nickname since Hammond's father was also called Henry. Hammond, a bank clerk enlisted in Montreal on 4 October 1915. He arrived in France on 23 April 1916 and served with No. 4 Company Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He was killed on 30 September 1918. The battalion war diary recorded the events of the day:

"The plan was that the P.P.C.L.I., having crossed the Railway, should swing to the East and South-East and make good the Railway Cutting, the village of Tilloy as far forward as the main Tilloy-Blecourt Road ...
At 6-00 a.m. the attack was made with Nos. 1, 2 and 4 Coys front line and No. 3 Coy in support. Rapid progress was made as far as the road running from 8.21.b.60.80. to 8.27.a.40.60. From this point the advance was still continued on the right by No. 4 Coy, who reached their objective at the juncture of the main Tilloy-Blecourt Road and Embankment. Nos. 1 and 2 Coys on the Left and No.3 Coy in Support were suffering very heavy casualties from Machine Gun fire from the village and from the high ground to the North ... By this time most of the Officers and N.C.O.s had been knocked out and the Coys were badly disorganized ..."

Hammond was a senior N.C.O. in No. 4 Company.
His parents were initially told that he was missing presumed wounded in action. A month later they received the news that he had been killed. He's buried in Mill Race Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai. The name coming from a switch line on the Cambrai-Douai railway, which ran to a large German supply dump on the site of the cemetery. Corps burial officers began constructing the cemetery in late October 1918, which is when Hammond's body must have been discovered and his parents informed.



This inscription asserts a belief in Spiritualism, the belief that the spirit never dies and that it is possible for humans to communicate across the chasm of death. Whilst the world of Spiritualism was awash with cranks and charlatans there were many respected academics who felt convinced of it too. The best known being the highly respected British physicist, Sir Oliver Lodge, who played a key part in the development of radio.
After his son Raymond was killed in action in 1915, Sir Oliver wrote a memoir of his son in which he laid out his beliefs and his evidence, writing:

"Well, speaking for myself and with full and cautious responsibity, I have to state that as an outcome of my investigation into physical matters I have at length and quite gradually become convinced, after more than thirty years of study, not only that persistent individual existence is a fact, but that occasional communication across the chasm - with difficulty and under definite conditions - is possible.
This is not a subject on which one comes lightly and easily to a conclusion, nor can the evidence be explained except to those who will give to it time and careful study; but clearly the conclusion is either folly and self-deception, or it is truth of the utmost importance to humanity - "
'Raymond or Life and Death' by Sir Oliver Lodge Methuen & Co. 1916 p. 389

Mrs Mary Evans, Private Evans' mother, appears to seen it as truth.

Evans was born in Ramsgate, Kent on 12 August 1897. He attested on 4 August 1915 just after his eighteenth birthday. By this time both he and his widowed mother were living in Canada. Evans served with the 75th Battalion Canadian Infantry in France from 11 August 1916 - the day before his nineteenth birthday. He was killed in action on 30 September 1918 when the 75th led the attack on the Cambrai-Douai railway cutting on the sunken road that ran south from Blecourt.
His will, a perforated form torn out from the back of his pay book, left "£10 to Miss Agnes Patterson, Wright County, Cantley, Quebec, Canada, my friend".



Charles Wright's father doesn't beat about the bush. Not for him the polite, "Some day we'll understand" which many families chose as an inscription, let alone the fatalistic acceptance, "God knows best". Charles Wright Senior simply asked "Why?" Why was my son killed, why did he have to die, why did he have to go and fight, why were we at war, why, why why?
Charles Wright Junior was born in Leeds to Charles and Helena Wright, the third of their seven children. By 1911 he had gone to Canada. When he attested in September 1916 he was living in Robsart, a tiny community founded in 1910 following the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He described his occupation as 'range rider', someone who rode the ranges looking after the cattle.
Wright served with the 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry, the Alberta Regiment, and was killed in its last major action of the war, the crossing of the Canal du Nord 27 September to I October. This opened up the way for the capture of Cambrai and its vitally important German rail centre; Germany's last fully developed line of defence.
Less celebrated than the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge, the Canadian crossing of the Canal du Nord, a sophisticated combined-arms assault in which engineer, artillery and infantry units were seamlessly combined, was a much greater tactical achievement. David Borys has written about it fully in this article for Canadian Military History.



'A Broken Melody' is the title of an immensely popular musical play first performed in London in 1892. Although one of the first reviewers pronounced it 'feeble, tedious and commonplace', The Times declared that the combination of the music, the acting and the sentiment made it irresistible. The London Daily News attributed the play's success to Auguste van Biene, the musician who played the leading role. But, it said, touching though Mr van Biene's playing of the violoncello was, violoncellos alone will not make a successful play:

"The secret lies in the fact that the simple blend of pathos and humour goes home to the hearts of the unsophisticated spectators, who enjoy the eccentricities while they sympathise with the domestic sorrows of the poor deserted musician."

Van Biene is thought to have performed the role more than 6,000 times before he died in 1913. He and his wife also starred in the film version, which was made in 1896.
I believe the play was so popular that it gave rise to a figure of speech. The term 'a broken melody' came to be used to describe something that came to an end when it had been expected to keep running sweetly along. And the phrase even came to be parodied, as when a group of rowdy sailors were stopped by the police from playing their bagpipes in a public place. The photograph of the sailors in the newspaper appeared under the headline - 'A broken melody'.
For all its popularity it has been impossible to find out anything about the plot other than from the promotional strapline used by the cinemas showing the film. This described the film as, "A heart touching story of a struggle between love and duty". I have worked out that the story is about a musician, and that many different musical pieces were played during the evening. However, there was one piece that never failed to feature, it was called 'A Broken Melody' and you can here it played by Auguste van Biene.
James Keating was only 19 when he died. He served originally with the Yorkshire Regiment before transferring to the 1st Gun Carrier Company, Tank Corps. These were tanks that pulled guns into battle behind them. The idea was that the artillery could quickly set themselves up as the battle moved forward. However, it turned out not to be such a good idea and from May 1918 these companies were used to deliver ammunition not guns.
Keating died on 27 September 1918 when the British army was in action all along the front line. His parents announced his death in the Daily Gazette for Middlesborough on 5 October. The announcement says that Keating was "killed whilst on active service".



This may not seem like a very interesting inscription but there's a very interesting story that lies behind it - and rather a sad one too, not that all these stories aren't sad.
I've given Hopcraft the rank of private, which he was, but it doesn't say so on his headstone, the place where his rank should be is blank. And I've given his regiment as the 20th Battalion London Regiment, which it was, but again it doesn't say so in the normal place on his headstone. I can't imagine what force of character Hopcraft's father must have applied to achieve this with the War Graves Commission ... but he did. What lay behind it?
Ernest George de Lathom Hopcraft was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on 29 December 1914, transferring from the Reserve to the 13th Battalion Middlesex Regiment on 15 May 1915. In April 1916 he went to France where he was a billeting officer. Some French people were very reluctant to have British officers billeted on them and one woman in particular was very uncooperative. In an attempt to get him out of her house she began hitting and slapping him ... and he retaliated. Hopcraft was arrested, court martialled and on 19 February 1917 dismissed from the service for "committing an offence against the person of a resident."
Hopcraft's father, also called Ernest, obviously found it very difficult to accept this, but despite appeals to the War Office his son was not reinstated. Ernest Junior therefore re-enlisted in the Rifle Brigade, transferred to the London Regiment and was killed in action on 27 September 1918.
His father told the story as he wanted it to be known on a memorial plaque in All Saint's Church, Middleton Cheney, Northamptonshire:

Ernest George de Lathom Hopcraft
Aged 32 years. The only son of Ernest Hopcraft J.P. Northants, of Brackley and
Middleton Cheney. Who answered duty's call and volunteered and was given a
Commission in the 13th Middlesex Regiment. He gave his life, his all, for his King and
After having fought in Palestine he fell in action, at the assault on the German
Hindenburg Line at Marcoing near Cambrai. September 27th 1918; 5 weeks and 4 days
Before the Armistice.
Gone but never forgotten.
At the Battle of Flesquieres near Marcoing he gallantly attacked, single handed a German
Machine gun post and was killed.

Strangely, had Ernest Hopcraft Senior not said what he did on his son's headstone I would never have bothered to see what was going on. And had he not insisted that neither his son's rank nor his regiment should appear on the headstone other people's curiosity wouldn't have been aroused either. I got much of the information for this inscription from a Great War forum for which I am very grateful.



Robert Gray was born in Australia in 1883. In 1917 he was working as a book keeper in Fresno California whilst his wife was living in the Dominion Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. On 12 September 1917 he joined the 7th Battalion Canadian Infantry, the British Columbia Regiment, and served with them in France from March 1918. He was killed in action on the 27 September. By the time his wife came to choose his inscription she was living in Australia, where his mother also lived.
If his wife hadn't lived in Canada she might never have come across his inscription. It comes from a poem, They Never Die by J.W. Barry, published in the 17 August 1917 edition of The Civilian, "a fortnightly journal devoted to the interests of the Civil Service of Canada" - hardly a mass circulation journal! And from my trawl of the Internet I can't see that it was published anywhere else.

The Brave! who says they die?
Their deathless story
Rings 'cross the emblazon'd sky
Of England's glory.

He fought, and fell, and met
No tearful eye
To wet his nameless grave - and yet
He did not die.

She fought a martyr's fight, and fell
Without a cry.
Ah, sweet Cavell, all, all is well -
You did not die.

Only cowards die. The Brave,
Seeing beyond, with piercing eye,
Rest forever in a Nation's love,
And never die.

Gray was killed on the day the 1st Canadian Division played their part in the crossing of the Canal du Nord by capturing the village of Sains-les-Marquion. He's buried in the cemetery there where 152 of the 228 burials belong to Canadians who were also killed on that day. Sains-les-Marquion is 15 km north west of Cambrai, a fact that is probably significant in Mrs Gray's post-war address. She lived at: Cambrai, Lone Pine Parade, Matraville, Sydney.



By choosing this motto for his only son, Alexander Grant Snr was establishing his kinship with Clan Grant whose motto and war cry this is. He may also have had in his mind a painting by Lady Butler called Stand fast Craigellachie, which shows a highland soldier standing guard over the wounded during an incident on the North West Frontier in India in 1895, thus claiming by association the same heroic qualities of the highland soldier for his son.
Stand fast may be understood today as an instruction but at one time it was a quality, a synonym for steadfast. Craigellachie, a hill with a commanding view of the Strathspey, is a symbol of strength and watchfulness for the Grants; it's the place where beacons were lit to alert the community to danger - to the need to stand fast, and to be steadfast.
In 1911, Alexander Grant KC of Lincoln's Inn, born in Bolton, Lancashire was living at 37 Hans Place, Chelsea with his second wife and his three children. Alexander Jnr, who was educated at Eton, would have gone to Trinity College, Cambridge when he left school in 1917. Instead he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in December that year. He went to the front on 29 April 1918 where he served continuously until he was killed in action on 27 September, the day the Guards crossed the Canal du Nord on the Hindenburg Line. Grant is buried in Sanders Keep Cemetery, which took its name from the German stronghold captured that day.
Grant's death was announced in The Times on 9 October; his father proudly quoting from a letter he'd received from his son's captain who wrote:

"I had seen a good deal of his conduct during the morning, and every time I saw him he was smiling and cheerful, moving about and encouraging his platoon to do their utmost in a most difficult attack ... He died upholding the great traditions of his school and his regiment ... He was a true Grenadier, and understood the full meaning of Vitae lampada traduit."

Vitae lampada traduit - they hand on the torch of life - a phrase forever associated with Sir Henry Newbolt's poem Vitae Lampada where at a desperate moment in a battle it's the voice of a schoolboy who rallies the ranks with his cry of 'play up, play up and play the game'.



Private Wilbur Brown must have led a complicated existence. Why else would he have given his name as Frederick Wells Osbourne on his attestation form, signing an oath that all his answers were true when they weren't?
Brown says he was born on 7 July 1891. At his death in 1918 that would have made him 27. However, the War Graves Commission has his age as 23. It could be the Commission's mistake but by this time his mother has become involved in his commemoration whereas in all the form-filling prior to his death he made no mention of her. He gave 'a friend', Mrs Edna Lynn of El Centro, California, USA, as his next of kin but when the communication informing her of his death was sent there it was undelivered. He left real estate in Kansas to another 'friend', Miss Margaret Brown, however, I have a feeling that she was his sister. Miss Margaret Brown also received his separation allowance.
Brown was born in Manchester to William W and Mrs AE Brown. The family moved to the United States and by the time his mother signed for his inscription she was Mrs AE Huff of La Junta, Colorado.
I wonder what was going on. What was his reason for signing up under a false name? It could have been a bit awkward that having given his name as Frederick Wells Osbourne to the Attesting Officer, the Medical Officer recorded the letters W.W.B. (Wibur Wells Brown) tattooed onto his left fore-arm as one of his 'distinguishing features'. In the case of William Clarence McGregor, who served as Albert Murray, it was because the Army had decided that a bout of rheumatic fever on his medical record rendered him permanently medically unfit. Attesting as a totally different person meant that he could escape this decision.
It's interesting that Brown, who was living in Kansas City, USA, enlisted on 15 January 1918 in the Canadian Infantry when by this time he could have enlisted in the US army. Perhaps he still felt he was an Englishman and was happy to swear an oath of allegiance to His Majesty King George V. His active service began on 23 May 1918 and he was killed four months later on 27 September in the opening stages of the Battle of Cambrai.
His mother chose his inscription, the rather underwhelming tribute - 'He tried'. It's possible that she was quoting from a short poem written by an Old Etonian, 'Somewhere in France', and published in the Eton Chronicle of May 1916 but the circulation of the Chronicle is so limited that I doubt it ... but maybe:

To a Soldier
Say not of him "he left this vale of tears,"
Who loved the good plain English phrase
"He died,"
Nor state "he nobly lived (or otherwise)
Failed or succeeded" - friend, just say
"He tried".



Driver Appleby's widow chose the final two lines of 'Laus Mortis' - In Praise of Death - by Frederic Lawrence Knowles (1869-1905) for her husband's inscription. Why should we praise death? Because it 'gives us life, and in exchange takes breath'; because 'Life lends us only feet, Death gives us wings', and because in death, whether we 'wear a crown or bear a yoke' we will all be equal, 'when once your coverlet of grass is spread'. Life is the sower and death is the reaper: 'God's husbandman'. Death has traditionally been portrayed as the reaper, Knowles takes the analogy further and portrays the dead as gathered corn, bound in 'unwithering' sheaves close to God.
Alexander Appleby, a horse driver in civilian life, came from Perth in Western Australia. He enlisted in March 1917 and served as a driver in the 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade. He died of wounds in hospital in Rouen on 25 September 1918. It's not possible to tell when he was wounded but the 3rd Artillery Brigade had been relieved on the 23rd and was resting at the 'Wagon Lines' on the 25th. Forty-five other ranks had been wounded during the month, Appleby may have been one of those. However, long term cases were nursed at Rouen so his wounds may have dated from earlier in the year. He is among 8,348 casualties buried in St Sever Cemetery Extension, all of whom died in one of the fifteen hospitals based in Rouen.



Trooper Ernest McKay was one of the fourteen 11th Australian Light Horsemen killed in the savage fighting at Samarkh on 25 September 1918. There's nothing to say whether he was killed in the cavalry charge or in the subsequent hand-to-hand fighting in the town. And nothing to say why the inscription refers to 'mate' in the singular rather than mates in the plural.
It's always interesting to see the cause or causes for which Australians fought. Today the idea that Australian nationhood was born in the First World War is commonplace, and is being fiercely promoted during the centenary. But McKay, Australian born, fought for his country and his King, and I would venture to suggest that by his country he meant Britain, or rather the British Empire for the terms were synonymous. Actually, to be accurate, the word most people would have used for Britain at this time, and for the whole British Empire, was 'England' but whichever word was used I don't think McKay was fighting just for Australia.
McKay was a carpenter from Brisbane. His mother chose his inscription and filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia. I love the way that, given the opportunity to say something that might "be of interest to the Historian of the AIF or of his regiment", she writes proudly that he was -

"One of the most popular boys in his regiment. Also a good footballer. In fact one of the best all round players over in Egypt."
[NB I have corrected some of the spelling a punctuation.]

Somehow I don't think this was the sort of information the historians were looking for!
As to the 'spotless name': McKay's service record shows that he embarked from Australia for Egypt on 30 September 1915; he spent from 3 January to 22 February in detention for an unspecified misdemeanour; in December 1916 he was punished for being absent without leave, and from 15 August to 22 December 1917 he was in hospital being treated for VD.
But none of this detracts from the fact that Ernest McKay, living in Australia where there was no conscription, volunteered to fight for King and country, an action that led to his death.



Sir John Bridger Shiffner, 6th Baronet, had been at the front for two days when was killed in action on the 24 September 1918, the day the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment captured the high ground north of Gricourt. Later that day the Germans counter-attacked with some 400 men. The battalion war diary gives an unusually vivid description of what happened next:

"Captain Roberts ordered his company to open fire on the advancing enemy and when they were within 30 yards, the leading waves began to waver, on seeing this, Captain Roberts ordered his men to fix bayonets and then to charge the enemy. The men all rose from their positions in shell holes and charged with the bayonet and utterly routed the enemy, taking over 40 prisoners. The artillery in response to the S.O.S. signal, put down an intense fire on to the enemy, causing numerous casualties as they were running away. This action was specifically mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's communique. It was a fine example of the use of Infantry weapons and the value of the dash and fighting spirit shown by all ranks who took part, as their total number was less than 80, thus being out-numbered by 5 to 1."

Shiffner was killed in the bayonet charge. He was 19 and had been married for six weeks. His younger brother, Henry, inherited the title and was killed in action in North Africa in 1941.

The Dowger Lady Shiffner, Sir John's mother, chose his inscription. It comes from 'In Memoriam F.A.S', written by Robert Louis Stevenson at Davos in 1881 to commemorate an eighteen-year-old boy, Francis Albert Sitwell, who died of consumption there that year. It's a beautiful poem, echoing Shelley's 'Adonais', his lament for the early death of John Keats (see stanzas XXIX and XL), and prefiguring Laurence Binyon's 'For the Fallen'. However, Lady Shiffner makes an interesting alteration: Stevenson wrote 'Doomed to know not winter, only spring', she changed the word 'doomed' to 'born', which gives a slightly less mournful feeling to her son's death.
I wonder why the new Lady Shiffner, as next of kin, didn't choose her husband's inscription, and what she might have wanted to say.

YET, O stricken heart, remember, O remember
How of human days he lived the better part.
April came to bloom and never dim December
Breathed its killing chills upon the head or heart.

Doomed to know not Winter, only Spring, a being
Trod the flowery April blithely for awhile,
Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing,
Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.

Came and stayed and went, and now when all is finished,
You alone have crossed the melancholy stream,
Yours the pang, but his, O his, the undiminished
Undecaying gladness, undeparted dream.

All that life contains of torture, toil, and treason,
Shame, dishonour, death, to him were but a name.
Here, a boy, he dwelt through all the singing season
And ere the day of sorrow departed as he came.



I enter these inscriptions into a database and I notice that many of the post-August 1918 casualties are buried in cemeteries that I've never entered before, like Berthaucourt. Whereas once the front was stationary it is now moving forwards so fast that some of the cemeteries contain the dead of a brief few days before the battle has moved on. And there is another characteristic of these battlefield cemeteries, many are much smaller than the old ones. There are seventy casualties buried in Berthaucourt of whom three are unidentified. The rest of them were all killed between 18 September and the 5 October with sixteen being killed on 18 September and thirty-six on the 24th.
Walter Potts is one of the thirty-six. A married railway clerk whose wife lived in Wooler, Northumberland, his medal card shows that he didn't enter a theatre of war until after 1915, which indicates to me that, being the age he was, he was a conscript rather than a volunteer. He was killed when the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment took part in a successful attack on the village of Pontru, seven kilometres west of St Quentin.
The 1st battalion war diary comments that the village was strongly held and that the casualties were 'fairly heavy', not helped by the fact that the four tanks meant to have gone in front of the troops, behind the artillery barrage, proved to be 'quite useless': two were knocked out before starting, one never arrived and the fourth seemed to get lost. Two officers and forty men of the battalion were killed on the 24th, including Private Potts.
I don't know when Walter Potts got married; in 1911 he was still living at home with his parents and four of his brothers. There is no indication that there were any children of the marriage: his wife, Jane Anne Potts, would therefore have been left with many 'lonely hours' to think of him. It's an affectionate, unselfconscious inscription, addressed to the dead man with no care for who else might read it.



This is yet another quotation from Tennyson's In Memoriam, which is galloping away as the most quoted poem in personal inscriptions. And interestingly, it's not always the same quotation that people use, in fact, I haven't seen this one before. Tennyson muses on the fact that even whilst a father is toasting his far-away soldier son a shot can just have killed him, and while a mother prays for her sailor son's safety he can at that very moment be being buried at sea.

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

O father, wheresoe'er thou be,
Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath still'd the life that beat from thee.

O mother, praying God will save
Thy sailor - while thy head is bow'd.
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
Drops in his vast and wandering grave

However, I would be prepared to bet that it wasn't just the poem that influenced Mrs Annie Cash when she chose this for her son.
There's a rather beautiful painting by the Newlyn-School artist Walter Langley (1852-1922), which he called, 'Never morning wore to evening but some heart did break'. It shows a young woman sitting on a harbour wall, her face in her hands, whilst a much older woman sits beside her, a hand on her shoulder and a look of sorrowing despair on her face. Behind them is a calm sea, shimmering in the early evening light. The empty fish baskets beside them indicate that this young woman's fisherman husband will not be coming home but has perished at sea - the day has never dawned that didn't end in heartbreak for someone. It was one of Langley's most powerful works and I feel sure that it would have been reproduced in enough places for Mrs Cash to have seen it.
George Cash, her eldest child, served with the 4th Battalion South Wales Borderers. The battalion, which had been in Gallipoli during 1915, was ordered to Mesopotamia in 1916 where it spent the rest of the war. Cash's medal card indicates that he didn't join until after 1915. The fighting was largely over by the time Cash died so the presumption is that he either died of illness or of wounds received some time earlier.

Dark house, by which I once more stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp'd no more -
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here, but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.



It's all there - the sporting analogy, the exalted language, the noble death, all just as it should be for a heroic soldier. It was Sir Henry Newbolt in his poem Clifton Chapel who had a father tell his son that the son could wish for no finer 'fortune' than to have the words 'Qui procul hinc ... Qui ante diem periit: Sed miles, sed pro patria' (He died far away and before his time but as a soldier and for his country) written on his gravestone. I think that many a parent today could think of a better one; one that had their son living to a ripe old age.
I've written before about sporting analogies in inscriptions: 'He played the game' from the poem The Lost Master by Robert Service;'Well played lad' a tribute from a mother to her son, and 'Though a boy he played a man's game to the finish' from the soldier's Commanding Officer.
'Nearing the goal' carries the analogy a bit further. We know Second Lieutenant Burstall was leading his platoon in an attack on the German lines at Holnon on the 24 September 1918 so the 'goal' was presumably the German lines. Such an association is totally alien to us today but it was part of the culture of the era. Not that people thought war was no more than a game of football but that the qualities necessary to be a good member of a team were the qualities necessary for a good soldier. I can see their point.
Arthur Burstall was nineteen, the eldest son of a timber merchant in Kingston-upon-Hull. It looks as if he served originally as a private in the 16th London Regiment before being commissioned into the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was attached to the 1st Battalion the The Prince of Wales Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) at the time of his death.
Burstall is one of three young officers commemorated in a stained glass window in Holy Trinity Church, Kingston-upon-Hull, now Hull Minster. Two knights stand on either side of a robed figure above the words:

Comfort ye
Comfort ye my people
Saith your God
Speak ye comfortably
To Jerusalem
And cry unto her
That her warfare is accomplished



Thomas Lawrence's married sister, Hilda Sillavan, chose his inscription, quoting from verse three of 'England, My England' a poem written by W.E.Henley (1849-1903).
The poem begins:

What have I done for you,
England, my England?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own?

Verse three reads:

Ever the faith endures,
England, my England: -
'Take and break us: we are yours,
England my own!
Life is good, and joys run high
Between English earth and sky:
Death is death; but we shall die
To the Song on your bugles blown,
England -
To the stars on your bugles blown!'

'Take and break us, we are yours'; England certainly broke hundreds and thousands of young men between the years 1914 and 1918, including Thomas Lawrence. In 1914 he was a fifteen-year-old schoolboy at Malvern College. In 1918, aged nineteen, he arrived in France on 31 July. Seven weeks later he was dead. Records say he served with 'C' Company, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment but I can't see his name in the diary and there are lists of officer casualties throughout September 1918. The regiment attacked at Epehy on 18th and again on the 22nd. Lawrence is buried in a Casualty Clearing Station cemetery, which would suggest that he died of wounds.
This used to be such a famous poem, the epitome of British patriotism at a time when both Britain and her Empire were referred to simply as England. There is pride in English achievements: "Where shall the watchful sun ... match the master-work you've done?"; there is a belief that England has a duty to guard the world: "They call you proud and hard ... you with worlds to watch and ward", and a certainty that in all this England is doing God's work: "Chosen daughter of the Lord, spouse-in-chief of the ancient sword". The refrain, which varies slightly from verse to verse, became a rallying cry of Empire - "the song on your bugles blown" ... "round the world"; "down the years"; "to the stars"; "round the pit"; "out of heaven".



I often wonder where people get the quotations they use from. I don't mean which poems or hymns but how they knew them. To my mind the whole point of a truncated inscription, like this one, is that people will recognise the allusion. These lines seem particularly obscure but they are not inappropriate.. They come from the Field of Waterloo by Lord Byron. The battle is over and many fine men are dead:

Thou saw'st in seas of gore expire
Redoubted Picton's soul of fire -
Saw'st in mingled carnage lie
All that of Ponsonby could die -
De Lancy change love's bridal-wreath,
For laurels from the hand of death -
Saw'st gallant Miller's failing eye
Still bent where Albion's banners fly,
And Cameron, in the shock of steel,
Die like the offspring of Lochiel;

The most famous Cameron of Lochiel was Bonnie Prince Charlie's loyal supporter in the 1745 Rebellion, who accompanied him into exile in France. The Cameron of the poem refers to John Cameron, a cousin of the Camerons of Lochiel. He fought with distinction at Waterloo and was killed leading a cavalry charge at Quatre-Bras.
This still left me wondering how Private Fraser's mother could be confident that people would pickup the allusion as it is not one of Byron's best-known poems. That was until I discovered that under 'L' in the turn-of-the -century editions of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is the word Lochiel, with Byron's lines by way of explanation of his heroism.
The quotation has a further relevance because William White Fraser served with the 2nd Battalion the Cameron Highlanders. The battalion had been fighting in Italy since November 1917. But on 22 September 1918, Private William Fraser died of influenza in a hospital in Genoa.



William Voight Theron was a South African of Dutch ancestry. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in August 1917 but didn't join 205 Squadron until May 1918. 205 Squadron's role was to carry out bombing raids on ports and airfields flying DH4s, light bombers.
I haven't been able to find out exactly what happened on 20 September 1918 but 205 Squadron was based at Bois de Roche in Northern France, about 75 km from Proyart where Theron was originally buried. This would suggest that he was on a bombing raid over the German lines. Between August and September 1918 No. 9 Casualty Clearing Station was based at Proyart and Theron is reported to have died of wounds. 2nd Lieutenant JJ Rowe who was flying with Theron, whether as observer or pilot I haven't been able to tell, was also wounded but survived.
E. Theron Esq. of CapeTown, South Africa chose Theron's inscription. The War Graves Commission's Register doesn't have any details of Theron's parentage so I can't tell who E. Theron was. He has chosen to quote from the Old Testament Song of Solomon 8:6-8:

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy as cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned.



Ernest Steele's mother was German. She became a naturalised British citizen in 1894, the same year she married James Steele, a cardboard box manufacturer in London. It's not really possible to determine the sort of relationship someone like Rosa Koehne would have had with her native country, nor how she would have felt when the two countries were at war. But perhaps the fact that her son was a volunteer is a clue.
Ernest Steele enlisted in the 16th London Regiment; conscription was not introduced until March 1916. He went with the regiment to France on 17 August 1915 whilst he was still only 18. As he was not yet 19 he would have needed his parents' signed permission in order to be able to serve abroad On the 25 September 1916 he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps, serving from March 1918 with the 21st Battalion, part of the 21st Division.
On 18 September 1918, the day Steele was killed, the Division took part in an attack directed at outposts of the Hindenburg Line near the village of Epehy. A creeping barrage of 1,500 guns, and the presence of 300 machine guns greatly assisted the attack, which was a small but significant victory, indicating an encouraging weakening of German resistance.
Steele's father signed for his inscription. His son might have been a youthful volunteer, and gone abroad with his parents' support when he was still only 18, but by the time he came to choose his son's inscription James Steele's support for the war seems to have diminished.
The inscription comes from verse seven of 'Man Was Made to Mourn' by Robert Burns (1759-1796). To Burns, man has enough problems in his life without adding to them himself through his inhumanity to his fellow man.

Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

The Steele's weren't the only family to choose this as an inscription and it's interesting that the War Graves Commission, which gave itself the power to censor inscriptions, didn't refuse to accept this one, despite its obvious criticism of war.



From his choice of inscription you can see that Leonard Tams' father, James, was not a wholehearted supporter of the war. In his opinion, why couldn't those who caused them fight them and not drag everyone else in. This is not how his son felt, or at least this can't have been how his son felt originally since he was quite an early a volunteer. Leonard Tams attested on 24 March 1915, before the pressure to 'volunteer' began to be heavily applied.
Tams served with the 9th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment and embarked with them for France on 6 September 1915. The following month they embarked from Marseilles for Salonika. His service file is one of the few to have survived and from it we can see that he was admitted to hospital with influenza and a septic hand in March 1916, and that from 18 November 1916 he was in and out of medical units with 'N.Y.D.', a 'not yet diagnosed' complaint. Eventually on 18 April 1918 he was admitted to the hospital ship Valdivia, still with 'N.Y.D', and then on 17 May into hospital in Malta, his condition eventually diagnosed as malaria. He did not return to Salonika until October 1917.
On 18 September 1918 the battalion took part in the Allied attack on the strongly fortified heights of the Grand Couronne and Pip's Ridge. Their casualties were huge and the attack initially failed. However, it was the beginning of the end for the Bulgarians: three days later they abandoned the heights and eight days later they surrendered.
Leonard Tams was wounded in action on the 18th - his Active Service Casualty Sheet recording 'Shell wound penetrating abdomen'. He died the next day.



The speech marks are definitely there, as is the apostrophe after the letter 'o', which means that the chances are Donald Emson's mother intended us to understand that this is a quotation rather than simply a term of endearment. But a quotation from what? My best guess is a poem called Boy O' Mine written by the American poet, Edgar Guest (1881-1959) and published in a collection of his verse called When Day is Done. The last verse could have resonated with Mrs Emson:

Boy o'mine, boy o'mine, this is my prayer for you;
Never may shame pen one line of despair for you;
Never may conquest or glory mean all to you;
Cling to your honour whatever shall fall to you;
Rather than victory, rather than fame to you,
Choose to be true and nothing bring shame to you.

The poem was not published until 1921, which may seem too late to be used as a source for a headstone inscription. However, many war cemeteries were not constructed until the late 1920s so this is not necessarily a problem. A slightly bigger problem comes from the fact that there appears to be no evidence that either the poem or When Day is Done was ever published in Britain.
There are other contenders but they are equally American and even more unlikely. Soldier Boy O' Mine, written in 1919 by Elizabeth S Howe has a first verse that goes:

All my heart is with you o'er the ocean
In my dreams your dear face I can see
And I long for the day, when from far away
You'll come back to the homeland and me.

Somehow this doesn't sound like something that would appeal to a bereaved mother. And there's another poem with the title Boy O' Mine, words and music by Florence T Irving, which was written in 1918:

Just a song boy o' mine
Just a message of love
Just a prayer oh boy o' mine
To our father above ...

But the subject of the song is really the Stars and Stripes so that rules it out for me.

Donald's father having died when he was four, his mother supported herself as a school teacher. Donald, a farm labourer, volunteered and went out to France in September 1915. In September 1918 he was in Salonika with the 9th Battalion The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, which took part in the costly assault on the Grand Couronne and Pips Ridge near Lake Doiran on 18-19 September. Emson was killed in action on the 19th.



Edward Fitzgerald's translation of quatrains said to have been written in the 11th Century by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam was published in 1859 as the Rubayait of Omar Khayyam. Initially attracting little attention, by the 1880s the poems were extremely popular throughout the English speaking world, and their popularity only grew. Some of the quatrains perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.
Lieutenant Kirby's father, Hector, was not the only relation to quote from the Rubayait; he chose a line from the 72nd quatrain:

Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose
That youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

Kenneth Cameron Kirby was brought up in Norwich. His mother died in 1903 and his family lived with his mother's father, who was a master tailor. Hector Kirby was a tailor's cutter. They lived with Kenneth's two younger brothers, and two of Hector's sisters. This is totally irrelevant but one of the sisters went by the magnificent name of Alma Sevastopol Kirby. She was 56 in 1911, which means that she was born in 1855 during the Crimean War, I would imagine in September 1855 or shortly afterwards when the siege of Sevastopol was lifted.
After leaving school, Kirby worked in insurance for the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company, part of the Norwich Union group on whose Roll of Honour his name appears.
Kirby's medal card card indicates that he first arrived in a theatre of war on 10 August 1918. He was killed six weeks later, leading his men in a successful attack on the village of Epehy.
Epehy was a minor but significant victory in which the British took 11,750 prisoners and captured 100 guns. It was an early sign that perhaps the Germans were weakening.



Captain Dick's mother chose his inscription, quoting from an epitaph composed by J Maxwell Edmonds, a classics don at Cambridge. The epitaph was one of four originally published in The Times on 6 February 1918 under the heading 'Four Epitaphs'. Edmonds then composed five more. All nine were included in the Victoria and Albert Museum's 1919 publication - Inscriptions Suggested for War Memorials.
The full inscription reads:

On some that died early in the Day of Battle.
Went the day well? We died and never knew;
But well or ill, England, we died for you.

Somehow the incomplete inscription, especially in the manner in which it is laid out, which was how Mrs Dick wanted it to be done, is all the more poignant for being incomplete.
Watson Tulloch Dick volunteered in 1915 and served as a private in the Highland Light Infantry. He served in France from September 1915 until 1917 when he went to Salonika. By this time he had been commissioned and was serving with the 7th Battalion South Wales Borderers.
Dick was killed on 18 September 1918 in the Third Battle of Doiran when the combined British, Greek and French forces tried to break the Bulgarian lines. Although the Bulgarians surrendered just ten days later this wasn't before they had put up a tremendous fight, causing the 7th Battalion South Wales Borderers terrible casualties. Dick was killed leading an assault on the Grande-Couronne, a rugged peak that rose to 1,977 feet to the west of Lake Doiran.



'To save mankind' seems like rather an unequal task for one widowed mother's son to achieve; where did the idea that this was the cause for which William John Daniels died come from?
The Mrs Maude Turner who chose his inscription - she was not his mother whose name was Catherine - was quoting a line from verse two of Sir John Arkwright's famous hymn, O Valiant Hearts:

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God's message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had you gave,
To save mankind - yourselves you scorned to save.

You can imagine the comfort such words would have given to the bereaved. They provide not only meaning for the deaths of their loved ones but the assurance that having fought in God's cause these men are assured of their place in heaven:

These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God.
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.

I haven't been able to find out any personal details about William John Daniels, only that he was born in Landrake, Cornwall, enlisted in Saltash and wasn't entitled to the 1914 or 1915 Star. He served originally with the 4th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, transferred to the 260th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, and was killed in action on 18 September 1918 when the battery was in support of the 4th Australian Divisions attack on the Hindenburg Line.



Frederick Moon died as a prisoner of war in Germany. There is very little else I can tell you about him other than that he had been a professional soldier who in September 1914 was still on the reserve. In 1911 Moon was in Malta serving with the 2nd Battalion The Prince Albert's Somerset Light Infantry. Later in 1911 the Battalion went to China and then in 1914 to India where it remained until 1917. However, Moon earned the 1914 Star by entering a theatre of war on 21 September 1914. This is why I conclude he must have been still on the reserve when war broke out.
Moon is now buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery but he could have died in any one of the 180 different prison camps in the Hanover, Hessen, Rhine or Westphalia regions. After the war it was decided to gather all the British dead from these areas into the Southern Cologne Cemetery, which was to be one of four cemeteries in Germany into which the exhumed bodies of prisoners of war were reburied. There is no record of when Moon was taken prisoner and no record of his cause of death.
Born in Williton, Somerset to Edward and Emma Moon it was a Mrs E Cheshire of 11 Havelock Road, Wealdstone, Middlesex who chose his inscription. In the absence of any other information I would suggest that this was his mother, remarried, or a married sister. She chose an extract from the Nunc Dimittis, an ancient canticle that has been part of the Church of England's service of Evening Prayer for centuries, as well as part of the funeral service:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.



This seems a very guarded inscription; it made me curious to know whether there was anything behind it and the more I looked into William Clarence McGregor the more dark thoughts I began to have about him.
His entire eight-eight-page service file has been digitised and for some time it made confusing reading.
The War Graves Commission record says that he was the son of Mrs Jessie McGregor and the late Dugald McGregor and that he served as Murray. According to the documents in his file, he enlisted on 17 September 1914 giving his name as William Clarence McGregor, his birthplace as Bellingen, New South Wales, his profession as motor driver, and his age as 21 and one month. In answer to the question had he ever been apprenticed he answered no. The next document in the file is his discharge paper. There is no information on it, no date of discharge and no information as to why he was discharged.
However, on 2 July 1915, the file contains the attestation form for Albert Murray. There is a note in red ink at the top of the form, 'Real name William Clarence McGregor'. 'Albert Murray' said he was born in Aukland, New Zealand, and that he was a motor mechanic who had been apprenticed for four years to his father in Aukland. In answer to the questions, 'Have you ever been discharged from HM Forces?', 'Have you ever served in HM Forces' and 'Have you ever been rejected as unfit?', his answer to every question was 'no'.
You can see why I was having dark thoughts about McGregor/Murray. Albert Murray received a commission in June 1916, embarked from Australia in January 1917 and served with the 49th Battalion Australian Infantry. However, he didn't get to France until the 17 November that year.
He seems to have been a bold soldier as testified by the manner in which he won his Military Cross on 17 August 1918:

"For conspicuous daring in dealing with a troublesome hostile machine-gun. Crawling over No Man's Land, he entered the enemy's trench & worked up it for about 150 yards, until he located the sentry mounted on the gun. He killed the sentry & captured the gun. After bombing a dug-out & killing an officer & four men, he made good his way back with two prisoners."

Note, citations usually read 'for conspicuous gallantry' not 'daring'. A month later whilst out on patrol he was hit by a machine-gun bullet and killed instantly.
At this point he was still known as Albert Murray. However, a year after his death his mother wrote to the military authorities to say that "as the mother of the above-named soldier, who was killed in action in France on the 16th September 1918, I desire to take the necessary steps to have his correct name recorded". This is the story she had to tell:

"My son enlisted to leave with the first lot of men to go and was very disappointed when he contracted rheumatic fever and instead of sailing with his camp comrades he had to go into hospital for 9 weeks and as a consequence received his discharge.
Later on when he considered that he had removed all trace of the [disease] he endeavoured to re-enlist but was advised that his former illness which had to be disclosed would come against him.
Not to be defeated in this worthy object he enlisted in a name other than his own and sailed as if Lieut Albert Murray in the troopship Ayrshire in 1916 ... "

Mrs McGregor obviously convinced the authorities, which is why his file has 'Correct name William Clarence McGregor' written over all his forms. She also got his correct name carved onto his headstone. However, it's interesting to note that the War Graves Commission told her that they would also include the name under which he served, reasoning:

"If the correct name only appeared in view of the fact that he served under the assumed name there would be danger of his identity being lost sight of."

So, my dark thoughts about McGregor were totally unfounded. His reasons for disguising his identity far from being nefarious were down to the fact that he was keen to join the action and feared that his medical history, if suspected, would prevent him doing so.



These words, from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, are spoken by Guiderus over the body of Cloten who he has just killed:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldy task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Guiderus' brother, Arvirargus, speaks the next lines and together they complete what is now best known as a poem, without the separate speaking parts.
Long before Shelley assuaged his grief for the death of John Keats in his poem Adonais with the assurance that 'He hath awaken'd from the dream of life':

He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again.

And Binyon attempted to comfort those mourning the dead of the First World War with the thought that:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grown old:
Age shall not weary them or the years condemn.

Shakespeare was assuring those who mourned that at least nothing could ever hurt the dead again and that they would now never have anything to fear.

Johnston Hughston, also known as John and Jack, was an Australian doctor, a former pupil of Scotch College, newly qualified from the University of Melbourne. Scotch College have a detailed biography of him on their website from which I shall quote.
Johnston and his brother Edward, also a doctor, were among a group on one hundred Australian doctors who went to England in 1915 to help support Kitchener's New Armies. They were all on one year contracts. Johnston joined the 68th Field Ambulance and went with it to Salonika in October 1915. In April 1916 his contract with the army came up but he signed on again.
In May 1918 he went home to Australia for a few weeks in order to recover from malaria. He returned to the Salonika front and on 3 August was wounded in the chest by a shell fragment. He spent a month in hospital before returning to the front when he was again hit by shrapnel whilst visiting some advanced dressing stations. Although he was with another doctor who immediately did what he could, and was despatched to hospital as quickly as possible, he died nineteen hours later.
His mother chose his inscription, but added to the War Grave Commission records the comment that he was 'A young Australian who freely gave his life when duty called'. Johnston Hughston was one of eight of the original hundred doctors to die.



I have just watched a television programme where one of the commentators was spitting with rage at the fact that officers got a clothing allowance and extra pay despite the fact that they were already all so much better off than the soldiers. The commentator was wrong; all officers weren't necessarily better off.
Harley Bentham was the son of a Midlands Railway Company signalman who had begun his working life as an assistant railway porter. The family lived in a small terraced house at 7 Thorndale St, Hellifield, Yorkshire.
Bentham attended Giggleswick Grammar School and left work to become a clerk in the Bank of Liverpool in Settle. He enlisted in January 1916 as a private in the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. In December 1916 he was recommended for a commission and in August 1917 was gazetted second lieutenant.
On 13 September 1918 Bentham was wounded in action by shellfire "whilst gallantly leading his men" in a successful attack, which captured the town of Havrincourt. Bentham's lieutenant colonel reassured his parents that their son had not suffered and that he'd died shortly after reaching the Casualty Clearing Station. There's always been a suspicion that such reassurances were mere words, especially as we know that Bentham didn't die until the third day after he'd been wounded.
Thomas Bentham chose a very gentle inscription for his son, who was his parents' only child - 'He loved to do a kind action'. One such action was a letter he wrote to the sister of one of the men in his regiment. This was whilst he was still a private so it was not his job to do so but as he says to her: "I have been asked by some of the lads to write to you and tell you how sorry we are and how we sympathise with you in your great loss". Bentham tells the sister how her brother was killed when a shell burst on the parapet right beside him. He assures her that death would have been instantaneous and that he wouldn't have suffered. In this instance it's possible to believe him.



This may not be great literature but it is very heartfelt, and very affecting. Mrs Sarah Dally chose the words for her son, John's inscription. John had been married since early 1914 but his wife, Elizabeth, was dead.
There is very little information about John Dally but what there is can be pieced together to tell a story. He was born in Smoketown, USA, the only one of his parents' five children not to have been born in Wales. Smoketown is a minute and remote farming community in Pennsylvania. Did John's parents try to escape from the mining life of South Wales but find they couldn't manage it? They returned to Wales where James Dally, a coal miner, died in 1896.
In the 1901 census Sarah Dally, a widow, is living with her five children, her widowed mother, a widowed sister and her two children, and three spinster sisters in a single house in Aberdare. Her son Thomas aged 13 is a coal miner, a hewer, despite the fact that he is so young. In 1911 Sarah Dally and four of her children are living in their own house. John and Thomas are both coal miners, both hewers.
John joined up early earning the 1915 Star. He went to France in July 1915, serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He later transferred to No. 1 Water Boring Section, Royal Engineers. This was formed in March 1917 and served in France with the 3rd Army from 1 July 1917. Made up of one officer and 40 other ranks with a variety of different skills, these sections were responsible for drilling wells and pumping the water.
There is no information about how John Dally died but on 15 September the 3rd Army was taking part in the assualt on the Hindenburg Line. Dally is buried in a Casualty Clearing Station cemetery 12 km south east of Bapaume.



Sometimes next-of-kin choose inscriptions that are impenetrably enigmatic, like this one - "As yesterday" - or Lieutenant Horace Collins', "Yes Dad" which I wrote about in May. I admire their originality, especially as I always suspect I might have chosen something deeply conventional. However, is it possible to get an inkling of what Robert French's mother, Mrs Martha French, meant by her choice of inscription?
There's a memorial in Linthorpe Municipal Cemetery, Middlesborough Yorkshire that gives a hint. The dedication reads:

My dearly loved husband Robert French
Died on active service Aug. 18th, buried at sea
August 19th 1916
Also my dearly beloved only son Robert Illtyd
Aged 23 yrs 10 mths killed in action Sept 12th 1918
Buried at Bertincourt, France

Robert French was a time-expired naval petty officer who rejoined the navy on the outbreak of war. He served on board HMS Moldavia, an armed merchant cruiser on patrol in the North Sea. French is variously said to have 'died of disease', 'died of haemorrhage', died of a 'burst blood vessel'. However, someone has transcribed Moldavia's log book and this gives chapter and verse:

18 August 1916
At sea
Various courses for patrol
4.00 pm: In 56 26N, 11 27W, departed this life, PO Robert French, RFR, ON 138240, from haemorrhage following cancer of the stomach
19 August 1916
Various courses for patrol
At sea
9 am: Stopped and committed to the deep the body of the late PO 1c Robert French, in Lat 56 22N, Long 11 17W. RIP.

There is not the same level of detail known about his son's death. Robert Illtyd French's medal card shows him to have been entitled to the 1915 Star having first gone to France and Flanders on 17 April 1915. He served originally with the Yorkshire Regiment before being transferred to the 2/4th York and Lancaster Regiment. This was part of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, which on 12 September 1918, the day French was killed, successfully took the town of Havrincourt; the first breach in the German Hindenburg Line.
Does any of this tell us what Martha French meant by her inscription? I would suggest perhaps that she was declaring that her love and her grief for her dead husband and son were the same 'as yesterday'; they had not diminished.

After I posted this, one of my followers suggested that the reference could be to Psalm 90 verse 4:

"For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."

I think he could be right but I still can't really understand what Mrs French meant by her choice of words.



This beautiful inscription is from Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur, which begins:

So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's table, man by man,
Had fallen in Lyonesse about their Lord,
King Arthur:

The dying Arthur tells Sir Bedevere, 'the last of all his knights':

The sequel of today unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep - the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.

These are such haunting words, which must have resonated with many people who felt that life would never be the same again now that so many of their menfolk were dead, as was the case with Mrs Gillespie, William Gillespie's mother, who chose the inscription. Mrs Gillespie's husband Denis died in October 1915, her son William was killed on 11 September 1918 and another son, Daniel, was killed seven days later.
William served with the Rifle Brigade but at the time of his death was attached to the 12th Battalion London Regiment, part of the 58th London Division. On 11 September they were in the front line near Epehy. That night the Germans put down a box barrage and attacked Tattenham Post. According to the war diary, "D Coy were surrounded and the post taken". Was this when Gillespie was killed? His body was discovered in an unmarked grave a year later.
His older brother, Daniel, a Lance Corporal with the 58th Division Signal Company Royal Engineers, was killed on 18 September. One of his other brothers, a Mr J Gillespie, chose his inscription. It comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth:

After life's fitful fever
He sleeps well



On 31 October 1917 the British (at the time the term British would automatically have included Empire and Commonwealth soldiers) secured the capture of the Ottoman-held town of Beersheba with a magnificent Australian cavalry charge that has gone down in legend. The capture of the town, important though it was, was perhaps of less importance than the capture of its wells since the British soldiers and their horses had been short of water for days.
Some parts of the town had been captured during the day but the British wanted total possession and the day was getting late. The commanders therefore decided to gamble on a full-scale cavalry charge and the task was entrusted to the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse regiments. Much has been written about this famous charge, which rode off at 4.30 pm just as the sun was beginning to set. Armed only with their bayonets, the cavalry was organised into three lines, each line 300 yards apart, and each man keeping a distance of five yards between him and the next to minimise the impact of enemy artillery. As the Ottoman lines came into view the Australians spurred their horses into a gallop and rode straight into a hail of artillery and machine-gun fire. Within in an hour they had achieved their objective and although the Ottoman commander tried to destroy the wells all but two were saved.
It was a magnificent achievement but amongst all the hyperbole that has been subsequently written about the event, I love the 12th Light Horse's laconic war diary entry:

October 31 1917:
"The Regiment moved on Beersheba at the gallop. Heavy enemy rifle and machine gun fire developed on the left flank ... This fire was silenced by artillery. The leading Squadron came under very heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire from the trenches, ... On reaching a point about 100 yards from these trenches, one Troop of A Squadron dismounted for action, and the remainder of the Squadron galloped on ... The Regiment, less 1 troop, kept straight on to Beersheba."

John Fielding was in A Squadron. Eight hundred men began the charge in which 31 were killed, mainly in the hand-to-hand fighting in the trenches.
Fielding was born in Rawtenstall, Manchester and arrived in Australia in 1908 when he was 13. He enlisted in January 1915 and served in Gallipoli from August to December that year. His father chose his inscription. He began it with a reference to Tennyson's Crossing the Bar, a euphemism for dying:

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea

And concluded it by indicating his pride in his son's participation in this legendary event. There's one other point about the inscription. John Fielding's father says, 'he crossed the bar for his country', which country? I'm going to say Britain, and by that I mean the British Empire because at that time many Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans thought of themselves as British, despite the fact that so many episodes, like the 'glorious charge at Beersheba', have now become building blocks in the construction of their various nationhoods.



This wonderful Utopian world where men will live at peace, guided by science and reason, where woman will be man's 'mate and peer' and art and music will blossom, is envisaged by John Addington Symonds in his poem, The Vista (1880). However, it's far more likely that Arthur Latchford's mother, who chose the inscription, knew the lines from the shortened version, which was published as a four or five-verse hymn, rather than from the poem.
Symonds, a literary critic and cultural historian, was a fairly controversial figure. An advocate of homosexuality even perhaps verging on pederasty, Symonds admired the Greek world where relationships between men and youths were not frowned on, and looked forward to a time when homosexuality would no longer be a sin. That's why the hymn is a far more likely source. It's called, 'These things shall be: a loftier race', and it looks forward to the time when:

These things shall be: a loftier race
Than e'er the world hath known, shall rise
With flame of freedom in their souls
And light of knowledge in their eyes.

Latchford's inscription comes from verse three:

Nation with nation, land with land,
Unarmed shall live as comrades free;
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.

This is the Utopian world that Mrs Latchford was looking forward to.
Arthur Latchford was his parents' eldest child; his father, William was a brickmaker in Boxmoor, Hertfordshire. Arthur is commemorated on the McCorquodale and Co Ltd war memorial. McCorquodales were printers based in Cardington St, London and in Milton Keynes, which is where Latchford was probably based. He served with the 38th Field Ambulance, part of the 12th Division, and died on 8 September 1918. There are no records of what happened to him.

25TH SEPT. 1918


There's a story here quite beyond the one of two brothers being killed within twenty days of each other.
Benjamin and Emmanuel Goldstein were the sons of Morris and Milly Goldstein. Morris was born in Chachinow, Plotzk a town now in central Poland but at the time of his birth in Russia. The town had a huge, vibrant Jewish community estimated at one time to have made up 40% of the population. However, by the end of the Second World War, after decades of varying degrees of anti-semitism culminating in the Plotzk Ghetto, there were thought to be no more than thirty Jewish residents in the city. Milly, Amelia Bernberg, was born in Kuldiga, a town in western Latvia, which had had a similarly thriving Jewish community. Many of them were German, which is how Milly identified her nationality in the 1911 British census. In 1941, the Jews of Kildigas were imprisoned in the synagogue before being taken out into the forest in small groups and shot.
Morris Goldstein, who was a tailor, came to Britain in about 1894 when he was 36, and became a naturalised British subject in December 1902. There is no evidence that Milly ever became a British subject. All their six children were born in Britain, of whom five survived to adulthood.
The three eldest boys all served in the British army, the second and third sons both being killed in 1918 within weeks of the end of the war.
The boys' father, Morris Goldstein, chose Benjamin's inscription, whereas their eldest brother chose Emmanuel's: "Brother of Ben Goldstein died of wounds Sept. 6th 1918". However, the eldest brother, Samuel Reuben Goldstein, was now calling himself Stanley Robert Golding. And later on I can see that the youngest brother, Louis, had changed his surname to Golding too.
It seems a shame that a family who came to Britain to escape prejudice, two of whose four sons died fighting for Britain, should have felt the need to change their name from Goldstein to the less Jewish sounding Golding - but this was the story of the twentieth-century.



The first part of the inscription comes from Byron's play 'Marino Faliero'. Faliero was a fourteenth century Doge of Venice and against all the historical evidence, in fact in contradiction of all the historical evidence, Byron creates a revolutionary hero. In the play, two fellow revolutionaries, Calendro and Israel Bertuccio discuss a third, Bertram, whom Calendro thinks has 'a hesitating softness', which will be fatal to their cause. Bertuccio assures him that:

The truly brave are soft of heart and eyes.
And feel for what their duty bids them do.
I have known Bertram long; there doth not breathe
A soul more full of honour.

In this Bertram appears to share the same characteristics as Wordsworth's Happy Warrior - see yesterday's inscription and also this earlier one. But the quality that made the Happy Warrior more than usually brave was that he was a married man with much to love, which he risked losing by fighting, whereas Bertram was alone:

CALENDRO: [...] Yet as he has no mistress, and no wife
To work upon his milkiness of spirit,
He may go through the ordeal; it is well
He is an orphan, friendless save in us:
A woman or a child had made him less
Than either in resolve.

So Bertram is not as brave as the Happy Warrior who, despite the fact that he has much to love, can be relied upon to do his duty. Lieutenant Ponter also has much to love: the wife who called him her "dear one, her better half", a son born in January 1918 and a daughter who was born posthumously in February 1919.
Ponter had joined up in September 1914 but poor eyesight kept him on home duties, training soldiers and guarding the east coast. However, by some means he got himself to France in July 1918. He was killed in his first action, his company commander assuring his parents that he had died "gallantly and well", leading his platoon and dying instantaneously when hit by rifle fire.

Blanche Ponter chose her husband's inscription. Just after Bertuccio has defended Bertram he goes on to assert:

We must forget all feelings save the one -
We must resign all passions save our purpose -
We must behold no object save our country -
And only look on death as beautiful,
So that the sacrifice ascend to heaven, -
And draw down freedom on her evermore.
CALENDRO: But if we fail.
BERTUCCIO: They never fail who die
In a great cause:



James McDonald was a married man, a fact which provides a clue to his inscription. It comes from Wordsworth's poem 'Character of the Happy Warrior'. The poem asks the question - "Who is the happy warrior? Who is he that every man in arms would wish to be?" - before enumerating all the noble and honourable qualities that make a man a good soldier, describing him as someone who can withstand the 'storm and turbulence' of warfare but:

Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, whereso-er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love: -

And 'much to love' meant he had much to lose, which explains why in Wordsworth's eyes he was 'more brave' than those who were not family men.
More than one inscription quotes from Wordsworth's poem, and the term 'happy warrior' had passed into general usage as a description for an all-round good sort. Presumably none of the people who quoted from Wordsworth's Happy Warrior were familiar with Herbert Read's poem of the same title:

His wild heart beats with painful sobs
His strain'd hands clench an ice-cold rifle
His aching jaws grip a hot parch'd tongue
His wide eyes search unconsciously.
He cannot shriek.
Bloody saliva
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.
I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.
This is the happy warrior,
This is he ...

McDonald had been born in Scotland in 1878 but by the time he enlisted in September 1915 he was a grocer in Vancouver, British Columbia. He served with the 72nd Battalion Canadian Infantry and arrived in France in August 1916. Severely wounded in his right foot and right temple, he was out of action for the early months of 1917. In July 1918 he went home on leave to Dumbarton in Scotland, returning to the front on 17 August. He was killed just over a month later.



On 1 November 1918 Frank Knight came home on leave from France to stay with his mother's brother at Severn Street in Leicester. Nine days later he was dead. The cause of his death: pneumonia following influenza. He was buried in Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery after a full military funeral that included buglers and a firing party.
Knight's family lived in Australia, where they had gone in 1912 when he was 17. He had been born in Witherley in Leicestershire and grown up in Rugby, Warwickshire where his father, Isaac Knight, ran the Queen's Head pub. Knight attended Lawrence Sherriff School in Rugby. This makes him an Old Laurentian, an O.L. as it says on his inscription.
Knight, a draughtsman, enlisted in Melbourne in March 1916. It would appear that he spent some time training to be a machine gunner and then training machine gunners at the Machine Gun Training Centre in Grantham, Lincolnshire. In January 1918 he went to France, from where he came on leave on 1 November 1918 to die two days before the end of the war.
I find the the syntax of his inscription rather curious: 'He became a profitable member of the King and Commonwealth'. It has rather a seventeenth-century ring to it. However, by Commonwealth Isaac Knight wasn't referring to the kingless government of England following the civil war, nor to the British Commonwealth of Nations but to the Commonwealth of Australia the country's official name following the federation of the six self-governing colonies on 1 January 1901. Isaac Knight was stating that his son was both a valuable subject of His Majesty King George V and a useful member of the Commonwealth of Australia.

This inscription will feature as part of the Global War Graves Leicester project, which aims "to explore and bring to light how the 298 First World War casualties came to be buried in the cemetery, how their identities were negotiated in death; and how even the British burials alongside them also had connections throughout and beyond the UK. The purpose of this research will be to challenge and expand our understandings of the relationship between local and global in terms of Leicester and the First World War".



This sounds rather a harsh inscription for a parent to chose for their son: "To this end was I born". It comes from St John's gospel and was chosen by Private Mark's father, Major Herbert Beaumont Marks. In St John, Christ has been brought before Pontius Pilate to be tried.

"Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
St John 18 v. 37

The inscription implies that Major Marks was one of those who believed war with Germany to be inevitable, the logical conclusion of the growth of German militarism. And this being the case, that he knew his son was in line to be sacrificed in the forthcoming war. In 1910, Major HB Marks had been appointed Area Officer for the town of Townsville in Northern Queensland. This put him in charge of the local militia and of recruitment, making sure that even the young men of Townsville were prepared for war.
His son enlisted on 20 May 1916 when he was 18 and 9 months. Prior to this young Marks had been working as a station hand. He embarked from Australia in September 1916 and served with the 41st Battalion Australian Infantry. This took part in the Australian attack on Peronne on 1 September 1918. It was a terrible battle, the machine-gun fire, especially the enfilade, the greatest the battalion had ever experienced causing many casualties. The war diary is unusually descriptive:

"This fire also prevented us from removing some of our casualties from the front line as the Boche fired on stretcher bearers, killing and wounding a whole team. We took a large number of prisoners, some two hundred and fifty, together with five Field Guns, the teams of which "D" Coy. Lewis Gunners shot on reaching their objective, while the enemy was trying to withdraw them."

Marks was one of the 120 casualties suffered by the 41st battalion that day.



When you go home, tell them of us and say
"For your to-morrows these gave their to-day"

The most famous use of this inscription is on the Kohima Memorial which marks the point at which the Japanese advance into India was halted in April 1944. The words were composed by a Cambridge Classic's don, J Maxwell Edmonds, and included in a 1919 HMSO publication titled, 'Suggested Inscriptions for War Memorials'. However, the words on the Kohima Memorial are slightly different, which is how they are usually found:

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.

A Miss M Grant chose Charles Grant's inscription. His parents were both dead and it's not possible to tell whether this was an aunt or a sister.
Grant was a barrister, a partner in the firm of Parker, Grant, Freeman and Abbott, when he enlisted in December 1915. Badly wounded on the Somme in September 1916, he didn't return to the front until early in 1917. He was wounded again in June 1917, but less seriously less time. He was wounded again on 28 August 1918 in the Canadian action at Jigsaw Wood. (The diary entry for the action has been transcribed and can be read here).
It wasn't until 4 September that Mrs James Grant received a telegram informing her that her step-son had been wounded. This was quickly followed a few hours later by one saying that he was dangerously ill and within hours another one to say that he had died on 2 September.



I think a lot of people will recognise this inscription; it's the message Admiral Lord Nelson ordered to be sent from his flagship HMS Victory on the morning of 21 October 1805 just before the British fleet engaged with the French at Trafalgar. Nelson knew this was to be a momentous battle, Britain's freedom of the seas depended on it; he wanted to say something that would stiffen his sailors' hearts. He can't have realised just how successful a message it would be - and he never did realise it as he died that day.
Apparently Nelson selected the word 'confides', in other words, England is confident that every man will do his duty. However, the signals officer said that he would have to spell out the word 'confides' whereas there was already a signal for 'expects' so could he use that instead, it would be much faster. Nelson agreed and the saying, 'England expects that every man will do his duty' has sunk deep into the nation's cultural memory.
So what is it doing on the grave of an American serving in the Canadian army? The answer isn't difficult to find. Albert Harrop was an Englishman, born in Birmingham in 1898 to English parents. In 1891 the family were living in Birmingham, Aston, where father James was a chandelier caster. But they must have moved to the United States before the 1901 census where there is no sign of them. Certainly by the time Albert joined up on 15 December 1917 they were living in Rhode Island. By this time the United States had entered the war. It's interesting that Albert Harrop should have enlisted in the Canadian army, was this a sign of the family's continuing feeling of loyalty to the old country where recruiting posters were exhorting young men to join the army by using the phrase - 'England expects every man to do his duty'.
Harrop served with the 13th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed at Upton Wood eight months later, just after the Canadians had captured Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt.



The paternal relationship officers had with their men has often been commented on and here it is confirmed by one officer's mother. Of course an officer was concerned that his men had the correct equipment, were on time for parades and duties and remained fit, but there was more to it than that. Lieutenant Ewart Alan Mackintosh expressed it most powerfully in his poem, In Memoriam, written in 1916. This is verse 5:

Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers',
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you while you died.

Mackintosh was 23 when he wrote the poem - he was killed the following year. Lewis was nearly ten years older.
The second part of Lewis's inscription references Psalm 37, which is much concerned with the just deserts of the virtuous and the wicked man. The inscription comes from verses 37/8:

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.

Frederick Lewis's mother not only chose his inscription but also filled in the form for the Roll of Honour of Australia, making an unusually thorough job of it. Beside the request for 'Unit and number if known' she has replied, 'In Command D Company, 42 Battalion, 3rd Australian Division'. And asked for where he was killed she has put, 'Peronne Sector, N.E. Mont St Quentin, Near Clery sur Somme'. She also tells us that he was 'a valued officer - staff - of the Bank of New South Wales, Brisbane Branch' and that he had been a scholarship boy at Brisbane Boys Grammar School.
Lewis was killed in action on the 1 September 1918 in the Australian attack on Peronne.



The place of indigenous peoples in the armies of the British Empire is a very interesting one. Dominion Governments were reluctant to arm and train them fearing the consequences for the stability of their post-war rule. New Zealand never prevented Maoris from joining the army but originally it only envisaged them in noncombatant roles. Australia was very reluctant to enlist Aborigines at all, some did manage to join up but there was never a policy of recruiting them. The Canadian Government too was initially reluctant to enlist any of the indigenous people, this despite the fact that many of them were very keen to do so. Timothy C. Winegard's book, 'Indigenous Peoples of the British Dominions and the First World War, explains why many native North Americans were so keen to take part in the war. Money, employment and adventure all played their part, as they did with all recruits of whatever nationality, but in addition many North American Indians were keen to revive the warrior tradition of their ancestors, which they felt had stagnated after their years of living on the reserves, receiving Western schooling and religious education.
However, whilst many North American Indians were willing to put their warrior heritage at the service of the British Crown, it was the British Crown they wanted to serve rather than the Dominion Government. And the Dominion Government was equally reluctant to have them serve it, despite the fact that many Indians were already serving in militia units. But this changed in October 1915 when the British Government made a direct appeal for the recruitment of indigenous people.
All this fits Lewis Wilson precisely. His inscription asserts his race, which the physical description on his attestation form confirms: complexion - dark, eyes - brown. hair - black. He enlisted in May 1916 having already served three years with a militia unit, the Haldimand Rifles. And his wife states specifically that he 'Died for the honour of the British Empire'.
But, however much Wilson might have wanted to be a 'warrior', he served in the Canadian Engineers. On 30 August 1918 the 3rd Battalion Canadian Engineers were engaged in work on a tramway that ran from somewhere between Beaurains and Neuville Vitasse to Wancourt. That night an 'E.A. bomb' fell on their billets killing two other ranks and wounding seven. Wilson died the next day in a Casualty Clearing Station in Aubigny-en-Artois.



What is duty? For some people today it has become synonymous with the word chore, but that is not how men like Private Hoffmeyer saw it. To them 'duty' was something you owed, in this case to your country, something you felt to be morally right despite the fact that it might involve self-sacrifice. There was no conscription in Australia so those who volunteered did so for any number of reasons, which in Norman Hoffmeyer's case amounted to a sense that it was his duty to do so.
Hoffmeyer, a farmer from Bendigo in Victoria, enlisted in September 1916, admitting that he had previously been rejected on the grounds of 'bad feet'. He served at the front from March 1917 except for two weeks in June 1917 when he was wounded, and two weeks in Britain in March 1918 when he was on leave.
On the 31 August 1918 at 4.20 am, the 38th Battalion took over the front line near the Canal du Nord prior to an attack. The war diary reported that at 3.15 pm the 37th Battalion moved through to continue the attack and the 38th went into reserve. 'Moved through' gives a hint as to how the fighting in August had changed from the trench warfare of the past four years, so do the diary's references to 'semi-open' and 'rapidly moving' warfare.
There is no indication as to how Hoffmeyer met his death. His family did not request information from the Australian Red Cross perhaps because, as his inscription suggests, someone was with him when he died who passed on the information. This suggestion is supported by a chance discovery in 2007. Two cousins, sorting out a shed in the family property on the outskirts of Bendigo, came across a collection of First World War photographs that had been taken by their fathers, Jack and Bert Grinton. The brothers served with the 38th Battalion and among the images in the collection is one of Hoffmeyer's grave, marked with a wooden cross. Evidence perhaps that Hoffmeyer was among friends when he died.



This is a very famous inscription or should I say it was a very famous inscription, not because it belongs to Harry Rushworth but because these are the words Sir Henry Lawrence is said to have asked to have inscribed on his tombstone. Lawrence was the Chief Commissioner of Oudh in May 1857 when the Indian Rebellion broke out. On the 30 June the residency at Lucknow came under siege. More than 1,280 civilians, many of them women and children, had gathered within the grounds of the residency for protection. Lawrence tried to organise the defence with the 1,700 British and Indian soldiers and civilian volunteers he had at his disposal. However, Lawrence was badly wounded by a shell on 2 July. He died two days later having apparently said, "Put on my tomb only this; Here lies Henry Lawrence who tried to do his duty". As was the way with 'heroic' Victorian deaths, the death scene and Lawrence's dying words became famous, especially as they echoed the dying words of another great hero Admiral Lord Nelson, which were not "Kiss me Hardy" but "Thank God I have done my duty". Lawrence's tombstone in St Mary's churchyard Lucknow reads:

Here lies Henry Lawrence
Who tried to do his duty
May God have mercy on his soul

Sir Henry Lawrence was a fifty-one-year-old soldier and statesman born into a military family in India. Harry Rushworth was an eighteen-year-old boy whose father was an engine driver in Huddersfield. Rushworth, who served with 'C' Company 8th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was killed near Ecoust. As the Germans withdrew in front of the British advance they left behind teams of machine gunners hidden in the folds of the rough terrain who wrought havoc on the advancing British. Rushworth was one of the many casualties.



This seemed to be rather an rather blunt inscription - where is "down here" meant to be - the grave"? The words come from a song by an Australian composer, May Hannah Brahe (1885-1956) with the lyrics by PJ O'Reilly. But, even if I give you the lyrics you will still wonder where "down here" is meant to be. Here they are:

Oh! it's quiet down here
Yes, as quiet as a mouse
Save the sigh of the wind
And the clock in the house
Oh! it's quiet down here!

Oh! it's quiet down here
If a bird-note should break,
All the easy going folk
In the village would wake -
Sure, it's quiet down here.

Oh! it's quiet down here,
And thro' the long day
To the great God of Peace
I feel I must pray
Oh! it's quiet down here,
But God is very near.

You can hear it sung here.
The only clue I have been able to discover is a contemporary print in a New Zealand collection called 'Down Here'. This shows a clearing in a forest. However, I can't help feeling that Edward Armitage's parents were referring to the quiet of the grave.
Armitage was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in June 1917 when he was 19. However, he didn't get to the front until June 1918. Two months later he was killed in action serving with the 76th Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery.



This isn't exactly what Shakespeare's Hamlet says in Act 5 Scene 2 but I'm sure that Mrs Elizabeth Bratt had Hamlet's words in mind when she chose her husband's inscription.
Hamlet, speaking to his friend Horatio, says that however much we might attempt to 'rough hew' our destinies, control them ourselves, it is God who in fact does so:

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will

I wonder whether Mrs Bratt mis-remembered Shakespeare's words or whether she made a conscious decision to ascribe fortune to fate rather than to God. But, had Mrs Bratt seriously not believed in God, she would have told the War Graves Commission that she didn't want a cross on her husband's grave; it was only a matter of saying 'yes' or 'no' beside the question on the Family Verification Form. There is a cross on Richard Bratt's grave, which would suggest that Elizabeth Bratt was no atheist. It could be that she preferred to think that 'fate' had removed her husband from her, not God. The popular headstone inscription, 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee' was not for her.
The couple had been married for nine years and in the 1911 census had a ten-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. Richard was a letter-press printer and the couple lived in Islington. His medal card indicates that he didn't join a theatre of war until 1916. In August 1918 he was serving with the 5th Battalion London Regiment. On the night of the 26th/27th August the battalion made a frontal attack on the German trenches in front of Croisilles. The battalion war diary speaks of heavy casualties from machine gun fire. Bratt died of wounds on the 27th.



This is an inscription of unknown origin about which there has been a certain amount of curiosity on the Internet. The words appear on several memorials in the North East of England and although it is not unknown elsewhere it is more commonly found here. And 'here' is where William Charlton came from. His father, John Charlton, was the head teacher at the Council School in Seaton Delaval, a village in Northumberland, eleven miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
In November 1917 an article appeared in the journal, The United Methodist, written by the Rev. Ernest FH Capey, a Methodist minister. He told of going for a walk one Sunday afternoon to the church in Ford, which overlooks Flodden Field. The church was locked but,

"On the inner door was suspended an artistic card 'in memoriam' of the brave boys of the village who had lost their lives in the war. It was headed:
Fought and died for Freedom
Sleep lightly, Lad,
Thou art for King's Guard at daybreak;
With spotless kit turn out,
And take a place of honour."

In other words, prepare yourself, for tomorrow, as a reward for dying for your country, you will part of the honour guard around God.
Searching the newspaper archive I came across an earlier mention of the inscription in an article in the Newcastle Journal of 9 October 1916. Reporting on the dedication of a memorial plaque in St Luke's Chapel, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, it mentioned an accompanying Roll of Honour, 'delicately executed, the gift of an anonymous friend'. The inscription on the Roll of Honour read: 'Pro Patria: Freely they served and died', followed by the same inscription as that on the door of Ford Church. The article finished with the information that, 'The roll is the work of Mr J.H. Binks of Ford, and is chastely and ably done'.
That certainly doesn't mean that Mr JH Binks composed the inscription, although he may well have done, but it does link the two locations. I don't imagine that it was the card in Ford Church that popularised the lines however, rather I should image it was its use by the Royal Infirmary, and the mention in the local paper. The North East War Memorial Project records several places where the inscription has been used on a war memorial. None of these places are more than 12 miles from Newcastle, except for Ford which is over 50 miles away.
John and Ann Charlton had four children, two sons and two daughters. William was the youngest. Before being commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry in January 1916, he was a pupil barrister at the Inns of Court in London. Serving with the 15th Battalion London Regiment, he went to France in July 1916 where he was severely wounded on the 7th. It was June 1918 before he returned to the front. He was killed two months later.
'Sleep lightly, Lad' is not the inscription on the Seaton Delaval war memorial. This carries the dedication 'To the Motherland', followed by the words on the next-of-kin memorial scroll. The memorial was unveiled on 2 September 1922 by Mr John Charlton "whose two sons were killed in the war"
And what is the personal inscription on the headstone of Captain George Fenwick Hedley Charlton, South Wales Borderers, killed in action on 6 October 1916?

Sleep lightly, Lad
Thou art King's Guard
At daybreak.



This is the fourth night in succession that the epitaph has identified a soldier's reasons for fighting: 'To uphold British prestige"; "for England's honour"; "To end all wars" and now for "God, Mother, England".
If I'm not much mistaken, John Albert Nadon was really Jean Albert Nadon since the family were French Canadians hailing from Quebec. Nadon was born in Mattawa, Ontario where his parents, Joachim and Exilda, had married in 1885 and where his father was a farmer. This makes Nadon's inscription all the more interesting. It was signed for by his mother and it's not only the order of priorities that makes it interesting, nor the fact that his father was still alive, but that this French Canadian should identify England, not Canada or the Empire as a reason for fighting, which some Canadians, especially French Canadians, would have done. Today England is a very specific place but at one time the word was loosely used for the whole of Great Britain. And England was the motherland, the heart of the world-wide Empire.
There is very little personal information on John Albert Nadon, just that he served in the 52nd Battalion Canadian Infantry and that he died on 28 August 1918. On the 27th and the 28th the battalion took part in an attack on the village of Bois-de-Vert and Artillery Hill. It was a successful operation but a costly one, the war diary noted that at the end of the day, "our four companies only numbered one hundred".



To Private Martin's father's, his son had died in the war to end all wars. The phrase, which became one of the catchphrases of the war and is always associated with the American president Woodrow Wilson, in fact owes its origins to the title of a book by HG Wells, published in late 1914, containing a number of newspaper articles he'd written in August 1914. The title of the book was, 'The War That Will End War'. And how would it end war? By smashing German militarism.

"We are fighting Germany ... we have to destroy an evil system of government and the mental and material corruption that has got hold of the German imagination and taken possession of German life. We have to smash Prussian Imperialism" which "has been for forty years an intolerable nuisance in the earth. Ever since the crushing of the French in 1871 the evil thing has grown and cast its spreading shadow over Europe. Germany has preached a propaganda of ruthless force and political materialism to the whole uneasy world. "Blood and iron," she boasted, was the cement of her unity, and almost as openly the little, mean, aggressive statesmen and professors who have guided her destinies to this present conflict have professed cynicism and an utter disregard of any ends but nationally selfish ends, as though it were religion."

I think you will have got the picture by now. It's worth following the link to have a look at the book as it certainly illustrates what some people thought they were fighting for and why it would be the war to end war. It wasn't, as we know, but then Wells himself said:

"There can be no diplomatic settlement that will leave German Imperialism free to explain away its failure to its people and start new preparations. We have to go on until we are absolutely done for, or until the Germans as a people know that they are beaten, and are convinced that they have had enough of war."

And that of course didn't happen until after 1945.
I have been able to find out virtually nothing about Private H Martin, except that his father was Mr JJ Martin, that he lived at 3 West Beech Road, Wood Green, London, and that he was killed in action on 27 August 1918 when the 3rd London Regiment Royal Fusiliers, with which he was serving, took the village of Maricourt.



May the heavenly winds blow softly
O'er that far and silent grave,
Where sleeping without dreaming
Lies one we could not save.
He answered duty's call,
He lies among the slain,
He died for England's honour,
He has not died in vain.

Arthur Williams' father quoted from a piece of memorial verse of the kind to be found in the In Memoriam columns of local newspapers. Arthur's father, James, was a former Life Guards' trooper. The concept of England's honour would have resonated with him.
Williams' army number indicates that he joined up in February 1917. He served with the 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards. On 25 August 1918 the 1st Battalion were in the trenches at St Leger when they took part in an attack on the German-held town of Ecoust St Mein. Initially things went well, the heavy mist shrouding their attack. However, the supporting tanks got lost, the German wire was discovered to be uncut, and when the mist lifted the guardsmen were sitting ducks for the German machine guns. The war diary tells how they were forced to withdraw, emphasising that they took their wounded with them. However, Arthur Williams and four other Welsh Guardsmen, who all died on 25 August, were buried approximately ten kilometres behind the German lines in Dury German Cemetery. Their bodies were exhumed in 1924 and buried in Vis-en-Arois British Cemetery.



Upholding British prestige throughout the world has always been a matter of concern for British politicians and diplomats. Was it one of the factors that took us to war in 1914? Probably. Did Harry Wright's father, Walter Wright, who chose the inscription, think it a cause worth fighting for? I'm going to say again - probably. Just as concern for British sovereignty played its part in the vote for Brexit in 2016, so upholding British prestige will have played a part in Britain's decision to go to war in 1914.
Harry Wright joined up on 23 August 1915 when he was 17. He didn't get to France until 13 February 1917, presumably by which time he was 19. Promoted Lance Corporal on 22 May 1917, he was demoted on 5 August 1918 for "when on active service failing to relieve a sentry".
According to his surviving service record, Wright was wounded on the 22 August and died on the 24th. According to the war diary the battalion was resting on the 21st and 22nd August so it seems more likely that he was wounded on the 20th when the Germans attacked the British lines just south of the River Scarpe and secured a footing in the Loyal North Lancashire's trenches, forcing them to withdraw to the lines they had originally held on the 18th. A total of five other ranks were killed and twenty-four wounded during thi three-day period. One of them being Harry Wright, who died 'to uphold British prestige'.



This is yet another inscription from Tennyson's In Memoriam. It comes from section CXXVII, the section that begins:

And all is well, tho' faith and form
Be sunder'd in the night of fear;

The poem goes on to describe an apocalyptic scene before asserting that even in the midst of all this chaos, even while "compass'd by the fires of Hell",

Thou, dear spirit, happy star,
O'erlook'st the tumult from afar,
And smilest, knowing all is well.

The smiling person is Tennyson's dead friend Arthur Hallam, and the implication is that once we are dead and with God in heaven, we can be assured that all will be well whatever is happening on earth.
Robert Evans was a solicitor. He served initially as a serjeant with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Commissioned in March 1917, he served with the 57th training reserve battalion before going to France in 1918. He was killed during the Battle of Albert; shot dead by a German prisoner.
A married man with one child, I think it was his wife, Edith, who chose his inscription. The War Graves Commission's records say Mrs AC Evans but that's probably a mis-type for Mrs RC Evans.



Arthur Granville Sharp earned the 1914 Star. This means that he entered a theatre of war before 22 November 1914. Sharp was born on 27 October 1897. He joined Thring's Horse on 24 October 1914, which means that he was just three days short of his seventeenth birthday.
Thring's Horse took part in the suppression of the Maritz / Boer Rebellion after General Maritz allied himself with the Germans and declared that "the former South African Republic and Orange Free State as well as the Cape Province and Natal are proclaimed free from British control and independent". The war, Maritz claimed, was South Africa's chance to free itself from British control and become independent.
Although born in the Orange Free State, Sharp was one of the many who did not agree with Maritz. By the end of the year the rebellion had been suppressed. At which point Sharp transferred to the 1st Mounted Brigade (Sharpshooters) and took part in the German-South-West African Campaign. By December 1915 he had taken a commission in the Royal Field Artillery and spent the rest of the war in France, Flanders and Italy.
Sharp was serving with D Battery, 72 Army Brigade attached to the Guards Division Artillery when he was killed in action on 23 August 1918, the same action for which he was awarded his Military Cross. On the day he was working as a forward observation officer near Hamelincourt, sending back accurate and valuable information to the guns despite the fact that he was under constant and relentless fire.
His mother chose his inscription. These have to have been Arthur Sharp's own words, this must have been his philosophy. Interestingly it's not the same thing as 'Thy will be done', or 'Whatever is is best' but 'Whatever happens it will have been worthwhile'. Sharp served throughout the war until his death in August 1918 but was still only 20 when he died.



You can imagine the scene at 33 Maple Road, Blackheath, Birmingham as Percy Cole prepared to leave for the front: Mrs Ellen Cole fussing and fretting whilst her son tried hard to reassure her, "I shall be alright mother". Did he mean I'll be able to look after myself, I've got everything I need, or don't worry I won't get killed; all three I expect.
Percy Cole was nineteen when he died. He would have been conscripted at 18 and allowed to go to the front at 19 so he wouldn't have been there for long before he was killed. He served with the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment and died of wounds 30 km from Beaumont-Hamel where at 3 am on 21 August the 1st Lincolnshires,

"formed up in their preliminary assembly positions in Wagon road (the road between Beamont Hamel and Serre), B and D formed the first wave, C and A the second wave. By zero, companies were formed up in their assembly positions, i.e., Serre road, due east of Wagon road.
At zero the battalion advanced and reached a ravine (probably the Puisieux road) without opposition: a few prisoners were taken en route. But now hostile machine-gun fire came from a line of German trenches ahead."
[History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918]

The 1st Lincolnshire's objective had been to take a sunken road running north-west from Baillescourt Farm, north-east of Beaucourt. Lost to the Germans earlier in the year, Beaucourt was successfully retaken, thus the Lincolnshires played their part the Second Battle of Albert, which restarted the stalled Allied advance and really was the beginning of the end. However, by the end of the month the Lincolnshires had suffered three officers and twenty-nine other ranks killed, one officer and two other ranks died of wounds, together with twenty missing and a total of 171 wounded.
Percy Cole was one of the two other ranks who died of wounds; his final words to his mother tragically belied.



This inscription must reference Rudyard Kipling's poem The Ballad of East and West, but whether Lance Corporal Carpenter's father, Charles Carpenter, used the idea as Kipling intended or as critics have assumed it does not seem possible to tell. The poem begins and ends with the same four lines:

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!

There are those who argue that Kipling's poem is racist and asserts the superiority of the white races. However, without wishing to be too rude, I would suggest that these people haven't read the poem since Kipling in fact describes how two men from completely different religious and cultural backgrounds, one from the east and one from the west, come to respect each other's courage, and tells how this mutual acknowledgment of bravery results in the swearing of a solemn oath of brotherhood:

They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.

Lance Corporal Herbert Carpenter died on 19 August 1918 in Mesopotamia. I don't know whether he was killed in action, died of wounds or disease, or of heatstroke as many men did. He's buried in Baghdad North Gate Cemetery which took men who had died in the hospitals and casualty clearing stations there, or were gathered in after the war from graves in northern Iraq and Anatolia. The enemy was the Ottoman Turk. Did Charles Carpenter's choice of inscription reflect a respect for these representatives of the east, or scorn?
Herbert Carpenter was the eldest of his parents' four children. Father was a commercial traveller in groceries and in 1911 Herbert was a draper's assistant in Marshall and Snelgove, a big department store on Oxford Street. He served with the 1/6th Hampshire Regiment, which served in India before arriving in Basra on 16 September 1917. His youngest brother, Carl, was killed in action on 15 February 1915. Carl's body was not found until 1928 so although he now has a grave in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, his name had already been carved onto the Menin Gate.



Samuel Brew's brother, Captain Henry Brew, chose his inscription, and confirmed this statment when he filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia by saying: "Killed while succoring [sic] wounded enemy". Interested to see if I could find out any further details, I looked up 16 August 1918 in the 6th Field Ambulance's war diary and this is what it said:

15th August: ... At about 12 noon the driver of a Ford Car stationed at Quarry X.4.s.8.3. (No. 2294 Dvr F Connolly No. 2 A.M.T. Coy att. 6th Field Amb.) and the orderly No. 9806 Pte. S Brew 6th Field Amb. were just about to commence their midday meal when an enemy shell exploded 5 yards from the car. The driver was standing just in front of the car & the orderly had stepped into the car to get his mess utensils when the shell exploded, the driver was killed instantly & the orderly severely wounded (sh.wd avulsed right arm sh. wd right knee, right foot). He died at No. 55 CCS on 16th & was buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension."

On 12 August, the 6th Field Ambulance moved forward from St Achuel. By the end of the 13th it had established itself in its new location and at 8.30 pm received its first patient. There would definitely have been German soldiers among those treated by the 6th Field Ambulance, those it succoured, but Brew's inscription does give a slightly misleading idea of the exact circumstances of his death.
Samuel Brew was born in Britain, in Great Crosby near Liverpool. He emigrated to Australia in 1899 when he was 23. His brother, Henry, also went to Australia, as did another brother, John. John served with the 38th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action on 8 June 1917. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate. The death of two brothers, and also of a cousin - Lieutenant Thomas Brew was killed in action on 4 October 1917 - could explain why Henry Brew, from the comments he makes about his brother's death, sounds like a bitter man.
I'd like to make two comments about the diary entry before I finish, firstly it's interesting that a Field Ambulance diary names and describes the death of other ranks in this way, other units tend only to name officers. And secondly, as a Field Ambulance, the diary writer has given very specific details about the wounds Brew suffered. I had to look up 'avulsed'. It means a partial or complete tearing away of skin and tissue.



"'Tisn't life that matters! 'Tis the courage you bring to it" ... this from old Frosted Moses in the warm corner by the door." ... "A little boy, Peter Westcott, heard what old Frosted Moses had said, and turned it over in his mind."
FORTITUDE Hugh Walpole 1913

John Francis Ashley Hall's father chose his inscription, taking it from the opening words of Hugh Walpole's 1913 novel, Fortitude. The main character is Peter Westcott whose life is tested by one personal catastrophe after another, in the face of which he shows great personal fortitude.
Hall originally served with the East Yorkshire Regiment, being commissioned from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in August 1916. However, at some point he transferred to the Royal Air Force where he served with 21 Squadron, a strategic reconnaissance and bombing squadron.
I don't know how Hall met his death on 14 August 1918 but he's buried beside a fellow member of 21 Squadron, Second Lieutenant Hugh William Savage, who also died on 14 August. This suggests to me that they were the observer and pilot of one of 21 Squadron's RE-8s. Savage's record says that he was killed in action rather than being accidentally killed. I would imagine that this was Hall's fate too.



Frank Westby was 20 when he died. We've become so used to the idea of boy soldiers being 17 and under that we've almost forgotten how young soldiers were at 20.
Frank Westby was born in 1898 in Long Eaton in Derbyshire. The War Graves Commission's records state: "Son of Mrs Jane Westby of Sheffield", yet in the 1901 census Frank Westby is described as the adopted son of John and Agnes Hibbs of Long Eaton. The Hibbs already had three children. Aged 14 in 1911, Frank Westby was a farm boy boarding with John and Elizabeth Middleton, also in Long Eaton. Aged 17 and 24 days on 9 October 1914, Westby enlisted in the 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.
Westby's medal card shows that he was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star so he didn't enter a theatre of war until 1916. Two years later he was in the front line at Noreuil on 21 March 1918 when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive. The 2nd/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters took the full force of the German onslaught with resulting very heavy casualties: on 1 March 1918 their fighting strength had been 53 officers and 883 ORs; on 1 April 1918 it was 18 officers and 364 ORs.
Westby, along with both the regiment's Commanding Officer and Second in Command, was taken prisoner. Five months later he died whilst a prisoner of war. Some sources says he died of wounds but many prisoners died of overwork, malnutrition, harsh treatment or illness. Westby would have been buried at the time wherever in Germany he had been imprisoned, but after the war prisoners' bodies were gathered up from 180 different burial grounds and reinterred in four permanent cemeteries, of which the Cologne Southern Cemetery was one.
Mr Joseph Westby, a cutlery manufacturer of Goole Green Farm, Fulwood, Sheffield, chose Frank Westby's inscription - "He was only a boy". However. not only was Westby 'only a boy' but he was also one who appears to have had no real family. Joseph Westby was definitely not his father but he could have been his uncle.



During her lifetime the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was more popular than her husband Robert Browning, but this hasn't been reflected in this headstone inscription project. Robert Browning is one of the most popular poets quoted whereas this is the first quotation from one of Elizabeth's poems that I've come across. It's a difficult poem too, and not a popular one. The poem is called A Drama of Exile. It recounts the events of Adam and Eve's first day in exile from the Garden of Eden, and their conversations with Gabriel, Lucifer, various angels, spirits, phantasms and Christ in a vision.
On the Day of Judgement, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised up, who will control Death, the pale horse of Revelation 6: 7-8? The second semichorus promise that, "A Tamer shall be found ... He shall master and surprise the steed of Death for He is strong ..." He, of course, will be Christ who will overcome death for, as it says in the bible, "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" [I Corinthians 15:22]. This is the meaning of Osmond's inscription: there is no death.
John Percival Osmand was born and brought up in South Molton Devon where his father was a domestic groom and coachman. He served in the 2nd/4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and died of wounds in Aire, a hospital centre behind the lines. The battalion had been in action that day in the Neppe Forest Sector where their casualties, particularly from gas, had been very heavy but it's not possible to say if this was the day Osmond was wounded.



Roy Harvey's inscription comes from WE Henley's poem, Margaritae Sorori, Sister Margaret, which he wrote after the death of his five-year-old daughter, Margaret, in 1894. The poem likens death to the end of a day:

... The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night -
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.

So be my passing!
My task accomplished and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gathered to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,

It's a beautiful image which can bear no resemblance to Harvey's death except for the fact that it was the end of his day.
Harvey was a pupil at Hillhead High School in Glasgow and his war service is covered in their war memorial volume. According to their account:

"Three days after the sweeping British advance on the 8th August, in a gallant and successful attack by his battalion, the 5th/6th Royal Scots, he was struck by a bullet, and killed instantaneously."

This wasn't quite how the battalion's war diary saw it. The 5th/6th were certainly part of the attack on Parvillers that day but the attack failed, according to the diary writer:

"for the following reasons, (a) the tanks were half an hour late and were all put out of action before crossing our front line (b) barrage line 400 yds too far advanced and missed German front M.G. positions (c) wire almost impenetrable."

Initially prevented from joining the army, as the Hillhead volume put it: "by a physique which fell below the standard then required", it was October 1917 before he got to the front. Harvey must have been about 5' 2", the minimum height requirement varied between 5' 3" and 5' 6" during the early months of the war before settling on 5' 2" in February 1915. Although men as small as 4' 10" were accepted by the bantam battalions.
The school described Harvey as a reserved, thoughtful boy, noted for his thoroughness, accuracy and precision. For this reason they found it totally in keeping that on his body should have been found both a diary, written up to the previous day, and a Collins Gem dictionary.



Virgil didn't say this precisely; he used the word 'attest' rather than 'caused', not that it makes much difference. Virgil's point was that many crimes attest to, are evidence of, the power not of gold itself but of the greed for gold. The sentiment is similar to the biblical words from Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all evil".
If that was Virgil's point, what was the point of W de V Summers, Victor's cousin, who chose the inscription? It sounds very much as though W de V was one of the many people who held the socialist view that the war was the result of imperialist tensions caused by world capitalism: "What was responsible for these wars was the whole world system of capitalism with its competitive struggle for profits and its collection of competing armed states".
It's strange that W de V Summers, the de V representing the family name de Vere, who lived in Berkeley, California should have been his cousin's next of kin but then Victor Lionel's parentage is something of a mystery. Aged four in 1891 he was living with his grandparents, and aged 14 in 1901 he was a pupil at St Saviour's College, Ardingly in Sussex. When he enlisted in Watrous, Saskatchewan on 28 October 1916 he named his grandmother, Elizabeth Summers, as his next of kin. She died in 1923 and perhaps this was before the War Graves Commission sent out the request for inscriptions.
Victor Summers served with the 28th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed on 9 August 1918 when the battalion was ordered up from the reserve to go to the assistance of the 31st Battalion in their attack on the village of Rosieres on the second day of the Amiens offensive..



At 1 pm on 9th August 1918, the 6th Battalion the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment received orders that they were to attack at 5.30 pm that evening. The battalion war diary recorded:

"Attack completely successful after hand fighting. 12 machine guns captured 10 others destroyed, 4 Trench Howitzers & 1 granatenwerfer [grenade thrower] & about 40 prisoners taken. Attack penetrated about 2000 yards into enemy positions."

Two days later the war diary counted up the casualties the regiment had incurred between 12 noon on the 9th and 12 noon on the 11th August. They amounted to 165 including two officers and 24 other ranks killed. Fourteen members of the regiment are buried with Rivers in Ville-sur-Ancre Communal Cemetery Extension; Rivers is the only one to have died on the 11th. I don't like to think about it but, there was no Regimental Aid Post or Field Ambulance attached to this cemetery so Rivers would not have received any particular medical attention. However, he obviously knew he was dying and lived long enough to be able utter his last affecting words. I wonder who passed them on.
Frederick Rivers was the seventh of his parents' ten children. Father, Charles William Rivers, had served in the army between 1883 and 1894 - as a butcher in the Commissariat Transport Corps. In 1911 he was a labourer in the naval dockyards in Portsmouth. Two of Frederick's elder brothers served in the Royal Navy and one in the Royal Marine Artillery, all three survived the war.



This song has such strong associations with Scotland that I assumed William Logan was a Scotsman. But no, he was an Englishman, born and bred in the Home Counties. Nor was his father a Scotsman, having been born in Liverpool. But then I saw where his mother came from - Alvah in Banffshire - so that was the Scottish connection.
The song's best-known words commemorate 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), following the 1745 Rebellion. It's possible however that the tune belonged to a traditional Scottish song of farewell long before Carolina Oliphant (Lady Nairne 1766-1845) added the Bonnie Prince Charlie dimension. The words come from the chorus:

Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be,
Will ye no come back again.

William, the son of a nurseryman in Enfield, Middlesex, served with the 1st Battalion The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. In August 1918 the regiment were in Flanders and whatever was happening in France, where the British had just launched the Battle of Amiens, it was business as usual in Flanders. The regiment were based near Erie Farm where the war diary reported that on the 6th they were "Called upon to furnish a party to proceed to La Lovie Chateau & line the avenue to cheer H.M. the King as he passed along ... The party got very wet". There were no casualties on the 7th, nor on the 8th but on the 9th it reported "hostile artillery active on front left during night 3 ORs killed". The 10th was another quiet day. Was Logan one of the three ORs killed on the night of the 9th. It looks like it.



To a Soldier
Say not of him "he left this vale of tears,"
Who loved the good plain English phrase
"He died,"
Nor state "he nobly lived (or otherwise)
Failed or succeeded" - friend, just say
"He tried."
O.E. (Somewhere in France.)

The above verse was published in the Eton Chronicle on 11 May 1916 just four days before its author, Captain Henry Platt Coldstream Guards, was killed in Flanders whilst out on a wiring party. Mrs Platt quoted from it for her husband's inscription just as Mrs Pooley did for hers. But I wonder how Mrs Pooley came across it as it seems that Eton played no part in the lives of the Pooleys and I can't see that the lines were published anywhere else.
In 1891 at the age of 18, Pooley was a private in the 5th Dragoon Guards stationed at Aldershot. Twenty-three years later he was the Regimental Serjeant Major and the 5th Dragoons were back in Aldershot. From here they were immediately mobilised for war and crossed to France ten days later, 15 August. Within six weeks Pooley had been commissioned Second Lieutenant "for services in the field". The following January he was awarded one of the very first Military Crosses for "meritorious service", was promoted Lieutenant and appointed Adjutant in May 1915 and by February 1918 was an Acting Staff Captain attached to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade Headquarters.
On 8 August 1918 the Brigade took part in the opening day of the Battle of Amiens. The war diary gives an almost hour by hour, sometimes a minute by minute account of events between the 8th and the 10th, reporting that at 2.55 pm on the 9th:

"The valley from Caix to the station was being heavily shelled by 5.9s. One of these landed in the midst of Bde. H.Q. killing Capt. Pooley MC (Staff Capt.) Lieut. H. Fry (Signalling Officer), Lieut. G. Hulbert 18th Hrs (Galloper tot he G.O.C.) and two O.R.s and wounding Major Walter(O.C. 2nd M.G.S.) and Lieut. Frere 2nd M.G.S. besides causing about 10 casualties to the horses."

Charles Pooley sounds like a valuable man to have around, an excellent soldier from the very beginning of the war to just within sight of victory. I like to think that his inscription suited him - don't say fancy things about me, just say I tried.



No other hope, no other plea;
He took my place, and died for me;
O precious Lamb of Calvary!
He took my place, and died for me.

This is the chorus of a hymn by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (1851-1920) an American hymn writer. The 'he' who 'took my place' is Christ who died on the cross to save mankind.
I have to say that when I first saw this inscription I assumed that 'Father' was saying that it should have been him that died, not his son. It should have been him who went to war and got killed. The background fitted, father, Colonel George Thairs, the bursar of Ridley College, Ontario, had founded the embryo OTC, the Ridley Volunteer Cadet Corps, in his very first term there in 1889. And, when the Cadet Corps came into being in 1907, Thairs continued as the Contingent Commander, fostering in the pupils a martial spirit and a respect for drill.
His son, Edward Thairs, had been a pupil at the school. In 1916 he was working as a bank clerk when he joined the newly formed 176th Infantry Battalion, the Niagara Rangers, on 7 October 1916. The regiment was based in Thairs' home town, St Catharines, Ontario. The battalion left for Britain on 24 April 1917 where it became absorbed into the 12th Reserve Battalion, which provided reinforcements wherever they were needed. At the time of his death Thairs was serving with the 3rd Battalion Canadian Infantry, which took part in the capture of the town of Demuin on 8 August 1918, the day Thairs was killed.
Despite the fact that I can see that "He took my place" is a quote from a hymn, I don't discount the fact that Colonel George Thairs did actually feel that it should have been him that died rather than his son. After all, why wouldn't he?



This is not a wistful regret for a time that has gone – although it could well be – but the title of a sonnet by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) 'If Only':

If I might only love my God and die!
But now he bids me love Him and live on,
Now when the bloom of all my life is gone,
The pleasant half of life has quite gone by.
My tree of hope is lopped that spread so high,
And I forget how summer glowed and shone,

Mrs Emily Burr chose the inscription for her son, Richard, the third of her six children. John, his older brother, had been killed three years earlier at Loos on 27 September 1915 whilst serving in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. He has no grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.
Born in October 1898, Richard Burr was called up in October 1916 and deployed to France in October 1917. He served with the 4th Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) and was killed in the trenches on 8 August 1918.

Battalion War Diary 4th-8th August
Bn in front line trenches. The period passed unusually quietly, there being very little artillery activity by the enemy. Our patrols were very active during the hours of darkness. Defences were strengthened and trenches improved.



Albert Wellington Jarman was born in Leicester and died in Leicester thirty years later. In the intervening years he had gone to Canada to live and work, returned to Europe to fight, and come back to Leicester to die. He is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's section of Leicester's Walford Road Cemetery, which is less than a mile from his father's home in Havelock Road.
Albert's parents were William and Priscilla Jarman. William Jarman was a shoe maker - as was much of the population of Leicester. Priscilla died and in 1896 William remarried. Eleven-year-old Albert was still living at home with his father and step-mother in 1901, but by 1911 he had gone to Canada. He settled in Londesborough, a small community in Ontario, from where he enlisted in February 1916, describing himself as a farmer.
Jarman joined the 161st Huron Battalion, part of the Western Ontario Regiment. On the night of the 9 October 1916 the 777 Huron County men of the 161st Battalion dined, drank and danced at the Bedford Hotel and the Oddfellows Hall in Goderich before marching to the station the next day and embarking for Europe - 551 of them would not return.
Jarman died on 1 April 1919, almost five months after the end of the war. His death is described in the cemetery register as 'following wounds'. Unfortunately that is all I have been able to discover about his death. There is no indication as to where or when he was wounded, nor the nature of the wounds. However, for general purposes the war was deemed to have ended on 31 August 1921. This meant that those who died of wounds incurred during their military service before that date are counted as having died during the First World War.
I don't imagine that Jarman died at home. Leicester was the location of the 5th Northern General Hospital, which had more than 2,600 beds and occupied several buildings in Leicester and North Evington. It admitted more than 95,000 casualties during its existence, of which 514 had died. Some of these will be among the 344 casualties buried in the Walford Road Cemetery; perhaps one of them was Alfred Jarman.
Alfred's father chose his inscription - 'He gave his life that we should live'. This is very close to the opening line of a poem by someone who was probably the most popular poet of the First World War, and is probably someone you have never heard of - John Oxenham, the pseudonym for William Arthur Dunkerley (1852-1941).

They died that we might live,
Hail and Farewell!
- All honour give
To those who nobly striving nobly fell,
That we might live!

The poem is a strange combination of the Roman poet Catullus's lovely tribute to his brother's grave, Ave Atque Vale, and the Christian concept of sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice for mankind was equated in many people's minds with the sacrifice the hundreds of thousands of young men made who died for the safety and security of the British Empire. According to the narrative, they 'gave' their lives so that people might be able to live - to live free from the threat of German militarism.

This inscription will feature as part of the Global War Graves Leicester project, which aims "to explore and bring to light how the 298 First World War casualties came to be buried in the cemetery, how their identities were negotiated in death; and how even the British burials alongside them also had connections throughout and beyond the UK. The purpose of this research will be to challenge and expand our understandings of the relationship between local and global in terms of Leicester and the First World War".



There's a scene in Hislop and Newman's Wipers Times where General Mitford informs Captain Roberts that Madame Fifi, owner of the local brothel, has just been executed by the British as a German spy. General Mitford hopes that Roberts never imparted any military secrets about the war to her. Roberts replies that he couldn't, he doesn't know any secrets, he just sits in his trench and has no idea what's going on.
I wondered whether this was the implication behind Corporal McNeill's inscription, a covert criticism of the fact that so many soldiers went blindly to their deaths not knowing what was going on. However, I wasn't sure that McNeill's father would have used the old-fashioned word 'whither', so I looked the sentence up and discovered that it comes from Hebrews Chapter 11 verse 8:

"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."

Abraham put his trust in God, he had faith in Him, he obeyed His instructions just as Noah had done, and Moses, and numerous other characters from the Old Testament. None of these people knew what God had in store for them but their faith had brought them to a "better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for he hath prepared for them a city".
This is therefore not an unusual inscription for a God-fearing Scot to choose, but I'm still not one hundred per cent convinced that there's no hint of criticism in it. Many people did use the words of the bible and the prayer book to make covert criticisms of the war. For example, Lieutenant Robert Carpenter's inscription: An only son / "To what purpose is this waste?" / S. Matt. 26.8.
John McNeill was born in Gargunnock, Stirlingshire, where his father was the gardener to the Stirling family of Gargunnock House for forty years. McNeill was a bank apprentice when he joined up in February 1916 at the age of 18. He served with the 11th Battalion Royal Scots and was killed in action on 12 October 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Passchendaele.



Thomas Hanson's mother wanted to demonstrate her son's consideration towards her in the inscription she chose for his headstone. Presumably he had expressed these fears to her, fearing how she would cope with his death.
Hanson, a sheep overseer whose family emigrated to Australia sometime after the 1901 census, enlisted in October 1916. He reached Britain in July 1917, embarked for France in September and was killed in October.
On 22 March 1918, Driver FJ Brophy told the Red Cross Enquiry Bureau:

"I did not see the casualty, but I saw his dead body soon after it happened. He was unloading a waggon just in front of Zillebeke, when he was caught by a piece of shell, which entered his back and went through his heart, death was instantaneous. I knew him very well, he was the only man of this name in the battery."

Gunner AS Miller reported on 8 March 1918:

"I saw him killed at the Half-way House, near Ypres. He was caught by pieces of shell which hit him about the chest, death being instantaneous. He had not been with the battery very long, as he was a new reinforcement."

And how did Thomas Hanson's mother cope with his death? In May 1920 she sailed to England from where she went to France to visit his grave, something very few Australian mothers would have been able to afford to do.
It's strange how you can build up a picture of a person - and be wrong. I had Mrs Hanson down as a poor widow and Thomas as her only son. Thomas was her only son but Mrs Hanson was a remarried divorcee. The information comes from a reply to a letter the army authorities had written asking for clarification about Thomas Hanson's father. Her new husband replied:

"I have to inform you that the father of the late soldier is still alive, as far as I know, but am absolutely ignorant of his address. I also have to inform you that Mrs Hanson divorced her husband some years ago and has been married to me since then."
Mr FW Gregory 24 May 1920



What a strange inscription. I wonder what Private Milner's wife had in mind when she chose it. I can only imagine that it was her reaction to a photograph of her husband's grave, probably still with its original wooden grave marker since by the time the permanent headstones were erected she would have chosen her inscription. Gaza was far away and received very few visitors, even the St Barnabas Society didn't organise battlefield pilgrimages there, apparently there was no demand. However, the Graves Registration Unit and the War Graves Commission tried to send a photograph of a grave to the next of kin if they requested it, and since the Commission's aim was to make their cemeteries look peaceful, well-cared for places, unlike the surrounding battlefields, Mrs Milner's comment would not be surprising.
Before the war William Foster Milner had been a civil servant working in the Inland Revenue. His medal card shows that he was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star so he was not a volunteer, or not one who entered a theatre of war before 1916. But the records do show that he had served with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps before being transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Milner was killed on 7 November 1917 the day the ruined and deserted city of Gaza eventually fell to the Allies at their third attempt.
I can't tell how long William and Alice (Olga) Milner had been married but, as his wife, Alice was entitled to choose her husband's inscription. I wonder what his parents might have wanted to say - William was their only child.



Je t'aime - I love you. I've seen declarations of affection on headstones before but I've never seen such a plain declaration of love. And the fact that it is in French means that Mrs Clough, assuming few English speakers would ever visit Tyne Cot Cemetery, decided to write it in the language of the country where her husband was buried. Not of course that Tyne Cot Cemetery is in France, but it's close, 16 kilometres away, and everyone would have known what she meant anyway, just as we do.
Serjeant Clough was a Yorkshireman, and from what I can tell so was his wife, Mabel. He served with the 9th Battalion London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles), a territorial battalion, and is commemorated on the Hendon, Middlesex war memorial, so must have been living in London when the war broke out. His army number indicates that he was a September 1914 volunteer but his medal card says that his period of service in a theatre of war - France and Flanders - only spanned 21 March to 16 August 1917.
Clough was one of the many casualties the 9th London Regiment suffered on 16 August when the Fifth Army's offensive operations in the Ypres Sector were resumed. The battalion war diary describes how:

"In spite of big progress at the outset under cover of a terrific creeping barrage, the 169th Infantry Bde was compelled to withdraw to the original front line at dusk. The casualties in the Bn were severe."

After the war, when the battlefields were cleared, Clough's body was found at map reference J7G80x40 in June 1920. George William Clough is also commemorated on the Moor Allerton memorial in Leeds, Yorkshire



There are only two First World War servicemen buried in Laillang Communal Cemetery and the record states that they are both buried in the same grave. I have come to recognise what this means - they were airmen whose plane crashed and burnt with them inside, making their bodies indistinguishable from each other.
At 08.05 on the morning of 18 August 1917, Second Lieutenant Louis Harel and his observer Captain William Walker, serving with 11 Squadron and flying a Bristol F2b A7191, were shot down by Lieutenant Viktor Schobinger, a victory that gave Schobinger his 3rd 'kill'.
William Hope Walker had been born in Earlston, Berewickshire in 1892. At some point after 1901 his parents emigrated to Canada. Walker enlisted on 14 July 1915 and originally served with the Canadian Infantry before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.
His mother, Helen J. Sinclair, formerly Walker, chose his inscription. It comes from a very obscure prayer (piece of verse) so obscure that it only appears twice on the Internet, both times in an Australian newspaper in December 1915. It must however have been better known for Mrs Sinclair, living in Canada, to have known of it. I feel that like many emigrants both she and her son must have felt the pull of the mother country following the outbreak of war.

God, who art love, be kind, be kind to all
Thy children, who must hear the sudden call;
Hot from their haste, their hate, their lust, their din,
Must open wide Thy door and enter in.
Cleanse from their feet the stains of dust and wear;
Take from their hearts what is not pure and fair;
For they, Thy children, they have trusted Thee
In death to save. This is their only plea -
"She called, my country called me, and I went" -
With this much, God of love, be Thou content.
Edith A. Talbot, in the 'Christian Guardian'

It may be fairly appalling verse but can you see what Edith Talbot was saying to God? Forgive these young men who are coming straight into your presence from hating and killing people, their justification for their behaviour being, "She called, my country called me, and I went".



This is a fairly bleak inscription - no, let's be frank - this is a very bleak inscription. There is no comforting mention of meeting again, no reference to everlasting life, no honour, no glory, no pride, just the hard fact - gone for ever. George Farley's grandmother chose it; she was his next of kin. Was she being phlegmatic? I don't think so; it sounds bitter and angry to me.
I can see that in the 1901 census George Farley lived with both his parents and his grandparents in Caister-by-the Sea, Norfolk. In 1911 he still lived there but only with his grandparents, Walter and Elizabeth George. I can't find any trace of his parents.
Farley served with A Battery 276th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He is buried in a Field Ambulance cemetery in Vlamertinge, 4 kilometres to the west of Ypres.



The Internet kept trying to persuade me that these words came from the Book of Job Chapter 38 verse 7. But this is what Job says:

"When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy".

It's close but it's not exact. Nor is this:

"Where sing the Morning-stars in joy together,
And all things are at home."

But nevertheless I think that this is the source of the inscription and if so it's rather interesting. The lines are close to those in The Open Secret, a poem written by Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) and published in 1905 in the fourth part of his book Towards Democracy. Carpenter was an extraordinary man: a radical free thinker and socialist writer, a vegetarian and a teetotaller, and a defender, even a proponent of, homosexuality, who lived openly - if remotely - with his homosexual lover for many years at a time when it was illegal to do so. The Open Secret promotes his other great passion, the simplification of life, living in the open:

Sweet secret of the open air -
That waits so long, and always there, unheeded.
Something uncaught, so free, so calm large confident -
The floating breeze, the far hills and broad sky,
And every little bird and tiny fly or flower
At home in the great whole, nor feeling lost at all or forsaken,

To Carpenter it is only man who hides himself away behind walls:

He, Cain-like from the calm eyes of the Angels,
In houses hiding, in huge gas-lighted offices and dens, in ponderous churches,
Beset with darkness cowers;

While man surrounds himself with 'ramparts of stone and gold',

... still the great world waits by the door as ever,
The great world stretching endlessly on every hand,
In deep on deep of fathomless content -
Where sing the morning-stars together,
And all things are at home.

Norman Boyd's father chose his inscription, changing the last word from 'home' to 'rest'. His son now rests in the wide open world, in eternity.
Norman Boyd was born and brought up in Burley-in-Wharfdale in Yorkshire where his father was an insurance agent. In 1898 he emigrated to Canada, from where he enlisted in February 1916. He served with the 2nd Canadian Infantry the Eastern Ontario Regiment. On 6 October 1917 the regiment went into the trenches at Lievin where working parties undertook repairs to the trench system and where they were periodically shelled and bombed. The war diary makes no mention of casualties. Boyd is buried at a Field Ambulance burial ground a few kilometres from Lievin.



O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious rev'rence, and attend!
Here lie the loving husband's dear remains,
The tender father, and the gen'rous friend;
The pitying heart that felt for human woe,
The dauntless heart that feared no human pride;
The friend of man - to vice alone a foe;
For "ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side".
Robert Burns 1784

Burns composed this beautiful epitaph for his father's headstone in Alloway Kirkyard in Ayr, Scotland. Dr George Oldershaw quoted from it for his son's personal inscription in Coxyde Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Like his father, Leslie Oldershaw was a doctor, as was his older brother, George Francis Oldershaw. Leslie Oldershaw, who had qualified as a doctor by the age of 21, took a commission in May 1915 in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served for six months in the 1st Western General Hospital in Liverpool before being posted to Gallipoli in November 1915. After the evacuation he served in Egypt and then returned to Europe in the spring of 1917. Whilst home on leave in April 1917 he married Ruby Gorman whose sister, Elsie, was married to George Oldershaw Jnr. Six months later he was killed by a piece of shrapnel that struck his head. A fellow officer related to his parents how:

"He and I were walking down the road from the trenches in Nieuport, and when we had gone about a mile the accident occurred. All I remember is a flash, and then I was lying in the road and Leslie was lying by me. He never moved or spoke, and I think was killed instantaneously ... I have since been told that it was an aeroplane bomb that dropped close to us that did it."

Six days later Ruby and Elsie's brother, Howard Gannon, was killed in Salonika. Ruby served as a VAD in Western Europe from August 1918 to January 1919. In 1927 she married William Penman, a fifty-year-old widower. He died three years later. She died in 1969.



I wonder which people Mrs AM Blackwood had in mind when she chose this inscription for her son? Was it warmongers in general or did she have some specific people in mind? I have a feeling that it was the latter. The reading of the psalm implies that God's people are people of peace and that it is only necessary for the people of war to be crushed for there to be no more war. This was the reasoning behind the claim that the 1914-18 war was the war to end all war. In other words, it was only necessary for German militarism to be utterly crushed for there to be no more war. For this reason I believe that to Mrs Blackwood the people who delighted in war, the people who needed to be scattered, were the Germans - the people of peace of course being the people of the British Empire!
Leonard Blackwood had been a boot clicker before the war, the person who cut the uppers from the leather skins. He enlisted on 26 January 1916, embarked from Australia in April and left Britain for France that August. Blackwood was wounded in the Australian attack at Broodseinde Ridge on 4 October 1917. According to the records of No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station, Lijssenthoek he had a fractured skull and gun-shot wounds to his face. He died of his wounds three days later.



What is self-sacrifice? It's giving up one's own interests, happiness and hopes for the sake of duty. This inscription is a salutary reminder that the men who fought in the First World War weren't naive enthusiasts for war but were doing their duty - and some men had to submit themselves to it. At the distance of a hundred years many people today can comfortably assume that those who fought were in some way different from themselves, they wanted to go, they wanted to fight, they were happy to give up their current lives, they were even happy to give up their lives. But this inscription shows the firmness with which some men had to speak to themselves in order to do their duty.
The lines come from Wordsworth's Ode to Duty. The poet claims that there are some people who just naturally do their duty - "Who do thy [duty's] work, and know it not". And then there are other's, like him, who "deferred the task, in smoother walks to stray". But now, recognising the peace that comes from knowing that you are doing your duty, he asks:

Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;

Edmund Cullingford was a volunteer. He served with the 9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, which was raised in York in September 1914. According to his medal card, he went with the Battalion to Egypt in December 1915. In July 1916, it returned to Europe and on 9 October 1917 it took part in the attack at Poelcappelle.
The British barrage was terrific, it moved at a rate of 100 yards in four minutes with the soldiers advancing behind it over ground that had been churned into an endless mass of shell holes and mud so as to be almost impassable. However, despite the fierce barrage the German gun emplacements remained virtually impervious and the British troops were met by murderous machine gun fire from these 'pill-boxes', which relentlessly thinned their ranks. At the end of the day the 9th West Yorkshires had lost 12 officers and 203 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. Cullingford was one of the missing, his body located at map reference V.20.a.3.8 in September 1919 and identified by his disc. Think of what he faced and think again about the inscription his father chose for him, "Give unto me ... the spirit of self-sacrifice".



Until I did the research for yesterday's inscription, it would never have occurred to me that this was a quotation. 'Though lost to sight to memory dear' is so popular on both civilian and military headstones, and it appears so regularly on In Memoriam cards and the In Memoriam columns of newspapers that I had just assumed it was something that you said, no author required. But this appears not to be the case. The words are in fact the first line of a song written by George Linley (1798-1865) who wrote it originally for Augustus Braham (1819-1889). This is the first of its seven verses:

Tho' lost to sight, to memory dear
Thou ever wilt remain;
One only hope my heart can cheer -
The hope to meet again.

Some have argued that Linley didn't compose the first line he just quoted from what was already a popular headstone inscription. It is possible that this was the case. Certainly there's another poem, strictly speaking I suppose it's verse rather than poetry, where it's the final line of both of the two verses - the authorship is disputed but it postdates Linley. This is the second verse.

Sweetheart, good bye! One last embrace!
O cruel fate, two souls to sever!
Yet in the heart's most sacred place
Thou alone shall dwell for ever.
And still shall recollection trace,
In fancy's mirror ever near.
Each smile, each tear, that form, that face,
Though lost to sight to memory dear.

However, I am perfectly prepared to admit that the many hundreds of people who chose this inscription, and it is one of the most popular, had no idea that they were quoting either Linley or anyone else. To them it was just a conventionally popular headstone inscription.
In this instance it belongs to Gunner Robert Samuel Barber, who before the war had been helping his father on his dairy farm in Yandina, Queensland, Australia. Barber enlisted on 23 September 1915, embarked from Australia on 11 May 1916, arrived in Britain on 10 July and embarked for France on 24 November. He was killed by a shell on 3 October 1917.
A witness (Sergeant H. Canfield 18849) who described Barber as "about 5 feet 6 inches high, nuggety build, clean shaven, fair complexion, aged about 25", told the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing File what happened:

"Informant states that they both belonged to the 25th Battery, 7th Field Artillery Brigade, Barber being a lumber gunner and under Informant's charge. On or about 3.10.17 the Battery was in front of Ypres in action, firing at different targets. Barber was working with him and left him to go over to his gun, No. 1, and went into a little dugout that he was building alongside the gun. He had only been there about a minute when a stray shell came over and killed him instantly. Informant was only a few yards away at the time and saw his body. He was buried not far from the Battery and informant made a cross for his grave."

The cross survived and after the war it was found with Barber's body at map reference I. 6. b. 8. 1. just as Sergeant H. Canfield had made it, inscribed with the words:

In memory of
No. 18641 Gunner Barber R.S.
C of E
Killed in action 3-10-1917



Harry Small's inscription, chosen by his wife Ethel, comes from an old love song composed in 1858 by Foley Hall with lyrics by George Linley. This is the first of its two verses:

Ever of thee I'm fondly dreaming,
Thy gentle voice my spirit can cheer;
Thou wert the star that mildly beaming,
Shone o'er my path when all was dark and drear.
Still in my heart thy form I cherish,
Ev'ry kind thought like a bird flies to thee;
Ah! never till life and mem'ry perish,
Can I forget how dear thou art to me;
Morn, noon and night where'e'er I may be.
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee,
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee!

Although more than 50 years old at the time of the First World War, the song's popularity was revived in 1915 when Edison recorded it as a duet beautifully sung by Elizabeth Spencer and Thomas Chalmers, which you can listen to here.
At the time of the 1911 census, Harry Small was an assistant at Affleck and Brown a large drapery store, later a department store, in Manchester. He lived in Ardwick Hall Residence for Shop Assistants where he was one of its 156 residents. I am assuming that he was a territorial soldier as he served with the 1st/4th a territorial battalion of the Royal Scots. He went with them to Gallipoli in June 1915. After the evacuation the 4th Royal Scots served in the Suez Canal region before going to Palestine. Small was killed during the Third Battle of Gaza.
I have found no trace of his wife Ethel, who chose such a loving inscription for her husband.

Ever of thee when sad and lonely,
Wand'ring afar my soul joy'd to dwell;
Ah! then I felt I lov'd thee only;
All seem'd to fade before affection's spell.
Years have not chill'd the love I cherish;
True as the stars, hath my heart been to thee;
Ah! never till life and mem'ry perish,
Can I forget how dear thou art to me;
Morn, noon and night where'e'er I may be.
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee,
Fondly I'm dreaming ever of thee!



"And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."
MARK Chapter 4 37-9

"Master, carest thou not that we perish"? This is the question the disciples woke Christ to ask when they were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Mrs Ellen Richardson, Corporal Richardson's mother, must have wondered whether Christ was 'sleeping' when so many hundreds of thousands of people died during the war - did neither he nor God care? Mrs Richardson will have chosen her inscription well after her son's death, and well after the end of the war. Is "peace be still" a plea for a lasting peace, one that Christ will oversee?
In 1911 Mrs Richardson was a widow working as a charlady. George, her fifteen-year-old son, one of her six children, worked in a shoe factory in Olney, Buckinghamshire where most of the population were involved in the shoe trade.
George served with the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment and went with it to Gallipoli, disembarking on 10 August 1915. His service with the 5th indicates that he had been a territorial soldier before the war. Evacuated with the rest of the British forces in January 1916, the 5th Bedfordshires served in the Suez Canal region until March 1917 when they went to Palestine. Here it took part in all three battles of Gaza. Richardson was killed in the Third.



Frederick Golding's eldest sister created a rhyming couplet from some lines in Tennyson's poem 'Maud'. In the poem the narrator hears Maud singing in a meadow:

"A passionate ballad, gallant and gay
A martial song like a trumpet's call
Singing of men that in battle array
Ready in heart and ready in hand
March with banner and bugle and fife
To the death, for their native land.

Maud was written in 1855 at the time of the Crimean War (1853-56) when Tennyson could write that Maud was "Singing of death, and of Honour that cannot die". Tennyson, the most popular of the nineteenth century poets, seems from the evidence of this project to be the most popular of the poets quoted in personal inscriptions too. You can see how deep the association of war and honour and death must have run in British society, contributing to a culture that associated the concept of fighting and dying for your country with a noble death.
Frederick Thomas Golding was the son of a wheelwright in Chelmsford, Essex. In 1911 Golding was working in an ironmongery warehouse. Four years later he entered a theatre of war on 12 August 1915. He was killed in the 3rd Battle of Gaza whilst serving with the 1st/4th Battalion Essex Regiment.



The dictionary definition of a subaltern is a junior army officer below the rank of captain. In other words a First or Second Lieutenant. However, in the context of the First World War that does not capture the full meaning of the word.
In his book, 'Six Weeks - the Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War', John Lewis-Stempel admitted how much he had come to admire these young subalterns during the time he spent researching his book and quoted one former soldier, Private AM Burrage, who wrote, "I who was a private, and a bad one at that, freely own that it was the British subaltern who won the war" [War is War by Ex-Pte X Gollanz 1930]. So who were these subalterns and how did they 'win' the war?
In the early days of the war many young officers were volunteers or territorial soldiers, in other words not professional soldiers, and almost all of them had been to public or grammar schools. RC Sherriff, author of Journey's end, claimed that early in the war you had to have been to a public school in order to qualify for a commission, saying that he himself was turned down because he had been to a grammar school. But I have heard Gary Sheffield say that it wasn't the fact of the public school that mattered but whether or not your school had had an OTC of which you had been a member that counted. Public schools were much more likely to have had an OTC pre-1914 than many grammar schools.
But to Sherriff:

"these young men never turned into officers of the old traditional type. By hard experience they became leaders is a totally different way and, through their patience and courage and endurance, carried the Army to victory after the generals had brought it within a hairsbreadth of defeat". [The English Public Schools in the War, RC Sherriff in Promise of Greatness ed. George A Panichas, Cassell 1968].

Later in the same article Sherriff wrote:

"Without raising the public school boy officers onto a pedestal it can be said with certainty that it was they who played the vital part in keeping the men good-humoured and obedient in the face of their interminable ill treatment and well-nigh insufferable ordeals".

Unlike junior officers in the German army, British subalterns lived with their men in the trenches, cared for them, shared their hardships, led them into battle and died with them. As EA Mackintosh says in his extremely powerful poem, In Memoriam, inspired by the letter of condolence he was writing to the father of one of his soldiers killed in the recent fighting, :"You were only David's father but I had fifty sons". Aware of the responsibility he had for them, Mackintosh writes:

Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers'
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride
They could not see you dying
And hold you while you died.

Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the strong limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
They screamed "Don't leave me sir",
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer.

"My men that trusted me" - there's a lovely letter quoted in Laurence Housman's War Letters of Fallen Englishmen from Lieutenant HM Butterworth, which illustrates this trust beautifully:

"... no digging or wiring party party ever goes out without an officer, that is the way to get the men along. If one takes out a party of men somewhere they don't know - in the open probably - to dig, they'll go like lambs as long as they've got an officer with them. The curious thing is that in civilian life they've probably cursed us as plutocrats, out here they fairly look to us. The other night some time ago, I had some men and had to get somewhere I'd never been before in --; as a matter of fact it wasn't difficult and we had ample directions so before we started I was told to send the men with a sergeant. Said the sergeant to me, 'I wish you were coming sir, I don't know the way.' I said, 'My dear man, nor do I.'To which he made this astounding reply, 'Very likely not, sir, but the men will think you do and they know I don't'."

In a deferential age the soldiers expected their officers to come from a higher social class. But as Sherriff concluded, this didn't mean they were toffs:

"It had nothing to do with wealth or privilege. Very few of the public school boys came from the landed gentry or distinguished families. For the most part they came from modest homes, the sons of local lawyers, doctors and schoolmasters - hardworking professional men."

This was just the class that William Steele Young came from. His father, Archibald Young, was a cutter and surgical instrument maker. William and his elder brother, Archibald, were educated at George Watson College a fee-paying day school in Edinburgh. Archibald, a territorial soldier serving with the Royal Scots, was mobilised on the outbreak of war. William, studying engineering at Edinburgh University and a member of the University OTC, volunteered and was gazetted second lieutenant on 1 September 1914. Archibald was killed in action in Gallipoli at Saghir Dere on or about 28 June 1915. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial. William, who also served in Gallipoli and then Egypt and Palestine, was killed in action on 2 November 1917 during the Third Battle of Gaza.
Arthur Young was proud of both his sons, proud that they had both been members of that "incomparable brotherhood the British subaltern".



According to the War Graves Commission, 'Iringa is on the top of a mountain, 505 kilometres west of Dar-Es-Salaam' in what is now Tanzania. It's a long way from England and all things English. The cemetery holds 131 graves from the Empire forces. Many of them belonging to Africaaners, Dutch Boers, with inscriptions like 'Ono dink aan jou', which I have an idea means I think of you, probably the equivalent of 'not forgotten'. And many of them belong to British South Africans born and brought up in the country. But some of them belong to men who were born and brought up in Britain as Sergeant JM Evan's makes plain: '1, Alban Square, Aberayron, S. Wales'.
A Mrs VH Flemming chose Barrett's inscription, perhaps his married eldest sister whose Christian names were Violet Helen. She quotes a line from Tennyson's In Memoriam, giving the reference as if to make sure that anyone reading it in that faraway place would know where it came from:

So here shall silence guard thy fame;
But somewhere, out of human view,
Whate'er thy hands are set to do
Is wrought with tumult of acclaim.

Hugh Treherne Barrett was born in Cheshire in 1883. His father, a commercial traveller, was dead by the time of the 1891 census. The next time Hugh Barrett appears in the record it's in the London Gazette of 9 June 1916 with the announcement that as from 23 March 1916 he has been granted the temporary rank of lieutenant in the Nyasaland Field Force. This newly formed force was made up of soldiers from various South African and Rhodesian military and police forces. Barrett's medal card shows that he joined a theatre of war on 5 September 1914 indicating that he had been in some form of military service before the formation of the Nyasaland Field Force in which he served as Chief Intelligence Officer.
Barrett's next appearance in the record is again in the London Gazette. The 26 April 1917 edition records the award of a Military Cross for an action on 27 October 1916 during fighting near the border of German South West Africa:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He reconnoitred the enemy's position, and subsequently guided a column three miles by night, enabling them the deploy unobserved between picquets of the enemy to within 250 yards of the position"

The three miles was over swampland that the Germans had thought impassable but through which Barrett found a way.
Barrett died on 6 November 1917. His body was originally buried in Mahenge but after the war the graves from here were concentrated in Iringa.



I said in yesterday's inscription that 'Also' was a very ominous way to begin an inscription because it always meant that another brother had been killed. Today's remembers two brothers killed in addition to the one on whose headstone they are remembered.
I don't know how James Gardner died but his two brothers were both killed in action: his elder brother, Alfred, serving with the 2nd/4th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, at Passchendaele on 10 October 1917, and his younger brother, Reginald, of the 8th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, in the Battle of Arras on 9 April 1917. Neither brother has a grave. Alfred is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and Reginald on the Arras Memorial. I like the way the parents have included the brothers in the order in which they died rather than in order of seniority; Alfred was 30 and Reginald 20.
James, the middle of the three Gardner brothers, died a month after Alfred. He was a member of the 49th Battalion Training Reserve. So many men were called up following the introduction of conscription in January 1916 that the army couldn't cope with them. The reserve battalions of the various regiments couldn't incorporate them all either so a Training Reserve was created, which was not attached to any of the regiments. Men were trained up and then placed wherever they were needed, rather than as before waiting to be placed in the regiment they had joined. James died whilst with the Training Reserve, whether from illness or accident I haven't been able to find out. All I do know is that John and Annie Gardner lost all three of their sons between April and November 1917. They had five surviving daughters.

23RD APRIL 1915


"Also ..."; it's a horribly ominous way to begin an inscription because it always means that another brother has been killed - and it usually means that the other brother has no known grave, which is why the parents commemorate him on the headstone of the one whose grave they do know.
Robert and John Ney were the two oldest sons of Robert and Mary Ney who lived in Overgate, a densely populated area of Dundee where Robert Ney senior was a street lamplighter. Both sons look as though they enlisted on the outbreak of war, although Robert's medal card gives 19 February 1914 as his date of entry into the war, which looks as though it's a mistake. John's says 10 January 1915.
Robert Ney, who served with the 2nd Battalion Cameron highlanders, was killed in action on 23 April 1915. The 2nd Battalion diary records that at "About 1.30 am the Battalion relieved the 1st Devon Regt in trenches 38 to 45" at Hill 60 just south of Ypres. All was fairly quiet until 10 am when, "enemy commenced firing minenwerfer & howitzer on right & centre of line. Many casualties, much damage ...". Among the 'many casualties' the diary lists 44 men killed, including Private R Ney. He was 24.
Eighteen days later his younger brother, John Ney, died of wounds in hospital in Boulogne. There isn't any documentary evidence as to when he was wounded but I would suggest it was on 9 May 1915 when the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders took part in the attack on Aubers Ridge. The fact that John Ney died of wounds two days later is circumstantial but persuasive. He was 19.
Mr and Mrs Robert Ney senior had four sons and five daughters. It looks as though their son Allan, born in 1907, chose his brother John's inscription. He would have been eight when his brothers were killed.

AGE 17.


There are several puzzling things here. Firstly, despite what his father put on his headstone, I don't think Roland Whitehorn was 17 when he died. In fact I'm sure he wasn't as his birth is recorded in the second quarter of 1898. This would mean he was 19 when he died in October 1917.
I came across a story on a family history site, which said that Whitehorn's wife brought their six-week-old daughter to visit him in hospital in France before he died. I thought this unlikely if he was only 17 when he died, even though you could legally be married at 16. The records show that he married Elizabeth Collins in the second quarter of 1916, at which time he would have been 18. It's not unlikely that his wife was allowed to visit him. It wouldn't have been possible if he had been in a Casualty Clearing Station closer to the front but Roland Whitehorn was in one of the base hospitals near Boulogne and the authorities did allow next-of-kin to visit. Perhaps the 'Age 17' on his headstone refers to how old Roland Whitehorn was when he enlisted.
His brother, Albert John Whitehorn, was also very young when went to war. His medal card shows that he qualified for the 1915 Star having entered France on 19 March 1915. He'd been born in the fourth quarter of 1896 so that means he was 18. Albert Whitehorn died of wounds two months later on 11 May. But there's something strange here too: Albert served under an alias, he called himself Albert Whitehall. Was this because at 18 he would have needed parental permission to serve abroad and he didn't believe his parents would grant it?
Albert Whitehorn's inscription in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery is identical to his brother's except for the age:

Age 18. Died for
His King and Country
With his brother



It may not be immediately obvious but this inscription is one of the numerous ways that next-of-kin declared their trust in God. The words come from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, 32:2 and were chosen by Sergeant Wallace's fiancee, Ruth Wright.

"And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

In other words, this man, who will be our shield from the wind, our shelter from storms, who will be like refreshing water on dry land or shade from the burning sun, will be the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And it is in Jesus that Sergeant Wallace's fiancee will find her 'hiding place from the wind', her comfort in her grief. It's a very beautiful image.
According to a letter in his Red Cross file, Wallace died from gas poisoning:

"His dug-out at Hill 40 was blown up by a gas-shell on the 19th. He not only got himself out but he managed to get his mate Serg. Murray out as well and this is what killed him; he had no business to do it when he was gassed. The flesh was blown off Murray's feet and Wallace dressed him and then noticed the gas; but it was too late then. He came over to my dug-out about 2 am. I had two tubes of ammonia and gave him that and some tea and kept his mask on (you get more gas from the clothes than from the air) and kept him there the rest of the night and then sent him to the D/S [dressing station] in the morning. He died in Hosp. on the 27th but I do not know what Hosp. and I was too sick myself with the gas to make much enquiry at the time.
He was a School-teacher at Greenbushes; his people live at Jarradale Junction. He was engaged to Miss R. Wright; I have just got her address (Kenilms, Shenton Road, Claremont, W Aus) from his brother and I will write to her myself. "Ronnie' Wallace was a 'white man'; he would have had a commission but got on too well with his men. He was thoughtful for everyone. He had said to me 'I would not call you up; you have done your bit and there are plenty of big Sergts to do the work!
I was a Rifleman at that time; now S/B. He was C Co.
Calais 6.4.18

Ronald Wallace's eldest brother, Corporal Stephen Hubert Christian Wallace, was killed in action at Bony on 29 September 1918. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial.



People often ask me if there's a difference between the inscriptions chosen by the families of officers and those chosen by the families of soldiers. In answer I say that it would be less usual for an officer's family to choose something like, "Too dearly loved to be forgotten", or "A silent thought a secret tear will keep his memory of ever dear" but that doesn't mean that the more literary inscriptions come from officers' families. Private Walls' is a case in point.
Mrs Mary Jane Walls chose her husband's inscription and it comes from Shakespeare's Life of King Henry VIII, Act 5 Sc. 1. The King says of Archibishop Cranmer, in his presence, that:

"He's honest, on mine honour. God's blest mother!
I swear he is true-hearted; and a soul
None better in my kingdom."

The context is not relevant to Private Wall's inscription, which doesn't alter the fact that the choice of this quotation is not only very appropriate but also very original.
William Walls was a coal miner, a hewer of coal, so someone who actually worked underground at the coal face. He volunteered when he was 37, before the introduction of conscription, and entered a theatre of war on 25 September 1915. He served with the 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. This was originally a bantam battalion, one that was formed from men below the minimum height requirement for a soldier. This varied over the first few months of the war, originally being 5'3" before settling on 5'2". Many of Walls' fellow soldiers were also miners.
Walls was killed in action on 22 October 1917 in the British attack on Poelcapelle.



William Taylor was proud of his brother. How can I tell? Look at the inscription he chose for him. Thomas Hugh Miller was 33 when the war broke out, a self-employed, married man whose household consisted not only of his wife and at least one child but his widowed mother too. His commitments prevented him from volunteering but once conscription was introduced in January 1916 "he made no appeal", meaning he didn't make an appeal to a tribunal to try to get himself excused military service but obeyed the call. He was "a man when his country needed him".
William Taylor himself was 45 when the war broke out. The upper age limit for conscription was 41 until April 1918 when it was extended to include men up to the age of 50. By this time William Taylor was 49; he would never have been expected to serve abroad.
Thomas Miller joined the 7th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment on their return from the Mediterranean theatre of war in July 1916. The battalion took part in the Somme Campaign before moving to Ypres. I can't be sure but he could have been wounded on 4th or 5th October when the battalion war diary recorded: "Attack carried out on enemy positions round Poelcapelle". On the 7th the diary summarised the casualties: 5 officers killed and 2 wounded; 41 other ranks killed and 169 wounded. Miller's name however isn't among the list of wounded. Instead, the Nominal Roll records his death (died of wounds) on the 21st, a day when all the war dairy says is:

Noeux-les-Mines. Battalion relieved 14th D.L.I. in reserve in the AUGUSTE sector. QM stores, 1st line Transport etc. proceeded to MAZINGARBE. 2/Lieut H.W. Ford joined the Battn for duty & posted to B.Coy.



Stratford, Ontario
Daily Beacon
6 November 1917
"A gloom was cast over the city this morning with the announcement of the death in action on October 18 of Wilfred Read Eidt, eldest son of Dr and Mrs E Eidt of Cambria Street. The young soldier was one of Stratford's popular young men, with a bright and promising career, but he sacrificed all in the cause of King and country ..."

The Eidt family originally came from Germany. Dr E Eidt, a dentist, was a well-known local politician, an Alderman of the city of Stratford, Ontario. Wilfred Eidt was training to be a teacher when the war broke out. He joined up in November 1916 and served with the 1st Canadian Siege Battery in France. On 18 October 1917 the battery's war diary recorded:

"Oct. 18th 3.50 pm 335007 Gr Eidt WR was killed by a stray shell of 4.2 calibre. Two other men who were alongside of him, at the time, were untouched.
Oct. 19th 3.00 pm The above mentioned was buried in Bully Cemetery where a service, attended by the reliefs off-duty, was held."

Further, rather gruesome, information comes from the diary of a fellow gunner in the battery, Gunner Frank Byron Ferguson, who reported that Eidt had been walking up to the guns at Philosophe with the preacher, a man called Wilson, when a shell hit him, leaving the preacher "with little other than a shrapnel helmet and a cloud of red mist".
Dr Eidt chose his son's inscription. It comes from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam A.H.H.', his extended meditation on life and death, which followed the death of his friend Arthur Hallam in 1833, when Hallam was 23. The relevant canto, no. 27, reads:

I hold it true, what'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most:
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.



This is an inscription about the pain of not being present when the person you love dies. To begin with I couldn't imagine what one earth it meant but a search of the In Memoriam columns in early twentieth-century local newspapers provided the context:

Could we have been there at the hour of your death
To have caught the last sigh of your fleeting breath,
Your last faint whisper we then should have heard
And breathed in your ear just one loving word.
Only those who have lost are able to tell
The pain of the heart at not saying farewell.

Twenty-year-old John Haworth's wife, Sarah, chose his inscription; not only could she not be with him when he died but she may never have known how he died and she could neither attend his funeral nor visit his grave. 'The pain of the heart at not saying farewell' must have made 'closure' very difficult.
Haworth had been married in Padiham Parish Church during a leave in July 1917, three months before his death on 17 October. On the 31st, the following appeared in the Burnley Express:

Haworth: In loving memory of Pte. John Ed. Haworth, East Lancashire Regiment, killed Oct. 17th. aged 20 years.
He marched away so bravely
His young head proudly held
His footsteps never faltered
His courage never failed.
From his sorrowing wife and sister Betsy 6, Back Guy Fold, Padiham

John Haworth had been 17 and 6 months when 'he marched away so bravely' with the 1st/5th Battalion on 10 September 1914, not just young but too young to serve abroad. The battalion joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Egypt, its initial task to guard the Suez Canal. In May 1915 it got drawn into the Gallipoli Campaign, was withdrawn in January 1916, returned to Egypt, and then in March 1917 was sent back to Europe. Frederick Gibbon, the author of the 42nd Division History, of which the 1st/5th were a part, noted that:

"The voyage westward across the Mediterranean was made under conditions widely different from those of the outward journey of September 1914, when "the glory of youth glowed in the soul," and the glamour of the East and the call of the unknown had made their appeal to adventurous spirits. Familiarity with war had destroyed illusion and had robbed it of most of its romance."

In September 1917 the battalion was at Nieuport, marking a waterlogged, 6 km line from Nieuport to the sea. The ground was too flooded for either side ever to attack but both sides' artillery kept up a constant bombardment. I don't know how Haworth met his death but an entry in the Marquis du Ruvigny's biographical register of the war dead, which ran out of steam after he'd recorded about 25,000 biographies, says Haworth was killed in action. It also says:

"A letter written on behalf of three of his friends stated: 'He was one of the most popular lads in the company for his cheerfulness and willingness in every work he undertook, and he will be greatly missed by his comrades'."



I can give you the literal translation of these Latin words - footsteps do not go backwards - but I can't tell you exactly what Cyril Beattie, Malcolm Beattie's father, meant by them. To the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, whose motto it is, the words mean 'we do not retreat'. To the Earls of Buckingham, whose motto it also is, the words mean, 'we never go backwards'. To some it means that you've taken a step you can't go back on, to others, rather more romantically, that you can't call back time. Looking at Cyril Beattie's family history, I rather wonder whether he meant don't look backwards.
Cyril Robert Beattie was born in Britain but in 1871, aged 7, he and his elder brother Malcolm Hamilton Beattie, 8, were boarders at a school in Kingston, Surrey. This suggests to me that their parents lived abroard, I would guess India. Nine years later Cyril began four years indentured service with the Merchant Navy. In 1893, he emigrated to New Zealand and in 1901 founded Beattie, Lang and Co, dairy and general produce merchants which did a huge trade with Britain. His brother Malcolm went to India where he served with the Bengal Pilot Service on the Hooghly River. Both brothers married and both had sons who they each called after the other.
Malcolm Bartlett Beattie, born in New Zealand in 1896, was educated at Wanganui Collegiate School, which he left in 1914. He sailed for England in February 1915 with the intention of studying medicine but he joined up instead. Commissioned second lieutenant in the 5th Royal Berkshire Regiment on 5 September 1916, he went with it to France the following month. Awarded the Order of the Crown of Belgium and the Belgian Croix de Guerre in August 1917 for rescuing a soldier from the German lines, he was wounded two months later on 15 October and died the next day.
There is another possible explanation for Cyril Beattie's choice of inscription, perhaps he had in mind a poem by the Scottish born, Australian poet William Gay (1865-1897) called Vestigia Nulla Restorum. If so, Cyril Beattie meant that however dark the road you can only keep going forward:

O steep and rugged Life, whose harsh ascent
Slopes blindly upward through the bitter night!
They say that on thy summit, high in light,
Sweet rest awaits the climber, travel-spent;
But I, alas, with dusty garments rent,
With fainting heart and failing limbs and sight,
Can see no glimmer of the shining height,
And vainly list with body forward bent,
To catch athwart the gloom one wandering note
Of those glad anthems which (they say) are sung
When one emerges from the mists below:
But though, O Life, thy summit be remote
And all thy stony path with darkness hung,
Yet ever upward through the night I go.



Redmond Maguire was his mother's eldest son; she had two other sons and three daughters but you can see the effect Redmond's death had on her. The comforting belief that families would be reunited in heaven is obvious in many many inscriptions but somehow Mrs Maguire's is particularly affecting.
The family came from Co. Cork. The Irish census is interesting because, unlike the English one, it asks your religion - the Maguires were all Roman Catholic. It also asks whether you can read and write; Michael and Mary Maguire, Redmond's parents, could both read and write. And it asks what languages you speak; Michael and Mary both spoke English and Irish. All the children, those who were old enough to speak, only spoke English.
Redmond doesn't appear with the rest of the family in the 1911 census. Aged 15 he was away working somewhere. Three years later he joined the army on the outbreak of war - his army number, 6308, indicating that he joined before January 1915. He served with the newly formed 2nd Battalion Irish Guards and went with them to France on 17 August 1915. He died of wounds in 2 Canadian General Hospital, Le Treport on 15 October 1917. I would imagine that these were received during the 2nd Battalions's participation in the Third Ypres Campaign at Poelcapelle. When it came out of the front line on 13 October, having been there since the 9th, the Battalion had suffered one officer and 20 other ranks killed, and 89 other ranks wounded.



Well, this wasn't what I was expecting. From his personal inscription, which his mother chose, I had created an image of a cherished only child at the heart of a loving family. Instead of which I found that Leila Percival had divorced her husband (Tony) in 1909 for "adultery coupled with cruelty".
In 1901, at the age of 9, Percival was living - the census says nephew not visitor - with his uncle, Arthur Strauss, at 1 Kensington Palace Gardens, even then one of the best addresses in London. Arthur was married to Leila's sister Minna Cohen. 'Tony', a photographer, and Leila lived in Maida Vale. By the time of the 1911 census Anthony Percival had emigrated to Canada. At which time his mother, now a widow, was living alone in London. Hardly the happy family I'd envisaged from the inscription.
From Canada, where he worked in a bank, Percival enlisted on 24 October 1914. From information Leila Percival gave to the Imperial War Museum when she sent it a photograph of her son for their collection, she says that he served initially with the 28th Saaskatchewan Battalion, Canadian Infantry, then in August 1915 received a commission in the 14th Battalion Middlesex Regiment before transferring in March 1916 to the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France in August that year, served with the 95th Company and died of wounds in hospital in St Sever on 15 October 1917. There is no information as to where, when or how he was wounded.



"At the usual evening hour the chapel bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed feebly beat a time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, "Adsum!" and fell back. It was the word we used at school, when names were called; and lo, he. whose heart was as that of a little child, had answered his name, and stood in the presence of The Master."
The Newcomes 1855
William Makepeace Thackeray 1811-1863

This is a very touching and many-layered inscription. The fictional Colonel Thomas Newcome, who died at The Charterhouse, was educated at Charterhouse School, just as Thackeray had been - and Cyril Beachcroft too. 'Adsum' is the word Carthusians answered and still answer to their names at registration. It means 'present', and on a gravestone it implies still living and present with Christ.
The name Colonel Newcome became a byword for a virtuous man, a gentle, even perhaps a literary, soldier. So much so that when in 1906 the playwright Michael Morton adapted The Newcomes for the stage under the title 'Colonel Newcome', there was much public speculation about which actor might be worthy enough to play the role - and much dubious criticism when Herbert Beerbohm-Tree was chosen. Some people thought his German ancestry made him unsuitable; the idea of his 'guttural accents' uttering the famous 'Adsum' was too much for them to contemplate. In the event, Tree was a triumph in the role. The play was even more popular when it was revived during the First World War. Tree, still in the title role, toured with it through the United States and Canada during the winter of 1916-17. The ostensible aim of the tour was to raise money for Britain's wounded soldiers, but presumably it was hoped it might also raise support for Britain's war.
In 1914, Cyril Beachcroft, a solicitor with the family firm of Beachcroft, Thompson, Hay and Ledward, was married with two daughters. Having been a member of the Inns of Court OTC between 1909 and 1912 he rejoined it immediately on the outbreak of war. By October 1914 he had been commissioned into the Dorset Yeomanry where he spent the three years on home service, training troops. In July 1917 he requested a transfer to the Household Battalion, an infantry battalion drawn from reserve units of the Household Cavalry, so that he could be sent to the front. Within six weeks of his arrival he was dead, killed leading his men into an attack at Poelcapelle, his body not recovered from the battlefield until December 1919.
It was his wife who chose his inscription, linking him through a single word with Charterhouse, the Resurrection and a fine, even though fictional, English gentleman.
Beachcroft, who had managed to survive for the junior officer's classic six weeks, also earned a classic tribute from one of his fellow officers:

"We all feel we have lost a man who can never be replaced ... Quite fearless, and always cheerful; he is an example of all one loves best in a man."

There you have it - fearless and cheerful, it's what soldiers most admired in each other.
Cyril Beachcroft's elder bother, Eric, served with the Dorset Yeomanry in Palestine where he was severely wounded in November 1917. Invalided home, he remained in hospital and then convalescent until discharged from the army in 1919.



Second to none, in other words, in a class of his own, unmatchable. It's a lovely inscription for a father to choose for his son. As it's in inverted commas, I thought it must have been a quote from something like a letter of condolence but then James Kerr (@JamesKerr125) pointed out to me that it is in fact a translation of the Coldstream Guards' motto 'Nulli Secundus'.
Ralph Babington was the youngest of five sons. One gets the feeling that he was not robust. In fact one of the reports following his death refers to the fact that "In that small body there was a giant heart". He seems to have been intended for a career in the navy but after spending some time as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Osborne his health broke down when he was 14 and it was a year before he recovered enough to be sent to Eton. In 1916, when he was 17, he went to Sandhurst, all the time desperate that the war might be over before he'd had a chance to take a part in it. His chance came soon enough and unfortunately it was his life that was over before the war was.
Babington's medal card says that he first entered a theatre of war on 9 October 1917 and that he was killed in action on the 9 November but the 9 October was the date of his death so it's not really possible to say how long he'd been at the front. He was killed when the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards took part in an assault near Ypres between "Broembeke and Houlthoulet Forrest". According to a report in the Eton Chronicle: "He was leading his platoon to the forming-up area on the night of October 8-9, when a German shell burst close to him, killing him instantaneously, and many of his men".
Babington was one of the 5 officers and 35 other ranks killed that day.



There are no quotation marks round this inscription, nevertheless it is a quotation. However, I think the saying must have had a life of its own separate from the book in which it appears as the context is humorous rather than noble. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), in his book, Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879), describes how, losing patience with his donkey's slow pace, he decides to hit her. After the third attempt, the others having had no effect, he declares, "I am worthy the name of an Englishman, and it goes against my conscience to lay my hand rudely on a female". So feeling extremely guilty, especially as the donkey is exhibiting signs of distress, he stops beating her at which the donkey goes slower and slower. Eventually they are overtaken by a peasant who initially sympathises with Stevenson and then falls about laughing saying that the donkey has fooled him. The peasant picks up a stick and beats the donkey soundly whereupon it picks up its heels and trots along happily, showing no signs of distress and never slowing down. You can see why I think the quotation must have had a life of its own separate from Stevenson's book.
John Scholes' sister chose his inscription, both parents were dead. Scholes was a volunteer; his medal card shows that he entered a theatre of war on 5 May 1915, which would fit with him having enlisted in the 2nd/5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in September 1914. On the day Scholes died of wounds, the 2nd/5th had been out of the front line training and resting since 23 September when they came out of action on the Menin Road, which is probably when Scholes was wounded.



This may not be its most famous line but it certainly comes from one of the most famous poems of the First World War, Rupert Brooke's The Soldier, of which this is verse 1:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

Lines two and three are, not surprisingly, a popular inscription. Stanley Ede's father chose line four, changing the word 'conceals' to 'contains'. When relations change words it's difficult to know whether they've just misremembered the original or whether they meant it. I think Mr William Edward Ede meant it - the earth should be proud to contain his son's 'richer dust', whereas there could be something furtive about concealing it.
The poem is full of nostalgic melancholy:

And think this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

William Edward Ede emigrated to Australia with his wife and three children in 1912. Having been born and grown up in Devon, is there a longing for the old country and the old days concealed in his choice of inscription? The family are Australians now, that is why his son's grave cannot be 'forever England'.
And there could be a deeper regret too. When Stanley Ede joined up on 1 May 1915 he declared he was 18 and 3 months. A handwritten note beside this answer says, "Parents consent attached". However, according to the British records, Ede was born in the first quarter of 1898. He was therefore only 17 and 3 months. A fact confirmed by his father on the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia when he gives his son's age at death as 19 and 9 months.
Ede, a plumber, served with the 12th Field Company Australian Engineers. Sturdy and of fresh complexion, Ede was, according to his comrades, "full of fun and almost invariably singing". A witness told the Australian Red Cross that he "was killed at Zonnebeke by a piece of shell which hit him in the neck and killed him outright".



Victor Woodcock's father chose a lovely image of death for his son's inscription. It makes it sound as though Woodcock just flew into the rising sun as it appeared above the grassland hills; an beautiful image for a Royal Flying Corps pilot. As it was, Woodcock and his observer crashed to the ground during a formation-flying training session, Woodcock having only joined the Squadron eight days earlier.
The inscription is based on a line from Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard; there's just one word different, Gray wrote to meet the sun, not greet the sun. Not that that makes any difference to the sense of the inscription. However, whatever sense Mr Woodcock intended was not what Gray meant by the words. To Gray they were just part of a description of an old countryman:

"Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn."

Victor Woodcock was the son of a Master Grocer from Leeds. Ultimately destined for the Methodist Ministry, he spent two years at Leeds University studying Engineering. In January 1916 he took a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers and served with them throughout 1916. In January 1917 he got his aviator's certificate and a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. In September 1917 he joined 3 Squadron eight days before he was killed.



The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) is the author of a surprising number of headstone inscriptions of which this is one. It comes from his poem, Resignation, composed following the death of his daughter Fanny. Longfellow holds out the consolation that "oftentimes celestial benedictions / assume this dark disguise", and what seem to us "but sad, funereal tapers / may be heaven's distant lamps".

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.

It is in the 'life elysian'

In that great cloister's stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin's pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

Harry Richards was a gunner serving with the 46th Battery 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade at Zillebeke when he was killed near the Menin Road. A witness told the Red Cross Enquiry Bureau:

"He was dark, cleanshaven, slim, about 5'6", and about 21 or 22. He was killed whilst mending our telephone wire on 1st Oct. on the Passchendaele front. I was told this by Sig. Norman Potts, who was with him at the Dickebusch and a cross put over his grave."

Richards' South Australian Division Red Cross file can be read here. Unusually, it not only names his mother as his next-of-kin, but also his fiancee, Miss Doris Baldwin.



Just six graves down from Ernest Hargraves's, Walter Pawson's mother chose 'Thy will be done' for her son's personal inscription. These words from the Lord's Prayer are those most frequently used on war-grave headstones. However, Ernest Hargrave's mother makes an even more emphatic statement of submission to God's will with her choice from the first verse of a mid-nineteenth-century hymn by Horatius Bonar:

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
Lead me by thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

Mrs Hargrave's was a widow who kept a boarding house in Clapham. Ernest was the eldest of her two children; Arthur, her other son, would have been 8 when Ernest died. God's 'way' must have felt very dark to her.
There are twenty war graves in East Boldre Churchyard, nineteen of them relate to accidents at the Flying Training School there. According to a newspaper report, Hargrave's was one of two fatal accidents within twenty-four hours of each other. In Hargrave's case:

"On Saturday, Second Lieutenant Ernest Hargrave ascended, but when at height of 200 ft his machine nose-dived and crashed to the earth, resulting in his death from fracture of the skull."

The verdict of a subsequent inquiry concluded that it had been 'death by mis-adventure'.



This inscription is a contraction of the best-known lines - I could say the only known lines - of the French poet Louis-Rose-Eiennette Gerard, known as Rosemonde Gerard (1871-1953). They come from L'Eternelle Chanson, (The Eternal Song), which she dedicated to her husband, Edmond Rostand (1868-1918):

Car, vois-tu, chaque jour je t'aime davantage,
Aujourd'hui plus qu' hier et biend moins que demain.

For, you see, each day I love you more,
Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.

Gerard intended it as a declaration of ever-growing love for her husband; Mrs Burgess as a declaration of undying love for hers.
Norman Algernon Burgess was born in Robertsbridge, Sussex in 1883 where his father ran a corn and seed merchant's business. At some point he emigrated to Canada from where he enlisted, in Winnipeg, on 17 December 1914.
Burgess served with the 2nd Canadian Division Ammunition Column and came back to England to be married to Joan Frances Hodson in Salehurst on 2 September 1915. Just over two years later, in the middle of a mass of adminstrative details the war diary reported:

22 September 1917: "4 OR on leave. No 367 Gnr Burgess, N.A. died. Medical Officers report obstruction of Glotles [glottis?]. 5 OR to First Army Rest Camp ... "



Gunner Hawksworth's inscription comes from the first two lines of a hymn written by the Revd John Dykes (1823-1877).

Sweet flowerets of the martyr band,
So early plucked by cruel hand;
Like rosebuds by a tempest torn,
As breaks the light of summer morn;

The hymn is based on a line from a poem by the Roman poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c.348 - c.413). Clemens' poem writes graphically about the slaughter of the children by King Herod's 'cruel hand' on Holy Innocents' Day, 28 December, describing the children as, 'salvete, flores martyrum', 'torn by the storm on earth but now flowers in heaven'.
Hawksworth's mother chose his inscription. Martyr isn't a word that relations often used, sacrifice, yes, martyrdom, no - perhaps it's too Catholic a concept for a Protestant nation. John Joseph was her only child. Born in Edensor, Derbyshire where his father farmed, mother was living in Walcot, Shropshire when she chose her son's inscription, just 10 miles from Dawley where she had been born.
Hawksworth, a volunteer, served with 81st Battery, Royal Field Artillery. According to his medal roll, he arrived in France on 16 March 1915, which means that he was a volunteer. He died of wounds in a base hospital in Etaples on 19 September 1917.



John Porteous Hill's inscription quotes the ninth stanza of Tennyson's In Memoriam, his extended lament on the death of his friend Arthur Hallam:

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

John Hill's father, a commercial traveller, chose it for his eldest son who joined the army in Edinburgh on 10 July 1916 when he was 18 and 9 months. By June 1917 Hill was in France, serving with the 15th Battalion Royal Scots. On 28 August he received gun shot wounds in his back and arm and was admitted to No. 6 General Hospital , Rouen. On the 29th his condition was described as 'serious', two days later it was upgraded to 'dangerous'. He died that day.



Ernest Rounce's father references 'Non Angli Sed Angeli', a poem by the Revd Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy published in More Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1919). An inspirational Church of England padre, Studdert-Kennedy was probably better known by his nickname, Woodbine Willie, which came from his habit of generously dishing out cigarettes (Woodbines) along with his religious homilies. During the war he ardently encouraged soldiers to battle, but afterwards he became an equally ardent pacifist and socialist. 'Non Angli Sed Angeli' hints as this.
The title refers to a story Bede (672/3 - 735) related in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It dates from 590 when Pope Gregory the Great came across some faired-haired, fair-skinned people being sold in a slave market in Rome. When he asked what they were he was told they were Angles. He is reported to have replied, 'Non Angli sed angeli', not Angles but angels.
Studdert-Kennedy's poem is a plea that the men who died for freedom should not be betrayed by the new slavery of capitalism, "the minotaur of Mammon":

"Shall wealth still grow and woe increase to breed
In filthy slums the slaves of poverty?"

If this happens:

"Then blessed are the dead who die in war,
Their bodies shattered but their souls untouched
By slime of sin, unpoisoned by the snake.
For war is kinder than a Godless peace.
O England, let this message from the past
Ring down the ages like a trumpet call,
Not Angles these but angels, souls not slaves.
Let thy wealth be counted not in sov'reigns
But in souls .... "

What did Ernest Rounce's father, a Metropolitan police constable, mean by his choice of inscription? He hasn't quoted the poem exactly but it's definitely the source. I think he was at one with Studdert-Kennedy, make England a country fit for those who fought and died for it not just a rich country that benefitted the wealthy.
Rounce served with C Battery, 76th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He is buried in a dressing station cemetery just outside the village of Vlamertinge not far from Ypres. My assumption would be that he died soon after he'd been wounded, on the same day - 23 August 1917.



There's a problem with the personal inscriptions belonging to members of the Newfoundland Regiment - every single one of them was signed for by Lt. Colonel T. Nangle, Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries, 39 Victoria St, London SW1. I have always assumed that Nangle simply dealt with the British end of the paper work, that families having chosen an inscription left it to him to see it through. However, now I'm not so sure, or certainly not sure that it was true in all cases.
The Newfoundland Regiment's records have been digitised and can be found online. From Foaley's attestation form we can see that he gave his full address as 1 Cave Street, Moscow, that in answer to the question "Are you a British subject?" he replied "No, Russian", and to the question, "Have you ever served in any Branch of His Majesty's Forces, naval or military, if so, which?" his answer was, "No (was in Russian Army)". The form was dated 24 November 1916, the date that appears on his headstone.
Foaley's Newfoundland draft arrived in France on 12 June 1917. His active service Casualty Form records that he was wounded in action a month later, on 10 July, in his left hand. Discharged to duty on 31 July, he rejoined his battalion on 4 August. Ten days later, on 14 August, he was wounded in action again. Admitted to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station with shell wounds in his face and abdomen, he died nine days later.
Foaley named his brother, Stanisloff Foaley, 1 Cave Street, Moscow, as his next-of-kin. The word certainly looks like 'brother' anyway. However, when the time came to dispose of his estate, the Newfoundland authorities had a problem. As the Department of Justice wrote on 29 November 1918:

"I think an effort should be made to ascertain if his given next of kin, his brother, is still in Moscow. Owing to the unsettled condition of Russia at the present time, and the prospects that its condition will remain unsettled for a long time yet, it may be difficult to get in touch with the brother of the decesased."

The same problem arose over despatching Foaley's medals in 1922. Enquiries had been made at his last known address in Newfoundland where "his landlady and friend", Mrs William Hollett, 1 Duckworth Street, St John's, told them that Foaley's father died before Foaley came to Newfoundland, that his mother had died after they had been here about three months and that one brother had been killed fighting for the Russians. None of this helped with the disposal of his medals, which were returned to the War Office.
You can see why I wonder who chose Foaley's inscription, and why I doubt that it was his brother and think that it might have been composed by Lt Colonel T Nangle himself. If so, he did a good job of giving Dominic Foaley an identity.



Yesterday's casualty came from Siberia to fight, today's returned from Ceylon. I don't know what he was doing in Ceylon but it's a fair guess that he was a tea planter.
Richard Powell - his name was Richard despite the fact that the War Graves Commission has him as Captain C Powell - was born in Munslow, Shropshire, the eldest son of the rector George Bather Powell whose family had held the living since 1776, and continued to hold it until Richard Powell's brother, Edward, resigned it in 1965.
It's a curious inscription for a rector to choose for his son - 'Late of Ceylon' - no mention of God, no quote from the bible, nor from a hymn. It crossed my mind that perhaps Richard Powell, his father's eldest son, had made it clear that the religious life of his ancestors was not for him. If he did it doesn't appear to have caused any lasting animosity since a brass plaque in St Michael's Church, Munslow, links him firmly to his home:

Richard Powell, Captain RFA
And of Ceylon, Eldest son of
Rev GB Powell, Rector of this Parish
Was wounded in Flanders 4th August 1917
And died in hospital at Le Trepot
France, 22nd August 1917



I can't tell you what Leslie Desprez was doing in Siberia but I think I can guess. Both his father, Philip Victor Desprez, and his older brother, Rene Victor Desprez, were commercial travellers so the chances are that Leslie Adrian Desprez was one too. The opening up of Siberia, following the building of the Trans-Siberian railway, presented huge commercial opportunities to the industrialised nations. It was seen a region of 'vast promise', a 'land of limitless possibilities', Russia's Canada. The British had been slow into the field and not only the Americans but the Germans, Austrians and Swedes were well ahead of the game during the first decade of the 20th Century. However, this is probably why Desprez was in Siberia when the war broke out.
Some men saw the outbreak of war as a commercial opportunity for Britain since, they argued, the Russians were not likely to want to do business with an enemy country. However, Desprez obviously didn't feel he could remain in the region to exploit this opportunity; he came home "to fight". He served with "D" Company, 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment and died of wounds in a casualty clearing station at Lijssenthoek on 16 August 1916. It's not possible to tell exactly when he was wounded but the battalion war diary summarises its August casualties as, "3 killed, 7 wounded, all privates", whereas among its July casualties were, "1 officer killed and 5 ORs killed, 3 corporals wounded and one lance corporal". That one lance corporal was probably Leslie Desprez, wounded when "D" Company were in the front line near Blangy between 27/28th and 30/31st July.



Arthur Eld was a very particular kind of Edwardian; not a subject of King Edward VII, although he had been one of those, but a former pupil of King Edward VI's Five-Ways Grammar School in Birmingham. He had been a star pupil, consistently coming among the top in his class, particularly in science. He left school in 1914 and began working as a chemist. Having attested on 11 December 1915, he was not called up until March 1917. He went to France on 25 May 1917.
On 14 July 1917, Eld was posted to No. 4 Special Company Royal Engineers. I would suggest that his skills as a chemist had been recognized since these special companies were gas warfare units; No. 4 was a gas mortar unit, firing gas shells from 4-inch Stokes mortars. Eld did not last very long. He was dead a month later.
His parents established the Eld Memorial Prize at King Edward's Five-Ways in their son's memory. First awarded in 1919, it was initially intended as a prize for science. However, by 1925 it had been divided into two prizes, one for science and one for sport. Both prizes are still awarded.



Frederick Miller's mother referenced a popular love song, The Sunshine of Your Smile, for her son's inscription. Written in 1913 with lyrics by Leonard Cooke and music by Lilian Ray, the song was recorded several times during the war years - you can hear this 1916 recording by John McCormack here.

Dear face that holds so sweet a smile for me,
Were you not mine, how dark the world would be!
I know no light above that could replace
Love's radiant sunshine in your dear, dear face.

Give me your smile, the love-light in your eyes,
Life could not hold a fairer Paradise!
Give me the right to love you all the while,
My world for ever, the sunshine of your smile!

Shadows may fall upon the land and sea,
Sunshine from all the world may hidden be;
But I shall see no cloud across the sun;
Your smile shall light my life, till life is done.


Frederick Miller was the eldest of his parents' seven surviving children - six boys and one girl. At the time of the 1911 census the family - parents, children and grandmother - lived in four rooms in Poplar where father, Henry, was a house and ship painter. Frederick served with the 21st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps and died of wounds in a casualty clearing station on 14 August 1917. The battalion war diary records:

"On the morning of the 14th August a raid was attempted against enemy dugouts. The heavy condition of the ground and the heavy enemy machine gun fire prevented the party from reaching their objectives and they returned with slight casualties."

Was Miller one of the 'slight casualties'?



George Smillie's mother chose his inscription. To begin with I thought it sounded rather defensively bitter - the world was not worthy of my son who was killed for you undeserving lot. Then I discovered it was a quote from the bible, Hebrews 11:38:

"And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
Hebrews 36-38

The meaning here is that these men, who suffered all these hardships, were good men who did not deserve it. They were not worthy of this fate because they were among the best of men, and yet this happened to them. I imagine that this is what Mrs Smillie meant to imply by her choice.
George Smillie's medal card shows that he was commissioned from the rank of Warrant Officer in May 1917. He had first entered a theatre of war on 12 December 1914, serving in both India and France, latterly with the 121st Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He died of wounds received near Ypres.



'Had he asked us'; had who asked us? The answer is God. Had God asked Walter Melling's family they would have pleaded with Him to spare Walter, to let him stay because they loved him. This is not an unusual inscription, nor can it have been an uncommon sentiment, but it is far more usual to come across inscriptions that accept God's will - 'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see but all is well that's done by Thee'.
Walter Melling's mother, Elizabeth, chose the inscription. She would have been particularly keen for her eldest son to be allowed to live as her husband, Walter's father, had died at the age of 50 just a few months earlier and she still had a six-year-old son to look after.
Walter enlisted on 8 December 1915 when he was 19. He didn't go to France until 7 February 1917, when he was 20. He was wounded 'in the field' on 10 August 1917, the casualty form, which has unusually survived, baldly recording - gun shot wounds scrotum, forearm and leg. He died in a casualty clearing station the next day.



Corporal Alan Maschwitz was a long way from home when he died of 'penetrating' shrapnel wounds to his left thigh on 11 August 1917. He came from Killara, a leafy suburb of Sydney, where his parents had recently built themselves a house, Lyttleton, close to the golf course. I suspect that golf was an important part of the family's life; Alan is listed on the Killara Golf Club Roll of Honour, which at one time awarded a Maschwitz Cup - and perhaps still does - and Mr William Percy Maschwitz, Alan's father, served as both president and vice-president of the club.
Maschwitz left school in 1913 and went to work on a sheep station as a jackaroo, someone who was learning the business in order to become an owner, overseer or manager. He joined up in 1915 and sailed for Suez on 18 December 1915. In March 1916 he became a member of the newly-formed 104th Howitzer Battery, Australian Field Artillery and served with them from May 1916 until his death in August 1917.
Alan Maschwitz was his parents only child. Born on 24 November 1896, he was still only 20 when he died.



There's something about this inscription: Mr James Freer, who chose it for his son, didn't give his son's Christian name (I got that from his medal card), didn't give his age (I worked that out from the census), didn't provide any of the usual family information for the War Graves Commission's records, but did give the family's address as his son's personal inscription. A precise inscription, but quite anonymous too as I can't be the only person not to know where Pollokshaws is. And why didn't Mr Freer provide any other information about his son? Pollokshaws, by the way, was once a separate community but is now a suburb of Glasgow.
Yesterday's casualty lived at 51 Evelyn Gardens, South Kensington, today's at 52 Pollok Street, Pollokshaws, two very different residencies although unfortunately I can't tell you exactly what Pollock Street was like since the whole area was redeveloped in the 1950s and very little of it remains. I know enough to be able to say that it was a tenement, a flat, probably built in the early 20th century. It won't have been grand since James Freer senior obviously made money where he could: in the 1881 census he was an umbrella maker, in 1891 a coal salesman and 1901 a wood merchant who sold firewood, whereas the owner of 51 Evelyn Gardens was the Senior General Manager of the National Provincial Bank. But the two fathers had the same instinct - in using the family address for their son's personal inscription they were bringing him back home where he belonged.
Freer served with the 1/6th Black Watch and was most likely wounded on 31 July / 1 August when the battalion took part in the opening attack of the Third Ypres campaign at Pilckem Ridge. I say most likely because the battalion had spent most of July in training for the attack and, having been relieved on 1 August, it spent the rest of August resting, cleaning kit and training again.
The 1901 census shows there to have been three Freer brothers: Hugh, Andrew and James. Andrew Freer, serving with Drake Battalion Royal Naval Division, was killed in action on 23 March 1918 in the German Spring Offensive. His body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.



I find it strange when families choose to use their home address as a personal inscription. The casualty's address was automatically recorded by the War Graves Commission, there was no need to make it the inscription. But perhaps it was a way to bring the dead man home, to reclaim him from the battlefield. The repatriation of bodies having been forbidden, this was a way to tell the world, or at least any one who walked past his grave, where he belonged, where he'd come from.
Number 51 Evelyn Gardens was quite a grand address; a large, eleven-roomed house in a very smart part of London where in 1911 Mr and Mrs Thomas Estall lived with their 20 year-old son, Arthur Cecil, and three members of staff - a cook and two parlour maids. Mr Thomas Estall was Senior General Manager of the National Provincial Bank, Arthur Cecil was a clerk at the Bank of England. Yet I don't think it was the status of the address that made his father chose it as the inscription, plenty of other relations chose very humble addresses as inscriptions, I do think it was a matter of bringing the dead man home to where he belonged.
Cecil, as he was known, had been a member of the Honourable Artillery Company since 1909. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for foreign service and went with the 1st Battalion to France in October 1914. He was invalided home on 29 December 1914. There is no information as to what happened to him but page 25 of 'The Honourable Artillery Company in the Great War' relates how appalling their conditions had been:

"Our trenches had been made by the French, and were nothing but ditches full of liquid mud; there was no wire in front, and no material of any kind, nor were there any communication trenches. The only way the front line could be approached was over the open through a sea of mud, and across a bullet-swept area. Bullets came though the parapets as though they had been butter. In some of the trenches, the parapet was only breast high, and in order to get cover the men had to sit in the mud on the floor of the trench, and very often a man would find himself sitting on the chest of a mutely protesting Frenchman who had been lying there for a month or six weeks."

By the end of December, "a great number of men were suffering from exhaustion, exposure and frostbite. It turned out afterwards that this turn in the trenches cost the Battalion 12 officers and 250 men".

In March 1915, Estall received a commission in the Army Service Corps and in August joined the newly formed HQ Company Guards Division Train, a unit of the Army Service Corps. On 15 February 1917, The Times announced the news of his engagement to Miss Brenda Perronet Sells and then on 11 August, almost exactly six months later, the news of his death:

ESTALL - On the 8th Aug. of wounds received in action on the 6th Aug. Captain Arthur Cecil Estall, 51 Evelyn Gardens, SW, aged 26.

Every 8 August for the next twenty-six years, Cecil's mother remembered his death in The Times:

ESTALL - In memory of my only son A.C. Estall, "Cecil", who was wounded at Ypres 6th August 1917, died on the 8th, 7th Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, and was buried at the Eastern Cemetery, Boulogne.



"They are members of a team playing together in the greatest game of all. Their common heroism, their common sufferings in a common cause binds them with a tie such as never before been forged.
We British are not fighting merely to defend our commerce or even our homes from aggression; you Americans have not crossed the Atlantic merely to protect your shores; it is a higher cause that has brought us into the field together.
It is to protect the weak, to insure the reign of freedom and justice among future generations.
It is to defend right against might.
These are the highest ideals that men can live for. Those men at the front are sacrificing themselves for this ideal and for the good of the coming generation.
So you younger citizens owe a pretty big debt to your fathers and brothers who are standing for you at the front today. It is up to you to make their sacrifice worth while by yourselves playing the game in turn."
'Playing the Game' by Lt General Robert Baden-Powell
published in Boys Life The Boys Scouts [of America] Magazine July 1918

This article may have been published in an American magazine but you can see how Mr and Mrs Wright got the idea that their son Bert had sacrificed himself for right against might. It wouldn't have been the first time such sentiments had been expressed; they must have been commonplace in the Boy Scout movement throughout Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth - and not only in the Boy Scout movement.
Herbert Wright served with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and was killed in action near Boesinghe on 14 September 1917. His body was found two years later, six months after the death of his father.



This is another quotation from one of John Oxenham's poems. It comes from Epilogue 1914 published in All's Well Some Helpful Verse for these Dark Days of War. Oxenham blames the Kaiser for the war:

Thy slaughterings, - thy treacheries, - thy thefts, -
Thy broken pacts, - thy honour in the mire, -
Thy poor humanity cast off to sate thy pride; -
'Twere better thou hadst never lived, - or died

After several verses of accusation Oxenham asks, in capital letters, 'AND AFTER .......... WHAT?'

God grant the sacrifice be not in vain!
Those valiant souls who set themselves with pride
To hold Thy ways ... and fought ... and died, -
They rest with Thee.

So Mrs May, who chose her son's inscription, is taking comfort from Oxenham's assurance, that, 'no drop of hero's blood e'er runs to waste' because God, in His acknowledgeably obscure ways, will use it to ensure 'nobler doings', 'loftier hope' and 'all-embracing and enduring peace'.

Thomas May originally served as a private with the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, a volunteer reserve regiment based in Kandy, Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, which was made up of European tea and rubber planters. As, apart from his birth in Chertsey in 1891, there is no mention of either him or his parents in any of the census records, I am assuming that he grew up in Ceylon. He served with the Planters, guarding the Suez Canal, from 7 November 1914 until they were then sent to Gallipoli the following summer. In July 1916 he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps and was serving with the 143rd Company when he was killed in action on the 6 August 1917.



Private Corrall's widowed mother chose his patriotic and idealistic inscription, these were the causes for which her son had served and died - civilisation, humanity, King and country. We don't see it like that today but as John Humphreys said recently on the Today programme, perception is everything. Mrs Corrall was one of the vast number of people who 'perceived' the war this way.
What will have influenced her thinking? Well, having been born in 1851 the popular culture she imbibed from newspapers, fiction and the music halls, would have been full of patriotic stories of heroism and valour, and dying in the service of the crown. It's what made John Oxenham's poetry so popular. In fact the foreword to his best-selling book of verse, All's Well, quite possibly influenced Mrs Corrall's thinking:

"Those who have so nobly responded to the Call, and those who with quiet faces and breaking hearts, have so bravely bidden them 'God speed!' - with these, All is truly Well, for they are equally giving their best to what, in this case, we most of us devoutly believe to be the service of God and humanity.
War is red horror. But better war than the utter crushing-out of liberty and civilisation under the heel of Prussian or any other militarism."

Alexandra Corrall had joined the army, the 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment, in 1907 when he was 18. He was certainly still serving with it in 1911 but I have a feeling that he must have been on the reserve when the war broke out. According to his medal card, he entered a theatre of war on 20 September 1914. However, the 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment didn't return from Malta until November 1914 so he couldn't have still been with them.
Corrall served with the 9th Battalion Royal Scots, part of the 51st Highland Division. In reserve on the 31 July, they went into the frontline trenches on 2 August where they remained until the 4th. They did not take part in any attacks, raids or counter-attacks but as the war diary recorded:

August 2nd: Enemy heavily shelled front and support positions day and night ...
August 3rd: Enemy continued to shell front and support positions at times heavily ...
August 4th: Enemy artillery fire not as heavy or as continuous as on previous days ...

Corrall died in a casualty clearing station on 5 August, presumably wounded by the enemy shelling.

I'll finish by quoting this passage from the popular, music-hall star Harry Lauder's war-time memoir, A Minstrel in France. His son John, his only child, was killed in France in December 1916.

"John died in the most glorious cause, and he died the most glorious death it may be given to a man to die. He died for humanity. He died for liberty, and that this world in which life must go on, no matter how many die, may be a better world to live in. He died in a struggle against the blackest force and the direst threat that has appeared against liberty and humanity within the memory of man. And were he alive now, and were he called again to-day to go out for the same cause, knowing that he must meet his death - as he did meet it - he would go smilingly and as willingly as he went then. He would go as a British soldier and as a British gentleman, to fight and die for his King and his country. And I would bid him go."
A Minstrel in France Harry Lauder page 77
Andrew Melrose Lts 1918



It has been difficult to track down the source of this quotation, "How many hopes lie buried here". It's not an uncommon inscription on a child's grave and the words do appear in The Little Robe of White, a poem about the funeral of a baby girl , which was published in an American journal in 1865. But somehow this poem didn't seem an appropriate source for a soldier's grave, yet the quotation marks indicate that it is a quotation. Then I found it. It comes from A Night View of the Battle of Raisin and was written in 1813 by an obscure American poet called William Orlando Butler (1791-1880) who was wounded in the battle of Raisin in January 1813 when the United States was at war with the British and Native American Alliance.
The poem appears to have remained in manuscript form until 1912 at which point it came to modest prominence. The poet surveys the field in the aftermath of the battle:

The battle's o'er the din is past!
Night's mantle on the field is cast,
The moon with sad and pensive beam
Hangs sorrowing o'er the bloody stream.

The inscription comes from verse seven of this thirty-one verse poem:

For sad's the Dirge the Muse must sing
Fallen are the Flowers of the land.
How many hopes lie buried here?
The Father's joy, the Mother's pride.

You might wonder how Richard Cox's mother came by the poem and the answer probably lies in the fact that for all that he served in the Canadian Infantry, Richard Cox was an American, born in New York, whose parents lived in Long Beach, California. He was one of the many American citizens who joined the war long before their country did.
Cox served with Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, Eastern Ontario Regiment. On the morning of 30 October 1917 the regiment attacked at Meetcheele Ridge. Conditions were appalling, as their Commanding Officer made clear in a letter:

"The condition of the ground beggars description. Just one mass of shell-holes, all full of water. The strongest and youngest men cannot navigate without falling down. The people we relieve tell me in the attack, a great many of their men drowned in shell holes for want of strength to pull themselves out when dog-tired."

Major Papineau, Officer Commanding No. 3 Company, looking at the Ridge they were about to attack, and at the German defences, remarked to a fellow officer that the attack was suicide - Papineau was one of the first to be killed. We don't know at what point Cox was killed but his body was found at map reference v.30.D.2.1. almost exactly two years later.



Death is Swallowed up in Victory

Take comfort, ye who mourn a loved one, lost
Upon the battle-field,
Thank God for one, who, counting not the cost
Faced death and would not yield;
Thank God, although your eyes with tears are dim,
And sad your life and grey,
That howsoe'er the battle went for him
'Twas Victory that day.
With armour buckled on, and flag unfurled,
The heights of death he trod,
Translated from the warfare of the world
Into the peace of God

Sometimes I just don't know where people got their inscriptions from. Lines from this verse can be found on a number of war memorials all over the country and in death announcements and In Memoriam colums but the only place I've seen the whole poem, Death is Swallowed up in Victory, printed out is in 'Wycliffe and the War a School Record', and I'm pretty sure John Salter didn't go to Wycliffe.
Salter was the son of John Hambling Salter who ran a tailoring business in the High Street, South Brent Devon. He served with the 1st/1st (Warwick) Battery Royal Horse Artillery and was killed in action near Langemarck on the 4 August. On 17 August, The Western Times reported:

"The sad news has just been received by Mr JH Salter outfitter, that his eldest son, Sigr. JE Salter Warwickshire Regiment., has been killed in action in France. The greatest sympathy is felt for Mr ad Mrs Salter the deceased being a very bright young man, who was a great assistance in the business, and a favourite among all who knew him. He was a member of the Church choir in recognition of which the Dead March was played at Sunday's services."



Wilfred Dashwood was the fourth of Sir George Dashwood's seven sons - three of whom were killed in the war. From his inscription you can see that he had a fairly unorthodox military career: first a private, then a captain and finally a lieutenant. But you can also see that the fact of him having been a private was something his father was proud to record in his inscription.
Dashwood was, of course, no ordinary private but rather he was one in the Public School Corps.
On 26 August 1914 The Times published a letter signed 'The eight unattached', eight men who had tried but failed to get commissions.

"We are between thirty and thirty-five, absolutely fit and game for active service ... We have applied for commissions in the new Regulars but find we are too old. We have offered our services as musketry instructors, and we are informed we are too young ..."

The men's solution was to join the ranks but with this suggestion:

"Many advantages would result if we all joined the same regiment and all public school men of similar age and qualifications are invited to attend a formal meeting on Thursday next ..."

The meeting was convened at Claridges Hotel, which tells you something about the sort of men who planned to meet there. But as The Spectator tried to protest:

"There is no suggestion that the public school men are better than others, but it is natural to wish to spend possibly many weary months or years with people of one's own upbringing."

The months or years weren't necessarily to be spent fighting the war but waiting for a commission. Dashwood, having joined as a private, was obviously fairly quickly promoted to Captain but when in September 1916 he eventually got a commission in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards it was as a lieutenant.
On 31 July 1917, Dashwood led his company in a mopping up exercise just behind the first wave of attackers. He was wounded within the first two hours of the attack and died two days later. His elder brother, Ernest, aged 35, had been killed in 1915, as had his younger brother Lionel, aged 27. At one time the family had lived at Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire but Sir George Dashwood, the boys' father, sold it in 1908.



It won't surprise you to learn that Norman Cheetham's mother chose his inscription; her description of him has such a proudly informal, affectionate tone. She spoke no less than the truth. There's a photograph of Cheetham on the Australian War Memorial site and he is indeed a good looking boy.
It was his mother too who filled in the form for the Roll of Honour of Australia. Here she states that he was precisely 20 and 6 months old when he was killed on 31 July 1917. This means that he can't have been 19 when he embarked from Australia on 6 July 1915 as it says on the embarkation roll. He must have been only 18 and six months. If you look at the information at the bottom of the photograph you can see that it says that at 19 he was underage. Well he wasn't, at 19 you could serve abroad without parental permission, but not at 18, which was his true age. However, there is also a copy of a note from his parents: "Dear Norman, Father, mother give consent to enlist. We commit you to God's care."
His parents' comfort was that he had given his life for others. How did people rationalise this? According to this argument, the Germans, and their allies the Ottoman Turks, were a threat to the stability and safety of the civilised world. They were murderous barbarians. This poster, warning the women of Queensland that the Germans would treat them worse than they had treated the women of Belgium shows the thinking. It also demonstrates how Mrs Cheetham was able to console herself with the idea that her son had given his life for others.



War Diary 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
31 July 1917
Trenches: map reference St Julien 28. N.W.2.
The Fifth Army attacked the German lines North of Ypres this morning at dawn and the Battalion took part in the attack, jumping off at 3.50 am. The objective - Mon du Basta and Mon Bulgare - were reached but the fighting still continues.

The 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders were part of the 51st Highland Division whose divisional history summed up the battle over the two days 31 July and 1 August as:

"the neatest and cleanest performance which the Division had carried out. It was delivered against the Germans while their fighting efficiency was still unimpaired, and while their numbers were still unappreciably diminished. Moreover, it was delivered against a position hidden from view, which had been deliberately fortified during the preceding years with every artifice the ingenuity of the Boche could devise, and contained the concrete barrage-proof farms and the entirely unexpected concrete blockhouses.
The success, indeed, was so complete that, even after the battle was over, nothing which could have been an improvement in the plan of attack suggested itself."

The action was considered to have been a success. However, over those two days the Division suffered 1,515 other-rank casualties - killed, wounded and missing. Private Sandilands was one of them. It's a figure that is incomprehensible to us in 2017; fifteen would be too many let alone ten times that. But as the eminent historian, Jay Winter, comments in his most recent book, War Beyond Words, this was an era when people considered war to be a legitimate tool of political life. It's not how people see it in Western Europe today, in part as a consequence of the First World War's gigantic casualties. We can hope that in another hundred years perhaps the whole world will see it this way

Private Sandiland's father, Robert Sandiland, chose his inscription. It comes from The Hour of Death by the early Victorian poet, Felicia Hemans. Everything in the world has a time - for sleeping, eating, sun rise, sun set, autumn, spring, summer, but death can come at any time:

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set - but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, oh! death



On 31 July 1917 the British launched an attack along the whole of the Ypres front, from Boesinghe in the north to Wytschaete in the south. The 6th Battalion Black Watch, with which Clouston served, was part of the 51st Highland Division. Their divisional history records:

"Of the battalions engaged on the Divisional front, the 6th Black Watch sustained most casualties, 9 officers and 292 other ranks. This battalion had suffered considerably in the half hour before zero while lying assembled immediately in rear of the old British front line, and again while waiting for the barrage to move forward from in front of the Black outpost line. In this position the men were swept by a machine-gun firing from Gournier Farm."

Clouston's father, a bank teller from Glasgow, chose his inscription. It may seem highly inappropriate to us for someone to describe fighting as playing the game, but that's not what it meant. Playing the game means doing what is expected of you, as a member of a team, enthusiastically and to the best of your abilities. It's what the schoolboy meant in Newbolt's much derided poem, Vitai Lampada, when it was his voice that rallied the ranks with the cry of 'Play up, play up and play the game'.
However, Clouston's inscription does not come from Newbolt's poem but from The Lost Master by the Anglo-Canadian poet, Robert Service (1874-1958). The 'master', who I read as an officer, tells his men that when he dies he doesn't want any elaborate rituals or praise, "But just the line ye grave for me: 'He played the game'"

So when his glorious task was done,
It was not of the fame we thought;
It was not of his battles won,
But of the pride with which he fought;
But of his zest, his ringing laugh,
His trenchant scorn of praise or blame:
And so we graved his epitaph,
"He played the game."



Talbot Robertson Preston had the signed permission of both his parents when he joined up at the age of 18 and 3 months on 26 August 1916. He needed it as without this permissio, he would not have been able to go abroad until he was 19. This means that he was still only 18 and 7 months when he embarked for Britain on 23 December 1916. But as his headstone inscription asks - How could I stay? This wasn't just a simple statement but the last line of a very patriotic piece of verse written by James Drummond Burns who, like Talbot Robertson, was a former pupil of Scotch College in Melbourne.

The bugles of England were blowing o'er the sea,
As they had called a thousand years, calling now to me;
They woke me from dreaming in the dawning of the day,
The bugles of England - and how could I stay?

The banners of England, unfurled across the sea,
Floating out upon the wind, were beckoning to me;
Storm-rent and battle torn, smoke stained and grey,
The banners of England - and how could I stay?

O England, I heard the cry of those that died for thee,
Sounding like an organ-voice across the winter sea;
They lived and died for England, and gladly went their way -
England, O England - how could I stay?

Robertson arrived in Britain on 17 February 1917 and on 22 August went to France. He was wounded barely a month later, on 29 September. Evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station, he was operated on the next day for 'severe gun shot wound of left thigh'. On 1 October he was admitted to No. 26 General Hospital at Etaples where he died six days later.
James Drummond Burns, the author of the verse, had been killed in Gallipoli in September 1915. Although Burns' words are quoted relatively frequently one way or another on headstone inscriptions, Burns' own headstone quotes Henry Newbolt's Clifton College:

Qui ante diem periit
Sed miles sed pro patria.

Who died before his time but as a soldier and for his country.



This is a very bleak inscription however you look at it. These are Hamlet's dying words from Shakespeare's play of the same name. Of all the possible meanings the words could have they certainly mean that for Hamlet, once he's dead, the voices in his head, the guilt, the anguish he has felt ever since his father's death, will be over. What did Private Gibson's father intend them to mean?
Gibson served with the 6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment which attacked from an assembly line NE of Naves at 9 am on 11 October 1918. The war diary notes the initial lack of resistance and the number of German prisoners that flocked back. However, at mid-day the Germans counter-attacked with tanks, forcing the British to withdraw 500 yards to the sunken road. But overnight the Germans withdrew to a new position.
There are 53 casualties of the 11 October 1918 in Iwuy Communal Cemetery, all but three of them from the West Riding or West Yorkshire Regiments. By this stage in the war the number of German soldiers giving themselves up was very notable and, despite the fact that they were able to mount a counter-attack, the German withdrawal to a new line meant that the end was nearing. There was just exactly one month more of the war to go.
So what might Mr John Gibson, a railway worker from Newcastle on Tyne, have meant by his son's inscription? That death was the end - certainly; that there was nothing after it, no eternal life - perhaps. Perhaps it was also a reference to spiritualism, a refutation that there was or ever could be any contact with the dead, his son was gone and forever. As I said at the beginning - it's a bleak inscription.



The light of her young life went down,
As sinks behind the hill
The glory of a setting star,
Clear, suddenly, and still.
GONE 1845
John Greenleaf Whttier 1807-1892

Laurence Minot's father may not have quoted the words exactly as Whittier wrote them but Whittier's poem on the death of his sister is the inspiration for Minot's inscription.
After a phenomenal month in which he achieved six aerial victories between the 1st and the 27th July 1917 (qualifying as a flying 'ace'), Minot was himself shot down on the 28th - one week after his 21st birthday. Initially listed as missing, Flight magazine reported on the 7 March 1918:

"Captain Laurence Minot RFC, who was reported missing on July 28th 1917 is now, from information obtained from German sources by the British Red Cross Society, officially concluded to have been killed in aerial combat on that date near Heuelbeke."

Buried by the Germans, Minot's body was reburied in Heulebeke Communal Cemetery in 1923. In May 1926, the Air Ministry announced:

"A new trophy, to be known as the Laurence Minot Memorial Trophy, has been presented by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous in memory of the late Captain Laurence Minot, MC, Royal Flying Corps, who was killed on July 28 1917, in air combat whilst serving with No. 57 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. Competition for this trophy, which will be awarded annually to the crew of the bombing aeroplane which obtains the highest degree of accuracy in individual classification bombing practices for the current year, will be open to all bombing squadrons under the command of the Air Officer Commander in Chief, Air Defence of Great Britain."
Flight on 26 May 1926

The anonymous donor was, of course, Minot's father. The trophy, a magnificent silver eagle with wings outstretched, is no longer awarded but has been presented for safe-keeping to No. 57 Squadron, Minot's own squadron, which also owns his Military Cross.
Laurence Minot, the child of his second marriage, was his father's only son. For many years he put an In Memoriam announcement in The Times on the anniversary of his son's death. The last time on 28 July 1937:

"In proud and ever-loving memory of my gallant son, Captain Laurence Minot MC, RFC, killed in aerial engagement near Meulebeke, Flanders, July 28 !917, aged 21."



This is a real cry of despair from Mrs Rose Sumner, a widow whose husband had died in 1913. It must have been an emotion felt by many of the bereaved but no one has articulated it quite so plainly as this. The 1901 census shows there to have been a nine-year-old daughter, May. But there is no trace of her later.
James Sumner's father had been a stone mason, as his father had been before him, but James became a professional soldier. The 1911 census shows him to have been serving in India with the 64th Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He was with the same battery when he died of wounds in a Casualty Clearing Station on 27 May 1917.
There is no individual information about Sumner's death but the 5th Brigade's war diary records it as being in Cite de Caumont where hostile planes, hostile balloons and hostile shelling are a daily occurance.



It is unusual to see an inscription like this. Most people do not rail against God, rather they say they are prepared to accept His will: 'Not my will but thine O Lord'; 'God knoweth best'; 'We cannot Lord thy purpose see but all is well that's done by thee'. This won't do for Mrs Augusta Renaud. Married in 1911, her inscription challenges God and declares that her heart will never heal. And perhaps it never did. Augusta Renaud did eventually remarry but not until 1957, forty years after her first husband's death. She died in 1978 aged 84.
Renaud originally served with The Queen's Royal West Kent Regiment but at the time of his death was with the Labour Corps. This suggests that he had been wounded, reducing his medical fitness from A1. However, whilst this might mean that you were not fit enough to be a front line soldier it didn't keep you away from danger. Renaud is buried in Canada Farm Cemetery, a front line dressing station cemetery.



The destination of dead British soldiers tended to be heaven, or some Classical haven of heroes and gods where they would achieve immortality. I've not seen Valhalla mentioned before. It's an appropriate place since it's the Nordic destination of those who have died in combat, a place to which they are led by Valkyries. However, as the nineteenth century progressed Valhalla became increasingly associated with Germanic heroes, especially after the operas of Richard Wagner brought both Valhalla and the Valkyries into greater prominence in Germany.
Herbert Henry Renshaw was the second of his parents' seven children. His younger brother, Arthur Edwin, signed for his inscription. Father Renshaw was an insurance agent, Herbert Henry Renshaw was an assistant in a furniture shop. He joined the East Anglian Cycle Corps in May 1915 and served with them in France and Flanders from August 1916. He later transferred to the 11th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and was with them when he was killed on 25 September 1917.
The 11th Battalion war diary does not make any mention of casualties on 25 September:

"Battalion moved up to assembly position in Tower Hamlets sector relieving the 12th Royal Sussex Regt. Relief complete 11 pm."

The next day the entry reads:

"Bn attacked at 5.50 pm and captured all objectives and about 40 prisoners"

Renshaw's body, together with those of two other soldiers from the Royal Sussex Regiment, was not found until April 1919. Renshaw was identified by his disc and his paybook. The other two soldiers were never identified.



Mr Valiant-for-Truth is a character in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress who, when he knew his death to be imminent, called his friends together and told them:

"I am going to my Father's; and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage; and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who will now be my rewarder."

Thomas Fremantle's mother, Lady Cottesloe, chose his inscription. As you can see, it's not an exact quotation from Pilgrim's Progress but it is close enough for the association to be made. I wonder whether there is a hidden message here. Thomas Fremantle was his father's eldest son and the heir to the title, Lord Cottesloe. Therefore in a very real sense there would be someone to succeed him in this position after his death - his younger brother, John, who did indeed become the 4th Lord Cottesloe on the death of his father in 1956.
Fremantle was a King's Scholar at Eton when he insisted on leaving school in September 1914, whilst he was still only 17, to take a commission in the 5th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He went with the battalion to France in May 1915. He was now 18 but without his parents' signed permission he would not have been able to go. Four months later, on 25 September, he was wounded in the head and back by shrapnel when a shell burst over his trench. Evacuated to a base hospital near Boulogne, where his parents were able to visit him, he died three weeks later.

There is more information about Thomas Fremantle on the Swanborne History site



James Robertson, born in Jedburgh, Scotland on 23 July 1888, was a baker in Woodstock, Ontario when he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry on 10 July 1916, giving his mother, Christina Robertson, in Jedburgh as his next of kin. She chose his inscription. It comes from an anonymous piece of memorial verse. The earliest I've seen it quoted is in the Brisbane Courier in December 1888. It became popular on funeral cards, In Memoriam columns in newspapers and in death announcements. The two verses of the poem read:

Remember what they were, with thankful heart,
The bright, the brave, the tender, and the true.
Remember where they are - from sin apart,
Present with God - yet not estranged from you.

But never doubt that love, and love alone,
Removed our loved ones from this trial scene:
Nor idly dream, since they to God have gone,
Of what, had they been left, they might have been.

Robertson served with the 18th Battalion Canadian Infantry. On 18 August 1917 the battalion came out of the front line and spent the 19th and the 20th resting at Bully-Grenay. The war diary recorded that at 9.30 am on the 21st the battalion:

"proceeded to Bouvigny Huts going into Corps Reserve. On the road 'D' Coy sustained 52 casualties, 23 of which were fatal, by the bursting of an enemy shell (high velocity). This bringing our casualties to approx 220 during the tour."

Robertson must have been one of the 23 fatal casualties. It was two days before his 29th birthday.



This is a tribute from a sister to her brother, John Ripley, a butcher from North Cowton near Darlington in Yorkshire. Called up in 1916, Ripley served with the 9th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery and died of wounds at a Field Ambulance Dressing Station in Dikkebus on 7 August 1917, a week into the Third Ypres Campaign.
I have no doubt that Mary Ripley believed the words she chose to describe her brother: that he was honourable, noble and generous, but they are very much the qualities of an idealised type. However, it shows how important these qualities were considered to be. Yesterday, William Hadley Frank Redgate was described by his wife as 'the most unselfish and loveable natured man". This definitely has the ring of individuality to it, but Mary Ripley has done her brother proud.



What a lovely tribute from a wife to her husband - unselfish and loveable natured. I'm always very impressed when the next-of-kin say what they want to say rather than feel constrained into saying something conventionally formulaic.
Maude Ethel Redgate had been married to her husband for seven years when he was killed at Passchendaele. At the time of the 1911 census they had no children. However, when Mrs Redgate died in 1957 - 40 years after her husband and still living at the same address - probate was granted to Daisy Beatrice Cant, married woman. I'd like to think this was a daughter.
William Hedley Frank Redgate was a waiter before he joined up. He served with the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment, which, at the time of his death, was in the trenches at Bulow Farm. The war diary for 14 October records that the battalion moved into the line, holding the front from: - V.26.a.2.4 to V.19.d.9.9. The next day, the day Redgate was killed, it simply says, "Holding line. Patrols pushed forward during the night 15/16th Oct. 1917".
Redgate's body was not found until September 1919 at map reference V.25.b.4.7. There were three other members of the Essex Regiment found at the same spot. This looks to me like one of the patrols.



William Ramsden, Herbert's elder brother, signed for this inscription. The parents were both still alive but perhaps their literacy was uncertain. The words come from the chorus of a popular song written in 1916 by an Australian singer, song writer called Alfred Morley.

Rest, soldier rest,
In thy grave on the hill-side,
Far from the ones you have left o'er the foam.
Rest till God's trumpet shall call you from slumber,
To meet once again in your heavenly home.

Despite the fact that it's a very Australian patriotic song:

Let all the world know Australia's story,
How her brave sons faced that curtain of shell,
"Boys fix your bayonets, charge! for Old England,"
Into the jaws of death, into that hell

And that it's concerned with the dead of Gallipoli:

Sweet be their rest on Gallipoli's hillside
Calm be their sleep in a soldier's last grave

The song must have circulated in Britain for the Ramsdens to know it.
Herbert Ramsden, 35 years and 10 months old, and 5' 4" tall as itemised on his attestation form, was a coal miner, born and bred in Yorkshire. In 1911 he was boarding with his sister-in-law, Jane, whose husband, Tom Ramsden, had been killed in a mining accident in 1910. Herbert joined up on 11 January 1915 and arrived in France on 1 May that year. He served with the 1st/4th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, part of the 49th West Riding Division, and was killed in an attack near Potijze Chateau, one of the 160 casualties - killed, wounded and missing - that the battalion suffered that day.



Herbert Quick volunteered in May 1915 when he was 18 and 10 months old. If they were under 19, soldiers had to have their parents' signed consent to serve abroad. Quick's attestation form notes that he has his father's consent. Quick did not have to enlist, there was never any conscription in Australia; how bitterly his parents must have regretted this when he was killed - their "brave and only child".
Quick served with the 3rd Australian Pioneers. He died in a general hospital in St Sever. There's no indication as to when he was wounded but from 21 October to 12 November 1917 the battalion were out of the line, billeted in the village of Wavrens resting and undergoing training. Prior to 21 October, the battalion had been engaged in building a mule track from Zonnebeke to Seine Road. Work began on 1 October and from then until the 21st between 1 and 12 ORs (other ranks) were wounded every day, except for the 11th, 12th and 17th when there were 'nil' casualties. This is probably when Quick was wounded.



This is a fairly standard piece of memorial verse found during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century on headstones, funeral cards and In Memoriam columns. However, when found as the personal inscription of a soldier who died of wounds in a base hospital I always wonder whether the reference to pain might not be more relevant than usual.
Albert Purnell, a money-lender's clerk from Mile End in East London, served with the 62nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Equipped with heavy howitzers, their target was the enemy artillery, their strong points, ammunition dumps, roads and railways. And of course, they in turn were the enemy's target. A direct hit on a gun pit was devastating
The 62nd Siege Battery had been in Flanders since June 1917, fully involved in the Third Ypres Campaign. Purnell died of wounds in a base hospital in Wimereaux. Casualty Clearing Stations took the lesser wounded or those who were likely to die more quickly, base hospitals were for the severely wounded. In these circumstances, "patient in pain" has an ominous ring to it.



Walter Penfold's inscription is occasionally seen in In Memoriam columns and as a dedication on war memorials. It's not poetry but nor was it ever intended to be. It's anonymous author, signing himself 'Cambrensis', included it in a letter he wrote to The Spectator, which was published on 27 November 1915:

Sir, - In our universities, and everywhere, older men are thinking daily of the spirit in which our gallant youths, one after the other, have said farewell to their teachers and friends when leaving England for the field of battle, where many of them have bravely fallen. There were no loud heroics when they went: simply, "I know I ought to go, and I am going"; or, "I want to do my bit." The following four short lines (they are not poetry, nor even polished verse) attempt to suggest in the fewest and plainest words some faint shadow of the feeling graven deep on many a mind by the remembrance of those who have thus gone, and most especially of those who will not now return: -
No hate was theirs, no thirst for fame,
When forth to death by honour sent.
Life beckoned sweet; the great call came;
They knew their duty, and they went.

Walter Penfold served with 'C' Coy, 1st/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, a territorial battalion drawn from East Grinstead and Crawley in Surrey. The battalion served in Gallipoli until the evacuation in December 1915; Penfold's medal card shows that he first entered a theatre of war - the Balkans - on 2 December 1915. In 1917 the battalion were in Palestine where Penfold was killed in the battle for Tell Khuweilfe, 3-7 November.



This lovely inscription comes from the Book of Common Prayer version of Psalm 139 verses 8 & 9:

"If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me."

It was chosen for nineteen-year-old Lieutenant Pember by his father, Francis Pember, Warden of All Souls College, Oxford.
Pember, who went to Harrow with a Classical scholarship, won a Mathematics exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford in December 1914 when he was still only 16. He never took up his place at Oxford but rather took a commission in the Royal Field Artillery in July 1915, when he was 17. He served in Gallipoli and Egypt and then joined the Royal Flying Corps in the autumn of 1916, aged 18. In May 1917 he joined 5 Squadron in France. Five months later he was killed when:

"On the morning of September 30th he was flying over enemy lines taking photographs when he was attacked by four enemy scout machines, who came down on him suddenly from a great height. His machine was brought down, and both he and his observer were killed."
Flight magazine 11 October 1917

"If I take the wings of the morning ..."



The words of this inscription come from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, begs him to stay at home because she fears for his life. Caesar replies:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

The inscription, chosen by Gunner Moore's father a fisherman from Gravesend in Kent, is a literary way of saying that his son was a brave man, who knew the risks he was taking when he enlisted in November 1915. Moore wasn't an original volunteer but by November 1915 he knew conscription was coming and joined up before he was called up.
I'm curious about this inscription, or rather about the Moores. They weren't obviously educated people - both father and son were fishermen, sister was a servant, mother was 'at home', yet they have chosen an eloquent, original and appropriate inscription that I haven't noticed before.
Moore served with the 96th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, which went to France in May 1916, whether Moore was with it at that date is never easy to ascertain but he was certainly with it when he died of wounds on 16 August 1917. The Battery had newly transferred to the Canadian Corps and in mid-July was at Lievin. The Historical Record of 96th Siege Battery R.G.A. records the circumstances of his death:

"On the night of August 14th, the eve of the assault [on Hill 60], the Battery was heavily shelled with gas and H.E. In spite of this, 120 rounds were fired and many lorries of ammunition unloaded. Bombardier Staines, Gunner Wain, Gunner Neill, and Gunner Moore were killed on this most unpleasant night, and Gunner Taylor was wounded."

According to the CWGC records, Gunner Moore died of wounds, which is born out by the fact that he's buried in a Casualty Clearing Station Cemetery and that his date of death is given as the 16th, not on either the 14th or the 15th, the night of the heavy shelling.



This is a rather mangled, though still recognisable, quotation from Joseph Addison's play, Cato (1712). The words are spoken by Cato's son, Portius, to Sempronius, one of the senators:

"Tis not in mortals to command success; but we'll do more Sempronius, we'll deserve it."

The play was a favourite of George Washington's who quoted from it regularly, particularly these lines.
McDowall's father, a painter and decorator in Maida Vale, chose the inscription, although by the time he chose it he and his wife were living in New Zealand.
McDowell was entitled to the 1915 Star having arrived in France on 5 October 1915. He survived for almost exactly two years, serving with the 7th Divisional Ammunition Column throughout the Somme campaign and the Arras Offensive before the Division moved to Ypres in the summer of 1917. Here it took part in the Third Ypres Campaign: Polygon Wood, 26 September to 3 October; Broodseinde 4 October; Poelcapelle 9 October, 1st Passchendaele 12 October. McDowall died in a Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek on the 13th.



Maston's inscription comes from John Travers Cornwall, a poem by John Oxenham, published in 1917 in his book The Vision Splendid. Oxenham, the pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley, was, as Connie Ruzich has persuasively argued, the most popular poet of the First World War. He was certainly extremely popular with families at home, the next-of-kin who chose the personal inscriptions. Maston's inscription comes from verse 3:

Britain be proud of such a son!
Deathless the fame that he has won
Only a boy, but such a one!
Standing forever to his gun;
There was his duty to be done,
And he did it.

Fourteen-year-old Cornwall won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Jutland by staying with his gun and awaiting orders whilst the rest of his gun crew were dead and, as Oxenham put it, 'mounded around him'.
Harold William Maston did not win a Victoria Cross but he had been awarded a Military Medal. This proved useful when it came to identifying ten soldiers found in unmarked graves on the old battlefield north of Ypres in March 1920. Three still had their identity discs but Maston could only be identified by his medal ribbon and his sergeant's chevrons. He had been killed in action in the attack on Broodseinde Ridge.
On Friday 7 March 1930 The Singleton Argus reported:

"Mr William Maston, a prominent Sydney businessman, died on Sunday while travelling to France to visit the grave of his son, Sergeant Harold Maston. The funeral took place at Aden on Tuesday."



Private Martin served with the 58th Battalion Canadian Infantry, which was 'In the Field' 10 km north-east of Arras on 13 September 1917. The entry in the battalion war diary for that day reads:

"1 O.R. killed. Wind west ten miles per hour. Situation quiet."

That one O.R. was Thomas Frederick Martin from North Bay, Ontario who had enlisted in North Bay on 5 April 1916. There is no indication as to what caused this one O.R.'s death but Martin is buried in Beehive Cemetery, so called after a German machine-gun emplacement in the area that was known as The Beehive.
Martin's father chose his inscription, describing his son's place of death as 'honour's field, and 'glorious liberty' as the cause for which he died. Both of these deeply romantic phrases seem rather at odds with the rather brutally matter-of-fact report of Martin's death - '1 O.R. killed'.
The inscription finishes with a sentiment that is often found expressed in one form or another in the war cemeteries whether it takes the form 'Thy will be done' or as here, 'God knew best'.



What a difference a hundred years makes. That may sound strange but just look at what Percy Marston's widowed mother and sisters thought the war was about - 'country, honour, truth' - and how much do we now think that all that was at stake a hundred years ago? And how much could we now all say that it was worth the price - the price of hundreds and thousands of young men losing their lives, their health and their sanity, let alone the collapse of empires, the displacement of millions of people and etc etc? And yet, that IS how many people saw it - it's just how it was. Not, of course, that they knew what they were letting themselves in for when the war began.
And who was it who was proud to have paid the price - does Mrs Marston mean she and her daughters were, or was it her son she was referring to? Whichever it was, the conviction would have brought with it consolation as Mrs Marston mourned her only son.
Percy Marston, educated at Ripon Grammar School and a clerk at the National Provincial Bank in Knaresborough, enlisted in October 1915. He served on the Western Front from March to September 1916 when he was invalided home. On recovering, he took a commission in the Durham Light Infantry, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on 15 July 1917, returned to France in August and died on 20 September of wounds caused by a bomb dropped from an enemy plane.



Lines of soldiers don't sweep on any more, whether in triumph or otherwise, that's just not how fighting occurs these days. Nor is it how it occurred during much of the First World War, the soldiers were stuck in trenches and when they tried sweeping out they were usually mown down by machine guns or caught by artillery. Eventually they developed the technique of snatching and holding and it was only at the very end, after 8 August 1918, that any triumphant 'sweeping' could be said to have taken place. By this time Clarence John Lovell had been dead for ten months - one of the heroes who 'stayed' behind.
The inscription sounds as though it's a quotation but it doesn't appear to be. It was composed by Lovell's father, John Charles Lovell, a baker and confectioner in Leamington Spa whose wife, Clement John's mother, is one of the very few women I've come across in my research for this project who also had a job. She was described in the 1911 census as 'manageress confectionary'; I would imagine in her husband's business.
Clement John Lovell, a teacher at Rugby Road School, Leamington was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery in February 1917. He served with the 274th Siege Battery, part of 62nd Brigade. The Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser announced his death on 27 October 1917, quoting how a fellow officer told his parents: "He was a splendid officer, capable and full of courage, and we feel his loss deeply". As would his parents - Clement John was their only child.



In the twenty-first-century there's a danger that this inscription might be taken the wrong way; it could sound as though the speaker was implying that he was a muggins for volunteering - "of course I was one". I am absolutely sure that this is not how Frank Loker's father, who chose the inscription, meant it. After all, Frank Loker wasn't the only one to volunteer in September 1914, his father, also called Frank Loker, volunteered on the 20 September, twelve days after his son.
Father had previously been a member of the 1st Volunteer Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, so he was a returning soldier, which explains why the day after he volunteered he was promoted Company Quartermaster Sergeant.
The son, crossed to France on 14 February 1915 with the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment. The Cambridgeshires served in France and Flanders throughout the whole war, acquitting themselves with distinction in the capture of the Schwaben Redoubt in October 1916. In September 1917 the battalion were in Flanders, they moved to Hill 60 on 2 September and Private Frank Loker was killed the next day.
Sergeant Major Frank Loker went to France with the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment in July 1915. He remained in France until he was transferred to the reserve in February 1919. But I'm not sure that he came home even then because his address after the war was C/O War Graves Commission, St Omer, France. He may have become a gardener with the Commission, many old soldiers did, and why not when your son was buried in one of its cemeteries.



Something about this inscription piqued my interest, what had Lieutenant Kinna done that made his mother want to choose 'He knew no fear' as his inscription? Kinna had been awarded a Military Cross, gazetted on 31 July 1916. The citation read:

"When in command of an assaulting party [he] showed conspicuous courage and initiative in leading his men and repelling counter attacks. By his cheerfulness and confidence he inspired his men in critical situations."

This could explain his mother's choice. Then I came across another website which said that shortly after winning his MC, Kinna's health had broken down and he had returned to England. By June 1917 he was able to take up light military duties and on 8 September he returned to France. He died of wounds four days later.
However, that was not the end of the story. A website run by David Kinna filled in the details. At the end of May 1917 Kinna was admitted to hospital suffering from delusions. According to his Commanding Officer, Kinna was suffering from alcoholism. Nevertheless, he was declared fit enough to return to the front on 8 September. Four days later he walked out of the mess tent and shot himself in the head in front of several witnesses. Kinna did die of wounds but the wounds he died from were self inflicted.
His mother was given the idea that he had died of wounds received in action but she was not satisfied and wanted to know more. Eventually, on 1 November 1917, she was told the truth - and knowing the truth she still chose this inscription. 'He knew no fear' takes on a different meaning when you know what happened.



I often wonder how people come across some of the poems from which they quote. Thomas Kershaw's inscription is from a gentle piece of verse written by a fairly obscure American teacher and occasional poet called Julia Harris May (1833-1912), Live Day by Day. There is no evidence it was published in Britain. The poem begins:

I heard a voice at evening softly say:
Bear not thy yesterday into tomorrow,
Nor load this week with last week's load of sorrow;
Lift all thy burdens as they come, nor try
To weight the present with the by and by.
One step and then another, take thy way -
Live day by day.
Live day by day.

And ends:

Watch not the ashes of the dying ember.
Kindle thy hope. Put all thy fears away -
Live day by day.

Perhaps the fact that Mrs Mary Ellen Kershaw, Thomas Kershaw's mother, was a Canadian, or at least, was born in Canada, explains how she came across it.
The Kershaws had two children, a son and a daughter. Thomas, a teacher, joined up in September 1915 and disembarked in France on 18 November 1915, which entitled him to the 14-15 Star. He served with the 19th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, which in October 1917 was just north of Ypres. Kershaw is buried in Canada Farm Cemetery, the site of a former dressing station, so it would probably be safe to assume that he died of wounds he'd received that same day.



Joscelyne's inscription comes from the last verse of Robert Browning's final poem, Epilogue, from his final volume of verse, Asolando. The poem is not an uncommon source for inscriptions but they are usually lines chosen from verse two:

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

The poem is thought to be Browning's summary of himself, a man whose optimism about life never failed. The final verse carries that optimism to death:

"Strive and thrive!" cry "Speed, - fight on, fare ever
There as here!"

Clement Joscelyne was a thirty-one-year-old married man with two children when he returned from Argentina in September 1916 in order to join up. I'm pretty sure the long arm of conscription couldn't have reached him there but he must have felt it was his duty. Commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in June 1917 he went with it to France in July and was killed three months later. The battalion went up to the front on 9 October to repair the roads immediately behind the front line. The working party was under continuous enemy bombardment and Joscelyne was hit by shell fragments. He died the next day. Whilst he was in France, his wife gave birth to a son who he never saw. She chose his inscription.



Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette
Saturday 24 November 1917
Mr William Jobling, 7, Mulgrove Street, has been officially informed of the death of his son, Pte. Frederick Jobling, D.L.I., which occurred on October 8th. An officer of the regiment writes that Pte. Jobling, who met his death by an enemy shell exploding when on his way to a rest camp, was always bright and cheerful, highly respected, and devoted to his duties. The deceased joined the Army in March, 1915, prior to which he was a wireman at Messrs Craven's Ropery. He had also been wounded on a previous occasion. Another son, Pte. Joseph Jobling, West Yorks Regiment, was killed in action on October 30th, 1916, while a third son, Thomas Jobling, late of the D.L.I., has been discharged from the Army after having his left leg amputated through wounds received in action.

There were five Jobling brothers, Frederick, Thomas and Joseph were the three youngest. Joseph, who was not killed in action but died of wounds in a hospital in Etaples, does not have an inscription. Frederick's inscription was signed for by his mother. It's a quote from a patriotic poem, 'Sergeant, Call the Roll', written by J. Smedley Norton during the South African War. Both poem and author are very obscure, so obscure that the Internet has hardly heard of either of them. However, that wasn't the case at the time. The poem was written in the style of a music hall monologue and permission was needed from the publisher, the Black and White Budget, before it could be recited in public. The Budget reported in 1904 that more than 600 such requests had been received.
M. Van Wyk Smith, in his book 'Poetry of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902' (Clarendon Press Oxford 1978) expresses the opinion that the poem has "no poetic merit, but [that] as a skilful pastiche of sentiment, patriotism, and melodramatic heartache as appreciated by a Victorian music hall audience, it stands as a supreme example of its kind".
A sergeant is given the task of calling the roll after the battle:

Show us the price of victory,
Just tell us what it cost;
Say what the Motherland has gained,
And also what she's lost.

The sergeant's son is among the dead:

Though his heart is well-nigh breaking,
Tears in his eyes are seen,
He ends his task of sorrow
Like a soldier of the Queen.

Frederick's inscription comes from the last verse:

They have answered God's field order
Given Death the last salute,
The guns are now unlimbered,
And the cannon's roar is mute,
The curfew note has sounded
Its sad and mournful knell,
The sentry's word rings clear and loud,
"Good night! All's well!"



Joseph Johnston was a reservist with the King's Own Scottish Borderers, which means he had already had a career in the regular army and was serving his time in the reserve, normally five years. He had married in 1912 and was working with the firm of Barr and Stroud, optical engineers in Glasgow, when the war broke out. He rejoined immediately. In his capacity as a returning soldier, probably an NCO, he went to the 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, a New Army battalion often known as the Glasgow Boys Brigade Battalion.
After helping to train them, Johnston went with the battalion to France in November 1915. He was killed on the eve of the Somme attack, one of two soldiers killed whilst the battalion were still bivouacking in Bouzincourt. At the end of the following day the battalion had suffered 20 officer and 534 other rank casualties out of the 25 officers and 755 other ranks who had gone into action.
Johnston's brother, Lance Corporal John Douglas Johnston, was on the reserve of the Scots Guards. He returned to his regiment when the war broke out and crossed to France with the 2nd Battalion, landing in November 1914. He was killed in action in an attack on the German trenches at Fromelles on 18 December 1914.
Joseph Johnston's inscription was chosen by Mrs M Mills, 18 Sheppard Street, Springdown, Glasgow. I don't know who she was. Johnston's wife remarried and became Mrs Gilmartin, but she must have been dead before the inscription was chosen as she is referred to as the late Mary Ellen Johnston. However, John Johnston's inscription, 'Memories dear', was chosen by his mother and she too lived at 18 Sheppard Street, Springburn, Glasgow. I would suggest therefore that Mrs M Mills was a sister and that she and her mother chose the inscription - 'We can't forget' - not, as most people said one way or another, we'll never forget but we can't forget.



The quotation comes from St Matthew Chapter 22 verse 14. This is the parable of the wedding feast where a king, having sent out invitations to his feast, ejects the man who doesn't turn up wearing the appropriate garments. The meaning of the parable is that all are invited to partake of the feast - invited to partake of God's grace - but if you aren't prepared to play your part through faith and repentance - wear the correct attire - then you will be ejected - you will be found wanting on the day of judgement.
I wonder what Horace Webster's brother, John, meant to imply by his choice of inscription - that Horace would be one of the chosen - that he would be accepted on the day of judgment because he did believe? I expect this is the sense he intended it but many, many men were 'called' between 1914 and 1918. They either answered the call of the recruiting posters and volunteered, or they were called by conscription. The chosen could be those who died, having been 'chosen' by God.
Webster's medal roll card shows him to have been entitled to the War and Victory medals not the 1914 or 15 Star so he was probably not a volunteer. He served originally with the Yorkshire Regiment and then with the Welsh Fusiliers. This is either a sign that on your arrival in France, or on your recovery from illness or wounds, you were sent where you were most needed despite your original regiment.
On the day Horace Webster was killed in the fighting on the Somme, I October 1916, a total of 1,442 members of the British Empire's fighting forces were similarly 'chosen'.



John Frederick Graham was an Irishman, born in Rathdown, County Dublin, a mathematics medallist from Trinity College Dublin, who was the Accountant General in Madras, India. He was also a lieutenant colonel in the Madras Artillery Volunteers. On leave in England in September 1915, he offered himself to the War Office and was appointed a major in the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action, 'directing his artillery' on 1 July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.
His inscription comes from a hymn by Horatius Bonar called The Inner Calm. The hymn asks in the first verse:

Calm me, my God, and keep me calm,
While these hot breezes blow;
Be like the night-dew's cooling balm
Upon earth's fevered brow.

The hymn goes on to enumerate the various situations in which the supplicant requires this 'calm': in solitude and in the busy street, in health, pain, poverty, wealth, when wronged, taunted or shamed. And the sort of 'calm' asked for is outlined in the final verse:

Calm as the rays of sun or star
Which storms assail in vain,
Moving unruffled through earth's war,
The eternal clam to gain.

Graham's inscription was chosen for him by his widow, Mrs FM Watt Smyth, who married Lieutenant-Colonel Gerald James Watt Smyth in January 1917. Their son, Major Brian James Watt Smyth, was killed in action in Burma in February 1945. His inscription reads: Blessed are the pure in heart.



Private Aley's inscription was chosen by his brother, Archer, and comes from Psalm 30 verse 5 in the King James' Version:

"For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

The version in the Book of Common Prayer is rather more poetic:

"For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life: heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"

Is the night referred to a single night or a period of darkness? And is the morning simply the next day or perhaps death, as in the very popular inscription: "Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away?

Albert Ayley was a tailor from Sydney. He enlisted in December 1916 and embarked from Australia a month later. On 4 October 1917 his battalion attacked at Broodseinde Ridge. Aley was wounded. A witness to the Australian Red Cross and Wounded Enquiry Bureau reported:

On Oct. 4th during the attack on a ridge at Ypres Aley was with me on a carrying party. We had gone up and taken our position and were returning for ammunition when I saw Aley walking towards the D/S [Dressing Station].He had his arm bandaged but did not seem to be wounded elsewhere. I afterwards heard he D/W [died of wounds] Oct. 9th. Aley was about 22, delicate looking, 5' 4, and had relatives in England ...

Others agree with this witness as to the nature of Aley's wounds, which seems a bit strange as the report from No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station, Lijssenthoek states that Aley "died of shrapnel wounds on right leg".

BORN 12TH MAY 1894


This is not all its says on Eric Bowden's headstone; his inscription runs to 140 characters, more than twice the War Graves Commission's recommended limit (and with the link, more than Twitter will allow, which is why I've only included part of it in the Tweet):

Promoted on the
Field of action
From 2nd Lieutenant
He was one of the
Youngest colonels in
The British Army
"He has at all times
Set a fine example"

'Promoted on the field of action', this means that Eric Bowden did not return to Britain to pass an exam before achieving his promotion, it was granted to him whilst at the Front. It was undoubtedly a mark great confidence in your abilities and something for Bowden's mother, who chose his inscription, to be proud of, as she undoubtedly was.
Bowden was indeed one of the youngest colonels in the British army, although at 23, John Hardyman, the subject of yesterday's epitaph, was younger. However, it's not quite accurate to say that Bowden was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel. At the time of his death Bowden was a major. The battalion war diary for 23 July 1918, not the 22nd as his headstone claims was the date of his death, reports that "Major E.G. Bowden MC [was] killed about 12 noon riding through Steenvoorde".
How could Mrs Bowden claim that her son had been promoted straight from 2nd Lieutenant? I'm not absolutely clear on this issue but I would suggest that perhaps all Bowden's promotions had been to acting ranks. I can see that in February 1917 he had been promoted from an acting Major to a temporary Major. It would seem that sometime close to his death he must have been promoted acting or temporary Lieutenant Colonel.
This was something the army did to ensure that once the war was over, or circumstances in some way changed, it didn't have too many officers for its needs. It was an emotionally controversial subject as seen when the subject of recognizing promotion in the field was brought up in a debate on the Army Act in the Australian Parliament on 18 September 1917: "surely these men had passed the toughest examination in being promoted at the front"; "there is no man more deserving of consideration than he who has won his spurs and has been promoted on the field of battle"; "all civilized countries, with the exception of Germany, recognise the principle that where men are promoted for deeds of gallantry on the field, they should not be required to undergo any examination"; "a man who has been promoted on the field of battle, and in a school of instruction behind the lines, has received all the training necessary to make him a leader of men, and has a perfect right to retain the rank he has won overseas".
The problem never arose for Eric Bowden and for so many men like him, they died before they returned home and therefore took their acting ranks with them to the grave.
When Mrs Ellen Bowden filled in the Family Verification Form she said that her husband was dead. George Howlett Bowden died in 1934. This shows how long it took to construct the war cemeteries. The Bowdens had had two children, two sons. Percy Leslie Bowden, Eric elder brother died at the age of 21 in 1910.



Have you registered John Hardyman's age and his rank? It's not a mistake; he was a lieutenant colonel, in charge of the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, at the age of 23. This despite the fact that he had only been in the army four years, since enlisting straight from university in August 1914.
Hardyman's father chose his inscription. The description of his son is true - but it appears it wasn't the epitaph he would like to have had. Hardyman was a scholar having won an open scholarship to Edinburgh University in 1911. He was a poet - a volume of his verse, A Challenge, having been published in 1919. The reference to orator is probably a reference to the fact that Hardyman was a member of council and a keen advocate of the Union for Democratic Control, a British pressure group formed after the outbreak of the war that made its criticism of the war very clear. Among its members were the names of many well-known opponents of war - E.D. Morel, Norman Angell, Bertrand Russell, Ramsay MacDonald ... and John Hay Maitland Hardyman who was a lieutenant in 1916, promoted captain and then major in April 1917, awarded a Military Cross on July 1916, promoted lieutenant colonel in May 1918, awarded a DSO on 11 August 1918 and killed in action on the 24th. His friend, Norman Hugh Romanes, in a brief memoir published in the front of A Challenge, wrote:

"It must not be forgotten that during the whole of his military career he was in constant correspondence with those at home whom it was most dangerous for him, from a military point of view, even to agree with, which he did openly, with no regard for consequences."

How did he square these beliefs with his military career? According to Romanes:

"He always professed strongly that his actions were absolutely consistent with his beliefs. While admiring the moral courage of many conscientious objectors, he was convinced that their attitude as a whole was tantamount to a refusal of the Cross."

A fervent Christian, as the second part of his inscription makes clear, Hardyman's poem, On Leave, expresses his belief, "That through sacrifice the soul must grow". Mankind must face the cross - but expect nothing on earth in return. In answer to the question in Australia's Prayer, "Is it in vain Lord, is it in vain?"

Out of the rending silence God replied:
'You ask the triumph I My Son denied.
Have faith, poor soul. Is not all history
Triumphant failure, empty victory?'

So what was the epitaph Hardyman would have chosen for himself? According to Romane it would have ended as follows:

"He died as he lived, fighting for abstract principles in a cause which he did not believe in."

ISA. II. 4.


Yesterday's inscription expressed the hope/belief that this would be the war to end all wars. But this was a hope that was as old as the hills, certainly as old as the Old Testament book of Isaiah, which dates from the 8th Century BC.

Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

More than 2,500 years later man was and is still 'learning war'.
Alexander Strachan, born in Islington the son of a former artillery man, enlisted in York and served with the 1st/8th Battalion West Riding Regiment. He was killed in action on the opening day of the battle of Poelcapelle. His mother chose his inscription.



Today the description 'the war to end war' is used of the First World War with patronizing cynicism. How could people have been so naive to think this was possible. Well people did, and one of these people was Owen Ellis Augustus Allen - or his mother.
Although the phrase is always associated with Woodrow Wilson, the US President, it was in circulation long before Wilson rose to prominence. The War to End War, published in 1914, was the title of a collection of writings by HG Wells known pre-1914 for his pacifist views. Wells was someone who believed that the war was the result of the build up of German militarism, which needed to be stamped out. He thought that the war would be terrible but that as a result mankind would realise the imperative of working for peace - hence this would be the war to end war. "Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war - it is the last war!"
Owen Allen was just about to take up a teaching job at an elementary school in Essex when the war broke out. He joined up immediately and was commissioned into the 9th Suffolks in September 1914. He went with them to France in August 1915 and after ten months in and out of the front line around Ypres and the Somme, Allen transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.
It was whilst he was acting as an instructor at RFC Brattleby that his plane collided with another one as they came into land, the pupil pilot broke his leg, Allen and the pilot of the other plane was killed.
Allen was buried in his home town of Cambridge. His mother chose his inscription.



All next-of-kin were asked to check the details of their dead relation on the Family Verification Form before sending it back to the War Graves Commission. They were also invited to add a short personal inscription in the space indicated. Mr EO Baker, Gordon's father, wrote - "Too sad for words" Our dear Gordon Father and Mother. Gordon's parents may not have felt that words could express their sorrow but the words they have chosen speak it eloquently. 'Our dear Gordon' was their only child.



Hugh Bartholomew's siblings compiled a charming memoir of their brother for their parents, which has been digitised and can be read online. The publication includes copies of the diaries he kept whilst at the front, his letters home and some of the letters of condolence his parents received. One friend, Alan Smith who was himself killed in September 1918, told them that Hugh had been standing in a trench at 9.30 pm on the night of 30 September when he was hit above his left eye by a piece of shell. By 2 am on the morning of 1 October he was in a Casualty Clearing Station where he was operated on. Friends visiting him that day found him by turns lucid and delirious but the next day he lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 1.15 pm.
Educated at Merchiston College, Edinburgh, Hugh had spent one term at Corpus Christi College, Oxford before taking a commission in the 14th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders where he served with distinction being Mentioned in Despatches and achieving the rank of captain at the early age of 21.
His mother chose his inscription; his father, the distinguished cartographer John George Bartholomew of the map-making firm, having died in 1920. It's a line from a poem by Alfred Noyse, The Victorious Dead. This was first published in a special souvenir edition of the Daily Mail on 30 June 1919 to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, and later included in a collection of Noyes' verse called The Elfin Artist and Other Poems.
Noyse claimed that Britain's hills and valleys, crags and glens reverberate with the presence of the dead:

There's not one glen where happy hearts could roam
That is not filled with tenderer shadows now.
There's not one lane that used to lead them home
But breathes their thoughts to-day from every bough.
There's not one leaf on all these quickening trees,
Nor way-side flower but breathes their messages

But the heart. of the poem comes at the end of verse 4 - "Make firm, O God, the peace our dead have won":

For folly shakes the tinsel on its head
And points us back to darkness and to hell,
Cackling, "Beware of visions," while our dead
Whisper, "It was for visions that we fell".



I wonder if Private Bartlett's mother was familiar with the writings of Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)? His definition of a noble spirit would have pleased her:

"Every man rises superior to that which he can neglect or give up, when the good of his country requires it; but he who is incited by anger or revenge to war, is inferior to his own passion; and he whom ambition allures to battle, is previously subdued and made captive to the object of that ambition, while the man who prefers the public good to the indulgence of any of these mean passions, he is the man of a truly great and noble spirit."
The Compliant of Peace ... or The Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity Against War.

William Bartlett was a professional soldier who enlisted in January 1913 aged 18 and 4 months. He served with the 2nd Battalion the South Lancashire Regiment, part of 7th Brigade, and crossed to France on 14 August 1914, a week after the very first troops of the British Expeditionary Force had landed. Two weeks later, 23/4 August, they engaged with the enemy near Ciply a village just south of Mons. The 7th Brigade war diary reports that it was the South Lancashires that sustained the heaviest losses in the fighting.
It's possible that this is when Bartlett went missing. He is one of the few soldiers whose record file still exists and it includes two letters from his mother. Burnt, torn or nibbled, you can just make out that on 5 September 1914 she's enquiring for news of her son who she says she hasn't heard from for over 3 weeks, that his last letter came from Southampton, that she is very anxious about him, and that the suspense of waiting is terrible. Presumably she learnt that he was a prisoner of war because it was as a prisoner of war that he died three years later in a camp in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. After the war, his body was reinterred in Hamburg Cemetery.
The Bartletts had three children, one daughter and two sons - William and Arthur. Arthur joined the Royal Navy and served on HMS Natal. On 30 December 1915, whilst it was lying at anchor in Cromarty Firth, a spontaneous explosion in one of the ammunition stores tore open the rear of the ship causing it to capsize and sink with the loss of 390 lives. Arthur Bartlett was 18. His body was never recovered.



Sapper Bayley's mother has contracted a speech from Shakespeare's Henry V to make an appropriate and original inscription for her son. Montjoy, the French herald, has just taunted Henry with the image of his soldiers poor dead bodies, which will soon lie festering in the fields of France. Henry retorts that he's quite sure many of his soldiers will return home to die in the fulness of time in their English beds:

And those that leave their valiant bones in France,
Dying like men, though buried in your dunghills,
They shall be famed;

Bayley, a clerk in a brewery at the time of the 1911 census, was the son of a tool maker in a nut and bolt works. His medal card indicates that he didn't enter a theatre of war until 1916 even though he served with the 9th North Midland Field Company, a territorial company of the Royal Engineers.
Bayley was killed on 9 August 1917 in the continuing Battle of Arras. He was originally buried on the outskirts of the town at St Laurence Blangy . His body was moved to Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery in 1924.



Yesterday's inscription introduced Chaucer's knight, today's summarises his qualities - he was a perfect example of masculine nobility and refinement. Such was the lure of medieval chivalry in the late nineteenth century that the families of many soldiers referred to it one way or another in inscriptions - the same reason so many people and institutions chose stained-glass, bronze or stone knights in armour for war memorials. Interestingly, despite the inverted commas and the archaic spelling, this isn't an accurate rendition of the original, which is generally spelt - "He was a verray, gentil, parfit knyght".
Berry had great difficulty enlisting; he was refused twice on the grounds of health - in fact the State Library of Victoria website has the badge he was entitled to wear, which says 'Volunteered for active service - Medically unfit". This was to prevent people like Berry being labeled 'slackers'. Berry's problem was that he had a weak heart as a result of a bout of typhoid fever. However, on 30 October 1916 he was eventually accepted and sailed for England that December. After training to be a signaller - and securing full marks in the qualifying exam - he arrived in France on 8 September 1917. Less than a month later, on 4 October, he received gunshot wounds to his chest and knee and died in a Casualty Clearing Station the same day.
Berry was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne. Their website has more information about his life and death together with some lovely photographs.



There is a memorial in Loos British Cemetery that reads:

"To the memory of these 16 Dominion soldiers killed in action 1917 and buried at the time in Lens Canadian Cemetery No. 3, which was destroyed by the enemy". "Their glory shall not be blotted out."

Oliver Bilton was one of these sixteen soldiers, consequently he has what is called a Kipling Memorial. Kipling Memorials are headstones that look like normal headstones but for the superscription, chosen by Rudyard Kipling from the Apocrypha, Ecclesiastes 44:13, "Their glory shall not be blotted out". It was used to mark the graves of casualties who were known to have been buried in a particular cemetery but whose graves were subsequently destroyed in the fighting and couldn't be located. Bilton was originally buried in Lens Canadian Cemetery No. 3 but when the time came to consolidate the cemetery into Loos British Cemetery there was no trace of his body.
However, he was allowed to have a headstone in the new cemetery and therefore his wife was able to choose an inscription. It comes from The Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and it introduces Chaucer's most admired character, the knight:

A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man, [There was a knight, a most distinguished man]
That fro the tyme that he first began [Who from the day on which he first began]
To riden out, he loved chivalrie, [To ride abroad had followed chivalry]
Truth and honour, fredom and curteisie. [Truth, honour, generousness and courtesy]

Chivalry, a series of religious, moral and social codes associated with medieval knights, was much glamourised in the late nineteenth century both in art and literature. Not surprisingly therefore, Oliver Bilton's is not the only inscription that references the code.
Bilton was born in Barrow-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, the youngest of his parents eight children. He emigrated to Canada and then enlisted in Aldershot, Nova Scotia on 10 August 1915 and served with the 24th Battalion Canadian Infantry. He went home on leave to Barrow in July 1917 when he married Miss Elsie Martin. He was killed in action the following month when the battalion attacked at Cite St Laurent close to the Lens-Bassee Road.
The Hull Daily Mail reported his death on 1 September, quoting from the letter his Commanding Officer wrote to his wife telling her that, "He [Bilton] was always held in the highest esteem by his fellows, he having such high ideals, which drew all the men to him". "Such high ideals" - it sounds as though his inscription may have been well chosen:

He loved chivalry
Truth and honour
Freedom and courtesy



Birmingham Daily Post
Thursday 23 August 1917

Second Lieutenant Holroyd Birkett Barker, R.G.A. who ... died in a military hospital on 15th inst., aged 30, was the eldest son of Councillor T. Birkett Barker, J.P., M.I.M.E., ... He volunteered for military service in 1915. Lieutenant Birkett Barker was a prominent golfer, and won the gold medal for Warwickshire in 1912-13-14. In 1914 he lost the Midland Counties Championship by one stroke and in the same year competed in the Amateur Championship at Sandwich.

In January 1916 the same newspaper reported that all four of Mr T Birkett Barker's sons had now enlisted but that Fred, who had returned from farming in Canada, had just been invalided home suffering from partial paralysis and neuritis, the after effects of a severe illness. The 20 April 1917 edition carried the news that Greville Birkett Barker was in a London hospital suffering from shock and wounds having been shot down while flying at the front. Four months later it announced Holroyd's death from malaria in Salonika and in September 1918 that Allen Noel Birkett Barker had died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station in France.
Both Holroyd and Allen have the same inscription - "Beloved and honoured as far as he was known". It comes from Wordsworth's The Excursion:

All but a scattered few, live out their time,
Husbanding that which they possess within,
And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds
Are often those of whom the noisy world
Hears least; else surely this Man had not left
His graces unreveal'd and unproclaim'd.
But, as the mond was fill'd with inward light
So not without distinction had he lived,
Beloved and honoured - far as he was known.



There's an interesting variation from the original in this inscription, was it misremembered or was it intentional?
On 16 February 1918 The Times published this suggestion:

For a Memorial Tablet
True love by life - true love by death - is tried:
Live thou for England - we for England died.

It was signed A.C.A. who is thought to have been Arthur Campbell Ainger (1841-1919) a Classics master at Eton and the author of a number of hymns including, 'God Moves in a Mysterious Way'. Ainger's word was England, whoever chose Corporal Bogie's inscription and it looks like a Mrs NA Flower, Sinlalula, Saskatchewan, used the word Britain.
Charles Alexander Bogie was born in Dumfries, Scotland in 1882; he was a Scotsman not an Englishman. At some point he emigrated to Canada from where he enlisted on 12 November 1914. Some Canadians already felt Canadian but many simply felt that they were Britons, even 'better Britons', abroad. I would suggest that this is how Bogie felt.
Bogie served with the 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry and died at No. 22 Casualty Clearing Station of wounds - "shrapnel wounds, left leg, left foot, left hand and face" ... for Britain.



Safely, safely gathered in
Far from sorrow, far from sin,
Passed beyond all grief and pain,
Death for thee is truest gain:
For our loss we must not weep,
Nor our loved one long to keep
From the home of rest and peace,
Where all sin and sorrow cease.

Esther Watcham chose some lines from the second verse of this hymn by Mrs Henrietta Dobree (1831-1894) for her son's inscription.
There appears to be some confusion about Watcham. Firstly over the spelling of his name. Watcham is how the War Graves Commission spell it, and the census records; he appears as Watchman in Soldiers Died in the Great War, and as Watsham on the war memorial in his home town of Fingringhoe near Colchester in Essex. Then there's the fact that his record in SDGW states that he 'died' on 27 August 1917, not that he died of wounds or was killed in action, the implication being that he died of illness. However, the Colchester Chronicle reported on 14 September 1917 that Private William Watcham of the Manchester Regiment had been wounded, and then a month later, on 12 October, that he had died of wounds.
Nevertheless, however his name was spelt - and there is only one William Watcham, and no Watsham or Watchman, who served in the Manchester Regiment and died in the First World War - and whatever the cause of his death, this young man was dead, as his mother saw it:

Safely, safely gathered in,
No more sorrow no more sin;
God has saved from weary strife,
In its dawn, this young fresh life,
Which awaits us now above,
Resting in the Saviour's love.
Jesus, grant that we may meet
There, adoring at his feet.



Private Crowe's inscription comes from a conventional piece of memorial verse, which often appeared in the In Memoriam columns of newspapers:

Peacefully sleeping, resting at last,
His weary trials and troubles past,
In silence he suffered, in patience he bore,
Till God called him home to suffer no more.

However, I have an ominous feeling that there may be more behind the words of this inscription than simple convention. Thirty-three-year-old John Crowe is buried in the cemetery of his home town of Arbroath. His medal card shows that he served initially with the Black Watch, army number S/18318, and then with the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, army number S/40821, and that he was entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, in other words that not only had he served overseas (the War Medal) but he had entered a theatre of war (the Victory Medal). This raises the question as to why he was buried at home.
His inscription probably provides the answer, either he died at home from a lingering terminal illness or from wounds received in action. Men with the worst wounds were sent back to Britain to be cared for and to die. Private Crowe's inscription was perhaps meant literally:

In silence he suffered
In patience he bore
Till God called him home
To suffer now more.