The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard – Thomas Gray
I’ve just finished reading The Final Whistle: The Great War in Fifteen Players . I bought it last week when I was supposedly getting rid of some books at the Oxfam shop. It is, as you may be able to guess from the title, a book about the Great War and rugby. I’m not one of those people who can quote details of Divisions and battles and all that stuff but I do have an interest in the subject, and I also like rugby.
As a result, I am now motivated to finish a post I began after visiting Southwell Minster. For me, the most interesting part of the visit is the original wooden grave marker of Major J P Becher. It’s on the wall of the graveyard at the east end of the Minster, and I always worry that one day it will disintegrate.
In this case, Major Becher is commemorated in many other places, as are his brothers-in-law. The brothers-in-law were both killed on the day that Becher suffered his fatal wounds. He lived on for another ten weeks before finally dying, having been too badly injured to be sent home from France.
His son, as seen from the small cross in the picture, died in the Second World War.
Families were allowed to have the original wooden grave markers returned to them when the permanent stone markers were erected, though I’m not sure how many actually applied for them. I imagine that although it represented closure for many families, it was far too painful for others.
One of my great grandmothers, having lost a son and a son-in-law and seen two other sons seriously injured, refused to even to discuss the war. Another one, having been widowed and left with three young daughters, died in the TB hospital in Lancaster five years after the death of her husband.
It was International Women’s Day yesterday, so it might be appropriate to spend a moment thinking about the women in this story, who also suffered in the war, though nobody erected a memorial to them.
The above link to my great grandmother’s headstone was a complete surprise to me. I was going to add CWGC details but browsed a few others and found that. Though I’ve been in that church and graveyard several times in the past I never thought to look for family gravestones at the time and it was on the list of “things to do”.
That’s the wonder of the web, and a whole new post.