Time goes so fast these days. Just returned from one trip to the Wester Front and another is fast approaching. A little bit of an idea where we are going on this one. A day around Ypres. It tends to be an endless vision of graves. Nameless souls mingle with faceless names.
Then there is the Menin Gate. Statistics spue across the ether like verbal diarrhea from the treasury department. 54,000 dead, (and nearly all died before 17 August 1917) 8 VCs 4 Shot at dawn, lots of cricketers, plenty of rugby players, some MPs, at least one New Zealander, ( I can name two), 60 boy soldiers (16 or under). 3 sets of Father and sons, Devis, Merricks and William and Reginald Pritchard. A few names jump out, Cyril Smith for example.
Cyril invented a War Winning Weapon. Known as a “banger”. Enough said, there really is no need to say more. Ask anyone for a list of war winning weapons and the banger is there along side the tank. No? O k if I said it’s official name is the Bangalore Torpedo.It starts to give a life to Cyril. Thats what it is all about for me. These soldiers were all someone. The nephew of Chard VC, those who have seen the film “Zulu” will know who I mean. His nephew is commemorated on the gate. Noel Chavasse had a brother, Aiden, he is on the memorial. Arthur Conan Doyle has a connection. His nephew is here. there are painters, authors, poets. They are not souless people, no more than they are faceless. They had names, lives, dreams, and desires. Some did not know they would die others did. This is from a letter by one who I think knew his name would be on a grave or memorial. Written to his father.
“My one regret is that the opportunity has been denied me to repay you to the best of my ability for the lavish kindness and devotedness which you have always shewn me. I hoped to do so in the struggles of Life. Now, however, it may be that I have done so in the struggle between life and death, between England and Germany, Liberty and Slavery. In any case, I shall have done my duty in my little way. Well, Dad, please carry on with a good heart, then I shall be quite content. Goodbye, dearest of fathers, good bye E, and G, (I have no idea who E and G are, apart from siblings) May you reap the benefits of this great war and keep cherry and happy through life. Your affectionate son and brother, Glyn”
So don’t forget to thank your dad.
CWGC web site, Letters from Fallen Englishmen, In Continuing and Grateful memory the Menin Gate