Shorncliffe Military Cemetery is a place of pilgrimage. A fascinating place to gather hooks for history to hang onto. With the focus on Vimy this year it is the Canadian graves that will be getting the most interest. There is more to Shorncliffe cemetery than Canadians though. There is a memorial to an officer in the Mahratta Light Infantry killed in 1917 as well as numerous other memorials and graves. On a previous a visit I spent some time chatting about Chin Peng and the Chinese War Graves. There is also a South African War Grave, an Old Contemptable, but yesterday was really just about visiting some of the Canadian graves. This is the gravestone of Cecil Kidd Wilson one of the first to die. Which no doubt seems a strange thing to say about someone killed in April 1918. The 1st April 1918 was the day the RAF was born and the day C K Wilson RAF, died, making him one of the first from the RAF to be killed.
Heading down the hill into the main bit of the cemetery my next stop and where I sit down is May Arnold’s grave. Some people sit by Willie McBride’s grave at Authuille on the Somme. I sit by May’s at Shorncliffe. May married a Canadian soldier, we shot him at dawn. Not for marrying May, we shot him for desertion. May’s husband was also an American. One of the things about the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War, the men who forged a nation at Vimy is where they came from. A large number were Americans. Two other graves caught my eye yesterday the first. Thomas Geddes, from Glasgow in Scotland. Struck off strength on the 5th October 1916. He had died on the 1st October 1916 from appendicitis.
The last grave I stopped at was this one The grave of Trooper H J C Prior of Lord Strathcona’s Horse. Difficult to find a more Canadian regiment. Still part of the Canadian Army, now I think it is an armoured regiment. A son following in his father’s footsteps. He died on the 4th August 1918. Harry John Chauvell Prior is a reminder that the Canadians were part of an Imperial Army. He was born in France. His father Major General Prior was in the Madras Staff Corps, Harry had served for eight years in the Ceylon Mounted Rifles. Unfortunately, his service record has not been digitalised a project for the future is to find out if he took part in the cavalry during the Battle of Moreuil Wood in March 1918.
One last grave, I did not stop at,He was Irish. Don’t know much about him. He lived with his wife in Montreal. I just like the epitath “Someday we’ll understand” One day
One day we may know, but I doubt we will ever understand.