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ianw

Favourite Gravestone Inscription

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ianw

The wonderful personal messages that one chances across in CWGC cemeteries never fail to touch the heart. Every visit throws up a number that stay in the mind.

My last trip produced the following that brought me up short and put a lump in my throat.

A LITTLE CROSS OF BRONZE

THE CROSS HE WON

BUT NEVER WORE

MY SON

I'll think of these words when I next handle a 1914 or 1915 Star.

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Simon_Fielding

An absolute heartbreaker!

I always think of the inscription on my g-grandfather's grave - which I was entirely ignorant of until I visited Corbie

'Sadly missed by wife and children'

one of whom was my grandfather Charlie - five years old when his father died.

These inscriptions are very precious - does the CWGC have a record of them all??

Simon

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ianw

I presume they must have a central record of them just to ensure that they replace the inscription when the stone is replaced. Let's hope they never abandon the inscriptions for reasons of economy !

It is perhaps appropriate that they are not available on a database - but only to the visitor to the graveyard as a sort of personal and intimate whisper from the past.

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

The one which always brings a lump to my throat is:

'An Unknown Soldier of the Great War'

:(

Ian

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Simon_Fielding
a sort of personal and intimate whisper from the past.

Very beautiful sentiments Ian!

Simon

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ianw

Of course , you are absolutely right about that one , Ian. All those men and lads denied a last message from Mums , wives and loved ones. I suppose every one of these messages that we benefit from today is for them too.

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paul guthrie

I have mentioned some favorites before like Sniper Bill at Embarkation Pier, Gallipoli and Trooper Johnson? same place.

FORGET ABOUT ME

SAVE SERJEANT DEATON.

One I have not personally seen:

HE WOULD GIVE HIS DINNER

TO A HUNGRY DOG

AND DO WITHOUT HIMSELF

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Terry Denham

CWGC do indeed have a central record of all inscriptions for obvious purposes - replaced of headstones when necessary.

These inscription records are not normally available to the public.

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Sgt York

I've a wonderful book by John Laffin - AIF Epitaphs of World War 1.

I would fail to see anyone not being moved by the contents of this book.

I AM PROUD AND ALSO SORRY

FOR MY BRAVE BABY

HIS LOVING FATHER

HE STANDS BY MY SIDE

AND WHISPERS

DEAR MOTHER

DEATH CANNOT DIVIDE

OH FOR A TOUCH

OF A VANISHED HAND

AND THE SOUND OF

A VOICE THAT IS STILL

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Guest Hill 60

Family inscriptions apart, I find headstones paid for by the dead soldier's colleagues very touching.

This one is in the CWGC plot at Foster Road Cemetery, Bedford.

post-19-1053539208.jpg

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CROONAERT

I always liked the one in Zillebeke Churchyard :

"Life is a city of crooked streets,

death is the market place,

where all men meet" .

Although I always find the short ,personal message type quite heart-wrenching :

"In loving memory of Dear Daddy, from Maisie" . (Pte.C.Scaplehorn, Bailleul)

These always make me think.

Dave.

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Tom Morgan

"He is not dead, for such a man as my husband was can never die."

Villers Bretonneux

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Marco

Several:

http://www.xs4all.nl/~aur/lndividuals/epitaphs.htm

But my current favourite is:

Private L. McDonnall, Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers

died 1 July 1916, age 24

Ancre British Cemetery

At our fireside

sad and lonely

the children I do tell

how their noble father fell.

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Mark Hone

I agree with your sentiments Ian, but surely the point about the CWGC headstones is that, unique amongst all the nations, they DON'T say 'Unknown'. They say 'KNOWN...Unto God'. As I always tell my pupils on our tours that's what comes of employing a genius (Rudyard Kipling) to devise your wording for you.

Sometimes the inscriptions bring you up short. In 1998 on our annual school tour I included a visit, very much as an afterthought, to the grave of a former pupil, Lt Joseph Morris, at Pommereuil Cemetery, near Le Cateau. As we got to the grave we saw that the inscription was the school motto 'Sanctas Clavis Fores Aperit' which we have never seen anywhere before or since. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Incidentally did people have to pay for the inscriptions?

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paul guthrie

From memory WW1 US say Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known only to God.

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Jonathan Saunders

Personally I like the simple inscriptions that really meant something to somebody ... such as "Ever in my thoughts my darling boy. Mother" - Gunner CW Brunsden (gravestone states Brunsdem) at Lijssenthoek.

Having said that gravestone of Private DC Thomson - 32/AIF, at Heily Station reads "The weed and wild flower creepeth round a lone and silent bed" is both intriguing and poignant!!

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Sgt York
Incidentally did people have to pay for the inscriptions?

Mark, Quoting from John Laffin book - AIF Epitaphs of World War 1:

...They were told that the maximum number of letters and letter spaces allowed was 66 and the charge was three and a half pence per letter. Most families paid the charge though there was much grumbling at the time that the soldiers had already paid it many times over with their blood. the charge appears not to have been enforced.

Ronnie.

post-19-1053545481.gif

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ianw

Mark,

Finding that school motto inscription must have been staggering - to think it had been patiently waiting all those years for that moment when it so totally bridged that yawning gap in time and brought those generations of young people together - wonderful.

Thanks are due to all those folk who paid their threepence halfpenny per letter and richly invested for us all in perpetuity.

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David_Bluestein
CWGC do indeed have a central record of all inscriptions for obvious purposes - replaced of headstones when necessary.

These inscription records are not normally available to the public.

Terry,

I do agree with Ian, in that the inscriptions are clearly designed for the visitor, and not appropriate necessarily for the web site browser.

However, with that said, living in far off Canada, the opportunity for me of walking these hallowed grounds is remote at best. Are these epitaphs available to someone through a certain inquiry method at the CWGC, or is this off bounds?

Thanks in advance.

How lucky all you UK folks are being so close to battlefields!!!

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Marc Thompson

"Incidentally did people have to pay for the inscriptions?"

Terry will be able to elaborate further to the following:

Relatives were allowed to choose a personal inscription not to exceed sixty-six letters, the space between two words counting as one letter.

It was initially decided to charge for inscriptions, as it was felt that by paying, relatives would have more of a personal stake in the grave. Threepence half penny in old money was charged, with a maximum charge of £1.

New Zealand refused to have personal inscriptions on headstones in both world wars. The Canadian govenment paid on behalf of the relatives of their servicemen.

The charge was then made voluntary, but many poor families had already been deterred. The voluntary payment after WWII was limited to 7/6d, then raised to £1 again, but has finally been allowed to lapse.

Regards

Marc

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ianw

David,

I certainly sympathise with you guys away over there. I get withdrawal symptoms after about 4 weeks following a trip over there !

I certainly don't think the inscriptions are available via the internet or whether there are plans to make them so. No doubt Terry may know but may be bound by confidentiality at the moment re. the developments planned for the CWGC website. I suppose there is no reason why they should not be available but it would lift the veil on them perhaps a bit too much. Only my opinion , of course.

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Cliff. Hobson

One man wrote his own epitaph put on his Special Memorial Stone by his Parents. Taken from one of his poems " An English Soldier"

"He fell: but yielded not his English Soul:

That lives out there beneath the Battle's Roll"

Sgt., John William Streets, York & Lancs. K.I.A. 1 July 1916.

Euston Road Cemetery.

Cliff. Hobson.

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Paul Reed

Some curious, as well as touching ones; the following I saw in Maroc British Cemetery some years ago (I won't name the soldier concerned):

He died a sinner

:blink:

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Terry Denham

There are no plans to make the PIs available on the CWGC web site to my knowledge. The PIs do not appear in the Debt of Honour database anyway.

I do not see why CWGC would not supply information on any specific PIs to an enquirer but cannot see them making their own internal working documents available to the public.

I think it is a pity that the original WW1 Final Verification Forms upon which the n-o-k requested their PIs (if any) were burnt in the early 1970s. They could have provided much info even if we had to wait for them to end up at the PRO/NA. The WW2 forms do still exist.

The charge for PIs in the early days is the cause of so many WW1 stones not having a PI - many could not afford the charge thus backing up the NZ stance. You will notice that there are far more (and longer) PIs on WW2 headstones as the charge had been allowed to lapse.

CWGC will still add a PI to a headstone if requested by a close relative provided that one had not previously been refused. Each application is taken on its merit.

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Mark Hone

I'm wracking my brains about the World War One American 'unknown' (or rather 'known' ) inscription. I'm ashamed to say that it's about 15 years since I've been to an American World War One cemetery (Bony). I'm pretty sure that the World War II headstones have 'Unknown' on them. When did they decide to change? And did they adopt the 'Known Unto God' formula before or after the IWGC?

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