By Sarah Wearne
Uniform Press, 2017
Epitaphs of the Great War: the Somme, was one of my stand out reads from last year. Amongst the books about the Somme campaign and the battles and tactics, the book brought a different perspective by seeking to tell the stories of some of the casualties through the epitaphs on their headstones.
About 20% of headstones have an epitaph, and for this volume Sarah Wearne now focuses on 100 casualties from the 1917 Third Ypres campaign, those who lost their lives between 31st July and 10th November 1917.
Some of the names will no doubt be known to readers – Colyer-Fergusson VC, Nellie Spindler, Brigadier General Maxwell VC – perhaps some of the epitaphs too (‘I’m all right mother cheerio’ – Lieutenant Harold Hill, Buttes New British cemetery; ‘Would some thoughtful hand in this distant land please scatter some flowers for me’ – Private Edwin Grant, Tyne Cot cemetery). Each individual is given up to a page where Wearne provides a brief biography and the origins behind the epitaph, which in many cases makes for fascinating reading.
The appeal of the book lies in its simplicity, reconnecting the reader, through the epitaphs, to the individuals’ lives, deaths, and commemoration. As Wearne emphasises, the epitaphs show that there is no one narrative of grief and remembrance.
Uniform Press have crafted another handsome volume to add to their growing catalogue, and I hope a 1918 volume is planned.
Buy this book from Amazon here:
Epitaphs of The Great War: Passchendaele