By Sarah Wearne
Uniform Press, 2016
Few of us can have visited a Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery and not been touched by an epitaph at the base of a headstone – proud, defiant, mournful, angry, patriotic; a whole range of emotions connecting the dead to the living.
Like many I am sure, I often take photos of headstones and their epitaphs, only to file them away along with all the other pictures from the battlefields. Sarah Wearne, however, has built up an impressive collection of epitaphs, tweeting one a day from her twitter account @WWInscriptions and with an associated website http://www.epitaphsofthegreatwar.com.
This volume provides 100 epitaphs for men who lost their lives during the Somme campaign, with one page per man. Brief details are given, such as the action in which he lost his life, and a short biography. The origins of the epitaph are also given, often rooted in the bible, popular songs, or literature. Some are more obscure, but Wearne has comprehensively researched each to tease out the underlying sentiment. A wide range of soldiers have been selected, from different backgrounds and of different ranks, and through their stories Wearne conveys an impressive amount of detail about various aspects of the war.
For the Twitter generation used to 140 characters, as Wearne has aptly put it on the social media site, “Allowed 66 characters to commemorate your husband/son, what would you say?” This book shows you the breadth of feeling and emotion that this actually permits, and serves as a poignant reminder of the anguish and grief of the relatives trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.
Uniform Press continue to impress with their production; a Passchendaele volume is planned, and I look forward to seeing it.
Buy this book from Amazon here:
Epitaphs of the Great War: The Somme