Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Yorkshire Soldier - Commonwealth War Graves Commission

War Grave Captain G H Ermen DWR YorkshirePicture of headstone of a Yorkshire Soldier - Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The photograph above shows a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking the burial place of a Yorkshire soldier buried in Gargrave churchyard in North Yorkshire.

Although this particular headstone was photographed by me here in Yorkshire a similar photo could have been taken in churchyards all over the UK. This war grave is of Captain G H Ermen, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) a previous unit that today lives on in The Yorkshire Regiment. The headstone is the standard one used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission being made from portland stone.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for the maintenance of over 1 million war graves and larger memorials marking and honouring the deaths of around 750,000 war dead with no known grave.

Each grave uses standard uniform headstones, differentiated only by their inscriptions: the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty is inscribed above an appropriate religious symbol and a more personal dedication chosen by relatives.

As you can see on the headstone for Capt Godfrey Henry Ermen there is no age shown and also no personal wording that is placed near the base of many of these headstones.

I have found a little about Capt Godfrey Ermen, he was made Adjutant of the 6th Bn DWR on 4th April 1915, the Bn landed at Boulogne 14th April 1915. Within 3 weeks of arriving in France Captain Godfrey Ermen was dead at the age of 37. The fact that his grave is here in Yorkshire suggests to me that he was wounded at or near the front and was the evacuated to hospital here near Skipton and died shortly afterwards.

I am interested in old buildings and always have been and in visiting old churches all over the UK I often encouter war graves like the one in the picture. Sometimes there will be several and occasionally perhaps one or two. I usually pause for a while and ponder the lives of these unknown (to me) mostly young men. I served as a young man, so I do think sometimes it could easily have been me.

As I stand in an English churchyard the poem by Rupert Brooke comes to my mind.

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke was a young Englishman famous today as a war poet, he wrote The Soldier in 1914 and died on his way to a battle at Gallipoli on St. George's Day 1915, at the age of 27. The grave of this poet is today one of the most isolated in the care of the CWGC.

Today is the 300th post on my Leeds daily photo blog from Yorkshire here in England and I cannot think of a more appropriate story to mark this small milestone. There was a time when I started posting about photos and stories of life here in Yorkshire that I seriously thought that I would struggle to find enough subjects. I no longer think this, after all there are so many stories about the people and places of Englands largest county.

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