3 May 1917 was the beginning of the 3rd Battle of the Scarpe, part of the Arras offensive that occurred April-May of 1917. Along with many other men my Great Uncle Joe died that day. He does not have a burial place – his body was not found. His name is listed with so many other missing soldiers at the Arras memorial. It is a haunting sight, one I will not forget.
Rupert Brooke’s poem titled ‘The Soldier‘ written as part of his poem series called 1914 has always resonated with me, but has particular meaning when I think of Joe somewhere in France.
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.
I’d like to share this memorial for Joe with you.