SEPT 1 – DAY 1

Savona Cemetery

Guy Charles Dunlop Hill

In Savona, a few miles round the Italian coast from Genoa, is a memorial in the town’s cemetery carrying the names of those drowned when the SS Transylvania, a converted Cunard liner, was torpedoed by a German submarine. Among them is 26-year-old Second Lieutenant Guy Charles Dunlop Hill, who had matriculated at Exeter College in 1910 and must have joined up the moment Finals were over. The Transylvania (pictured below) was carrying troops to Egypt. For an account of the disaster, see
The grandson of an Admiral and son of a Vice-Admiral, both of Lt Hill’s brothers went on to become naval Commanders. He is also remembered on a war memorial in the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton. If you live near there, do go and honour him. He is the first of many Exonians who are remembered in continental Europe, and whom the Chaplain and I will visit in the coming ten days.

Frances Cairncross

SEPT 2 – DAY 2

Bordighera Cemetery

William MacDougall Woodward Scott

Two Exonians came with me today to visit the grave of Exonian William MacDougall Woodward Scott. Chris Painter (Lit. Hum. 1972) and his son Tom Painter (Lit Hum. 2009), two generations of Exeter Classicists, drove me to the cemetery in Bordighera. Tom has brilliantly undertaken mapping and booking our route. At the cemetery, we realised with emotion that this day was exactly the 96th anniversary of his death in 1918, weeks before the end of the war.

He had been born in Madras in 1878, the third son of Colonel William Scott of the Bombay Staff Corps, and educated at Sherborne. He matriculated in October 1898, but nothing is known of his career before the war. Like so many young Exeter men killed in the war, he was a 2nd Lieutenant. He seems likely to have died either at Arquata, just north of Genoa, or of wounds received there and in the military hospital at Bordighera.

P1000840  P1000843 P1000846     P1000845


Frances Cairncross
The rest of the blog is written by Andrew Allen

SEPT 3 – DAY 3

Nice, Chalons -en-Champagne

Today has been spent travelling: the Rector from Nice and the Chaplain from Oxford, our paths merging at Chalons-en-Champagne, about 20 miles south of Reims. Although no graves were visited today it’s worth reflecting on the concentration of combat in the War; 113 of the 143 [80%]  died on the Western Front. This is not unique to Exeter and shows that so much of the horrors of the War happened within these 200 square miles. Of course, those who died in Gallipoli [5 Exonians], in Mesopotamia and the Near East [also 5], the nine back home in Great Britain, and the one in the Easter Rising should not be overlooked, but the fact that for almost four years the two sides were locked in north eastern France and Belgium means that this area is still scarred with the impact of war. Reims was almost destroyed including its cathedral – the scene for French coronations – and Exeter’s C19th glass provides more of a mediaeval feel than the windows in the cathedral today. And still bones, bombs, and equipment are being discovered in ploughed fields or building sites.

Tomorrow we will visit the grave of John Norwood VC, the first Exonian to die, on 8th September in the First Battle of the Marne. This battle prevented the German advance on Paris, and von Molke is reported to have wired Kaiser Wilhelm with the words ‘we’ve lost the war,’ after this battle.  Perhaps had Paris fallen to the Germans the War would indeed have been over by Christmas 1914.

SEPT 4 – DAY 4

Suippes Communal Cemetery

Gaston Emile Bernheim

Gaston Bernheim was the only Exonian to serve in both British and French forces: he  was born in London to French / Belgian parents, and after Rugby School came up to Exeter in 1912. Aged 21 when he died in action at Tahure, he was a member of the Artillerie Lourde. His fine gravestone – erected by family and not the Commonwealth War Graves – mentions how he was also in the Royal Navy reserves. Bernheim’s grave is located in the village cemetery of Suippes and not the Military Cemetery, which may explain why the location of burial is unknown in many publications. Bernheim was mentioned in the French Dispatches and won the Croix de Guerre et Medaille Militaire.

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Vailly British Cemetery

Claude Henry

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Claude Henry was 33 when he died on 19th September 1914 in action at Vailly sur Aisne. Although this  battle – part of the larger offensive to stop the German  invasion of Paris – was only 6 weeks into the war, its consequences were important in shaping the next four years. Neither side won [or lost] outright, and thus the Allies and Germans became entrenched to the north of the Aisne river, creating the trenches for which this war has become infamous.  Claude Henry came up in 1900 to Exeter and must have played cricket for the College, as he’s recorded in Wisden as playing regimental cricket. Unfortunately not much else is known of him: he was from London and served in the 3rd Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment. His body is believed to be buried in the Vailly British Cemetery: this cemetery was re-ordered and augmented after the war when the bodies of Commonwealth soldiers were exhumed from smaller, town graveyards and gathered together.

Raperie British Cemetery

Douglas  Alexander Bannatyne

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‘He that leadeth an uncorrupt life and doeth the thing that is right’ [Psalm 15] is inscribed on the grave of Douglas Bannatyne, a Scottish lawyer who died on 1st August 1918.  After the war there was much discussion about how the war dead should be commemorated, and eventually it was decided that a single design for all – privates, deserters, generals – would be used, with the name at the top, followed by the badge of their regiment / service, their names, a Cross or Star of David, and a few lines for familes to add their own inscription, which had to be approved by the Commission. It was also decided that the cemeteries should be as simple and dignified as possible. Lutyens and Blomfield [himself an Exonian] debated and discussed, and it was settled that a huge Portland stone, engraved ‘their name liveth for ever’ designed by Lutyens, and the Cross of Sacrifie [Blomfield] would be located at each burial ground. The cemetery at Raperie is a perfect example of the simplicty, peace, and dignity which so many strove to create in honour of the war dead. In this cemetery Douglas Bannatyne joins his fellow Scots as they rest in a peace they didn’t know in the last few years of their lives.

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La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial

Colin Barclay Leechman

Archibald Smith – Sligo

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Exeter College was a small and intimate society before 1914, and these two Exonians who came up in 1906 and 1907 resepctively, must have known each other. They are commemorated along with 3,800 other men from the UK who died in the first two months of the war, and whose bodies were neither recovered nor identified. Leechmann was from Campden Hill in London, and served in the 3rd [King’s Own] Hussars. He played polo – presumably not in Kensingston! – and a rather fine photo of him astride a pony exists.


His fellow Exonian, Archibald George Roderick Smith-Sligo was a Scot from Fife, and fought in the Cameron Highlanders. His sister, Winifryde Mary Grace died on 6 November 1918. She was a mechanic / driver and is buried in the Military Cemetery in Aldershot, Hampshire.

Sablonniers New Communal Cemetery

John Norwood VC

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We were pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of fresh red roses on the grave of John Norwood, which is in the tiny village cemetry of Sablonniers, a village about 40 miles east of Meaux. Norwood’s biography is on the page about our 4th August activities, but it is worth noting that he is buried along with 12 soldiers  [they in double graves] from the Black Watch, all of whom died on 8th September 1914. Were some of these the men he tried to rescue when he himself was shot?

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SEPT 5 – DAY 5

Sainte Marie Cemetery, Le Havre

Herman Theodore Wells

The youngest son of Rev’d Edward Wells, Rector of West Dean near Salisbury, Herman died at the age of 21 in Le Havre from pneumonia. His older brother, Edward had better fortune, and as an Army Chaplain won the MC and won the war.  The inscription on his grave reads ‘ The Lord commanded the blessing – life for evermore.’ [Ps 133].  His grave, tended by the Commonwealth Graves Commission, is surrounded by flowers and well kept grass. This is in stark contrast to the civic grave yard with its grey gravel. This underlines the point made by Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1920, ” the cemeteries carefully tended, will rely for their effect on the dignity of their lay out, and the beauty of the trees, grass and the flowers.”

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St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen

Herbert Walter Green DSO

‘A work man that needed not to be ashamed’ [2 Timothy 2.13] These carefully chosen words reflect well Herbert Walter Green. He is listed in Wisden’s ‘On the Great War, Lives of Cricket’s Fallen’ [pp404ff] as having taken a university commission in 1900, having just left Exeter. He served in the Buffs in India, and his colonial service found him in Nigeria when war broke out in 1914. As well as a career soldier, he was an avid cricketer, playing not only for Exeter at Blues level, but also for the Band of Brothers and Oxford Authentics. In 1916 he commanded a battalion of the Essex Regiment and was awarded the Distinguised Service Order as a result of his bravery. He returned to France in October 1918 as an acting Brigadier General, and was wounded in action in Landrecies on 7th November 1918. He was taken to Rouen and died following an operation on New Year’S Eve. He is buried in the extension to the St Sever Cemetery which contains the graves of Commonwealth and French soldiers, and is one of the largest graveyards [and not memorials] in northern France, with almost 12,000 graves.

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Namps – Au- Val British Cemetery

Frederick Alexander Single, MC

Today we have visited two of Exeter’s most decorated soldiers:  Green with the DSO and Single with the Military Cross. Single came up to Exeter from Winchester College, and they too have been commemorating their war dead. More information about Single can be found on their great website: Namps -Au-Val lies, as its name suggests, in a valley, south west of Amiens, and is the most peaceful and beautiful location. The cemetery was designed entirely by Blomfield [many of the others were designed by several], and the good condition in which it is kept is to the great credit of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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SEPT 6 – DAY 6


St Pierre Cemetery, Amiens

Felix William Marston

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Marston is buried in the Commonwealth Grave, which lies behind the communal grave yard and adjacent to the French soldiers’ graves. Interestingly before one reaches them there is a small plot of graves of French soldiers erected by their families, following the traditions of their homeland, with various different monuments. There was much debate in England as to whether individuality could be expressed on the gravestones, but eventually it was decided  that there should be a common model, with space for personalized inscriptions at the foot. Could it be that this communal identity, per Durkheim, is why we as a nation still visit and honour the fallen because this common fate has been central in shaping the change in British social life – general buried beside the private solider. Felix Marston matriculated in 1914 and entered military service on 15 August 1914 – it was possible to come up at various points throughout the year. He was a second lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regt, and died aged 20 on 24 July 1916, from wounds sustained from the first battle of Albert.

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La Neuville British Cemetery, Corbie,

Charles Montague Williams

Dorset born Williams came up in 1910. He was the eldest son of Montague Scott and Audrey Mary Williams. He signed up on 18 October 1915 and died from wounds sustained at the battle of the Somme on 29 July 1916. Visiting Corbie today one would not know it had been the scene of horrendous fighting. The cemetery, designed by Lutyens, is set in the midst of fields of sugar beet, and there is a poignant juxtaposition between the calmness and peace of the surrounds and the stories each of the 861 soldiers buried there. Remarkably at this burial ground there are several German graves. These are buried amongst their British counter-figures, reminding us that, despite our differences, we are united in our common humanity.

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Harponville Communal Cemetery

Eric Brown Lees

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Scattered around almost every corner and on the edge of every village is a British [or French] cemetery, standing as a memory of the intensity of human life which fought and died here. We should also remember the ‘ living dead’ – those who served and survived, but who were indelibly scarred. Eric Lees is buried in one such grave yard. He was 40, and came up in 1897 from Eton. He married Florence in 1909 and lived at Thurland Castle, which was owned by his father, and is in Westmorland. He was a Justice of the Peace for Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Westmorland.  He signed up on the day war broke out, and presumably, because of his age and standing in society was promoted to the rank of Major.


Thiepval Memorial

Henry Blythe King Allpass

Victor Leopold Stevens Bedwell

Robert Hope Gordon

Llewyllen Albert Harries-Jones

John Mackreth

Dominic Roe Dathy O’Daly

Orsmond Guy Payne

Percy Douglas Robinson

Francis Gordon Shirreff

Ernest St-Clair Tulloch

John Oswin Turnball

Harry Woodhead

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There is something wrong with society when we need to build a monument to commemorate the 72,000 Commonwealth and French soldiers . This statistic becomes worse when we realize these are only those whose bodies were not identified or recovered; many thousands more died in the battle of the Somme. We felt concerned that our visit today felt like ticking off a list of statistics: 21 Exonians, all of whom died within 10 square miles. The monument at Thievpal is quite surreal, and unlike the other graves. Well tended, but lacking the planting that involved the expertise of Gertrude Jekyll, its Lutyen designed arch draws unfortunate similarities with some of Albert Speer’s plans for Hitler’s Berlin – it just is too abstract and too similar to architectural themes Fascist governments used to be comforting. This is not to undermine the intentions of those who erected it, but the list upon list upon list of names without graves, without personal inscriptions or cap badges does reduce the lives of so many tens of thousands to a register. Almost all the Exonians on the memorial are either second or first lieutenants. 123 of Exeter’s 143 were either second, first lieutenants or captains. Many lost their lives in the terrible month of July 1916, the Battle of the Somme, when ten Exonians died. About half would have known J.R.R.Tolkein, who came up in 1911, and later survived the Battle of the Somme. Harry Allpass was a particular friend, a poet who took a first in Modern Languages, and also in his year were Robert Gordon as well as John Mackreth and Percy Robinson.  The youngest Exonian at Thiepval, Ernest Tulloch, was a Rhodesian and Rhodes Scholar who matriculated in 1914.


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Bécourt Military Cemetery

Henry Reginald Freston

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‘Lonely and silent,

I saw them side by side

In the little new-made grave-garden:

There slept the soldiers of England;

There heros had found their peace.’

So wrote Henry Freston, who came up to Exeter in 1912. He was 25 when he found his peace in the grave-garden of Bécourt cemetery . His inscription reminds the visitor that he was the “author of ‘The Quest for Truth’ and other poems.’ He was killed on 24 January 1916 by a trench mortar at about 2pm. His description of a grave-garden is very fitting: Bécourt Military Cemetery is at the bottom of a valley, enclosed with birch trees on two sides. When we visited the yellow rudbeckia and red roses were in full flower, and helped created a very beautiful  garden scene.   Dartmoor Cemetery, Bécordel-Bécourt William Herbert Wyatt The only son of Willian Wyatt, from Highgate his son came up to Oxford in 1906. He read Greats and joined East Yorkshire Regiment in April 1915, aged 28. He was to die  13 months later in the Somme Offensive.

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Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Mametz

Lionel Pilkington Abbott

‘Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie sea,

ease after wave, death after life doth greatly please.’

This quotation from the Faire Queene, Book 1 canto IX was chosen by Rev’d Arthur and Lucy Blanche Abbott for their 28 yr old son’s grave.  Abbott was a keen sportsman, playing in the rugby XV and rowing at The King’s School, Canterbury, and was Stroke of the College boat when he came up to Exeter. He graduated in 1910 and became a school master in Leicester. In December 1914 he exchanged his teacher’s gown for the uniform of the Leicestershire Regiment. and died in November 1916. Sadly – and unfortuantely – his grave was destroyed by an enemy shell, and the headstone reads ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery.’ Flatiron Copse is in deadground, and was used as a dressing station; the shelter of the surrounding small hills affording a certain degree of protection.

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Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval

Cosmos Lewis Duff-Gordon

Lionel Walter Parry-Crooke

Despite the fact that most Exonians came from public schools, the College attracted relatively few children of noble familes. The exception to this are these two Exonians; the Honourable Cosmos Lewis Duff Gordon, son of Sir Henry and Lady Maud Duff-Gordon of Harpton Court, Hereford and Lionel Walter Parry-Crooke of  Darsham House, Darsham in Suffolk. Duff Gordon’s memorial includes a verse from Psalm 91, ‘ and he shall give his angels charge over thee’, and the Parry-Crookes chose the religious poetry of J.H.Newman, ‘and with the morn, those angels faces smile/ which we have lost long since / and lost a while.’ Although Parry -Crooke came up in 1909, and Duff-Gordon was accepted to study at the College but war broke out before he matriculated, and thus were not at the College together, they rest but a few yards apart in the Deville Wood Cemetery, alongwith 3,500 other Commonwealth soldiers.

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Warlencourt British Cemetery

Henry George Redmond Prior

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Prior enrolled in 1915, ten years after he matriculated. He was the only son of Colonel George Prior, and went to school at Wellington. His father served in the Colonial Army in India, and it is most unlikely that he saw action: after the Indian Mutiny there was relative calm and officers served in an administrative capacity. Warlencourt British Cemetery lies on the road between Albert and Bapaume, and thus right at the centre of the Front.

SEPT 7 – DAY 7

Morval British Cemetery

Tom Cecil Haydn Berry

Tom Berry’s parents, Thomas and Henrietta chose the words ‘Heaven’s morning breaks’ from the hymn ‘Abide with me’ to be inscribed on his headstone. We visited his grave early on Sunday morning, as the sun was beginning to burn through the mist. Morval Cemetery is tiny, and lies near Le Sars, down a couple of small lanes. The serenity and holiness of the place was rather moving. Berry’s date of death is contested: on the roll of honour it is given as 8th August 1918 but his tombstone says 30th August; perhaps the latter is right, as all graves –  bar the one German one – record deaths a few days either side of the end of August, allowing one to presume that all these men, from the same regiment died from the same attack.

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Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt

Charles Treverbyn Gill

Gill was the child of Thomas and Julia Gill and grew up in Kensington. He went to St Paul’s School and came up to Exeter in 1908, where he rowed number 4 in 1911 and Stroke in 1913. His rowing career continued after he left the College, and rowed in the Henley Regatta. One of his men described his dying moments, when he was struck down he is reported to have said ‘I’m beat, push on.’  He died in the Battle of Albert, the first phase on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On his tomb is the University motto: ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’ [The Lord is my Light], taken from Psalm 27.

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Ephey Wood Farm Cemetery

Vincent Harcourt Isaacs

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is aptly named, reflecting the support of the Commonwealth in the struggle of war. This is reflected not only in nation-specific memorials, such as the South African Memorial at Deville Wood, but in soliders from the Colonies fighting in the British army. Vincent Isaacs family were white Jamaicans, with roots both in the UK and USA. The New York Times lists  him as playing the title role in Lohengrin at the Met. He must have had a decent tenor voice! He came up to Exeter in 1911 and entered service on 27th February 1918, and died seven months later.

Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gouy

Wilfred Appleton White

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White’s parents, from Surrey, choose the words ‘God is love’ for their eldest son’s headstone. White was accepted to Exeter, indeed he was a ‘Scholar-Elect’, but signed up in April 1918, aged 19 to join the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. This is one of the few times, if in fact the only time, ‘God is love’ appears on a headstone. It perhaps shows a generosity of spirit towards religion, which is difficult to understand. God may be love, but certainly the hells and carnage of the battle fields – of row upon row of unknown soliders buried, of parents and loved ones having no burial place in which to locate their beloved, or at which to mourn them must make the idea of God is love difficult. Yet, for those of us who do believe that God is love, this reminds us of a need for a greater understanding, and calls us to face up to our own humanity in the prospect of God’s loving eternity. White died on 3rd October 1918 and was the last Exonian to die in action.

Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery, Villers-Plouich

The Rev’d Oswald Addenbrooke Holden

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The decline in the role of the Church in society did not happen until after the war, and during the first world war over 4,400 army chaplains were recruited. Amongst them was Oswald Holden, at 43, one of the oldest Exonians to die in the war. He was the son of a clergyman, and prior to enrolling was vicar of St Peter’s, Stoke on Trent. He was killed on 1st December 1917 – the Eve of Advent. On his tomb are the words ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’

Deslaux Farm Cemetery, Beugny

Peter Handock Broughton-Adderley

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Some people are remembered by their actions, and others by their associations. Broughton-Adderley was the lover of the shipping heiress Nancy Cunard, who was a close friend to many literary grandees, including Huxley and Pound. Peter, the eldest child of H.J. and the Hon. F.M.Broughton-Adderley matriculated in 1910 and entered service a year after he left Exeter, in 1914. He survived the war until 16 October 1918 when his regiment, the Scots Guards [he was a Captain] saw action at Selle River. He was awarded the Military Cross four months after his death in February 1919.

Pozieres Memorial

Charles David Scott-MacKirdy

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There are, unfortunately, four men whose burial or memorial sites were unknown. Thankfully two of these have been found: Gaston Emile Bernheim [see day 4] and Charles David Scott-MacKirdy. He came up in 1914 and an year later left to join the 11th Hussars. Coming from an aristocratic family in Scotland, he was in the Cavalry Division and died on 23rd March 1918.

H.A.C.Cemetery, Ecoust-St. Mein

Reginald Herbert Garrard

It is impossible to comprehend fully the impact of destruction: not just of those killed, but those who mourned, of families and communities devastated by lost, and the economic, historical, and social consequences of so many people dying. It’s possible to glimpse the scale of loss  at the cemetery at Ecoust-St. Mein, where 806 soliders can be identified and 1,087 graves unknown.  Of the 806, one is Reginald Garrard, who matriculated in 1914, and enrolled in January 1916 – the first year that conscription was introduction. He was a second lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps [the same regiment as Wilfred White], and died in the Second Battle of the Scarpe, Arras on 23rd April 1917, St George’s Day.

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Croisilles British Cemetery

William Arthur Barr

Barr came from Bloxham School to Exeter College in 1903 [Exeter is joint patron of the Church at Bloxham with Eton College], and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in September 1914. He was unusual for Oxford graduates in that he served through the ranks, earning his commission. He was 36 when he died, on 27 August 1918. Again the number of unknown soliders buried at Croisilles is heart-breaking: there are seven rows [each with 12 graves] of soliders ‘known unto God’ behind Barr’s row. Yet their sacrifice was not in vain. It is meet and proper that the cemetery is right beside the village football club, and watching teenagers and their families playing whilst the evening sun shone on the dead and living is a reminder to us all to not forget the contribution of the war dead, and to remind those who are power hungry and blood thirsty to visit these graves and see what horrors humans are capable of creating.

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Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery

Bernard Joseph Tolhurst

Browsing the net trying to discover more about the war dead it would appear that many were perhaps too keen on sports and less so on their academic work. This is probably true of Bernard Tolhurst who spent three eyars [1910 – 13] playing football, hockey, and cricket for the College. In October 1914 he signed up and joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, where he saw active service. He then transferred to the newly formed Royal Flying Corps in April 1917 and within the month died from wounds received in an aerial fight at the Battle of Vimy. He is buried in the beautiful cemetery designed by J.R.Truelove.

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SEPT 8 – DAY 8

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of John Norwood VC, whose death was the first one Exeter College suffered. [See below for more information on him.]

Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-les-Mofflains

Charles John Darley-Waddilove

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Our early morning visit to Tilloy Cemetery to pay our respects to Darley-Waddilove  coincided with a visit by a team of gardeners from the Commonwealth Graves Commission. Perhaps one of the most remarkable and memorable aspects of this trip has been how neat and tidy the cemeteries are; borders neatly clipped, grass mown as if it were in the Front Quad. Time and time again the visitors’ book people note how well kept the sites are. It was thus good to see, and to thank those who maintain it. Darley-Waddilove came up to Exeter from Radley College in 1900, from a distinguished ecclesiastical Yorkshire family. He was killed whilst acting as a stretcher bearer on 3 May 1917.

Agny Military Cemetery

Donald Threlkeld Cousins

Whilst the death of any child must be unbearable, the grief and feelings of despair at the loss of an only child incomprehensible. Such fate fell on W.J.Cousins of Seaford, Sussex when his 29 year old son, Donald died on 10 April 1917. Donald came up to Exeter in 1907 and joined The Buffs [East Kent Regiment] in September 1915. He is buried in the small cemetery at Agny, which is reached by a gravel, and then grass path, running behind the gardens and allotments; the juxtaposition between death and life is both stark and reassuring in equal measure.

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Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arrars

Arthur Beadon Colthurst

Reginald Cumberland Green

Archibald Vincent Shirley  [on Flying Services Memorial]

The Rev’d Alan Cecil Judd MC

Thomas Shirley King

Noel Humphrey Roberts

Charles Warnington

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Almost next to the citadel in Arras is the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, which shows how a good architect can blend both grandeur and intimacy; perhaps it is the cloistered walks with the huge panels containing the names of almost 3,000 men mixed with the graves of a further 1,000 intermingled with purple michaelmas daisies and carefully toparied shrubs that make this such a good example of commemorative architecture – the combination of Sir Edwin Lutyens and sculptor Sir William Reid-Dick; unlike at Thiepval, Lutyens got it right here. One of the pictures shows Hamish MacRae, who joined us for the weekend, clutching a ‘bouquet’ of rosemary and ribbons. These have been made up in the back of the car, and is spine-chilling to think that each snip of ribbon, staple, and card refers to a unique life.

Arthur Beadon Colthurst was the oldest Exonian to fight and die: he came up in 1887 and was 46 when he was killed in action on 25 October 1916. His poor, Argentinan, wife, Maria Terese endured great losses: her husband in the first world war, and two of her three children in the second. Only Colthurst and Green are buried here; the others merely commemorated. Green was the son of an industrialist from Luton who matriculated in Oxford in 1904; he served for one and a half years before dying on 18 May 1916. On his grave are the words ‘Thy will be done.’

Not all deaths in this – or indeed any other war – are caused by enemy fire. Shirley was 30 when his plane, a Sopwith Scout collided with another driven by 2nd Lt Robertson. Both men are commemorated on the same panel of the Flying Services Memorial.


The other four Exonians have no grave: Chaplain Alan Judd, MC, reflects how most Exonians left Exeter College to become either teachers or clergymen. He was 31 – a year older than the current College Chaplain – when he was killed in Operation Michael, part of the First Battle of the Somme in March 1918. King matriculated five years earlier, and served in the Colonial Forces before being posted to Europe. He died sometime during the Battle of Arras, 9 April to 15 May 1917. This battle also claimed the life of Noel Roberts, a 23 year old lad who fought with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. His year, 1911, saw the largest number of casualties, with 23 out of 59 dying.  Charles Warnington was 18 when he signed up. His grandfather had fought in the Crimean War, and he was recorded as missing at the Third Battle of the Scarpe, which was 3 – 4 May 1917.

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Duisans British Cemetery

Thomas Cooke

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Researching Thomas Cooke is difficult due to there being a much more famous Cooke; yet the contrast between the founder of the cheap, package holiday and the 23 year old lieutenant of the Honourable Artillery Company is perhaps less than at first glance, as each, in their very different way contributed to the creation of British identity. Cooke was from Tamworth and a Scholar of the College. He first entered Exeter in 1913 and was to leave in December 1914 never to return. He was commissioned in spring 1915 and died defending the Hindenburg Line on 30 May 1915. The layout of the Cemetery, with the Cross of Sacrfice at one end and the Altar Stone, with the words ‘Their name liveth for evermore’ at the other creates a very pleasant, green space. Each cemetery has a slightly different configuration of these, along with the planting, shelter, and gates; the creation of these burial and memorial grounds was not a ‘one size fits all’ but careful attention was paid to the surrounding landscape, as well as the number of graves.

Ligny-St. Flochel British Cemetery

Geoffrey George Bellamy

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Major Bellamy was one of the 23 from 1911 who died.  After he left Exeter he trained to be a lawyer. He served in the Devonshire Regiment – in the Cyclist Division [a wonderful image of cycling with a gun attached to the basket!] and his body lies buried at Averdoingt, several miles beyond the Front. This reminds us that the trenches and fronts were not the only places inhabited by the army. Dressing stations, hospitals, and respite messes were situated several miles away, in relative safety. Sadly most of those who are buried here died within a few days of each other; primitive medical conditions and the terrible state of the casualties meant that many suffered in agony for a few days before finally dying. Attached to the side of this graveyard are a couple of dozen German graves. This is unusual, as almost all other Commonwealth graves incorporate the British and German soliders side by side, but it would seem from the careful architecture and design of this plot that the German graves were later added; perhaps their bodies were found after the Armistice, or their graveyard may have been closed down.

Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont St-Elio

Richard Willis

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‘Thou gavest him a long life even for ever and ever and ever.’ [Psalm 21.4] These words appear on the tombstone of Richard Willis who came up to Exeter to read Greats [Classics], and he went on to teach Latin at Abingdon School. The text chosen for his grave refer to the heavenly kingdom, where, as John Donne wrote, there is no darkness nor light, but one equal eternity. Standing in this cemetery it is possible to glimpse at this: the proportions of graves, gardens, and monuments surrounded by water meadows brings a tear to the eye. Gertude Jekyll’s ability to combine the formal and intimate, the flowing and the structural all come together wonderfully here: students of landscape gardening would do well to visit these Commonwealth War Graves.

Cabaret Rouge Cemetery

Charles Kenyon

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Kenyon, who matriculated in 1913 and came from Sussex, is one of the few British soliders buried at Cabaret Rouge. The majority of the 7,500 soliders are from Canada, and in 2011 an unknown soldier was exhumed and re-buried in Canada, honoured as the ‘Unknown Warrior.’ It is fascinating how central the war was in shaping national identity. For younger nations made up of people from different lands the war helped to forge a national identity: they could share in, and commemorate a common theme, with sufficiently vague values to appeal to as wide a grouping as possible. Many of the visitors in the book came from Canada. But also one can infer that relationships with Britian – especially that of the Dominions remained strong: after all there was no specific reasons why these lands should keep the British monarch as Head of State, other than, perhaps the cementing of ties to Britian through various threadings, perhaps dominated by the shared suffering, loss, and grief of the first world war.

Loos British Cemetery

Ronald Erskine Wilford Maxwell

Wilfred John Chambers

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Walking across a small patch of earth from the car to the cemetery it is really striking how heavy and cloying the mud is: it is easy to see how the war poets compared the subterfuge of war with the ground upon which they were walking. In Loos the number of unknown graves begins to sink in: were whole bodies recovered, or only parts? What conditions were the corpses in, that they were so unrecognisable? Grim questions to ask, but one needs to rememer that Loos cemetery was not always well tended grass with crisp autumn leaves gently falling in the late summer sun. Here rest Maxwell and Chambers, though neither were at the College at the same time. Maxwell studied Theology from 1905, and in 1908 joined what has since become the Territorial Army. He was commissioned into the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in August 1914 and died on 25th September 1915.  Chambers, a son of the rectory was eight years younger and died in August 1916.

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It is worth breaking from the usual pattern to note that on 25 September 1915 6 Exonians died.

Ronald Erskine Maxwell

John Bromfield-Willams

George Conway Jackson

Osric Osmond Staples

Michael William Maxwell Windle

Richard Ernest Harvey

This news resulted in  Rector Farnell having a nervous breakdown: so many young men, with such potential lost. They all died fighting in the Battle of Loos.

Dud Corner and the Loos Memorial

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David Hepburn Brown [the only body of the following to be identified]

John Bromfield-Williams

George Conway Jackson

Arthur Edward Knight Mason

Gilbert Swale Robertson

Osric Osmond Staples

Michael William Maxwell Windle

Geoffrey Dayrell Wood

Marrett, the Fellow in Classics wrote ‘ we had regarded these men almost as sons… of the friendshps of my later manhood and middle age I dared hardly to think, so many ghosts did it summon up.’ Standing on the tower overlooking the Loos Memorial the loss really gets to one: over 20,000 names – no bodies identified: it is the same number as the inhabitants of a small town all within the space of a football pitch. It really is breathtaking. These men came from different backgrounds, and had different skills: Staples, for example was a Rhodes Scholar, whilst Windle a very clever, witty friend of Tolkien.  For a good, and well written account of Tolkien and his time at Exeter, please see John Garth’s article ‘Tolkien, Exeter College, and the Great War.’


It is possible to see why so many Alumni of the College have taken such interest in this endeavour: whilst lying a sprig at the memorial site of Jackson I saw Viscount Stuart’s name. He was a Corpuscle – from my undergraduate college, Corpus Christi, whose parents had paid for the war memorial in the Chapel –  and opposite whose name, picked out in gold lettering, I had sung Evensong for four years. The feeling of empathy and of beginning to recognise that these are not just letters but names, and not just names but lives with emotions, ambitions, secrets, fears, and aspirations which could not be lived out to the full is almost too unbearable.

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Fosse 7 Military Cemetery, Mazingarbe

Richard Ernest Harvey

Harvey came up to Exeter in 191o, the son of Preb. Clyde Harvey of Hailsham. He was in the Black Watch and died from wounds received at the Battle of Loos. That he is buried a few hundred yards from his fellow Exonians suggests he was taken from the scene of battle for treatment, where he died. He was 24.

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SEPT 9 – DAY 9

Vermelles British Cemetery

Malcolm Reginald Gibson

Charles Gordon Jelf

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These two Exonians died after suffering injuries at the Battle of Loos in October 1915. Jelf came up to Exeter as a Scholar in 1905 and read Lit. Hum.  Prior to the war he was an Egyptlogist, and was  29 when he died. Across the cemetery lies Malcolm Gibson. Unlike Jelf, whose father was a clergyman and who relied upon a scholarship to cover his costs at College, Gibson was the son of Sir Walter Gibson, Kt CVO, ISO, who was Secretary of the Privy purse to Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and King George V. It is clear from this visit that almost all Exonians were from upper-middle and upper class families, with some, such as Hibbs [see below] benefiting from one of the Charles I Scholarships. The diversity to which we still aspire, and to some extent achieve, was not considered important: the ideal was for Oxbridge to produce colonial administrators, army officers, clergymen, as well as teachers and, occasionally, academics. Of course the College included College Servants who fought in the war, but as members of the town and not gown, and part of our intentions is to raise money through this tour to erect a plaque in the antechapel commemorating them.

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Yet there are no social distinctions in the Portland stone headstones: privates buried beside colonels. And this is partly possible because there was no financial obligation on the families to maintain the graves either then or now. Our visit to Vermelles corresponded with the removal and replacing of gravestones whose inscriptions had worn out, as well as re-siting those which had slipped because the wooden pegs which anchor them had rotted.

Noeux-Les-Mines Communal Cemetery

John Cardross Grant, MC

Grant was 23 when he died. His military career lasted fifteen months: he signed up in September 1914 and died in January 1916; yet in that time he was mentioned in Despatches in 1915 and was awarded the Military Cross two weeks before his death on 27 January. The Military Cross was created at the outbreak of the war for junior officers, and to plug the gap between mentions in Despatches and the Distinguished Service Order and Victoria Cross. During the course of the War it was opened to the Navy and Airforce, and in the 1990s was extended to other ranks, when the Military Medal was put into abeyance.

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Bethune Town Cemetery

Griffith Davies

Robert Wilfred Ranleigh Gramshaw

Although these men matriculated in different years [1912 and 1909 respectively], they rest on the same row a few graves apart in Bethune. This cemetery is again in the communal cemetery, and although it may seem repetitive to read, the different between the gravel and the grass is so stark.  Inscribed on some graves are the opening lines from Rupbert Brooke’s poem, ‘The Soliders’, and whatever we may think of this poetry today its meaning clearly resonated with the relatives and kinspeople of those who died.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever 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.

Gramshaw was at Charterhouse School, and its motto, ‘Deo dante dedi’ is inscripted on the headstone. His parents were the Rev’d Michael and Emily Gramshaw of Polegate in Sussex. Medals he won – both military and in debating at school  – were up for auction a few years ago. This reminds us that many of these men did not have children, dying in their early twenties. It fell to siblings to remember them once their parents died, and this can be seen from the messages in visitors’ books which often mention how they are here to ‘meet the great uncle I never knew’.’

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Lapugnoy Military Cemetery

Laurence Bodset Hibbs

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Hibbs was one of 14 children from St Helier Jersey: his parents were Rebecca and James. He came to Exeter on the Scholarship founded by Charles I for students from the Channel Islands [this was before the King decided to loot the college silver to melt for coinage]. Hibbs came up in 1913 and entered service when war was declared. It’s worth remembering that conscription was not introduced until 1916, and the general understanding was that the war would last a few months, so students could return to university at the beginning of the Hilary, or at the latest Trinity term. This cemetery contains as well as the usual Commonwealth graves and a few German graves, some grey stone crosses. These were erected by soliders to commemorate members of their own platoons in the course of the war years; occasionally these can be found in graves, especially if the cemetery lies where support hospitals and stations were situated, rather than on the front.

Busnes Communal Cemetery

Arthur Cedric Foster

Foster was one of the 23 students from the 1911 intake who died during the war. He was 23 when he died of wounds at Neuve Chapelle on 12 March 1915. His grandfather made the family fortune by owning a woollen mill, and upon his death in 1913 Arthur inherited £70,000 [approximately £4 million in today’s spending worth]. He married Alice Madeline, presumably after finishing at Exeter and before he joined up, which was on 18th September 1914. Foster is buried along with 4 other Commonwealth soliders  in the tiny communal graveyard at Busnes; although his tombstone includes the Brooke’s quotation he is buried in a flowerbed, surrounded by red and yellow asters.

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Chocques Military Cemetery

Ernest William Marshall, MC

Arriving at Chocques corresponded with the brass cleaner polishing the door to the cemetery register; each graveyard has a register – red for memorials and green for burials, and a vistiors’ book. Chatting to him, the Rector discovered not only that he had been doing this job for 35 years [I’m sure his further particulars stretched beyond simply polishing brass], but also he was puzzled at why so many people came to visit, not just in this anniverary year, but there is always a constant flow. He is part of a team who cover all some of the cemeteries around Bethune and Arras, and every cemetery is visited often, especially by Canadians. This, I think, supports the idea that common and collective memories help to shape identity, especially of younger nations made up of composite nationalities, and so it might be that one of the reasons why people visit these graves, especially from the English speaking world [remember that most American soldiers were repatriated] is that in doing so they are not only remembering those who died, but also celebrating their national identity,

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Le Touret Military Cemetery and Memorial

Hubert Lockington Bayfield

Cyril Alfred William Crichton

Theodore Hugh Galton [on memorial]

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The Le Touret memorial commemorates 13,400 men and the cemetery contains the remains of a further 1,000. Galton died in October 1914, scarcely two months after he signed up, and his brother, Francis, died on St George’s Day 1917. His parents were military too: Major Hubert Galton and Emily Galton. However it is likely that his father did not see action, as he was a colonial administrator, whose job was to try and keep the peace in African colonies.  Galton was 26 when he died. Also in his year was Hubert Bayfield – they both matriculated in 1908. Bayfield was an only son and studied at Winchester College before coming up to read Law finals. He joined the army in 1912, after he left the University, and was gazetted to the Leicestershire Regiment. Wounded at Rue des Bois in October 1914, he was invalided back to England, but he returned to the front on Boxing Day 1914. He died three months later. There were four years between Bayfield and Crichton at Exeter, so they probably never met in college, but they died a few days apart at Neuve Chapelle and are buried in the same cemetery. Crichton’s body, however, was not discovered until 1925. This gives a little glimpse into how long and complicated the process was to recover, record, and bury with dignity. And one can imagine some of the anguish felt by living relatives, who were not allowed to put up their own burials in France, as the cemeteries remained under British administration. Lionel and Fannie Crichton were so distraught that they erected a private memorial for their son on the corner of a field which was to become the Indian Memorial.

Rue Du Bois Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix

Rowland George Breece-Bowen

Rue Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix

Herman Alexlander Coysgarne Sim

Rue David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix

Frederick William Littlewood

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Drop thy still dews of quietness

Till all our striving cease.

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of thy peace.’

Exonian Hubert Parry set these words of Whittier to music as the hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind,’, and in one way they represent many of these small cemeteries. On one level it is symmetrical: the trees either side of the cross or stone of remembrance, the shelters and gates opposite each other. But within this there are rows of graves with different spaces, slight variations, so that the feeling is one of peaceful beauty; the  harsh lines of the immaculately trimmed grass broken up with roses or salvias; the whole ambience is one of balm.

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These three graveyards are here put together to give the reader the sense of how close they are in reality; on  one square of the map, measuring about 4 square miles, there are no fewer 8 cemeteries, each one with between 500 and 2,000 men, each of those with their own stories, families, and lives given up in the stupidity of war. Of our three soliders, Littlewood was 20 when he died in March 1915. He read Classics and came from Boston. Sim, who was an Old Etonian, died on 9 May 1915, and Breece-Bowen was a 23 year old Londoner. Whilst Baker and Blomfield created places of inestimable peace and beauty, it would have been much better if there was no cause for them to be built in the first place.

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SEPT 10 – DAY 10

Ploegsteert Memorial

Roderick Dear MacGregor

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Today we awoke in France, and will go to sleep in Belgium, having spent the day crossing the border many times. The first memorial we visited was the Ploegsteert Memorial, which takes the form of a classical rotunda designed by Harold Bradshaw with the entrance flanked by two British lions sculpted by Ledward. Here is commemorated Roderick Dear MacGregor who came up to Exeter in 1896, and joined up in December 1914. He was a medic who used these skills to serve the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was a captain when he died on 9th April 1918.

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Bailleul Communal Cemetery

Geoffrey Cowper Spenser Pratt

From the middle names they gave their son, it would appear that Col A.S. Pratt, CB CMG and his wife, the Hon. Mrs Pratt were fans of English poetry. They were aristocrats, living in the now demolisted Orfold Hall in Surrey. Yet for the memorial inscription to their son they chose neither poet, but words from 2 Samuel, ‘ Strong, and courageous, lovely, and pleasant in his life.’ He came up to Exeter in 1912 and after two years joined the Royal Horse Artillery, with whom he served until he died on 27th November 1915. He died from wounds: Ballieul was taken by the Germans in 1918, and several of the surrounding towns were never taken, and thus became respite centres as well as hospitals, and many of those who are buried in the surrounding cemeteries died from their wounds in these hospitals.

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Godewaersvelde British Cemetery

Brian Wilding Ashworth

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Godewarsvelde Cemetery is approached through a path full of brambles and blackberries in various stages of ripeness, reminding me of Seamus Heaney’s poem, ‘Blackberry-Picking.’ In it he describes how the buckets full of delicious, juicey blackberries  which he stored up for eating later would turn to stinking juice, moudling in the barns, and it’s possible to draw some comparison with these dead young men. Almost all are aged 18 – 30, so full of potential, standing at the threshold of what would be possible. For some there could have been glittering careers, passionate relationships, grandchildren to tuck in at night; yet for others life could be a stream of disappointments and failures: imprisonments, depressions, failure. For most, life would have been a mix of each. Yet they remain like how Heaney would have wished his blackberries: to be preserved in their prime. It’s easy to see how some people found, and still find the rhetoric of the ‘glorious war dead’ difficult to process.

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery

William Stanley Eames

Samuel Archibald Currie Gibson, MC

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Both Eames and Gibson matriculated in 1907, and they now lie a few yards from each other in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, along with almost 10,000 other soldiers from the Commonwealth, Germany, and unusually the USA.  Gibson died on 26 August 1917 and was posthumously awarded the MC. The London Gazette describes it: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in an attack on the enemy’s position. Although wounded on four separate occasions, he continued to lead his company until incapacitated by a serious wound in the back.
By his gallant conduct and personal example  he got them through to their objective under extremely heavy rifle and machine-gun fire from front and flanks.’

Eames came from Corby in Leicester, and on his grave is the inscription, ‘ In God’s keeping.’ The hope of eternal life is reflected too on Gibson’s grave: his carries a paraphrased inscription from John’s gospel, ‘Peace, he is not here, he is risen.’ For Christians the question of how an omnipotent God could allow such suffering is a vexed one, and for others a great stumbling block to faith. Yet the more we understand why things happen – from historical, political, economic, and probably most importantly, scientific perspectives – the concept of the almighty God becomes more difficult. I think perhaps it is time to dispense with the idea of ‘God the Father almighty’ – after all it too is a human construct, from the Council of Nicea, and instead accept and acknowledge the concept of evil in the world. With this, it is then possible to see how the loving God is able to help us through these difficulties. Certainly religious language as seen time and time again as epitaphs on these graves shows how people fell back on faith to give comfort, but ultimately it is almost impossible to answer the question, ‘why or  how did God allow these young men to be killed in senseless warfare?’

Poperinghe New Military Cemetery

Arthur Edward Sanders

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The cemetery at Poperinghe lies well behind the Front, and the town was never taken. Due to this safe location it became a support centre: the Rev’d Tubby Clayton set up the ‘Everyman Club’, and his ‘Upper Room’ chapel services drew many tens of thousands; he later went on to found Toc H, based on the nickname for Talbot House, where his chapel was located in the attic. [There are plans for a more detailed article on Tubby Clayton].

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However, Poperinghe was also the centre for military discipline, and during the war 306 Commonwealth military personel were executed for committing capital offences. It’s worth noting that 89% of death sentences were commuted, and in 2006 all deserters and others sentenced to death were pardoned. Arthur Sanders, however, was not executed: he died of’ wounds received in action whilst attending normal duties’ – often this phrase is used to describe those who suffered ‘friendly fire’ – either accidents self inflicted or by fellow soliders, mainly because of the lack of training and their inexperience. Saunders died on 19 May 1916, aged 25, and served in the York and Lancaster Regiment.

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery

Alec MacDougal Gordon

This cemetery is perfectly still apart from the gentle movement of the weeping willows and the chickens scratching about in the farmyard next door. Designed by Blomfield, it’s remarkable how the trees help to create a feeling: elsewhere stately poplars or yews line avenues, but here the carelessness of the willow blowing contrasts with the seriousness of the matter of commemorating the dead. Alec Gordon came up in 1911 and joined the army in September 1914, after he finished at the College. He was a captain the Royal Field Artillery. His pareants, John and Mary Gordon owned Potternewton House in Leeds.


Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery

Harold Parry

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Parry’s parents were colliers from Bloxwich: he won an open Scholarship and came up to read History in 1915. He joined up in 1916 and is remembered for his poetry, which you can read at the beginning of the college roll of honour. However a letter home to his sister Isabel [the Dot referred to is another sibling] gives an insight into his understanding of the situation. He writes:

“The average Fritz is as sick at heart over all this destruction as we are. We are preached a doctrine of frightfulness, and yet is it not sufficiently sad to think when you come across an unburied dead German, perhaps this day his wife and children mourn for him, and in the future can know neither peace nor comfort? I must confess it distresses me beyond measure, for I am not a soldier at heart.”

“The real evil in this conflict is not of the individual so much as of the powers that be.  If these dignitaries could only be sat in the trenches for a wee short space, and made to carry heavy coils of wire for long distances up long communication trenches – blasted by the incessant force of the guns, I could guarantee that their war would not last longer than the time to fix up provisional peace terms.  Let Dot read this letter, but not my mother or father, it would make them grieve and I don’t want that.”

For more information on Parry there is a great website:

Bard Cottage Cemetery

Anthony Edward King Slingsby

Howel Morgan Williams

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Slingsby joined the army after he left Exeter in 1912, and was a lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. He came from Skipton in Yorkshire, and died at Ypres [Ieper in Flemish] on 16 July 1915. He was 26. His fellow Exonian, Williams was conscripted in 1916 and joined the Welch Regiment. He died in action in Ypres. Driving around the outskirts of the city it is striking how many cemeteries there are: from a first glance they look quite small, then one reads the information, and discovers that over a thousand men are buried there: as a comparison, there were about 1,000 Old Members and Friends at the College on Founder’s Day.

Essex Farm Cemetery

Alec Leith Johnston

Alec was a scholar of the College, who matriculated in 1908. He joined up when war was declared in 1914 and died one and a half years later on 22 April 1916.

The names of the graveyards around Ypres: Essex Farm, Bard Cottage, Sanctuary Wood and so forth sound very English: they’re certainly easier to pronounce than Godewaersvelde! And these appellations remind one that for almost four years this area was occupied by English speaking troops – from the Commonwealth and latterly from the USA. It’s worth noting that America repatriated its dead,which is why it was surprising to see several US military graves today. At Essex Farm there is a mixture of English and Canadian soliders, tucked between the  main road and the canal: this is a heavily visited site, with plastic grass in places to resist the wear of footfall. The words ‘we will remember them’ do resonate: even at the Menin Gate, where tens of thousands of names are inscribed, almost as if they were architectural decorations, the fact that hundreds of people gather every evening at 8pm for a simple act of remembrance – tourists, scouts, British legion, bewildered passers-by, all point to the fact that people are keen to see, to experience, and to participate in this. Whether they come to pay respects to specific people, or to honour the idea of laying down one’s life for others, or even just to take a picture,  or to tick off Flanders on the 100-places-to-visit-before-you-die-list; nevertheless these places, which have so many dead people are full of life.  Wouldn’t it be marvellous if all of us who visit are go away resolved to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Today is the eve of the anniversary of 9/11: have we really learnt much about the cost of human life? Warfare has changed: terrorism has, on the whole, taken over from nation against nation, but still many many people die because ideologies can’t co-exist, or differences can’t be understood or inhabited through dialogue.

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SEPT 11 – DAY 11

The Menin Gate

Reginald [Rex] Brandt Arnell

William Bastard

William Nowel Lawson Boyd

Andrew Buckland Hodge

Arthur Curgenven Magor

Last night many people had gathered at the Menin Gate for a simple act of remembrance; early next morning it was a very different scene. The gate is a physical gateway to the city, with cars driving throug on their way to work,and  young teenagers in love having a last kiss before school. This huge monument – with many more names than just those contained within the archway – is much more than a monument; it is an inhabited space and part of the city walls and city-scape in a way that Thievpal isn’t. And the side panels extend out into a park and pond on either side.  Here amongst the many thousand names are five Exonians, who all died in the first two years of the war. Rex Arnell  came up in 1912 as a Scholar from the Isle of Man. His father was a flour miller, the father of three children; one of whom died in the Boer War, the other surviving the war and serving in the 1920s in Kenya. He was an avid cricketer and footballer, playing for both his old school – Berkhamstead, and the College. He was in the OTC and got his commission in 1914. He sustained injuries at the front, but returned. He was killed in ‘The Action of Hooge on 30th July 1915. This was the first time ever liquid fire flamethrowers were used in warfare.

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Very little is known of William Bastard, who came up to Exeter in 1910. He joined the Bedfordshire Regiment after he took Schools, and was killed two months into the war on 27th october 1914. He would have overlapped with William Boyd, a Scot who obtained a University Commission in the regular Army. He was one of 8 Scottish Exonians who died in the first world war. He is presumed to be killed at Ypres. It is, alas, common, for remains of soliders to be discovered today, for example during building works, and when found, attempts are made to identify the remains: for example the cap badge of the regiment, or a dog tag with a number on it. If the corpse can be identified, the name is removed from the Menin gate and the body buried in one of the Commonwealth cemeteries; if not, the body is buried with the words ‘Known unto God.’

Andrew Hodge was a vicar’s son, and clearly a dedicated student as he held the Dyke, Dean Boyd, and Cholmondeley Exhibitions. He started at Exeter in 1911 and joined up in January 1915.  He died in July 1917, aged 24. Magor was ten years older than Hodge; he matriculated in 1897, and the diaries of the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment give a glimpse of the practicalities of the war; on 6th December 1914 he was given command of 195 privates and four lieutenants to help him. On 17th October the Germans opened fired at about 1am, and ‘ although a few shots were returned, presumably from a patrol. Captain Magor was killed. Battalion remained in trenches all day.’

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Ieper [Ypres] Reservoir Cemetery

John Stanley Burton

Sandwith George Peter Cruddas

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The sun shining through the early morning mist, with freshly fallen, veneer-like chestnuts resting in the dew-damp grass gives the visitor a sense of clam and peace at this cemetery. Yet Ypres was the scene of utter devastation. In this grave yard the graves are arranaged in rows and curves in relation to the huge memorial stone and cross of sacrifice, and what really brought home the sheer scale of the war is this: the long rows of graves contain exactly 92 graves, and there are probably 8 or 9 of these rows. Each year we admit between 90 and 93 undergraduatess; suddenly the white stone headstones become the faces of all the first years, then the second years, and so on. Cruddas was a second year when he signed up to fight. His father was yet another clergyman, from Cornwall who had gone to Trinity College, Oxford. Cruddas died on 21 September 1915, aged 21. Burton was older: 31 when he died. On his grave his wife, Lilian chose the words ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,’ from Revelation 2.  And in a funny way, these words ring true. Of course it is tragic that their lives were so short, yet, through our commemorations – not just this visit, but every time one goes into the college chapel their names appear – we do remember them, and know more about them than either those who fought in the war and survived, or many of the subsequent students who pass through the College’s medieaval gates.

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Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery

Edmund John Solomon

Solomon came up in 1912, from London.  He joined the South Lancashire Regiment after signing up on Boxing Day 1914. He is one of two Jewish students whom we visited today; the Star of David replaces the Cross on the tombstone.  Each of the graveyards we visited today lie within a mile or two of the Ypres ring road: the intensity of the concentration of these cemeteries is astounding; the land here really must be blood drenched. Edmund was 23 when he died on 2 August 1917.

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Bedford House Cemetery

Cuthbert Francis Balleine

Bedford House was the name given to a chateau by the British soliders when they were beaten by the Flemish names with their tendency to have several js together. Here in a vast cemetery, with 2,500 unknown graves, lives Cuthbert Francis Balleine, who was a Fellow and Sub-Rector of the College. He came up to Exeter in 1902 and stayed on to be elected to a Fellowship. He was popular with students, and a great outdoor fan, which including forming the first Oxford University Scout Group made up of the trebles from the Choir. His obit portrays him in with an intimacy that makes this Fellow respect his contributions to College and to humanity. [Note that the wall behind his grave is currently being rebuilt]

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Railway Dugouts Burial Ground

The Rev’d Edgar Noel Moore, MC

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Railway Dugout Burial Ground lies in the lee of the raised railway; this provided some shelter for the burial of the fallen. Yet even this was not in peace. In one corner of this cemetery, designed by Lutyens, is a circle of 72 graves, commemorating men who had been buried, yet whose resting place had been destroyed by shelling; the words ‘ in the midst of life we are in death ‘[Romans 8.10] have a literal meaning which is probably more comprehensible than its theological interpretaion. Moore was a Chaplain to The King’s [Liverpool] Regiment, and died when struck by shell fire when officiating at the burial of another solider.

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Sanctuary Wood Cemetery

Richard Kellock Stirling

‘The Lord make his face to shine upon thee’ [Numbers] is what Jane Stirling chose for her son’s grave. She deserves our pity: her husband died when Richard was young, and he was her only child.  He matriculated in 1912: so many of his year were to serve, and to die. He became a lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers, and was killed in action at Hooge on 21 August 1915.  In writing these entries it is so easy to concentrate on facts and getting through the list of names; it is equally humbling and, to be honest, mindblowing, to think that one can summarise a life with so little words, such was the value of life at the beginning of the war. How did the government get away with sending so many hundreds of thousands of men to death? It is remarkable that there wasn’t a coup in the UK and that the monarchy survived: Great Britian was pretty much the exception in comparison to other European countries.  It is understandable how the concept of human rights took root after the first world war, and were formally recognised and accepted after the second.

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Hooge Crater Cemetery

Wilfred James Dobson


Dobson was a Canadian solider, or at least he fought in the Canadian Infantry, Western Ontario Regiment. He entered Exeter in 1898 and signed up in late August 1914. He was killed on 9 July 1916 in the battles which followed the Hooge Crater. This was the first time the Germans used flare-guns in response to the Commonwealth heavy bombardement. Almost 6,000 Allied soliders are buried here: the original graveyard contained 76 bodies, but was augmented after the war as grave yards were rationalised and put under the control of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The land was given by the King of the Belgians; the land in France a perpetual gift from the people of the French Republic, in gratitude for the sacrifice of those who ensured their liberation.

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Potijze  Chateau Wood Cemetery

Leonard Cecil Tong Manlove

Potijze Wood Cemetery is one of three situated in the grounds of a former chateau; the others being the Lawn and Grounds Cemetery. This country house lay sufficiently far behind the front to be used as a dressing station, where the crudest of operations and first aid would take place. Medics had indelible pens to write on the foreheads of the wounded whether they had any medication or what was wrong with them; although medical papers had been prepared in England and shipped out to be used, the sheer volume and conditions in which the medics had to work meant it was more efficient to have the notes physically on the patients. Manlove was 28 when he died. He matriculated in 1906 and was from Paignton. He died on 3 August 1916, almost ten years after he came up to Exeter. I wonder whether, when preparing to move to Oxford he thought that his life would end as it did?

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Tyne Cot Memorial

Claude Herbert Bowman

Raven Cozens-Hardy

Harold Henry Goodman

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For the last two visits of today we were joined by Exonian David Delameillieure [2003 Biochemistry], who now is a Protestant Pastor in Belgium. With him we paid our respects to three Exonians at Tyne Cot. This memorial was built after it was discovered the Menin Gate was too small; it combines both graves and memorial panels, and takes its name from a pill box used as a dressing station: the original Tyne Cot [Cottage] is encased in the Cross of Sacrifice, at the suggestion of King George V. This site was by far the busiest of all memorials; there were several coaches parked in the car-park, and most of the visitors were English or English speaking. Writing back in Oxford, where we have memorials but very few graves, is it possible to say that part of the reason why so many British, Canadian, Australian people visit the war graves is because their narrative is part of our identity as nations, and as peoples, yet it is removed, not only by time, but by distance. Talking to David, who has lived in Belgium for many years,  and thinking of the teenagers snogging at the Menin Gate, the war and its consequences are all around: you can’t drive for more than 5 minutes without finding at least two Commonwealth, one French and a German cemetery. There is probably less need for more official, or pronounced commemorations in Belgium because it has entered the subconscious. Even if people make annual pilgrimages to these graves, that is very different from seeing them on the way to the supermarket or restaurant.

Here are buried three Exonians: Bowman, who secured a place to study but did not matriculate was the son of Lawrence Bownan, the head master of the Jews’ Free Schoool, and later liberal politician. He entered service in December 1916 and was killed eight months later on 16  August 1917. He was 20. Raven Cozens-Hardy was from the Norfolk gentry: his family’s wealth was significantly increased by the will of Mary Hardy in the late C18th, and so too the family name increased to include Hardy. He enrolled in the College in 1905 and joined up in September 1914. He saw three years’ service, dying on 9 October 1917 in part of the Flanders Offensive, most probably at the battle of Passchendaele. Goodman came up in 1911 and, like many of the 59 in his year, joined up. He served with the Devonshire Regiment, and was killed some time between 16 and 18 August 1917. Like all the names on the memorials, the bodies of none of these three Exonians were ever identified, or possibly even found.

Poelcapelle British Cemetery

Walter Rolfe Brown

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Brown lies in the peaceful Poelcapelle Cemetery. This is a few miles from Ieper centre, and, at 12 minutes, the furthest drive of the day. This gives one some sense of the intensity of grave yards. Walter Brown is unusual amongst the Exeter war dead in that he was a private. His parents, Robert and Sarah lived in Wimbledon. He came up in the same year as Goodman, and the two probably died together in the same battle. So much of College life is collegiate: eating together, working together, praying together [Chapel then being compulsory], as well as getting up to mischief together. Yet the idea of friends from the same year going off to fight and die in the same battle was surely not what either they or their parents had anticipated. Across the country ‘pals regiments’ were formed, with friends from the same village or area signing up together. This was not the case for the College or even University, and students often signed up with the regiments from their locality. Just over a year after Brown joined, he died in the second battle of Ypres, aged 24.

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SEPT 12 – DAY 12

Wimereux Communal Cemetery

Cameron Lamb DSO

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Although there is a Commonwealth cemetery in Wimereux, where the headstones are laid flat because of the sandy soil, Lamb is buried in the civic cemetery, and lies under a celtic cross with the words, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.'”  His father was Sir John Cameron Lamb CB, CMG, who amongst other things, wrote a book on life boats. He was a servant of the Empire, as was Cameron, who came up to Exeter in 1897, and after that was involved in Colonial administration. He was 35 when he died, on New Year’s Eve 1914. Lamb’s gravestone is different because his family erected it. He died only four months into the war; the government had no idea how long, how bloody, how awful the war would be, nor did it, at that point, realise the need for a uniformal, national commemoration. Only as deaths rose and the reality and brutality of trench warfare set in, did it become obvious that a war graves commission be set up. David Crane’s ‘Empires of the Dead’ provides a detailed account of the difficulties, and ultimate triumph of how to, with dignity and sympathy, honour the hundreds of thousand Commonwealth military who, through a sense of loyalty, patriotism, or, more likely, because of a sense of adventure or pressure, fought and died for our freedom.

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Coxyde Military Cemetery

Arthur James Lewis O’Beirne

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In 1916 Exonian C.H.H.Parry was asked to set William Blake’s poem ‘Jerusalem’ to music. Reluctantly Parry did so: he was reluctant because he did not believe in the patrotic fever which those who commissioned him had hoped his piece would create.  His understanding of the words were most probably closer to what Blake had imagined than their use today. In 1917 Parry wrote to Sir Francis Younghusband, chair of the Fight for Right Movement, withdrawing his support, and the piece ceased to be used. However Jerusalem gained popularity as a Suffragette anthem; the extension of the franchise after the war was one of its more positive outcomes. Although I agree with Parry [being from Ulster it is always with gritted teeth that I sing it at weddings in England!], the pathway up to Coxyde Cemetery reminds one of the idea of the ‘green and pleasant land.’

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This medium sized cemetery is located at the foot of the hill; the Cross of Sacrifice is on raised ground, and the overall atmosphere is again one of peace and calm. We came to honour Arthur O’Beirne, who matriculated in 1907, and who joined up in August 1914. He transferred from the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars to the newly created Royal Flying Corps, and died, aged 29 of wounds received in air fighting on 28 July 1917. The words on his tomb are perhaps a good way to end this account: as he rests not only in a Christian understanding, but also in the peace of an inestimably well cared for cemetery, such as we found throughout our visit.

‘Grant him, O Lord, rest eternal.’

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