Dedication - Prescot Roll of Honour
I wanted to have a dedication, or exhortation, for the site, something to show the meaning of the work undertaken. I found the following as a preface to the book “Roll of Honour” produced by the Baron du Ruvigny during the Great War. In my view, he puts it perfectly, even down to the patriotic language of the day.
“These men have laid down their lives for England. In the future, history will pass its verdict on the War, its causes and its consequences, the methods of its accomplishment, and on the men who planned and schemed and fought to bring it to a triumphantly victorious ending. Our children, and the generations which are to follow us, for whose sake we have believed this war is being waged, will sit in judgment on all that has been done for good or for ill. Let us be content to be so judged.
But, whatever may be that verdict, what grander tribute can we humbly pay to those who have fallen, what else can we proudly say of them than the bare reiteration of the simple fact that they have made that last and greatest sacrifice of all? That sacrifice has been reached after the manner of our race, for the benefit of others, for the sake of those ideals which we rightly regard alike as the foundation and the characteristics of our nation.
From the fringes of the Empire, men came homing back to the Motherland to shoulder her trouble and die for her alongside of the veterans who had already grown grey in the service of the King, and of the boys from London Town.
Some have gone out to meet death with laughter on their lips, and some with prayers; and others have faced the end racked with the pain of long drawn suffering. Some have died in the gladdening exhalation of accomplished victory; and there are those who fought – and fought and turned again and fought – and fell, sleeping as they fell and dying as they slept, in that grimmest nightmare of retreat at the opening of the campaign.
Victory we have known – failure we have met; yet those who have fought this fight for us have heaped up laurel upon laurel to add eternal lustre to that battle fame which the centuries behind us have woven for our name; and our children’s children will rejoice in the glory they have made.
There are British graves in Flanders and Gallipoli, on the bleak hillsides of Serbia and by the waters of Euphrates. There are those who rest peacefully beneath the sullen waves of the grey North Sea or the sun-kissed far Pacific; and of those who sleep so quietly none now hears the maddening racket of this world at war in which they played out their parts so gallantly.
Here are their names, officers and men together, as they fought and died for this dear Empire which they have loved so exceedingly well. Let us pay tribute to their memory. “
In addition, I thought of these men of Prescot who are lying in “some corner of a foreign field which is forever England”, or beneath the waves. Travel to the battlefields and cemeteries was out of the question for most of the families after the war and even through to the present day. Many of the men’s graves will not have been visited since the day they were buried, apart from the regular visits by Commission staff who lovingly tend their graves.
I came across a poem by Michael Edwards, and thinking of those Prescot men, I thought that it struck the right cord. It is shared here.
I half awoke to a strange new calm
And a sleep that would not clear
For this was the sleep to cure all harm
And which freezes all from fear.
Shot had come from left and right
With shrapnel, shell and flame
And turned my sunlit days to night
Where now none would call my name.
Years passed me by as I waited,
Missed the generations yet to come,
Sadly knew I would not be fated
To be a father, hold a son.
I heard again the sounds of war
When twenty years of sleep had gone,
For five long years, maybe more,
Till peace once more at last had come.
More years passed, new voices came,
The stones and trenches to explore,
But no-one ever called my name
So I wished and waited ever more.
Each time I thought, perhaps, perhaps,
Perhaps this time they must call me,
But they only called for other chaps,
No-one ever called to set me free.
Through years of lonely vigil kept,
To look for me they never came,
None ever searched or even wept,
Nobody stayed to speak my name.
Until that summer day I heard
Some voices soft and strained with tears,
Then I knew that they had come
To roll away those wasted years.
Their hearts felt out to hold me,
Made me whole like other men,
But they had come just me to see,
Drawing me back home with them.
Now I am at peace and free to roam
Where 'ere my family speak my name,
That day my soul was called back home
For on that day my family came.
Lest We Forget
By Michael Edwards