Epitaphs of The Great War
- Hardback (BB)
- 01 Jul 2016
- Uniform Press
If you think 21st Century social media Twitter’s 140-character rule restrictive, the families of those killed in the First World War had a mere 66 to compose an inscription, an epitaph, for their relation’s headstone. As part of the First World War Centenary, @wwinscriptions publishes some of these thousands of inscriptions, revealing a voice that has not been heard before, the voice of the bereaved. A voice that speaks of love, sorrow, pride, grief and despair, it quotes the bible, literature, hymns and popular songs, and it tells us something about the dead, who they were, where they lived, what they looked like and how they died. Bear in mind that the repatriation of bodies had been strictly forbidden, after May 1915 no one was allowed to bring a body home from the battlefields and the ban remained in force even when the war was over. And when the war was over, families were not allowed to choose their own headstones they had to accept the uniform headstone chosen by the War Graves Commission for all the war dead. Whatever the merits or demerits of these decisions – the cause of much public distress despite the fact that today the cemeteries are universally admired for their quiet dignity and restraint – they were final. This meant that choosing an inscription was not just the last contact families had with their dead but the only contact they had with them. This gave them huge significance This volume is dedicated to those who fought and died on The Somme battlefields between 1st July and 18th November 1916, taken from a database of inscriptions that have been collected over more than 30 years of visiting battlefield cemeteries.
Sarah Wearne attributes her interest in military history to being an army daughter, and in war-cemetery inscriptions to being a mother. Inscriptions are part of her wider interest in the commemoration of war dead, a subject on which she writes and gives talks.