3rd Battle of Ypres, World War I
No dignified committal for him, the undertaker
his coffin Flanders mud...
His mourners far away with no focus for their grief...
Ten years on stark honour comes...
His name is chiselled on the Menin Gate.
- Lines from the poem Reveille in Jenny Martin's 2014 book Aftermath
Richard Eaves, a joiner and undertaker, reported missing on 31st July 1917, the first day of the battle, was also the inspiration for the poem Last Post (see Poems). He left a wife and two infant children. His name (second column) is one of over fify-four thousand on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing.
Exercise Tiger, World War II
When Paul took this photo on our visit in 2000 to the beaches (In Our Fathers' Footsteps),we learned that it was one of four memorials to the missing in the Normandy landings.
What we'd heard nothing of was the loss off Slapton sands, Devon of over six hundred US soldiers in Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for D-Day. Their landing crafts were torpedoed at 2 am on 28th April 1944. They had not been warned of E-boats in the area, caused by human error, and survivors were threatened with court martial if they ever spoke of it.
For decades, families of the missing had no focus for their grief until the truth came out - literally - thanks to a determined local hotelier, the late Ken Small. He paid the US government 50 dollars for a Sherman tank on the sea bed 60 feet down, and in 1984 managed to get it raised and placed on the shore as a memorial to the fallen and as a focus for their faraway families' grief.
One of the missing was 19-year-old Sergeant Louis Bolton, whose job after D-Day would have been to bury his fallen comrades' bodies. For him, their undertaker, no dignified committal, but stark honour came to them all when a memorial plaque was placed on the Sherman tank.
'We will remember them'
Sources Patrick Kidd, Rehearsal that was deadlier than D-Day. The Times, Monday, April 29 2019; Dean Small's website run in conjunction with the families: www.exercisetigermemorial.co.uk/ken-small
It's almost two years since I published In Our Fathers' Footsteps (see under BOOKS). My latest book, One Dog and His Cop, about my cousin's police dog,was published 30 November this year (see under BOOKS).