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Richard, one of our volunteers, writes the following…

The American Major Olmsted’s contemplation of his own death on active service sent me searching for an example from an earlier conflict.

When a young naval lieutenant, David Tinker, was sent to the Falklands he requested that if he were to be buried in earth the following be inscribed on his grave: 

“He wears
The ungathered blossom of quiet; stiller he
Than a deep well at noon, or lovers met,
Than sleep, or the heart after wrath. He is
The silence following great words of peace.”

Although Lt Tinker was familiar with the work of Wilfred Owen (whose unsentimental war poetry has been more in favour in modern times), it is interesting to note that the quotation is from the work of a poet often regarded as more idealistic and patriotic, Rupert Brooke’s ‘Fragments written during the voyage to Gallipoli April 1915’. (see A Message from the Falklands: The Life and Gallant Death of David Tinker, Lieut. R.N., compiled in 1982 by his father, Professor Hugh Tinker).

                             

Damage to the port side and helicopter hangar HMS GLAMORGAN caused by an Argentine Exocet missile on 12 June 1982.In the event, David Tinker was killed by the Exocet attack on HMS GLAMORGAN on 12 June 1982, and buried at sea with twelve of his comrades the same day. 

                          

Consequently, it is only with the recent unveiling of the Armed Forces Memorial that he is officially commemorated, although he appears on local memorials at Great Hampden (Buckinghamshire) and Clungunford (Shropshire).  The losses on HMS GLAMORGAN are commemorated by a window in Portsmouth Cathedral and on the Falklands Naval memorial on Plymouth Hoe.

  

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The photograph above shows the damage to the port side and helicopter hangar of the destroyer HMS GLAMORGAN caused by an Argentine Exocet missile on 12 June 1982.  The missile was launched from a land-based mobile launcher near Port Stanley, some 18 miles away. Radar systems failed to detect the missile but in the few seconds available after making visual contact, GLAMORGAN was able to turn rapidly and the missile struck the hangar instead of the ship’s side. Thirteen lives were lost but the damage failed to put GLAMORGAN out of action, making her the first British warship to survive an Exocet missile strike.

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Gordon, one of our volunteer fieldworkers writes…

For a while now I have had an interest in inscriptions and one in particular. When I was recording our local memorials some years ago, I noticed in our local parish church the Latin inscription “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” which means “It is a sweet and glorious thing to die for one’s country“. The quotation comes from the 1st Century Latin poet Horace.

Portrait of Wilfrid Owen (Neg Q 79045)At first I did not think too much about it, until my wife who is a good Latin scholar, reminded me about the poem written by the First World War soldier Wilfred Owen (1895 -1918). His poem is titled “Dulce et Decorum est” in which he mocks this sentiment. On reflection I agree with Owen’s view.

I wondered how many memorials used this quotation and so I decided to do some desk research based on the UKNIWM database.  400 are listed on the UKNIWM site, mainly in Latin but also 8 in English.  This represents 0.75% of the total of 55,000 memorials so far recorded. Analysing the 400 I have found the following:

WW1 memorials: 275 entries
WW2 memorials: 61 entries
Other memorials: 64 entries (including Crimea, Zulu, Boer and Korean wars)

The earliest inscription I found was at Melton Constable, Norfolk, for a victim who died at sea in 1778. However it is not clear when the monument was erected. It seems many monuments were erected decades after the event. There are two monuments to French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic wars, one was erected in 1914 at Norman Cross, the other at Dartmoor prison in 1865.

The Horace quote seems to have been used for the first time around the late 18th century and then on various occasions, reaching a peak during the First World War.

I am surprised that the grand total was not a lot higher than 400. Probably more will be found among the memorials still to be recorded. I suspect that the novelty was fading after WW1, especially when Wilfred Owen’s poem became widely read. It would surprise me if this inscription is used again for recent wars. However I could be wrong.

Here are the last lines of “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen:

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

It would be interesting to get the opinions and thoughts of others involved in the war memorial project.