It’s over a hundred years since Cecil, our great uncle, was killed in the Great War. Thrown into a war ignited by militarism, nationalism and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914.
Cecil was just the same as most of his colleagues that stood beside him. As a young lad he perhaps had aspirations to become a lightermen like his grandfather, a customs officer like his father or even a heraldic engraver like his brother. Becoming a soldier was unlikely to be his chosen career path. But fate had other ideas.
Cecil served as a Private in the 1st/2nd Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) and died on Tuesday, 27 August 1918 age 18.
He fell alongside Allied soldiers in the final Advance to Victory between 8 August and Armistice Day in 1918. The encounters took place in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos. The soldiers belonged to the forces of Great Britain and Ireland and South Africa; the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces.
A memorial now stands to commemorate those from Great Britain and Ireland and South African forces at the Vis-en-Artois British cemetery (the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces being commemorated on other memorials to the missing). It bears the names of over 9000 men who died in the advance.
The memorial consists of a screen wall in three parts, the middle part of the screen being concave with stone panels on which names are carved. It is 26 feet high, flanked by pylons 70 feet high.
Cecil fell at Gouzeaucourt, some 20 miles southwest of the memorial with a reported bullet to the head. Nearly a million British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed in the Great War – he was unlucky enough to be amongst the last 9,000.
Of course, Cecil knew nothing of this memorial. His memories are about growing up as a schoolboy in Leyton and the comfort of being with his family. War was just a memory that he’d rather have forgotten had he been given the chance.
Thanks to James Finch for undertaking the research used in this article.