In the early stages of the First World War, the British Army had no official mechanism for documenting the locations of battlefield burials. However, as the numbers of dead rapidly escalated, it became evident that an official war graves register was necessary, if for no other reason than to enable relatives to visit the final resting places of their loved ones after the war. An essential role in establishing such a register was played by Major General Sir Fabian Ware (1869-1949), who created an organization within the Red Cross for the purpose. In March 1915, Ware’s contribution was given official recognition when his unit was transferred to the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission. By May 1916, the Commission had registered the graves of some 50,000 British and Imperial soldiers. As news of its work became public, the Commission was inundated with letters of enquiry and in March 1915 it began to dispatch photographic prints of graves and their location details in answer to such requests. With the establishment of the Imperial War Graves Commission in May 1917, the registration of war graves began in earnest. On the recommendations of a report prepared by a committee under Frederic Kenyon, it was decided that uniform memorials should be used to avoid class distinctions and that bodies should not be repatriated as this would undermine the sense of comradeship which had united the ranks during the war.
Monday 30 July
Poppy wanted to go back & see about the place, so he started off after breakfast, & then we went off to fish. Ione & I went in Jim’s boat, & Muz & Tom with Jimmy. We had lunch & tea on Island Mor Island, & fished all round [blank] all day. We caught [blank], & they caught [blank]. We didn’t come in till dinner time. I read for a bit in bed, & finished “The Lightning Conductress”.1 We went to bed at about 10-30. It was a roasting day in the morning & then a big storm got up in the afternoon. Very heavy rain, but we caught quite a lot of fish in the storm!
“Fished all around”
Tuesday 31 July
We started out after breakfast, & took lunch & tea with us, we had them both on Island Mor Island. Ione & I went in Jim’s boat in the morning, & afterwards I changed with Tom, & I went with Muz. It was a roasting hot day, & we got awfully burnt, & it was quite rough in the afternoon, but still very hot. We got in in time for dinner, & I took photoes [sic] of the day’s catch.2 We caught [blank], & they caught [blank]. We went to bed at about eleven.
The day’s catch
Wednesday 1 August
We all had breakfast at 5-30 A.M. & then went out to fish. Muz & I in Jimmie’s boat, & Ione & Tom in Jim’s. We fished till about twelve & then had to come in, as we didn’t know when Poppy would be coming. We caught [blank], & they caught [blank]. When we got in I was “jimmying” so went & lay down, & the others packed up the things in the house. Poppy arrived at about two, & just when he arrived, I felt awfully queer & nearly fainted. I went out to see him & then felt awfully cold so came in again & Muz rubbed me, then at about four I telephoned,3 & felt better, & we started off for home. Lizzie went back with the luggage, & we had tea in Nenagh & shopped & got back at about seven. Poppy gave all the men some fish. We went to bed at about 10-30. Heppie had been very busy at the mats, while we were away.
Thursday 2 August
I stayed in bed all day. Poppy came up to see me after tea, & Dus: was up with me nearly all day. Muz & Ione went down to see Mrs Gleeson in the morning & again in the afternoon. I read all day. Muz sat up with me talking, & we went to bed at about eleven.
A few days ago I received the letter from my parents, which you had kindly wrote & enclose, together with the photo of my Dear Master, & which they were very pleased with. I must also thank you very much for the cheque, that has been put away with my other small saving. Please rest assured that I was not in need of the money when on leave, & do not blame yourself for not asking me; & believe me, how could I ask you, or any other dear mother, under the circumstances. It was owing to the above, being mentioned to me, afterwards, or I could not have asked you at all. I am pleased to tell you, I am still getting on with Major Wilson very well, & will try to be as devoted to him, as I was to Capt. Armstrong, but it seems a hard task to me, to meet things as light hearted now, in this great conflict, as I have done for the past three years, as dear memories of “Pat” continually present themselves to me, & will do so for ever. I received another letter from Ames the other day, he says he has written to you, & also tells me he is not so well. The old complaint is troubling him again; he did not say wether [sic] he was in hospital or not, but has been advised an operation again. I am sure he can never feel really well for any length of time. Now I must say goodbye.
Pte W. Standen
Friday 3 August
I stayed in bed nearly all day. Poppy came up to see me, & again after tea. Dus: was up too. I read nearly all day & finished reading “Silver Sand” by S. R. Crockett.4 Muz went down to see Mrs Gleeson in the morning, & again in the afternoon. I got up for dinner, & went out to the garden afterwards, & we went to bed at about 10-30.
Saturday 4 August
“Shooting can begin”
Mrs Dan Ryan
Finished reading “Something Impossible” by Mrs H. H. Penrose.5 I stayed in bed for breakfast. Muz wrote letters. Then Tom & I went out for a walk with Poppy, & went to see the hay, they are bringing it in today. After lunch I wrote letters, & then Muz, Tom & I went out in the pony trap & went to see Mrs Gleeson, then went up to see Mrs Dan Ryan, & give them a frame for Pat’s photograph, only Tommy was in. Then we talked to Mrs Brennan, & put one of our bullocks in, he had got over the style [sic]. Then we went to see Mrs Carrol, & then talked to Molly Gleeson on the road, & then went to see Mrs Gleeson again. After tea I read for a bit. After dinner Muz knitted, & I did some mending, & we went to bed at about 10-30. It is in the paper today, that grouse shooting can begin on the 6th instead of the 12th. We got a wire from Kitty today, to say that she has got a son, & that Algie is home on leave till the 6th.
I went into Arras yesterday afternoon and tidied up Pat’s resting place. As a matter of fact I found it quite tidy. Of course the grave is not all one can wish. The oak cross looks well & solid but the white painted railings round, which were put up by the division, are not of keeping with the oak cross. I wish they had painted the railings, which are about a foot high, either brown or green. It is just on the cards that I may come home. War Office have asked for names of Corps commanders who would benefit by a change to England for a period of home service. After talking the matter over with my army commander we decided my name should go in – as you know my leg has been troubling me a good deal and out here there is so much walking that it does not get a chance.6 I shall be sorry not to have endured to the end but I may come out again later. Of course I don’t know that I shall be taken. Better weather today at last.
T. d’O. S.
We are anyway leaving here on Wednesday and go some distance away. [Address placed here, then scratched out.] Erased for fear the Censor might think it incorrect.
Pat’s final resting place
A novel by Charles Norris and Alice Muriel Williamson, published in 1916.⇑
These photographs can be found in the Armstrong Family Papers, album P6A/6. ⇑
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