Saturday, 23 September 2017

No Roses Please

By chance, just after reading PJ Kavanagh's thoughts on Commonwealth War Graves, I came upon a Commonwealth War Grave in Wiltshire - one that deviates slightly from the vision painted by PJ Kavanagh in the passage I quoted from him in my last post; this graveyard is part of a larger church graveyard, and the parishioners have chosen not to include among the graves the usual Commonwealth War Graves roses and other garden plantings.

So Kavanagh's English country garden element is missing, but in every other way the place conforms to his ideal - that is, it honours individuals who got caught up in the maelstrom that was 1914 to 1918 in Europe.

Lying in this particular cemetery in Wiltshire are a number of Australians. They did not die as a result of battle but from the Spanish Flu:

The church itself is small and old but not especially exciting (although it does have some kneelers embroidered with maps of Australia). There is a rather charming memorial to a former local on one wall though:

"In loving memory of John Henry Leech" it says, "born 4 Dec 1862, died 29 Dec 1900, his short life was devoted to the science of entomology, to travel and sport. Ever an earnest student of nature and a staunch and generous friend."

He sounds a charming innocent. Compared to Cyril Mashford and Private M Cummings, let alone HR Phillips, one might say that his life was actually fairly long.

Churches like these are rarely well attended nowadays and they cost a fair bit to insure and keep up. Sometimes I read things about how they should be shut down or reconfigured to become community something or others, but they seem to me to be part of the beauty of Britain, just as they are, not useful now for everyone, but usually comforting for some at certain times.

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