Where Light Horsemen Lie… (continued)
While the Commonwealth War Graves Commission treats the war dead equally and the tombstones and memorial provide a focus for descendants and relations, nothing can conceal the individuality of a serviceman’s experience. Research can begin on the CWGC website, providing background to a visit to the cemeteries and the graves. A visit can inspire research into the serviceman or woman’s story and the stories of some of those lying in the same burial ground. In a CWGC cemetery such as Brookwood, there are not only the AIF graves from the First and Second World War, but it is part of the experience of all the nations who participated in both world wars.
It also encapsulates the story of the founding of the Imperial War Graves Commission and its founder Major General Fabian Ware. Ware, being too old to enlist in 1914, joined the Red Cross mobile ambulance unit. Through his work, he witnessed the extent of the loss of life and the need for recording and marking the graves of the fallen. Later on he was to call for the systematic establishment of war cemeteries. In 1918 Leslie MacDonald Gill advised and then designed cap badges for the then Imperial War Graves Commission. His design for the rising sun can be seen here on the right.
Brookwood Military Cemetery was established towards the end of the First World War. Being the largest CWGC cemetery in England, it contains over 3,000 Commonwealth War Graves from both World Wars. Although Major Oliver Hogue, Lance Corporal Arthur Joseph Tresize and Trooper Francis Valentine Green lie far from home but in the heart of a nation that they had served.
Together with Hogue, Tresize and Green I have located the grave of a fourth Light Horsemen buried in the English Home Counties. He is Sgt Thomas Regan, another Victorian who lies in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at St Mary’s Church, Harefield – his story is told separately. As there are 12,500 Commonwealth War Graves at different locations throughout the United Kingdom, it is quite possible that there were more Light Horsemen who for different reasons were buried in cemeteries in other locations. If you have found other Light Horsemen buried in the United Kingdom, perhaps you could do some research and write a short biographical account of the Light Horseman in whom you have an interest. If you know his unit, then your search will be easier than it is for others.
Meanwhile back at home I’ll be trying to find the resting places of those Light Horsemen who returned home to serve their communities and then faded away. Their names are on local memorials, and occasionally I would like to place a poppy on a Light Horsemen’s grave in an Australian cemetery. I don’t suppose I’d be alone.
Photograph of a design shown in the exhibition 'For Then/ For Now/ For Ever: One Hundred Years of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission 20 May – 19 Nov 2017
Dr Richard Reid, (2003). Australians in Britain: Two World Wars, Canberra: Department of Veterans Affairs, Commonwealth of Australia