Soldiers and Mariners with no known grave – and the power of poetry

There can be no greater way to commemorate something than by the writing of a poem, which brings all the power of the human language into focus in an instant. At some time or other in our lives we have all rehearsed a rhyme or two and been taught poetry in our school days. In St Davids Cemetery there are many memorials to those who lie elsewhere, in particular to mariners and soldiers whose families have felt it necessary to commemorate them in some way so that they will not be forgotten despite the fact that they are not buried here. Three examples come to mind such as Sapper Thomas Lewis Bennett  who lies buried in a field in France “somewhere” with a very rare memorial to his name being specially erected.

The description of the cemetery where Tom lies buried “somewhere”
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission document confirming a “special memorial” being made for him
The memorial to Tom Lewis Bennett in St Davids cemetery with the most touching epitaph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also the headstone to David Evans who died whilst on a voyage through the Bristol Channel is also commemorated. His story will also one day be told as will  George Johns, who having travelled the world, succumbed to a short illness and died on board ship off the coast of Egypt. The Cross of Souls Memorial therefore, soon to be erected will be a hugely important milestone in the charities short history in commemorating nearly 4,000 with no known grave or memorial within the cemetery. The following very powerful poem therefore I think resonates perfectly in what it really means. I hope you enjoy reading it.

David Evans from Priory Street was lost at sea.
George Johns who died from fever whilst on a voyage in the Red Sea and was buried at Sea two days later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HOMES OF THE DEAD

We must not make a home for the dead,

Nor raise and osiered mound,

Till the eloquent prayer and priestly tread

Have sanctified the ground.

But there are those who fall and die

Upon the desert land,

With no pall above but the lurid sky,

No bier but the scorching sand.

No turf is laid – no sexton’s spade

Chimes in with the mourner’s groans;

But the prowling jackal finds a feast,

And the red sun crumbles the bones.

There are those who go down in the dark wild sea,

Where storms have wrecked proud ships,

With none to heed what the words may be

That break from their gurgling lips.

No anthem peal flows sweet and loud –

No tablet marks their graves;

But they soundly sleep in a coral shroud

To the dirge of the rolling waves.

There are those who sink on the mountain’s path,

With cold and curdling blood –

With the frozen sleet for a funeral sheet,

And no mates but the vulture brood.

No tolling bell proclaims their knell –

No memory stone is found;

But the snowdrift rests on their skeleton breasts,

And the bleaching winds sweep round.

There are those who fall on the purple field,

In Glory’s mad career:

Their dying couch a battered shield –

Their cross of faith a spear.

No priest has been there with robes and prayer,

To consecrate the dust,

Where the soldier sleeps, his steed sleeps too,

And his gore – stained weapons rust.

No cypress waves – no daisy grows

Above such pillows of rest:

Yet say, are the riteless graves of those

Unholy or unblest?

‘Tis well to find our last repose

Neath the churchyard’s secret sod;

But those who sleep in the desert or deep

Are watched by the self-same God.

Anonymous. 1855