Remembering the Sevenoaks Anzacs – a visit to the war graves

I’ve written before about some of the Sevenoaks ANZACS. In particular,  George Marshall and his friend, Arnold Jarvis, who emigrated to Australia together in 1912, possibly with another friend, Kenrid Horace Davey. Tina and Robert Higgs are related to Arnold Jarvis and were the first relatives of a man named on the Sevenoaks War Memorial that I met on a glorious summer day in August 2014 when we held a special service at the memorial to remember the outbreak of war, one hundred years to the day. At the time, I hadn’t found any relatives of Arnold’s friend George Marshall and so, during the ceremony, Tina lay a cross to remember George as well as one for Arnold. Since then I’ve been very pleased to meet Tim Marshall, George’s Great Nephew and we’ve all exchanged emails. Tina and Robert have recently visited a number of family First World War graves and have written an account of their visit, including a trip to George’s grave.

It’s always special for family members to visit the graves of their relatives and I’m pleased to share Tina’s account of their trip in memory of both friends and the sacrifice they made:

My husband and I have recently returned from visiting the WW1 graves in France and Belgium of six of our great-uncles, plus the best friend of one. This was something we had been intending to do for several years and at last we were on our way.

We travelled from our home in Peterborough to France via Eurotunnel, and stayed for a week at a gîte just south of Lille. This was a fairly central location, with the furthest cemetery being 1 hr 10 mins away and the nearest 30 mins. We visited two memorials at Thiepval and Loos (Dud Corner) and five military cemeteries at Bulls Road, Dozinghem, Carnières, Calvaire (Essex) and Dernancourt. The smallest, with only 54 headstones, was in the picturesque village of Carnières and the largest, commemorating over 72,000 men, was Thiepval. The cemeteries were of similar appearance in their design, with a Great Cross, Stone of Remembrance, Grave Register and Visitors’ Book. The book and register were stored in an unlocked metal box in the wall, but there was never any sign of vandalism or graffiti. The cemeteries were all immaculately kept.

Two of the men are remembered on the Sevenoaks War Memorial – Arnold Jarvis and George Marshall. They were best friends who emigrated to Australia in 1912, no doubt full of excitement and optimism for their new lives. They enlisted in the Australian Infantry Force and ended up in France, where they died.

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Headstone of Arnold Jarvis

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Headstone of George Marshall

Another great-uncle, Harry Underwood, is remembered on the Knockholt Memorial. The family lived in Star Hill Road, Chevening, where his father was a gamekeeper.

At Dozinghem we met a young Belgian couple who told us that they often visit the cemetery and feel much love and respect for the men who lost their lives there. This was so heart-warming to hear.

At each grave we laid a small wooden cross and said a prayer. We left for home feeling reassured that our loved ones are at peace and not forgotten.

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