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.

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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.

Since Tina’s visit, further research has led to the discovery of extracts from two letters that Arnold sent home during the war, to the Reverend Thompson at St Mary’s, Kippington, Sevenoaks, which were published in the parish magazine, the first in Spring 1915.

Ulysses. – here I am, really a soldier at last. This is a family large boat, and it is carrying (number censored) of us fellows: we all belong to the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade. None of us have the faintest idea as to our destination, whether it will be England or Egypt. We have just passed Aden and the voyage has been magnificent. we are getting 5s. a day, and 1s. a day deferred pay, and we all put in about ten weeks hard training before we came on board. I am sorry that I must not tell you much of our doings yet, but if we come to England and get a day or two off, of course I shall come up to the Vicarage to see you all. I have not been sea sick and I am quite happy. Do wrote to me often.

A later extract is introduced in the magazine with the news that after 12 weeks silence, a letter had arrived from Arnold, who had been wounded at the Dardanelles and had written from hospital in Egypt.

Heliopolis Hospital

June 8th

I received a slight wound in my leg, it is nothing in itself, but poison or something has got in so I cannot put my foot to the ground, however I hope soon to be out of this, although I am getting very good treatment. We had a very rough time of it for six weeks, with two days in the trenches and two days out all the time. Our Company lost nearly all its non-commissioned officers and several officers before we had been in the firing line an hour. It seemed awful at fist to see ones own friends being shot dead all round you, but afterwards everything seemed natural. I had several very marvellous escapes – in the first half hour a machine gun was turned on us and we had no trenches then, one bullet took a piece out of my trousers and another hit me in the jaw and took half a tooth out, another made a furrow in my leg and I had a piece of shrapnel in my back. I shall never forget it if I live another two centuries. There is a great fascination about it all and I am longing to be back, it is a nuisance to be lying here when there is so much to do, and I want to get back to my pals.

Update: July 2017

Tim Marshall and his three sons, Stuart, Doug and Gary, visited the grave of George Marshall on the centenary of his death on 13th July and later visited the grave of Arnold Jarvis, meaning that both families have now visited the graves of the two friends. A few weeks earlier, Stuart and joined me at the annual ANZAC service at Westminster Abbey to remember his uncle.

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Tim Marshall with his sons at the grave of their Uncle George

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Stuart Marshall and Matthew Ball on ANZAC Day

 

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