Of all the many honours England gives
To those who fight for her, one stands apart,
He who receives it dies, yet ever lives
In England’s heart.
Bestowed on all alike, bondman or free,
This great last tribute England pays her sons;
There “Killed in action,” clear for all to see,
The legend runs.
A rude cut emblem for the noble dead,
A silent witness to her Army’s loss,
England sets up above each warrior’s head
The Wooden Cross.
Published in the Surrey Advertiser in March 1916, “The Wooden Cross” was written by Captain J. M. Rose-Troup of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). Rose-Troup, wounded and captured on the 31st August 1914 during First Ypres, wrote the poem from a prisoner-of-war camp in Halle, but the newspaper notes that he has recently been transferred to Weilburg, and “he frequently asks news of his regiment, so if any of his comrades desire to send messages or greetings they will be forwarded by his mother if they are addressed to her at West Hill, Harrow-on-the-Hill”. I do hope they did.
The two crosses pictured, bondman and free, can be found in St. Mary’s Church, Byfleet, Surrey.