This is Essex Farm Cemetery, just to the north of Ieper (Ypres). It is a famous, and well-visited cemetery, for a number of reasons, not least that it was here that the poet John McCrae penned his ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem,…
…as the Albertina Marker above reminds us.
On entering the cemetery, a pathway of plastic grass, suggesting that many feet have passed this way, draws us inexorably towards one headstone.
That of Valentine Joe Strudwick, known as Joe, and among the very youngest casualties to be found in the dozens and dozens of cemeteries that litter the fields of Flanders.
He was killed by German shellfire at the age of 15 years and 11 months on 14th January 1916 at Boezinge, not far from where he is buried. Like the grave of Rifleman Albert French at Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery on the western edge of Ploegsteert Wood, Joe Strudwick’s grave is never devoid of tributes. Nor grammatical errors.
Back in Blighty, and a still afternoon in the market town of Dorking, in leafy Surrey.
The war memorial in the churchyard of St. Martin’s bears no names,…
…the Rolls of Honour to be found inside the church.
On the right hand panel,…
…near the bottom, we find young Joe, along with three other men of the Rifle Brigade from Dorking who lost their lives during the war.
Not far from the town centre…
…another war memorial. There are 265 names inscribed here, and near the top of the panel to the right…
..two Strudwicks, although not related as far as I can cursorily ascertain.
Finally, back to Essex Farm, and I’ll leave you with the words of John McCrae:
If you would like to take a proper look around Essex Farm Cemetery, then click here.
Joe Strudwick’s grave features in my own current Great War project – a lightly fictionalised account following an army search team as they go about finding and burying the bodies abandoned on the road to victory. Perhaps you’d care to take a look? It’d be great to have the support of such a well-respected WW1 site! https://unbound.co.uk/books/the-glorious-dead
Hello Tim. Firstly, thanks for your kind words. Flattery always goes down well here! Secondly, a quote; ” The work of these men is one of the most original yet neglected aspects of this most compelling era in our nation’s history.” And isn’t that the truth. Your current Great War project looks most worthwhile, I must say. And, not surprisingly, of great personal interest, bearing in mind the subject matter of my site. (Btw, and to prove I have read it, I have spotted a typo: “The men dig, each shovel full of earth releasing the now familiar wet scent or cordite and decay”. Hope you don’t mind me pointing it out.). Happy to support your project in any way.
Thanks (and there’s never a problem pointing out a typo – point away!). Glad you like the idea of the book. Do you think there might be a post in it, for your blog? Either a guest post by me or maybe an interview with me by you? (Or anything else you think might go down well with your readers).
Tim, if it’s okay with you I will mail you off-site – I’m sure we can do a post – who, what, when, where and why. Those are (always) the questions.
You will also find Joe well remembered at
but further details would help add to his story.
Indeed. Thanks Liz.
There are many, many, many youngsters like Valentine, who died in that war!
For instance: 5509 Robert Barnett, served: Rifle Brigade, KIA 19 december 1914, buried:
Rifle House Cemetery (“Plug Street” Wood) Aged: 15. What about this one: Rfm 22346
Anthony O’Neill served: 1Bn. Royal Irish Rifles KIA 1 oktobre 1918 buried: Menin Road
South Cemetery Aged: 15. Killed only weeks before the armistice! I can’t imagine that
this boy was a conscript? And to give more examples: there are at least 10 fifteen-year
olds and at least 52 sixteen-year olds and at least 279 seventeen-year olds listed on
the Menin gate Memeorial. And so on and so on and so on…..
Hello Henk. Indeed, And of course John Condon, believed to be just fourteen, although there are a few question marks about him.
Menin Gate stuff here that might interest you (with further links at the end): https://thebignote.com/2014/11/03/the-menin-gate-memorial-to-the-missing/