In Leominster Cemetery, north Herefordshire on a gravestone which tilts more with the passing of time is a goodbye to a son lost to a family.
His name was James Samuel Mann.
A 24 year old private who died on the 30th March 1918 serving with the 3rd Machine Gun Corps; but who began the First World War in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. And a young man. But for a war. But for service.
The 3rd M.G.C. had only just been formed on the 1st March 1918 from the machine gun companies from the 3rd Division. The 3rd ended up on the Somme for their first official actions until following on to the major battles of 1918.
But barely a month later, a seriously wounded James Mann arrived at the 20th General Hospital at Camiers. On the coast with eyeshot of the English coastline, and not far from the infamous Etaples. He was in bad shape, a leg wound. But time and infection had meant that our young James was weak and delirious.
Despite all that early twentieth century medicine could offer, James was just too poorly. He died from his wounds and was buried later in the Etaples Military Cemetery not far away. It is where that young man lies still.
And so his parents placed his name upon their grave. His mother died in 1919. His father in 1931.
James Samuel Mann
Son of the above
Who died from wounds
In France 30th March 1918
Aged 24 years
To predecease your children must be a sad thing. To never be able to bury your children must be another.
But there is something more to be added to this:
Shortly after James' death, his parents received a letter in the post:
Dear Mrs Mann,
I am very sorry indeed to write this letter, which must only confirm word which you will probably have received ere this of the death of Pte J. S. Mann.
I don't know whether you are his wife or mother, as I found this address when he was too weak to give any information.
He came in last night or rather at 2:30 am and was in very poor condition. He had a nasty wound in his left leg, which would not have proved serious had it not been badly infected. They operated him within a few minutes, but he never rallied.
He did not realise how sick he was and other than the restlessness which came from increasing weakness, he did not suffer, and passed away quietly about 11:45 this morning.
I can sympathise with you, having lost my own brother quite as suddenly just a year ago in France, but it is something to feel proud of that these men have done the greatest thing that anyone can do in a life time.
Alice M. Laurie
Kington Times 6th April 1918 page 3
Just a note from someone who was there when their son slipped away. A nurse with something more than duty, something more than time to offer to a family, a person whom they knew had lost something more than a soldier. But a person, a loved one.
James had been with the K.S.L.I. since 1916, had only just transferred to the M.G.C. in February and had only just returned to the frontlines from leave on March 17th - within a fortnight, the war had taken another. But Alice Laurie, whoever Alice was, gave the Mann family the details many a family would have wished for as the days, years and decades went by and the war replaced by memory.
Wars Last Goodbyes pays a tribute to this man - carpenter and son:
If you're interested in other Wars Last Goodbyes from Leominster Cemetery: