Say­ing good­bye to Bill


A small wooden box was as close as Rose­mary Johns had ever been to meet­ing Bill Is­bis­ter.

A gi­ant penny on the top of the box re­vealed the se­crets hid­den within. ’’A dead man’s penny.’’

Three ser­vice awards, a stoic photo, a badge and war doc­u­ments are all that re­mains of Bill.

Bill was Rose­mary’s great un­cle. He went away to fight in World War I and was killed at the Bat­tle of the Somme. He was 21.

In Au­gust Rose­mary and her hus­band Tony trav­elled to France to visit Bill’s grave.

As she stood face to face with her great un­cle’s grave and the graves of count­less oth­ers, she couldn’t help but shed a tear.

Bill is buried in a town north of Paris called Al­bert. ’’It was an eerie and emo­tional place.’’

Pop­pies were scat­tered ev­ery­where and the gar­dens were pris­tine, she said.

It was hard to be­lieve a town so af­fected by tragedy could ever re­cover.

‘‘This town was pum­melled with hun­dreds of shells and they re­built it all, it’s quite amaz­ing.’’

It was mov­ing to see how many peo­ple vis­ited the site to pay their re­spects.

‘‘The vis­i­tors books were filled.’’ Rose­mary hopes to one day travel back and re­visit the site.


Rose­mary Johns looks through a box of WWI medals.

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