May pays re­spects

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - FLORA THOMP­SON See more on page 29

They were staunch to the end against odds un­counted ... We will re­mem­ber them

The prime min­is­ter quoted First World War po­etry while she thanked fallen troops for be­ing “staunch to the end against odds un­counted” as she paid her re­spects to mark the centenary of Ar­mistice.

Theresa May is vis­it­ing war ceme­ter­ies in Bel­gium and France along­side French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel.

Start­ing in Mons yes­ter­day, Mrs May and Mr Michel were es­corted through the St Sym­phorien Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery by Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Sweet.

The ceme­tery was set up by the Ger­man army as a fi­nal rest­ing place for Bri­tish and Ger­man sol­diers killed at the Bat­tle of Mons.

The pair were greeted by a guard of hon­our from the Royal Reg­i­ment of Fusiliers and stood for the sound of The Last Post be­fore a minute’s si­lence.

Mrs May laid wreaths at the graves of Pri­vate John Parr of the Mid­dle­sex Reg­i­ment, who died on Au­gust 21 1914 – the first UK sol­dier to be killed in the con­flict – and the last, Pri­vate Ge­orge El­li­son of the Royal Ir­ish Lancers, who died on the Western Front on November 11 1918, be­fore the Ar­mistice came into ef­fect at 11am.

In the note left by the rest­ing place of Pri­vate Parr, Mrs May quoted a line of war­time po­etry – The Sol­dier writ­ten by Rupert Brooke.

She wrote: “There is in that rich earth a richer dust con­cealed.”

The son­net was writ­ten by Rupert Brooke, an of­fi­cer in the Royal Navy, while on leave at Christ­mas and formed part of a col­lec­tion of work en­ti­tled 1914 which was pub­lished in Jan­uary 1915.

Brooke never ex­pe­ri­enced front­line com­bat and died from blood poi­son­ing on April 23 1915 af­ter be­ing bit­ten by a mos­quito while sail­ing to Gal­lipoli. He was buried on the is­land of Sky­ros.

At the grave of Pri­vate El­li­son, also in blue pen on a headed Down­ing Street card at­tached to the gar­land of pop­pies, Mrs May wrote: “They were staunch to the end against odds un­counted ... We will re­mem­ber them.”

This was from an­other poem writ­ten by Lau­rence Binyon and pub­lished in Septem­ber 1914 which is of­ten quoted in Remembrance Sun­day ser­vices.

Dur­ing the brief visit, she and Mr Michel then met Bri­tish and Bel­gian serv­ing mem­bers of the armed forces.

As she left she thanked or­gan­is­ers for what had been a mov­ing visit.

Yes­ter­day af­ter­noon she trav­elled to France and met Pres­i­dent Macron in Al­bert, the town in the heart of the Somme re­gion which suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant bom­bard­ment dur­ing the con­flict.

The lead­ers had a pri­vate meet­ing and a work­ing lunch be­fore de­part­ing for a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony at the nearby Thiep­val Me­mo­rial – the site which bears the names of more than 72,000 mem­bers of the armed forces who died in bat­tle and holds an an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion for the Miss­ing of the Somme.

Mrs May said the visit would be a chance to re­flect on the time the coun­tries spent fight­ing side by side in Europe but also to look ahead to a “shared fu­ture, built on peace, pros­per­ity and friend­ship”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.