Sunday, 13 May 2007

Back to Heilly again for a moment...

A recent comment on my previous post about Heilly Station Cemetery led me to return there for a moment. In the past, I've done some research on my local war memorials in Sussex, and about five years ago, long before my first visit to Heilly, I started a website to record the results - it's at:

Unchanged By Time

I added snippets of poetry to many of the pages, choosing each one to reflect some aspect of the man's life or service, and for the front page of the website I chose some lines which I had seen used in the 'In Memoriam' column of a local newspaper:

And now they are sleeping their long last sleep,
Their graves I may never see;
But some gentle hand in that distant land
May scatter some flowers for me.

I thought it summed up the feelings of families all over the world, particularly those who would never have the money or opportunity to visit the last resting place of their loved ones.
On my first visit to Heilly, a year or so later, the weather was stormy. The sky was ever-changing, with huge black clouds and heavy squalls accompanied by thunder and lightning. My daughter and I ran into the cemetery, and sat on the seat by the screen wall, sheltering until the current blast of rain had passed. Suddenly it stopped, and the sun broke through, shedding shards of light across the cemetery. I suppose my natural instinct was to follow the sun, and walked up to where it picked out vividly two or three headstones. As I stood in front of them I realised that I was looking at MY inscription [or a version of it] on the grave of Sapper David Simpson of the Australian Engineers:

in that distant land/will some kind hand/lay a flower/on his grave for me

I've visited a lot of cemeteries, but that day I did feel a very emotional attachment to Sapper Simpson, and hoped that for the sake of the family who left that message, I would remember on future visits to the cemetery to honour their wish.

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