We are so used to seeing the images of the white Portland stone headstones of the Commonwealth Cemeteries, set amongst the lovingly tended flowers of the English country garden and those immaculate lawns, that we don’t realize how revolutionary treating all the fallen, equally in death, was. It was without precedent, when the decision was made, that all who had died in war were to have identical graves and that none of the bodies were to be repatriated. They had made an equal sacrifice and were to be treated equally in death.
Families clearly often wanted something tangible to remember their loved ones by closer to home. In Catsfield some of the Communion plate is in memory of a fallen soldier and in Crowhurst there are several private memorials on the church walls, as well as the main war memorial. Perhaps even more surprisingly there are several family graves, outside, where a family member, who is buried elsewhere, in the continental cemeteries of the Great War, is still commemorated on the stone. One such case is that of Edward Tufnell, Captain of the Coldstream Guards, who died on the 15th September 1916, aged twenty-two and rests at Ginchy in France. His inscription is on the grave of his father, Lt Col Edward Tufnell.
Back in September I wrote that since the first cub pack meeting of term was on the 15th, one hundred years to the day of his death, we planted a small poppy cross on his grave. I had not noticed, until another leader pointed it out, that nearby was the grave of the late Majorie Agatha Whitefoord, who paid to have the churchyard extended between the wars. Quite remarkably her stone also remembered her husband, Lieutenant Lionel Cole Whitefoord, who was also killed on 15th September 1915, leaving behind her and a son. Lt Whitefoord was killed in the Battle of the Somme, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to all the missing.
Both these graves are a little reminder of the cost of war and the pain caused to those left behind. Here the grief of parents, children and spouses was given voice in stone. The Whitefoord grave has a cross on it and the Tuyfnell grave is a magnificent Celtic style cross.
The cross clearly spoke to both families, as it does to us, of a Saviour who suffered and died for us. He sacrificed Himself as their family members had.
If they were human the Tufnells and the Whitefoords must have pondered the great question of how a God of love allows war. There are all sorts of answers beginning with the abuse of our own free will, but there are no glib answers which totally satisfy. The tragic events of the past and today make some doubt whether there is a God and if there is does He care? For myself I find that thinking about the cross means that I can believe in a God of love. A God who chose to experience an undeserved death on the cross, for us, is a both a supreme example of innocent suffering and selfless love.
The cross remains a victory of love over hatred. If you read the accounts of the crucifixion no matter the physical pain and the mental suffering Christ refused to let love be beaten. It is a reminder that it is always better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. There are many ways to light such a candle, but the more that are lit the
Posted By: valerie