RIFLEMAN FRANK EDMUND BROWN
LONDON REGIMENT (QUEEN'S WESTMINSTER RIFLES)
1ST JANUARY 1918 AGE 19
BURIED: VALENCIENNNES (ST ROCH)COMMUNAL CEMETERY, FRANCE
This is a difficult inscription and on one level I am surprised the War Graves Commission accepted it. It was chosen by Rifleman Brown's mother, Henrietta, and it sounds as though she's saying that the Lord took vengeance on the Germans and ensured they lost the war as a punishment both for starting it and for killing her son.
Considering the circumstances of her son's death you can imagine that she had vengeance in her heart. Frank Brown was wounded on 30 November 1917 when the Germans made an attack on the trenches near Bourlon. For a long time it seemed as though they would break through the British lines but the Queen's Westminster Rifles hung on until the situation stabilised. They were relieved at 1 pm on 1 December by which time the regiment had suffered 117 casualties of which 25 were missing. Frank Brown was among the missing. Taken prisoner by the Germans, he died a month later in German captivity. Perhaps his mother assumed they had done nothing to save his life.
It's not possible to tell how Brown was treated but he died in Valenciennes, about 40km behind the front line, which would indicate that he was being cared for in a German medical unit and shows that he had not been shipped straight back to Germany to die in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Brown was buried by the Germans in Valenciennes, his body exhumed and reburied in February 1922. The War Graves Commission's 'concentration' records ask what evidence of identity there has been and the answer on the form is 'plate on coffin'. I find this very interesting, especially as I'm not sure that many British soldiers were buried in coffins. It would indicate that Brown and his fellow British casualties were buried with the same dignity as German soldiers.
So, did Mrs Brown have vengeance in her heart or was she more aware of the context of the words than many of us are today?
"Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
New Testament King James Version