COMPANY SERJEANT MAJOR WILLIAM EDWARD MONTAGUE
30TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 31
BURIED: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
In honour, chivalrous;
In duty, valorous;
In all things, noble;
To the heart's core, clean.
St Jans Capelle 1915
This four-line verse, a tribute to H.T.O. a soldier killed near Ypres in 1915, was written by the Canadian priest and poet, Frederick George Scott [1861-1944]. Aged fifty-three when the war broke out, Scott volunteered for war service in 1914 and served in France and Flanders until the Armistice. His memoir, The Great War As I Saw It, makes an interesting and detailed read. 'To H.T.O.' was included in a collection of Scott's verse called, 'In the Battle Silences Poems Written at the Front', published in 1917.
Knighthoods are bestowed on those who have done special service to their monarch. In times gone by this would have been military service. The knights of old were considered to have been a particular breed, their qualities summarised by Scott's verse. H.T.O. and Serjeant-Major Montague have both done special service to their king and have had the qualities of knighthood bestowed on them.
Montague originally served as a private with the 3rd London Regiment Royal Fusiliers. The regiment was in India when the war broke out but returned to England in December 1914 and by January 1915 was in France. Montague's medal card gives 6 January 1915 as the date for his arrival in France. This is rather early for a volunteer. Was he already a soldier? The 1911 census describes him a publisher's assistant, perhaps he was a territorial.
At the time of his death, Montague was serving with the 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. As he died of wounds in one of the base hospitals in Boulogne, it's not possible to tell when or where he was wounded, but during September and October 1918 the 10th Battalion had been involved in the Battle of Cambrai, the Pursuit to the Selle, the Battle of the Selle, and on the 27 October the Battle of the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood.
Montague was the son of Albert Edward Montague, Assistant Secretary to the Victoria Institute Philosophical Society of Great Britain. It was a deeply conservative organization committed to defending "the Great Truths revealed in Holy Scripture against the opposition of Science falsely so called". In other words it was opposed to Darwinism. However, it wasn't either of Montague's parents who chose his inscription but his wife, Alice.