PRIVATE ALEXANDER GEORGE CHILD
7TH MAY 1918 AGE 23
BURIED: GRAND-SERAUCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE
Alexander Child's eldest sister, Beatrice, chose his inscription. The words come from a poem written by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), 'It is not the tear at this moment shed', which he wrote following the death of a dearly loved relation.
It is not the tear at this moment shed,
When the cold turf has just been laid o'er him,
That can tell how beloved was the friend that's fled,
Or how deep in our hearts we deplore him.
'Tis the tear, thro' many a long day wept,
'Tis life's whole path o'ershaded;
'Tis the one remembrance, fondly kept,
When all lighter griefs have faded.
Thus his memory, like some holy light,
Kept alive in our hearts, will improve them,
For worth shall look fairer, and truth more bright,
When we think how we lived but to love them.
And, as fresher flowers the sod perfume
Where buried saints are lying,
So our hearts shall borrow a sweetening bloom
From the image he left there in dying!
The poem was set to music in 1901 by the Anglo-Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford and it's this that probably brought it to prominence. But Child's inscription goes to show yet again that the rank of a soldier does not define the type of his inscription, it isn't only officers whose families find profound and unusual things to say.
Child was the sixth of John and Ada Child's nine children. In 1911, at the age of 15, he was working as a shop assistant - his sister Beatrice was a coca demonstrator. He volunteered on the outbreak of war and joined the Wiltshire Regiment, going with them to France on 4 January 1915. He was killed on 7 May 1918. Originally buried in the churchyard at Marle-sur-Serre his body was exhumed a reinterred in 1924.