SIGNALLER ARCHIBALD GRAEME ANDERSON
CANADIAN FIELD ARTILLERY
31ST MAY 1918 AGE 19
BURIED: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
Archibald Anderson attested in Canada on 15 May 1917, arrived in England on 5 July, was hospitalized in England with German measles from 25 January to 4 February 1918, and then again with mumps from 5th to 25th March. He went to France on 28 May and died three days later on the 31st. Born on 6 April 1899, he was one month past his nineteenth birthday. His service file indicates that he served with the McGill University Siege Artillery, and it states that he was killed in action, 'hostile aircraft'. On the night of the 31 May 1918 there were many casualties when the camp and hospitals at Etaples were bombed by German aircraft. Archibald Anderson was one of the casualties. It looks as though he got no further than the base camp before he was killed.
Anderson's inscription comes from 'Better Far to Pass Away' by Captain Richard Molesworth Dennys (1884-1916), 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who was killed in action on the Somme in August 1916.
Dennys' poem repeats the ancient theory that it is better to die young:
Better far to pass away
While limbs are strong and young,
Ere the ending of the day,
Ere youth's lusty song be sung.
The poet's reasoning - how he could enjoy the things he loves so much - "the hills, the sea, the sun, the winds, the woods, the clouds, the trees" when he's an old man.
Come when it may, the stern decree
For me to leave the cheery throng
And quit the sturdy company
Of brothers that I work among.
No need for me to look askance,
Since no regret my prospect mars.
My day was happy - and perchance
The coming night is full of stars.
We find it difficult to believe that young First World War soldiers really had this insouciant attitude towards death. In my head I hear these lines by AE Housman (1859-1936):
Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.