…I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in 1916.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean.
—Eric Bogle “No Man’s Land (The Green Fields of France)” ©Larrikin Music
Our first recorded memorial to an individual was that of Ernest Jones, whose plaque hangs at McMurrich Public School. He was the school’s only First World War death.
Although he enlisted in Smith Falls in 1915, 18-year-old Ernest was born in Toronto to Thomas and Elizabeth Jones. His attestation paper gave his mother’s address as 34 Arlington Avenue, just two blocks from McMurrich school. He was five feet, five inches tall, with blue eyes, “ruddy” hair, a “ruddish” complexion and no distinguishing marks. He was a plumber.
A little more than a year later, Ernest Jones was dead at age 19. His grave in Adanac (Canada spelt backward) cemetery is within sight of the remains of Regina Trench, “the ditch of evil memory,” where he died.
Ernest Jones was one of 24,029 Canadian casualties of the Battle of the Somme. His short life followed the pattern of many young men of his generation who died in “the war to end all wars.” He was not long out of school. He had prepared for his future by learning a trade. He was a private, with a plain, unassuming name. His gravestone gives his initial “E” only—no first name. The “E” could stand for Everyman.
“In Remembrance” wooden crosses with poppies in the centre, carefully placed by visitors, dot the military cemeteries of Belgium and France. It seemed fitting to buy one such cross at the Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper, Belgium, for a grave in a peaceful cemetery amid the green fields of France.
Ernest Jones, your old school still remembers you. We hope you died quick and we hope you died clean.