In Memoriam | Under an English heaven
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke, “The Soldier”
Gunner H. G. Gissing (1910-1942)
There is indeed a “corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” For our family it is 9,817 miles from where I sit, and 7,252 miles from the village of his birth.
In a field near Jakarta, he is laid to rest with fifty-seven brothers-in-arms who died together and now repose in a common grave.
The evidence suggests summary execution–the singularly high number of casualties and the hasty burial. Other accounts suggest killed in action by more honest means. The confusion of war, mores of defeat, is such that these things are rarely easy to uncover.
Two brothers fought there.
The one who lived experienced a sort of living death in a Japanese camp until the end of the war.
My life is possible because of theirs.