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Remembered Today:

A Somme Cemetery personal inscription


Tom Morgan

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An email from a visitor to my website poses a question I don't know the answer to. So I thought I'd ask here.

Apparently there is, or there was, a grave in a CWGC cemetery in the Albert area, with the additional personal inscription, "Last of the white men".

I've never seen or heard of such a grave. Does anyone know where it is, if it exists?

Tom

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Tom - I havent seen that, but I wonder if the reference is "White" men as in surname White ? (Last of the clan ?). Lower case white seems more than a little bit odd.

Tom

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Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. The email I got had two slightly different versions of the inscription. The subject of the email has "The Last White Man" while the email itself says "Last of the White Men" - both with capitalisation as I've just given it. I didn't attach any significance to the capitalisation as any inscription on the grave would have been all in capitals anyway. The point of the email is that the writer remembers hasving seen it but can't remember where.

Tom

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Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. The email I got had two slightly different versions of the inscription. The subject of the email has "The Last White Man" while the email itself says "Last of the White Men" ...

Tom - "slightly different" :lol:

I'm afraid I'd give your mailer short-shift for such bone-idleness. How difficult is it to accurately quote an inscription of 4-5 words ?

Tom

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That term was commonly used in Australia during and long after the Great War, as in; 'he's a real white man" meaning that someone has demonstrated a generous nature. Despite the likely racial interpretion in today's climate, the term was not used in a racial context at the time. My dad occassionally used to say "you're a real white man, son" if, for example, I'd gave him a ripper or bonzer birthday present or even simply offered him a beer on a hot day. In my experience, it's synomymous with "you're a life saver, mate" in a similar situation.

Very rare now with anyone under 80 years of age for obvious reasons. I wouldn't be surprised if the inscription was on an AIF grave as it would have been used then without any sense of shame, indeed it would have been the ultimate accolade..

Here's a conemprary example in a letter home. Look in the link for the letter of 26 January 1916 From "Neville in Hut 67"

http://harrowercolle...m/lipscomb.html

Coo-ee!

Leigh

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That term was commonly used in Australia during and long after the Great War, as in; 'he's a real white man" meaning that someone has demonstrated a generous nature. Despite the likely racial interpretion in today's climate, the term was not used in a racial context at the time. My dad occassionally used to say "you're a real white man, son" if, for example, I'd gave him a ripper or bonzer birthday present or even simply offered him a beer on a hot day. In my experience, it's synomymous with "you're a life saver, mate" in a similar situation.

Very rare now with anyone under 80 years of age for obvious reasons. I wouldn't be surprised if the inscription was on an AIF grave as it would have been used then without any sense of shame, indeed it would have been the ultimate accolade..

Here's a conemprary example in a letter home. Look in the link for the letter of 26 January 1916 From "Neville in Hut 67"

http://harrowercolle...m/lipscomb.html

Coo-ee!

Leigh

I think that a similar usage was "play the white man" which meant do the right thing/be fair. Typically cropped up in a game of cricket if someone didn't admit to snicking the ball when caught by the wicketkeeper.

This was common in the 1950's and 1960's in the Manchester area. Must say that I haven't heard it in more recent times.

Kevin

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Tom,

There is a headstone to a very young British gunner, whose name I forget, in Flat Iron Copse whose epitaph reads "One of the White Men." Could this be him? If memory serves me right he is 17 years old and his headstone is a special memorial against the wall to your left as you go into the cemetery. His headstone is quite difficult to read at times as it is a bit faded. He is not AIF.

Regards

Iain

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Tom I don't think I have imagined it, I'm certain we have discussed this inscription before on the forum, I can't find it though.

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I seem to remember reading something along these lines on a South African headstone in, IIRC, Bethune Town cemetery.

Bearing in mind more recent history, it stuck out!

Bruce

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A past thread rings bells with me. As Kevin says, certainly, in the Manchester area "play the white man" was a cricketing expression of my father's generation which will get you back to the 1920s.

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Thanks for your comments, all. Taking Tom T-M's point that the writer of the email isn't really clear on exacttly what the inscription says, I did a search of the forum using less specific terms. I found a thread dating from 2009 in which Paul Reed mentions that there is a grave somewhere on the Somme with the inscription, "One of the White Men". So there is at least one other reference to such a grave on the Somme, and a further one elsewhere if Bruce's memory is right.

Tom

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Several here mentioning white and whiteness but none on the Somme

Baillieul Communal Cemtery Extension has:

117 Pte Thomas Andrew Joseph Byrnes 47th battalion Australian Infantry 7th July 1917

"The whitest of them all my son".

Beacon Cemetery has:

87 Pte Arthur Claude Gibbs 34th battalion Australian Infantry 18th August 1918

"The white gift of his life he gave ungrudgingly"

1212 Pte Burton Pearson Septimus Powell 34th battalion Australian Infantry

"He died wearing the white flower of an honoured life"

Maroc British cemetery:

14616 Charles Richard Weygood 1st battalion South Wales borderers 19th May 1916

"And they shall walk with me in white for they are worthy" (Revelations 3.4)

Ypres Town Cemetery:

Lt Edward Wynne Chapman 3rd Dragoon Guards (Prince of Wales's Own) 17th November 1914

"He leaves a white unbroken glory a radiance a shining peace"

The reference to "White man" is apparently not racist aspbut perhaps more biblical in origin and referring to a stainless character; one of those chosen on the day of judgement.

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'Play the white man' has been used for many years and was certainly used fairly recently into the 90's for example if someone was reluctant to share a drink or cigarette, at the end of the 90's I joined a more PC organisation but I would think it might still be used.

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I would think it might still be used.

It certainly is! I wouldn't exactly say I hear it on a daily basis these days, but its definately still in regular use... even amongst relatively young generations.

Dave

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