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We're Here Because We're Here, a Soldier's Death in Vieille-Chapelle, September 1915

CJ Stone is an author and columnist, with seven books to his credit. He lives in Whitstable and currently writes for the Whitstable Gazette.

It was the song they sang as they marched to the trenches. "We're Here Because We're Here." It was sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, a sardonic joke sung in full-throated defiance of death. "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here."

But underlying that song there is a question: a question to which the song gives no answer, stark in its simplicity. "Why are we here?"

In the following article CJ Stone attempts to answer the question, not for every man who died, but for one man at least.

Ivor Coles

The only known photograph of Ivor Coles

The only known photograph of Ivor Coles

There's a grainy old sepia photograph of him standing in front of a shop. He's maybe 12 or 13 years old, wearing a flat cap and a donkey jacket with leather patches on the shoulders, with knee-length breeches and woollen socks, with these huge shiny black leather clod-hoppers on his feet. They are far too big for him, clogs rather than shoes, with wooden soles turned up at the toe. The clothes are functional and sturdy, heavy duty work-clothes. A Miner's uniform.

Perhaps they are his new work clothes. Perhaps he's just about to start his first job, down the pit. He was the right age.

He's got one hand in front of him, the thumb hovering around his waistcoat pocket as if he's about to hook it in; the other hand is tucked into his jacket as if he's about to take something out. He's leaning on the windowsill, one leg cocked forward, totally at his ease, with this cheeky look on his face, grinning broadly at the camera from under the brim of his cap, which is pulled down tight over his ears. It's obviously the fashion. A young boy with a cheeky-monkey grin on the threshold of his future with everything to look forward to. Within six years he would be dead.

His name is Ivor Coles, and the picture was taken sometime in the early 1900s - 1908 or 1909 - and he died of wounds sometime in September 1915 near a town called Vieille-Chapelle in France on the Western Front. Killed in action.

He had an older brother, Richard Coles. Richard was also stationed on the Western Front, but survived. He later married, Lily May. Lily May lived on till she was over a hundred. It is Lily May who is the thread who holds this story together.

As it turns out, if you look at the dates, Ivor must have been underage when he joined up. He was born on the 24th June 1897. He was less than three months into his eighteenth year when he died so he must have joined the army before the proper age of recruitment at 18. Also, according to Richard - who would tell the story in later years - Ivor was only a few days away from moving to Richard's regiment, on compassionate grounds. The British Army usually allowed members of the same family to serve together. But then the big push came, the move never happened, and Ivor Coles died as a private in the 9th Battalion of the Welch Regiment (sic).

There's not a lot more you can say about him. He died anonymously, another anonymous death in a war where death was the norm, routine and unavoidable. A conveyor belt of death. A death factory in full-production.

The Crown Jewels

Richard Coles, Ivor's brother, in uniform

Richard Coles, Ivor's brother, in uniform

Years later Richard went back to find him. He scoured the cemeteries of the Western Front looking for his name, but it wasn't there. He thought he saw it on the Menim Gate, where all the missing are listed. The one's without bodies. The one's whose bodies had been blown to bits, smashed and pulped into a goulash soup and absorbed into the Earth. There was one name there which resembled his brother's. Ivan Coles rather than Ivor. Maybe they just got the spelling wrong. Anyhow, it was enough to satisfy Richard, enough for him to say to himself, "well I've found my brother now," to pay his respects and then to leave.

And that's how the story stood. An old story. As old as time. As old as history. One of those stories that most families are familiar with, like a thread from the past left dangling in the present. A story without an end or without resolution, like a detective novel with the last pages missing.

Later again Richard's granddaughter, Vanessa, went to the Menim gate to check the story out, scanning the thousands of names to find the one that her grandfather had seen. It wasn't there. There was no I. Coles listed on the Menim Gate..

So the mystery deepened. Ivor Coles had just sort of disappeared from history, lost without a trace. He had no grave, no memorial, nothing to mark his passing in the great river of time, nothing to show that he had ever been here, that he had ever mattered. Nothing but an old grainy photograph tucked away in a biscuit tin in someone's bottom drawer, all-but forgotten.

Except for Lily May, that is. Lily May who had married Ivor's brother. Richard sometimes spoke about him, about his lost brother, and Lily May always remembered this, even after Richard had died.

That's how the thread of history is kept alive. It's in the minds of the living. In the minds of the people who remember. Lily May never met Ivor Coles, but she shared his surname, and she remembered the stories her beloved husband had told her about their childhood together in South Wales, remembered even when she was a hundred years old and had great-great grandchildren who would play around her ankles while she snoozed away her last few months, delicate and brittle like an old clock.

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And who was Ivor Coles anyway? His life was so short it could hardly have impacted on this Earth. He was here, and then he was gone, along with a whole generation of young men. He left no progeny. He left no mark. He added little to the world's store. Had he lived he would have gone back to being a Miner, feeding the power industry with his sweat and his muscle, digging the coal deep underground. But he never went back. And who's to say? Maybe he never even fired a shot while he was on the frontline. Maybe his only contribution to the factory of death was his own body, swallowed by the mud in the mangled Earth.

But Lily May had a secret. All those years she kept it. It was a tightly wrapped bundle which went everywhere with her. From the South Wales Valleys where she started out, to the Wealds of Kent, where the family eventually settled, Miner following Miner across the landscape of Britain in the search for work, Miner's families following on behind. And that's how Lily May got here with her bundle.

It was a simple brown paper bundle, tightly wrapped in Sellotape, wrapped and wrapped, tighter than a Nun's wimple and containing just as many secrets. She called it the Crown Jewels. "Don't open it till something happens to me," she'd say, in her broad South Wales accent. "That there's very precious." And she'd brandish it about with a flourish, with a twinkle, enjoying the mystery. Everyone thought it must contain diamonds at least. Or pearls. Gold and silver. Ancient artefacts from the mysterious East.

It turned out to be mainly paper. Little more. Nothing of obvious value. So it was passed on to Warren, Vanessa's brother, as the family historian after Lily May died. "Here," they said. "You might like this."

And it was in here that Warren found the clues that lead us back to Ivor: to finding him again.

Letter from the War Graves Commission

Letter from the War Graves Commission

How to lose a human being

The bundle was full of paper. Old faded sheets of time, folded, brown and musty with age. The usual things. Birth certificates. Death certificates. Marriage certificates. People's wills. Most of it was hardly surprising. But there were a couple of new things in there: one a verification notice, sent to Richard and Ivor's parents, John and Rhoda, by the War Graves commission. It contained the name of a cemetery, with a plot number, a row and a grave number, plus an army number, only it was made out in the name of T. Coles giving the date of his death as the 25th of September 1915.

"T" rather than "I".

A simple clerical error, a typing error. You take the bottom off an "I" and it looks like a "T".

That's all it takes to lose a human being. A typing error.

It was a printed form part filled in in pencil. You were supposed to correct the details and send them back. Only no one ever did.

Later Warren checked the army number against an identity disc which they'd found behind the glass in a picture frame tucked behind a wardrobe in Lily May's house. The picture was of Lily May's brother, but the identity disc was Ivor's.

The number on the verification document and the number on the disc matched. They'd found the whereabouts of Ivor's grave at last. All the information was on the document.

And there was something else in the bundle too, something even more precious.

The bundle didn't contained jewellery, but it contained a work of art.

It was a small package, the size of a man's outstretched hand, wrapped in brown paper. Inside the brown paper, a yellowing cotton cloth, and inside that a layer of tissue paper. And inside the tissue paper, wrapped up like a sacred relic, like Tutankhamen's remains, there lay a simple chalk cross.

Ivor's memorial from a fellow soldier

Ivor's memorial from a fellow soldier

It's about nine inches by seven. The cross is carved from a single lump of chalk, possibly with a penknife. The rear side of the object is a plain, smoothed surface, but on the other side the cross stands out in relief from a flat background, resting upon a plinth of steps. It is meant to be displayed in an upright position, facing forward to give the impression of a cemetery cross standing upon a platform of ascending steps.

And all across the cross, in elaborate, ornate, copperplate lettering, in ink, using a fountain pen, written so that they too form the shape of a cross, are the following words:

It is poignant in its simplicity. This plain, simple cross made from the bones of the soil, from the very chalk landscape that had swallowed Ivor's body, that had drank his blood and consumed his flesh, maybe even from the trench in which he lay shivering, afraid, in the muck, with the stench of death in the air, just before he was sent over the top to be chewed up by the teeth of the guns in No Man's Land, snared upon a wire to die, to give up his young life for some abstract cause; this cross carved with slow care and dedication in the weeks and months following by a comrade-in-arms, by a man who had watched him die perhaps, and who had wrenched this lump of rock from the living earth and carved it in his memory, so that Ivor's name would not be forgotten. "In Loving Memory," he wrote. He meant every word of it.

How to find a human being

Ivor's identity badge

Ivor's identity badge

This was the great secret that Lily May had kept all these years, wrapped up in a bundle, a memorial to her long-lost brother-in-law, a message from history.

Not that this cross or this bundle answer all of the questions. In fact they bring to light new ones.

There are discrepancies. The dates, for a start. The cross has it that he died on the 15th of September, while the verification document delays it until the 25th.

Perhaps he was wounded on the 15th and died in hospital ten days later on the 25th. Except that there was a big offensive on the 25th - the so-called 2nd Battle of Loos - in which Ivor's regiment took part. Before that an uneasy stalemate had existed across the front line, an eerie peace broken only by the occasional skirmish. On the 25th thousands of men had died, mown down by the enemy guns, or gassed by their own side, or blown to smithereens by the artillery-fire while ducking for cover in No Man's Land. It was much more likely to be that day. Or perhaps he had taken part in a skirmish on the 15th, been killed by a sniper's bullet, but in the mass of deaths ten days later, in the confusion of slaughter, this one lone private's death had got muddled up.

Who knows? It's a mystery.

And then, the other great mystery. Why, when he received the verification document didn't Ivor's father return it with the amended information, the "I" instead of the "T" and acknowledge his son's resting place?

What father wouldn't want to know the place of his son's burial?

Perhaps he couldn't read?

And why was the location of Ivor's grave kept hidden, even from his own brother?

Mysteries on mysteries, and questions to which we will probably never have answers. But it's the questions that bring Ivor to life again. It's as if, in the anonymity of his death he planted a seed. A seed in history. And in the moment of remembering Ivor Coles, so-long forgotten, we remember all the others who died in that carnage - the War to End All Wars - and in that moment, too, remember the futility of war, its meaninglessness, and by that give meaning to Ivor Coles' death.

Final rest


So, after 90 years the family had finally found the burial place of Great Uncle Ivor. All of the information was on the War Graves Commission letter, and in 2006 Warren and Vanessa and their respective partners went to lay a wreath of poppies on his grave, to pay their respects.

They had solved the mystery and brought Ivor Coles back into the bosom of their family once more.

Now all that is needed is to get the grave re-carved so that it reads I. Coles instead of T. Coles, as it should. When that day comes there will be a dedication ceremony at the grave.

Lily May would be proud.

Richard Coles and Lily May


Five generations at Lily May's 100th birthday party


© 2008 Christopher James Stone


Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on November 20, 2013:

Thanks Mirthe. I find that individual stories help to shed light on the statistics. Thousands died the same day as Ivor Coles. Each of them had a story. If you like my writing you could always share it.

Mirthe on November 17, 2013:

I'm in my final year of high school and I have a test on the First World War tomorrow. My books are full of years and numbers, the basic information; Franz Ferdinand was killed in Sarajevo, Belgium, trenches, mustard gas, millions of casualties.

Here in The Netherlands the Second World War had more impact and is remembered more often; I never gave much thought to the First World War, no one ever told me much about it.

Thank you for showing me one of the millions of stories behind the numbers and simple facts. Through this beautiful and painful story you brought history alive for me.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on February 16, 2011:

Thanks Robin.

Robin on February 16, 2011:

Thank you for this beautiful story. It is breathtaking. I'm so happy that the Coles family found their lost soldier. Here's a silent prayer for all the missing in action whose bodies were never found.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on February 12, 2011:

I don't know if there's a connection or not bret, but there could be.

bret treasure on February 11, 2011:

CJ, what a beautiful piece of writing; thanks so much.

I have a question for you in connection with the 'Here because we're here' story at the top of the page. My grandfather (an Australian who fought in Europe in WWI used to say 'the band played Annie Laurie to the tune of Auld Lang Syne' when he heard something that he didn't believe. Do you think there's a link?


bret treasure

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on December 26, 2010:

Thanks Brian. How interesting that you sang the song in Vietnam too. The day that no one needs to sing that song any more will be our day of liberation.

brian sweeney on December 25, 2010:

We sang the same song, "We're here because we'er here because we're here because we'er here," in Viet Nam. When will they ver learn. Enjoyed the article

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on September 05, 2010:

Thanks Tim.

Tim Blackstone on September 05, 2010:

What a moving description of the wastefullness of war. It leaves me subdued and thoughtful but it is a great tribute to someone who had been almost forgotten. A great piece of writing too. Well done.

AppGal330 on January 09, 2009:

Came here to read this hub because you mentioned it in your interview. Mere words are not sufficient enough to express all the feelings I went through while reading it. The questions, which you obviously had as well, why didn't Ivor's father correct the information, etc.. As a family historian, of sorts, I love to read of others quest for family truths and their success at finding it.

Both of my grandfathers were in WWI. I have a picture of my paternal grandfather in his uniform and could not help glancing at it quite frequently while reading your wonderful story.

Thank you so very much for sharing your talent here. Oh, and you're right, people NEED to read this!

all the best,


Debra Allen from West By God on January 08, 2009:

CJ, You are so elegant with words. Yes genealogy is more precious than gold and more valuable too. No matter the spelling and typos and all his story was told in the end. Geesh I know I have been doing mine on all sides of the family and it is difficult to find things--like a needle in a haystack sometimes. I have just my direct line of my father's side on here. My Lewis Genalogy if you have the time to go take a look at it.

Julie-Ann Amos from Gloucestershire, UK on January 08, 2009:

Fantastic story - I too agree it needs a better audience!

Patrick Bernauw from Flanders (Belgium) on January 08, 2009:

I've found this story thanks to the Hubber2Hubber interview... and it's true: this story deserves an Audience (with capital A). Living somewhere near Flanders' Fields, and being a Historical Freak, I'm a Great War Addict too... so, this touching true story really was my cup of tea... or coffee!

Anna from Malaysia on January 07, 2009:

I enjoyed your story. Thank you for sharing Ivor Coles with us

Kelley Marks from Sacramento, California on January 07, 2009:

Very good descriptive writing. I also like the fact that your pictures are where they're supposed to be. You must have stacked your capsules. Anyway, no one should forget Ivor Coles or the meat grinder that tore him up and swallowed him. The story is a little long, though, and so are mine, in general. I'm still trying to find the right length. Keep writing!

sheenarobins from Cebu, Philippines on January 07, 2009:

I got goosebumps reading this. Something was stirred in me. You're right Cjstone, people should read this.

Well written! Two thumbs up!

Christoph Reilly from St. Louis on January 07, 2009:

One of the many things you do so well is create an "atmosphere," and I don't mean it was "cold and rainy" stuff, but an atmosphere that surrounds the entire work. The "Stone Hinge" and "New York" stories come to mind. A feeling that envelopes the reader. A very lovely piece! Thank you.

Also, thanks for the mention in your interview. I was surprised, to say the least.

robertsloan2 from San Francisco, CA on January 07, 2009:

Beautiful story, well written. A lot of people vanish in history, never remembered. I'm glad you wrote this and Ivor Coles wasn't one of them.

Glenn Frank from Southern California on January 07, 2009:

Great article CJ... That is why I love history and specifically the researching of one's own family history. I have a number of people in my family's past with unknown mysteries like this. I am assuming that Ivor is in your family tree somewhere? or are you not related?

in any case... great article... loved it and could not stop reading it.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on November 07, 2008:

Thanks ajcor.

ajcor from NSW. Australia on November 07, 2008:

Thanks for the great hub CJStone - I really love to hear stories from the past particularly when they answer generational questions! cheers.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on September 08, 2008:

Thank you Jerilee.

Jerilee Wei from United States on September 08, 2008:

Excellent hub! I was a fan before, but can't wait to see what you come up with next. Thanks!

Cailin Gallagher from New England on September 08, 2008:

Yes. Traditional in the best sense of the word.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on September 08, 2008:

Thanks again Cailin. Yes I know I've got a talent here. Would like to receive a little more encouragement from the print media in the way of occasional paychecks, that's all. Never thought of myself as "traditional", but I guess you're talking about my style here. Mostly my aim is to carry emotional content in the words, which is a subtle process.

Cailin Gallagher from New England on September 08, 2008:


I am once again moved by your writing. I hope that you realize your great talent. Your voice is both distinctive and traditional. Thank you once again. Kudos.

Amanda Severn from UK on August 28, 2008:

Hi CJ. I just read this hub for the first time, and found it very moving. In this age of instant information, it's hard to contemplate a time when secrets were so well kept, and knowledge was a darn sight farther than a click away. My own Aunt, my mother's oldest sister was born in 1919. She didn't discover that she was illegitimate until after my Grandmother, her mother, had died. It was only when she applied for a full birth certificate to obtain a passport,  that she discovered that the man who became my grandfather, and who fathered her five siblings, was not actually her father. In fact there was no male parent named on the certificate. When she casually mentioned this to another elderly relative, she was told that this was not a suitable subject for discussion, and it would be best not to talk about it. She never did find out who her father was.

I'm enjoying reading through your hubs. You have a very distinctive, 'English' voice.

Veronica from NY on July 30, 2008:


Excellent Hub. I'm printing this out to read at the coffee shop again later today. I am a little too moved to add anything of value just yet. But I wanted to tell you that much.


SmallTownBoy from Vacaville, Ca on July 28, 2008:

This is the type of story (and writing) that makes me want to jump on a plane and go look up everything you talk about. Compelling, heartfelt and well put together. Thanks.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on July 05, 2008:

stop_making_esme, thanks for you comments and your stories. Are you a member of HubPages or not? If so I would definitely like to hear you tell thse stories in more detail. It's odd what gets lost and suppressed in our histories. Sometimes I think all the most interesting things disappeared in this way as "official" history is so dull. My main interest is in finding forgotten texts and giving them life again. You pick up a book, and as soon as you are reading it it is alive, isn't this so? I'd like that to happen to one of my books one day, or maybe to one of these hubs, who knows?

stop_making_esme on July 05, 2008:

This is a moving, well-crafted, well-written piece. Kudos on your beautiful work!

In response to JamaGenee's comment speculating on Lily May's possible motivations of spite in keeping the letters to herself: I have noticed with persons of the Great War generation that they seldom assigned value to what amounted to them as materials of no importance.

And one must keep in mind that older people are often met with rolled eyes and sighs of tested patience when they reminisce about the "old days". My grandmother and I were extremely close and she is of that generation. My grandfather actually fought in the Great War (he was Welsh), though sadly he passed away in 1933. As someone with huge curiosity about history and the lives of those who lived through those fascinating times, I would often be surprised when, after polite but very insistent questioning, my grandmother would relate a story that completely blew me away by its importance and its drama. She simply considered it information that would be of no interest to those who came after her.

Also, in relation to pgrundy's post, when it came to matters that related to emotions or to "shameful" difficulties, the custom was to suppress those stories to save those involved from shame. At age 35, through a great-aunt, I found out that my maternal grandfather had committed suicide by hanging himself in the family barn. No surprise that that would have been relegated to the dark recesses of memory to disappear forever.

Interestingly enough, however, things that nowadays we would consider admirable were also suppressed. Helping my elderly parents lift things to their attic, I found a book of art history: absolutely stunning in its craft and quite comprehensive. It was created by my paternal grandmother. She had compiled images of art works and, with almost professional technique, had pasted them into a book and written insightful critique to accompany each piece. My father, who was raised primarily by his Victorian grandmother (b. 1880) had never thought it important to mention this huge achievement of his mother's. Apparently, her interest in art was viewed "inappropriate" for a female and as a big waste of time, when she should have been devoting her efforts to housekeeping and other more traditional endeavors.

There's more than one piece of writing that could explore that generational relationship to memory.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on July 01, 2008:

I know exactly what you mean marisue. It's a feeling in the heart, but learning how to communicate it is a lifetime's work.

Thanks wannabwestern. This is my best piece, but the others are pretty good too I think.

Carolyn Augustine from Iowa on July 01, 2008:

I loved this piece of top-notch writing. This is why I belong to the HP community. Learning from great writers like you. Thanks for sharing.

marisuewrites from USA on July 01, 2008:

Well, America was a rant for me,  but the subject got that one going, not so much great writing.  You know how you're sitting there, and feel passionate about something and out it pours, and then boom, others like it simply for the passion in your voice and theirs.  It's a connection of sorts..pen to person to mind to heart...

I'm just trying to crank out the book on odd things in my life,  plus I want to write about my mother overcoming her blindness, and the journey of that.  Most things I write about come from my life's experiences.  Got to turn all those kid years into something valuable.  Many kids were lost, but maybe their stories can live on.

Ahh, too many stories, too little time. 

glad to help with the traffic   LOL   !!   =)

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 30, 2008:

This is my best hub, and although the traffic died off for a while, it's just creeping up again now. The other one is How To Be Invisible, but both of them are slow. I'll take a look at America, We're Not Spoiled to see if I can figure out the secret. Thanks for keeping up the traffic single-handedly marisue!

marisuewrites from USA on June 30, 2008:

pgrundy, i agree about the traffic, it seems when I do one off the top of my head, such as America, We're Not Spoiled - which got over 700 page views, it surpasses all those I labor what does that tell us.? Is it subject or passion? or both? who knows....we'd be rich if we figured it out LOL

CJ, you're becoming a star...

marisuewrites from USA on June 30, 2008:

War robs the world of priceless souls. This leaves one quite melancholy, but I'm still glad you told it.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 30, 2008:

Thanks for your thoughtful words marisue. I definitely felt a "connection" with Ivor Coles. When I look at the photograph of him, it feels as if he is my own son.

marisuewrites from USA on June 30, 2008:

No life is wasted, and to be remembered is to live with purpose forever.

"A story without an end or without resolution, like a detective novel with the last pages missing." So many of your sentences moved me, the unknown "finish" to a person is so sad...mysterious. Human mistakes made, and history becomes fallible, families torn, left forever wondering.

Your writing brought vivid images to light of blood, fear, pain...the price of battle becomes unblievable. So much more than today's news could ever show without being there. Battle is not clinical, and sometimes not strategic, just one on one fight to the end. A feeling I never want to experience, so grateful some did.

I wonder if help is received from those who've passed..."Make my life count, here I am, there I was...connect me again..." through inspiring thoughts a journey continues, until answers for questions so heartfelt are found.

A father perhaps, who was so frozen in grief, he could not move or act on information. The closure never came, for him.

You have given to strangers, a story of a young man who mattered. You have placed him in history among his comrades. I'm not sure there is a greater gift.

Thanks, CJ.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 28, 2008:

Thanks for your comments Dave, and particularly the Sassoon poem. Very apt. I was going to add a Wilfred Owen poem as a side bar but it made the page too "busy" so I left it out.

dave one on June 28, 2008:

sorry, probably posted that twice, not used to this site yet. Anyway, I wanted to add one of Sasson's best poems

On Passing the New Menin Gate

Who will remember, passing through this Gate,

The unheroic Dead who fed the guns?

Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate --

Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?

Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.

Paid are its dim defenders with this pomp;

Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,

The armes who endured that sullen swamp.

Here was the world's worst wound. And here with pride,

'Their name liveth for ever,' the Gateway claims.

Was ever an immolation so belied

As these intolerably nameless names?

Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime

Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.

Siegfried Sassoon, 1927

dave one on June 28, 2008:

Chris, it's a great story, and I think the reason it touches so many people is that it is common to so many people, so many families in Britain had that or similar experiences because so many people, relatives etc were lost in that pointless awful war.

My grandfather on my mother's side survived. He was a stretcher bearer and was one of only four out of a thousand in his unit who were snuffed out in a gas attack in just one day on the Somme. He survived but he never recovered. Apart from the illnesses resulting from the gas, he continuously had to fight the urge to throw himself under tube trains because he couldn't live with the fact that he had survived and the others were dead. He would sit at the dinner table, saying his repeated phrase: "war strips the veneer off a man", while his eldest son was saying "there goes dad, talking about the war again."

as someone above said, Eric Boogle's "Wille McBride" says it all.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 22, 2008:

I don't know that Lily May was spiteful. I think she'd just forgotten what she had. The mystery is why Ivor's dad didn't acknowledge the war graves commission verification letter, but, as i say, maybe he just couldn't read.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on June 21, 2008:

Oops! Must've hit the submit button twice. Sorry.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on June 21, 2008:

What fellow genealogist In The Dog House said: breath taking! We should all be able to write the family stories like that. Instead of my children rolling their eyes heavenward when the subject comes up, they'd be grabbing for the Kleenex!

What a spiteful woman Lily May must've been to keep mum about the true location of Ivor's grave all those years! To prolong the agony for Richard, and later Vanessa and Warren! I'd bet the farm (if I had one) that her father-in-law never saw the letter from the Graves Commission because Lily May intercepted it.

And yes, Ivor and his comrades do live again through the mysteries surrounding his death and burial. Rather an appropriate posthumous poke in the eye to Lily May, wouldn't you say?

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 13, 2008:

Thanks for your comments budwood. I might have a go at continuing the story one day. As you say, there's a message there.

budwood from Southern Nevada on June 13, 2008:

Excellent hub and pertinent story. Seems that the question of "why" remains.

My own experience is that I signed up with the US Army during WWII not to protect the nation but to prove my manhood. However, if I hadn't signed up, I probably would have been drafted, so no big deal. I suspect that my father signed up for the US Army during WWI for the same reason, but he paid a price (disability).

Hope that you might expand on this story as there is a powerful message lurking within the facts.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 12, 2008:

Eric, where are those virtual maidens you promised?

robie2, I'm actually not worried about money any more. It's the attention I crave.

inthedoghouse, dineane, LdsNana-AskMormon - god these names get complicated - and to all of you who've offered their support to me here, thank you very much, you've given an incurable writer a new lease of life, aqnd I'll certainly be considering more hubs in future.

Glad you all liked it.

Also, thanks to Warren who took me aside at work one morning and asked if I would be interested in a story.

You bet!

He meant a little mention in the local paper, maybe 50 words or so. But you can't offer a writer a story and expect it to be snuck down on paper in such an unceremonious fashion. Us writers have to write. So when we get a story - a good one like this - then we can't help it: we go to town on it.

Thanks again to everyone.

I'm looking forward to presenting more of my stuff here. I only hope people won't be too disappointed. They can't all be as brilliant as this.

enid brewer on June 12, 2008:

What a great story Chris, you are a very talented writer.

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on June 12, 2008:

That was so full of real emotion and heartfelt feelings. Anyone reading this would truly be blessed.

It was the title song that attracted me,( no insult or anything intended) But as a kid we used to sing that on the bus when we went away to a camp.

I never knew how the song originated and I taught it to our kids. We would all sing it when we were going on a trip. Thanks you so so much for this article.

Oh, I find the best way to attract readers is I always leave comments on the pages of the people who take the time to read and comment on mine.

I believe that is the way to help one another. We all have to unite and stick together

Pam Field on June 11, 2008:


An interesting and thought provoking read. Every life, however brief must have a purpose. Thanks to your account the wasteful loss of Ivor's life will make people pause in their too busy lives for thought, Ivor now has some influence on the living, but even this won't stop people killing in each other in wars. Or could it? Keep writing, people need to read human stories like these.


Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 11, 2008:

Many of my relatives were "erased." Many I never met lived well into the 1990s and died before I knew about them. Thanks for the Hub. Stoeies fo WWI and WWII are quite haunting and fascinating,

Thumbs up!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on June 11, 2008:

Beautifuly told with geat insight. thanks for sharing your treasure and talent

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on June 11, 2008:

Just amazing story! I have bookmarked it so that I can come back and re-read it. Huge thumbs up. I love your writing.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 11, 2008:

Thanks Steve, I'll try that. And thanks again for introducing me to these pages. It has definitely helped me to get working again after a lull.

Thanks to Mark for your comment. I think that the "disappeared" are a common phenomenon, especially in the Third World.

Thanks too to all you others who've left comments here. I can tell you, it was a lovely surprise to wake up this morning to find so many people have enjoyed the result of what I most love to do.

Mark Knowles on June 11, 2008:

Excellent hub. I wonder just how many people get "lost" in this way.

I will be back for more, for sure.

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on June 11, 2008:

Mixx is one of several options of social networking sites you can submit a link to your hubs to. If you click in the 'share it' button by the 'rate it' one at the end of each hub you will see Mixx, Digg, Facebook, Myspace, Blogger and Stumbleupon. If you submit your new hubs to these you should see traffic from them by the next day. You can add descriptions of what the hubs are about at these too.

I am delighted to see you getting some more readers, Chris!

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 10, 2008:

What's MIxx, btw?

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 10, 2008:

I haven't got time to reply to all of these comments individually as I'm on my way to work. But - to all of you - thanks! You make this truly worthwhile. I'll be over at your hubs later to say hello.

Kathryn Skaggs from Southern California on June 10, 2008:

What a beautifully written account of the worth of one soul, and the family determined to find him and reclaim their own.

These are bonds that extend beyond the physical realm of which we travel daily. I am always in awe, of the many stories of those who once have been lost, but somehow return, when there are those sincerely seeking to find them.




I have submitted this article to Digg. I would invite others to come and Digg also...

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on June 10, 2008:

Wheee doghouse--way to go. I'm off to Mixx to vote for it:-)

dineane from North Carolina on June 10, 2008:

I agree with the other comments--awesome story, and very well written. And now you have a new fan :-)

In The Doghouse from California on June 10, 2008:


Thumbs Up... and Mixxed...

In The Doghouse from California on June 10, 2008:


Keep writing and they will come.. This was amazing...I am a genealogist...I love family history. I have so many stories like this that can be told, but the way in which you related it is breath taking. Our ancestors gave so much for the love of country and family, they were unselfishly thinking of others when they sacrificed all they had for the future. Truly pioneers, as they forged a way in history... many unknown as you have pointed out by this Hub. We are here to tell their stories, it is our job to make sure that they are not forgotten for future generations to come. I know this to be true, and you have done Ivor Coles justice today. Thank you for sharing, sometimes there are things much more important than money.

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on June 10, 2008:

My God , CJ! This is magnificent. Now Ivor is remembered by all of us through you. Thanks for not waiting for the editors on this one. :-) You may not get paid for this hub, but you are definitely appreciated here

I listened to Willie McBride as I read and was truly moved to tears by Ivor's story, the futility and inevitability of war, and the general doltishness of humankind. Perfect video choice. The Irish have a special way with mournful songs:-)

As for getting more traffic--just stick around. It will come. The cream rises to the top. I scampered right over here the minute I saw your name in my "hubtivity". If you want to get known around here though, I'd suggest a few posts in the forums and more comments on other people's hubs.

Whew--now I gotta find the kleenex--Thumbs up up up!

Eric Graudins from Australia on June 10, 2008:

CJ - I'm in awe of your writing.

Thank you for making this available here.

I'll send one of my virtual maidens over to rub your belly.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 10, 2008:

Oh I'm just eager for attention that's all. I'm like a puppy with its legs in the air expecting its belly to get rubbed. I just think these last two stories were so good EVERYONE - everyone on earth that is - should read them immediately. But maybe I'll have to wait a month or two to achieve that. I lack patience I suppose. I'm impatient to become patient. Maybe I should write a piece about making money while having sex during the recession. How To Make Money Having Sex. Great. That's my next hub sorted.

pgrundy on June 10, 2008:

Hi CJ,

I think I will write about her-- I mean, I love ghost stories and here I am sitting on top of a real one, thanks for the encouragement.

As to how to get people to visit your hubs, wow, that's the zillion dollar question alright. Some people spend so much time on traffic generation that their actual writing is kind of crappy. I don't aim for that.

I have noticed that the more I visit other people's hubs, the more of them check out mine in return, and ditto if I leave comments on the forums. It kind of builds over time. I see you just joined three weeks ago, and already the Bard and me check in regularly so that's pretty good! I had only two fans for the longest time it seems, and then other people came, who knows why. My two first fans were robie2 and Violetsun. For a couple months they seemed to be the only people who read my hubs.

I've noticed that certain topics get lots of traffic--how to make money, the US recession, sex--but I'm kind of where you are with it. I write what I want here at Hubpages and hustle elsewhere for wordbucks. My highest traffic hub is one I tossed off in 20 minutes in a snit. Others that I personally love, no one reads. I don't mind. Hubpages is my playtime.

Another month and I predict you'll be smothered in fans. Seriously. (o:

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 10, 2008:

Hi pgrundy. It's always you and Steve who are the first to come here. It's nice to feel appreciated. I actually decided today not to bother chasing money for my writing. It's just depressing spending valuable time making pitches to editors when you could be writing the stuff you love to write. So there's likely to be plenty more stuff on here in the next few weeks.

Sorry to hear about your great aunt, but it's an interesting story too. Why should people have felt ashamed? I'm sure that's the reason for them destorying all evidence of her existence... but why? I think you should write the story. I'd be interested.

My puzzle about HubPages is how to get people to visit your page. I mean: I know these pages are good, and I like the fact that they're here, but almost no one visits. Any advice on how to change that?

pgrundy on June 10, 2008:

Wow. This is excellent. Thank you so much for sharing this here, with us, for free.

I'm especially troubled by people who have vanished in this way. About ten years ago I learned that I once had a great aunt who was 'erased' from the family history around the turn on of the century. She was a suicide at 16--She was pregnant and the family shunned her so she jumped off a bridge to her death. After that, no one spoke of her and the family destroyed all trace of her existence. A month before my grandmother died at 82 she told me the story and dug out a photo, the only one she had, of her dead sister. Her name was Irma.

It makes me wonder how often this happened, how common the practice was. Something about it is really chilling. Your story has a happy ending. Thanks for that.

Christopher James Stone (author) from Whitstable, UK on June 10, 2008:

I know Steve, but I've been sitting on this story for months now, trying to get it published. In the end I'd rather be read than paid. And HubPages have given me new energy. It feels great to be able to share this stuff at last.

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on June 10, 2008:

Thanks again for giving me a preview of this top quality writing! You ought to have been paid for this!

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