With the Battle of the Somme commemorations today, I thought this would be a relevant poem to post here. As far as I know he was my grandfather's cousin. My grandfather, William Thompson (1901 - 1957) was just 15 when he wrote this memorial poem. It was typeset and printed by the Newtownards Chronicle for the family, who kept a framed copy on the wall for many years.
In Loving Memory of our Dear Son Private James Thompson, R.I.R of Kirkistown
Who was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme at Thiepval on 1st July 1916, aged 20 years
“What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” - John 13 v 7
A loved one has been called away, he’s in our midst no more
In a land afar his body lies far from his native shore
He bade us all a last farewell, a happy brave “Good-bye”
And with the gallant few went forth to suffer and to die
Upon the first day of July amidst the shot and shell
‘Twas in the battle of the Somme he in the conflict fell
What anguish fills each fainting heart and many cheeks grow pale
And in that sorrow-stricken home how many mourn and wail
None in that home shall e’er forget the one so bright and fair
Who young in years was called away, now sits a vacant chair
No one was near when in that hour he breathed his latest breath
But Jesus led him gently on thro’ the dark vale of death
He answered not the roll call here but in that world so fair
When Jesus calls the roll above he’ll not be missing there
We know ‘twas in that solemn hour his spirit took its flight
To dwell with God above the skies in realms of love and light
Oh, sorrow not, but cast your care on Christ, the Unfailing One,
Who ever doeth all things well and say “Thy will be done”
Let this a warning be to all to cease their sinful strife
Thy soul may be required of thee escape thou for thy Life
Oh, be prepared to meet thy God this warning he doth give
Consider now your latter end, believe and thou shall live
And then, where parting is unknown, all sorrow shall be o’er
For strife and conflict never come on yonder happy shore.
Note: according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the memorial of rifleman James Thompson of the Royal Irish Rifles (A Company, 13th Battalion) is at Thiepval, Pier and Face 15A and 15B. His parents are recorded as William and Margaret Thompson, Kirkistown.
"I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st. July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world." - Captain Wilfred Spender.