07 November 2018, The Tablet

A personal pilgrimage

Centenary of the Armistice

A personal pilgrimage

Hangard Communal Cemetery Extension near Villers-Bretonneux


Seeing the graves of the First World War is a bit like looking at the Milky Way. Tens of thousands of identical white gravestones almost disappear into the distance like dots. Tens of thousands of tiny names cover multiple surfaces of massive memorials. Each death burnt a terrible hole in its family with consequences lasting for generations.

My grandfather’s name was Mudd – an unusual surname. Yet on the 64 surfaces of Edwin Lutyens’ massive Thiepval Memorial in France (to 72,000 fallen in the Somme region whose bodies have not been identified) there are five Mudds. None is him. He was one of the relatively lucky ones, who died sufficiently near the end of the war for his remains to be identifiable when they dug up the unmarked graves of the battlefields.

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