We will remember them through centuries whole
A generation brave, yet innocent of soul
Goaded to fight for Royal vented spleen
By Jingo, that ebullient Class of ’14
We remember their songs and their cheering, too
As into Hell they marched with a stride so true
“By Christmas it’s over! “Too right, old bean!”
“How honoured we are, the Class of ’14.”
We remember their faces, so eager and young
Preparing for battle with virgin gun
Awaiting the nod with senses so keen
“Boys, are you ready, you Class of ’14.”
The fight has begun, don’t falter, walk on
“Courage my friends, your day’s nearly done.
Don’t look either side, nor where you’ve been
We can go only forward, this Class of ’14.”
The bullet’s bass thud and the shell’s singing flight
Are echoed in screams from the left and the right.
“Step over your friends, dodge ‘twixt and between
Now follow your orders, Class of ’14!”
“Remember your leaders and those upon high
Are the reason you’re here, so stop asking ‘WHY?’
You’re fighting for King and our pleasant lands green
So to victory or death, you Class of ’14!”
Country and King, or the length of Life’s track
Matter not when you peer and see Death peering back
Now the battle is o’er and it’s clear to be seen
That we’ll need many more like the Class of ’14
Yes, remember them all and remember them well
For their innocence was taken by bullet and shell
But never forget, though their conscience seems clean
Those who steered them to Hell, that Class of ’14.
THE TOMMY OF TOW LAW
There is a curious myth associated with the Tow Law War Memorial. Local legend has it that the sculpture of the infantryman atop the plinth would come to life at night when no one was watching and go out and about the town looking for his lost bayonet. He would never be able to rest easy until he could safely fix his bayonet as afore-times and once again ward off the enemy from the top of his outlook on the Memorial.
The tale has various interpretations, one of the more familiar goes thus:
* * *
Once upon a time a tinker from Esh Winning was spending the night at a hotel across the road from the Memorial when he was woken in the earliest of hours by an almighty row between two guests in an adjoining room arguing over pigeons. Unable to regain any worthwhile slumber he dressed heavily and ventured out into the freezing night air, for ’twas winter and a fall of snow had settled all about.
As he turned out into the main road his eye (he only had one) was distracted by a movement from an unexpected source; the War Memorial on the High Street. Looking up towards the marble figure of the infantryman he swore blind that the said figure climbed down from the top of the plinth, as bold and as cold as brass, and did run off down the road, rifle in hand. Unnerved at such a spectacle he ran back to his room in the hotel and on looking out of his window did confirm that the plinth had indeed been abandoned, the brave Tommy gone.
On waking the next morning after a fitful sleep he looked again out of the window but beheld this time that the statue was in place as upon his arrival the day before. Not willing to let the curiosity go unnoticed he told others of his tale in the hotel bar the following lunchtime before heading back home. The locals gathered attentively around, mesmerised by the miraculous event being relayed to them. Never had they heard such a remarkable tale and on returning to their respective homes they told their wives and families the same. The wives and children were equally captivated and such was the infectious repetition the story of the Tommy coming to life and roaming about the town carried far and wide. ‘Twas said later that every family in Tow Law could boast a witness among them to confirm its truth. Wives claimed they’d see the marble fellow crouching behind hedges and peering over walls after dark, as if looking for something. The bairns too laid claim with their own ramblings about seeing pale Tommy poking about in their toy boxes in the middle of the night seeking something out, they knew not what. Such a buzz had not been about the town since a passing coal merchant had sold the blacksmith a very expensive sack of black moon rocks.
The stories spread and the sightings increased to near epidemic proportions. Near on every night there would be a report of the stony infantryman going about, peering in dustbins, rifling in garden sheds, even outside toilets – of which there were not a few. Dogs were barking, cats were yowling and bairns were bawling. Locals became agitated, almost crazy. Tourists stayed away fearing the residents to have all gone mad. Something had to be done about this mischievous, marble marine. The final straw was a riot on the eve of the Horse Fetish Fair.
The talk of the statue coming to life and snooping around the town and all the related mayhem came to the ear of the mayor. He inspected the memorial and asked when it had been vandalised.
“Vandalised?” came the retort from the locals, for such a thing was unheard of in these parts.
“Aye, vandalised. Where’s ‘is bloody beernet, man?”
Way man it waz blern away beeya thunderbaaalt.”
“Aye, on tha neet o tha greet staaarm a few yorz back, man.”
This would not do. The Tow Law War Memorial was the finest in County Durham and no abode for a Tommy without a fixed and ready bayonet. The mayor arranged a collection throughout the whole town in order to have the bayonet replaced. The local pubs, clubs, football team and ferret breeders all chipped in for this worthy cause and the proceeds were sent to the ironmonger who produced a beautiful, shiny new bayonet forged out of the best Cornsay Colliery steel.
On a chilly Armistice Sunday Eve the new bayonet was fixed and a watch was kept by all the elders of the town that night to see if the adventurous Tommy would dismount his plinth again. Most of them nodded off but those that kept awake swore blind that he stayed put all night. From thenceforth the sightings ceased. Tommy had his bayonet back and could settle once more, having no need to go about the town in search of his trusty blade.
* * *
There is a less known, comforting addition to this story; If the Tow Law Tommy is ever seen to dismount from his plinth again it is said that there will never be warfare ever again in the whole world. Ever.