Sunday, 11 November 2018

Remembering the war dead
of the Comerford family
on Remembrance Day 2018

The Helles Memorial in Gallipoli includes the names of Private Albert Comerford and Private John Comerford

Patrick Comerford

On the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on 11 November 1918, I thought it worth remembering members of the Comerford family who are commemorated on war memorials:

The names of the war dead from the Comerford, Commerford and Cumberford families, and who are recorded on memorials and graves by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, are:

Albert Comerford: United Kingdom; Private, Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Bn. Age, 29. Date of death: 5 June 1915. Service number: L/12331. Family information: brother of Mrs. R. Chaproniere, of 5, Pepin Place, Long Lane, Bermondsey, London. Memorial: Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey, Panel 37 to 41 or 328.

Arthur Comerford: United Kingdom; Private, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), 1st Bn. Age, 29. Date of death: 19 September 1914. Service number: L/6701. Family information: Son of Lawrence Comerford, of 70 Britton Street, Gillingham, Kent; his brother, Charles James Comerford (see below) also fell. Memorial: La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.

A.H. Comerford: United Kingdom; Private, Royal Sussex Regiment, 9th Bn. Date of death: 1 January 1915. Service number: L/1051. Grave/memorial reference: ZHN. 47. Buried: Brighton City Cemetery, Bear Road.

A.J. Comerford: South African. Private, South African Infantry, 4th Regt. Date of death: 18 July 1916. Service number: 2973. Grave/memorial reference: VIII. A. 129, Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

Charles James Comerford: United Kingdom (Ireland); Sergeant, Royal Flying Corps, 57th Sqdn. Age: 26. Date of death: 18 August 1917. Service number: 1166. Family information: Born in Cork, son of Lawrence Comerford, of 70 Britton Street, Gillingham, Kent; his brother, Arthur Comerford (see above), also fell. Grave/memorial reference: XII. D. 13, Harlebeke New British Cemetery.

Christopher Comerford: United Kingdom (Ireland); Private, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 86th Coy. Date of death: 28 February 1917. Service number: 21022. Family information: son of James and Mary Comerford, of Church View, Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Grave/memorial reference: 9.A.8., London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval.

C. Comerford: United Kingdom; Lance Corporal, 19th (Queen Alexandra’s Own Royal) Hussars. Date of death: 5 January 1919. Service number: 6327. Grave/memorial reference: I. A. 23., Cologne Southern Cemetery.

Derek Comerford: United Kingdom; Ordinary Seaman, Merchant Navy, S.S. Empire Engineer (West Hartlepool). Age: 17. Date of death: 2 February 1941. Family information: son of Peter and Mary Hannah Comerford, of North Shields, Northumberland. His father, Peter Comerford, was born in Glasgow, and his father was from Ireland. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 40, Tower Hill Memorial.

E. Comerford: South African; Private, South African Infantry, 4th Regt. Date of death: 13 October 1918. Service number: 1957. Grave/memorial reference: Bl. UO. 12, Cape Town (Plumstead) Cemetery.

Edward George Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Bedfordshire Regiment, 2nd Bn. Age: 27. Date of death: 25 September 1915. Service number: 13491. Family information: son of Mr and Mrs John Comerford, of Saint George’s, Hill, Bristol; husband of Laura Annie Comerford, of 273 Hotwell Road, Hotwells, Bristol. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 41, Loos Memorial.

Ernest Edward Comerford: Australian; Lieutenant, Australian Infantry, A.I.F. 3 Rec. Trg. Bn. Age: 28. Date of death: 18 July 1945. Service number: QX.35506. Family information: Son of John Edward and Rosina Comerford, of Townsville, Queensland. Grave/memorial reference: 2W. D. 8, Sydney War Cemetery.

Frank Comerford: United Kingdom; Company Quartermaster Serjeant, Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Age: 40. Date of death: 3 April 1944. Service number: 3514928. Family information: son of William and Margaret Comerford; husband of Doris Mary Comerford, of Frankwell, Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Grave/memorial reference: Sec. A 2 D. Grave 1. Beeston and Stapleford (Chilwell) Cemetery.

Frederick Patrick Comerford: United Kingdom; Private, Royal Fusiliers, 9th Bn. Date of death: 7 October 1916. Service number: L/14339. Grave/memorial reference: Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A, Thiepval Memorial.

F. Comerford: United Kingdom; Private, Lancashire Fusiliers, 11th Bn. Age: 27. Date of death: 18 July 1916. Service number: 7764. Family information: Husband of Elizabeth Macarty (formerly Comerford), of 31 New Hall Street, Whit Lane, Pendleton, Manchester. Grave/memorial reference: 34. RC. 308, Salford (Agecroft) Cemetery.

F. Comerford: United Kingdom; Private, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment. Age: ? Date of death: 3 May 1917. Service number: G/11059. Grave/memorial reference: Cagnicourt British Cemetery.

G. Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, ‘C’ Coy. 2nd Bn. Age: 33. Date of death: 26 March 1915. Service number: 9116. Family information: son of Richard and Elizabeth Comerford, of Small Heath, Birmingham. Grave/memorial reference: Screen Wall. B10. 214, Birmingham (Lodge Hill) Cemetery.

Gordon Patrick Comerford, United Kingdom; Leading Stoker, Royal Navy, HMS St George. Age: ? Date of death: 9 September 1915. Service number: 308587. Grave/memorial reference: 41. C. 20, Grimsby (Scartho Road) Cemetery.

The Menin Gate at Ypres includes the names of Driver Henry Martin Comerford, Corporal James Comerford, Private John Comerford and Private Michael Comerford

Henry Martin Comerford, Australian; Driver, Australian Field Artillery, 5th Bde. Age: 28. Date of death: 7 November 1917. Service number: 29927. Family information: son of John Comerford, of Mintaro, South Australia, and the late Ellen Comerford. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 7, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Herbert Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays). Age: ? Date of death: 1 September 1914. Service number: 780. Grave/memorial reference: 2, Baron Communal Cemetery.

James Comerford (alias, true family name Moran), United Kingdom (Ireland); Private, Royal Irish Regiment, 2nd Bn. Age: 34. Date of death: 19 October 1914. Service number: 6486. Family information: served as James Comerford, son of the late Mr and Mrs Moran, of King’s Street, Kilkenny; husband of Mrs Moran of New Building Lane, Kilkenny. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 11 and 12, Le Touret Memorial.

James Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Corporal, Leinster Regiment, 1st Bn. Age: 21. Date of death: 21 April 1915. Service number: 10173. Family information: son of Nicholas and Julia Comerford, of Deer Park, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 44, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

James Comerford (Comerton), United Kingdom (Ireland); Fireman, Mercantile Marine, SS Antinoe (London). Age: 42. Date of death: 28 May 1917, when the Antinoe was torpedoed by a German submarine about 150 miles off Bishop Rock. Family information: son of Martin and Mary (Comerford) of John Street, Wexford; husband of Julia Comerton (nee O’Connol), of Wygram Place, Wexford; born in Wexford. Memorial: Tower Hill Memorial, London.

James Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), 4th Bn. Age: 25. Date of death: 27 September 1917, Battle of Passchendaele. Service number: 51519. Family information: son of Patrick and Mary Comerford, of 46 Slade Street, Liverpool; native of Liverpool. Grave/memorial reference: XXIV. G. 7, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

James Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Private, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Engineers, attd. ‘L’ Signal Bn. Age: 19. Date of death: 2 February 1919. Service number: M/345253. Family information: son of Mr and Mrs J Comerford, of 4 Saint Joseph’s Place, Limerick. Grave/memorial reference: VIII. A. IIA, Les Baraques Military Cemetery, Sangatte.

James Matthew Comerford, Australian; Corporal, Australian Infantry, A.I.F. 2/26 Bn. Age: 26. Date of death: 25 May 1943. Service number: QX17117. Family information: son of Edward Tobias and Ellen Cecelia Comerford, of Paddington, Queensland, Australia. Grave/memorial reference: A1. B. 19, Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, Burma.

John Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Irish Guards, 1st Bn. Age: 26. Date of death: 26 October 1914. Service number: 2802. Family information: son of Edward and Mary Comerford of Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 11, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

John Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Manchester Regiment, ‘D’ Coy. 1st/8th Bn. Age: 20. Date of death: 14 May 1915. Service number: 1678. Family information: son of Edward and Mary Comerford, of 21 Saint Luke’s Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 158 to 170, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey.

John Comerford, Australia; Private, Australian Infantry Base Depot. Date of death: 31 August 1915. Grave/memorial reference: R.C.B. 116. (GRM/3*), Brighton General Cemetery, Victoria.

John Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Private, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry), 1st Sqdn. Age: 22. Date of death: 27 March 1918. Service number: 105293. Family information: son of Nicholas and Margaret Comerford, of Clontumpher, Esker, Co Longford. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 93 and 94, Pozieres Memorial.

John Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 5th/6th Bn. Age: ? Date of death: 16 April 1918. Service number: 290899. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 5, Ploegsteert Memorial.

John Edward Comerford, Australian; Private, Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 18th Bn. Age: 32. Date of death: 27 September 1920. Service number: 1903. Grave/memorial reference: R.C. 4.523. (GRM/2*), Rookwood Necropolis, Sydney.

John Joseph Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Private, Cheshire Regiment, 6th Bn. Date of death: 10 May 1916. Service number: 2061. Grave/memorial reference: III. R. 4, Guards’ Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, France. Originally from Cork.

J. Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Private, Connaught Rangers, 1st Bn. Date of death: 17 February 1917. Service number: 1/9888. Grave/memorial reference: XXVIII. A. 24, Amara War Cemetery, Iraq.

Laurence Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Able Seaman, Mercantile Marine, SS Coningbeg (Glasgow). Age: 39. Date of death: 18 December 1917. Family information: son of Catherine Comerford and the late Patrick Comerford; husband of Anastasia Comerford (nee Hawkins), of 5 Presentation Row, Waterford; born in Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford, 1878; his brother, Patrick Comerford (see below), was a casualty in World War II. Grave/memorial reference: Tower Hill Memorial; SS Coningbeg Memorial, Adelphi Quay, Waterford.

Lilian Rose Comerford, United Kingdom; civilian casualty. Age: 62. Date of death: 30 September 1940. Family information: of Rose Cottage, The Ridge, Hastings; daughter of Francis Thomas and Charlotte Comerford. Died at Robertson Street. Reporting authority: Hastings County Borough.

Mary Agnes Comerford, United Kingdom; civilian casualty. Age: 17. Date of death: 16 December 1940. Family information: daughter of Thomas and Mary Agnes Comerford, of 26 New Allen Street, Collyhurst, Manchester; died at Ancoats Hospital, New Cross, Manchester; her brother, Michael John Comerford (see below), died in 1944, and is buried near Athens. Reporting authority: Manchester County Borough.

Michael Comerford, Australian (Ireland); Private, Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 53rd Bn. Date of death: 19 July 1916. Service number: 4755. Family information: son of Mr and Mrs John Comerford, native of Ireland. Grave/memorial reference: 7, VC Corner, Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France. The Villers-Bretonneux Memorial is Australia’s national memorial. It was erected to honour all Australians who served in France and Belgium during World War I. The cemetery has no headstones and is specifically dedicated to the abortive attack at Fromelles. The memorial wall records the names of 1,299 Australians who died in the battle and have no known grave. Its lawns contain 410 unidentified bodies of former AIF soldiers who fought in this sector in No-Man’s-Land between the German and Australian frontlines.

Michael Comerford, Australian; Private, Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 36th Bn. Date of death: 7 June 1917. Service number: 1813. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 7-17-23-25-27-29-31, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Michael John Comerford, United Kingdom; Gunner, Royal Artillery, 165 Field Regt. Age: 22. Date of death: 5 December 1944. Service number: 1144779. Family information: son of Thomas and Mary Agnes Comerford, of Manchester; husband of Sabina Comerford, of Manchester; his sister, Mary Agnes Comerford (see above), was a civilian casualty in 1940. Grave/memorial reference: 16. E. 12, Phaleron War Cemetery, near Athens.

Patrick Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Able Seaman, Merchant Navy, SS Clune Park (Greenock). Age: 52. Date of death: 12 February 1941. Family information: husband of Catherine Comerford, of Dungulph, Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford. His brother, Laurence Comerford (see above), was a casualty in World War I. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 31, Tower Hill Memorial.

Patrick Comerton (Comerford), United Kingdom, Ireland); Able Seaman, Merchant Navy, SS Newbury (London). Age: 49. Date of death: 15 September 1941. Family information: son of James and Mary Comerton (Comerford); husband of Mary Ellen Comerton (Comerford), of Arklow, Co Wicklow. Memorial: Panel 72, Tower Hill Memorial, London,

R. Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Durham Light Infantry, 2nd Bn. Age: ? Date of death: 3 June 1917. Service number: 28038. Family information: son of Mr J Comerford, of 18E, Elizabeth-ville, Birtley, Co Durham. Grave/memorial reference: I.Q.48, Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe.

T. Comerford, United Kingdom; Private, Lancashire Fusiliers, 15th Bn. Age: ? Date of death: 25 December 1917. Service number: 306560. Grave/memorial reference: II. E. 16, St Julien Dressing Station Cemetery.

Thomas Michael Comerford, Australian; Private, Australian Infantry, A.I.F. 2/20 Bn. Age: 39. Date of death: 26 October 1943. Service number: NX55519. Family information: son of John and Bridget Ann Comerford. Grave/memorial reference: Aust. Sec. A.B.1, Yokohama War Cemetery, Japan.

William Comerford, United Kingdom; Fusilier, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 1st Bn. Age: 22. Date of death: 18 January 1943. Service number: 6981836. Family information: son of Edward William Comerford and Harriet Comerford, of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Grave/memorial reference: Face 11, Rangoon Memorial, Burma.

William Henry Comerford, United Kingdom (Ireland); Cook, Mercantile Marine, SS Clangula (Cork). Age: 42. Date of death: 19 November 1917. Family information: son of Elizabeth Comerford and the late James Comerford; husband of Mary Elizabeth Comerford (nee Graham), of 17 Taft Street, Holt Road, Liverpool; born in Limerick. Grave/memorial reference: Tower Hill Memorial.

Edward William Commerford, United Kingdom; Private, Home Guard, 18th County of London Bn. Age: 39. Date of death: 4 February 1944. Family information: son of Edward and Matilda Commerford; husband of Minnie Commerford, of Dulwich. Grave/memorial reference: Sec. 86. Grave 39695, West Norwood Cemetery and Crematorium.

Gerald Francis Commerford, Australian; Private, Australian Army Medical Corps, A.I.F. 2/10 Field Ambulance. Age: 25. Date of death: 9 February 1945. Service number: NX33246. Family information: son of Denis and Margaret Sarah Commerford, of Lower Lawrence, New South Wales. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 26, Labuan Memorial, Malysia.

HJ Commerford, South African; Gunner, Cape Garrison Artillery. Age: ? Date of death: 13 October 1918. Service number: A/6655. Grave/memorial reference: Bl. UO. 13, Cape Town (Plumstead) Cemetery.

John Commerford, United Kingdom; Lance Corporal, Middlesex Regiment, 1st Bn. Age: 27. Date of death: between 1 and 2 October 1942. Service number: 6010413. Family information: son of Serjeant TJ Commerford, The Royal Fusiliers, and of Mary Commerford, of Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, England. Grave/memorial reference: Column 14, Sat Wan Memorial, Hong Kong.

Noel Patrick Commerford, South African; Able Seaman, South African Naval Forces, HMS Cornwall. Age: ?. Date of death: 5 April 1942. Service number: 66493. Family information: son of Mrs P Commerford, of Cape Town, Cape Province, South Africa; brother of Terence Commerford (see below), who died five months later. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 74, Column 1, Plymouth Naval Memorial.

Thomas Commerford, United Kingdom; Ordinary Seaman, Royal Navy, HMS Invincible. Age: 18. Date of death: 31 May 1916. Service number: J/23915. Family information: son of Matthew Michael Commerford (late Royal Engineers) and Lily Lavinia Commerford, of 34 Emmett Carr, Renishaw, Chesterfield. Grave/memorial reference: Panel 14, Plymouth Naval Memorial.

Terence Commerford, South African; Ordinary Seaman, South African Naval Forces, HMS Express. Age: 21. Date of death: 19 September 1942. Service number: 330258. Family information: son of Pierce and Wilhelmina Commerford of Cape Town; brother of Noel Patrick Commerford (see above), who died five months earlier. Grave/memorial reference: Block F. Grave 275, Durban (Stellawood) Cemetery.

Thomas James Commerford, United Kingdom; Serjeant, Royal Fusiliers, 6th Bn. Age: 34. Date of death: 28 September 1917. Service number: L/7271. Family information: son of John and Susan Commerford; husband of Mary (Fenton) Commerford, of 37 Heathfield Estate, Hanworth Road, Hounslow, Middlesex. Grave/memorial reference: F. C. 49, New Brentwood Cemetery.

Thomas Matthew Comerford, United Kingdom; Trooper, Royal Armoured Corps, 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars. Age: 36. Date of death: 19 August 1944. Service number: 7927353. Family information: son of Thomas James Commerford and Mary Commerford; husband of Phyllis Ettie Mary Commerford, of Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex. Grave/memorial reference: III. F. 13, Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery.

William Michael Comerford, Canadian; Private, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps. Age: 36. Date of death: 30 November 1944. Service number: D/142978. Family information: husband of Muriel Commerford, of Montreal. Grave/memorial reference: Sec. I. Lot 1498. Grave 5957, Montreal (Notre Dame des Neiges) Cemetery, Canada.

Hugh Brown Cumberford, United Kingdom; Radio Officer, Merchant Navy, SS Kellwyn (Swansea). Age: 19. Date of death: 27 July 1941. Family information: son of John Brown Cumberford and Agnes Cumberford, of Dalmarnock, Glasgow. Grave/memorial reference: Tower Hill Memorial.

Sources:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Tom Burnell and Margaret Gilbert, The Wexford War Dead (Dublin: Nonsuch, 2009).
Kilkenny People, 15 November 2011.

This feature was first published on the Comerford Family site on 19 June 2009. Last updated: 11, 14 and 15 November 2010; 11 December 2010; 12 January 2011; 11 July 2012; 6 November 2015; 11 November 2018.

© Patrick Comerford 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018.

Three poems by war poets
for Remembrance Sunday

Wilting poppies in Comberford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 11 November 1918,

11 a.m., Remembrance Sunday,

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick


May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Instead of preaching a sermon this morning, I thought it would be more appropriate to read three short poems by three war poets of World War I.

One was English-born but was posted to Limerick during World War I; the second was English-born but had strong family roots in these dioceses and regarded himself as Irish; and the third was an Irish Nationalist MP before he enlisted and died in the trenches in 1916.

1, ‘Aftermath’ by Siegfried Sassoon

The first poem, ‘Aftermath,’ was written by Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) in 1919, during the time of his demobilisation. He was born to a Jewish father and an Anglo-Catholic mother and was much-decorated in World War I. During the war, he was stationed for some time in Limerick, along with his close friend Robert Graves (1895-1985), a grandson of Charles Graves (1812-1899), Bishop of Limerick (1866-1899).

During this time in Limerick during the war, Siegfried Sassoon wrote about his impressions of the streets of Limerick, and of his time riding to hounds in west Limerick.

In the years immediately after World War I, his poem ‘Aftermath’ was often broadcast on Armistice Day. It is rich, haunting, and bursting with the enormities of war:

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same – and War’s a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz –
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench –
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack –
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads – those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

2, ‘Waste,’ by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy

The Revd Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, MC (1883-1929), was an Anglican priest and poet who was known as ‘Woodbine Willie’ during World War I because he gave away cigarettes along with spiritual and pastoral assistance to injured and dying soldiers.

His father, the Revd William Studdert Kennedy, Vicar of Saint Mary’s, Quarry Hill, in Leeds, was from Blackrock, Co Dublin, and was the Rector of Saint Doulagh’s in north Co Dublin for 14 years before moving to England. Woodbine Willie’s mother, Jeanette (née Anketell), was from Co Clare.

His grandfather, the Very Revd Robert Mitchell Kennedy (1798-1864), had preceded Bishop Graves as Dean of Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway (1850-1864), and was also Precentor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Woodbine Willie always saw himself as an Irishman, and he graduated in classics and divinity from Trinity College Dublin in 1904. At the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered as a chaplain on the Western Front. He was decorated with the Military Cross after he ran through shells into ‘no man’s land’ to obtain supplies of morphine.

His turning point came when he stopped talking to and started listened to the troops and their views on war, the monarchy and poverty. After his discharge in 1919, he spoke throughout Britain against war and calling for an end to unemployment and poverty, and he published several volumes of religious poetry and a collection of sermons.

His later poems and prose work express his Christian socialism and pacifism. He gave away his possessions and donated the large royalties from his poems to charity.

On one of his speaking tours on behalf of the Industrial Christian Fellowship, he died in Liverpool in 1929. He was exhausted although he was only 45. The Dean of Westminster Abbey refused him a burial because, he said, he was a socialist. But, still, poor people flocked to his funeral in Worcester.

Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey on this day 33 years ago 11 November 1985 – but not ‘Woodbine Willie.’ Yet his close friend William Temple became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942, and his writings have inspired many modern theologians, including Desmond Tutu and Jürgen Moltmann.

Towards the end of World War I, Woodbine Willie wrote his poem ‘Waste.’

Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood and waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth's most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God –
War!

3, ‘To My Daughter Betty, the Gift of God,’ by Tome Kettle

Thomas Michael Kettle (1880-1916) was an economist, journalist, barrister, writer, poet, soldier and Home Rule politician. As a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party, Tom Kettle, was MP for East Tyrone (1906-1910).

His close friends included James Joyce, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and Oliver St John Gogarty.

He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and then enlisted in the army on the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He was killed in action on the Western Front in Autumn 1916.

Kettle’s best-known poem is a sonnet, ‘To My Daughter Betty, the Gift of God,’ written just days before his death. The last lines are an answer to those who criticised Irishmen for fighting in the army:

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your Mother’s prime.
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To die with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.

So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

A prayer for peace in Westminster Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Why I am wearing a poppy
this morning 100 years
after the end of World War I

A wreath of poppies on my grandfather’s grave in Portrane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today [11 November 2018] is Remembrance Day, marking the centenary of Armistice Day and the day World War I came to end 100 years ago on 11 November 1914.

Later this morning, there will be one service of commemoration for the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, with a Remembrance Sunday service in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, that begins with the Act of Remembrance and that concludes with a celebration of the Parish Eucharist.

Throughout these islands, throughout this day, names will be read, wreaths will laid, bugles will be blown, silence will be kept for a minute, and poppies will be worn – but also looked on in scorn with silences accompanied by deep in-takes of breath sucked through clenched teeth.

I am a pacifist, and have been all my adult life.

So, you may ask, why am I wearing a poppy today, and why I have been wearing one for the past week or so?

Let me share two examples of why I think it is important to continue marking Remembrance Day, and why I think we should be asking some questions as we mark the centenary of the end of World War I.

Stephen and Bridget (Lynders) Comerford on their wedding day in Donabate in 1905 (Comerford family collection)

My first example is the story of my own grandfather.

Stephen Edward Comerford was hardly a young man when he signed up with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1915. He had already been widowed and had seen the tragic death of his eldest child, Edmond Comerford. When he left Dublin for Gallipoli in 1915, he was a 47-year-old man, leaving behind in Ranelagh his second wife, my grandmother – they were married just 10 years earlier – and her five young children and step-children.

Perhaps he knew he was helping his own country and the smaller nations of Europe; perhaps he hoped for a better job not only for himself, but for his children too when they grew up. Either way, he knew he was doing the right thing – for his country, and for his people – when he joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers – ‘the Toffs and the Toughs’ – in 1915.

Within days, he was sent to the Greek island of Lemnos and on to Gallipoli and Suvla Bay. He was among the few survivors evacuated to the Greek city of Thessaloniki. But in the severe Greek winter, many of those soldiers suffered frostbite, dysentery and other sicknesses. Then, in the summer’s heat of 1916, more of them came down with malaria and were evacuated from Thessaloniki.

When I visit Thessaloniki, most recently during Easter week this year, and walk through its streets and climb its hills, I imagine how he must have watched his comrades die from the wounds they received in Balkan battles, from the bitter cold of winter and from the frostbite – many of them young enough to be his sons – while his wife and children wondered whether they were ever going to see him again.

As I stop at a church here or a monastery there, looking out over the Bay of Thessaloniki, I imagine the prayers he prayed, hoping he would return alive to his wife and children in Ranelagh and to her family in by the sea at Portrane.

Stephen Comerford was discharged on 3 May 1916, three days after the Easter Rising ended in 1916, and was sent back to Dublin. His malaria was life-threatening but life-saving – for a few months at least. The war ended on 11 November 1918 and a month later, on 14 December 1918, his youngest child – my father, also Stephen Edward Comerford – was born in Rathmines.

Later, Stephen was decorated with the three standard World War I medals – the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1914-1915 Star. But his health continued to deteriorate, no more children were born, and he died alone in hospital at the age of 53.

My father was the only one of my grandfather’s seven children to have children himself. So malaria saved my grandfather’s life, however briefly, and ensured that he had grandchildren.

He died just two years after my father was born, and he was buried in the old Church of Ireland churchyard in Portrane, close to my grandmother’s parents. But the inscription on his gravestone makes no mention of his part in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, or of how he died.

Ironically, the gravestone also gives the wrong age for him at the time of his death. Stephen Comerford was born on 28 December 1867, and died on 21 January 1921 at the age of 53. But the gravestone says he died at the age of 49 – the age he was when he came back from the war in 1916. As his health deteriorated, he must have remained 49 for ever in my grandmother’s heart.

My grandfather’s only reward was those three war medals – but even these were lost in the various family moves between Ranelagh, Rathmines, Terenure and Rathfarnham. His lonely hospital death was filled with sadness, terror and dread. His story typifies how those soldiers were forgotten by those who sent them to war and how their stories were not handed on in their families, fearful they would be marginalised further as the political climate changed on this island.

When I am in Cambridge, I often take time off in Grantchester, for a time the home of the English war poet Rupert Brooke. Before he died during the Gallipoli landings in 1915, he wrote:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed …


In Ireland, my grandfather remained 49 for ever in my grandmother’s heart. And there is some corner in Thessaloniki that is for ever Ireland.

In the centenary of commemorations we are marking during this decade, the contribution of men like my grandfather must not be undervalued, still less forgotten.

A wreath of poppies on the memorial to Private Robert Davies in Lichfield City station (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

My second example comes from a train station I know well in the English Midlands. A significant part of my life-story is linked to the cathedral city of Lichfield. And regularly, as I arrive or catch a train at Lichfield City station, my eye is caught by a poppy wreath hanging on a monument to a teenage soldier who was shot dead in the station in 1990. Private Robert Davies was off-duty and only 19 when he was shot dead by the IRA on 1 June 1990, waiting for a train home to his parents in Wales. He had been a soldier for only 12 weeks<, he had never shot anyone, he had never been to war, and his murderers have never been brought to justice.

Some years ago, a new walkway behind the station in Lichfield was named Robert Davies Walk. His parents Des and Helen Davies were present, and his father said: ‘There is now a little part of Wales in the heart of England.’

Robert Davies would be 47 today – the age my grandfather was when he went to war. Unlike, my grandfather, though, he never returned home. He has no children or grandchildren – he is remembered by his sister and his parents, still grieving a young man murdered by terrorists who had the gall to take life, to murder, to create grief, all in the name of this country, and in the name of all who live on this island.

‘Pax 1919’ ... the spires of Lichfield Cathedral seen from the gates of the Garden of Remembrance … does God continue to work through mighty acts and in history? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the Diocesan Synod for the Diocese of Europe some years ago, the then Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe, Jonathan Lloyd, posed a number of pertinent questions for discussion:

● A hundred years on, what does World War I mean for humanity’s self-understanding, for Europe and its place in the world and our understanding of God?

● Are the centenaries of 2014-2018 celebrating or commemorating?

● What is our purpose and message and what place do penitence and reconciliation have?

World War I is beyond the memory of all of us, but we all live with its consequences. For that war led eventually to the monster that became Nazi Germany and to the Holocaust; it tore apart the Balkans in a way that continues to create suffering from Bosnia to Bucharest, for refugees, Romanies and other minorities across Europe; and it contributed to too many problems we still face in the Middle East with the drawing of artificial boundaries and the creation of artificial states.

Archdeacon Jonathan Lloyd suggested a number of ways we can best honour and mark these centenaries, including:

● Hearing the stories from people of all sides of the conflict.

● Writing and using prayers that do justice to all the feelings that are going to arise.

● Examining the lessons we should continue to learn today.

● Remembering key Christian witnesses and heroes. Not all of them are men, as the monument to the women of World War II in Whitehall in London reminds us. Not all of them are soldiers, as in the case of Nurse Edith Cavell, or the brave people who went against popular culture and declared themselves conscientious objectors. They include doctors and medics with the Royal Army Medical Corps. They include non-combatants of every age and generation whose cities, towns, villages and farms were destroyed.

● And, finally, praying for forgiveness, healing and peace.

The memorial to the women of World War II near the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I am a pacifist, but I willingly wear a poppy today, if only to say that my grandfather and men like him should never have been neglected, and their sad stories should never be forgotten, nor the sad stories of the widows and children they left behind.

I wear it today if only to say that the murderers of 19-year-old Robert Davies in Lichfield should not have the last word about the value of a young man’s life, nor about what it is to be Irish today.

I wear it today to say that we must find the ways needed to put all wars behind us, to put aside all hatred and violence, to say that when we remember that we must remember with sorrow, with gratitude and with forgiveness, but without bitterness or anger.

I wear it today to say that the call of nationalist ideologies must never twist us, must never distort the love we should have for others, and must never allow us to deny our shared humanity.

May God grant to the living Grace,
to the departed Rest,
to the Church and the world peace and concord,
and to all us sinners Eternal Life, Amen.

A prayer for the healing of the nations at Westminster Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This posting includes material in a sermon preached at the Remembrance Day Service in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, on 12 November 2017 and a sermon preached at the Remembrance Day Service on 10 November 2013 in the Chapel of the King’s Hospital, Dublin.