Can you see the little white dot in the far distance? I saw it this morning and once again was touched by the feeling of loneliness this dot inspired. As early as my bones would stand it I cycled off, against the cold north wind, down to Bocking Cemetery. I was looking for one of the two remaining dead soldiers to complete the collection of fallen from the two wars. Unfortunately neither have the normal war grave tombstones as both are buried in family plots. From a picture on another memorial site, now removed as the owner has left the town and moved to bigger things. I knew he was buried near a hedge. There is no hedge! It must be an ivy covered wall, the wall exists but his grave does not! The search is not helped by the council eco friendly idea of allowing the older part of the cemetery to go 'wild' for the sake of flora and fauna. This helpful idea limits visibility of the stones that lie an inch or two off the ground. Bah! Nothing found so I will venture forth after better preparation next time. Someone has a map of the plots in the council!
So instead I pondered Private Bennett lying here alone, far from home, isolated in a pathway of freshly cut grass among a few local worthies and chirping birds and fluttering butterfly's. I know his regiment was formed in Hamilton for 'Home Defence,' that is there was no intention to go overseas to fight. This type usually comprising older, married men, with the simple intent of stopping Germany invading. In 1916 the Division was transferred from their homeland to defend the south east of England, the most likely place for invasion, and spent some time watching Zeppelins pass by and drop a bomb or two. The 2/6th Cameronians were billeted in Terling, a small village about four miles south of Braintree. How I ask did this man end up in Bocking cemetery? I can trace no information of any kind, and this is annoying me. A while back I sent the information with photos to the Cameronians Museum but they could tell me nothing.
Could it be an accident during training, that would be hushed up army style of course. It may well be he suffered a pre-existent condition which took him out, and an injury of illness may have seen him placed in one of the local VAD (Voluntary) Hospitals that sprung up during the war. That at least would explain why he was buried here.
I sat for a while in the restful quiet, cheerful birds chirping and distant traffic the only noise. How was he buried? Did a few orderlies from the hospital give him a 'basic,' but considerate funeral? Could it be that a detachment of his Company arrived, led by a piper perhaps, sloped arms, while pallbearers carried him to the grave. Would the padre, and some say the Cameronians were mostly Catholics but I have no proof of this, would the padre say a few words about the 'resurrection and the life,' and 'he who believes in me will live?' Was a rifle volley of blanks fired over the grave, a trumpeter blowing the 'Last Post,' and did the men march away, heads bowed, thoughtful perhaps, and leave their comrade alone, so very alone?
Hamilton in 1916 was very far away. Any family who wished to visit could do so, if they had the money, could get on a train, find accommodation, and take the time to travel so far. Was he married, children perhaps? So many questions and so far no answers.
The war has left many men far from home and often alone and forgotten, so our Private Bennett is not alone in this. Six men from the wars lie in this ground, one young woman also, another pile of unanswered questions there. As for Bennett, once he departed this life he ceased to worry about loneliness, it is the relatives and friends who have the stress. His thoughts would be occupied elsewhere.