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  • Claire Jordan

"Home, Dearie, Home"

When Florrie Cook arrived in the world with her Mum Lucy Ellen and her big-little (4 year old) sister Lucy Esther at the family home in Peckham, south-east London, on 11th October 1915, Mum Lucy had known for a month now that Dad Charlie would never meet his second daughter.

Charlie had enlisted in 1901 and seen action in the Boer War before coming home to London, marrying Lucy in Camberwell in 1910 and settling down as a postman in Maida Vale.

Still on the Reserve when War came, he landed in France on 12th August 1914 and a year later, he had already been twice wounded in the autumn of 1914 and again the following May.

His 2nd Royal Sussex had taken over a portion of front line in the trenches at Vermelles on 1st September, and before they were relieved on 5th, Charlie was gone, victim of the sporadic sniper bullets and shells which the enemy sent over every so often through the day and night. Dawn and dusk were especially active times, generally referred to as the Morning- and the Evening-Hate.

It was Charlie’s widow Lucy who chose the most beautiful epitaph: “Home, Dearie, Home” when the time came. She never remarried and actually neither did her daughters. On the eve of WW2, Charlie’s girls were still all living together in south London, his daughters working as telegraphists.

In 1982, Florrie wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to ask about the exact location of the grave of the father she’d never met and they wrote a polite letter back to her in Clacton on Sea, where she was then living with her big sister. Both of Charlie’s girls died there in the autumn of 1988 when they were all finally all reunited.

I don’t know if Florrie ever made it out to France to see Charlie’s grave; maybe she wrote to ask with the idea of finally making the pilgrimage with her sister.

So in case she still needs a picture, here it is, wreathed in love all these years later, thanks to her Mum’s epic choice of epitaph.

You don’t need to know the backstory to know, standing in front of that sunny headstone, how much they all loved each other.

That’s the thing that always survives, no matter what.

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