By the end of this story, a proper expert in the field had effortlessly summarised that which took me a while to dig out. I enjoyed the chase anyway, and set it down here more for my own recollection than because it will matter to anyone else.
Someone learns that I am going to Arras. A distant relative called Arthur Stanley Peck is commemorated there, she says, and asks if I will find his name on the Arras Memorial and send a picture or two of it. She know nothing more of him than the sparse details recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s excellent website. There is also a mention of Peck’s tag, which has apparently been found in a field and returned to Suffolk.
A few days later, after a bit of poking around on Google, I am gazing across what I am reasonably sure is the field in which he died, along with 95 others from his battalion.
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I did not find Peck’s name on the Arras Memorial – it was dark and cold when we got there, and although the picture below appears to show legible panels, that is thanks to a long exposure of a near-dark wall:
One advantage of going to memorials after dark in the winter is that no-one else is there, just you and the ghosts of the thousands remembered in these magnificent places.
Amidst those hundreds of thousands of dead, one needs a link, however tenuous, to bring flesh and blood to the story, to give a purpose to the research, and to turn that ordinary field into a bloody scene from history. Continue reading