War hero’s grave finally gets RIP inscription – 100 years after widow first asked for it
Amelia Young couldn’t afford to pay for the epitaph on her husband Joseph’s headstone – now her descendants have arranged it more than 100 years later
Sgt Young’s great-granddaughter Lisa Hatch at his grave (Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
As a young, penniless widow from the First World War, Amelia Young just couldn’t afford the extra 3½d a letter for the epitaph on her husband’s gravestone.
The War Graves Commission said that if she specifically requested something else, she would have to pay for it.
Heartbroken Amelia simply wanted the poignant phrase “RIP” carved on Sergeant Joseph Young’s memorial on the Somme.
It would have cost her 10½d – about £5.35 in today’s money – but, with four young sons to look after, she simply couldn’t spare the cash.
But now, thanks to extraordinary family detective work, his gravestone has finally been altered more than 100 years after Sgt. Young was killed on the third day of the Battle of the Somme on 3 July 1916.
Sgt Young’s descendants have located his grave on the Somme (Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
His great-granddaughter Lisa Hatch contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
When she showed them documents that Amelia’s family kept, they immediately agreed to add the epitaph for free.
Last month Lisa and her family went to the Somme to see the freshly worded headstone.
“It was an emotional moment,” said Lisa, 53, a teaching assistant from Tamworth, Staffs.
“I would like to think that Joseph and Amelia would be happy and proud that they have not been forgotten 107 years later.
“It was very moving to see how our own three children pay their respects to their great-great-grandfather.”
Sgt Young’s headstone has finally been altered (Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
Lisa, husband Matthew, daughters Isabel and Emily, son-in-law Michael and son Jack placed a photo of her great-grandfather on the grave with the words: “Together again.”
She explained: “On our first visit to the grave in 2020, I noticed that there was no epitaph on Joseph’s grave, even though we had family papers showing Amelia wanted his grave to say ‘RIP’.
“I contacted the CWGC and with the paper evidence we provided, they agreed to add the epitaph. We are very grateful to them.”
The change to the tombstone is an extraordinary end to Lisa’s history investigation.
There has always been an impressive photo of Sgt. Young on her family’s dining room wall.
She remembered her own grandfather, Sergeant Young’s son, also named Joseph, talking about him, but knew very little about him other than that.
One day in the 1990s, she took the photo down and found an envelope taped to the back.
Inside were details, handwritten by her mother, of the family’s history.
This gave her a series of clues about his life and war record.
Sgt Young, who was killed on the third day of the Battle of the Somme on 3 July 1916 (Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror) Amelia Young could not afford the extra money for an epitaph on her husband’s headstone (Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror )
She said: “My great grandfather was killed on July 3, 1916. We believe he was shot in the head. He was buried where he fell. He was in a grave with several others, but was one of the few actually identified.
“In 1920, his body was exhumed and reburied at a nearby cemetery.
“We actually had no idea that he was buried twice until 2020.
“WWI historian David Thomson, who lives in the Somme village of La Boisselle, did some incredible detective work and found that Joseph was buried just 50 meters from his home.
“Due to the accuracy of David’s information, we were actually able to stand on the site of his first grave.”
The Graves Registration Report shows that he was reburied at Plot 12, Row O in the Ovillers Cemetery in La Boisselle, Northern France.
Sgt Young was born in Saltley, Birmingham, in 1885 and was 31 when he was killed.
He married Amelia McCoy on 31 July 1910, who at the time of his death had four young sons – Joseph, five, William, four, Arthur, two and eight-month-old Albert.
Before the war, Sergeant Young was an engine cleaner and railway carrier.
Lisa explained: “Amelia died in 1969, a month before I was born, and never got to visit her husband’s grave. When he was reburied, she was offered the chance to add a few extra words, but clearly couldn’t afford it.
“They were so poor that the Salvation Army gave my grandfather some wooden blocks when someone noticed he was running around barefoot in the snow. And we know Amelia took in laundry to make money.
“My grandfather only had one memory of his father, which was before he went to war. He was allowed to ride the pig that the family kept!”