Webmatters Title
Webmatters : Memorial plaque to Francis Ledwidge at Boesinge

Francis Ledwidge

Location

The plaque is situated between the Carrefour des Roses, Breton Memorial to the Gas Attack of April 1915 and Artillery Wood Cemetery — where Ledwidge is buried (Grave : II B 5)

Boezinge is located north of the town of Ieper on the N369 road in the direction of Diksmuide. Leaving the town you will pass Essex Farm cemetery on your right.

On arriving at Boesinge turn right and cross the bridge at the traffic lights into Langemarkseweg. Follow this road around to the right and after about a kilometre you will see a green CWGC sign towards Artillery Wood Cemetery on your left.

At this junction you will see the Breton Memorial. Turn into the road following the sign for Artillery Wood Cemetery. The plaque is immediately on your left.

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 50.897863 2.873743 Map

 

Background

Edward Ledwidge, Memorial Edward Ledwidge, Memorial

Francis Ledwidge was born in Slane, Co Meath in 1887. On leaving school he worked for a time at Slane Castle (today, famous for its music concerts) before undertaking a number of different jobs in the area. He had already shown an aptitude for writing and some of his poems appeared in the Drogheda Independent.

Frank became a political activist and was fiercely republican. In 1913 he founded his local unit of the Irish Volunteers in response to Sir Edward Carson’s Ulster Volunteers Force being formed in Ulster.

The valley where Ledwidge lived was the scene of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The victory by William of Orange over the Catholic James II is an important date for the Orange Order and is still celebrated as Northern Ireland’s National Holiday.

However, on the outbreak of war Frank Ledwidge decided to enlist in the British Army joining the 5th Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers. Many Irish nationalists believed that in fighting for the rights of a small nation like Belgium they would be seen as fighting for their own nationhood as well.

He first saw action during the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. Having been evacuated from the peninsula (the only real success of the entire venture) his battalion found itself in Serbia. Although once again on the defeated side Frank was buoyed by the news that his first book of poems entitled Songs of the Fields had been published.

The Easter Rising in Dublin changed much of his thinking, especially after the execution of his fellow poet and friend Thomas MacDonagh.

On returning to duty from sick leave Ledwidge was assigned to the 1st Bn Inniskilling Fusiliers and sent to France where he fought at the Battle of Arras in April 1917. They were then moved north into Belgian Flanders in readiness for what would become the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

 

The Memorial

The memorial is situated on the spot where Ledwidge was killed. The 1st Bn Inniskilling Fusiliers had been working on roads ready for the battle (which began on 31st july 1917). Whilst drinking tea with his mates he was killed by a shell which landed on the group.

By coincidence the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn was also killed that day and they are both buried in the same cemetery.

The memorial was unveiled in 1998 by the poet/author Dermot Bolger and the poet’s nephew Joseph Ledwidge from Slane, Co. Meath.

The top panel of the memorial has an inscription from a verse of his poem “Lament for Thomas McDonagh”

He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain.

The image of Ledwidge on the panel is said to reresent his ghostly image coming through the Ieper brick.

The lower panel contains his poem : Soliloquy

When I was young I had a care
Lest I should cheat me of my share
Of that which makes it sweet to strive
For life, and dying still survive,
A name in sunshine written higher
Than lark or poet dare aspire.

But I grew weary doing well.
Besides, ‘twas sweeter in that hell,
Down with the loud banditti people
Who robbed the orchards, climbed the steeple
For jackdaws’ eyes and made the cock
Crow ere ‘twas daylight on the clock.
I was so very bad the neighbours
Spoke of me at their daily labours.

And now I’m drinking wine in France,
The helpless child of circumstance.
To-morrow will be loud with war,
How will I be accounted for?

It is too late now to retrieve
A fallen dream, too late to grieve
A name unmade, but not too late
To thank the gods for what is great;
A keen-edged sword, a soldier’s heart,
Is greater than a poet’s art.
And greater than a poet’s fame
A little grave that has no name.

 

The other memorials in this area