“What will survive of us is love...”
Working on a book about Welsh rugby star Charlie Pritchard has brought this line of Philip Larkin’s to mind more than once.
Charlie was killed after leading a trench raid in August 1916, and now lies in a CWGC Cemetery at Chocques, near Béthune. A famous rugby international in his day, Charlie had been a firm favourite of the fans at Rodney Parade, where he led a ferocious pack of forwards in the famous Black and Amber shirt of Newport RFC. It would have been no surprise to people in his home town that he had shown such selfless leadership on the Western Front. For years after his death, his daughter would be greeted by strangers in the street, all wanting to tell her that her father had been a great man. More than just a rugby player.
Charlie’s family, of course, were well aware of that. His wife Florence was forever unable to face the day of his death, the 14th of August. Her children recalled that she would cut a bloom from Charlie’s rose garden and place it in a vase in the centre of the dining room, then retire to bed for the rest of the day. Her daughter Violet, born a few weeks after the death of Charlie, came to dread the 14th August every year, when the family’s wound would open once more. Violet died in 1985 - on the 14th of August.