31. Jul, 2017

Passchendaele - Ypres 100 Years Remembered

As the sun went down on Ypres on Sunday, the shale grey stone floor of the old Belgian town’s Menin Gate, the world’s first memorial to those who fell but who were never found during the first world war, was slowly covered by more than 54,000 blood-red poppies falling from its high arch. There was a paper flower for each name engraved upon the vast gate.

Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele became infamous not only for the scale of casualties, but also for the mud.This year, 2017, marks the 100th Anniversary of this phase of the conflict

News of the demise of Joe Marsay had reached Scarborough four days after he had been killed, in the form of an unofficial letter, which had been written by one of his comrades. The tidings had subsequently been reported to the news office of 'The Scarborough Mercury',
which had been included in a lengthy casualty list which had appeared in Friday the 3RD of August edition of the newspaper:

'Killed by a sniper - News has been received that Private Joseph Marsay, Yorkshire Regiment, has been killed at the front. Aged 32,
A letter conveying the news, from a comrade, says that Private Marsay was 'one of our very best chums. He was killed yesterday [26TH July] in action. He was killed when nearly back to our trenches, by a sniper. He did not suffer, for he died immediately'...‘ making Four orphan children -as their mother had died the year prior. 

Officially recorded as ‘Missing believed killed in action’ on 26TH of July 1917, no remains identifiable as those of Private Marsay had ever been recovered, either during, or after the war. His name had eventually been included with those of over fifty thousand officers and men with no known graves on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres; Joe’s name is located on Panel 33 of the memorial.

The story of Private Joseph Marsay is almost ended, apart from telling the story of the soldier's last letter.

A year after their son's death the Marsay's had received a small parcel from the War Office containing a few of Joe's personal effects.
Amongst these had been a cracked and torn photograph of his smiling sons, and a letter he had written to eldest son John whilst in Belgium, which had obviously never been posted. A segment of the now almost indecipherable note reads:

....'Be good boys and do all you can to please your nanny and pardy, your granny says you go to see her, that is good. I'm thinking this is all this time, from you loving dad to my dear sons John xxxx, Riley xxxx, Frank xxxx, Pat xxxx. For nanny and pardy and all at home, so goodnight
and god bless you all at home.

Give my best respect to all at home xxxx. I hope you had a fine day for your Sunday school outing and enjoyed yourselfs.... All my love Dad'. [1]

Joe’s youngest son, Patrick Ward Marsay had lived in Scarborough at No.43 Princess Street with wife Florence Nightingale Whittleton, daughter Rosina, and sons, Joseph Harrison, and Reginald Whittleton.