Walter and Anne Moon, of Western Road, Southborough, had four sons away fighting in the Great War.
Henry, a Gunner in the 4th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery, died, aged 22, on 2 June 1916.
After he left St Peter's School at the top of Southborough Common, he had first worked locally as a telegraph messenger at Southborough Post Office, and the local press reported he was "the first member of the Hand and Sceptre Lodge of Oddfellows to give his life for his country".
He had been in Canada when war broke out, one of many young men who had left Britain in the first decade of the twentieth century, hoping to make a life for themselves in the Dominions, as they were known at the time. When he signed up in Toronto at the end of 1914, he gave his trade as Fixture Builder. In a letter to Mr and Mrs Moon, written on the day Henry (referred to as Harry) was injured, a Canadian chaplain wrote: "I know you will be very much disturbed and anxious to hear that Harry has been wounded. He asked me to write and tell you about it, as he will not be able to write himself for some time. The Battery where Harry was, was heavily shelled today at noon, and Harry, unfortunately, was hit by a small splinter on the lower part of the chest on the right side. Our Medical Officer was away when the word came to our Brigade Headquarters only a few hundred yards away. I got the Medical Sergeant, and we went over with a stretcher. We put a dressing on his wound and carried him on the stretcher down the road, where an ambulance and doctor met us. The doctor redressed his wound and sent him off to the Hospital, where I think they will operate to remove the splinter. He was very brave and bright, though he was suffering a good deal. He will probably be laid up for quite a while, but the doctors do not anticipate any danger." But Henry died the following day in hospital, and was buried in the adjacent cemetery at Lijssenthoek, near Poperinge in Belgium.
But Walter's luck didn't last - he died aged 23 on 4 July, a month after his brother Henry, several days after being wounded, and is buried in Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L'Abbe, in the Somme.
It is awful to imagine how desolate their parents must already have been feeling after the deaths of two sons in June and July, when the following month, on a Tuesday morning in August, Mrs Moon received a letter informing her that Charles had died on 14 August, aged 21. She had already had news of his wounding from Corporal Jenner, from High Brooms, who had been serving as a stretcher-bearer out in the Somme, and had picked up Charles, who had lost a leg, and carried him to the dressing-station.
What Mrs Moon was not to know until four days later was that her youngest son John had been killed in action on the same day that Charles had died. She heard the news in a letter from Lieut J Gilliland, OC “C” Company, Anson Battalion, BEF: “Dear Mrs Moon, I am awfully
sorry to have to write and tell you your son John was killed during a bombardment this afternoon. I know how terrible this news must be to you, but in your great grief it must be a consolation to you to know what a splendid soldier your son has proved. He joined us on the 22nd March, and we all very soon got to know his cheerful and manly disposition. It will console you, too, to know his death was instantaneous, and that he had no suffering. He will be remembered by his friends in “C” Company, who are very numerous."
Like so many of these endless letters home which weary officers were duty bound to write, it may have tried to paint a kinder picture than the reality. One account stated that John was killed by a rifle-grenade, and another that it was a German shell in the front trenches that brought about his death.
The local newspaper reported that "Mr Moon has been ill himself for some months, and is now in Bath Hospital, where Mrs Moon will have to travel to break this terrible news".
John's grave is in Tranchee de Mecknes Cemetery, Aix-Noulette, Pas de Calais, and Charles was buried at Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, some 40 miles south
I walk past their former home in Western Road often, and wonder at how much sorrow there must have been within those walls in the following years, and sadly, how much grief is still felt in soldier's homes today, when bad news arrives from Afghanistan.
The Moons lost two nephews, Christopher Moon and William Moon, in the following years, and, in September 1944, another member of the extended family, Ronald, then serving with the Parachute Regiment, was to die in action, aged 23, in Holland. These, and the Moons of Western Road, are all commemorated on Southborough War Memorial.
Harry Patch, the last surviving British soldier to have fought in the trenches of World War One, who died in 2009, memorably said: "Why did we fight? The peace was settled round a table, so why the hell couldn't they do that at the start, without losing millions of men?"