There is an undeniable beauty in the month of May, a sense of why it was regarded as the merriest month of the year. There is an abundance of blossom and blooms, a sense of nature itself celebrating life and renewal. The walkways at Saint John’s Cemetery in Worcester are carpeted with fallen blossom petals; beauty in the midst of sadness.
Commonwealth War Graves are dotted among the stones, casualties from both world wars. Mindful of approaching anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, I looked for the fallen of the 1939-45 conflict. There is not a single war grave that does not have its own powerful sense of poignancy. Every stone tells of a life ended decades before its time, tells of the heartbreak of those at home.
With the date of 8th May 1945 in mind, I paused in front of the gravestone of Marine Ronald Hubert Tombs, son of of Daniel Tombs, and of Maud Elizabeth Tombs, of Worcester, who served with the Royal Marines. Marine Tombs died on 5th June 1945, four weeks after VE Day.
Being buried in his home town, Marine Tombs seems likely to have died in England. Perhaps he had returned from military service wounded or suffering illness, perhaps there had been an accident while he was on active service.
An online search reveals little detail about Marine Tombs. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website offers little more than the most basic information. The only additional inscription on the headstone is, “the call came, he answered.” Nowhere is there any clue as to his age.
Daniel and Maud Tombs were probably a couple in early middle age, perhaps in their forties or fifties. Marine Tombs was probably a young man, perhaps no older than his late teens or early twenties. To have been a member of the Royal Marines would have marked out Ronald Tombs as a supremely fit man. The Marines were a strike force in British assaults against enemy coastal positions.
In May 1945, what might have been the mood in the Tombs household? Was there a fear as to the fate of young Ronald? Or did his death come as a shock to his parents? In the summer of 1945, how did Daniel and Maud feel? Amongst the celebration and overwhelming relief at the end of the war in Europe, how heavy personal grief must have felt. Four weeks after the celebration, the appalling pain of the loss of a son.
To those who have lost loved ones, whatever the month, the end of the war was a dark time.