Swavesey and the Great War

Rifleman Arthur Ding


Rifleman Arthur George Ding of the 4th Rifle Brigade died of wounds as a Prisoner of War in Bulgaria on the 16th August 1918. He was born in Swavesey and was 35 years old when he died. Arthur's wife, Florence, was from Notting Hill in London. Rifleman Ding is buried in the CWGC cemetery at Skopje in Macedonia.

From the Electronic Telegraph 9th November 1998

Prince chooses tiny cemetery as place to remember the dead

By Robert Hardman in Skopje

FAR from the Cenotaph but close to where it all began in 1914, the Prince of Wales yesterday remembered Britain's war dead in a tiny Commonwealth cemetery outside the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

Less than 200 miles to the north was Sarajevo where the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand set in motion a chain of events culminating in the First World War. The Prince has been travelling through the Balkans over the past week and in Skopje lie the graves of 123 soldiers and one nurse.

Most were members of the British Salonika Force which went to the aid of Serbia and eventually recaptured Skopje from the Bulgarians in September 1918. But the dates on the graves showed that many had, in fact, fallen not to enemy bullets but the 1919 influenza epidemic.

The Prince arrived to be greeted by polite applause from 200 Macedonian onlookers and the smell of incense wafting across the cemetery, courtesy of a priest from the Macedonian Orthodox Church. An Army chaplain, the Rev Peter Howson, conducted a service which was traditional in structure but with a few Balkan touches. A Macedonian bugler sounded Last Post and, after just 30 seconds, Reveille.

After the Prince had laid his wreath, with another laid by the Macedonian foreign minister, Mr Howson read from Psalm 90 and St John, chapter 15. This was followed by Macedonian prayers sung, by a group of deacons, in traditional "church Slavonic" and the sprinkling of wine at the foot of the small memorial.

Then, as the morning sun shone through the silver birches on to the immaculate rows of small block-shaped gravestones - this being earthquake territory, tablets are deemed too fragile - the Prince walked back through the graves, pausing to look at some.

As in Commonwealth cemeteries the world over, there was no precedence in rank, service or cause of death. A 21-year-old Private Brown from the King's Shropshire Light Infantry lay alongside a 35-year-old Lieutenant Armstrong-Dash of the Lancashire Fusiliers. In one corner, lay Private Charles Hyde of the Royal Army Service Corps who had died 80 years ago to the day. His simple inscription said: "The fragrant memory of our dear Charlie lives on in England."

The Prince later flew to the southern city of Ohrid, whose lake separates Macedonia from Albania. In this ancient, cobbled cradle of Macedonian culture, he was mobbed wherever he went by crowds with Union flags and a surprising grasp of English. A browse through Ohrid's market square had not been on the schedule but the Prince loves markets. After buying a box of figs, he was taken to meet the Dervishes of Ohrid.

Originally from Turkey and famed for their ability to work themselves into a hyperactive trance, the Dervishes are Muslims on the mystical wing of Islam. In a small, carpeted prayer room, 40 men wearing tall hats rocked backwards and forwards on their knees with increasing vigour. The Prince watched as their chants and rocking reached a crescendo whereupon they fell still, murmuring the odd low groan.

Later the Prince visited the Church of St Kliment, the small but beautifully decorated seat of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and went for a walk beside Lake Ohrid, reputedly Europe's oldest lake.

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