A soldier’s suicide
A small article in the Richmond & Twickenham Times on June 24 noted the apparent suicide of a young soldier.
The 22-year old had been home on leave after several months in France and was due to return to the Front the following day. The paper recorded that he was found in a 3rd class train carriage with a revolver in his hand, shot in the head.
The unfortunate soldier was named as Private William Lemon, whose parents lived Roslin Terrace, Acton. He was buried with military honours in Richmond Cemetery.
Mental health problems, including depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (then known as Shell Shock), were responsible for many deaths during the war. Traumatised soldiers were sometimes executed under accusations of desertion, as well as dying by suicide. Others simply succumbed to the horrors they’d experienced.
Officially the problem was ignored, although soldiers serving in the trenches were aware of the problem:
Suicide in the Trenches, by Siegfried Sassoon
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.