“If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.” — from the poem “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke
By Vincent Z. Whaley
Johnson City Press Staff Writer
(Published Thursday, Aug. 17, 1995)
ALRESFORD, England — Although Hambone Jr. never participated in battle, he was granted a privilege many soldiers tried not to think about during World War II.
He was buried in his homeland.
Hambone was an infantry regiment’s canine mascot, and his duty was to run alongside the soldiers, provide entertainment and keep their thoughts away from battle and pain and death.
During a recent trip to England to retrace the wartime steps of my late grandfather, Starlin H. Hughes, I came across the dog’s grave in the quaint village of Alresford.
This is where my grandfather, who served with the 47th “Raiders” Infantry Division, 9th U.S. Infantry Division, had been stationed prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, in 1944.
Hambone’s grave, alongside a weathered path, was just one example of how America is remembered in a country that was once bombed nightly. For example: In Winchester, about eight miles from Alresford, I stopped an elderly lady treading the cobblestone street and asked for directions to the bus stop for Alresford. She was going to her dressmaker’s shop to have her late husband’s Royal World War II medals sewn to a shield. After kindly displaying the gallant war achievements, she directed me to the bus stop — just across the street.
I met a gray-haired gentleman in an Alresford pub, the Swan Hotel — one of several pubs in which GIs of the 47th frequented during the war. After consuming a mid-morning pint of “bitter” beer, he escorted me through the town square in search of the building where the 47th had been headquartered.
We arrived at a white and navy building with a small, plaster plaque attached to its outer wall. The inscription states: “THIS HOUSE WAS THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE 47TH. INFANTRY REGT., 9TH DIVISION, UNITED STATES ARMY, 1943 TO D-DAY JUNE 1944.”
The man then explained the legend of Hambone Jr. and supplied directions to his grave, which is located just beyond the village along a rocky footpath beside the Alresford River.
A thatch-layered cottage outlined with pink and violet flowers sits along the river. A cobblestone bridge possessing arches that sink beneath the calm brook complements the fairy-tale dwelling. The grave of Hambone Jr. is not far from the moss-covered riverbank.
Along the opposite side of the footpath, the tombstone rests among thick vegetation. Weather-beaten and etched in algae, the monument clearly states, “HERE LIES HAMBONE JR., FAITHFUL FRIEND OF THE 47TH INFANTRY REGT., 9TH DIV., U.S. ARMY, MAY 1944.”
Countless war memorials can be found across England during this final year of World War II’s 50th anniversary. None, however, seem as classic as the one dedicated to a military mascot known as Hambone Jr.