After he was killed in action on July 21, 1918, Philip Edwards rested in France for three years. Initially he was buried in a shell hole with three other American soldiers; then at the American Cemetery at Epieds; and finally at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Seringes-et-Nesles. The articles below mention the return of Phil’s body to his hometown of Naugatuck, Connecticut on July 15, 1921 and cover his funeral service held two days later.
The Naugatuck Daily News, Saturday, July 16, 1921
Body Of Local Man Killed In Action Is Home
Private Philip Edwards to Be Laid at Rest Tomorrow With Full Military Honors.
The body of Private Philip Edwards, who died on July 21, 1918, while participating with the American forces in the great drive in the Chateau Thierry sector, will be laid at rest in Grove Cemetery tomorrow afternoon. The body of the late soldier was brought to Naugatuck last night from Hoboken, N.J.
Private Edwards was a member of Company H, 102[nd] regiment. He enlisted in the 102[nd] regiment when that outfit was training at Yale field in New Haven during the summer of 1917 and remained with that regiment from the time it left New Haven until he died in action in the Belleau Woods. He was one of the first local men to make the supreme sacrifice overseas.
The arrangements for his funeral are in charge of Naugatuck post, No. 17, of the American Legion. Commander Norris M. Follett of the Legion post here has named the pallbearers John Simmons, Warren Birdsall, Arthur Holmes, C. Arthur Fager, William Lilley and Frank Wylong. Ex-servicemen of the borough are requested to meet at the town hall in uniform at 1 o’clock tomorrow. The firing squad that will officiate at the burial has not been designated as yet by Commander Follett, but Private Edwards will be laid at rest with full military honors.
The funeral will be held from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards at 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, to the Congregational church, where services will be conducted at 2:30 o’clock by the minister, the Rev. Edward R. Hance.
The Waterbury Republican, Monday, July 18, 1921
Tribute Paid To Philip Edwards
Lived and Died Gallantly; Boro Honors Memory
Naugatuck, July 17.
Pvt. Philip Edwards, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Edwards of Rubber avenue, who was killed in action while going over the top at Chateau Thierry in July, 1918, was laid in his final resting place in the family plot in Grove cemetery this afternoon. Full military honors were bestowed at the grave. The flag-draped casket was lowered in the presence of his parents, relatives and friends, and the buddies who were with him when he breathed his last. Former members of the 102nd regiment of the 26th division, of which Pvt. Edwards was a member, acted as the pallbearers and marched in the funeral procession as an escort.
It was one of the most impressive military funerals ever held in Naugatuck, being made so by the impressive church services which were held at 3 o’clock in the Congregational parish house. A simple but mindful service was conducted by the pastor, Rev. Edward R. Hance, who also paid a glowing tribute to the gallant hero.
The eulogy was made more stirring when a letter, the last written by Pvt. Edwards to his parents on the eve of his going over the top in one of the greatest battles in the world’s history, was read. The letter, which demonstrates that the dead soldier was brave to the core, is as follows:
(Note: Phil’s farewell letter can be read in One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass. The version in the actual story appeared in this July 18, 1921 issue of The Waterbury Republican. Author Ben Edwards first read that version as a child. A second version, which appeared in the July 19, 1918 issue of the Naugatuck Daily News, has since been located. The two vary slightly. The second version is also in the book — in a section in the back called “Philip Edwards’ Correspondence from France.”)
The Rev. Hance took “There is No Discharge in That War” as his text. “This service is doubly sacred,” he said. “We are not only laying to rest a loved one, but placing in an honored grave the body of a patriot. The fact that he was a soldier demands that tribute of love and respect to be laid in his grave, and this we gladly do because he had a part in the great sacrifice which meant so much to us all.” Rev. Hance then read the letter, saying that it reminded him of the text he took.
“This war was not the only war he fought,” Rev. Hance said. “His life was a life of battles and therefore he was a common soldier with us all. I refer to the battles of life from which there is no exemption. That is the warfare in which we are all engaged. Our enemies are all the agencies in the world which are opposed to God, to right, and to ourselves. We are either for or against the righteousness of God. We are engaged in a battle that will continue until death. The last enemy to be met is death.
“To every man there comes that inevitable hour and in our battle with death there are no grounds on which to obtain exemption. When summoned there is no retreat. Death is a field on which every man in succession must fall. Every man must fall in his conflict with death, but he may fall a victor, as death can destroy only the physical body. A man’s soul may rise victorious and cry, ‘Oh Death, where is thy victory; oh grave, where is thy stain.’ Every man must fall in conflict with death, but in the words of Edmund Vance Cook, ‘It isn’t the fact that you are dead that counts, but only, how did you die?’ How this man died is told in the letter which I have just read.”
The funeral which was in charge of Naugatuck post, No. 17, American Legion, took place at 2 o’clock from the house. The pallbearers were John Simmons, Warren Birdsall, Arthur Holmes, C. Arthur Fager, William Lilley and Frank Wylong of the 102nd regiment, and William Krodel and Norris M. Follett, commander of the American Legion post. Those who fired the salute as members of the firing squad and in charge of Sergeant-at-Arms Benjamin Wilcox were Michael Shea, Joseph Casey, John Ostroski, Leroy Grant, Raymond Russell, Felix D. Strucenski, Gaston Kaupinas and Richard Ostrom. McIntyre Lilley acted as color bearer and Arthur Baummer and Lawrence Foot were the color guard. Taps was sounded by Bugler George C. Thomas.
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows members of the 102nd Regiment of the 26th Division speaking with Phil’s relatives after his burial at Grove Cemetery on July 17, 1921.