Friday, 15 June 2018

Book Review: “Rendezvous with Death: Artists and Writers in the Thick of it 1914 – 1918” by Tony Geraghty, Pen & Sword, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2018

“Rendezvous with Death:  Artists and Writers in the Thick of it 1914 – 1918” by Tony Geraghty, Pen & Sword, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2018

I only wish this amazing book had been available when I first started researching in May 2012 for a series of commemorative exhibitions about the poets of the First World War.   Although most of the poets, writers and musicians featured in the book are well-known, Geraghty has a completely new take on them, as he goes into great detail about the battles in which they were involved, killed or wounded.  Geraghty’s lifetime of experience as a professional soldier and as a war correspondent undoubtedly bring to this book a more sympathetic and enlightened view from the point of view of those who served.

Geraghty goes into considerable detail about the battles/situations in which those included were involved, died or killed: George Butterworth, Wilfred Owen, Alan Seeger, Isaac Rosenberg, Edward Thomas, Ivor Gurney, Rupert Brooke, R.C. Sherriff, Vaughan Williams, Erskine Childers and J.B. Priestley. Also included are some of the men who served with the Red Cross during WW1: Jerome K. Jerome, Ernest Hemingway, W. Somerset Maugham, Robert W. Service and Harold Macmillan, of the Macmillan publishing company, who later became Prime Minister of the UK.

You will also find in the final chapter, the personal story of Geraghty’s relatives who served during the conflict.  There is a detailed bibliography, a copious notes section for each chapter and an index.

I don’t want to give too much away - I found the whole book fascinating but was particularly interested in Chapter Two – ‘Wilfred Owen: Poet, Hero … But ‘Malingerer’?’ - as I went to school just around the corner to where Wilfred was educated in Birkenhead, Wirral.  My school had close connections with the composer Vaughan Williams, so Chapter Nine was also of great interest – ‘Vaughan Williams, Composer: ‘No Longer A Man’ But His Lark Ascends Still’ - a clever reference to one of Vaughan Williams’s most famous works.

The Chapter about Erskine Childers – Chapter Ten – was also of particular interest as I am just putting the finishing touches to an exhibition commemorating poets and writers of WW1 who were in the Royal Flying Corps or the Royal Naval Air Service, which amalgamated to become The Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918.  And Chapter Eleven – ‘The Red Cross Men – Age Did Not Weary Them’ - I also found most enlightening.

Further details from https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/

Lucy London, May 2018
www.fascinatingfactsofww1.blogspot.co.uk
www.inspirationalwomenofww1.blogspot.co.uk
www.femalewarpoets.blogspot.co.uk
www.forgottenpoetsofww1.blogspot.co.uk

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Francis St. Vincent Morris (1896 - 1917) – British

Remembering Francis St. Vincent Morris who died on 29th April 1917

Francis, known to his family as ‘Vin’, was born on 21st February 1896 in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, UK.  His parents were Ernest Edwin Morris, an Anglican Church Minister who was Vicar of St. Oswald’s Parish Church, Ashbourne, and his wife, Josephine Anna Morris, nee Bolton.  Francis had the following siblings:  Mary E. b. 1888, Ruth L. b. 1892 and Ernest B., b. 1894.  The family lived in The Vicarage in Ashbourne.

Educated at home by a governess, then at Brighton College and Wadham College, Oxford, Francis was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) Regiment on 7th August 1915. 

Francis applied to join the Royal Flying Corps and, after completing a training course in Oxford, transferred to the 3rd Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps in early 1917.  He was posted to France, where he had two flying accidents due to the very bad weather.  Then his plane crashed near Vimy Ridge during a snow storm.  Francis was badly wounded and had to have a leg amputated.  He was transferred to the Base Hospital in Rouen in preparation for a further operation but died on 29th April 1917.  Francis was buried in St. Sever Communal Cemetery in Rouen.

Francis’s WW1 poetry collection “Poems” was published by Blackwell, Oxford in 1917 and his poems were included in the following WW1 anthologies:  “Oxford Poetry, 1917” Edited by W.R. Childe, T.W. Earp and Dorothy L. Sayers, Blackwell, Oxford, 1917 and “The Valiant Muse: an Anthology of Poems by Poets killed in the War”, 1936, Edited by Frederic W. Ziv.

“Last Poem”

 Through vast
 Realms of air we passed
 On wings all-whitely fair.

 Sublime
 On speeding wing we climb
 Like an unfettered Thing,

 Away
 Height upon height; and play
 In God's great Lawns of Light.

 And He
 Guides us safe home to see
 The Fields He bade us roam.

(Published in “Oxford Poetry, 1917” – see below).

Sources:

http://hekint.org/2017/11/13/francis-st-vincent-morris-pilot-poet/ - contains references to letters and unpublished poems by Morris;
Find my Past and Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp.22, 33 and 230.
“Oxford Poetry, 1917” is available as a free download on Archive:
https://ia800108.us.archive.org/1/items/oxfordpoetry50815gut/50815-0.txt

A poem dedicated to a dead female WW1 Worker by Arundel James Kennedy Esdaile

I would love to know whose grave inspired Arundel and where it was - in Belgium or France maybe?

“On a War-Worker, 1916” by Arundel James Kennedy Esdaile (1880 – 1956)


Far from their homes they lie, the men who fell
Fighting, in Flanders clay or Tigris sand:
She who lies here died for the cause as well,
Whom neither bayonet killed nor bursting shell
But her own heart that loves its native land.

From ““Cambridge Poets of the Great War: An Anthology” Michael Copp (Associated University Presses, London, 2001) 

Arundel James Kennedy Esdaile was born in London on 25th April 1880.  His parents were James Kennedy Esdaile and Florence Esdaile.  His siblings were Emmeline, b. 1878, Everard, b. 1883, Millicent, b. 1884 and Percival, b. 1889.  The family lived in Sussex.

Arundel was educated at Lancing School, Sussex and Magdalene College Cambridge.  He worked at the British Museum Library.  In 1907, Arundel married Katherine Ada McDowell, whose father was Secretary of the Girl’s Public Day School Trust.  Arundel died on 22nd June 1956.

Friday, 27 April 2018

John Ebenezer Stewart, MC (1889 - 1918) - WW1 Soldier Poet

Remembering John Ebenezer Stewart  who was killed on 26th April  1918. 
 
During the First World War, John initially joined the Highland Light Infantry as a Private Soldier.  After training, he was commissioned and attached to a Border Regiment.  He was promoted to the rank of Captain and became the Regiment's Adjutant. Promoted to the rank of Major, he was transferred to the South Lancashire Regiment. He served on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross.
John was with the South Staffordshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 26th April 1918.  He is commemorated TYNE COT Memorial, France. 
John Ebenezer Stewart's WW1 collection,  “Grapes of Thorns (poems)” was published by Erskine Macdonald, London in 1917.  His poems were included in five WW1 Anthologies.
Find out more on:
Source:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978), pages 304 - 305.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Louis B. Solomon (1896 - 1918) – British

Louis Bernard Solomon was born on 12th February 1896 in Oakland, California, USA.  His parents were Philip Leopold Soloman, b. 1871 in London, and Fanny Jane Soloman, nee Davis, b. 1858 in Weymouth, UK.   Louis had a sister, Helena Matilda, who was born in 1895 in Alameda, California.  In 1901 the family lived in Hove and in 1911 they lived in Croydon.

Educated at Dulwich College, Louis left school when he was 15 and worked as a mechanic.  He joined the Royal Fusiliers as a Private in 1915 and was posted to France on 14th November 1915.  Commissioned in August 1916, Louis transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and served on the Western Front. At the time of his death in action on 12th April 1918, was a Lieutenant and the Royal Flying Corps had amalgamated with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force..  By then, the Solomon family were living in Leicester.  Louis was buried in Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France.

His WW1 collection “Wooden Crosses, and other verses” was published by Fountain Publishing Company, Roehampton in 1918.

“Ypres” by Louis B. Solomon

Thou, Ypres, that once wert queen of Flanders plains,
What art thou now?—a tumbled heap of dust,
With scarce a wall that stands, nor iron where rust
Has not for many a moon more heavy lain.

The Cloth Hall and Cathedral, once thy pride,
That showed a ceiling lined by master hand,
Or raised a tower that lauded all the land,
Now lie a mass of ruins side by side.

And little mounds of earth, which at their head
Bear little wooden crosses, tell the tale
Of those who fought for thee and passed the veil,
Of many a myriad of heroic dead.

Those tree stumps shattered out afar,
Shell-torn on shell-torn ground, once formed a glade
Where feathered songsters their sweet music made,
Nor dreamt would war their fervent beauty mar.

And overhead, where those same birds of song
Made fleeting melody with every breath,
Now soar aloft machines that token death,
The while they guide the speeding shell along.

And where he once a lofty solace raised,
Or to some humble cottage gave birth,
Now, like a skulking rodent ‘neath the earth,
Man builds himself a tunnelled burrow mazed.

Sources:

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978);

An article by Harold Pollins in “The Siegfried Sassoon Journal Newsletter” 2013 – with grateful thank to Deb Fisher and Meg Crane of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship: http://www.sassoonfellowship.org/  and on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/275088519186250/

And Louis B. Solomon’s Obituary in “The Jewish Chronicle” 3rd May 1918 – with grateful thanks to Stanley Kaye, who had the idea of urging everyone to plant poppies in remembrance: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rememberingworldwarone/

 

 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

R.B. Marriott-Watson (1896 - 1918) - British

I have said several times that my  project seems to have developed a life of its own and I am sure I am 'receiving help' from 'unseen sources' - other than those on social media. I have recently started researching poets of 1918 for another exhibition later this year and I was drawing up the list when, for some reason, I stopped and began to research Richard.  My research for these commemorative exhibitions can take months and, in the case of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1, years to complete.  I found an e-mail contact and sent an e-mail to a relative of Richard’s – a journalist called Reg Watson, who lives in Tasmania.  Reg very kindly sent me a photograph of Richard.

Richard Brereton Marriott Watson was born in Chiswick, UK in 1896.  His father was the charismatic writer Henry Brereton Marriott Watson and his mother was the poet Rosamond Marriott Watson, nee Ball, who wrote using the pen-name Graham R. Tomson.  Rosamond’s father was poet Benjamin Williams Ball and her brother was the artist Wilfrid Williams Ball.  By 1911, Richard’s family were living at 'Vachery', Hook Lane, Shere, Surrey, UK.

A Lieutenant in the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles at the time of his death, Richard was commissioned in December 1914 into the 2/Lt 8th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment and was later attached to 10th Battalion. Transferred to 13th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in September 1915, Richard was posted to France in October 1915. From May 1916, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Richard was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in November 1917.

Richard was killed in action on the Western Front in France on 24th March 1918 at Cugny, during the retreat from St. Quentin.  He is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, Somme, France, Panel 74 to 76, and also on the village war memorial plaque in St James' Church, Shere, Surrey.

 One of his poems was published in the “Observer” newspaper in 1918:

Kismet”

Opal fires in the Western sky
(For that which is written must ever be),
And a bullet comes droning, whining by,
To the heart of a sentry close to me,

For some go early, and some go late
(A dying scream on the evening air)
And who is there that believes in Fate
As a soul goes out in the sunset flare?

Richard had a poem or poems included in 4 WW1 anthologies.  CR. P. 218


His CWGC entry:


With thanks to Michael Shankland and to The Great War Forum for some of this information.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Arthur Graeme West (1891 – 1917) – British

Arthur was born in Norwich, Norfolk, UK on 23rd September 1891.  His parents were Arhur Birt West, a Mechanical Engineer and his wife, Mary Wingate West, nee McLaren. Arthur had three younger siblings - two brothers and a sister.  The family lived in Highate.  Arthur was educated Highgate School, Blundells School in Devonshire and Balliiol College, Oxford, where he joined the Officers’ Training Corps.

Arthur joined the Public Schools Regiment of the Middlesex Regiment as a Private, having been initially turned down when he applied for a commission due to poor eyesight. He served on the Western Front and was commissioned into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in August 1916. After training Arthur returned to the Western Front and was killed on 3rd April 1917 near Bapaume.  He was buried in the H.A.C. Cemetery, Ecoust-St. Mein, France.  At the time of his death he was an Acting Captain.

Arthur Graeme West’s WW1 Collection: “The Diary of a Dead Officer:  Posthumous Papers” was published by George Allen & Unwin, London in 1918 and his poems were included in four WW1 anthologies.  The collection is available as a free download on Archive: https://archive.org/details/diaryofdeadoffic00westrich

“Seeing her off”

A whistle ‘mid the distant hills
Shattered the silence grey,
She turned on me her great sad eyes,
Then lightly skimmed away.

I followed slow her flying feet
In idlest heaviness,
But, oh! My heart it laughed to see
Roar through the proud express.

In the after silence and the gloom
I found her there again,
And won three minutes more delight
Before the second pain.