Sunday, 13 January 2019

Hedd Wyn - Bardic name of Ellis Humphrey Evans (1887 - 1917) - Welsh Poet

Ellis Humphrey Evans was born on 13th January 1887.  He was the eldest of elevan children born to Evan Evans and his wife Mary, nee Morris.  Evan was also a poet.  Ellis was brought up on the family farm near Trawsfynydd in Wales, where he worked as a shepard after leaving school.

Ellis wrote his first poem at the age of eleven and won 6 Bardic Chairs for his poetry.  In 1910 he was allocated the name of Hedd Wyn, which translates as 'blessed peace'.

Called up for military service in 1916, Ellis enlisted in the Royal Welch Fusilier REgiment and was posted to the Western Front.  He was killed on 31st July 1917, during the Battle of Passchendaele at Pickern Ridge.  Ellis was buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery, Boesinghe, Belgium.

A few weeks after his death, Ellis's poem won the Bardic Chair at the Eisteddfod which was held in Birkenhead in 1917. The chair that year was made by a Belgian refugee.

A collection of Hedd Wyn's poems was published in 1918 under the title "Cerddi'r Bugail" (En. Tr. 'Poems of the Shepherd')..  The photograph of Ellis is taken from that publication.

Researching for the 2017 Exhibition was particularly poignant for me because my Great Uncle James was killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras - 9th April 1917 - which was Easter Monday that year.  Poets killed on that day include Canadian William Maunsell Scanlan, MC, MM and British poets Edward Thomas, R.E. Vernède and Walter Lightowler Wilkinson.

Hedd Wyn was among the poets included in the "Arras, Messines, Passchendaele & More" exhibition held at the Award-winning Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE, UK. The WOS, which is run by volunteers, is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon until 2 pm. Entry is free.  Panels from the exhibition are on file at the WOS. If you are planning a visit to the WOS, please find time to visit the Futility statue in nearby Hamilton Square.

There is also a book of the exhibition:


Saturday, 12 January 2019

Alexander Robertson (1882 - 1916) - British Schoolteacher & Poet

The poet Alexander Robertson was born on 12th January 1882.

Alexander featured in the exhibition of Poets, Writers and Artists of the Somme, 1916 which was on display at the Award-winning Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral, UK in 2016. Panels from the exhibition are on file at the WOS, which is open from Tuesday - Friday from 12 noon until 2 pm. Entry is free.

Alexander was born in St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, the eldest son and second child of five born to Robert Robertson, a schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Jane Robertson.

After studying at Edinburgh University, Alexander taught history before going up to Oxford.  He took up a post at Sheffield University in February 1914.   When war broke out, Alexander joined the 12th (Service) (Sheffield) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment as a Private.   At the time of his death on the Western Front on 1st July 1916, Alexander was an Acting Corporal.

His WW1 Poetry collections were:  "Comrades, poems" (Elkin Mathews, London, 1916) and "Last Poems" published after his death by Elkin Mathews in 1918.  Alexander's poems were included in six WW1 anthologies, including "The Muse in Arms".

There is a book of the Somme Poets 1916 Exhibition
The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE, UK.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

André Soriac (1864 – 1927) – French poet

André Soriac, known as the ‘poet of the Trenches’, was the pen name of Robert Edouard André Bucquet.

Robert Edouard André Bucquet was born in around 1864 in St Egrève, Isère, France.    A French soldier poet artist -  a ‘Poilu’ - Soriac was fifty when he volunteered to join the French Army in 1914.  He joined the 277th Regiment of the French Infantry and served in Lorraine in France. Soriac took part in the Battle of Verdun and was wounded three times before being invalided out of the Army in 1916.  Between 1915 and 1916, he published four series of illustrated postcards with poems.

In April 1921, André married Leonie Eugenie Adèle Boots, who was the daughter of a wealthy Maastricht family.  Léonie taught French at a Nijmegen secondary school for girls. They had one child – a son, André, who was born on 29th December 1922, 

André Soriac died in Nijmegen in the Netherlands on 12th August 1927. He may have committed suicide due to prolonged depression caused by his wartime suffering. Between 1922 and 1925 he traded in postage stamps.

The French soldiers of the First World War were known affectionately as ‘Poilus’ (literally, the hairy ones), presumably because it was impossible to shave in the Trenches.   Verdun is a city on the River Meuse in Lorraine in the north east of France.

Below is one of André’s poems. I have translated it very roughly for those of you who do not understand French.  As far as I have been able to ascertain, Diane Degaby was a musical hall artist.

‘Nos Bagues’ a poem by André Soriac

Dedicated to ‘la belle Diane Degaby, la Bienfaitrice Amie de tous les Poilus Artistes – affectueusement’.

La rafale est passée et les Poilus bien vite
Sans souci des obus, une Pioche à la main,
Bondissent des abris dans un trou de marmite
Pour retrouver au fond le blanc metal germain!...

Et puis, c’est l’atelier dans un coin des tranchées …
Quelques menus outils, une lime, un Marteau,
Pour polir nuit et jour ces bagues guillochées,
Hier … instrument de mort, aujourd’hui … humble aurea.

La bague est terminée et demain, bonnes mères,
Femmes, petites soeurs, ces bijoux des frontiers
Terniront à vos doigts vos plus riches joyaux!...
Car, toutes, vous saurez combine de moments tristes
De soucis, de dangers, vos chers Poilus-Artistes
Ont vécus pour la faire … au fond de leurs boyaux.

No. 28, 3e Série de Cartes-Sonnets illustrées de la Guerre, Edition Cigolia, 8, rue de Condé, Paris 6e.

‘Our Rings’

Dedicated to The Beautiful Diane Degaby, Benefactrice and friend of all the artist-poilus, with great affection.

The storm has passed and the Poilus rush
Heedless of the shells, shovels at the ready,
Leaping from their shelter in a shell hole
Gathering up the spent, white, German metal.

Then, it’s action stations in a corner of the Trench …
A workshop with a few scant tools, a file, a hammer to hand,
Polishing night and day these machine-turned rings.
Yesterday an instrument of death, today … a humble gold band.

The ring is ready and tomorrow, dear Mothers,
Wives, little sisters, these jewels of the frontiers
Will shine – your most valued jewels – on your fingers.
For you will know just many countless moments of sorrow
Of care and danger your dear soldier artists
Have been through to make that ring … in the depths of their Trenches.

Number 28 in a series of illustrated poem cards of the Great War, published by Editions Cigola, 8 rue de Condé, Paris 6.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

The Hon. Ivar Campbell (1890 – 1916) – British soldier poet

With thanks to Connie Ruzich for reminding me I had not posted this information.

Born on 14th May 1890, Ivar’s parents were Lord George Granville Campbell and his wife, Sybil Lascelles Alexander. Ivar’s grandfather was the 8th Duke of Argyll. Ivar’s siblings were Joan and Enid.

The family lived in Strrachur Park, Argyll, Scotland and Bryanston Square, London.  Educated at Stone House School, Broadstairs, Eton and Christ Church College, Oxford, Ivar was sent as an honorary Attaché to the British Embassy in Washington, 1912 – 1914.

When war broke out, Ivar volunteered to join the Army but was rejected due to defective eyesight. Instead, he joined an American Red Cross Society unit in France as an ambulance driver.  In February 1915, he was commissioned into the 1st Seaforth Highlanders Regiment and posted to the Western Front.  In May 1916, his Regiment deployed to Mesopotamia. Leading his men against the Turkish position at Sheikh Saad on 7th January 1916, Ivar was shot and died of his wounds the following day. He is remembered on Panel 41 on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.

After his death, Ivar’s friends and family published: “Letters of Ivar Campbell London” Privately Printed, 1917 and “The Prose Writings of Ivar Campbell”.  He had a poem published in Frederic W. Ziv’s anthology “The Valiant Muse: An Anthology of Poems by Poets killed in the World War” (Putnam, New York, 1936).

“A Meditation upon the Return of the Greeks”

Trojan War, 5th c. BC terracotta cup
When in their long lean ships the Greek host weighted
Their splashing anchors, then they had much joy
For lovely Helen’s sake to humble Troy…
Their first deed was the murder of a maid.†

Ten years from their pleasant land they stayed,
And after ten years, had they any joy?
They had old Helen, and they humbled Troy:
Were they at her lost loveliness dismayed?

Thinking of their lost Youth were they afraid?
Was Youth worth more than Helen—Helen of Troy?
Was it for this tired face they had spent joy?

"For What," Frederick H. Varley
Canadian War Museum
For this tall, weary woman burnt a maid?

When on that quiet night the Greek host laid
Down their dinted armour, had they any joy?

Ivar Campbell

Ivar is rmembered in the little book "Poets' Corners in Foreign Fields".

The sketch of Ivar Campbell is from "Prose Writings of Ivar Campbell".

Monday, 7 January 2019

Egbert Thomas Sandford (1871 – 1949) – British

With thanks to Connie Ruzich for reminding me I hadn't researched Egbert

Egbert Thomas Sandford, (b. 26th March 1871 in Dorking, d. 1949 Gosport), had several of his WW1 poetry collections published - "Brookdown, and other poems" (Erskine Macdonald, London 1915), "Mad Moments: Poems" (Maunsel, Dublin, 1919) and "Poems" (Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1927). His poems were published in four WW1 anthologies.

Egbert’s Mother was Emily Sandford, nee Biddle (b.1842).

In 1893, Egbert married Annie Louisa Harris and they had had a son, Egbert Theodore, born in 1896, who served as a Second Lieuenant in the Devonshire Regiment during the First World War.

Here is one of Egbert's poems:

“At Bethlehem—1915”

The travelers are astir—
        Bearing frowns for incense,
Scorns for myrrh.

War flings its sign afar—
        There’s blood upon the Manger,
Blood upon the Star.

Dear Lord:
        Who fain would find the Saviour
Find the Sword.

E.T. Sandford

In the Introduction to his WW1 poetry collection “Brookdown & Other Poems”, WW1 Female Poets S. Gertrude Ford says:

“Mr. Egbert J. Sandford describes himself as "… an ordinary working man," whose whole effort, so far as his art is concerned, is to " take the common things of life and weave them into song." How far he has succeeded in this effort may be gathered from the fact that a number of the poems here collected have appeared in the Spectator, the Poetry Review, the Westminster Gazette and Great Thoughts. The poem to his brother bard, the street salesman Mr. Wm. Shepperley, is re- printed from the Evening Standard. To the editors of these papers our thanks are due for their courtesy in permitting republication.

In his working hours Mr. Sandford is a storehouseman at Plymouth, and is at present employed in that capacity under the Government. The chief literary influences in his life have been William Blake and Francis Thompson, and a literary class at Blackheath has been his chief means of encouragement and
inspiration. To one of its talented lecturers— Mr. Albert A. Cock, B.A. — he owes the friendly notice of Mr. Strachey, editor of the Spectator. Several other critics have since given him a generous meed of praise.   S. Gertrude Ford”

It is easy to see how people mistake the T for a J...

Initial Source: Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) p. 284

Poem from Connie Ruzich website Behind Their Lines:…/12/bethlehem-1915.h…

“Brookdown & Other Poems” is available as a down-load on Archive:

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Henry Smalley Sarson (1890 - 1967) – British poet

Henry Smalley Sarson was born in London on 16th August 1890.  His parents were Henry Logsdail Sarson, a Vinegar Distiller of the famous Sarsons Vinegar family, and his wife Maria Henrey Sarson, nee Smalley, who was from Darwen in Lancashire.   In 1891 the Sarson family lived in Islington, London.

Henry went to live in Canada and was working as a farmer when war broke out in 1914.  He joined the Army in September 1914 and served in the Canadian Expeditionary Froce.  He was wounded in 1916, while serving with the Canadian Field Ambulance.  In 1918, Henry married Geraldine L. Edmonds and they had one son – James, who was born in 1926. During the Second World War they lived in Cirencester, UK. Henry died in Surrey in 1967.

Henry’s WW1 collection “From Field and Hospital” was published in 1916.

“The Armed Liner”

The dull gray paint of war
Covering the shining brass and gleaming decks
That once re-echoed to the steps of youth.
That was before
The storms of destiny made ghastly wrecks
Of Peace, the Right and Truth.
Impromptu dances, colored lights and laughter,
Lovers watching the phosphorescent waves,
Now gaping guns, a whistling shell; and after
So many wandering graves.

H. Smalley Sarson

See also “Two Fine Ladies” written in Hyde Park in 1916 from “We Wasn't Pals: Canadian Poetry and Prose of the First World War, Part 4

Ronald Gorell Barnes, 3rd Baron Gorell, CBE, MC (1884 –1963) - WW1 Soldier Poet,British peer, Liberal then Labour politician, poet, author and newspaper editor

Ronald was born on 16th April 1884, the second son of John Gorell Barnes, 1st Baron Gorell, President of the Probate Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, and his wife, Mary, nee Humpston Mitchell.   Ronald’s siblings were Henry, b. 1882 and Aura Ellida, b. 1887.

Educated at Winchester College, Harrow School and Balliol College, Oxford, Ronald studied law and was called to the Bar in 1909.  He joined the staff of “The Times” newspaper as a journalist in 1911. After leaving Oxford, Ronald played cricket for Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) for 13 seasons scored 431 runs and took 43 wickets in his 19-match career.

During the First World War, Ronald served in the Rifle Brigade, where he reached the rank of Colonel, was Mentioned in Despatches and was awarded a Military Cross in 1917.

Ronald became the third Baron Gorell on 16th January 1917 after his unmarried elder brother, Henry Gorell Barnes, DSO, a Major in the Royal Garriston Artillery, was killed in action.

After the war, Ronald spent two years working at the War Office as Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Education), and then served a year as Under-Secretary of State for Air from 1921 to 1922. In 1925, he left the Liberals and joined the Labour Party.  He devoted his life to literature, editing the “Cornhill Review”, while still serving on many public and private committees and doing charity work.

In 1922, Ronald married Maud Elizabeth Furse Radcliffe (1886–1954), eldest daughter of Alexander Nelson Radcliffe and Isabel Grace Henderson.  They had three children.

Ronald was invested as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1918 Birthday Honours List and as a Commander of the same order in 1919. He was also invested as an Officier of the Order of Leopold in 1919.

He was later editor of the “Cornhill Magazine” from 1933 to 1939. He was co-President of the Detection Club with Agatha Christie from 1956 to 1963.

Ronald died at his home in Arundel on 2nd May 1963, aged 79, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Timothy John Radcliffe Barnes.

Christmas Day” by Ronald Gorell Barnes, MC - Lord Gorrel

“Peace on earth” – the drums of war
Roll their defiance o’er the bells;
“Goodwill towards men” – the murderous roar
Up from the trenches swells.

Is this the offering, this the day,
The triumph of the dripping sword?
In lowliness the nations pray
Thy pitying mercy, Lord.

Thou knowest all :  Thou readest deep;
The heart of man is in Thine eyes;
It is a vigil grim we keep
Only that Peace arise.

Peace is not dead;  she waits rebirth
Stirring within the womb of War;
And from it death shall tread the earth
More queenly than before.

From R.  Gorell Barnes  “Days of Destiny: War Poems at Home and Abroad” (Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1917) – available as a free down-load on Archive:

Other WW1 collections by Ronald Gorell Barnes were:  “Pilgrimage and other poems” (Longmans, Green, London, 1920) and “Many Mansions” (Murray, London, 1926). He also had poems published in seven WW1 anthologiesand his poems were published regularly in “The Times”, “The Contemporary Review”, “The Yorkshire Post”, “The Observer”, “The Nation”, “Westminster Gazette” and “Pall Mall Gazette”.