Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Francis Kennard Bliss (1892 - 1916) - British poet, painter and musician

Francis Kennard Bliss was born in 1892 in Richmond, Surrey, UK.   His parents were Francis Edward Bliss, a petroleum merchant from New York, USA and his wife Agnes K. Bliss, nee Davis from Rochester, Kent, UK.  Francis's siblings were Arthur (b. 1891) and James Howard (b. 1894).  The boys' mother, Agnes died in 1895 and the children were brought up by their father, from whom they inherited a love of the arts.  The family lived in Holland Park, London.

Educated at Bilton Grange Preparatory School and Rugby School, Francis won a Classics Scholarship and went on to study at King's College, Cambridge where he joined the debating group known as The Apostles.   He was a gifted clarinet player.   According to the Director of External Relations at Bilton Grange School, "...Arthur always said that Francis was the most talented of the three brothers."

When war broke out, Francis initially joined the Artists' Rifles as a Private but was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery on 9th July 1915 and posted to the Western Front in November 1915.

At the time of his death on 28th September 1916 during The Somme Offensive near Thiepval, Francis was an Acting Forward Artillery Observation Officer.  He is buried in Aveluy Wood (Lancashire Dump) Cemetery, 80300 Mesnil-Martinsart, France.  

Francis's brother Arthur, who joined the Army and  also served on The Somme during WW1,  went on to become famous and was knighted for his services as a composer.  Arthur wrote a piece of music in memory of his brother Francis, dedicating it to all who were killed in the same battle.  "Morning Heroes A Symphony for my brother and comrades killed in the war" was written as a Symphony for Orator, Chorus and Orchestra in 1930.

I have not yet been able to find any poetry written by Francis but I am hoping to put that right soon.

Sources:
Find my Past
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Tim Cross - "The Lost Voices of World War 1: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets and Playwrights", Bloomsbury Publishing Co. Ltd.,  London, 1989
S.E. Rosenbaum - "Aspects of Bloomsbury Studies in Modern English Literacy and Intellectual History", Macmillan Press Ltd., Basingstoke, 1998
W.C. Lubenow - "The Cambridge Apostles 1820 - 1914 Liberalism, Imagination and Friendship", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998
Letter from Bilgton Grange Preparatory School 26th August 2016

 My thanks to Michael Copp who has written some fantastic books about First World War poets. Michael advised me to have a look at Tim Cross's anthology.

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