Friday, 23 September 2016

Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose, MC and Bar (1894 - 1918) – British poet and artist

Claude Penrose was mentioned in Dispatches twice

Claude was born in Florida in America on 10th August 1893.  His parents were Henry Hugh “Harry” Penrose, a civil engineer and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, nee Lewis, who came from Kinsale in Ireland. Mary was a successful novelist who wrote under the name of Mrs. H.H. Penrose.  

The family went to live in England in 1897.   Claude was educated at the United Services College, a private school for the sons of military officers which was in Westward Ho! In Devon, before going on to the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich.

In 1911, the family lived at ‘Deepcut Bungalow’, Frimley Green, Surrey.  Claude was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery as a 2nd Lieutenant on 13th July 1913.

Posted to the Western Front and slightly wounded during the first days of The Somme Offensive in July 1916, Claude wrote a poem about his impressions of the first day of the first Battle of the Somme.  In September 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for actions during an attack on the village of Combles on 15th September 1916.

In October 1917, Claude was promoted to the rank of Major and given command of the 245th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.  During the Battle of Arras in March 1918, Claude won a Bar to his Military Cross.  He was mortally wounded on 31st July 1918 while rescuing his wounded Subaltern.   He died at the 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at 5.30 p.m. on 1st August 1918 and was buried in Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.  He is commemorated on the War Memorial – Heroes’ Column – at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, Ireland.

After his death, Claude’s mother had his poems and some of his art work published under the title “Poems; with a biographical preface” by Harrison in 1919 (274 pages). 

Sources:  Information kindly supplied by Claude’s relative and

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 251.

“On The Somme” by Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose, MC and Bar

Who heard the thunder of the great guns firing?

Who watched the line where the great shells roared?

Who drove the foemen back, and followed his retiring

When we threw him out of Pommiers, to the glory of the Lord?

Englishmen and Scotsmen, in the grey fog of morning

Watched the dim, black clouds that reeked, and strove to break the gloom;

And Irishmen that stood with them, impatient for the warning,

When the thundering around them would cease and give them room

Room to move forward as the grey mist lifted,

Quietly and swiftly – the white steel bare;

Happy, swift and quiet, as the fog still drifted,

They moved along the tortured slope and met the foemen there.

Stalwart men and wonderful, brave beyond believing –

Little time to mourn for friends that dropped without a word!

(Wait until the work is done, and then give way to grieving) –

So they hummed the latest rag-time to the glory of the Lord.

All across the No Man’s Land, and through the ruined wiring,

Each officer that led them, with a walking-cane for sword,

Cared not a button though the foeman went on firing

While they dribbled over footballs to the glory of the Lord.

And when the brought their captives back, hungry and downhearted,

They called him “Fritz” and slapped their backs, and, all with one accord

They shared with them what food they’d left from when the long day started

And gave them smokes and bully to the glory of the Lord.

NOTE: Pommiers is a town near Montaubon in the Somme, Picardie, France.

Bully Beef was a type of ‘corned beef’ introduced by the British Army during the Boer War. It was given in tins as rations to soldiers and could be made into a hot meal or eaten straight from the tin.