Thursday, 30 October 2014

Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Casson (1889 - 1944) - a Soldier in Two World Wars


Stanley Casson was born in 1889 and educated at Merchant Taylors School in London.   He went up to Oxford in 1909 and in 1913 was elected to a Studentship at the British School of Archaeology in Athens.  He joined the Army in 1914 and served with the East Lancashire Regiment in France.  He was wounded in the leg in 1915, Mentioned in Dispatches and awarded the Greek Order of the Saviour.  

Stanley worked in Greece after the war and was instrumental in ensuring Rupert Brooke, who was Britain's best known soldier poet during the First World War, had a fitting memorial on the Island of Skyros.

"Ploughboy Soldiers" by Stanley Casson

These men were young and all they owned was youth;
They knew the rising and the set of day;
They knew the colds and fields;  their store of Truth
Was blended with the cornfields and the clay.

This was their landed property, for they were born
From rich inheritance of years untold;
They gave it all to make new fields of corn
To grow new valleys rich with August gold.

By kind permission of Stanley's daughter Lady Jennifer MacLellan who edited her Father's poems from his notebooks: "Poems from the Great War" by Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Casson A Soldier in two World Wars, published and printed by Napier University, Edinburgh, 2001.

Geoffrey Wall (1897 - 1917) - British born Australian "Rupert Brooke"

Arthur Geoffrey Nelson Wall was born in Liscard on the Wirral Peninsula, UK on 3rd March 1897.   His parents were Arthur E. Wall and his wife Mary Jane W. (nee Nelson), who were married in Birkenhead in September 1895.  They moved to the Wirral from Bromley in Kent because Arthur was a Manager with the London and Lancashire Fire Insurance Company which had offices in Liverpool.   They lived in Denton Drive in New Brighton and Geoffrey was educated at Seabank Road High School.

The family emigrated to Australia when Geoffrey was ten years old and he attended Wesley College Preparatory School in Melbourne.

Geoffrey began writing poetry at Wesley College and his work was published in the school magazine. He enrolled in Queen's College at Melbourne University to study The Arts in September 1915.   At the end of his first year at university, Geoffrey returned to Britain and joined the Royal Flying Corps.

After training in Oxford and Denham, Geoffrey was sent to Netheravon Aerodrome in Wiltshire.   He was killed in a flying accident in England on 6th August 1917 and is commemorated in the Rake Lane Cemetery, Wallasey, Wirral. A short obituary in a local paper mentioned that Geoffrey was the nephew of Councillor C. Hewetson Nelson.

Geoffrey's poems with the title "Songs of an Airman" and a Preface written by L.A. Adamson, Geoffrey's former headmaster, were published after his death.  Adamson hailed Geoffrey as "Australia's Rupert Brooke".

“New Year’s Eve, 1915” from “Songs of an Airman” (Australasian Authors’ Agency, Melbourne, 1917)  p.34

“And the moon was full”  Tennyson

And so the year is dying in the night,
Another moment with its hopes and fears,
Another instant with its smiles and tears
Is passing to its fellows as I write.
Perchance amidst the musical moonlight,
Across the valley of forgotten years,
Another stood;  and watched the rolling spheres
That cleft the purple heavens in their flight;
And pondered on the meaning of it all:
But here the moonlit hours flow softly on
Unheeding that o’er half the world a pall
Of unthought sorrow lies;  and peace is gone
From many homes;  and many men must fall
Before the dawning new year dies anon.

December 31st 1914 11.45 p.m.

Source:  Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War An Anthology" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) and

With grateful thanks to Yvon Davies of Australia - Mud, Mining, Medals Facebook Group for her continuing help with this commemorative exhibition project.

And thanks to the Friends of Rake Lane Cemetery, Wallasey, Wirral, UK for the press cutting and photograph of Geoffrey's memorial.
And thanks to Paul for finding the link to Geoffrey's book of poems on Archive :

Update: November 2021 Additional photographs kindly supplied by Sarah Dornal, a relative of Geoffrey Wall

Geoffrey Wall in
his WW1 Greatcoat

Geoffrey Wall in a motor car
he made

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Forgotten Poets of the First World War

I began this commemorative exhibition project in May 2012 when, at the request of Dean Johnson of The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral, UK, I looked for women who wrote poetry during WW1 for an exhibition at the WOS in November of that year.   I decided that I did not want to include the well-known poets because they get a great deal of coverage, instead I looked for those who were lesser known, such as Rosaleen Graves, sister of Robert.  Rosaleen was a nurse in London and France during WW1.

I also decided that, as this was the first truly world war and affected every country in the world, I wanted to include poets from as many countries as possible.  I am still adding to the list and still searching for women poets from other countries.  You can find out my progress so far by clicking on "List..." at the top of each weblog page.

Those who follow my other weblogs will know that when I found out about Mary Riter Hamilton, the Canadian artist who was commissioned by the Canadian War Amputees Association to go and paint the aftermath on the Western Front in France in 1919, I could not leave her out and so added "Inspirational Women of World War One".

As I continued searching, I came upon a gentleman called Philip Gosse.  Gosse was a doctor with a practice in the New Forest and he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps at the outbreak of WW1.   Gosse became the official Rat Catcher Officer of the 2nd British Army on the Western Front and his story was so fascinating that I couldn't leave it out - cue another heading "Fascinating Facts of the Great War".

Just recently, some relatively unknown male poets have been brought to my attention so I have decided to create a further section in order to include them all - Forgotten Poets of the First World War.   As with the other sections, I should like to include poets from as many countries of the world as possible to reflect the global impact of the conflict.  In order to do that, some of the poetry included may not be about war.

Please let me know if you have any names to add to any of the lists.

If you have not been able to visit an exhibition, there are companion books available which give you a rough idea of the project - see  for details.  Exhibition panels are printed in black on white card and are A3 size with brief biographical details, a photograph where possible and one or two poems, etc.  I do not comment on the poems but let the poets speak for themselves.  If you would like to organise an exhibition do please get in touch.

The project is in loving memory of my Maternal Grandfather Lewis Jackson who was an Old Contemptible with the Royal Field Artillery.  Grandfather survived the war but my Great-Uncle James Yule was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917 - the same day as the poets R.E.Vernède and Edward Thomas were killed.   James has no known grave but is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France.

Photos: Commemorative James Yule, Arras Memorial and panels at the exhibition at the Marine Hall, Fleetwood, August 2014