Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895 - 1915)

According to John Masefield, Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967, the death of Charles Hamilton Sorley was "the greatest loss of all the poets killed in that war".

Charles was born on 19th May 1895 in Aberdeen in Scotland.  He had a twin brother    Their father was William Ritchie Sorley, Regius Professor of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen University, and his mother was Janetta Colquhoun Smith.

In 1900, the family moved to Cambridge where William took up the post of Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University's King’s College.

Educated at Marlborough College, where he was a good all-round pupil, Charles discovered a liking for cross-country running in the rain. After Marlborough, Charles was due to go up to University College, Oxford in the autumn of 1914.  However, prior to that, his father wanted him to perfect his knowledge of the German language and sent him to stay with family friends in Schwerin in Germany.  Charles then enrolled at Jena University and was there when war broke out in 1914.   He was initially detained in Trier for half a day but was released and told to leave the country.

Charles volunteered to join the British Army and was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment with the rank of Lieutenant.  He was sent to France in May 1915 and soon promoted to the rank of Captain.  He was killed by sniper fire on 13th October 1915 and has no known grave but is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial at Loos.

Similarly to Wilfred Owen, Charles sent his poems to his mother with his letters to her.  A collection of his poems was published posthumously in January 1916 by Cambridge University Press under the title “Marlborough and Other Poems and his letters were published in 1919.

The Irish composer and teacher Charles Wood set part of Charles’s poem “Expectans expectavi” to music in 1919.