Sunday, 3 January 2016

R. E. Vernede (1875 - 1917) - British

I am particularly interested in R.E. Vernede because he was one of the poets who was killed on the Western Front on the same day as my Great Uncle James Yule. 

Robert Ernest Vernède was born on 4th June 1875 in Kensington, London. His parents were Oscar Vernède, a solicitor, and his wife Annie nee McEwen. The Vernède family were originally Huguenots who had fled France in 1685 after the Edict of Nantes. Robert’s Grandfather, Henri Vernède, became a British citizen when he married an Englishwoman. 
R.E. Vernède was educated at St. Paul’s School, where he demonstrated his prowess in writing poetry by winning a prize and where one of his fellow pupils was G.K. Chesterton, another Forgotten Poet of the First World War.  Vernède went on to study classics at St. John’s College, Oxford.  Tall, with dark hair and an olive complexion, he was a strong swimmer, an accomplished ice-skater and a keen tennis player. After Oxford, Vernède began a career as a writer.
In 1902, Vernède married Caroline Howard Fry and the pair travelled extensively before settling down in Standon in Hertfordshire.
Vernède volunteered at the outbreak of the First World War, initially enlisting as a Private in the 19th Royal Fusiliers, a Public Schools Battalion, in 1914.  He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade in 1915.    In January 1916, Vernède was sent to the Western Front where he served on The Somme until he was wounded in the thigh in September 1916.  
After a period of recuperation in England, Vernède refused to allow a friend try to find him a desk job and rejoined his Battalion in France in December 1916.   He was mortally wounded leading an attack on Havrincourt Wood near Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.
Vernède’s first poem written about and during the First World War was published in ‘The Times’ on 7th August 1914.  His war poems were published as a collection after his death as ‘War Poems and Other Verses’ (with an introduction by Forgotten WW1 Poet Sir Edmund Gosse) and his poems were included in 22 anthologies of First World War poetry.

Vernede's letters to his wife Caroline were published after his death by Collins & Co. of London in autumn 1917.

Sources:  Introduction by Sir Edmund Gosse to ‘War Poems and Other Verses’ by R.E. Vernède, published by Heinemann, London, 1917. 
Introduction by Mrs Caroline Howard Vernède to ‘Letters to His Wife’ written by R.E. Vernède, published by Collins & Co., London, 1917 (These are available as free downloads via Archive.)
Catherine W. Reilly's 'Bibliography of English Poetry of the First World War' (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)