Sunday, 27 March 2016

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 - 1918) - French poet, novelist, playwright

Wilhelm Albert Wladzimierz Kostrowicki was born on 26th August 1880 in Rome, Italy.  His mother was Polish aristocrat Angelika Kostrowicka and his father is believed to have been a General in the Russian Imperial Army who was killed during the Crimean War.   Apollinaire was brought up by his mother in the South of France and educated in France and Morocco.

Apollinaire, as he became known, was brought up to speak French, Italian and Polish fluently.  He moved to live in Paris during the early 1900s when it was THE place for artists, poets and writers of the time.  Among his friends were Matisse and Picasso.  In Paris, Apollinaire worked as a journalist for the French newspaper “Le Matin”.

Apollinaire joined the French Army in the First World War and was wounded in the head by Shrapnel on 17th March 1916, wounds from which he never fully recovered.   He coined the term ‘Surrealism’ to describe the ballet “Parade” which was performed in  Paris in  1917 with music by Erik Satie, scenario by Jean Cocteau, costumes and sets by Pablo Picasso and choreography by Léonide Massine, who starred in the ballet.   Apollinaire is also credited with having invented the calligramme -  or graphic poem – from the words ‘calligraphie’ and ‘idéogramme’:

Apollinaire died in the Influenza Epidemic on 9th November 1918 and is buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Montmartre, Paris.   Soon after his death, his WW1 poetry collection “Calligrammes poèmes de la paix et de la guerre 1913 - 1916” was published by Mercure de France.   Perhaps his most famous collection is ‘Alcools’ which was published in 1913.

John Dennison and his partner were invited to attend the Centenary Ceremony to commemorate the moment at 16.00 hours on 17th March 1917 when Apollinaire was wounded.   The Ceremony was held in the woods outside the village of La Ville-aux-Bois lès Pontaret in Aisne, Nord-Pas-de-Calais- Picardie, France on 17h March 2017 where a memorial marks the place where Apollinaire fell.  John was kind enough to send me some photographs taken at the ceremony.

The ceremony was organised by Monsieur Frank Vitart, Cultural Affairs Organiser of the Conseil General du Departement de l'Aisne and was attended by more than a hundred people.
With thanks to John Dennison for sending me the photographs of the remembrance ceremony and for reminding me that I had not yet written up an exhibition panel for Apollinaire.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Poetry written by schoolchildren during The First World War

Following up on a coincidence, I contacted Liverpool College who merged with Huyton College in 1993.  My letter was forwarded to the Association of Old Girls of Huyton College, whose representative, Jane Rooney, kindly obtained permission for me to reproduce the school's 1915 Magazine.  Here is one of the poems:

To Britons by Form Upper V (page 18 of Liverpool College Huyton's 1915 School Magazine)

O you who have the strength to aid the right,
Sons of a noble race from whom men gave
Their lives in freedom's cause, your armour bright
Mirrors the actions of the past;  now save
Your honour, keep your sacred word unsoiled.
Rise from your tasks of peace - for Might draws forth
The steel of war against the weak - that foiled
May be the oppressor's strokes.   See from the north
The invading host sweeps towards the fields of France.
Take up the arms your fathers bore of old,
Unsheathe the sword of Justice, couch the lance
Of Truth.  Be sure your deeds, although untold,
Will live a testament to Britain's name
And stir to fiercer blaze her glory's flame.

Poetry written by schoolchildren in the First World War: Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell)

George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, (1903 - 1950) - British

George Orwell was the pen-name of Eric Arthur Blair, who was born in India on 25th  June 1903.  His parents were Richard Walmsley Blair, who worked for the Indian Civil Service, and Ida Mabel, nee Limouzin, whose father was French. Eric has two sisters – Marjorie, who was five years his senior, and Avril, who was five years his junior.  Ida returned to live in England in 1904, where the family lived in Henley-on-Thames.   Eric’s father returned to live in England in 1912 and the family moved to Shiplake, just south of Henley.

Eric began writing poetry at a young age.  He and Marjorie attended a convent school in Henley.  Eric’s uncle, Charles Limouzin suggested sending Eric to boarding school and in 1911 he attended St. Cyprian’s in Eastbourne.

Eric’s school encouraged pupils to write poetry and during the First World War two of his poems were published in the school's local newspaper the Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard.   He came second in the Harrow History Prize, a competition held annually for children at primary school.   The high standard of Eric’s school work meant that he was awarded a scholarship to Wellington School and Eton College.   In January 1917 Eric went to Wellington, transferring to Eton in the autumn of that year.  Eric’s French teacher at Eton was Aldous Huxley.  Eric was involved in the writing and publishing of a school magazine.

When he left Eton, Eric passed the entrance examination and joined the Imperial Police which became the Indian Policy Service.

After a long and interesting life, Eric died of Tuberculosis in London on 21st January 1950.

Since I began researching in 2012, I understand that George Orwell’s family have published his poems written during the First World War. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Leonard Comer Wall (1896 - 1917) - British Poet

Leonard Comer Wall was born in West Kirby on the Wirral Peninsula in the north west of England in 1896.   His father, Charles Comer Wall, was a grocer and a director of the firm G. Wall and Company of Liverpool.  Leonard’s mother was Kate Wall, nee Earle, from Newfoundland.  Before her marriage, Kate had attended a boarding school for girls in West Kirby.

Leonard was educated at Clifton Academy in Bristol.  He joined the 1st West Lancashire Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and was commissioned as an officer.  The Regiment was posted to the Western Front with A Battery, 275 Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery in September 1915.  During that period, Leonard was mentioned in despatches.

Leonard was killed near Ypres on 9th June 1917 and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.   At the time of his death, Leonard was engaged to be married to a young lady from Kent.

It seems that Leonard was killed while riding his Regimental horse “Blackie” because I found a mention on the Internet that he had left instructions in his Will that his medals should be buried with his horse.   He must have left more than that because “Blackie” was apparently among the few horses repatriated after the end of the War.  "Blackie" lived on until 1942 and when he died at the age of 35 in an RSPCA facility in Hunts Cross in Liverpool, he still bore the scars of the Shrapnel that killed his master.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Bernard Charles de Boismaison White (1886 – 1916)

Born on 1st October 1886 in Harlesden.  Bernard’s grandmother was a grand-daughter of the surgeon who successfully operated on one of King Louis XVI of France’s eyes, as a result of which he was given the Boismaison estate.  During the French Revolution, the family fled to England and went to live in Chichester.

Bernard Charles worked at Hutchinsons publishers in 1910, moved to the Marconi Company in 1912 and then became Assistant Editor of “Wireless World”, an illustrated, monthly magazine started in 1913 for those interested in wireless telegraphy. 

In 1914, Bernard joined the London University Officer Training Corps scheme and in February 1915 was commissioned into the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment.  In June 1915 he was transferred to the Tynesdie Scottish Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers Regiment and was sent to France in January 1916.

At the time of his death on 1st July 1916, Bernard was a Lieutenant.

His WW1 Poetry Collection “Remembrance and Other Verses” published by Selwyn & Blount in 1917.

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

“For Remembrance Soldier Poets who have fallen in the War”, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, himself a poet with the pen-name of Lance-Corporal Cobber, and published by Hodder & Stoughton, London in 1918.

I am hoping to find further information and a photograph of Bernard. If anyone can help please get in touch.  Many thanks.