Monday, 25 April 2016

Edward Wyndham Tennant (1897 - 1916) - British Poet

Portrait of Edward by John Singer Sargent
The Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant was born on 1st July 1897 in Stockton House, near Warminster in Wiltshire, UK.  His parents were Edward Priaulx Tennant, a Scottish Liberal politician who became Lord Glenconner in 1911, and his wife Pamela Adelaide Genevieve, nee Wyndham, a writer.  Edward had two brothers - Stephen and David.
Known to his friends and family by the nickname ‘Bim’, Edward was educated at  West Downs School, Winchester where he excelled at cricket, wrote poetry and edited the school magazine.  He went on to Winchester College and was to have worked in the Diplomatic Service but joined the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards when war broke out.  He was posted to the Western Front.

A week after the loss of his friend Raymond Asquith, who was in the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, Edward was killed by a German sniper on 22nd September 1916.  He was buried in Guillemont Road Communal Cemetery near to the grave of Raymond Asquith.

“The Mad Soldier June 13th, 1916” by Edward Tennant

I dropp’d here three weeks ago, yes – I know,
And it’s bitter cold at night, since the fight –
I could tell you if I chose – no one knows
Excep’ me and four or five, what ain’t alive.
I can see them all asleep, three men deep,
And they’re nowhere near a fire – but our wire
Has ’em fast as fast can be. Can’t you see
When the flare goes up? Ssh! boys; what’s that noise?
Do you know what these rats eat? Body-meat!
After you’ve been down a week, an’ your cheek
Gets as pale as life, and night seems as white
As the day, only the rats and their brats
Seem more hungry when the day’s gone away –
An’ they look big as bulls, an’ they pulls
Till you almost sort o’ shout – but the drought
What you hadn’t felt before makes you sore.
And at times you even think of a drink . . .
There’s a leg across my thighs – if my eyes
Weren’t too sore, I’d like to see who it be,
Wonder if I’d know the bloke if I woke?
Woke? By damn, I’m not asleep – there’s a heap
Of us wond’ring why the hell we’re not well . . .
Leastways I am – since I came it’s the same
With the others – they don’t know what I do,
Or they wouldn’t gape and grin. – It’s a sin
To say that Hell is hot – ’cause it’s not:
Mind you, I know very well we’re in hell. –
In a twisted hump we lie – heaping high,
Yes! an’ higher every day. – Oh I say
This chap’s heavy on my thighs – damn his eyes.

(written three months before Edward was killed).

Edwards poems ‘Worple Flit and other poems’ were published by Blackwell, Oxford in 1916 and the following year his mother Pamela published “Edward Wyndham Tennant: a memoir” (John Lane, The Bodeley Head, 1917). In 1922, Pamela married Sir Edward Grey after the death of her husband in 1920.

Cyril W. Winterbotham (1887 - 1916) - British Poet

British WW1 Soldier Poet Cyril William Winterbotham featured in the Exhibition of
Poets, Writers and Artists on the Somme in 1916

Cyril William Winterbotham was born on 27th February 1887 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, one of seven children born to James Botten Winterbotham and his wife Eliza Hunter Winterbotham, nee McLaren.

Cyril was educated at Cheltenham College and Lincoln College, Oxford where he studied law.   

In WW1 he was commissioned into the 1st/5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment.    Posted to the Western Front in France, Cyril was killed on 27th August 1916 in an attack on German positions at Mouquet Farm, Ovillers-la-Boiselle, France.  He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, Picardie, France.

Cyril’s WW1 poetry collection ”Poems” was published in 1916 by Banks & Son, Cheltenham and some of his poems were included in the WW1 Anthology “The Muse in Arms”, edited by journalist and author Edward Bolland Osborn (1867–1938)
and published by John Murray, London, 1917. 

Poems by Cyril:


For tired eyes are all too dim, 
Our hearts too full of pain, 

Our ears too deaf to hear the hymn 
Which angels sing in vain, 
" The Christ is born again." 

O Jesus, pitiful, draw near, 

That even we may see 
The Little Child who knew not fear ; 

Thus would we picture Thee 

Unmarred by agony. 

O'er death and pain triumphant yet 
Bid Thou Thy harpers play, 

That we may hear them, and forget 
Sorrow and all dismay, 
And welcome Thee to stay 
With us on Christmas Day. 



Rest you content ; more honourable far 
Than all the Orders is the Cross of Wood, 
The symbol of self-sacrifice that stood 
Bearing the God whose brethren you are. 


From “The Muse in Arms”

Photograph from

Catherine W.Reilly "English Poetry of the First Wold War:  A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)  p. 341

William Eric Berridge (1894 - 1916) - British Poet

Born in Redhill, Surrey, the birth being registered in the third quarter, William’s parents were William Alfred Berridge and his wife Beatrice, nee Campion.  He was christened on 20th September 1894.
Educated at Sunningdale School and Eton College before going up to Oxford, where he joined the Officers’ Training Corps, William was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 6th Battalion the Somerset Light Infantry.   He was posted to the Western Front in March 1916.  During an attack on Hop Alley near Delville Wood, he was shot by a German sniper on 19th August and died of his wounds on 20th August 1916. He was buried in Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l’Abbe, France.

At the time of his death, William’s family were living in Folkestone, Kent.   His collection of WW1 poems “Verses” was published in 1916.

To a Rat

Caught on a piece of wire in a communications trench 4.45 a.m. April 1916

Was it for this you came into the light?
Have you fulfilled Life’s mission? You are free
For evermore from toil and misery,
Yet those who snared you, to their great delight,
Thought doubtless they were doing right
In scheming to encompass your decease,
Forgetting they were bringing you to peace
And perfect joy and everlasting night.
Your course is ended here — I know not why
You seemed a loathsome, a pernicious creature;
You couldn’t clothe us and we couldn’t eat yer,
And so we mocked your humble destiny —
Yet life was merry, was it not, oh rat?
It must have been to one so sleek and fat.

Someone has translated William’s poem To a Rat into Portuguese, which I feel sure would amuse William: 

Hugh Stewart Smith (1889 - 1916) - British poet

Hugh was born in 1889 in King’s Norton, Worcestershire, UK.

Educated at Shrewsbury School before going on to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Hugh went to work for the Colonial Civil Service and was sent to Nigeria, where he became a District Officer.

In 1915, Hugh returned home and joined the Princess Louise’s (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), 4th Battalion and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.  At the time of his death at High Wood on 18th August 1916, he was a temporary Captain.

Hugh Stewart Smith was buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, France.

The poem shown was discovered in the diary of Captain Hugh Stewart Smith following his death.

On the plains of Picardy
Lay a soldier, dying
Gallantly, with soul still free
Spite the rough world’s trying.
Came the Angel who keeps guard
When the fight has drifted,
"What would you for your reward
When the clouds have lifted?"
Then the soldier through the mist
Heard the voice and rested
As a man who sees his home
When the hill is breasted –
This his answer and I vow
Nothing could be fitter –
Give me peace, a dog, a friend
And a glass of bitter!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Donald Frederic Goold Johnson (1890 - 1916) - British poet

Donald was born on 6th March 1890 in Saffron Walden, Essex, United Kingdom, the youngest of four children - three boys and a girl.  His parents were the Rev. Richard Johnson and his wife Eliza Bennett Johnson.   Donald was educated at Caterham School before going up to Emmanuel College Cambridge, where he joined the Officer Training Corps.   Donald showed an early aptitude for writing poetry and in 1914, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for English Verse at Cambridge for a poem he wrote about Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic that ended so tragically in 1912.  The poem was called “The Southern Pole”.  While at Cambridge, Donald converted to Roman Catholicism.
When war broke out, Donald applied to join the 11th Suffolk Regiment that his brother Owen had joined but was instead posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.  He was commissioned as an officer in February 1915 and was sent to France on 7th December 1915.  Another brother, The Rev. Lewis G. Johnson, served with the YMCA in France.

Donald was mortally wounded on 15th July 1916 during an attack on the German Lines in Authville Wood.  He died soon afterwards at the Dressing Station in Bouzincourt, France and is buried in Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extention.

Donald’s brother Owen was killed during the Battle of Arras in 1917 and his sister died in Calcutta in 1915.  Donald’s poem “H.M.J.” was to the memory of his sister.

A collection of Donald’s poems was published in 1919 under the title “Poems” by Cambridge University Press and contains poems written during the war as well as earlier poems.  This is available as a free download

Brian Brooke (1889 - 1916) - Scottish poet

Henry Brian Brooke was born on 9th December 1889 at Lickleyhead Castle, Aberdeenshire, the third son of Captain Sir Harry Vesey Brooke and his wife Patricia, nee Moir-Byers.   Brian’s siblings were James Anson Otho Brooke (1889 - 1914), Constance Geraldine Brooke (1889 - 1973) Patrick Harry Brooke (1895 - 1917) and Rupert Brooke who was born and died in 1896.  As a child, Brian liked to draw and write poetry.  He attended Clifton College and then went to Gordon's College in Aberdeen to prepare for life as a colonial civil servant.  According to M.P. Willcocks who wrote the introduction to Brian's poetry collection, he had red hair and grew to a height of 6 foot 3 inches.
Brian’s eyesight was poor so instead of joining the Army or Navy like his brothers, he went to British East Africa, where he was a big game hunter and cattle farmer who befriended the local Masai tribe and became their blood brother.   He wrote poetry using the pen-name “Korengo”, which means “the big man” in Masai.  He was wounded in Jubaland, Somalia while serving with the East African Transport Corps losing two fingers, and returned to Britain for treatment.

When his brother James was killed in Belgium on 29th October 1914 (he was posthumously awarded the V.C.), Brian joined the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders.   He was sent to the Western Front.  During the Battle of the Somme at Mametz Wood on 1st July 1916 Brian was wounded three times, first in the leg, then in the arm and finally in the neck but he continued to lead his men until he could go no further.  

Brian was sent home to Britain after initial treatment at the Base Hospital and was transferred to the Empire in London where he died of his wounds on 24th July 1916.  Brian is buried in Aberdeen Springbank Cemetery.  Brian’s brother Patrick was in the Royal Navy, serving on HMS “Courageous” and died of Typhoid Fever on 24th May 1917.

Brian Brooke’s collection of WW1 and other “Poems” was published by John Lane, The Bodley Head, London in 1917

Friday, 22 April 2016

Mini Review: "Apollinaire, Cocteau & Others: French Poets of the Great War"

"Apollinaire, Cocteau & Others: French Poets of the Great War" is a new book by Michael Copp, published by Austin Macauley Ltd. 

Michael has included his own translations of eleven French poets of the First World War, choosing, in his own words 'to follow Vladimir Nabokov's principle of what he calls 'Literal' translation, that is, sticking as closely as possible to the associative and syntactical demands of the original language…' Among the poets in the book apart from Cocteau and Apollinaire, are René Arcos, Marcel Martinet, Henry-Jacques and Léon Chancerel. To my mind, this book will be a 'must' for anyone truly interested in the poetry of the First World War.

Source:   An article written by Michael Copp and published in 'The Wilfred Owen Association Journal; 2016, Issue 1' pp 17-22.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Bernard Pitt (1881 - 1916) - British poet and schoolteacher

Bernard was born on 19th June 1881 in Chiswick, Middlesex, UK.  His parents were Abraham Robert Pitt and his wife Ann, nee Thompson.   Bernard had a brother Wilfred A. Pitt, who was born in 1895, and a sister, Bertha H. Pitt, who was born in 1886.

Bernard studied at King’s School, Kew and at the University of London, where he graduated with an MA in English Literature in 1911.    He taught at Borough Road College, then Sir J. Williamson’s Mathematical School in Rochester, and then Coopers Company’s School in Bow and, at the time of his enlistment, also taught English Literature at an evening class at the Working Men’s College in London.  

Bernard married Florence Mary Miller in June 1906 and the couple had four daughters.

When war broke out in 1914, Bernard joined a volunteer corps and was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 10th Battalion of the Border Regiment in April 1915 and attached to 47 Trench Mortar Battery.   He was sent to the Western Front where he was put in command of a Mortar Battery in February 1916.

After he joined the Army, Bernard was greatly missed by those he taught and a pupil at his evening class described him as “a devoted teacher”.

Bernard was posted missing, presumed killed at Arras on 30th April 1916 and is remembered on the Arras Memorial in France.

Bernard’s WW1 poetry collection ‘Essays, poems, letters’ was published in 1917 by Francis Edwards, Marylebone, London – with an Introduction by Alfred J. Wyatt who took over Bernard’s English Literature class at the Working Men’s College in London.

Some of Bernard’s poems were also published in “The Westminster Gazette” and in the Cooper Company’s School Magazine.  

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

The full text of ‘Essays, poems, letters’ is available to read free on Archive:

Monday, 11 April 2016

Robert Nichols (1893 - 1944) - British writer, poet, playwright "The" Soldier Poet of WW1

Ask anyone in the 21st Century who was THE soldier poet of the First World War and they will probably reply Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sasoon, Robert Graves or perhaps Rupert Brooke but I doubt very much that they will reply ‘Robert Nichols’.  Yet Robert was the Soldier Poet of the War during the 1914 – 1919 period.

Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols was born on the Isle of Wight on 6th September 1893.  His parents were John Bowyer Buchanan Nichols and his wife, Catherine Louisa, nee Bouverie-Pusey.  Robert’s father was a member of the British aristocracy, descended from John Nichols the antiquarian, who was himself an artist, poet and writer.  The Nichols family had a house in Ealing, London and a country seat called Lawford Hall in Manningtree, Essex.  Robert had a younger brother Philip.

Robert was educated at Winchester School before going up to Trinity College, Oxford.   He joined the Royal Field Artillery during WW1 as a 2nd Lieutenant and saw service at the Battle of Loos and on The Somme.

Invalided home to Britain suffering from shell shock, Robert then went to work for the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Information.   He also gave public readings of his war poetry to large audiences in Britain and toured the United States of America giving poetry readings.  

In 1917, Cecil Roberts, the writer, poet and First World War correspondent, met Robert Nichols in The Poetry Bookshop that opened in London in 1913 and was run by Harold Munro.   Cecil described Robert Nichols as "vivacious, good-looking, tall, slim and intense" and "much in demand in the West End of London" as "an emotional and  histrionic reader of his own verses".   The Poet Sir Edmund Gosse described Robert Nichols as "feline" and compared his work to that of Keats and Shelley, whereas Wilfred Owen apparently called him "self-centred and 'vaniteux'".

Robert married Norah Madeline Denny on 11th July 1922 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.  He had his portrait painted by Rothenstein and Augustus John.

From 1921 until 1924, Robert lectured at the University of Tokyo in Japan and while there he translated Japanese poetry into English.  He moved to Hollywood in 1924, began writing plays for the film industry and was adviser to Douglas Fairbanks.  Robert returned to the UK in 1926.  

Robert Nichols died in Cambridge in 1944 and was buried in Essex.

Robert’s WW1 poetry collections, some of which are available to read as downloads on Archive, were:

‘Invocation: war poems and others’, published by Elkin Matthews in 1915
‘Ardours and Endurances’, published by Chatto & Windus in 1917
‘Aurelia, and other poems’, published by Chatton & Windus in 1922

and his poems were featured in twenty-four First World War Poetry Anthologies.

Robert Nichols also published  ‘Selected poems’ in 1932, Benn - Augustan Books of Poetry and
‘Such was my singing:  a selection from poems written between the years 1915 and 1940’ which was published by Collins in 1942.
Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) and Cecil Roberts “The Years of Promise” (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1968)

Cecil Roberts "The Years of Promise" published in 1968 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London.

Poems by Robert Nichols

Look up, O stricken eyes that long have pored 
Over the sickliness of a young heart 
Diseased with double doubt and the abhorred 
Drugs of Self-will and Pity. Scan the chart 
Of freedom in a new and noble cause. 
The past is dead. A New Age now begins 
Of noble servitude to nobler laws 
Than those that barred by custom your lame sins. 

All that is terrible is yours to face, — 
You that once sought the dark noon of the storm  
And only found a dust and a disgrace, — 
Peril affronts you in heroic form : 
Lift up your head. Prove that which was your boast 
Though deemed long dead, — or be for ever lost ! 

Robert Nichols. 

Poems by Robert Nichols suggested by AC Benus, author of  “The Thousandth Regiment: A Translation of and Commentary on Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele’s War Poems” by AC Benus (AC Benus, San Francisco, 2020). Book details: ISBN: 978-1657220584

IF it should hap I being summoned hence 
   To an unknown and all too hazardous bourne, 
   One should bring news charged with this heavy sense: 
   He has gone further and cannot return, 
Waste not your hour in weary ' Why ? ' and ' Whence ? ' 
   In grief that my young years be compted so. 
   I grieve not. Nor should you. My recompense 
   Grows with the years and with them yours shall grow. 

For England's fairest, her best beloved lands, 
   Her watchful hills, her slumbrous trees and streams 
   Shall surely teach a heart, that understands, 
   What depth and amplitude of noble dreams 
She gives and how content into her hands 
   I yield the little life without her seems. 

And this poem, only a page after, is very progressive. It has some common themes with Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele. 


WEEPING, I listen and I wait, 
The night grows long, the night grows late. 
Still gird the guns. But now a pause 
And lo ! a chink of night withdraws 
And strange and distant, thin and high, 
I hear the lost and human cry. 
The victors and victorious slain, 
The vanquished and their dead again 
Sing : ' We have slain a Foeman tall, 
Death the dreadest Foe of all. 

For bound with our own bloodied bands
One is given in our hands, 
And the steel that slit our side
Has his red hands crucified, 
We have made a gain of loss, 
Giant War hangs on his cross. 

Nothing fair has man assayed 
But by loss his gain was made. 
Giant War is dead, but still 
Live more giants that do ill. 

Another poem:

BEGIN, O guns, your giant requiem 
   Over my lovely friend the Fiend has slain 
   From whom Death has not snatched the diadem
   Promised by Poetry; for not in vain 
Has he a greater glory now put on 
   Since, bound with cypress black, his boyish head 
   Shines on Death's crowded groves as none has shone 
   Since Sidney set a- whispering the dead. 

Begin, O guns, and when ye have begun 
   Lift up your voices louder and proclaim 
   The sick moon set, arisen the strong sun, 
   Filling our skies with new and noble flame.
The Soldier and the Poet now are one 
   And the Heroic more than a mere name.