Thursday, 13 October 2016

Charles Walter Blackall (1876 - 1918) – British poet, writer, actor, soldier

Born in St. Albans , Hertfordshire, UK in 1876, Charles's parents were Major Robert Blackall, an Irish land-owner, and his wife Mary Emily, nee Gifford.  Charles had two brothers – Edward b. 1872 and Algernon b. 1880. The family lived in Elham, Folkestone, Kent in 1881.

Charles joined the Army - The Buffs Regiment - in 1900 (3rd Battalion) and served during the Boer War.  In 1904, he war promoted to the rank of Captain.

In 1910, Charles married Alice Evelyn Feutrell Briscoe in Chelsea, London.  They lived in Bouverie Road, Folkestone, Kent and at Coolamber Manor, Co. Longford, Ireland and had two children.

Charles and his wife were actors. They travelled to New York in September 1912, to perform 'The Whip' in the Manhattan Opera House.

Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in December 1915, Charles was sent to command the South Staffordshire Regiment on the Western Front.  Mentioned twice in Despatched, he was killed leading his men on 25th March 1918.   He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France, Bay 2.

One of Charles’s poems was included in the WW1 Anthology “From the front:  trench poetry.” Edited by Lieutenant Clarence Edward Andrews and published in New York by Appleton in 1918 - 220 pages, the royalties of which were donated to the British Red Cross.
And his own WW1 collection “Songs from the trenches” was published by The Bodley Head, London in 1915.  (Catherine Reilly, p. 57).   This is available to read as a free down-load on Archive:

NOTE:  The British Army Regiment “The Buffs” were the infantry regiment The Royal East Kent Regiment, formed in 1572 and previously known as the 3rd Regiment of Foot.  They recruited men from East Kent and were based at Canterbury.

“The Song of the Trench”  December, 1914 

This is the song of the blooming trench: 
It's sung by us and it's sung by the French ; 
It's probably sung by the German Huns ; 
But it isn't all beer, and skittles, and buns. 
It's a song of water, and mud and slime, 
And keeping your eyes skinned all the time. 
Though the putrid "bully" may kick up a stench, 
Remember, you've got to stick to your trench — 
Yes, stick like glue to your trench. 

You dig while it's dark, and you work while it's light, 
And then there's the "listening post" at night. 
Though you're soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone; 
Though your hands are like ice, and your feet like stone; 
Though your watch is long, and your rest is brief. 
And you pray like hell for the next relief; 
Though the wind may howl, and the rain may drench, 
Remember, you've got to stick to your trench- 
Yes, stick like mud to your trench. 

Perhaps a bullet may find its mark. 
And then there's a funeral after dark; 
And you say, as you lay him beneath the sod, 
A sportsman's soul has gone to his God. 
Behind the trench, in the open ground. 
There's a little cross and a little mound; 
And if at your heart-strings you feel a wrench, 
Remember, he died for his blooming trench — 
Yes, he died like a man for his trench. 

There's a rush and a dash, and they're at your wire. 
And you open the hell of a rapid fire; 
The Maxims rattle, the rifles flash, 
And the bombs explode with a sickening crash. 
You give them lead, and you give them steel. 
Till at last they waver, and turn, and reel. 
You've done your job — there was never a blench 
You've given them hell, and you've saved your trench ; 
By God, you've stuck to your trench ! 

The daylight breaks on the rain-soaked plain 
(For some it will never break again), 
And you thank your God, as you're "standing to," 
You'd your bayonet clean, and your bolt worked true. 
For your comrade's rifle had jammed and stuck. 
And he's lying there, with his brains in the muck. 
So love your gun — as you haven't a wench — 
And she'll save your life in the blooming trench — 
Yes, save your life in the trench. 

Capt. C. W. Blackall


Find my Past;  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) and