Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Herbert Asquith (1881 - 1947) – British poet, writer and lawyer

Herbert was the second son of Herbert Henry Asquith, the British Liberal politician, First Earl of Oxford, and his wife Helen Kelsall Asquith, nee Medland. Herbert junior wa born on 11th March 1881.  He had the following siblings:
Raymond (1878 – 1916), Arthur, b. 1884, Helen Violet (1887 – 1969) and Cyril (1890 – 1954).  Herbert senior’s first wife Helen Asquith died in 1891. 

Herbert Asquith senior was the British Prime Minister from 1908 until 1916 when he became ill following the death during the Somme Offensive of his eldest son Raymond. 

After the death of his first wife in 1891, Herbert senior married Emma Alice Margaret Tennant, known as Margot, in 1894.  The couple had a son, Anthony (1902 – 1968), who became a film director, and a daughter Elizabeth (1897 – 1945), who became a writer and poet.
In 1910, Herbert junior married Cynthia, daughter of Hugo Richard Charteris, the 11th Earl of Weymss.  Cynthia was also a writer.

Like his brother Raymond, Herbert junior became a lawyer.  They both served with the Royal Artillery during the First World War, Herbert junior reaching the rank of Captain.
Herbert junior died on 5th August 1947.

The Hon. Herbert Asquith’s First World War poetry collections were:
“Poems 1912 – 1933” (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1934

“The Volunteer and other poems” (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1915)
“The Volunteer and other poems, 2nd edition with new poems added” (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1917)

And his poems were published in 21 WW1 anthologies.

“The Fallen Subaltern”

The starshells float above, the bayonets glisten;
We bear our fallen friend without a sound;
Below the waiting legions lie and listen
To us, who march upon their burial-ground.

Wound in the flag of England, here we lay him;
The guns will flash and thunder o’er the grave;
What other winding sheet should now array him,
What other music should salute the brave?

As goes the Sun-god in his chariot glorious,
When all his golden banners are unfurled,
So goes the soldier, fallen but victorious,
And leaves behind a twilight in the world.

And those who come this way, in days hereafter,
Will know that here a boy for England fell,
Who looked at danger with the eyes of laughter,
And on the charge his days were ended well.

One last salute; the bayonets clash and glisten;
With arms reversed we go without a sound:
One more has joined the men who lie and listen
To us, who march upon their burial-ground.


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

Arthur Newberry Choyce (1893 - 1937) – British poet

Arthur was the ‘Leicestershire WW1 Soldier Poet’ whose poetry was compared by “The Independent” newspaper to that of Rupert Brooke

Arthur Newberry Choyce was born in Hugglescote, Leicestershire, UK in 1893.  His parents were Benjamin Choyce, a carpenter, and his wife Mary Ann Choyce, nee Newberry.  The Leicestershire village in which the family lived was near Coalville, about ten miles from Loughborough.

At the outbreak of war, Arthur joined the Leicestershire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant.  He was sent to the Western Front where he saw action during the Somme Offensive in 1916.

Wounded on 15th June 1917, Arthur sheltered for twenty hours in a shell hole before being rescued and sent for treatment.

When he had recovered sufficiently he was sent to America on a speaking tour, reciting his poems to great acclaim, encouraging Americans to join in the fight.

After the war, Arthur continued writing and publishing his work.  He became headmaster of Snibston village Primary School in Coalville, Leicestershire.   Arthur died in 1937 in Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

Arthur’s WW1 poetry collections were:  "Crimson Stains: poems of war and love" published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London;

"Memory: poems of war and love" published in New York by John Lane in 1918. Which you can find here: and

“Songs while wandering” (John Lane, New York, 1919), written in America and dedicated to England

Arthur also had some poems published in the WW1 Anthology "Soldier Poets: more songs of the fighting men" edited by Galloway Kyle and published by Erskine Macdonald in 1917.

Arthur wrote a poem while crossing the Atlantic in April 1918 but it does not reflect the dangers of such a journey.  Tad Fitch and Michael Poirier have written a book that describes in details the perils of crossing the Atlantic – “Into the Danger Zone”.  For a review please see

Atlantic Crossing

The little song that you sing to me
Seems part of the sea’s own melody
(We are alone, just you and I).
It is late … you wanted to see the moon.
Have you heard that we come to harbour soon?
(How swiftly the stars and the sea slip by!).

Churned in the wonderful waves below
Clusters of phosphorous fishes glow,
(How swiftly the stars and the sea slip by!)
And we who have just a remaining day
Are silently staring our dreams away…
(We are alone, just you and I).

Alone, alone, just you and I …
My soul! … how the stars and the sea slip by!

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

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Passchendaele Poets and more

An exhibition featuring some of the poets, writers and artists involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917 is currently on display at The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE.  Entry is free.  The WOS is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 11 am until 2 pm but it is advisable to telephone first - 07903 337995.
Among the poets, writers, one musician and nurses in the exhibition are:
Harry Amos and Oscar Walters (on the same panel)
Charles James Beech Masefield                                    
Dennis Wheatley and Herbert Read (on same panel)
Eugene Rhuelier and MacKintosh (on same panel)
Francis Ledwidge
Frank Prewett – Canadian
Geoffrey Wall
Hamilton Fish Armstrong
Hedd Wyn
Hugh Gordon Langton - musician
Patrick Shaw-Stewart
T.E. Hulme
Thomas Carnduff
Thomas Ewart Mitton and John Allan Wyeth (on same panel)
Arthur Hugh Sidgwick
Arthur Lewis Jenkins
Frank C. Lewis
Geoffrey Caldwell Siordet
Gerald George Samuel
Isaac Rosenberg
John Frederick Freeman
Leonard Comer Wall  (photo of his grave, in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery Belgium taken by Willy de Brouwer and reproduced here with his kind permission)
Nathan Percy Graham
William Robert Hamilton
David Jones and Edmund Blunden (on same panel)
Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson
Edmund Valpy Knox (E.V. Knox)

Nurses of Passchendaele
Kate Luard
Nellie Spindler
Minnie Wood
Wirral, Cheshire VADs Amy and Kath Isaac
Also on display
When Wilfred met Siegfried (the Craiglockhart meeting of two of WW1’s greatest soldier poets)
The Wilfred Owen Story
34 Argyle Street
CH41 6AE.
United Kingdom.