Saturday, 21 September 2019

Nicholas Herbert Todd (1878 – 1916) – British poet and playwright

Nicholas Herbert Todd was one of the soldier poets featured
in the commemorative exhibition of Somme Poets held in 2016

Nicholas was born in Occold, Eye, Suffolk, UK on 21st September 1878.  His father was Horatio Lovell Todd, an Anglican Church minister - Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Church in Occold – and his mother was Frances Catherine Todd, nee Todd.  Nicholas had three brothers – Horatio J. Todd, b. 1865, Francis S. Todd, b. 1866 and  Charles F. Todd, b. 1872.

After attending Felsted School in Essex, Nicholas went up to Keble College, Oxford.  He became a teacher and taught at a school in Balham, London and then at Sedburgh Preparatory School in Yorkshire.

In 1916, after ten years at Sedbergh School, Nicholas enlisted as a Rifleman in the 1st/12th Battalion of the London Regiment (The Rangers).   He trained at a camp in Winchester before being sent to the Western Front, where he was killed on 7th October 1917 near Baupaume.

Nicholas Herbert Todd is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France, on the Sedbergh School Memorial and on a plaque in St. Michael and All Angels Church in Occold.

Written while at Hazeley Down training camp near Winchester in August 1916:

Dear Geoff I wonder if you'd like to be
A soldier of King George, the same as me.
To live in Huts arranged in long straight rows,
Or if you'd rather, call them Bungalows.
Your bed, three boards, on which you rest at night,
Which you're required by order to keep white.
To rise at six-or usually much later
And wash, and dress, and shave at such a rate, a
Bedroom at the P.S.S. would hardly equal,
Then marching; about for hours as a sequel.

To listen to advice from N.C.O's
How to stick bayonets inside your foes,
And many other military jaws,
And all the mysteries of forming fours.

A change indeed from that old room I sat in
Trying to teach the elements of Latin,
And bringing boys, whose names I will not mention,
In army parlance " to strict attention."
I hope when I return, if e'er I do,
You'll know your Latin Grammar all right through!
And have no trouble, when I am a civvy,
In reading off at sight a page Livy.
Meanwhile I wander sometimes up and down,
Along the ridges circling, Winton Town
Finding the orchids bending to the breeze,
Or lying on the wild thyme at my ease,
Or hearing ill the Minster's giant pile,
The throb of glory thrilling up the aisle,
And Dreaming of the Princess Who, years past,
Built their memorials, and only asked
Those who came after just one prayer to say
For those who went into the eternal day
For ever, where the tracery of I heaven
Lets in the light from all file planets seven.

And so farewell much love, and may we meet,
Where the swift Rawthey splashes round the feet
Of laughing boys, and Winder's dear old crest
Catches the sunlight dying in the West.
And laden with the spoils, the P.S.S.
Return with shouting in the usual mess.

Nicholas Herbert Todd’s WW1 collection “Poems and plays” was published in 1917  by Jackson, Sedbergh.


Other sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, and Catherine W. Reilly; "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978, p. 316.