Sunday 14 April 2024

William Somerset Maugham CH (1874 – 1965) – British writer who served as an Ambulance Driver in WW1

William Somerset Maugham was born in the British Embassy in Paris, France on 25th January 1874. His parents were Robert Ormond Maugham (1823–1884), a solicitor, based in Paris and his wife, Edith Mary, née Snell. William's father handled the legal affairs of the British Embassy in Paris.

Shortly before William's birth, the French Government proposed a new law under which all boys born on French soil to foreign parents would automatically be French citizens and liable to conscription for military service. 

The British Ambassador, Lord Lyons, had a maternity ward set up within the embassy – which was legally recognised as UK territory – enabling British couples in France to circumvent the new law, and it was there that William Somerset Maugham was born.   

From 1885 to 1890 William attended The King's School, Canterbury, Kent, UK, where he was regarded as an outsider and teased for his poor English (French had been his first language), his short stature, his stammer, and his lack of interest in sport.

A legacy from his father enabled William to go to Heidelberg University to study when he was sixteen. His aunt, who was German, arranged accommodation for him. For the next year and a half he studied literature, philosophy and German.

From 1892 until he qualified in 1897, William studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in Lambeth.

By 1914 William was famous – he had written thirteen plays and eight novels.  He was too old to enlist when the First World War began, so he volunteered to serve in France as an ambulance driver for the British Red Cross.

In 1954, William was appointed Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) and was invested by Queen Elizabeth II at a private audience in Buckingham Palace.

The Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) was founded by King George V in 1917 to recognise outstanding achievements in the Arts, Sciences, Medicine and Public Service. 

Somerset Maugham died on 16 December 1965.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Edwin Harris Dunning, DSC (1892 - 1917) – British Royal Naval pilot - first to land a plane on a moving ship

With thanks to John Daniel for finding this information for us. 

Born in South Africa on 17th July 1892, Edwin’s parents were Sir Edwin Harris Bedminster Dunning (1858 – 1923) and his wife, Lady Hannah Louise Freeman Dunning, nee Freeman (1860 – 1914).  Edwin’s siblings were Dora W. Dunning, b. 1888, Gilbert K. Dunning, b. 1895 and John D. Dunning, b. 1896.

Sir Edwin H. Dunning had been a dealer in diamonds and gold in South Africa. When he rturned to England he became a political camapigner for the Liberal Party. He was one-time Mayor of Tiverton in Devon and was knighted for public services.

Edwin was educated at Fonthill School until 1905, when he entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne. In 1907 he went to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, and in 1910, following twelve months on board the training cruiser H.M.S. “Cornwall,” he was gazetted Midshipman in the Navy, becoming a Sub-Lieutenant three years later. 

Fonthill was a primary school for the children of the aristocracy and wealthy landowners, professional families and industrialists founded in 1808 as a rectory-based school for young gentlemen in Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire. Many pupils from the school went on to Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Wellington, Rugby, Charterhouse and other public schools. It also prepared boys for careers in the Royal Navy and Army and sent a number of boys to the naval colleges.

When the First World War began, Edwin was a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Flying Corps and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1915, being appointed to H.M.S. “Ark Royal.”

In 1916 Lieutenant Edwin Harris Dunning, Royal Naval Air Service was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service with the seaplane carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal during the Gallipoli campaign.

Later promoted Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning, D.S.C., Royal Naval Air Service, became the first man to land an aeroplane on a moving ship when he piloted a Sopwith Pup onto the deck of H.M.S. Furious on 2nd August 1917. 

Being congratulated after his amazing reat

Edwin was killed on 7th August 1917 while attempting another landing when strong winds blew his aircraft overboard. He was buried in Bradfield (St. Lawrence) Churchyard, Essex, where the memorial plaque presented by his Father is on display in St. Lawrence’s Church.  

His official citation was published in the 'London Gazette' on 14th March 1916: “He performed exceptionally good work as a seaplane flyer, making many long flights both for spotting and photographing.

Western Times,' 7th April 1916. 

Edwin was also Mentioned in Despatches twice - 14 March 1916 – mentioned in despatches for service at Gallipoli, and on 1 October 1917.

Sources:  Information supplied by John Daniel,

Find my Past

Sunday 7 April 2024

Frank Richards, DCM, MM, born Francis Philip Woodruff (1883 -1961) – Welsh soldier and writer

With thanks to John Daniel for finding this information for us - Frank Richards, better known by his birth name Francis Philip Woodruff, wrote his account of the First World War from the viewpoint of an ordinary soldier entitled “Old Soldiers Never Die'”.

Born on 7th April 1883 in Upper Machen Farm, Monmouth, Wales, Frank’s parents were Francis Augustus Woodruff, a Colliery Proprietor.and his wife, Mary Ann Woodruff, nee Richards.  Frank’s grandfather Philip Woodruff, from Surrey, was a tin plate manufacturer. 

Orphaned when he was nine, Frank was brought up by his aunt and uncle in the Blaina area of the South Wales Valleys in industrial Monmouthshire. Frank’s uncle was his mother's twin brother and he adopted Frank who then changed his surname to Richards. 

When he was twelve years old Frank went to work in coal mines and the tin plate industry before joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1901. He then served in India and Burma.   

He joined the reserves and re-enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the outbreak of The First World War, serving in all of Britain's major British campaigns on the Western Front.  Frank was awarded  the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal.

After the war, Frank was unable to work due to injuries sustained during the conflict and in 1933 he published his recollections of the war with the help of a fellow soldier in the RWF - Robert Graves the poet and writer. 

In 1936, Frank published a second memoir, “Old Soldier Sahib”, covering his time in the British Army of India. Private Frank Richards aka "Big Dick" features in Captain J. C. Dunn's “The War the Infantry Knew 1914-1919”.

In 1937 Frank married Mary James and they had one daughter, Margaret.

Frank, who at no point rose above the rank of Private during the war, refusing any offer of promotion, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal. Frank always denied any element of bravery in his character, simply saying that he was doing his job. His account of the Christmas Truce was the first to be published by a soldier who was not an officer.  In 1954 he was interviewed by the BBC for their classic multi-part documentary of the conflict, “The Great War”.

Frank continued to correspond regularly with Robert Graves until his death in 1961 at the age of 78.

Frank’s memoir 'Old Soldiers Never Die' is considered a classic insight into soldiers lives and has been described as "arguably the greatest of all published memoirs of the Great War". 

Preliminary Source: Information sent by John Daniel

Additional sources:  Find my Past


The soldiers' folklore song “Old Soldiers Never Die”:

Old soldiers never die,

Never die, never die,

Old soldiers never die,

They simply fade away.

The song is a British Army's parody of the gospel song Kind Thoughts Can Never Die.

In the United States, the phrase was used by General Douglas MacArthur in his April 19, 1951 farewell address to the U.S. Congress (which has become known as the "Old Soldiers Never Die" speech):

"... but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

“Soldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great War”, collected by Martin Pegler, ISBN 9781472804150, p. 123; an update of John Brophy and Eric Partridge's “Songs and Slang of the British Soldier” (1930). Partridge, Eric (1985). “A dictionary of catch phrases : British and American, from the sixteenth century to the present day”. Beale, Paul. (2nd. ed.), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Saturday 6 April 2024


Popular music

The Bernard S. Parker World War One Sheet Music Collection consists of 753 pieces of sheet music (most are the larger format 11x14 inch size with a small assortment of 7x10 inch "War Editions"). The sheet music is organized alphabetically by title. Most were published betweeen 1914 and 1920, but a few date back to the late 19th Century.

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (born Leon Dudley Sorabji; 14 August 1892 – 15 October 1988) - English composer, music critic, pianist and writer whose musical output spanned eight decades and ranges from sets of miniatures to works lasting several hours. 

Poems by Robert Nichols set to music:

In 1919 Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji wrote Music to "The Rider by Night" (not extant in full). Peter Warlock (a close friend) composed a choral setting of The Full Heart in 1916, and a song setting of The Water Lily in 1922, along with others, now lost. The Naiads' Music and The Pigeon Song were set by Arthur Bliss (also a friend) in his Pastoral: (Lie Strewn White Flocks) of 1928,[9] and Bliss also used Dawn on the Somme in his choral symphony Morning Heroes of 1930. E J Moeran set Blue-eyed spring for voice and piano in 1932[10] and used poetry from the unfinished play Don Juan Tenorio the Great for his Nocturne for baritone solo, chorus and orchestra of 1935.[11] Christian Darnton set five poems by Nichols in his 1938 work Swansong, for soprano and orchestra.

A soldier’s thought of home

This song was written by Reginald Walter Jones MC, MM, who served in the 14th Battalion and was awarded the MC and MM. Two of his brothers, also in the 14th Battalion, died on the Western Front. The lyrics could have been written after the loss of one or both of his brothers - the final line reads "He knows his old home will be lonely, when he reaches the forest again". Reginald’s mother, Salome Elizabeth Jones, wrote a letter to Birdwood in 1920 - held in 3DRL/3376 9/1 Item 5 – in which she mentions her “two dear sons who “fell” in battle and have now entered into higher service”. The music was composed by James Dodd.

Check out these websites:

The lyrics to “Keep the Home Fires burning” were written by American poet Lena Guilbert Brown Ford who was killed in an air raid in London in 1918.

Amazing addition to his AGWP website about popular WW1 music from Dominic Sheridan -

Classical Music

Prince Eugen Franz ALBRECHT of Prussia, German (1864 – 1916)- Conductor and composer,_Op.15_(Albrecht_of_Prussia,_Prince_Joachim)

Georges ANTOINE, Belgian (1892 – 1918) died of Influenza 15th September 1918

Walter ASCH, German (1893 – 1915) – 2nd May 1915, Tarnov, Galicia, pupil of Pfizner

Arthur BLISS, British (1891 - 1975); served with Royal Fusiliers then Grenadier Guards, wounded twice and gassed. Arthur’s younger brother Francis Kennard Bliss, poet, was killed Thiepval 1916; “Morning Heroes”

Alban BERG, Austrian (1885 – 1935) – served in the Austro-Hungarian Army in WW1. 

Erwin BOCK, Austrian (? – 1916) – Killed Italy, Cadet. With the Tirroler Kaiserjãggeregt.

Ina BOYLE (1889 - 1969) – Irish. Set several WW1 poems to music (Winifred M. Letts, Rudyard Kipling, Herbert Asquith Jnr.) “Soldiers at Peace” by Herbert Asquith – see photos.

William Denis BROWNE, British (1888 – 1915) RNAS Antwerp – Hood Battalion (Rupert Brooke); killed Gallipoli 4th June 1915

Thomas O’BRIEN BUTLER, Irish (   - 1915) – drowned when “Lusitania” torpedoed; wrote first Gaelic opera 

George BUTTERWORTH, British (1885 – 1916) killed on The Somme

André CAPLET, to whom Debussy had entrusted the orchestration of some of his most popular piano works, including “Clair de Lune

Edward CLARK, British (1888 - 1962) Conductor and music journalist. Attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany in August 1914, he was interned in Ruhleben Internment Camp near Berlin, Germany until May 1918 when he was released through the intervention of the Red Cross. 

Cecil COLES, British (1888 - 1918) – killed 26th April 1918. Buried Crouy. Bandmaster Queen Victoria’s Rifles. “Cortège”. Cecil Coles ( - 1918) – British musician Friend of Gustav Holst

Emile DEBERT, French (? – 1915) – killed Argonne 30th April 1917; pianist/composer

Claude DEBUSSY, French (1852 – 1918) – Died of Cancer during the German Spring Offensive on Paris on 1918. Paris was heavily shelled during his funeral and the church in which the funeral was held was destroyed two days later killing 88 people and injuring 68.

Edward ELGAR (1857 - 1934) – Volunteered as a Special Constable in his local Police Force and then joined the Hampstead Volunteer Reserve.

Hanns EISLER ( - ) – Austrian-born

Read more:

Ernest FARRAR, British (1885 – 1918) killed Epehy Ronssay, Western Front, 16th September 1918 (Grenadier Guards – 2nd Lieutenant 3 Bn. Devonshire Regiment).  “Caprice” arranged by McOpera’s Stern Adam –

Ernest Farrar taught the young Gerald Finzi (19-1 – 1956), who later wrote his “Requiem da Camera” in memory of his teacher.

Edwin FIRTH (1888 - 1918) was 'by far the finest ever cornet player.' He had played with Earby and Skipton bands before being invited to join Foden's Band in 1909. He was 19 years old. He led Foden's Band to victories at both the National Championships at Crystal Palace and the Belle Vue British Open at Manchester. In addition, he was no mean composer and, among other compositions, won a National award for his march 'Westward Ho!' In 1917 he volunteered to enlist with the Artists Rifles. In February 1918 Edwin's Regiment was posted out to France, where he naturally took with him a cornet. On 1st June 1918 he was killed by an exploding shell and is buried in the Varennes Military Cemetery, Albert, Somme, France.


Like Holst, Foulds was active in morale boosting for the troops through the organization of concerts. Whilst he didn’t write anything during the war, his A World Requiem  (1919-21) was composed in memory of the war dead from all countries. This piece had yearly performances between 1923-6 in the first Festivals of Remembrance.

Guido von GILLHAUSEN, German ( ? – 1918) – killed Eastern Front

Enrique GRANADOS, Spanish Catalan composer (1867 – 1916) – drowned 24th March 1916 trying to save his wife when the cross-Channel ferry S.S. “Sussex” was sunk

Ivor GURNEY, British (1890 - 1937); also a poet.  Shell shocked after serving on the Western Front with the Gloucestershire Regiment

Fernand Gustave HALPEN, French (1872 – 1917) – died May 1917; pupil of Massenet

Sir Herbert Hamilton HARTY (1879 – 1941) -  Irish composer, conductor, pianist and organist.

Paul HINDEMITH (1895 – 1963) - German composer, violist, violinist, teacher and conductor

Gustav HOLST, British (1874 - 1934) – Unfit for military service – bother Emil joined the British Army, wife Isabel drove ambulances in France.  At the end of the war Holst joined the YMCA and became Musical Organiser for the education of troops in the ear East. 

John IRELAND (1879 - 1962) – British Won a competition for a musical composition in 1917;  Violin Sonata No. 2: completed in January 1917, he submitted this to a competition organised to assist musicians in wartime. The jury included the violinist Albert Sammons and the pianist William Murdoch, who together gave the work its first performance at Aeolian Hall in New Bond Street on 6 March that year

Frank Maurice JEPHSON  A.R.C.O. Assistant organist of the Westbourne Park Church, 1902; organist of Richmond-upon-Thames Presbyterian Church, 1904. b. Derby, England, 1886; d. France, Apr. 20th, 1917 (killed in action).  (thanks to Ciaran Conlan for telling us about Frank)

Died 1917. Jephson was an organist and composer.

David JONES ( - 1917) – Welsh musician - harpist

Frederick Septimus KELLY, Australian-British (1881 – 1916) – Somme; also a rower – Summer Olympics 1908

Andre Victor Louis LAPORTE, French (1889 – 1918) – pupil of Paul Vidal (symphonic poem for orchestra and 

Hugh Gordon LANGTON, British (1885 – 1917) - violinist

Alberic MAGNARD, French (1865 – 3 September 1914) composer killed by German troops in his manor house in Baron, Oise, while resisting invasion. Composed operas, chamber music and songs.

Lucien MAILLIEUX, French composer/pianist (? – 14 November 1914), pupil of Xavier Leroux. Wrote 15 pieces for piano, and violin or solo piano and a ballet and songs to verses by de Dubor.

Willie (William) Braithwaite MANSON, New Zealand (1896 – 1916), composer of songs to poems by Longfellow, Rosssetti and Houseman. Royal Academy of Music, London. Studied Royal Academy of Music, London. Joined London Scottish Regiment and was killed on his birthday, 1st July 1916 Gommecourt, Somme. 

Auguste MASSACRIER, French (1872 – 1914), composer of soldiers’ marching songs Killed Chavette October 1914.

Herbert Goldstein MATHESON, British (1884 – 1918), composer of popular songs, 2nd Lieutenant, 13th Kensington Battalion, London Regiment, killed 23rd March 1918, France.

Pierre MAYER, French (1894 – 1915), killed Beauséjour/Mesnil-les-Hurlus. Composer of Chamber Music.

Ernest J. MOERAN, British-born of Irish origin (1894 – 1950)- Composer/violin and piano player.  Despatch rider in Norfolk Regiment. Transferred to West Yorkshire Regiment, wounded on Western Front Bullecourt, 3rd May 1917. After the War taught music briefly at Uppingham School before resuming his studies at the Royal College of Music with Charles Villiers Stanford.

Stevan MOKRANJAC, Serbian (? – 1914) – Composer

Philippe MOREAU, French (1880 – 1914) – disappeared near Dienz, Lorraine, France, 25th August 1914. Composer/Conductor. Pupil of Xavier Leroux.  

Jaroslav NOVOTNY, Czech (1886 – 1918) Composer of songs and choral works.  Student of Novák.  Officer in the Czech Legion. Killed Miass-Ural 1st May 1918.

Sir Hubert PARRY composer and Director of the Royal College of Music (From The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: “During the war he watched a life's work of progress and education being wiped away as the male population, particularly the new fertile generation of composing talent of the Royal College, dwindled.” But Parry proposed confidence that, even in greatest trauma, the “finest results in art” would profit, and that “those who can extract something true and inspiring out of such a welter of wild realities are likeliest to reinvigorate the things that tend to become stale and unprofitable”. “If you want to stupefy a genius, the surest way to do it is to keep him in cotton wool”. And, despite the knowledge that not all would return, he saluted those who continued to volunteer: “There are a vast number of our best and most gifted ones offering themselves to the same fate. All honour to them, and all anxiety to us!”) 

Viktor POIGER, Austrian (? – 1916) – Pilot in Austrian Air Force. Composer of songs. Killd 7th April 1916 in an air crash.

André PRADELS, French (? – 1916) composer. Son of singer Octave Pradels. Killed Verdun 8th April 1916.

Anton RABEL, German (? – 1918) Composer of songs and piano pieces;  from Munich.  Pupil of Beer-Walbrunn.

Aladar RADO, Hungarian (1882 – 1914). Composer of orchestral works, operas, songs and chamber music. Killed River Sava, Serbian Front 9th September 1914.

Maurice RAVEL, French (1875 – 1937) – Tried to enlist in the French Air Force but was not fit enough.   Joined 13th Artillery Regiment as a driver and drove lorries behind the lines.  “Le Tombeau de Couperin”

Johannes SCHMIEDGEN, German (1886 – 1916) – composer from Dresden. Requiem completed in the Trenches.

Cyril ROOTHAM (1875 – 1938) – British; set Binyon’s “For the Fallen” to music.

Arnold SCHOENBERG, Austrian (1875 – 1937) – called up for service in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

Philippe August Botho SIGWART, Graf zu Eulenburg, German (1884 – 1915) Piano Sonata D Major. Died of wounds 2nd June 1915, Leki, Galicia.

Dame Ethel Mary SMYTH Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, DBE (22 April 1858 – 8 May 1944) – composed the music to the Suffragette’s March (words by WW1 poet Cicily Hamilton). Dame Ethel also composed a comic opera about WW1 – “Entente Cordiale”

Rudi STEPHAN, German (1887 – 1915) – killed on the Eastern Front at Tarnopol, Galicia. Composed music for piano and orchestra.

Florian THIESSIG, German (1856 – 1916) – died in a Russian civil POW camp in Pensa.  Operas, Oratorios, orchestral pieces.

Francis Purcell WARREN, British (1895 – 1916) – Royal Warwickshire Regiment, killed Somme 3rd July 1916, 2nd Lt. Lancashire Regiment; Royal College of Music;  composer of music for strings.

Jerrard George WILKINSON (1885 – 1916) – killed 1st July 1916 on the Somme at Beaumont Hamel. Duke of Cambridge’s Own; Middlesex Regiment.  Composer of songs – “From a Distance”, “Nine Songs and Duets from the Ancient Japanese”

Ralph Vaughan WILLIAMS, British (1872 – 1958) – served in the British Army in WW1. Pupil of Maurice Ravel.  “A Pastoral Symphony”

Paul WITTGENSTEIN (1887 - ) – Austrian; pianist; POW WW1; wounded – lost an arm.

Sinking of the “Lusitania”, 7th May 1915

During the sinking of the “Lusitania” Justus Miles FORMAN (1889 – 7 May 1915), American novelist and playwright died, along with theatre producer Charles FROHMAN and playwright Charles KLEIN – they were travelling together.  The American painter Reginald Purse also perished.  The writer Osmund Bartle Wordsworth, who was related to the poet, was among the survivors of the liner’s sinking, along with his sister Ruth, with whom he had been returning to Britain.  He was one of the last to leave the ship and gave his lifejacket to another passenger.  Osmund was killed on the Western Front in 1917.

Additional Notes

According to Tim Cross in “Lost Voices of World War 1” (Bloomsbury, London, 1988), there was a German composer called Hermann HESSE who was killed in 1917.  He was from Hamburg and composed a symphonic poem called “Pro Patria”   Cross cites a German publication called “Neue Musik-Zeitung, xxxix, 18 as his source for this, so I will try and contact the publication if I can.

However, I can only find details via the Internet of the German writer Herman Hesse whose “Steppenwolf” I have read.  Hesse also wrote poems so I have included him in Forgotten Poets of the First World War.

Camille SAINT-SAENS French (1835 - 1921) founded the League for the Defence of French Music (La Ligue pour la Defense de la Musique Franҫaise) during the First World War in order to ban the playing of German and Austrian music.


Tim Cross “Lost Voices of World War 1” (Bloomsbury, London, 1988), pp 387 – 406.

LUCY LONDON, June 2017 (Revised, slightly, November 2018, September 2019)

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Revd Herbert Butler Cowl, MC (1886-1971) – Wesleyan Army Chaplain to the 23rd Infantry Division, 68th Brigade, in the British Army during the First World War

Born on 13th September 1886 in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK, Herbert’s parents were Wesleyan Church Minister Frederick Bond Cowl and his wife, Mary Ellen Cowl, nee Butler. Herbert finished his training to become a Methodist minister in 1910. His sweetheart, Mary Louise Townsley, left England with her family, returning to her mother’s homeland in British Columbia.

On 28th July 1914, Herbert Cowl was ordained into the Wesleyan Church – and less than a week later, Britain declared war on Germany. On Christmas Eve, 1914, the Rev Herbert Butler Cowl signed up to become a temporary Wesleyan Methodist Army chaplain at Bordon Wesleyan Soldiers’ Home near Aldershot in Hampshire. In August 1915 he arrived in France as part of Kitchener’s Army with the 23rd Division of the British Expeditionary Force.

“The Half-Shilling Curate” was the nickname Herbert used when he wrote to his parents during his early days as an Army chaplain, his lack of experience leading him to feel he was “not the full shilling”. 

 In November 1915, during a heavy bombardment, Herbert was seriously wounded by shrapnel causing wounds to his neck, throat and jaw. He was taken to a field hospital where the surgeon made a tool to perform an operation to remove a piece of shrapnel still lodged in his throat. He was sent via hospital train to Boulogne where he was assessed before returning to England. 

On 17th November 1915, Herbert was taken by stretcher to the hospital ship, HMHS Anglia, and placed in a cot bed. While crossing the channel, the ship hit a German mine and sank within 20 minutes, taking with her many soldiers and nurses. 

Herbert described the scene after the ship was beginning to tilt: “… and then the sea rushed in. The inrush carried me to an open doorway in which I lay with bedding and furniture and debris reaping over me. Then a lurch of the ship flung me onto my feet so that I could struggle thro’ the wreckage, into a bathroom. Sitting on the bath side, I watched the water rising inch by quick inch: then in a mirror opposite I saw a ghastly sight which some puzzling over proved to be my own face. No man would chose to drown in a hole: so there began the grim struggle to climb the clogged passage, to gain the deck.” 

During the struggle to survive the sinking, Herbert handed his life belt to someone who he thought needed it more than he did. For this he was awarded the Military Cross. 

In 1916, Herbert married his sweetheart Mary Louise Townsley, who returned to England to look after him. 

On 15th October 2016, “The Half-Shilling Curate, A personal account of war & faith 1914-1918” written by Herbert’s Grand-daughter Sarah Reay was published by Helion & Company - ISBN number is 9781911096467.

I read the book and found it amazing – here is the link to the review I wrote about the book.

Additional material from:

Monday 1 April 2024

Rev’d Oliver Hope Robertson (1890 - 1918) – A nglican church minister, WW1 British Army Chaplain and soldier

 With thanks to Revd Nicholas Pye @RevdPye via Twitter for posting this us this information on Twitter and tagging me 

Oliver Hope Robertson was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, UK in around 1890, the birth having been registered in the first quarter of 1890.  His parents were Henry Robertson, an artist, and his wife, Hamilton Champbell Robertson, nee Barclay, who hailed from Scotland.  

By 1911, Oliver was an undergraduate studying at Queen’s College, Cambridge University and the family lived in Hastings, Sussex.   He then studied theology at Ridley Hall College, Cambridge University.   Oliver was ordained as an Anglican Church minister and became Curate of Christ Church, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex.  

Oliver enlised as an Army Chaplain in February 1917 and was posted to the Western Front.  He transferred to the London Regiment as a Private soldier in the 16th Battalion - County of London Battalion, Queen's Westminster Rifles.

Rifleman (The Rev’d) Oliver Robertson, London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles) was killed on active service near Arras, France on 28th March 1918, aged 28.  He has no known grave but is remembered on the Arras Memorial in France, on Bay 10.

The 16th (Queen's Westminster Rifles) Battalion, London Regiment were a unit of the Territorial Force with their HQ at Queen's Hall, 58 Buckingham Gate, Westminster. When war broke out in August 1914, they were part of the 4th London Brigade, 2nd London Division.


Original source:  28 March 1918, Revd Oliver Robertson, died, aged 28. Born Ipswich, 3 siblings. On Arras Memorial. Dad, an artist, exhibited  @royalacademy  Studied  @QueensCam &  @RidleyHall.  Curate @ChChStLeonards   Oct 1916, enlisted as Army Chaplain. Feb 1917, became Private in London Regiment. #WW1

Additional information from:  Find m y Past, FreeBMD,

Saturday 30 March 2024

The Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy, VC, MC, DSO (1863 – 1918) – Anglican Church Minister and School teacher who served as a British Army Chaplain in WW1

Rev’d Hardy was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross, making him one of the most decorated non-combatants of the First World War.

Portrait of Rev Hardy by
Howard Somerville
Born on 20th October 1863, Theodore’s parents were George Hardy and his wife, Sarah, a school teacher.   The family lived in Barnfield House, Southernhay, Exeter, Devonshire, UK. 

Following the death of George Hardy, the house became a preparatory school for young gentlemen and was run by Theodore’s Mother.

Educated at the Royal Commercial Travellers School, Pinner, Middlesex from 1872 to 1879, the City of London School from 1879 to 1882 and at the University of London, Theodore became a school master. 

In Ireland in 1888, Theodore married Florence Elizabeth Hastings.   

He was ordained as an Anglican Church minister on 18th December 1898 and combined his teaching work with his duties as a Curate.

From 1891 to 1907, Theodore was an Assistant Master at Nottingham High School, where one of his pupils was D. H. Lawrence - a Junior School house there is named in Theodore’s honour. From 1907 to 1913, Theodore was Headmaster of Bentham Grammar School in West Yorkshire. 

Theodore’s wife Florence became ill and died after a year of illness in 1914. Following his wife’s illness, he had to give up teaching and became the rector of Hutton Roof, near Kirby Lonsdale in Westmoreland.

51 when war broke out, Theodore volunteered at once but was turned down as being too old. Eventually, in August 1916, he was accepted for army service as a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces, 4th Class and attached to 8th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment. 

On his way to the Western Front, Theodore met the Rev’d Studdert Kennedy, known to the troops as 'Woodbine Willie'.  Kennedy's simple advice, which Theodore followed closely, was this:  'Live with the men. Go everywhere they go. Share all their risks and more if you can do any good. Take a box of fags in your haversack and a great deal of love in your heart. Laugh with them, joke with them; you can pray with them sometimes, but pray for them always.'

Theodore lived with the troops in the forward trenches, dodging the constant gun fire and sniping, handing out sweets and cigarettes, writing letters for the troops and helping carry the wounded to safety. Seeking to better earn the trust of the men, Theodore took to visiting them at night in the trenches, whilst conducting his chaplaincy duties by day. He often went without sleep and a visiting General once commented that Rev'd. Hardy appeared to be 'asleep on his feet' during his own service. During the Battle of Arras in April 1917, the Senior Chaplain found on several occasions that Theodore had been working continuously for 48 or even 36 hours and had to order him to get some sleep.

On 31st July, the Battle of Passchendaele* (July 31–November 6, 1917) began with an attack in which the 8th Battalion suffered 177 casualties of all ranks. All this time Theodore was with his men, helping the stretcher bearers remove the wounded from the mud of No Man’s Land at night. After several nights he was reported missing and was eventually found lying asleep in a water-filled shell hole into which he had collapsed from exhaustion. 

In October 1917 Theodore was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 'for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty', while rescuing wounded men from no-man's land throughout the night, despite himself suffering a broken wrist. 

*The Third Battle of Ypres also known as the Battle of Passchendaele

The DSO was followed by the award of the Military Cross (MC) in December 1917, for repeatedly going out under heavy fire to help the stretcher bearers during an attack. Finally his Victoria Cross was awarded for outstanding bravery at Rossingal Wood on the Somme in April 1918.

Hoping to remove Rev’d. Hardy from further danger, the King suggested that he return home and become his  personal Chaplain.  Seeking to reward Hardy for his service, the Bishop of Carlisle offered him a Cumbrian parish with a magnificent rectory. But Theodore would have none of it; determined to stay with his men, he declined both offers and returned to his battalion.

In the spring of 1918, the Lincolns fought on the Somme, where Theodore's devoted and fearless actions on 5th, 25th and 27th of April 1918 resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).  On 27th April, he persuaded a Sergeant to help him rescue a wounded man who had fallen within 10 yards of an enemy pill box, the whole time under enemy fire. When told that he had been nominated for the VC Theodore said, "I really must protest".

On 10th October 1918 at night, Theodore was seriously wounded by machine gun fire while with the Lincolns as they were crossing a footbridge accompanying a fighting patrol of the 8th Somersets on 8th October 1918 on the Selle River near Cambrai. The first soldiers to reach Hardy remembered him saying quietly: 'I’ve been hit. I’m sorry to be a nuisance.' He was evacuated to No. 2 Red Cross Hospital at Rouen and died on 18th October, three days before his 55th birthday and less than four weeks before the Armistice.

The Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy was buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France, Grave Reference:  block S, plot V, row J, grave 1. 

Presentation of the Victoria Cross to the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy, VC, DSO, MC by HM King George V (1865–1936) in France - painted by Terence Tenison Cuneo (1907–1996) - Royal Army Chaplains' Museum

Sources:  Find my Past, Wikipedia and