Wednesday 10 July 2024

Basil Rathbone MC (1892 – 1967) - South African-born English actor.

With thanks to John Daniel for reminding me that I had not yet written a post about Basil Rathbone, one of my favourite actors.

Philip St. John Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South African Republic on 13th June 1892.  His parents were British. Basil’s father, Edgar Philip Rathbone, was a mining engineer and scion of the Liverpool-based Rathbone family.  His mother, Anna Barbara Rathbone (née George), was a violinist.  Basil had two older half-brothers, Harold and Horace, as well as two younger siblings, Beatrice and John. 

The Rathbones returned to Britain when Basil was three years old after his father was accused by the Boers of being a spy, following the Jameson Raid. Rathbone attended Repton School in Derbyshire from 1906 to 1910, where he excelled at sports and was given the nickname "Ratters" by schoolmates. He was briefly employed as an insurance clerk by the Liverpool and Globe Insurance Companies, to appease his father's wish for him to have a conventional career.

On 22nd April 1911, Basil made his first appearance on stage at the Theatre Royal, Ipswich, Suffolk, as Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew, with his cousin Sir Frank Benson's No. 2 Company, under the direction of Henry Herbert. In October 1912, he went to the United States with Benson's company, playing roles such as Paris in Romeo and Juliet, Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Silvius in As You Like It. Returning to Britain, he made his first appearance in London at the Savoy Theatre on 9th July 1914, as Finch in The Sin of David. That December, he appeared at the Shaftesbury Theatre as the Dauphin in Henry V. During 1915, he toured with Benson and appeared with him at London's Court Theatre in December as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

During the First World War, Basil was called up in 1915 through the Derby Scheme, joining the British Army as a Private with the London Scottish Regiment. Also in that Regiment at different points through the conflict were Basil’s future professional acting contemporaries Claude Rains, Herbert Marshall and Ronald Colman. 

After basic training with the London Scots, in early 1916 Basil was commissioned as a Leutenant into the 2/10th Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment (Liverpool Scottish), where he served as an intelligence officer and attained the rank of Captain.  Basil was twice the British Army Fencing Champion, a skill that served him well in his film career and allowed him to even teach actors Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power swordsmanship. 

Basil's younger brother John was killed in action on 4th June 1918. In 2012 two letters Rathbone wrote to his family while serving on the Western Front were published. One reveals the anguish and anger he felt following the death of his brother, John:

“I want to tell him to mind his place. I think of his ridiculous belief that everything would always be well, his ever-hopeful smile, and I want to cuff him for a little fool. He had no business to let it happen and it maddens me that I shall never be able to tell him so, or change it or bring him back. I can’t think of him without being consumed with anger at him for being dead and beyond anything I can do to him.”

Following his brother's death, Basil seems to have become unconcerned about the dangers of serving at the Front. Author Richard Van Emden in Famous 1914–18 speculates that his extreme bravery may have been a form of guilt or need for vengeance. He persuaded his superiors to allow him to scout enemy positions during daylight rather than at night, as was the usual practice to minimise the chance of detection. Basil wore a special camouflage suit that resembled a tree with a wreath of freshly plucked foliage on his head with burnt cork applied to his hands and face. As a result of these highly dangerous daylight reconnaissance missions in September 1918, he was awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous daring and resource on patrol".

Basil died in New York, USA on 21st July 1967 after a long and illustrious career.  He was buried in Ferncliffe Cemetery, New York - Shrine of Memories, Unit 1, Tier K, Crypt 117.


Additional Notes:  An interview with Basil Rathbone about WW1:

Basil Rathbone was a cousin of Eleanor Rathbone and I wrote up a panel for both of them for Dean Johnson's Wilfred Owen Story Museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead for on of the WW1 commemorative exhibitions held there.  Unfortunately the WOS has since closed down.   

Eleanor Florence Rathbone (12 May 1872 – 2 January 1946) was an independent British member of parliament (MP) and long-term campaigner for family allowances and for women's rights. She was a member of the noted Rathbone family of Liverpool.  The Rathbones of Liverpool were a family of non-conformist merchants and shipowners, whose sense of high social consciousness led to a fine tradition of philanthropy and public service.


From a post on by Mark Bristow who has given me permission to share.

Basil was a cousin of the actor

And had a relationship with WW1 poet Richard Le Gallienne's daughter Eva le Gallienne -  a British-born American stage actress, producer, director, translator, and author.

Monday 17 June 2024

Annamites in Pau, France, during the First World War

 This painting entitled "Annamites dans un camp d’aviation à Pau", 1914/18” painted byFrench artist Achille-Émile Othon Friesz (1879-1949) prompted my research into the Annamite people and French aviation in Pau during the First World War.

After landing in Da Nang in 1858, the French founded the colony of Cochinchina in 1865 and established a protectorate over Tonkin in 1884. The Republic of Ferry intensified the colonial exploitation begun under the Second Empire, constituting an immense empire within which the Indochinese peninsula is a jewel. The fighting of the First World War had little impact on the Far East, with its riches coveted by all the colonial powers. But the traditional recruitment of auxiliaries, the need to replace the numerous soldiers who fell at the start of the conflict, and the desire to develop patriotism among the indigenous population, led the metropolises to draw on the colonial pool. In four years of war, France brought 43,430 Annamites from Indochina (center of present-day Vietnam) and Tonkinese (north) riflemen, mobilized mainly in stage battalions responsible for development and transport. 1,123 died on the field of honour. In addition, 48,981 Indochinese workers were sent to French factories to replace workers who had gone to the front.

Annam, or Trung Kỳ, was a French protectorate encompassing the territory of the Empire of Đại Nam in Central Vietnam. Before the protectorate's establishment, the name Annam was used in the West to refer to Vietnam as a whole; Vietnamese people were referred to as Annamites.

The first aviation school was founded in Pau in 1909, a Wright Bleriot School for aviators. Apparently one of the reasons for locating the flying school in Pau was because of the belief that the city and surround areas were almost wind free. When the First World War broke out, the numbers of its trainees and its capacity grew to such an extent that it became one of the largest flying schools in France.

From then on, aviation became a permanent fixture in Pau. Following the lead of the private schools, a military aviation school began to train pilots in Pau and, when the First World War broke out, the numbers of its trainees and its capacity grew to such an extent that it became one of the largest flying schools in France.

Pau is a commune overlooking the Pyrenees in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France


Painting posted by Ognyan Hristov to the Artists of the First World War Facebook Group

Sunday 26 May 2024

Felix Lloyd Powell (1878 – 1942) – Welsh composer

Felix Lloyd Powell was born on 23rd May 1878 in St. Asaph, Wales.  His parents were John Morris Powell and his wife, Sarah Snelson Powell, nee Hill.

During the First World War Felix served in the British Army as a Staff Sergeant. 

Felix is most famous for writing the music for the WW1 marching song "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile” in 1915. The lyrics to the song were written by his brother George Henry Powell (1880 – 1951) - under the pen name George Asaf.   

The song was entered into a competition for "best morale-building song". It won first prize and was noted as "perhaps the most optimistic song ever written".

Friday 3 May 2024

New Zealand Troops on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, UK in WW1

With thanks to John Daniel who sent me a message about ANZAC Day that prompted this reseach

Sling Camp was a military camp near the town of Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, UK, occupied by New Zealand soldiers during the First World War.   

Created in 1903 as an annexe to Bulford Camp, Sling Camp was originally named "Sling Plantation" after nearby woods. 

Soon after the beginning of the First World War, New Zealand troops started work on building wooden huts there. They were later joined by Canadian troops, joiners, bricklayers, and civilian workers. The word "Plantation" was dropped from the title and it became Sling Camp. After building was completed, it was said that if each hut were placed end-to-end they would measure 6 miles.

In 1916, the camp was occupied by New Zealand forces and was then known as Anzac Camp by some. It comprised four main sections: Auckland, Wellington, Otago, and Canterbury Lines. It was officially called the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade Reserve Camp, and trained reinforcements and casualties who were regaining fitness.

Ten New Zealand soldiers were killed when they were hit by a train at Bere Ferrers in southern England. The accident occurred as troops from the 28th Reinforcements for the NZ Expeditionary Force were being transported from Plymouth to Sling Camp.

To occupy them before deployment, the New Zealand soldiers were put to work carving the shape of a large Kiwi in the chalk of the hill that overlooks the camp. The Bulford Kiwi, as it is known, is still there today and as of 2007, the Kiwi has been maintained by the Ministry of Defence. In 2017 the chalk figure was designated as a scheduled monument.

In 1918, there were 4,300 men at Sling. Soon after this date the camp suffered large casualties as a result of the Spanish influenza.

The camp also housed fourteen New Zealand conscientious objectors (among them Archibald Baxter and his brothers Alexander and John), who had been forced into the army and sent all the way from New Zealand to England to make an example of them.

At the end of the war, there were 4,600 New Zealand troops stationed at the camp and it became a repatriation centre. At that time there was unrest in other camps as a result of delays in demobilising troops. To try to maintain order the "spit and polish" regime was enforced and route marches ordered. The men requested a relaxation of discipline as the war was over and they were far from home, however this was refused and the troops rioted, stealing food from the mess and all of the alcohol from the officers' mess, hundreds of New Zealand soldiers rioted. It was the most serious breakdown of discipline in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the European theatre.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, the officers and men were promised no repercussions, but this promise was not honoured; the ringleaders were arrested, jailed and immediately shipped back to New Zealand. 

Much of the original camp was demolished in the 1920s and replaced by newer buildings.


ANZAC DAY – remembered on 25th April annually.  25th April marks the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps forces during The First World War, at Gallipoli.

Cathy Sedgwick, who does the most wonderful work researching the ANZAC soldiers buried in the UK, has researched all 66 NZ War Graves in Codford (ANZAC) Cemetery, Wiltshire.  Cathey tells me there is a New Zealand War Graves Project -


Wednesday 24 April 2024

Adolphe Célestin Pégoud (1889 – 1915) – French aviator, flight instructor and fighter pilot Ace WW1.


Adolphe Célestin Pégoud was born on 13th June 1889 in Montferrat, France. Between 1907 and 1913 Adolphe served in the French Army. When he was discharged on 13th February 1913, he immediately began flying, and earned his pilot's licence on 1st March 1913. 

Adolphe became the first pilot to make a parachute jump from a plane. During the first jump, observing the unexpected path of the plane and particularly a loop-like trajectory, he was convinced he could reproduce and control the same in flight. After landing, Adolphe told reporters: "I've seen him, alone, looping the loop. So you see that this is possible. Also, I will try!"

As a test pilot for Louis Blériot, he devoted himself to that goal with a Blériot model XI monoplane in a series of test flights exploring the limits of airplane maneuvers. Having modified his plane, and after realistic "head down" ground training, he then flew the first inverted flight on 1st September 1913.

Adolphe became an instructor of pilots from France and other European countries.

When the First World War began, Adolph volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. On 5th February 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land. Soon he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July.

It is not known how many of Pégoud's victories involved destruction of enemy aircraft, as early air combat was rare enough to warrant credit for a forced landing. However, it is certain that Adolphe Pégoud, rather than Roland Garros (four documented victories, and later), was the first pilot to achieve ace status of any sort.

On 31 August 1915, Pégoud was shot down and killed by Unteroffizier Otto Kandulski (who had been his pupil) while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He was 26 years old. The same German crew later dropped a funeral wreath behind the French lines. Two weeks later, Kandulski was shot down by the French pilot Roger Ronserail, earning Ronserail the title "Le Vengeur de Pégoud" ("The avenger of Pégoud").

Photograph:  Adolphe Pégoud being awarded the Croix de Guerre

Monday 22 April 2024

James Thomas Byford McCudden, VC, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar, MM (1895 - 1918) was a British flying ace of the First World War and among the most highly decorated airmen in British military history.

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

Born on 28th March 1895 in Chatham, Kent, UK, James Thomas Byford McCudden’s parenst were  William Henry McCudden, A Master Sergeant in the Royal Engineers Regiment, and his wife, Amelia Emma McCudden, nee Byford.  

The McCudden family went to live in Sheerness in 1909 and James transferred to the Garrison School. He learned to shoot at the rifle range, learnt to box and was a reasonably intelligent student.

James joined the Royal Engineers in 1910. Having an interest in mechanics he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1913, during which time he first came into regular contact with aircraft. At the outbreak of war in 1914 James flew as an observer before training as a fighter pilot in 1916.

James claimed his first victory in September 1916 flying the Airco DH.2. He claimed his fifth victory — making him an Ace — on 15th February 1917. For the next six months he served as an instructor and flew defensive patrols over London. He returned to the frontline in summer 1917 flying the S.E.5a. That same year he dispatched a further 31 enemy aircraft while claiming multiple victories in one day on 11 occasions. 

With his six British medals and one French, James McCudden received more awards for gallantry than any other airman of British nationality serving in the First World War. He was also one of the longest serving. By 1918, in part due to a campaign by the “Daily Mail” newspaper, James became one of the most famous airmen in the British Isles.

At the time of his death, James had achieved 57 aerial victories, placing him seventh on the list of the war's most successful aces. Just under two-thirds of his victims can be identified by name. The majority of his successes were achieved with 56 Squadron RFC and all but five were shot down while he was flying the S.E.5a. 

On 9th July 1918, James was killed in a flying accident when his aircraft crashed on takeoff due to engine failure. His rank at the time of his death was major, a significant achievement for a man who had begun his career in the RFC as an air mechanic. James Thomas Byford McCudden, VC, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar, MM was buried in the British War Cemetery at Beauvoir-Wavans, Pas de Calais, France. 


A flying ace, fighter ace or air ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The exact number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an ace is varied, but is usually considered to be five or more.

Sources:  Information supplied by John Daniel, Find my Past, FreeBMD

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

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Walter Tull (1888 – 1918) – professional footballer

With thanks to John Daniel for this information 

Born in Folkestone, Kent, UK, on 28th April 1888, Walter’s parents were Barbadian carpenter Daniel Tull and  his wife, Kent-born Alice Elizabeth, nee Palmer. His paternal grandfather was a slave in Barbados. His maternal English grandmother was from Kent. 

Walter began his education at North Board School, now Mundella Primary School, Folkestone.

In 1895, when Tull was seven, his mother died of cancer. A year later his father married Alice's cousin, Clara Palmer. She gave birth to a daughter Miriam, on 11th September 1897. Three months later, Daniel died from heart disease. The stepmother was unable to cope with five children so the resident minister of Folkestone's Grace Hill Wesleyan Chapel, recommended that the two boys of school age, Walter and Edward, should be sent to an orphanage. From the age of 9, Walter was brought up in the (Methodist) Children's Home and Orphanage (now known as Action for Children) in Bethnal Green, London. Edward was adopted by the Warnock family of Glasgow, becoming Edward Tull-Warnock; he qualified as a dentist, the first mixed-heritage person to practise that profession in the United Kingdom.

Walter’s professional football career began after he was spotted playing for top amateur club, Clapton. He had signed for Clapton in October 1908, reportedly never playing in a losing side. By the end of the season he had won winners' medals in the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup. In March 1909 the Football Star called him "the catch of the season". At Clapton, he played alongside Clyde Purnell and Charlie Rance.

At the age of 21, Tull signed for Football League First Division team, Tottenham Hotspur, in the summer of 1909, after a close-season tour of Argentina and Uruguay, making him the first mixed-heritage professional footballer to play in Latin America. Walter made his debut for Tottenham in September 1909 at inside forward against Sunderland and his home Football League debut against FA Cup-holders, Manchester United, in front of over 30,000 people.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, Walter became the first Northampton Town player to enlist in the British Army, in December of that year. He served in the two Football Battalions of the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment, the 17th and 23rd, and also in the 5th Battalion. Promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant, Walter fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Walter was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 30th May 1917  becoming one of the first mixed-heritage infantry officers in a regular British Army Regiment.

With the 23rd Battalion, Walter fought on the Italian Front from 30 November 1917 to early March 1918. He was praised for his "gallantry and coolness" by Major-General Sydney Lawford, General Officer Commanding 41st Division, having led 26 men on a night-raiding party, crossing the fast-flowing rapids of the Piave River into enemy territory and returning them unharmed.

The 23rd Battalion returned to northern France on 8th March 1918 and Walter was killed in action near the village of Favreuil in the Pas-de-Calais on 25th March during the First Battle of Bapaume, the early stages of the German Army's Spring Offensive. His body was never recovered, despite the efforts of, among others, Private Tom Billingham, a former goalkeeper for Leicester Fosse to return him to the British position while under fire.

Walter Tull Way in Northampton,  leading to the Cobblers Football stadium is named in memory of Walter. 

Sir Geoffrey Langdon Keynes (1887 – 1982) - British surgeon and author.


Born on 25th March 1887 in Cambridge, UK, Geoffrey’s parents were John Neville Keynes, an economics lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and his wife, Florence Ada, nee Brown, a successful author and social reformer. Geoffrey was their third child - his older brother, who became an economist, was John Maynard Keynes, he had a sister - Margaret, who married the Nobel Prize–winning physiologist Archibald Hill.

Geoffrey was initially educated at Rugby School, where he became friends with the poet Rupert Brooke.  Geoffrey went  on to study at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he earned a first-class degree in the Natural Sciences Tripos. He was later made an honorary fellow of Pembroke College. Geoffrey then qualified for a scholarship to become a surgeon with the Royal College of Surgeons in London.   However, he delayed his medical studies to serve during the war, when he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  

Geoffrey began his career as a physician during the First World War, before becoming a doctor at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, where he made notable innovations in the fields of blood transfusion and breast cancer surgery. 

After Rupert Brooke’s death n 1915, Geoffrey was appointed literary executor for Rupert's estate.


Colonel Richard Davies Garnons Williams (1856 – 1915) – Welsh Rugby International player and soldier

Born on 15th June 1856 in Hay, Breconshire, Wales, UK, Richard’s parents were Garnons Williams, an Anglican priest and Vicar of Brecon and Justice of the Peace for Breconshire, and his wife, and Catherine Frances Williams, nee Hort. 

Initially educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, Richard went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1874. He represented Cambridge at rugby, but did not win a Blue. In 1881, Richard played in the first Wales international rugby union match.

Deciding to follow a military career Richard was accepted into the Royal Military College Sandhurst, and is also recorded as representing the Sandhurst rugby team. He completed his officer training in 1876, and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant on 26 February. 

Richard was posted to the 38th Regiment of Foot, promoted Lieutenant on 17th January 1877, and a month later, on 17th February 1877, transferred to the 7th Regiment of Foot.

By February 1885 Richard had been promoted to Captain, and his unit had been renamed the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

In 1885, Richard married Alice Jessie Bircham on 8 January 1885 in Chelsea, London. They had a daughter, Frances Mary Barbara, born in 1890, and a son, Roger Fenton Garnons, born in 1891, who played first-class cricket and served in the army.  Barbara Gagnons Williams is one of the schoolchildren poets featured in a new book - "Poetry Written By School Pupils during the First World War" - on pages 58 - 61.  The book will shortly be available to purchase - see book list.

On 10th January 1887 Richard was appointed adjutant of the 4th Battalion of the regiment, the Militia unit of the regiment. He retired from the regular army on 4th May 1892. On 8th August 1894 he was commissioned Major in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, South Wales Borderers, and on 1st  November 1895 was appointed Brigade Major for the South Wales Brigade of the Volunteer Force. On 12th July 1899 he was granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He resigned his Volunteer commission on 26 May 1906, retaining his rank and with permission to continue wearing his uniform.

Richard rejoined the British Army shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and was posted to his original regiment, joining the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a Major on 26th September 1914.  He was promoted temporary Leutenant Colonel on 3rd October 1914, and transferred back to the South Wales Borderers to command the Brecknockshire Battalion.

Posted back to 12th Royal Fusiliers Richard was killed on 25th September 1915 while leading his Battalion at the Battle of Loos. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.  At 59 years of age, he was the eldest of the 13 Wales International players to be killed during the First World War.

Sources: Find my Past, FreeBMD, Wikipedia

Friday 15 March 2024

Lou Phillips (1878 - 1916) – Welsh Rugby International and golfer

With thanks to John Daniel for finding this information for us 

Lou Phillips was a former Welsh rugby international who also won the Welsh Amateur Golfing Championship in 1907 and 1912

Lewis or Louis Augustus Phillips was born at Stow Hill, in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, on 24th February 1878.  His parents were Charles Phillips, a Cornmerchant, and his wife, Rose Phillips, nee Hancock. Lou had the following siblings: John Frederick Phillips, b.1874, Herbert Leonard Phillips, b. 1876 and Charles A. Phillips, b.1881.

Educated at Monmouth Grammar School, Lou went on to become an architect. In 1907 and again in 1912, Lou was Welsh Amateur golf champion. He was also runner-up for the Irish Amateur Open Championship in 1913, and in the following year he was beaten in the sixth round of The Amateur Championship. 

When the First World War started Lou enlisted in the 20th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, and, after refusing a commission, he served as a Sergeant. Posted to France with his unit on 16th  November 1915, on the night of 14th March 1916, while out with a wiring party, Lou was shot through the chest and killed near Cambrin, France. He is buried in Cambrin Churchyard Extension, Grave Reference:  L1 10B.

Note: The 20th Royal Fusiliers was one of four battalions of the regiment raised in 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men’s Force.

Sources: Information supplied by John Daniel, Find my Past, FreeBMD and Wikipedia

Thursday 14 March 2024

Sir John Reeve Brooke (1880-1937) - Staff Captain D.A.A.G. 1915-17, Vice-Chairman of the Electricity Commission, Principal Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Transport 1920-23; Secretary 1923-27


With thanks to Rupert Brooke Remembered Facebook Page for finding this information for us

John Reeve Brooke was born in London in 1880 – the birth being registered in the third quarter of that year.  His parents were John Reeve Brooke (1848-1932), a Barrister, and his wife, Charlotte Mary, nee Baldwin-Browne. John Reeve Brooke Senior was the son of the Reverend Richard England Brooke (1821-1900) and the brother of William Parker Brooke (1850-1910), Rupert Brooke’s father – the famous poet Rupert Brooke was seven years younger than his cousin John.    

Young John Reeve Brooke was educated at Haileybury College School in Hertfordshire before going on to study at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University.

On the 1911 Census we find John staying in Surrey and described as a Journalist.  He joined the National Health Insurance Commission in 1912 as secretary (assistant) to its head - Robert Morant - who had been given the unprecedented task of organising the registration and collection of insurance contributions from 15 million people. Morant also had to bring in agreements with doctors to implement a national system of general practitioners. The experience gained by Brooke working on the most ambitious Government project dependent on the collection of personal and other related information to date, would surely have had an impact on his approach to his  work for Fabian Ware.

Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, KCVO, KBE, CB, CMG.

During the First World War, Ware was too old to fight so instead he commanded a mobile Red Cross unit on the Western Front.  He was appalled at the number of casualties and his unit began to record all the graves they came across.   In 1915, this initiative was officially recognized by the British Government and was incorporated into the British Army as the “Graves Registration Commission”.

John worked with Major General Sir Fabian Ware from the early days of the Mobile Unit.  He joined the Unit on 2nd October 1914 and became the Unit’s Adjutant, or officer in charge of key elements of its personnel and financial administration. His role in the Mobile Unit, as well as recording much of the detail in the early surviving Unit Diaries, was that of administrator and financial manager. For example in a diary entry for Wednesday 16 December 1914 Brooke is recorded as having spent time sorting out longer term arrangements for the finances for the Unit with a Red Cross Official in Boulogne.

In common with the rest of the officers of the Mobile Unit, John was given a so called local rank (a temporary rank in the Army on the Western Front) in late February 1915 (Lieutenant) and then a formal Army commission as Captain at the end of September 1915, slightly ahead of the rest of the Commission with its transfer to the Army in October of that year.

In 1920, John married Dorothy Lamb (1887 – 1967) who worked for various British Government Departments during the First World War. 

John Reeve Brooke was knighted on 16th February 1928 - dubbed at Buckingham Palace. 

He died in 1937.

Original Source:  Post on Rupert Brooke Remembered Facebook Page:

Additional information from:

 Find my Past, FreeBMD,

Obituary in the “Hampstead News” of 08 April 1937

Sir John Reeve Brooke (1880-1937)

Find a Grave

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Jack Warner, OBE (1895 - 1981) - British actor

 Jack Warner, OBE (born Horace John Waters; 24 October 1895 – 24 May 1981) was a British actor. He is closely associated with the role of PC George Dixon, which he played in the 1950 film The Blue Lamp and later in the television series Dixon of Dock Green from 1955 until 1976, but he was also for some years one of Britain's most popular film stars. 

Born Horace John Waters in Bromley-by-Bow, Poplar, London, UK on 24th October 1895, his parents were Edward William Waters, a master fulling maker and undertaker's warehouseman, and his wife, Maud Mary, nee Best.  Jack's sisters, Elsie and Doris Waters, became comediennes who usually performed as "Gert and Daisy”.

Educated at the Coopers' Company's Grammar School for Boys in Mile End, Jack went on to study automobile engineering at the Northampton Institute (now part of the City University, London) but being more practical than academic he left after a year to work at the repair facilities of F.W. Berwick and Company in Balham.

During the First World War, Jack served in France as a driver in the Royal Flying Corps and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1918. He returned to England and the motor trade in 1919, driving hearses and occasionally racing cars at Brooklands, where he maintained and sometimes raced Henrietta Lister's Aston Martin. 

Jack became a professional entertainer in music hall and in radio shows. In 1933, Jack married company secretary Muriel Winifred ("Mollie"), daughter of independently wealthy Roberts Peters

By the early years of the Second World War, Jack had become nationally known and starred in a BBC radio comedy show.  He died in 1981 and his role of Dixon of Dock Green in the television series was held in such high esteem that officers from Paddington Green Police Station bore the coffin at his funeral.

Friday 8 March 2024

Jack Benny (1894 – 1974) – American entertainer

Born Benjamin Kubelsky on 14th February 1894 in Chicago, he was the son of Meyer Kubelsky (1864–1946), who was from Poland, and his wife Emma Sachs Kubelsky (1869–1917), who was from Lithuania.  The family lived in Waukegan, an industrial suburb of Chicago, Illinois, USA.  Benny began studying the violin when he was six years old.  

However, he was a dreamer and poor at his school studies, and was expelled from high school.   In 1911, he began playing the violin in local vaudeville theaters.

Benny left show business briefly in 1917 to join the United States Navy during World War I, often entertaining fellow sailors with his violin playing. One evening, his violin performance was booed by the sailors, so with prompting from fellow sailor and actor Pat O'Brien, he ad-libbed his way out of the jam and left them laughing. He received more comedy spots in the revues and did well, earning a reputation as a comedian and musician.

HJack Benny's radio and television programmes, popular from 1932 until his death in 1974, were a major influence on the sitcom genre. Benny often portrayed his character as a miser who played his violin badly and ridiculously claimed to be 39 years of age, regardless of his actual age.

Jack Benny died on 26th December 1974. 

George Burns (1896 – 1996) – American comedian, actor, writer, and singer,

Born Nathan Birnbaum on 20th January 1896, in New York City, he was the ninth of 12 children born to Hadassah "Dorah" (née Bluth; 1857–1927) and Eliezer Birnbaum (1855–1903), known as Louis or Lippa.  

Drafted into the United States Army when the United States of America entered the First World War in 1917, he failed the physical examination because he was extremely nearsighted. By the early 1920s, he adopted the stage name "George Burns".

He met actress Gracie Allen in 1922 and they first performed together at the Hill Street Theatre in Newark, New Jersey, continued in small town vaudeville theaters and were married in Cleveland on 7th January 1926,

George Burns was one of the few entertainers whose careers successfully spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television.  

After a long and very successful career, George died on 9th March 1996.

Friday 23 February 2024

Sir Arthur Frederick Blakiston, 7th Baronet, MC (1892 - 1974) - International Rugby Union player and WW1 soldier

With grateful thanks to John Daniel for spotting the plaque at the Northampton Saints Rugby Club open day, taking a photograph and researching Sir Arthur for us. 

Arthur Frederick Blakiston, known as “Freddie”, was born on 16th June 1892 in West Derby, Lancashire, a suburb of Liverpool.  His parents were Frederick Turnly Blakiston and his wife Eleanor Isabella, nee Fitzgerald.

Arthur was initially educated at Bedford School and joined Trent College in March 1903. Before leaving school in 1908, he had served as a School Monitor and Librarian and had proved to be an excellent sportsman. He went on to study at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. 

Arthur served during the First World War in the King Edward’s Horse Regiment, then as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery. He was awarded the Military Cross in September 1918 when an ammunition column under his command came under fire in Belgium. Despite being under constant shelling, Arthur rescued wounded men and managed to deliver ammunition to the front line.

After the war Arthur worked as a schoolmaster at the Grammar School in Northampton.

As a rugby union international wing, Arthur represented England twelve times between 1920 and 1925, and the British Lions in all four test matches during their 1924 tour of South Africa. He played as a Lock/Flanker for: Bedford School, Trent College, Cambridge University, Northampton, Liverpool, Blackheath, Barbarians, East Midlands, Lancashire and Surrey. Freddie Blakiston was one of the greatest forwards Northampton Saints ever produced.

Arthur inherited his title, becoming Sir Arthur Frederick Blakston, Seventh Baronet in 1941 and died in Salisbury, Witshire on 31st January 1974.

Since 2018, Nothampton Saints’ playing squad takes part in an annual pre-season challenge in Blakiston’s honour – which has so far been won by Dan Biggar, Reuben Bird-Tulloch, Piers Francis and Alex Coles (twice).

Sources:  Information supplied by John Daniel, Find my Past, FreeBMD,