HotFreeBooks.com
Letters from Mesopotamia
by Robert Palmer
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

About 3.30 p.m. we advanced, and reached the aforesaid fort a little before sunset. Here we heard various alarming and depressing reports, the facts underlying which, as far as I can make out at present, were these. The Turks, seeing their left flank being turned, quitted their position and engaged the outflanking force, leaving only about 500 out of their 9,000 to hold the canal. Our outflanking force, finding itself heavily engaged, sent and asked the frontal force to advance, to relieve the pressure. The frontal force, hearing at the same time that the Turks had quitted their Canal trenches, advanced too rashly and were surprised and heavily punished by the remnant left along the Canal, losing half their force and being obliged to retire. So when they met us they naturally gave us the impression that there was a large force still holding the Canal, which we should have to tackle in the morning.

We dug ourselves in about 2,000 yards from the Canal. It was very cold and windy, and we had not even a blanket, though I had luckily brought both my greatcoat and Burberry. There was a small mud hut just behind our trench, littered with Turkish rags. The signallers made a fire inside, and two stray Sikhs had rolled themselves up in a corner. It was not an inviting spot, but it was a choice between dirt and cold, and I had no hesitation in choosing dirt. So after a chill dinner, at which I drank neat lime-juice and neat brandy alternately (to save my water-bottle intact), I turned into the hut. The other officers (except North) at first disdained it with disgust, but as the night wore on they dropped in one by one, till by midnight we were lying in layers like sardines. The Colonel was the last to surrender. I have a great admiration for him. He is too old for this kind of game, and feels the cold and fatigue very much: but he not only never complains, but is always quietly making the best of things for everyone and taking less than his share of anything good that is going. Nothing would induce him, on this occasion, to lie near the fire.

14th, Friday. The night having passed more pleasantly than could have been expected, we stood to arms in the trenches at 5.30 a.m. This is a singularly unpleasing process, especially when all you have to look forward to is the prospect of attacking 9,000 Turks in trenches behind a Canal! But one's attention is fully occupied in trying to keep warm.

As soon as it was light we got orders to advance and marched in artillery formation to within 1,200 yards of the Canal, where we found some hastily begun trenches of the day before, and proceeded to deepen them. As there was no sign of the enemy, the conviction grew on us that he must have gone in the night; and presently the order came to stop entrenching and form a line to clear up the battlefield, i.e. the space between us and the Canal. This included burying the dead and picking up wounded, as the stretcher parties which had tried to bring the wounded in during the night had been heavily fired on and unable to get further than where we were.

I had never seen a dead man and rather dreaded the effect on my queasy stomach; but when it came to finding, searching and burying them one by one, all sense of horror—though they were not pleasant to look upon—was forgotten in an overmastering feeling of pity, such as one feels at the tragic ending of a moving story, only so oppressive as to make the whole scene like a sad and impersonal dream, on which and as in a dream my mind kept recurring to a tableau which I must have seen over fifteen years ago in Madame Tussaud's of Edith finding the body of Harold after the battle of Hastings, and indeed the stiff corpses were more like waxen models than anything that had lived.

The wounded were by comparison a cheerful company, though their sufferings during the eighteen hours they had lain there must have been fearful: but the satisfaction of being able to bring them in was our predominant feeling.

In the middle of this work we were suddenly recalled and ordered to march to the support of the outflanking force, of whose movements we had heard absolutely nothing. But when we had fallen in, all they did was to march us to the Canal, and thence along it back to the river, where we encamped about 1 p.m. and still are.

It was a great comfort to be within reach of water again, though the wind and rain have made the river so muddy that a mug of water from it looks exactly like a mug of tea with milk in it.

The wind had continued unabated for two days and now blew almost a gale. The dust was intolerable and made any attempts at washing hopeless. Indeed one's eyes got so full of it the moment they were opened that we sat blinking like owls or shut them altogether. So it was a cheerless afternoon, with rain threatening. Our supply ship with our tents had not come up, but the Major (Stillwell) had a bivouac tent on the second line transport, which he invited me to share, an offer which I gladly accepted. We made it as air-tight as possible, and built a wall of lumps of hard-baked mud to protect us from snipers, and slept quite reasonably warm. It came on to rain heavily in the night, so I was lucky to be under shelter.

15th, Saturday. This morning it rained on and off till nearly noon, and the wind blew all day and the sun never got properly through: but the rain had laid the dust.

N.B.—With regard to parcels, none are arriving now, just when they're wanted. The fact is they have to economise their transport most rigidly. A staff officer told me that our supply of river-boats just enables one boat (with its pair of barges alongside) to reach us every day; our food for one day fills one entire barge, so that you can imagine there is not much room to spare after ammunition and other war material has been put on board. The mahila convoys are extra, but as they take several weeks to do the journey their help is limited.

I have just seen the padre who has been working in the field dressing station. In his station there were two doctors, two nursing orderlies and two native sweepers; and these had to cope with 750 white wounded for five days till they could ship them down the river. Altogether our casualties in the two battles have been well over 5,000, so the Turk has rather scored.

This afternoon news is ([Greek: a]) that we have got a new Brigadier. Our brigade manages its commanders on the principle of the caliph and his wives, and has not yet found a Sherazade. ([Greek: b]) that we have got a brigade M.O.O. ambulance. This is a luxury indeed. We are only just over twenty miles from C. now, so we hope to get through after one more battle.

16th, Sunday. Still in camp. No sun. More rain. Friday's gale and the rise in the river has scattered our only pontoon bridge, and Heaven knows when another will be ready. All our skilled bridge-builders are in C. The people here seem quite incapable of even bridging the Canal, twenty feet wide. Typical, very.

I want a new shaving brush—badger's hair, not too large.

Mail just going. Best love.

P.S.—We had a Celebration on a boat this morning, which I was very glad of, also a voluntary parade service.

* * * * *

LAST LETTER FROM R.P. TO L. PALMER GIVING STORY FROM JANUARY 12TH TO JANUARY 21ST.

I wrote you last week a summary of our doings during the battle of D. Now I will tell you what we have done since, though it is mostly unpleasant.

The evening after I posted last week's letter "D." Coy. had to find a firing party to shoot a havildar, a lance-naik and a sepoy for cowardice in face of the enemy. Thank goodness North and not I was detailed for it. They helped dig their own graves and were very brave about it. They lay down in the graves to be shot. Corp. Boughey was one of the party and when I condoled with him afterwards on the unpleasantness of the job, he replied, "Well, Sir, I 'ad a bit of rust in my barrel wanted shootin' out so it come in handy like"!

Thursday, 13th. We marched at 7 carrying food and water for two days. We were in support of the frontal containing force. The enemy were on the Canal, eight miles off. We marched about four miles and then halted, and waited most of the day for orders. A strong S.E. wind prevented us hearing anything of the battle but we could see a certain amount of shelling. About 3 p.m. we got orders to go up in support of the frontal force, which (we were told) had advanced, the enemy having abandoned the Canal. We marched another three miles to a fort, which stood about one and a quarter miles from the Canal, and from which we had driven the enemy in the morning. Here we waited till after dark, when we heard that the frontal force had blundered into a Turkish rearguard holding the Canal, and had lost heavily and been obliged to retire. It is these disconcerting surprises which try one's spirit more than anything else. We ate a cold and cheerless supper just beyond the fort, and then dug ourselves in, with other units of our brigade on either side of us. It was windy and very cold. There was a small and filthy hut with every mark of recent Turkish use, just behind the trench, but sooner or later every officer (I among the first) came to the conclusion that dirt was preferable to cold, and we all packed in round a fire which our signallers had lit there.

Friday, 14th. After a tolerable night we stood to arms at 5.30, a wholly displeasing process. As soon as it was light, we advanced to within 1,200 yds. of the Canal and started digging in. But it soon became clear that the enemy had cleared out in the night, so we stopped digging and started to clear up the battlefield, i.e., the space between us and the Canal. The stretcher parties had been out during the night, but they had been fired on so heavily that they could not get beyond the 1,200 yd. line, so there were wounded to pick up as well as dead to bury and equipment to collect. The dead were so pitiable that one quite forgot their ghastliness; but it was a gruesome job searching their pockets. The poor wounded had had a fearful time too, lying out in the cold all night, but the satisfaction of getting them in cheered one up. The ground was simply littered with pointed bullets.

In the middle of this job we were recalled and told to march to the support of our outflanking force; but by the time we were collected and fallen in the need for our assistance had apparently passed, for we were merely marched to the Canal and then along it to where it joins the river; where we have been ever since. We got into camp here soon after noon, and were very glad to be within reach of water again. The weather was the limit. It blew a gale all the afternoon, and the dust was so bad one could hardly open one's eyes. We had no tents, but the Major (Stilwell) had a bivouac and invited me in with him, which was a blessing as it rained all night.

Saturday, 15th. Rained all the morning on and off. Afternoon grey and cold. Nothing doing and no news. Sniping at night.

Sunday, 16th. Morning grey and cold. Rained all the afternoon and is still at it (8 p.m.). Padre held a celebration on one of the boats, and an open air voluntary parade service. Dug a bridge-head perimetre. We are waiting for the bridge. The gale and the river bust it.

Monday, 17th. Rained on and off all day. Grey, cold and windy. Ordered to cross river as soon as bridge is ready. Bridge reported ready 6 p.m. so we struck camp. We took only what blankets we could carry. When we reached the bridge, we found it not finished, and squatted till 8.15. Then the bridge was finished and immediately broke. So we had to come back to camp and bivouac. Luckily the officers tents were recoverable, but not the men's.

Tuesday, 18th. Rain stopped at 8 a.m. Whole place a sea of mud ankle deep, and slippery as butter. Nearly the whole bridge had been washed away or sunk in the night. We got men's tents from the ship, cleared spaces from mud and pitched camp again. Rain started again about 1 p.m. and continued till 4. The Canal or "Wadi" had meanwhile come down in heavy spate and broken that bridge, so we were doubly isolated. I went out to post piquets. It took two hours to walk three miles. Jubber Khan sick all day, so I had to manage for myself, helped by North's bearer. Foster being sick North is O.C. "D." Coy. and I share a 40lb. tent with him. He is 2/4th, son of the Duke of Wellington's Agent at Strathfieldsaye, but has served three years in N. Rhodesia, so is quite used to camp life.

Desultory bombardment all day.

Wednesday 19th. Sun at last; first fine day since Thursday last. Orders to cross Wadi as soon as bridge repaired. Crossed at 4 p.m. and camped in a dry place.

Thursday, 20th. Fair, sun, heavy bombardment all day. Post going.

* * * * *

ACCOUNT OF FIGHTING WHICH TOOK PLACE IN THE ATTACK ON THE TURKISH POSITION OF UM EL HANNA, ON JANUARY 21ST, 1916.

By an Officer who was There.

The Turkish position, which is about ten miles up stream from Shaikh Saad, is on the left bank of the Tigris. The position is a very strong one, thoroughly entrenched, with the river protecting its right flank and absolutely secured on its left flank by a very extensive marsh which stretches for miles.

Our camp was about five miles from the Turkish position (downstream) but our forward trenches were within about 1,000 yards of it.

On January 20th our guns bombarded the enemy's trenches at intervals during the day, and on the following morning at 3 a.m. we moved out of camp preparatory to the attack which was to commence about 6.30 a.m.

The —— Brigade was to push the main attack with the —— Brigade (ours) in support of it, whilst a third brigade was to make a holding attack on our right.

The leading brigade entrenched itself during the night within about 500 yards of the position, whilst our Regiment with one Indian Regiment formed the first line of supports. We were in our trenches about 1,000 yards from the enemy's position, ready to make the attack, by 6 a.m.

For some reason, which I do not know, the attack was delayed, and our guns did not open fire till 7.45 a.m. instead of 6.30 as originally intended.

At 7.55 a.m. after our guns had bombarded the enemy's trenches for only ten minutes the infantry were ordered to advance to the attack, our support line advancing at the same time.

Our Battalion, which consisted of three Companies (one Coy. being in Kut-el-Amara) advanced in three lines, "B" Coy. forming the first line under Lieut. Needham, "C" Coy. the second line under Capt. Page Roberts, and "D" Coy. the third line under Capt. North with Capt. the Hon. R. Palmer as his 2nd in command. Lt.-Col. Bowker was with the third line.

As soon as we left the trenches we were under a heavy rifle fire, and as we advanced this became more and more intense, with machine gun and shrapnel fire added. The ground was perfectly flat and open with no form of cover to be obtained, and our casualties soon became very heavy. We continued to advance till we got to within about 150 yards of the enemy's trenches, but by this time our casualties were so heavy that it was impossible to press home the attack without reinforcements, though at the extreme left of our line, our troops actually got into the first line of trenches, but were bombed out of them again by the Turks.

No reinforcements reached us, however, and we afterwards heard that the Regiment which should have come up in support of us was enfiladed from their right and was consequently drawn off in that direction. All we could do now was to hold on where we were, making what cover we could with our entrenching tools, and this we did until darkness came on, when we withdrew.

The weather had been terrible all that day and night, there being heavy rain with a bitterly cold wind coming off the snow hills. The ground became a sea of mud which made it most difficult to remove the wounded, and many of these had to lie out till the armistice was arranged the following day.

* * * * *

FURTHER DESCRIPTIONS OF THE FIGHT AT UM EL HANNA, BY EYE-WITNESSES.

By an Officer of the 4th Hants.

"The fighting on the 21st was a pure slaughter. It was too awful....

"The troops from France say that in all their experience there they never suffered so much from weather conditions.

"We were wet to the skin and there was a bitter wind coming off the snow hills. Many poor fellows died from exposure that night, I am afraid; and many of the wounded were lying out for more than twenty-four hours until the armistice was arranged the following day."

* * * * *

Another written down from a Private's account.

"The three Companies of Hampshires were in support, with two native Regiments, and a Battalion of Connaught Rangers. The Black Watch and Seaforths were in the firing line. The Hants men were next the river. The two native Regiments refused to leave their trenches when they saw the fierce fire from the machine guns. The Connaughts were fighting further off. So the Hampshire men were obliged to go on alone. 'We never made a rush, and just walked slowly through the rain. A slow march to our deaths, I call it.'"

He then said they had got mixed up with the Black Watch and got into the first Turkish trench, but had been driven out of it again. He saw Capt. Palmer fall about 200 yards from the trench but did not see whether he got up again, or where he was wounded.

* * * * *

THORNFIELD,

BITTERNE,

SOUTHAMPTON,

10th August, 1916.

DEAR LADY SELBORNE,

I have just received a letter from 2nd Lt. C.H. Vernon, 1/4 Hants (really 2/7 Hants attached) recording his search for my son's body on the 7th April, 1916, its discovery (as he believes) and its burial. He also adds that "at the same time he looked for Capt. Palmer's, but could not find him. It was afterwards that he heard of his death in the Turkish Camp," and he adds, "Some stories have come through from survivors as to how he lost his life. As far as we can gather, he was the only Hants officer actually to penetrate the Turkish trenches with a few men. That was on the extreme left close to the river. Our men, however, had not been supplied by the Indian Government with bombs. Consequently the Turks, being so provided, bombed them out, and only one or two men escaped capture or death. It was here that Capt. Palmer was mortally wounded while trying to rally his men to hold the captured sector."

I think you may like to have this extract about your gallant son.

(Signed) J.T. BUCKNILL.

* * * * *

42, PALL MALL,

LONDON, S.W.

8th March, 1916.

The Hampshires were informed that another Battalion was in front of them, and advanced without returning the hostile fire till they got to 1,000 yards from the Turkish trenches—they then found out that there were no British troops in front, so opened fire and advanced. The Connaught Rangers on their right remained behind when they found out the mistake. Two native Battalions in reserve refused to budge, although their officers threatened them with their revolvers. The artillery preparation proved insufficient, but the Hampshires got into shell holes and held on till dark. The medical arrangements broke down, there were insufficient stretcher-bearers, and no chloroform or sufficient bandages. No mention is made of the Arabs, however.

There were seventy-five rank and file returned as missing after the fight, and a subaltern, Lieut. Lester Garland, took over the command of the Battalion when my brother collapsed.

The Turks claimed to have captured five officers in one action, but there is so much "fog of war" in those parts that it is difficult to identify their claims.

(Signed) G.H. STILWELL.

* * * * *

42, PALL MALL.

LONDON, S.W.

1st May, 1916.

At the armistice to collect the wounded it was agreed that all officers and men that fell within 200 yards of the Turkish trenches should be picked up and retained by the Turks as prisoners, while all beyond that zone should be removed by us. Your son was seen within 100 yards of the Turkish trench when he fell, and it was reported that four of his men actually got inside the trench, but were driven out by bombs. My son was with the next platoon to yours, and Bucknill was a little further on. They were obviously well in front, and fell in the enemy's zone.

(Signed) G.H. STILWELL.

* * * * *

1/4TH HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT,

I.E.F. "D,"

C/O INDIA OFFICE, S.W.

20th February, 1916.

I received your cable enquiring about your son to-day, and have wired to the Adjutant General at the base at Basra enquiring whether he has any information not known to the Regiment, as I very much regret to say we have none whatever. All we know is that he started in the attack on the Turkish trenches on the 21st January and has not been seen since. I write to-day as the mail is leaving, but will cable as soon as I get a reply from the base. Out of 310 who went into the attack we had 288 casualties. Bucknill and a good many men are missing as well. There was great difficulty in getting the wounded back as it had to be done at night and the rain and mud were appalling.

There was an armistice next day, but we were not allowed to go within a certain distance of the Turkish trenches, so all wounded within that area are probably prisoners.

One other officer of ours was captured and we only found that out incidentally. There has been no official list of prisoners and I don't think the Army Headquarters here know who was taken. I don't know whether you would have the means of getting this from the Turks through the War Office. I believe attempts are being made here. I think there is a chance of his being a prisoner as the Regiment got pretty near the trenches, but I can get no information from any of our men. I will cable at once if I hear anything.

I saw yesterday a copy of the Pioneer (Allahabad) for January 30th, and that reported your son wounded. I hoped, therefore, that he had been sent to India and the medical people in this country had omitted to make any record of it, but I imagine in that case he would surely have cabled to you himself, and I fear the only hope is that he may be a prisoner of war.

Your son was attached to my Company latterly and besides being very keen and capable was a great favourite with the men, and we all miss him very much indeed. I hope your Lordship will accept my deepest sympathy in your anxiety, and I sincerely hope that your son may be safe.

(Signed) H.M. FOSTER,

Capt. 1/4th Hants Regt.

* * * * *

H.M.S. "MANTIS,"

May, 1916.

DEAR LORD SELBORNE.

I am more grieved than I can say to have given you the news which I telegraphed yesterday. I know how cruel the anxiety of doubt is, and telegraphed to you when I had the evidence which I and my friends here considered reliable.

About six days ago I went out to the Turks to discuss terms for the surrender of Kut. I spent the night in their camp and have been with them several times since then. I asked them for information about three names. About two of the names I could get little information. On the third day I received a message from Ali Jenab Bey, telling me that your son had died in hospital, and that all that could be done for him had been done, and asking me to tell you how deeply he sympathised with you. The next day Ali Jenab and two other Turks came into our camp. One of them, Mohammed Riza, a relation of Jenab Pashas, told me that your son had been brought in after the fight on the 21st, slightly wounded in the shoulder and badly wounded in the chest. He had been well looked after by the Doctors and the Colonel of the Regiment (I could not find out which Regiment) had visited him, and at the Doctor's wish sent him some brandy. He did not suffer and the end came after four hours.

It is useless to try to tell you how sorry I feel for you and all of yours. In this campaign, which in my mind has been the most heroic of all, many of our men who have given their lives have suffered very long and very terribly, and when one hears of a friend who has gone, one is glad in this place, to know that he has been spared that sacrifice.

I am,

Yours very sincerely,

(Signed) AUBREY HERBERT.

* * * * *

APPENDIX I.

THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE TAKEN FROM SIR PERCY LAKE'S DESPATCH TO THE WAR OFFICE, PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 1916.

It will be noticed that it differs from the private accounts in one or two particulars.

1st phase—January 19—23.

After the battle of Wadi River General Aylmer's leading troops had followed the retreating Turks to the Umm-el-Hannah position, and entrenched themselves at the mouth of the defile, so as to shut the enemy in and limit his power of taking the offensive.

The weather at this period was extraordinarily unfavourable. Heavy rains caused the river to come down in flood and overflow its banks, and converted the ground on either bank into a veritable bog.

Our bridge across the Wadi was washed away several times, while the boisterous winds greatly interfered with the construction of a bridge across the Tigris, here some 400 yards in width.

It was essential to establish Artillery on the right bank of the Tigris, so as to support, by enfilading fire, the attack of our Infantry against the Hannah position.

Guns and troops were ferried across, with difficulty, owing to the high wind and heavy squalls of rain, but by the 19th all troops allotted to the right bank had crossed over and were established in the positions from which they were required to co-operate with the main force on the left bank.

Meanwhile, the leading Infantry Brigades on the left bank had pushed nearer the enemy. January 20th was devoted to a systematic bombardment of his position, and during the night the Infantry pushed forward their advanced line to within 200 yards of the enemy's trenches.

On the morning of the 21st, under cover of an intensive Artillery bombardment, our Infantry moved to the attack. On our right the troops got to within 100 yards of the enemy's line, but were unable to advance further. Our left column, consisting of the Black Watch, 6th Jats, and 41st Dogras, penetrated the front line with a rush, capturing trenches, which they held for about an hour and a half. Supports were sent forward, but, losing direction and coming under heavy fire, failed to reach them. Thus, left unsupported, our previously successful troops, when Turkish counter-attacks developed, were overwhelmed by numbers and forced to retire.

Heavy rain now began to fall and continued throughout the day. Telephone communication broke down, and communication by orderly became slow and uncertain.

After further artillery bombardment the attack was renewed at 1 p.m., but by this time the heavy rain had converted the ground into a sea of mud, rendering rapid movement impossible. The enemy's fire was heavy and effective, inflicting severe losses, and though every effort was made, the assault failed.

Our troops maintained their position until dark and then slowly withdrew to the main trenches which had been previously occupied, some 1,300 yards from those of the enemy.

As far as possible all the wounded were brought in during the withdrawal, but their sufferings and hardships were acute under the existing climatic conditions, when vehicles and stretcher-bearers could scarcely move in the deep mud.

To renew the attack on the 22nd was not practicable. The losses on the 21st had been heavy, the ground was still a quagmire and the troops exhausted. A six hours' armistice was arranged in order to bury the dead and remove the wounded to shelter.

I cannot sufficiently express my admiration for the courage and dogged determination of the force engaged. For days they bivouacked in driving rain on soaked and sodden ground. Three times they were called upon to advance over a perfectly flat country, deep in mud, and absolutely devoid of cover, against well-constructed and well-planned trenches, manned by a brave and stubborn enemy approximately their equal in numbers. They showed a spirit of endurance and self-sacrifice of which their country may well be proud.

* * * * *

APPENDIX II.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS FROM OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE 6TH HANTS.

Your son was universally liked and respected by all ranks in this Battalion, and one and all will regret his death and loss as much as I do, who knew his sterling worth. His memory will be ever cherished by his brother officers with whom he was so popular.

(Signed) F.H. PLAYFAIR, Col.

I was indeed sorry to receive your letter which my brother sent on to me, giving the news of your son's death from his wounds in the Turkish trenches. I had great hopes that his wound might have been a slight one.

May I offer Lady Selborne and yourself the most sincere sympathy both of the Regiment and myself in this most sad loss which has come to you. I can assure you both officers and men of the Regiment will miss him tremendously as he was so popular with all.

(Signed) W. B. STILWELL, Major.

—— shewed me the wire about Robert yesterday morning. I can't tell you how sorry I feel for you all. I know I have never lost anyone who meant anything like so much to me, and I am sure that his friendship was one of the greatest blessings for me, in every way, that God could have given me.

When a fellow not only has such ideals but actually lives up to them with the determination and consistency with which Robert did, I think there is something very triumphant about his life. Anyway I know that his influence will live on, not in his friends alone, but in everyone with whom he came in contact. I wish you could know what a tremendous lot people thought of him in the Regiment, both officers and men, some of whom had little in common with him.

With deepest sympathy for you all.

Yours very sincerely, (Signed) PUREFOY CAUSTON.

FROM A PRIVATE SOLDIER.

I had only seen that Robert Palmer had been wounded; the issue giving the subsequent and very terrible report had escaped me. I am more sorry than I can well express. Though I didn't know him personally yet it didn't take long to recognise him as one of the great strengths in the Battalion, it was noticeable from the very first, from the way he handled his Company and went about working for them—on the "Ultonia" it struck me.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS FROM SCHOOL AND COLLEGE FRIENDS.

Accept my most grateful thanks for your kind words of sympathy. As you say, this war, with all its terrible consequences, "had to be," and it is some comfort to us to know that our sons, meant for other things than violence, took their part in it serenely and cheerfully, with no misgivings.

I often think of your dear boy and of what he said about the war in that sonnet. But what I most often think of him, as I can of my own son, is "Blessed are the pure in heart."

(Signed) A.K. COOK.

I had looked forward myself to a great career for him: he had so many qualities to ensure success: a sharp, keen mind, which proved its literary quality also at Oxford, an unfailing earnestness and high purpose and a white character: no one could deny the brilliance and the steadiness of his gifts.

(Signed) M.J. RENDALL.

I have just received the "Wykehamist War Roll" and The Wykehamist and in it find the sad news of your boy. I did not know definite news had been received and was still hoping. May I add my letter of sympathy to the many you will have had from all his friends, for though sympathy does not do much good it does sometimes help a little I believe, and say how very, very much I feel for you and Lady Selborne in your loss. He was my senior prefect my first year at "Cook's," and there never was a kinder, fairer and more liked prefect by the small boys all the time I was there, and indeed I think I have never met a better fellow anywhere.

(Signed) F. LUTTMAN-JOHNSON.

I have only just learned from the announcement in to-day's papers that you have no longer any ground for hoping against hope. I did not mean to write to you, but the sense of the loss and of how England will miss him in the years to come has been so strongly in my mind all day that I thought perhaps you would not mind my trying to put it into words. I did not see very much of him, but I have never forgotten the first impression of him that I got as external examiner at Winchester, when he was in Sixth Book and how I felt he was marked out for big work, and I had always looked forward to getting to know him better. It makes one feel very, very old when those on whom one relied to carry on one's work and ideas are taken. But it is a happiness—or at least a sort of shining consolation—to think that one will always remember him as radiantly young. I have lost so many pupils who will never grow up and always be just pupils.

Please do not think of replying and pardon this intrusion.

(Signed) A. ZIMMERN.

Bobby was gold all through—for head and heart one in a million. Of all the undergraduates I have known at Oxford during my twenty years of work there, he struck me as most certain by reason of his breadth and sobriety of judgment, intellectual force and sweetness of disposition to exercise a commanding influence for good in the public affairs of the country. Everyone admired and liked him and I know that his influence among his contemporaries, an influence exercised very quietly and unobtrusively, was quite exceptional from the very first.

(Signed) HERBERT FISHER.

Those of us who knew Bobby at Univ. and saw him afterwards in London knew that one way or another he would give his life to the country. The war has only determined the manner of his giving and made the life much shorter, but his memory the more abiding.

(Signed) ALEC PATERSON, 2nd Lieut.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse