This November Adam Walsh, our Collections Engagement Officer, will be telling the stories of some of our places and their links to the First World War as part of the annual armistice commemoration, In this blog, Adam continues talking about our places and their personal links to the Great War.
As war erupted across Europe, men answered the call to arms. Starting with a force of less than 250,000 regulars, the British Army would absorb over five million men by 1918. The war would eventually touch almost every family in the country. Many of our places have emotional stories linked with the Great War.
Rudyard Kipling, whose family home is Bateman’s, saw the war at first as a sort of relief. He had long prophesised it, Germany’s rivalry with England had been an obsessive anxiety for Kipling since the Boer War. He proclaimed “We must demand that every fit young man come forward to enlist and that every young man who chooses to remain at home be shunned by his community”.
“For All We Have and Are”
For all we have and are,
For all our children’s fate,
Stand up and meet the war.
The Hun is at the gate!
Our world has passed away
In wantonness o’erthrown.
There is nothing left to-day
But steel and fire and stone.
By Rudyard Kipling
Among those who enlisted was Kipling’s son John. Despite John’s chronic short sightedness Kipling was able to use his influence to secure a commission for him in the Irish Guards. John was declared missing in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Only later discovering that John had been killed after having spent many years hoping that he had been taken prisoner, the news had a lasting effect on Kipling who wrote “and if they question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied”. John Kipling’s death also inspired the poem My Boy Jack.
The War was not only fought on the battlefield, but also at home. Lord Onslow of Cliveden Park enlisted in 1915 as an intelligence officer. During the course of the war he compiled all office instructions and orders he received about sending communiqués. This became known as ‘Onslow’s Bible to Intelligence Officers’. At the end of the war he was a colonel in charge of censorship and publicity in France, received the legion d’honneur for his work and was also mentioned in dispatches on three occasions.
Lieutenant the Hon. William Reginald Wyndham, known as Reggie, of Petworth House also answered the call of King and Country in 1914. Having served in the Boer War, at 39 he re-enlisted as a Lieutenant with the 1st Life Guards serving with the 7th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division part of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe. Reggie was killed in action on the 6th November 1914, only 4 months after the start of the war.
Reggie was buried in Zillebeke cemetery near Ypres in Belgium. At the front of the cemetery there are two special memorials which commemorate soldiers whose graves were destroyed by shellfire. One memorial belongs to Reggie and a second belongs to Private William Stewart of the Royal Scots, who died on the 16th December 1915. Men from two extremes of the social spectrum, both who answered the call of King and Country, both making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Next week I will conclude by looking at the links our places have to memorials of the Great War.