David Childs

April was a cruel month. With the 'world's greatest battle' continuing at Verdun as the Germans determined to bleed France dry, pressure mounted on the British to assist by an attack further North, near the Somme. Elsewhere, in April, the British army at Kut, south of Baghdad, surrendered to the Turks, while in Ireland the Easter rising which began on 24th lasted just one week - the British response having a more lasting effect than the uprising itself. Of equal lasting significance, the French and Russians signed the Sykes-Picot which would carve up the post war Ottoman Empire in a way that has contributed to the present troubles in Iraq and Syria.


On 9th April Private Ernest Hacker, 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment, died aged 23. He was the son of Charles and Mary Hacker of Stop Street, Tisbury. He was killed in the final attempt to relieve the 10,000 troops besieged in Kut when his battalion was repeatedly repulsed with heavy casualties. His name is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial in Iraq which records 40,000 British and Empire troops killed in that campaign in Mesopotamia and who have no known grave.


W B Yeats, the Irish poet, was against violence, seeing the pity of it, but also the inevitability, as in his great poem An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Shocked and saddened by the Easter rising, he penned one of his greatest works, Easter 1916, of which the first and last verse are recorded below.

Easter 1916
by W B Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

©  Tisbury History Society
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