December 1917


David Childs

Apart from the fighting in the Middle East December saw few major skirmishes. It was a month of political agreement and intrigue. The Bolsheviks negotiated an end to fighting on the eastern front where Finland declared independence from Russia. Elsewhere America and Cuba declared war on the Austro-Hungarian empire while Britain gave written assurances to the King of Hejaz (the Arabian Peninsula) that they would guarantee the future independence of Arabia a position for which disingenuous correspondence was necessary to disguise British and French perfidiousness.


Eighteen young men from Tisbury were killed in the fighting during 1917. Thankfully December brought a respite in local mourning but from March 1918 the sad news home continued right up until the Armistice. One of the more notable local casualties was that of Captain Harry Hoare of the Dorsetshire Yeomanry who was fatally injured in the fight for Jerusalem on 13th December. His doting parents, Henry and Alda Hoare, heard of the death of their only child and heir on Christmas Eve. They never recovered. As a result of their loss they bequeathed their grand house and garden at Stourhead to the National Trust for hundreds of thousands to enjoy each year.

The December Poem

The American poet John Gould Fletcher is considered by many literary scholars to be among the most innovative twentieth-century poets. He spent many formative years in Britain and Europe but returned to America on the outbreak of war. This poem appeared in the December 1917 edition of Poetry.

War's Angles

Queen Victoria's statue
Today is encircled
With a flourishing crop
Of early potatoes.

Thus the world changes,
And we change with it.

You are not utterly desolate,
War-tired soldiers.
You lie down in the churned mud,
Slaves in mud-colored garments.
The storm passes over your heads;
When it is over,
Whatever is left of you
Will get up and make a new world.

It is we who are desolate,
We older people;
Hearing the stale chatter
On life, love, art, the war.

We are the bitter ones
Who cannot smile;
For in our heart of hearts,
We know we are dried specimens in the museum
Of older things-

Dried specimens set under glass,
Soon to be peered at curiously by searching alien eyes

Let us never forget
Joy has two faces:
One soft and transient,
Broken by the lightest shadow;
Another one harder,
Time-worn and wrinkled,
Facing its pain,
As if fighting to get the last drop
Out of the cup.

Let us never forget
Sometimes to shrug our shoulders.
There is always this drift,
Always this chaos,
Always renewal.
Let us remember
That over this chaos
There is sometimes moonlight,
And sometimes dawn.

©  Tisbury History Society
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