David Childs

February 1915 was a quiet month for British troops on the Western Front although the French launched a fresh assault against the German lines in Champagne in which, after a month of fighting they broke off having sustained over 240,000 casualties. Similar casualties were suffered by the Russians in their massive defeat in the Masurian Lakes region of East Prussia. Elsewhere the British repelled an attack by the Turks against the Suez Canal, which was a vital link between Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India.

At the beginning of the month Germany declared a submarine blockade of the British Isles, meaning that they intended to sink ships without warning. Then, on 19 February the British fleet began bombarding the Turkish forts in the Dardanelles prior to their attempt to force a passage through in March.


Private(Driver) Edward Frederick Taylor, Army Service Corps, aged 18, died on 28 February 1915.
He was the grandson of Edward and Fanny Stevens of Hatch, Tisbury. He is buried in St John's Churchyard, Tisbury. There is no information available as to the cause of death.
He was attached to the 1st South Western Mounted Brigade, which included the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. This unit was initially deployed for the protection of Portsmouth, but was later dismounted and deployed in France as infantry.

Cecil Claude Taylor, Boy Telegraphist, Royal Navy, Service NumberJ/86916, HMS Renown, born 18 November 1901, died of disease on 22 September 1919, aged 17.
Buried in Port of Spain, Lapyrouse Cemetery, Trinidad and recorded on Port of Spain Memorial. Also recorded on gravestone of his brother. Edward in St John's Churchyard, Tisbury.
Son of Fanny Jane Shute of East End Cottage, Dinton, Wiltshire and Charles Frederick Taylor, died 1905. Grandson of Edward and Fanny Stevens of Hatch, Tisbury. Father and mother were living at 6, Beaujay Terrace, Lambeth, London when Cecil was baptized in February 1902. Father was a railway porter.


It is simple to separate First World War poetry written from emotional experience from that penned by onlookers. This was obviously the point that W B Yeats was making in February 1915, although he was later to write one of the great war poems 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death', dealing with the ambiguities of Irishmen serving in British uniforms. That same February Edward Thomas, who did not join up until July, was experiencing the unease of still being a civilian.

On Being Asked for a War Poem
by W B Yeats

I think it better that in times like these
A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter's night.

The Owl
by Edward Thomas

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved,
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the north wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl's cry, a most melancholy cry.

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my repose,
Salted and sobered too, by the bird's voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

©  Tisbury History Society
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