WORLD WAR ONE CENTENARY

OCTOBER 1916

TISBURY AND THE GREAT WAR

David Childs

In early October British troops landed at Salonika, despite the protests of the neutral Greek government. They were there in response to the deteriorating situation in the Balkans where Austria, Germany and Bulgaria had invaded Serbia. This new front influenced cabinet decisions on the management of the Gallipoli campaign and, after the appointment, on 15th of General Munro to succeed the failed General Hamilton there could be little doubt that Gallipoli would be abandoned. On the western front the 13th October saw the last large attack in the battle of Loos: among the casualties that day was the poet Charles Sorley. One day earlier the British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by the Germans - her heroism forever commemorated by her statue near Trafalgar Square. The inscription on it reads "Edith Cavell // Brussels // Dawn // October 12th 1915 // Patriotism is not enough // I must have no hatred or // bitterness for anyone." The last three lines of the inscription quote her comment to Reverend Stirling Gahan, an Anglican chaplain who was permitted to give her Holy Communion on the night before her execution. These words were initially left off, and added in 1924 at the request of the National Council of Women.

TISBURY'S FALLEN

On 12th October, twenty year old, Private Ernest A Tanner, of the Wiltshire Regiment died at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli. His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial. He was the son of Arthur and Mary Tanner of Swallowcliffe.

POEMS FOR OCTOBER

Written by Charles Hamilton Sorley who was born in Aberdeen but educated at Marlborough. He left in 1913 to continue his studies in Germany from where he was expelled when the war broke out. Joining the Suffolk Regiment he was posted to France in May 1915 and soon promoted to Captain. He died near Hulluch on 13 October during the last major offensive of the Battle of Loos and has no known grave. Many regarded his to be the greatest loss of all the poets killed during the war. On his memorial in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey are inscribed these words by Wilfred Owen, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." Sorley's last poem, 'When you see millions of the mouthless dead' was found in his kitbag after his death. 'Such is death' was written in June 1915 but first published in January 1916.

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"Yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.
Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
“Come, what was your record when you drew breath?”
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

 

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