Saturday, 15 August 2015

Notable Britons Who Fought In World War One

Lieutenant-Colonel Winston Churchill, Royal Scots Fusiliers

In remembrance of those many thousands who were deprived of the opportunity and the millions more who served their country and survived to live more humble but no less valid lives - a short article on notable Britons and their contribution in the Great War.

Lieutenant J.R.R Tolkien, Lancashire Fusiliers author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

A reluctant warrior who feared he lacked courage he did not enlist during the wave of patriotic fervour that swept the country following the declaration of war and only did so almost a year later in July 1915, when he began to find the whispering campaign against him intolerable.

Later joinig the Signals Corp he was to fight during the Battle of the Somme and in the ferocious struggle for the Schwaben Redoubt before finally being struck down not by enemy fire but trench fever.

He was later to write that his idea for Middle-Earth came from his experiences of the subterranean existence that almost constant shellfire often made trench warfare.

Private Ronald Colman, London Scottish - Oscar winning actor and Matinee Idol.

Serving in a Territorial Regiment prior to the war he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and so was one of the original ‘Old Contemptbles.’

He was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of Messines in October 1914, which was to leave him partially maimed, in frequent pain, and with a permanent limp.

Private Charles Laughton, Huntingdon Cyclist Battalion - Oscar winning actor he served on the Western Front where he was to fall victim to a poison gas attack.

Captain Robert Graves, Royal Welch Fusiliers  poet and author of I, Claudius was so badly wounded during the Battle of the Somme that he was removed from the hospital to be given the Last Rites.

His death was later confirmed and his parents informed.

Much to everyone's surprise and against the odds he survived.

Captain Harold MacMillan, Grenadier Guards - Prime Minister from 1957-63 he would tell the British people they had never had it so good and as a man who bore the burden of the trenches as a personal trauma he should have known for he never forgot the men who served under his command and would speak of them with admiration often with a tear in his eye.

Lieutenant Rupert Brooke, Royal Naval Division – a poet who expressed his love of country in his verse and was thrilled by the prospect of combat but instead died of blood poisoning en-route to Gallipoli on 23 April, 1915.

Captain Anthony Eden, King’s Royal Rifles – the Prime Minister 1955-7 who would be brought down by the Suez Crisis, an example of the very aggressive militarism he had spent so much of his life opposing.

He was awarded the Military Cross for valour and would rise to become the youngest Brigadier in the British Army.

Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon, Royal Welch Fusiliers – a poet so brave that he earned the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ and was awarded the Military Cross but was later to turn very publicly against the war.

Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, the Manchester Regiment – a poet who unlike his friend Sassoon, never ceased to believe in the justice of the cause he was fighting for.

He was killed on 4 November 1918, during the last great offensive on the Western Front.

His parents learned of his death on 11 November just as the church bells rang out in celebration of the end of the war.

Lieutenant Basil Rathbone, London Scottish – actor.

Most famous for his roles alongside Errol Flynn and as Sherlock Holmes he was awarded the Military Cross for valour but after his brother was killed on the Western Front was often criticised for being reckless with his own life and with those of his men.

Major Clement Attlee, South Lancashire Regiment and future Leader of the Labour Party who would shock the world by defeating Winston Churchill in the post VE-Day Election.

He would serve as Prime Minister from 1945-51 and would introduce the Welfare State and the National Health Service thereby transforming British society forever.

He was the second from last man to be evacuated from Gallipoli and fought in Mesopotamia and on the Western Front.

Lieutenant Ralph Vaughan Williams, Royal Army Medical Corps – one of Britain’s favourite composers he was already 41 years of age when war was declared but enlisted nonetheless as a private serving as a stretcher-bearer, one of the most traumatic and perilous assignments on the front-line.

Lance-Corporal Arnold Ridley, Somerset Light Infantry – Actor most famous for his role in Dad’s Army and as the author of the Ghost Train he was seriously wounded at the Battle of the Somme where he was shot, clubbed, and bayoneted but managed to survive and fight on.

Later promoted to Captain he would also serve in World War Two.

Lieutenant Wyndham Lewis, Royal Artillery – the painter and author who despite his often louche manner became an effective battery commander on the Western Front before becoming the official war artist for the Canadian Army.

Lieutenant A A Milne, Royal Warwickshire Regiment – the poet and author of Winnie the Pooh fought on the Western Front and first wounded at the Somme was later repatriated following a serious illness where he transferred to Military Intelligence.

He also served as a Captain in the Home Guard during World War Two.


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