Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, war poet Second Lieutenant Hugh Reginald Freston, 3rd Battalion attached to 6th Battalion, the Royal Berkshire Regiment, was killed on the Somme.
The only son of a solicitor, he was educated at Dulwich College and Exeter College, Oxford. While at university he made many contributions to magazines, as well as having his poems included in the literary publication Oxford Poetry. His original intention had been to take holy orders on completing his education, but in April of 1915 he decided to postpone continuing with his university studies and sought a commission with the Royal Berkshire Regiment. One of his friends remarked that he was “of a type, both brilliant and intellectual, driven to war by a sense of duty”, and that he gave himself up to the experience of war “doing the thing he loathed for the thing he loved”.
In December of 1915, Second Lieutenant Freston arrived in France, joining his battalion near Albert just before Christmas. On the day of his death, after ten days of trench fighting, he was inspecting a dugout which had been shelled when he was killed by fresh shelling. He lies buried in the Becourt Military Cemetery in France. From Shrewsbury, Hugh was 25 years old.
He had felt that he had been called to lay down his life, and these words are believed to have been inspired by that premonition:
Suddenly a great noise shall fill my ears,
Like angry waters or the roar of men;
I shall be dizzy, faint with many fears;
Blindly my hands shall clutch the air—and then
I shall be walking 'neath the quiet skies,
In the familiar land of former years,
Among familiar faces. I shall arise
In that dear land where there are no more tears.