Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, war poet Captain Theodore Percival Cameron Wilson, the Sherwood Foresters, was killed in action at Mermies in France during the great German assault.
He was one of six children of the vicar of Christchurch and the grandson of the novelist Reverend Theodore Percival Wilson. Captain Wilson attended Oxford University and then was employed as a teacher at Mount Arlington preparatory school in Hindhead, Surrey. He wrote a novel which was published in 1913, The Friendly Enemy, and went on to write a second novel and poems over the next five years.
After the outbreak of the Great War, Captain Wilson enlisted and served for several months before obtaining a commission in the Sherwood Foresters. He arrived on the Western Front in February of 1916, where what he saw horrified him and resulted in emotional letters home – he said that a man had to be “either a peace-maker or a degenerate”. Later he served for a while as a staff officer before asking to be sent back to the front lines to fight with his men; his gallantry was remarked upon several times and he was Mentioned in Despatches.
In a letter to his mother he wrote: “Out here you must trust yourself to a bigger Power and leave it at that. You can’t face death…there’s no facing it. It’s everywhere. You have to walk through it, and under it and over it and past it. Without the sense of God taking up the souls out of those poor torn bodies – even though they’ve died cursing Him – I think one would go mad”.
To a close friend he wrote: “We’ve been wrong in the past. We have taught schoolboys ‘war’ as a romantic subject….and everyone has grown up soaked in the poetry of war…those picturesque phrases of war writers – such as…’a magnificent charge won the day and the victorious troops etc. etc.’ are dangerous because they show nothing of the individual horror, nothing of the fine personalities smashed suddenly into red beastliness, nothing of the sick fear that is tearing at the hearts of brave boys who ought to be laughing at home – a thing infinitely more terrible than physical agony.”
Captain Wilson has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France, and on the lychgate at Little Easton church in Derbyshire. His collected poems, Magpies in Picardy” were published in 1919 – you may download the book here, free of charge: https://archive.org/details/magpiesinpicardy00wils/page/n4/mode/2up
Theodore, from Paignton in Devon, was 29 years old.
Still though chaos
Works on the ancient plan; T
wo things have changed not
Since first the world began.
The beauty of the wild green earth
And the bravery of man.