Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Lieutenant Raymond Asquith, 3rd Battalion, the Grenadier Guards, died of wounds received in action on the Somme.
The eldest of ten children of then-Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, he was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. Academically gifted, he won scholarships and university prizes as well as taking first-class honours in Classics and Law. In 1904 he was called to the bar, and in 1912 was junior counsel during the inquiry into the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic. In 1913 he became the Liberal Party candidate for Derby.
After the outbreak of the Great War he was commissioned in the 16th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), and in August of 1915 transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards. Although assigned as a staff officer, he asked that he be re-assigned to active duty, and arrived on the Western Front in October of 1915.. He referred to Lord Kitchener as the “King of Chaos”, and did not believe that the war would be “over by Christmas”. In a letter to his wife, Lieutenant Asquith complained that adequate preparations had not been made for soldiers facing the winter at the front, and that half of his men did not even have trench boots.
In January of 1916 Lieutenant Asquith was defence counsel at the court martial of Captain Sir Iain Colquhoun (of Luss), 1st Battalion, Scots Guards (previously wounded and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and Mentioned in Despatches for bravery). He had allowed his men to fraternise with the German soldiers on Christmas Day, 1915. Lieutenant Asquith was impressed with Captain Colquhoun "for the vigour and nerve with which he faced his accusers" and in his "insolence, aplomb, courage and elegant virility". The captain was, however, convicted, but his punishment was merely a reprimand.
On the 7th of September in 1916, the Prime Minister visited his son on the front line. Eight days later Lieutenant Asquith was leading his men in an attack on the German trenches during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, one of his men remarking on his coolness under shell fire being difficult to equal. He was shot in the chest and, aware that his wound was fatal but not wishing to worry his men, he lit a cigarette as he was carried to the dressing station. One of Lieutenant Asquith’s men described him as “one of the finest men who ever wore the King's uniform”. He lies buried in the Guillemont Road Station Cemetery on the Somme. On his headstone are the words, “Small time, but in that small most greatly lived this star of England.”
Raymond, from Hampstead, was 37 years old and married with two daughters and a baby son.