Monday, 10 September 2012

Lest We Forget

Aristocrats Go to War by Jerry Murland   - Pen & Sword Books Ltd

For today's school children the First World War, or the Great War as I prefer to call it, is very definitely the stuff of history books. But for people of my generation it is the war of our grandfathers and granduncles and therefore not quite history, but rather something talked about in hesitant, staccato bursts by those members of the family who had survived its gore.

Whilst the system of  purchasing  commissions in the army had disappeared in 1871 the officer corp of the 1914 British Expeditionary Force was still an educationally and socially exclusive club with a high representation from the aristocracy and landed gentry. Jerry Murland states in the introduction to his book that its focus will be the lives of the eighteen men who are commemorated in a small church cemetery at Zillebeke. This cemetery is often referred to as the, "Aristocrats Cemetery," in guide books.

Although his name does not appear in the Zillebeke cemetery register Murland states that it is highly likely that  the body of Captain  the Hon Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill is buried there. He was the Unionist MP for Mid-Antrim and was the first  MP to be killed in the first world war. One of his children was Terence O'Neill who would become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in the old Stormont in 1963.

Having read the introduction I was hopeful that this would be a book that would give me an insight into the lives and deaths of the soldiers who are commemorated in this small cemetery. Men such as Lieut. William Reginald Wyndham; Lieut. Carleton Wyndham Tufnell and Major Bernard Charles Gordon Lennox.We are given some personal details about these men, but we are also given many pages of what I found to be rather boring details of troop movements. If Jerry Murland had concentrated on the lives of, "the eighteen," and foregone his rather dry and ponderous descriptions of military engagements then I for one would have found this a much more enjoyable read.

No comments:

Post a Comment