Tuesday, 18 October 2016

William Maunsell Scanlan (1886 - 1917) - Canadian Poet

William was born in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada on 8th July 1886.  His father was The Rev. Dr. Scanlan and his Great-Grandfather was Michael Scanlan, a High Sheriff of Limerick in Ireland.

When WW1 broke out, William was working as the City Editor of the newspaper “Regina Leader” in Saskatchewan, Canada.  In September 1914, he joined the Fifth Canadian Battalion of the First Canadian Division as a Lieutenant and was posted to the Western Front in France, probably travelling via Britain.

As well as having poems published in “Canada in Khaki”, William co-edited “A Christmas Garland from the Front: Fifth Canadian Battalion: First Canadian Division, BEF, France and Belgium, which was published by G. Pulman & Sons, London, 1915.   William was also involved in the Canadian Corps Entertainment Party from 1915 until 1916, entertaining the troops.

William was wounded in the fighting on Vimy Ridge on 9th April 1917 and died the following day from his wounds.  He was buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Charles Walter Blackall (1876 - 1918) – British poet, writer, actor, soldier

Born in St. Albans , Hertfordshire, England, Charles's parents were Major Robert Blackall, an Irish land-owner and his wife Mary Emily.  Charles had two brothers – Edward b. 1872 and Algernon b. 1880. The family lived in Elham, Folkestone, Kent in 1881.

Charles joined the Army - The Buffs Regiment - in 1900 (3rd Battalion) and served during the Boer War.

In 1910, Charles married Alice Evelyn Feutrell Briscoe in Chelsea, London.  They lived in Bouverie Road, Folkestone, Kent and at Coolamber Manor, Co. Longford, Ireland and had two children – Charles Walter and Alanon J.

Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in December 1915, Charles was sent to command the South Staffordshire Regiment on the Western Front.  Mentioned twice in Despatched, he was killed leading his men on 25th March 1918.   He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France, Bay 2.

One of Charles’s poems was included in the WW1 Anthology “From the front:  trench poetry.” Edited by Clarence Edward Andrews, New York, Appleton, 1918 - 220 pages.
And his own WW1 collection “Songs from the trenches” was published by The Bodley Head, London in 1915.  (Catherine Reilly, p. 57).   This is available to read as a free down-load on Archive: http://www.archive.org/stream/songsfromtrenche00blacrich/songsfromtrenche00blacrich_djvu.txt

NOTE:  The British Army Regiment “The Buffs” were the infantry regiment The Royal East Kent Regiment, formed in 1572 and previously known as the 3rd Regiment of Foot.  They recruited men from East Kent and were based at Canterbury.

Find my Past;  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) and

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Maurice Bertrand (1881 - 1914) - French Poet, Playwright, Dramatist

With grateful thanks to Pierre Virey for sending me Maurice’s biography.

Maurice Bertrand was born in Paris on 30th August 1881.  He began his literary career at the age of twenty at the “Revue mondaine”.  After military service, he married and went to live in penury in Brazil.  His wife left him and one of his daughters died at the age of seven.   Maurice wrote poetry which was published in “Dlrilège des Poètes du Verbe”.  When he returned to France, he sent his work to the monthly publication “L’Audace Littéraire” which later became “Comme il vous plaira”.  Maurice also used the pen-name Yves-le-Hâleur.

Maurice joined the 346th Regiment of the French Army in September 1914 and fought in the Battles of the Ardennes and in Lorraine.  He was killed at Colincamps, Somme on 7th October 1914 at the age of thirty-three.

Sources: “The Lost Voices of World War 1” compiled by Tim Cross and published by Bloomsbury, London in 1988 and "Anthologie des Ecrivains morts à la guerre 1914 - 1918" (Association des Ecrivains Combattants, Amiens, 1924 -26, 5 volumes), edited by Thierry Sandre.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Dimcho Debelyanov (1887 - 1916) - Bulgarian Poet

With thanks to Pierre Virey for bringing Dimcho to my attention and for translating one of his poems into French.

Bulgaria joined the First World War on 14th October 1915, aligning with the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, declaring war on Serbia.

Dimcho was born on 28th March 1887 in Koprivshtitsa in Bulgaria.  His parents were wealthy.  The family moved to Plovdiv then to Sofia.   Dimcho started submitting his poems to literary publications in 1906.   He tried his hand at several different jobs, working as a clerk and a freelance journalist before joining the Bulgarian Army in 1912.  He fought in the Balkan Wars.

On his discharge from the Army, Dimcho joined the Post Office but was not happy in his work and went back to the Army.   He was killed near Gorno Karadjovo on 2nd October 1916, fighting against an Irish Regiment.   In 1931 his body was returned to Koprivshtitsa for re-burial in 1931.

Dimcho’s works were published in 365 publications in three languages.


 Behind me, the years run away from me one by one
And I run onwards, ever onwards, and up above
The sun burns the dismal desert my life has become
While I pursue the spectre of love

No crown of laurels encircles my brow
On my cheeks sweat mixes with blood now
My eyes mist over as with a fog of pain
While my soul seeks a happier terrain.

I am overcome with terror and fear:  the time is nigh
When I must grasp the edge of a bottomless pit
But my fingers have lost their strength and grip
And with a scream I am thrown back into the shadow-filled night.

Sources:  Wikipedia.  The statue of a grieving mother on Dimcho's grave is by the sculptor Ivan Lazarov (1890 - 1952).

Friday, 23 September 2016

Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose, MC and Bar (1894 - 1918) – British poet and artist

Claude Penrose was mentioned in Dispatches twice

Claude was born in Florida in America on 10th August 1893.  His parents were Henry Hugh “Harry” Penrose, a civil engineer and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, nee Lewis, who came from Kinsale in Ireland. Mary was a successful novelist who wrote under the name of Mrs. H.H. Penrose.  

The family went to live in England in 1897.   Claude was educated at the United Services College, a private school for the sons of military officers which was in Westward Ho! In Devon, before going on to the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich.

In 1911, the family lived at ‘Deepcut Bungalow’, Frimley Green, Surrey.  Claude was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery as a 2nd Lieutenant on 13th July 1913.

Posted to the Western Front and slightly wounded during the first days of The Somme Offensive in July 1916, Claude wrote a poem about his impressions of the first day of the first Battle of the Somme.  In September 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for actions during an attack on the village of Combles on 15th September 1916.

In October 1917, Claude was promoted to the rank of Major and given command of the 245th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.  During the Battle of Arras in March 1918, Claude won a Bar to his Military Cross.  He was mortally wounded on 31st July 1918 while rescuing his wounded Subaltern.   He died at the 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at 5.30 p.m. on 1st August 1918 and was buried in Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.  He is commemorated on the War Memorial – Heroes’ Column – at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, Ireland.

After his death, Claude’s mother had his poems and some of his art work published under the title “Poems; with a biographical preface” by Harrison in 1919 (274 pages). 

Sources:  Information kindly supplied by Claude’s relative and

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 251.

“On The Somme” by Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose, MC and Bar

Who heard the thunder of the great guns firing?

Who watched the line where the great shells roared?

Who drove the foemen back, and followed his retiring

When we threw him out of Pommiers, to the glory of the Lord?

Englishmen and Scotsmen, in the grey fog of morning

Watched the dim, black clouds that reeked, and strove to break the gloom;

And Irishmen that stood with them, impatient for the warning,

When the thundering around them would cease and give them room

Room to move forward as the grey mist lifted,

Quietly and swiftly – the white steel bare;

Happy, swift and quiet, as the fog still drifted,

They moved along the tortured slope and met the foemen there.

Stalwart men and wonderful, brave beyond believing –

Little time to mourn for friends that dropped without a word!

(Wait until the work is done, and then give way to grieving) –

So they hummed the latest rag-time to the glory of the Lord.

All across the No Man’s Land, and through the ruined wiring,

Each officer that led them, with a walking-cane for sword,

Cared not a button though the foeman went on firing

While they dribbled over footballs to the glory of the Lord.

And when the brought their captives back, hungry and downhearted,

They called him “Fritz” and slapped their backs, and, all with one accord

They shared with them what food they’d left from when the long day started

And gave them smokes and bully to the glory of the Lord.

NOTE: Pommiers is a town near Montaubon in the Somme, Picardie, France.

Bully Beef was a type of ‘corned beef’ introduced by the British Army during the Boer War. It was given in tins as rations to soldiers and could be made into a hot meal or eaten straight from the tin.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Edward Wyndham Tennant - 'Bim' - (1897 - 1916) - British - killed in action on 22nd September 1916

The Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant (known to his family as 'Bim') was born on 1st July 1897 in Stockton House, near Warminster, Wiltshire, UK.

Educated initially at West Downs School in Winchester, Edward began writing poetry at an early age.  He went on to study at Winchester College school and had planned a career in the British Diplomatic Service but instead joined the Grenadier Guards when WW1 broke out.

Edward was killed a week after his friend Raymond Asquith by a German sniper on 22nd September 1916.  He was buried in Guillemont Road Communal Cemetery near Raymond Asquith.

Edward's WW1 poems were published under the title "Worple Flit and other poems" in 1916.

After her son's death, Pamela Adelaide Genevieve Tennant, nee Wyndham, who was also a writer, published "Edward Tennant: a memoir" which is available to read free of charge on www.archive.org

Photographs of the grave of Leonard Comer Wall (1897 - 1917), Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium

"We win or die who wear the rose
Of Lancaster."*

I am very grateful indeed to Willy de Brouwer (photo left) and to Daphne Vangelheluwe (photo below) for making a special journey to the  Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium where Leonard Comer Wall is buried to take these photographs.

I am still trying to find a photograph of Leonard and also if he has any living relatives.

Leonard was born in West Kirby, Wirral, UK and attended Clifton Academy school in Bristol. 

In WW1 he joined the First West Lancashire Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and was commissioned as an officer.  Deployed to the Western Front in September 1915, Leonard was killed at Ypres on 9th June 1917.

* Leonard's poem was first published in the Magazine of the 55th West Lancashire Division of the British Army in June 1918.

When Princes fought for England's crown
The house that won the most renown
And struck the sullen Yorkist down,
Was Lancaster.

And blood red emblem stricken sore,
Yet steeped her pallid foe in fore,
Still stands for England evermore,
And Lancaster.

Now England's blood like water flows
Full many a lusty German knows,
We win or die who wear the rose
Of Lancaster.

Leonard Comer Wall.

Sources: www.merseysiderollofhonour.co.uk  and www.findmypast.co.uk