Lieutenant-Colonel Winston Churchill, Royal Scots Fusiliers
In remembrance of those many thousands who were deprived of the opportunity and the millions more who served their country and survived to live more humble but no less valid lives – a short article on notable Britons and their contribution in the Great War.
Lieutenant J.R.R Tolkien, Lancashire Fusiliers author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
A reluctant warrior who feared he lacked courage he did not enlist during the wave of patriotic fervour that swept the country following the declaration of war and only did so almost a year later in July 1915, when he began to find the whispering campaign against him intolerable.
Later joining the Signals Corps he was to fight during the Battle of the Somme and in the ferocious struggle for the Schwaben Redoubt before finally being struck down not by enemy fire but trench fever.
He was later to write that his idea for Middle-Earth came from his experiences of the subterranean existence that almost constant shellfire often made trench warfare.
Private Ronald Colman, London Scottish – Oscar winning actor and Matinee Idol.
Serving in a Territorial Regiment prior to the war he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and so was one of the original ‘Old Contemptibles.’
He was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of Messines in October 1914, which was to leave him partially maimed, in frequent pain, and with a permanent limp.
Private Charles Laughton, Huntingdon Cyclist Battalion – Oscar winning actor
Served on the Western Front from where he was repatriated home following wounds sustained in a gas attack.
Captain Robert Graves, Royal Welch Fusiliers – poet and author of I, Claudius.
He was so badly wounded during the Battle of the Somme that he was removed from the hospital and given the Last Rites. Indeed, so imminent appeared his death that the telegram informing his parents of his passing was sent and delivered.
Against the odds and to everyone’s surprise he recovered.
Captain Harold MacMillan, Grenadier Guards – Prime Minister from 1957-63.
He would tell the British people they had never had it so good and as a man who bore the burden of the trenches as a trauma he should have known for he never forgot the men who had served under his command and would speak admiringly of them often with a tear in his eye.
Lieutenant Rupert Brooke, Royal Naval Division – a poet who expressed his love of country in his verse and was thrilled by the prospect of combat but instead died of blood poisoning en-route to Gallipoli on 23 April, 1915.
Captain Anthony Eden, King’s Royal Rifles – Prime Minister 1955-7.
He would be brought-low by the Suez Crisis, an act of aggressive militarism of the kind he had opposed all his life.
He was awarded the Military Cross for valour and would rise to become the youngest Brigadier in the British Army
Siegfried Sassoon, Royal Welch Fusiliers – a poet so brave that he earned the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ and was awarded the Military Cross he was later to turn very publicly against the war.
Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, the Manchester Regiment – a poet who unlike his friend Sassoon, never ceased to believe in the justice of the cause he was fighting for.
He was killed on 4 November 1918, during the last great Allied offensive on the Western Front.
His parents learned of his death on 11 November just as the church bells rang out in celebration of the end of the war.
Lieutenant Basil Rathbone, London Scottish – actor most famous for his roles alongside Errol Flynn and as Sherlock Holmes he was awarded the Military Cross for valour but after his brother was killed on the Western Front was often criticised for being reckless with his own life and with those of his men.
Major Clement Attlee, South Lancashire Regiment and future Leader of the Labour Party who would shock the world by defeating Winston Churchill in the post VE-Day Election.
He would serve as Prime Minister from 1945-51 and would introduce the Welfare State and the National Health Service thereby transforming British society.
He was the second from last man to be evacuated from Gallipoli and fought in Mesopotamia and on the Western Front.
Lieutenant Ralph Vaughan Williams, Royal Army Medical Corps – one of Britain’s favourite composers.
He was already 41 years of age when war was declared but enlisted nonetheless as a private serving as a stretcher-bearer, one of the most traumatic and perilous assignments on the front-line.
Lance-Corporal Arnold Ridley, Somerset Light Infantry – Actor most famous for his role in Dad’s Army and writer of the Ghost Train.
He was seriously wounded at the Battle of the Somme where he was shot, clubbed, and bayoneted but still managed to survive.
Later promoted to Captain he would also serve in World War Two.
Lieutenant Victor McLaglen of the Middlesex Regiment who served in the Middle East before becoming the first man to win the Best Actor Oscar for his role in the 1935 movie The Informer (prior to 1935 it was known merely as the Academy Award).
Lieutenant Wyndham Lewis, Royal Artillery – the painter and author commanded a battery on the Western Front before becoming an official war artist for the Canadian Army.
Lieutenant A A Milne, Royal Warwickshire Regiment – poet and author of Winnie the Pooh.
He served on the Western Front was wounded and later repatriated following a serious illness where he transferred to Military Intelligence.
He served as a Captain in the Home Guard during World War Two.
Private John Laurie, Royal Artillery Company – Shakespearean character actor who would find renewed fame in the television series Dad’s Army.
He was traumatised by his experiences in the war rarely speaking about them and refusing to watch stock footage of the conflict.
He also served in the Home Guard during World War Two.
Second-Lieutenant Edmund Blunden, Royal Sussex Regiment, poet, author, and academic who fought at the Battle of Ypres and on The Somme where he was awarded the Military Cross.
A close friend of both Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves his body is buried in Poets Corner in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey.
Second-Lieutenant James Whale, Worcestershire Regiment, future Director of such classic Hollywood Movies as Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man he was captured fighting in Flanders during 1917, and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Lieutenant (Sir) Oswald Ernald Mosley,The Queen’s Lancers later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.
Seriously injured in a flying accident he later returned to the Front but in constant pain was to spend the later years of the war at a desk job.
Elected a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party he felt his ambitions were being thwarted and resigned, in 1932 founding the British Union of Fascists.
In May 1940, following the outbreak of World War II he was arrested and imprisoned as a possible collaborator.