In England, on 23 April, we celebrated St George’s Day, the patron saint of England. George was credited with slaying the dragon and it became a day when a traditional English meal is served of Roast Beef & Yorkshire pudding; and by my own observations, the tradition still endures, now a display of Union Flags, or Union Jacks, being draped out windows.
Add to this it is the anniversary of the death of Rupert Brooke the World War One poet who died on 23 April 1915 and will forever be remembered for his poem The Soldier. A poem he wrote soon after the outbreak of war in 1914 and Rupert Brooke is regarded still as one of the finest Great War Poets.
Rupert was born in August 1887 and the second son of a Rugby schoolmaster. Like so many he volunteered and took ‘The Kings Shilling’ in August 1914, but just a month later he applied for a commission in The Royal Naval Division and was accepted.
Rupert sailed to the ill-fated landings at Gallipoli with the British Fleet in February 1915 but developed an infection from a mosquito bite. So serious was the infection that he died late in the afternoon of 23 April 1915, St Georges Day, on a hospital ship moored in the Aegean Sea. Later that evening approaching midnight, with the fleet ordered to sail, Rupert was buried in an olive grove on the Greek Island of Skyros.
What is regarded as Rupert Brooke’s most famous World War One poem, The Soldier, was read from the pulpit of St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, on Easter Sunday 1915, as the poet himself was sailing across the Mediterranean.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Sadly, Rupert’s younger brother, 24-year-old William, a junior officer in the 8th Battalion of The London Regiment (The Post Office Rifles Pals Battalion) was killed a couple of months later on 14 June 1915, in France, he had joined his battalion just twenty days earlier.