Tuesday 3 April 1917 – We Lost 415

Arthur Graeme West

The sailing vessel Ellen James (Master R C Jones) is captured in the Bay of Biscay and sunk by gunfire from UC-71. Five are killed including her master.

Captain Arthur Graeme West (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry) is shot dead by sniper near Bapaume at age 25. He is one of the Great War Poets his poems including The Night Patrol, God! How I Hate You, You Young Cheerful Men!, and At Last Post.  West was born in Norfolk, educated at Blundell’s School and Balliol College, Oxford.  He enlisted as a Private with the Public Schools Battalion in January 1915. He joins from a feeling of duty and patriotism, but the war has a profound effect on him. An individualist who hates routine and distrusts discipline, he develops an intense abhorrence to army life and begins to question the very core of his beliefs – in religion, patriotism and the reason for war. This growing disillusionment finds expression in two particularly powerful war poems he writes during this time: God, How I Hate You and Night Patrol.  In August 1916 he becomes a second lieutenant in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Shortly after, he writes to his new battalion threatening to desert the army – but he cannot bring himself to send the letter. West is principally known for one book, The Diary of a Dead Officer, which presents a scathing picture of army life and is said to be one of the most vivid accounts of daily life in the trenches. The book will be published posthumously and edited by C E M Joad, an Oxford colleague of West’s and an active pacifist (and contemporary of West’s at Blundell’s). The book gives voice to one officer’s struggle to come to terms with the realities of war and is a poignant tribute to a lost generation of soldiers. It was reissued in 1991 by the Imperial War Museum and published again by Greenhill Books in 2007 with an introduction by Nigel Jones. The first edition of the book consisted of an introduction by Joad, extracts from West’s 1915-17 diary, and several essays and poems. Joad edited the book as pacifist propaganda and it was published jointly by the left-wing Herald newspaper and ‘Sir’ Francis Meynell’s Pelican Press (Meynell’s other publications had included Sassoon’s protest in 1917).

Today’s losses include:

  • A Great War Poet
  • A son of the 1st Baron Gisborough
  • Multiple sons of members of the clergy
  • A Justice of the Peace
  • Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
  • A man whose daughter will die on service in the Second World War

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Captain John McCallum Orme MC (Royal Army Medical Corps) is killed at age 26. He is the stepson of the Reverend A Macrae.
  • Captain Richard Godolphin Hume Chaloner (Wiltshire Regiment attached 20th Prisoner of War Company) dies of accidental injuries at Calais at age 33. He is the son of the 1st Baron Gisborough had served in the South African War and he held the office of Justice of the Peace for the North Riding, Yorkshire.
  • Lieutenant Wilfrid Osswald Jose (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 21. He is the son of Canon G H Jose of Christ Church Rectory South Adelaide.
  • Lieutenant John Ingram Mullanniffe O’Beirne (Warwickshire Regiment attached Royal Flying Corps) is killed over Vimy Ridge at age 24. His brother will die of wounds in July.
  • Second Lieutenant William Keith Carruthers (Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry) is killed at age 25. His brother will be killed in July of this year.
  • Second Lieutenant James Arthur Sellar (Oxford and Bucks Regiment) is killed in action at age 23. He is the son of the late Reverend Canon John A Sellar.
  • Lance Corporal Wright Butler Allenby Over (Lincolnshire Regiment) is killed at age 23. His daughter will die on service in the Second World War.
  • Private Benjamin Bernard Backshall (Suffolk Regiment) dies at home.  His brother was killed in July 1916.