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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

A one-armed Brigadier returned from slaughter


Uncle George

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Robert Graves in 'Goodbye to All That' writes that when he went to Oxford University in 1919 he came across "a one-armed twenty-five year old brigadier". This, presumably, is the same man as the "one-armed Brigadier returned from slaughter" of his poem 'The Oxford English School: 1920".

Is the identity of this man known? And why would Graves not write of a 'Brigadier General'?

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To start with I will say sorry as I think the first reply is already going of at a tangent as I very strongly suspect that this is NOT your man. But the one armed bit immediately made me think of him (and it is an interesting snippet - even if that is a poor excuse for hijacking the thread).

Lieutenant-Colonel Carton de Wiart, commanding officer of the Battalion [8th Gloucesters], was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while leading the Battalion at La Boisselle. The citation included “It was owning in a great measure to his dauntless courage and inspiring example that a serious reverse was averted. He displayed the utmost energy and courage in forcing home the attack.”

De Wairt, who had lost a hand earlier in the war, was seen tearing out the safety-pins from grenades with his teeth and hurling them at the enemy with his one hand. He had also lost an eye in a battle and wore a black patch resulting in his men calling him “Nelson”. Shortly after receiving the Victoria Cross he said it was won by the 8th Gloucesters, “for every man in the Battalion has done as much as I have”.

Evan

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It's also been stated that he was emasculated, although I have seen no evidence which confirms the claim. He was also I believe the model for Ritchie-Hook in the Evelyn Waugh book.

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And why would Graves not write of a 'Brigadier General'?

I wonder if it had become an accepted abbreviation? I think "Brigadier" is used in "Journey's End".

(My copy is at the bottom of a box. I can vividly remember the scene concerned the first time I saw the play - a production at my school. However I cannot remember the scene well enough from the later professional productions which I saw, It's in the scene after the raid when the Colonel says something like "The Brigadier's very pleased".)

R.

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I wonder if it had become an accepted abbreviation? I think "Brigadier" is used in "Journey's End".(My copy is at the bottom of a box. I can vividly remember the scene concerned the first time I saw the play - a production at my school. However I cannot remember the scene well enough from the later professional productions which saw, it's in the scene after the raid when the Colonel says something like "The Brigadier's very pleased".)R.

You're right!

"COLONEL - ...I must go right away and 'phone the brigadier. He'll be very pleased about it...

"STANHOPE - How awfully nice - if the brigadier's pleased."

Thanks. Yes, I think it must simply be an abbreviation.

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Doesn't (or didn't) the OC of a Brigade carry the rank of Brigadier General? So the OC of a Brigade would be "The Brigadier"? Etymologically speaking, of course.

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Carton de wiart was born 1880

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An alternative might be Gerald Bryce Ferguson Smyth, DSO and Bar. He was for a time a Brigadier and "who only had one arm, a fearless fighter who survived the war however was murdered in Cork in 1920".

Just a thought.

Wilhelm

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An alternative might be Gerald Bryce Ferguson Smyth, DSO and Bar. He was for a time a Brigadier and "who only had one arm, a fearless fighter who survived the war however was murdered in Cork in 1920".

Just a thought.

Wilhelm

Thanks. Smyth appears on the Forum here:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=83571

However, I can find no mention of him going to Oxford, and he was born in 1885. So he's not Graves' man.

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And remembering, of course, that Graves wasn't always entirely accurate in his memory, so there could be some artistic licence and mis-remembering in his description of the subject.

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And remembering, of course, that Graves wasn't always entirely accurate in his memory, so there could be some artistic licence and mis-remembering in his description of the subject.

Yes, we know that J.C. Dunn was critical of Graves, for what Dunn saw as Graves' hyperbole. It's possible that when Graves wrote "twenty-five year old" he didn't mean to be taken literally: perhaps he was expressing "very young for a Brigadier". But Graves mentions this chap in two of his works, so he would appear to have been affected by him.

Richard Perceval Graves' biography covers Robert's post-war time in Oxford, and his friendship there with Robert Nichols and Edmund Blunden: but I have found no mention of a very youthful one-armed Brigadier.

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