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Remembered Today:

CAPTAIN JOHN STEWART CALDER, LONDON RIFLE BRIGADE


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Calder was a local casualty from Wanstead in the east of London. A pre-war teacher in Leyton, from a hard-working family of Scottish teachers, he was quickly spotted for a commission but held out for a commission in his own battalion, something of a rarity and a distinction. Won the MC twice in 1918 but did not live to learn of the second, nor to receive the physical award of either.

Disappeared in No Mans Land, 1918 during the great German offensive which destroyed 1/5 LRB I am well acquainted with "Gentlement and Officers" but a local history of the area has information that I cannot source. There were, apparently, reports of his being seen in No Mans Land, wounded and in a shell hole. But there is also an account from one of his former pupils, badly wounded with a bullet in the jaw and lying unconscious in No Mans Land. Apparently wrote back from captivity to say that Captain Calder had revived him and given him the last of his hot chocolate from his flask.

Now, I am aware that searches for details of death are often with Officers Services but Calders has not survived. The Red Cross does not appear to be the souce of the information coming back- Calders card merely says "Negative envoye" in October 1918.

I am aware that there are very expert Forum members out there with extensive knowledge and materials on the London Rifle Brigade. Could anyone assist.?

I have to say that the little touch of humanity about the hot chocolate always brings a lump to my throat - its just such an unexpected and commonplace moment in the apocalyptic mess that was the war

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Casualty List Details:

Forename J S

Surname Calder

Casualty Status Missing

Rank Captain

Regiment Lond. R.

Decoration M. C.

Daily List Date 12th April 1918

Category Officer

Source Daily Casualty Lists

Forename J S

Surname Calder

Casualty Status Previously Reported Missing, Now Reported Killed

Rank Captain

Regiment Lond. R.

Decoration M.C.

Daily List Date 18th July 1919

Category NCO's and Men

Source Daily Casualty Lists

Mark

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Many thanks again to Harry Brook. Calder's officers file had turned up during the digitisation of WO 374 at the National Archives- and only added in the past fiortnight, so my tahnks for I would not have thought to look again for an item that was not there.

Saw the file today- unusually interesting. Calder's parents had advertsied for news of their son and had forwearded various replies to the War Office, as a result of which Calder was presumed to have been killed in action on 28th March 1918. The former pupil who recieved a drink from calder is identified (actually, it was a flask of coffee, not chocolate) . Caldre's mother had written in with details of all these responses and asked for some action by the War Office, on account that he had served continuously in France, had been commssioned up all the way from Private to Captain and had won the MC twice. Alas, it also encouraged a cruel hoaxer called Harry Banks, who contacted Calder's mother in response to an ad. in the papers for news of her son. He had called at their home address in Wanstead, posing as a recently released NCO of the Middlexsex Regiment, holder of the DCM and just back from a POW camp at Ruehleben . He gave the name "Brown" and told Mrs Calder that he seen her son,alive and well, in No 3 POW camp at Reuehleben and that he would be home soon. Presumably, the Calders rewarded him in some way for his apparent troubles- the man was sentenced to 6 months in prison at Guildhall Magistrates in February 1919.

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  • 3 years later...

CAME ACROSS THIS TODAY - Essex County Chronicle, Friday 15 January, 1915

Lance Corpl. J. S. Calder, 5th City of London Rifle Brigade, Writes to relatives at Wanstead :– “What a strange Christmas Eve it was! Soldiers from both sides singing to each other, songs, hymns, and carols, and walking around bonfires. We came out of the trenches later on in the evening, and went into supports. And for once, we were sorry to leave the trenches for we felt ‘Christmas day’ in the trenches was going to be a remarkable day, Even on Christmas Eve the firing ceased by common consent. At about two o’clock on Christmas morning a German band came out of the trenches and played carols, ‘Home Sweet Home,’ ‘Christmas, awake,’ etc.  It was wonderful to hear. Some of our men who wear in the trenches on Christmas Day told us the Germans were a fine set of fellows, and many could talk good English.”

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   John Calder's  letter from the Essex County Chronicle is well-known and often appears in stuff about the 1914 Truce.  A fuller version of  the letter appeared a few days earlier in the "Leytonstone Express" which was the main paper covering the area where he lived (Wanstead) and where he worked as a teacher for the Leyton School Board.  The fuller version recounts how he had been sent a Christmas hamper by his family and how he had shared out a large plum cake with the men of his section- This was typical of a man who remained essentially a schoolteacher with the gift of commanding men until his death in 1918-his last action,when dying in a shell-hole, was to hand over his flask of coffee to a badly wounded man (and ex-pupil of his) lying next to him and crying out for water.

    The various newspaper reports, based on letters back from France, proved an embarrassment to the War Office-hobnobbing with the Boche was not what the military authorities wanted. As a result, informative letters from local men at the Front virtually disappear thereafter from local newspapers as the Government clamped down ,both by tighter censorship in France and with with much more punitive regulation of the Press at home. From Spring 1915 those letters that do purport to be from men serving should be treated with a degree of caution-  they tend to be uninformative- particularly those that are serial- and a little bit too much of "jolly hockey sticks". I suspect that some of them are planted propaganda

     Ad hoc truces continued throughout the war- what makes 1914 stand out is that it became known to the home population. Latter occurrences did not

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  • 4 years later...

Hi I just came across this thread. 

It is really interesting as I have all of John Calders letters from 1914 until his last one before his death in 1918, including the original Christmas Truce letter mentioned!

He was such a lovely man and dedicated soldier, even though he obviously had doubts about the War.  In one harrowing letter home dated the 26/04/17 he writes regarding his younger brother Colin KIA "God has relieved our darling lovely Colin from the horrors of this cruel bloody war..... God has taken him away from this awful turmoil and suffering caused through ambitious sin and men gone mad".  In the same letter he shows his incredible humanity in the circumstances stating ".. do not let this bereavement crush you. Colin would not not wish it.  His tour of duty is over but we must and will carry on.  Carry on bravely... and in our prayers let us remember the bereaved ones of all nations friend and foe alike".

A truly remarkable man.  Time allowing I really hope to have all of his letters put into print.

 

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