On the morning following the action at the 'Hair-Pin,' the Adjutant had the grim business of writing to the next of kin for all those that had been lost the day before.
For Harry Gadd, he was to make arguably the single most important contribution to English literature of the entire Loos campaign.
As he sat in the dug out that belonged the day before to Captain Sorley; who had been shot through the head during the attack, he started to go through Sorley's kit. Looking for any private papers that should be returned to his family, it was whilst going through the young Captain's equipment and bedding that he discovered a grimy sheath of over thirty hand written poems, including on top, a sonnet with the haunting title “When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead.”
Educated at Marlborough, Charles Hamilton Sorley was of Scottish descent. Shortly before war was declared in 1914, he had been travelling in Germany before taking up a scholarship to Oxford. Upon the outbreak of war, he returned home and volunteered for military service, joining first the 3rd Battalion at Felixstowe, before hastily being sent to the 7th (Service) Battalion at Aldershot in early 1915.
Crossing with the Battalion to France in 1915 as a Lieutenant, he was promoted Captain in July, when the Battalion were in the Ypres Salient. At the time of his death he just 20 years old. Although witnesses saw the moments of his death, his body was never found. With no known grave, he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing at the aptly named 'Dud Corner.'
Sorleys poems were published by his family the following year and were an instant success with six editions being printed by the end of 1916.
Fellow chronicler of the war, Robert Graves - himself having served at Loos as a young subaltern in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, wrote of Sorley that he was "one of the three poets of importance killed during the war." The other two being Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg; Rosenberg having also served in The Suffolk Regiment.
It is perhaps fortunate that Sorley followed the Battalion orders issued the previous morning and did not carry any personal paperwork into the attack. His leaving behind his papers undoubtedly saved his poems forever and Harry Gadd's compassionate thought to send them home to his family, ultimately made Sorley one of, if not, the greatest, poet of the Great War.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.