|Battle of the Somme
20th September 1916. George Butterworth, MC. Don & Composer. Lt, 13th Bn, Durham Light Infantry. Killed in action at Pozieres.
George Butterworth was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, and from a very early age evinced great musical talent. One of his compositions was played at an Eton school concert while he was still a boy there. Among his musical publications are two cycles of songs from Housman’s “Shropshire Lad,” and an orchestral rhapsody, played at the last Leeds Festival, also at Queen’s Hall in the spring of 1914. He also devoted much time to the collection and arrangement of folk songs and folk dances in collaboration with Mr. Cecil Sharpe, and he took an active part in the formation and in the work of the Folk Dance Society. He contributed musical criticism to The Times intermittently for several years, and whatever he wrote showed shrewd judgment, sound knowledge, and independence of view. He was, in fact, a musician of great promise as well as a man of sterling character, who, if he had not given his life to a greater cause, would undoubtedly have done much to further a national ideal of musical art in this country. The Radleian
As a Don at Radley, he inspired a love of English pastoral music, reflected in the Music Society Minutes after he left. With Lance Vidal (kia 25 September 1915) he encouraged the boys to take up Morris dancing. He composed part of the Shropshire Lad Suite whilst at Radley.
Letter from his Commanding Officer to his father:
DEAR SIR ALEXANDER, I feel I must write you a note to tell you how deeply I grieve with you and yours for the loss of your gallant son. He was one of those quiet, unassuming men whose path did not appear naturally to be a military one, and I had watched him doing his duty quietly and conscientiously.
… Later we went into a line on the right of the Australians, S.E. of Pozieres.
Here we were about 450 yards from the Germans, and I gave orders to dig a trench within 200 yards of them so that we could attack with some chance of success.
This trench was dug in a fog, and was a very fine deep trench which saved many lives in the days to follow, and your son again superintended the work, and it was called Butterworth trench on all the official maps.
… Your son was in charge, and the trench was very much blown in and shallow, and I begged him to keep his head down. He was cheery and inspiring his tired men to secure the position which had been won earlier in the night. Within about a minute of my leaving him he was shot. I could ill afford to lose so fine a soldier…