The Artists Rifles Cadet Unit Dinner 1916
The family history researcher gets joy from a photograph, a fact, or a document, which somehow draws them closer to members of their own family from another generation. For some it must give a great sense of belonging, as they see their knowledge and therefore their family grow. I never knew my grand parents and apart from my parents my other relatives did not require all of the fingers on one hand to list them. In many ways my family was made up of the customers who came to my parents' shop and whose voices at night were raised as they sang much loved songs in the Barrack Cellars opposite whilst I lay in my bed.
These sounds flooded back as I held the menu for the Artists Rifles Cadet Unit's Dinner. I could visualise the happy young men hoping to soon be commissioned. I visualised the tobacco smoke rising, guessed at the repartee and the reception they may have given to Sterndale Bennett with his Songs at the Piano and savoured the ribald remarks that might have followed L/corpl. Glyn Walters as he sang My Dreams. Try as I might I could not help wondering if The Two Gendarmes as rendered by Kinniburgh and Walters had lyrics which in any way were related to Three German Officers Crossed The Rhine and wondered how much wine our diners had with their six courses. The convivial atmosphere surely made many feel that they were part of a special family as indeed we who remember them also feel, but for how many was this to be close to The Last Call whose words were rendered by Tom Kinniburgh. How many, if only for the evening, were in love with Nellie Walker or Olive Sturgess and who were they? In my imagination I looked round the room and there was Margrett - to be a Lieut. on 10.7.1916 and wounded just before Christmas 1917. Mansell - Howe, gazetted Lieut. 11.7.1916, killed in action 9.8.1918. and Oakenfull, gazetted 11.7.1916, killed in action 9.10.1916. More fortunate than these was Hawksford who from being RSM was gazetted on 10.9.1916 and ended his war as a Major with an OBE and having been mentioned in dispatches. I wondered what Frank and John and others whose signatures have not yet been deciphered looked like. Good food and good company make good wine flow without a thought for the morrow, the morrow which for some may have brought the pounding of a great hangover but who knew nothing of an even greater pounding as the final barrage began at 6.25a.m. for this "morrow" was the first day of The Battle of the Somme. By nightfall twenty thousand Empire soldiers would take a drink no more. This battle would make these young hopefuls more urgently needed at the front but how many would survive to look back on the menu they had kept from that Holborn Restaurant dinner of the 30th June 1916.
I am grateful to Don Fraser for the Menu around which I have written this piece and also the comments and help from other respondents.
33 Pulens Crescent, Petersfield, Hants, GU31 4DH
Mike Powell would be interested to hear from anyone with information on any of the names mentioned