Untold lives blog

51 posts categorized "World War One"

31 May 2017

Ian Alistair Kendall Burnett, bibliographer and company commander

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Today we are telling the story of Ian Alistair Kendall Burnett, a British Museum librarian who was killed in action near the French city of Arras on 31 May 1917.

Arras IWM Q2375

 The ruins of the village of Monchy-le-Preux seen on 30 May 1917, following the Battle of Arras © IWM (Q 2375)

Ian Alistair Kendall Burnett was born at Aberdeen on 20 June 1885, the only son of William Kendall Burnett and his wife Margretta. William was the son of the 6th Laird of Kemnay and a prominent figure in Aberdeen civic life, serving as both magistrate and city treasurer before his death in 1912. Ian Burnett was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, where he evidently did very well. His university obituary stated that he had a brilliant career at school, ‘being first in every class, usually in every subject; he was editor of the school magazine and president of the debating society, and he became Dux of the school in 1903’. Burnett then entered the University of Aberdeen, graduating in 1908 as M.A. with First Class Honours in Foreign Languages. While at university, Burnett was involved in many extra-curricular activities, including significant roles in the university's literary and debating societies. In his final year, he was the editor of the university's student magazine Alma Mater.

In 1909, Burnett was appointed Assistant Librarian at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. The following year, he joined the staff of the British Museum, becoming Second Class Assistant in the Department of Printed Books. While at the museum, Burnett succeeded Harold Mattingly in compiling the List of Catalogues of English Book Sales, 1676–1900, now in the British Museum. Published by the trustees of the museum in 1915, the List remains a standard reference text for book provenance research.

It is possible to trace the broad framework of Burnett's military career from his service records and from unit histories. While still working at the museum, Burnett joined the cavalry squadron of the Inns of Court Officers' Training Corps in 1913. He gained a commission after the outbreak of war in 1914, and from then on served with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. He was then attached to three different battalions on active service. We know that Burnett saw action in many of the key battles on the western front: 2nd Ypres in 1915, the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and the Battle of Arras in 1917. In his time at the front, Burnett suffered from gas poisoning once and was injured twice, returning to the UK each time to recuperate. By early 1917, Burnett had become a company commander in the 8th (Service) Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, with the temporary rank of Captain. Burnett died on the 31 May 1917, when his battalion was involved in a futile night attack on Infantry Hill, east of Monchy-le-Preux, near Arras. His body was never recovered.

  Burnett from BNA 1917
Aberdeen Evening Express 14 June 1917 British Newspaper Archive

Captain Burnett’s name is recorded on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. He is also commemorated on war memorials and rolls of honour in in Aberdeen, Kemnay, and London, including the British Librarians’ memorial in the British Library at St Pancras.

British Librarians' Memorial at British Library St Pancras Noc

Michael Day
Digital Preservation Manager

Further reading:
Valete fratres - Librarians and the First World War.
British Library, Guide to Sale Catalogues.
List of Catalogues of English Book Sales, 1676–1900, now in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1915).
Peter Kidd, Catalogues of English Book Sales, 1676–1900. In: Medieval manuscripts provenance, 23 August 2014.
Mabel Desborough Allardyce (ed.), University of Aberdeen Roll of Service in the Great War, 1914-1919 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1921), pp. 61-62; online version.
Obituaries in: Aberdeen University Review, Vol. 5, 1917-18, pp. 74, 189.
L. Nicholson, H. T. MacMullen, History of the East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War, 1914-1918 (Liverpool: Littlebury, 1936).
Stephen Barker, Christopher Boardman, Lancashire's Forgotten Heroes: 8th (Service) Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War (Stroud: History Press, 2008).
WO 339/27462, Captain Ian Alistair Kendall Burnett, the East Lancashire Regiment (long service papers), The National Archives, Kew.
WO 95/1498/1, 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment war diary, The National Archives, Kew.
WO 95/2537/4, 8th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment war diary, The National Archives, Kew.
WO WO 95/1506/1, 1st Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment war diary, The National Archives, Kew.


02 May 2017

India Office Records on the Russian Revolution

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The India Office Records and Private Papers contain many items relating to the Russian Revolution and its effects on global politics. Russia and Britain had pursued an aggressively competitive relationship throughout the 19th century over the issue of influence in Asia, commonly known as ‘The Great Game’.  The India Office therefore routinely received Foreign Office and War Office reports concerning Russia.

Eastern Report No78  murder of Tsar Nicholas II

Eastern Report No.78, 25 July 1918 - IOR/L/PS/10/587

One report which the India Office Political Department regularly received from the Foreign Office was the weekly Eastern Report prepared for the War Cabinet.  The reports gave news, information and analysis of events concerning Russia, the Middle East and Asia.  The report shown here, No.78, dated 25 July 1918 gave news of the death of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.  Under the heading “The Ex-Emperor murdered”, the report stated that the following wireless message had been sent out by the Russian Government: “Recently Ekaterinburg, the capital of the Red Ural, was seriously threatened by the approach of the Czecho-Slovak bands.  At the same time a counter-revolutionary conspiracy was discovered, having for its object the wrestle of the tyrant from the hands of the council’s authority by armed force.  In view of the fact the presidium of the Ural region council decided to shoot the Ex-Tsar, Nicholas Romanoff.  This decision was carried out on the 16th July”. The message erroneously stated that the “wife and son of Romanoff” had been sent to a place of security.  In fact Nicholas, his wife and children were all killed on the night of the 16/17 July 1918.

Appreciation by Sir Mark Sykes


The reports generally were forwarded with an attached ‘Appreciation’ or comment on the report by Sir Mark Sykes.  In his appreciation with report of 25 July 1918, he noted that “once a man has been unjustly killed, the errors attributed to him diminish in popular estimation, while the acts of his murderers are more and more open to popular condemnation”.  Copies of the reports were sent to the Government of India, but without the appreciations.

Short History of Events in Russia Nov 1917-Feb 1919

Short History of Events in Russia from November 1917 to February 1919 - Mss Eur F281/89

Another report received by the India Office looked at the military aspects of the events in Russia between November 1917 and February 1919, and was prepared by the General Staff of the War Office.  This summarised Allied military intervention in North Russia with the purpose of preventing the transference of enemy troops from East to West, and to deny the resources of Russia and Siberia to Germany.  The revolution in Russia was seen primarily through the lens of the First World War.  The introduction to the report stated that: “The political destiny of Russia was no immediate concern of the Allies except in so far as might, in the event of an inconclusive peace, assist in the continuity and enhancement of German military power”.

Map of European Russia

Map of Russia - Mss Eur F112/562

 John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
File 705/1916 Pt 3-4 The War: Eastern Reports, 1917-1919 [Reference IOR/L/PS/10/587]
Short History of Events in Russia from November 1917 to February 1919 (General Staff: War Office, Mar 1919) [Reference Mss Eur F281/89]
Maps of Russia and the Russian front, 1917-1918 [Reference Mss Eur F112/562]

Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths  - Our major new exhibition is open until Tuesday 29 August 2017. You can also read articles from our experts exploring some of the themes of our exhibition on our Russian Revolution website.



11 April 2017

The Hodeidah Incident: Britain’s ‘indiscriminate’ military action in Yemen

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In the early hours of 12 November 1914 George Richardson, the British Vice-Consul to the Red Sea port of Hodeidah (Al Hudaydah) in Yemen, was awoken by the sound of the town’s Turkish gendarmes forcing their way into his residence.  Fearing assassination, Richardson leapt from his terrace to that of the neighbouring Italian Vice-Consulate, whereupon he awoke his Italian counterpart Gino Cecchi, and pleaded for asylum.  Minutes later, having realised that Richardson had escaped next door, the Turkish gendarmes stormed the Italian Consulate, injuring an Italian guard in the process, and arrested Richardson.

Aden Ma'alla
Postcard showing the wharf at Ma’alla, Aden, Yemen, during the First World War. Source: Museums Victoria Collections . Public Domain.

It took a month for news of the raid and of Richardson’s arrest to reach the newspapers in Britain.  With Italy not yet having entered the war, and the British and French Governments lobbying for Italy to enter on the side the Allies, the British press focused on the ‘outrage’ that the Turkish authorities had inflicted against Italy in raiding one of its consulates, in what became known as the Hodeidah Incident.  On 14 December The Daily Telegraph reported a ‘new and very grave Italo-Turkish incident’, describing the incident as a ‘Turkish outrage at the Italian Consulate’.

Hodeidah 1
Copy of a communication sent by the British Ambassador to Italy, Sir Rennell Rodd, to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Edward Grey, 12 December 1914. IOR/L/PS/10/465, f 124.

In press reports, no mention was made of why orders were given by the Turkish to raid the Italian Consulate and arrest and detain the British Consul.  Political and Secret Papers in the India Office Records, now available on the Qatar Digital Library reveal more details.

Reporting on the incident after his eventual release, Richardson wrote that on 4 November a ‘ship of war’ appeared in Hodeidah harbour, flying the Turkish flag.  The warship then swapped its Turkish flag for the White Ensign (the British Naval flag), and dispatched a steam cutter and crew, which proceeded to set fire to a Turkish cargo vessel.  Richardson only later learnt that the vessel in question was HMS Minto, a small ship whose appearance and actions caused great consternation amongst the inhabitants of Hodeidah:

  Hodeidah 2
Extract of a report of the incident at Hodeidah, written by the British Consul, George Richardson, dated 9 February 1915. IOR/L/PS/10/454, ff 62-86.

The Minto’s action led to Richardson’s freedoms being increasingly curtailed by Turkish officials and, fearing ‘an intended massacre of British subjects in the city’, he barricaded himself and his family in the consulate.  The British attack on the Turkish fort at Cheikh Said, 150 miles south of Hodeidah, on 10 November 1914, led to an exodus of the population from Hodeidah, who expected British vessels to visit the port the following morning.  It was amidst this climate of fear and retribution that Turkish officers stormed the British and Italian consulates on the night of 11/12 November.

Richardson had no intimation of the events that unfurled in Hodeidah in early November 1914, writing only that he had received a cypher cable from Constantinople on 3 November, informing him that Britain would declare war on Turkey and that he should make arrangements for his immediate departure.

Hodeidah 3

 Extract of a note written by Arthur Hirtzel of the India Office, 1915. IOR/L/PS/10/454, f 60.

Unbeknownst to him, the Admiralty had ordered HMS Minto to ‘proceed up the Red Sea and destroy Turkish steamers and dhows’ on 2 November, three days before Britain’s formal declaration of war against Turkey.  As one India Office official noted at the time, in the early days of the war, the Admiralty was ‘disposed to be indiscriminate in their action’ in the Red Sea.

Mark Hobbs
Subject Specialist, Gulf History Project

Further reading:
British Library, London, File 3136/1914 Pt 5 ‘German War. Turkey. Hodeida consuls incident’ (IOR/L/PS/10/465).
Charles Edward Vereker Craufurd, Treasure of Ophir (London: Skeffington & Co, 1929).
“Telegram from Admiralty to the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies [Admiral Sir Richard Peirse] and the Senior Naval Officer, Aden [later South Yemen], with orders for HMS Minto to proceed up the Red Sea,...” The Churchill Papers (CHAR 13/39/50), Churchill Archives Centre (Cambridge), Churchill Archive.


10 January 2017

Persia I will eat last

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The beginning of the First World War was a difficult time for Persia. With the country divided between Russian and British zones of influence, the Shah and his government were trying to maintain their sovereignty and to keep the country neutral. However, the war was fought on Persian territory on many fronts.


  Persia 1877

From Hippesley Cunliffe Marsh, A ride through Islam: being a journey through Persia and Afghanistan to India, viâ Meshed, Herat and Kandahar (London, 1877)


Documents from the India Office Records unveil British intrigues to maintain control over Persia. The British aimed to prevent the country from entering the war and supporting Turkey with a Muslim coalition - a jihad.

One of the propaganda efforts reported in the records is an alleged plunder by the Turks of jewels and money to the value of £2 million from the shrines of Nejef [Najaf, Iraq] and Karbala in January 1915.  This news was reported in the British press, discussed in Parliament, and recorded in the Political and Secret Department Records. But there is no evidence that this in fact ever happened.

Najaf and Karbala are the two holiest sites for Shia Muslims, and the value of the plunder would be over £300 million in today’s money. Such news would not have gone unnoticed among Arabic and Turkish sources, yet I could not find anything but a mention during a debate at the House of Commons.

The cautious wording chosen by Charles Henry Roberts, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for India at the time, when interrogated about the loot of Karbala is quite revealing:
'I should hesitate to say that the reports absolutely confirm the truth of the story; but they seem to render it considerably more probable'.

Did the looting ever happen? Maybe the British were exaggerating a story to convince the Persians to join them in the war against the Turks?

  IOR-L-PS-10-481 f.316
File 3516/1914 Pt 4 'German War: Persia', IOR/L/PS/10/481, f 316

Having read numerous files concerning the British occupation of Persia during World War One, I believe that this quote describes quite well the British approach towards Persia:

‘I fear that the only advantage which we can promise Persia is that which the Cyclops promised Odysseus
Οὖτιν ἐγὼ πύματον ἔδομαι μετὰ οἷς ἑτάροισιν’ (Noman will I eat last among his comrades…)

  Odysseus and Polyphemus the Cyclops

Odysseus and Polyphemus the Cyclops from Henri.Raison Du Cleuziou, La création de l'homme et les premiers âges de l'humanité  (Paris, 1887) BL flickr


Valentina Mirabella
Archive Specialist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
File 3516/1914 Pt 4 'German War: Persia', IOR/L/PS/10/481
Odyssey 9.369 - Translation by A.T. Murray



11 November 2016

The British Legion’s Fundraising in the Age of Empire

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The British Legion was founded on 15 May 1921 with a mission, in its own words, ‘to care for those who had suffered as a result of service in the Armed Forces during the [First World] war, whether through their own service or through that of a husband, father or son.’  The first Poppy Day was held on this day, ninety-five years ago, on 11 November 1921.

British Legion 1

Detail of the British Legion’s letterhead in use in the 1930s. CC BY NC

Then, as now, poppies were made by war veterans, for sale to the general public in both Britain and across the British Empire (and later, the Commonwealth).  In its formative years, the Legion’s work was solely preoccupied with those that had served in the First World War.  Money raised by the sale of poppies was spent on a variety of programmes, including towards the relief of distress, the provision of employment and housing for ex-servicemen, tuberculosis treatment, pensions, and financial assistance toward the migration of ex-servicemen to Britain’s ‘dominions’.


  British Legion 2

Poppy Day supplies order form, 1934. IOR/R/15/2/1558, f 17. CC BY NC


A number of files in the India Office Records, held at the British Library and presently being digitised as part of the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership, give a flavour of the British Legion’s global reach and fundraising efforts between the First and Second World Wars. The records show how the organisation tapped into Britain’s network of colonial administrators to extend their activities to the furthest flung corners of Britain’s empire, including to the shores of the Persian Gulf. The Legion designated administrators such as the Political Agent at Bahrain as Organisers, who were responsible for coordinating the mail order and sale of poppy merchandising in areas under their jurisdiction.

As an Organiser, the Bahrain Political Agent received regular correspondence from the British Legion throughout the 1930s, enclosing, amongst other things: gramophone records containing a personal appeal by the Legion’s then patron, the Prince of Wales; ‘talkie’ films featuring footage of the Cenotaph and war cemeteries in France; brochures; magazines; and mail order forms for leaflets, poppies, wreaths, badges, posters, and poppy ‘mascots’ for cars and motorcycles. The British Legion also sent forms to administrators requesting details of local towns and villages, and ‘any districts where a Poppy Day is not organised’, so that further British communities might be reached.


‘Poppy Day World Map’, 1947. IOR/R/15/2/1559, ff 78-79. CC BY NC


Correspondence between the British Legion and Britain’s Political Agent at Bahrain reveals that, prior to 1938, poppies were not sold on the islands, the Political Agent explaining that ‘their sale would not be appropriate in the circumstances in Bahrain.’ Collections were, however, raised amongst the islands’ expatriate community, which had grown in size significantly by the late 1930s, thanks to the large numbers of American and Indian employees working for the Bahrain Petroleum Company.


 British Legion 3
Haig Fund (British Legion) poppy wreaths for order, 1938. IOR/R/15/2/1558, f 98. CC BY NC


The start of the Second World War in 1939 marked the point at which the British Legion began to raise funds for those affected by present, as well as historic conflicts. As its letterheads in the first years of the new war made clear, ‘war increases our responsibilities.’ The ‘time is rapidly approaching’ wrote the Legion’s secretary in March 1940, ‘when the claims from this new category of Ex-Service man will assume serious proportions'.

 British Legion 4
Extract from a British Legion letter, dated December 1939. IOR/R/15/2/1558, f 132. CC BY NC


Mark Hobbs
Subject Specialist, Gulf History Project

British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
British Library, London, ‘File 16/48 I Corr. re: Earl Haig’s Appeal Fund (Poppy Day)’ (IOR/R/15/2/1558)
British Library, London, ‘File 16/48 II Correspondence regarding Earl Haig’s appeal fund (poppy day )’ (IOR/R/15/2/1559)
British Library, London, ‘File No 20/7 Ceremonials and Honours. Armistice day’ (IOR/R/15/2/1672)
James Fox “Poppy Politics: Remembrance of Things Present” in Constantine Sandis (ed) Cultural Heritage Ethics: Between Theory and Practice (Cambridge Open Book Publishers, 2014) Google Books



12 October 2016

Edith Cavell – 101 years on

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One hundred and one years ago today Edith Cavell was executed.  Last year, on the centenary of her death, her story was re-told in the press, the Royal Mint issued a commemorative £5 coin, and hundreds attended services to remember her.   In the years after 1915 she was not forgotten and people wrote poems and built memorials to her.  So it seems fitting not to let the 101st anniversary of her death pass by unnoticed, and to tell the story of the people who did not forget her.


Cavell 2 F60145-14

Daily Sketch, 23 October 1915  Images Online Noc


Edith Cavell was executed on 12 October for treason, having smuggled French and British troops out of German-occupied Belgium.  Immediately after her death the world was in shock and masses of ephemeral items were produced.  Several examples are held in the British Library in the volume at shelfmark Tab.11748.aa.2. which I have been working on.  (Fuller records for individual items within this volume will appear in Explore the British Library in due course.)

Many people used her death for propaganda purposes, as a rallying point to entice more men to join in the fight against the Central Powers.  E. H. Rowe, of South Shields, helped feed this propaganda, writing a poem that described German soldiers as ‘her relentless foe thirsting for her life’ and ending with the ominous line ‘God’s will be done. He will repay’.  Another particularly dramatic poem by John Streaks begins ‘She died a martyr in her country’s cause; we mourn to know how foully she was slain’.


Cavell 4 kh222813

Illustration from a French journal © Coll.Dixmier/Kharbine-Tapabor/British Library Images Online


Some poems were printed and sold for charity.  The British Library holds a design for a memorial cross, adorned with a picture of her dressed in her nurse’s uniform and inscribed with the message ‘Nestling here the spirit of love ever watcheth and slumbering sleepeth not’.  The artist produced a small copy of this design with an explanation on the back, describing how he had chosen roses, maple leaves, thistles, shamrocks and oak leaves.  He wrote that by adding lamps to the composition a ‘sacramental feeling’ is produced, that makes one want to pause and remember.  He created a larger version of this image for sale, and hoped that a good proportion of the profits would go to ‘Homes of Rest for Nurses’.  The Daily Mirror (alongside the Daily Telegraph) raised money for an Edith Cavell Memorial Fund, which had poets composing sheets to be sold in order to raise money.  Her death was a rallying point for all Allied troops.  Even in Canada memorial sheets were sold to collect money for the Canadian Red Cross and Canadian Patriotic Funds.

Multiple poems were written about her legacy.  One printed pamphlet has a large drawing of her face inside a laurel wreath with the caption ‘A tribute written to the air of “Queen of the Earth” in memory of a woman, whose name will live in history, and whose fame will be as imperishable as that of either Florence Nightingale or Grace Darling’.  Nowadays the propaganda purpose of such items is well known, and historians are beginning to understand Edith Cavell as an individual, complicating the view of Nurse Cavell-as-martyr that is suggested by this ephemera.

Ann-Marie Foster
PhD placement student Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
The items cited are all from the guard volume at shelfmark Tab.11748.aa.2. except for the larger design for a memorial cross at shelfmark: 1820.h.8.(104.)
Edith Louisa Cavell
World War One atrocity propaganda
Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell (London, 2010)



20 September 2016

Letters from Indian Soldiers on the Western Front, September 1916

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In September 1916, the Battle of the Somme was still raging violently. By that point in the First World War, the Indian infantry regiments had been transferred from France to fight in the Mesopotamian campaign, but the cavalry regiments remained on the Western Front.  The Censor of the Indian Mails reported that the mail for the past week, ending 23 September, had been very light owing to the Indian Cavalry being very much on the move.  One division was still encamped in a “somewhat unhealthy spot” just behind the firing line.  He admitted that the moves had caused unsettled feelings among the Indian troops.

Indian Cavalry 74408520.2

First World War Official Photographs: Indian Cavalry Western Front World War I Shelfmark X.34023. Images Online


This can be seen in an extract from a letter from Jemadar Indar Singh to a family member in Ludhiana, India, originally written in Urdu, and dated 15 September 1916:

“I am off for a Cavalry attack on the enemy on the 15th September.  It is quite impossible that I should return alive because a Cavalry charge is a very terrible affair and therefore I want to clear up several things which are weighing on my heart at present.  Firstly, the sharp things you have written to me have not annoyed me.  Don’t be grieved at my death because I shall die arms in hand wearing the warrior’s clothes.  This is the most happy death that anyone can die.  I am very sorry that I have not been able to discharge my obligations towards my family because God has called me already.  Well, never mind you must forgive me.  I have abandoned to you all my worldly possessions which you must make use of without hesitation.  Don’t worry your grandparents after I am gone.  Give my love to my parents and tell them not to grieve as we must all die some day. Indeed this day of death is an occasion for rejoicing”.

In his report, the Censor was rather unimpressed by this letter, commenting that the writer “…is certainly a pessimist of the deepest dye and obviously mistook his vocation when he entered the Indian Cavalry”.

The anxious mood among the Indian Cavalry was also reflected in an extract from a letter by Bawat Singh, a Risaldar in the Poona Horse, writing on 20 September 1916:

“The fighting has been very violently lately and it is hoped that it will bring matters to an end.  I constantly pray God that I may speedily be removed from all these calamities and taken home.  Without God nothing can be achieved and we do not know when it will please him to finish the war.  At the present time the whole world is like a field of carrots and turnips which is being rooted up on all sides.  The day that God wishes it to be so, the war will cease, and the troubles and trials of the people of the world will be removed”.

The reports of the Censor of Indian Mails in France, including extracts from soldiers’ letters, are held in the India Office Records and can be found online.
John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Reports of the Censor of Indian Mails in France, Aug-Oct 1916 [IOR/L/MIL/5/826/7, folios 1166, 1171 and 1178] online



30 August 2016

A British First World War hero with roots in India

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The India Office Records are able to shed some light on the sadly short life of a World War One military hero.

Rex Warneford was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service in February 1915. After the obligatory period of training, late on 6 June 1915 he took off from an Allied air base at Dunkirk to attack Zeppelin sheds outside Brussels. Becoming separated from the rest of his squadron, through the darkness he made out the forbidding shape of an enemy craft, Zeppelin LZ-37. Shots from his rifle and pistol did no damage, so he tracked it for more than an hour before steering his plane above and taking the opportunity to drop six twenty pound bombs. Most of the crew were killed in the ensuing explosion.  Unfortunately a number of Belgian civilians died on the ground when the vessel crashed to earth.


Warneford 902_05_1855287

Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Alexander John Warneford VC (1891-1915) bombs and destroys a Zeppelin airship 1915 - from
The War Illustrated Album (London, 1916) Images Online  Noc


Running low on fuel, Warneford was forced to make an emergency landing miles behind enemy lines before taking off again and landing safely mid-morning on 7 June. He was the first British pilot to destroy a Zeppelin single-handed. Recognition was swift, and his award of the Victoria Cross was gazetted on 11 June.  It was announced that he would also receive the French Legion d’honneur.

Tragically, only six days later Rex was killed in a flying accident on his way from Paris back to Dunkirk. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery on 21 June.

Although he spent his boyhood in Stratford-on-Avon and Exmouth, Devon, Warneford was actually born on 15 October 1891 in Cooch Behar, Bengal.  He was the son of Reginald and Alexandra Warneford, his father being a civil engineer (our ref. IOR/N/1/218/32). ‘Rex’ is a conflation of his two Christian names, ‘Reginald’ and ‘Alexander’.   His parents married in Darjeeling on 3 September 1890 (IOR/N/1/213/220), when his mother was seventeen years old. The archive also contains an entry for the burial of his father in 1904 (IOR/N/3/92/102) and the re-marriage of his mother in October 1908 (IOR/N/1/356/12).

Belgium has honoured him with ‘Reginald Warnefordstreet’ in Sint Amandsberg, Ghent.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services  Cc-by     

Further reading:
Deeds that thrill the Empire, (London, 1917), 2 volumes  shelfmark 9081.ff.17.