2nd Lieut. Oswald Blencowe (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry)
An eighth Old Dragon has laid down his life in the battle that has been raging on the Somme since July 1st. Oswald was killed on 7th October 1916 when temporarily attached to the Rifle Brigade.
It was the Brigade’s task to capture Rainbow and Cloudy Trenches, near Guedecourt. As soon as our barrage lifted the Riflemen (some of whom had been lying down in the open awaiting this moment) rose bravely to make the attack. On reaching the crest of a hill about twenty yards from the German line they met with heavy machine-gun fire. All five officers of the two leading companies went down – four (including Oswald) were killed and a fifth severely wounded.
It is of some small consolation that the reserve troops coming up behind them were able to take Rainbow Trench.
A brother officer recalls Oswald most fondly:
“In the line he was of immense value to us, and in the most trying hours, when things were as bad as shells and foul weather could make them, he showed that rare kind of cheerfulness which does not offend nor depress by its artificiality. He set a high value on music and poetry. He sang well, and was strongly heard in a dug-out – carols, songs, and choruses, old English songs, and Gilbert and Sullivan. One day he pulled out the books he always carried with him – Omar Khayyam, and two volumes of the hundred best poems and three of us lay awake reading aloud to one another…
He was hit by a shell in the head in front of his men about ten yards from the enemy’s line, but such details are needless and unsatisfying; we know what he was when alive and in what manner and with what spirit he must have died. The circumstantial details are useless trappings.”
We are thankful for information from the Colonel, confirming Oswald was given a proper burial:
“He had been temporarily attached to this battalion and had only been with us three days. He went into action alongside his battalion and was killed during a successful attack in which he was with the leading company.
He was buried by our Chaplain near the place where he fell, between our and the old German line.”
The news of Oswald’s death did not reach his parents until October 13th, six days after the event.