On this day in history : 23rd April 1915 – The death of English poet Rupert Brooke, known for his sonnets written in World War I – especially ‘The Soldier’….

Rupert Chawner Brook was born in Rugby, Warwickshire on the 3rd of August 1887 – he was the third of four children…. He attended prep school and then went to Rugby and Cambridge University….

From a photograph by Sherril Schell taken in 1913

Known for his boyish good looks, Brooke was a popular character – amongst his friends were the likes of mountaineer George Mallory and writer Virginia Woolf…. Brooke belonged to the Bloomsbury group of writers and to the Georgian Poets….he was also one of the most important of the ‘Dymock Poets’ and lived in the Gloucestershire village for a while…. In 1912 he suffered an emotional breakdown after his long-term relationship with Katherine Laird Cox, whom he had met at University, ended….

At the outbreak of World War I Brooke immediately enlisted and came into the public eye for his war poetry the following year…. The Times Literary Supplement had published two of his sonnets – ‘The Dead’ and ‘The Soldier’…. On Easter Sunday, the 4th of April 1915, ‘The Soldier’ was read as part of the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral….in less than three weeks time Brooke was to pass away….img_3020

Coming to the attention of Winston Churchill, who was at the time First Lord of the Admiralty, Brooke was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve….taking part in the Antwerp Expedition in October 1914…. On the 28th of February 1915 he sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force bound for the Gallipoli Campaign….

It was during the voyage he developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite…. At 4.46pm on the 23rd of April 1915, on board the ‘Duguay-Trouin’, a French hospital ship moored in a bay off of the Greek island of Skyros, Brooke died…. He was buried in an olive grove on the island at 11pm that night….

Grave of Rupert Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros

On the 11th of November 1985 he was one of sixteen World War I poets’ names to be commemorated at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey…. The inscription on the slate monument reads the words ~ “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity” ~ ….and are by Brooke’s fellow war poet Wilfred Owen….

Rupert Brooke – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums

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