Thanks to Alan for this interesting post regarding George Butterworth. If you would like to read any of Alan’s other posts please click here – Alan Mason. – Deskarati

In an earlier post I paid tribute to a brilliant young physicist, Henry Moseley, and here I mourn for a young musician and composer. Both were killed in the First World War and their talent and creativity was lost to the nation. In earlier times wars were fought by professional soldiers. That is, the officer class had chosen the military as a life-long profession. One of the unusual aspects of WWI was that it drew in large, “citizen-armies” composed of men whose principal interest was not soldiering at all. Many had enlisted from patriotism, duty, or a sense of adventure, and later they were joined by conscripted men. Among the officer class were men from successful professional and business careers, and the other ranks were composed of skilled artisans and tradesmen. All expected the war to be short, perhaps six months, and when it was over most would return to their original occupations.

Previously, when a professional soldier was killed in action or died of disease on campaign, his relatives were consoled by the thought that “he died serving his country in the job he loved best.” Sudden death was, after all, a professional hazard of soldiering. In the First World War, the death of a volunteer or conscript meant the loss of a man with valuable peacetime skills. Here was a skilled bricklayer or toolmaker lost to the nation. There lay the body of a qualified architect, surveyor or scientist.

At the highest level were young men beginning to make their mark in the world, and likely to make an historic contribution to their particular profession. Their deaths cut off any future professional development, and left us a tantalising unfulfilled promise of “what might have been”. The composer George Butterworth was one of these.

A Railway Family

George Butterworth was born into the prosperous professional family of a solicitor in Paddington, London in 1885. Soon after George’s birth, his father was appointed General Manager of the North East Railway Company based in York, and this required the whole family moving to Yorkshire. The development of British public railways had began in the north-east of England with the Stockton to Darlington railway in 1826, and York has been a major railway centre ever since, so George’s father had a very important job. His company eventually transmuted into the London and North East Railway Company (LNER), until it was nationalised with the entire railway system in 1948 (2).

Schooldays in Yorkshire

George’s mother had been a professional singer and she taught him the basics of music when he quite small. At the age of seven or eight he went to Aysgarth Preparatory School, (3) some 25 miles (40 Km) from his home in the city of York. It was common practice in those days, for the male children of wealthy parents to be sent off at an early age to private boarding schools. He seems to have been happy there and his keyboard skills were good enough for him to play the organ in the school chapel.

Aysgarth School is near the village of Bedale and about eight miles east of Aysgarth village. It lies close to one of England’s trans-Pennine routes between Northallerton in the Plain of York and Penrith in Cumbria, running through the beautiful valley of Wensleydale (4) in North Yorkshire.

Music at Eton College

His later music was praised for its feeling for the English countryside, and this may have been stimulated by the setting of his school near Wensleydale, because up until that time he had been a “townie” in London and York. He worked well enough at the school to obtain a scholarship to Eton, which he entered at the age of fourteen in 1899. He was encouraged to pursue his music at Eton, and it is recorded that he wrote a barcarolle for the school orchestra in 1903, when he was aged eighteen, although none of the music has survived. A barcarolle is a boating song with a steady beat, imitating the rhythm of the Venetian gondolier (barcaruolo) as he plies his pole, or oar to drive the gondola along (5).

The one piece of music for which Eton is famous, is its “Boating Song” which opens;

“Jolly boating weather,

And a hay harvest breeze,

Blade on the feather,

Shade of the trees,

Swing, swing together, etc.”

(The words are about the technicalities of rowing. When the flat blade of an oar is twisted so the narrow thin edge slips easily through the water, it is said to be “feathered”.) Though Butterworth would have been familiar with the song and its gently rocking rhythm, it was composed long before his time in 1863.

Music at Oxford

From Eton, George Butterworth went up to Trinity College, Oxford, in 1904, at the age of nineteen, “with the idea of reading Greats, with his father intending George to follow him into the legal profession.” (Weedon, References A). Translating the “varsity” jargon, “reading” means studying, and “Greats” was a convenient abbreviation for an honours degree as Bachelor of Arts in Literae Humaniores, (“polite letters”); a kind of liberal arts degree, in Classics, Philosophy and Ancient History.

At Oxford he broadened his acquaintance with other musicians like Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Cecil Sharp who were active in the English folk song revival during the early twentieth century. He also met Hugh Allen, (later to be Director of the Royal College of Music) and Adrian Boult (later to become a distinguished conductor, and knighted for services to music). Butterworth became President of the University Musical Society.

In 1907, Butterworth and Vaughan-Williams went on several trips together, to collect English folk songs, many of them from Sussex (7). This work influenced the music of both men, particularly this great feeling for the English countryside as a source of inspiration. They used a phonograph, which was rather a rather primitive recording device, using wax cylinders, in those days, to capture the voices and accents of the ordinary people singing folk songs for them. Butterworth collaborated with Cecil Sharp, the father of folk-song collection, in founding the English Folk Song and Dance Society in 1906, as he was a keen dancer and Morris man.

Morris dancing is a traditional English form of dance display, performed by a small group of men, known as a “side” to a musical accompaniment (8). There are several different types of Morris dancing, and some styles may date back to medieval times. It is claimed, (Brewer, Reference E) that this dance was brought from Spain to England by King Edward III (reigned 1327 -1377). Why he would do this is not explained, although his grandfather, King Edward I was married to Queen Eleanor of Castile, who came from Spain.

The ceremonial was supposed to have been based on a military dance of the North African troops known as “moriscos” or in English, “moors”. The name “morris” is assumed to be a corruption of “moorish”, widely used for anyone outlandish, strange or of foreign appearance. At the time of the Crusaders, their Muslim adversaries were called, “moors”.

Trying to Earn a Living

Butterworth left Oxford in 1908 with a third class degree, principally because he had neglected his academic studies for musical interests. “Like almost all of the university-educated composers of the Victorian/Edwardian era, a perceived threadbare career in music was not his parents’ intention. Music was only a hobby or an enjoyable diversion…George had (in the words of Stephen Banfield) a ‘stereotypical conflict’ with his father after announcing that he did not wish to enter into one of the recognised professions, in this case law.” (Weedon, References A)

George toyed with a number of different occupations, continuing to compose music and trying his hand at music criticism and music journalism (1908-9). Neither further study, at the Royal College of Music (piano and organ) nor teaching for a year at Radley College, in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, (1909-1910) were satisfactory for him.

“Perhaps his father’s fears were justified, as without his family’s patronage, George struggled to establish himself as a composer.” (Weedon, References A) Butterworth does not seem to have had any conventional job in the four years between leaving Radley College and the outbreak of war, but he was certainly busy with musical composition, notably “Banks of Green Willow” and the song settings, “A Shropshire Lad”.

Setting Housman’s Poems

The poet, A E Housman, privately published, at his own expense, “A Shropshire Lad”, a collection of his verse in 1896, , as none of the commercial publishers were interested. Since that date there has never been a year in which the book was out of print. The poems struck a chord with the general public, and still do, a hundred years later. They more specifically struck a musical chord with several composers, notably Ralph Vaughan-Williams, John Ireland, Arthur Somervell, and Ivor Gurney, but also George Butterworth.

Housman’s verse was set in the county of Shropshire on the Welsh border. It was not the poet’s home, because he came from Worcestershire, but as he said, “he had a sentimental feeling for Shropshire, because its hills formed our western horizon”. The poetry is highly imaginative and depicts a Shropshire of the mind, a rural idyll, a “land of lost content”.

The poet describes certain character types that crop up regularly; the Ploughman, the Lover, the Soldier, and the Dead Man. The poems have a wistful melancholy that speaks of lost love, injustice, retribution and the inevitability of death. There are sixty-three separate poems in “A Shropshire Lad”, and Butterworth chose eleven to set to music as songs (10). As the poems do not have titles they are identified by their first lines, or a roman numeral. Apart from the song settings, Butterworth also composed an orchestral work entitled, “A Shropshire Lad Rhapsody”, which was first performed publically at the Leeds Festival in 1913.

Family Matters

George’s mother died in 1911, when he was 26, and his father had become reconciled to the idea that his son would never become a lawyer. As a mark of his confidence, he made George a regular maintenance allowance to enable him to continue composing. At the end of 1911, George went to live with his father in London, largely because he could not make ends meet. For the next two years he worked hard at his music, composing further “Idylls”, pastoral pieces based on the some of the folk songs collected by Vaughan-Williams, Sharp, and Butterworth himself.

Last Compositions

One of the most well-known pastoral pieces is “The Banks of Green Willow” which he described as “an idyll for a small orchestra”, published in 1913 and first performed at The Queen’s Hall, London, in early 1914. The Housman poems referred to earlier, are essentially melancholic, but Butterworth’s Idylls, reflect the composer himself, and are much more optimistic, happy, relaxed, and contemplative. “The Banks of Green Willow” has described by musicologists as having an “arched” or symmetrical structure, because it begins with a rather quiet section, moves to a passionate central passage, and concludes with a contemplative third movement.

Following these successes, Butterworth was busy on a much longer “Fantasy for Orchestra”, as well as helping his close friend, Ralph Vaughan-Williams (11) with his “London Symphony”. Originally, it was Butterworth who suggested that he turn his new symphonic poem into a full-blown symphony. Vaughan Williams later recalled: “We were talking together when he said in his gruff, abrupt manner: ‘You know, you ought to write a symphony’. I answered…that I’d never written a symphony and never intended to. Butterworth’s words stung me and I looked out some sketches I had made for a symphonic poem about London and decided to throw it into symphonic form. It was then I realised that he (Butterworth) possessed a wonderful power of criticism of other men’s work, and insight into their ideas and motives. I can never feel too grateful to him for all he did for me over this work and his help did not stop short at criticism.”

Vaughan-Williams’ original manuscript of the “London Symphony” was lost, for reasons that are now not clear, and it was Butterworth, together with Geoffrey Toye and the critic Edward J. Dent, who helped him to recreate it. Vaughan Williams dedicated the piece to Butterworth’s memory after his death.

The Start of War

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on the 28 June 1914, the traditional date on which the First World War broke out, but the powers of Europe moved only slowly towards actual conflict. Britain declared war on Germany on 3 August, and there was an immediate “rush to the colours” (12) from men all over the country, eager to join the armed forces. George Butterworth was one of these men. Curiously, given his background, (Prep school, Eton, Trinity College, Oxford) Butterworth enlisted as a private soldier rather than an officer.

Regimental Tradition

In the British Army, then, as now, men were recruited on a regional basis, into county regiments. This has the advantage of capitalising on regional pride, and producing a force with a strong local identity. The men all speak with the same regional accents, support the same football teams, and share the same memories of home. This regimental structure creates a strong morale, but, as was later discovered, in the event of heavy casualties whole villages and towns lost all their young men at a stroke.

Private Butterworth was soon transferred to the Durham Light Infantry, where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 13 Battalion. He was familiar with the north of England, having lived in North Yorkshire, but just over its northern border, County Durham, was a different matter. It was a land of wild, open moorland rather than green rural valleys, and its principal trade was coal-mining. Most of the eager young men in Butterworth’s platoon were former pitmen, with the very strong Durham regional accent. In letters to his father, George spoke with great warmth and admiration for the miners of his Light Infantry platoon.

A Sense of Purpose

An article by John Rippon, a biographer of Butterworth, rather acidly, but with brutal accuracy, commented that the war “gave him something to do” (Musical Times, Aug and Sept 1966). Although Butterworth had bullied Vaughan-Williams into writing his London Symphony, he did not see that the very same arguments applied to him. Instead of writing a host of pretty minor pieces, why did he not embark on a major symphony, as he had the musical expertise to do so? He was twenty-nine and there was no better time to begin a major work.

The war provided Butterworth with a sense of purpose, together with a degree of certainty and direction to life, which he had lacked up until then. His letters home to his father show how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow officers and the men of his platoon. This is in marked contrast to the experience of poet and writer, Robert Graves, a man of similar public school background, (Charterhouse) who was a junior officer of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Their senior officers regarded the “temporary gentlemen” like Graves, serving only for the duration of the war, with complete contempt. They did not speak to them in the mess, (officers’ dining room) and spoke about them as “warts”. None of this would make for an “esprit de corps”. (See References F) Perhaps the senior officers of the Durham Light Infantry did not see themselves as such a high status regiment as the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and were quite willing to welcome new officers like Butterworth.

Sadly, we realise that the sense of purpose and direction in life, that Butterworth had found was to be employed in a dreadfully destructive war. Despite their enthusiasm, the men who joined the army in 1914 (12) could not be sent into action before they had been adequately trained. The original men of the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 were professionals, but they were small in numbers. The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, described them as “a contemptible little army”. These men seized on the insult, and turned it into a badge of honour, calling themselves, “The Old Contemptibles”, meaning the men who held the line until the volunteers were ready to take over.

Butterworth and his regiment went to Flanders in 1915, to enter the trenches, and to take part in the smaller offensives that were a prelude to a great “push” that everyone expected, would drive the Germans back across the Rhine, and bring an end to the fighting.

The Grand Strategy

At this point, we need to step back from the details of Butterworth’s labours, like so many other junior officers, in training their men, to consider the overall strategy of the war. For this, I turn to Prof. Alan Taylor, (References G).

“Though four Great Powers were at war against Germany, (France, Britain, United States, and Italy) there had been little alliance except in name. There was no exchange of information, no coordination of plans. On 6 December 1915, a military conference of all the Allies was held for the first time. Joffre (14) presided at his Chantilly headquarters. He had become a great man – not only presiding over the Allies, but generalissimo of all the French armies.

The Allied conference made a wide strategical decision for 1916 the coming year: there were to be simultaneous offensives against the Germans on the three main fronts – Western, Eastern, and Italian. Nothing much came of this decision. Joffre however remained unperturbed. He had no real interest in anything except the Western Front, and there he had got what he wanted. Henceforth, it was to become the focal point of British, as it had always been of French, strategy.

Joffre had a private meeting with Haig, who had just become Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in France. Earlier on, Haig had sharply criticized the offensives conducted by his predecessor, Sir John French. Once in supreme command, his views changed. He became convinced that the offensive could succeed.

There were 38 British divisions in France at the beginning of 1916. The French had 95 divisions, making, with the Belgians, a grand total of 139 divisions against 117 German. Nineteen more British divisions arrived by July. Haig had always a favourite strategical idea: to attack Flanders and then ‘roll up’ the Germans from the north. Joffre did not like this idea. He doubted whether the British would fight hard enough unless he had them under his own hand; and for this a combined offensive was necessary.

Joffre therefore pointed to the River Somme, (16) the spot where the British and French lines joined. This was a strange choice. There was no great prize to be gained, no vital centre to be threatened. The Germans, if pressed, could fall back to their
own advantage, with better communications and a shortened line. Joffre did not care. The great thing was to pull the British into heavy fighting.

Maybe Joffre hoped to stage something like the German breakthrough at Gorlice (on the eastern front) in the previous year; more probably he thought that heavy fighting was enough in itself – it would kill a lot of Germans. Haig did not defend his own plan. Ile loyally conformed to Joffre’s strategy as Lord Kitchener had instructed him to do.” (Taylor, References G)

The remarkable concept in Taylor’s analysis is the idea that “heavy fighting” was in itself a valuable military activity. Throughout history the most respected military commanders were those who managed to achieve victory with the smallest losses of their own men.

The German Strategy

It was not just Joffre and the French high command that planned an offensive with heavy casualties. On the German side, General Erich von Falkenhayn (17) had prepared a plan to break the stalemate of the Western Front. Like Joffre he had selected a place of no great strategic interest to fight an epic battle. The Western Front was a meandering line which simply represented the places where the opening war of movement in 1914 ceased, and where the opposing armies stopped, dug trenches, and set up machine-gun positions.

The old French town of Verdun lay at the tip of what is technically known as a “salient”, a great bulge in the line, (16) towards the German-occupied territory. Now, salients in their line are not popular with field commanders because the men holding them can be attacked from two different sides at the same time, so there is always a risk of an enemy break-through. Consequently, when left to make their own decisions, field commanders will normally pull back from a salient and “shorten the line.” One of the problems with WWI is that, for the French, “territory” became sacrosanct, ground must be held at all costs, and if lost must be recaptured with an immediate counter-attack.

The German strategists were well aware of this foolish doctrine of the French high command and set out to exploit it to their own advantage. Readers who are interested to learn more of this aspect of French strategy can find a very readable and full account in Alistair Horne’s book, (References H). Falkenhayn had chosen Verdun because, although not significant strategically, it had great historical and psychological importance to the French. He calculated, quite correctly, that they would throw everything into trying to hold it. His plan was to “bleed the French white” in a war of attrition.

The battle for Verdun began in February 1916 with very heavy German bombardment from some of the largest guns they possessed (18). When senior military commanders explained to the French Prime Minister, Aristide Briand, that Verdun was of no use strategically and should not be defended, he flew into a rage, “If you surrender Verdun you will be cowards, cowards, and I’ll sack the lot of you”. He knew if Verdun fell, so would his government. The Commander in Chief, Joffre agreed with the Prime Minister.

In the words of Prof Taylor, “Joffre had been on the point of making a sensible decision for the first time (a retreat from Verdun). The political chief intervened, again for the first time; and Joffre made the wrong one. The French fell into Falkenhayn’s trap”. (References G). The importance of Verdun to the British forces is that it was such a disaster for the French army that Haig was forced to bring forward the Battle of the Somme, from 1 August to the 1 July 1916, and to take on a longer stretch of the offensive line.

“Verdun was saved at the cost of the French army. The defence of Verdun shattered the French fighting spirit, and brought it to the verge of mutiny.” (Taylor, References G). The Germans were in an equally poor state, because their High Command had assumed that a very heavy bombardment would demolish all the opposition and the attacking troops would be able to advance unopposed into the French trenches. This was not the case, as the survival of even a few machine-gunners could cut whole German regiments to pieces.

The Battle of the Somme

It is a great pity that the British High Command did not pay closer attention to what was happening to the German offensive on Verdun, in the early months of 1916, because they repeated exactly the same mistakes. Having assumed that the British bombardment would eliminate the German infantry completely, the advancing troops were loaded with an average of 60 pounds (27 Kg) of equipment each. They advanced at a slow walk because of their burdens, and maintained straight lines, as they had been trained to do. The fortunate men fell over into shell holes or ditches, where they avoided drowning by heaving off their heavy loads.

The unfortunate men were killed in their slow-moving straight lines, by German machine-gunners who had survived the artillery barrage. They took only a few seconds to emerge once the barrage had lifted, and a few more seconds to bring their weapons into action. The British suffered 60, 000 casualties (20, 000 dead) on the first day, 1 July 1916. This was the heaviest loss by any army on a single day, in the entire First World War. These appalling figures were concealed from the British public, as well as from the troops, by reporting the number of German prisoners captured, rather than the actual British casualties. The old saying is, “Truth is one of the first casualties of war”.

George Butterworth was now an Acting Lieutenant, the second level of commissioned officer, as 2 nd Lieutenant was the lowest level. The Durham Light Infantry was fortunate in missing the worst of the opening butchery, but as part of the 23 rd Division, they were now ordered to capture the western approaches to the village of Contalmaison on the River Somme. Over a period of two days (16 – 17 July) Butterworth’s platoon succeeded in capturing a series of German trenches near the village of Pozières. As a result of his leadership and bravery, (being slightly wounded), he was gazetted (formally recommended) for the Military Cross medal.

These reports of troop actions, featured in British national newspapers, gave a false picture of the dreadful reality of the warfare. When the report says “village of Pozières”, think of a large, flat rubble-strewn pile of stones, wood and metal (20); when it says “Wood or Forest” think of a tangle of smashed timber, leaves, mud and branches.

Following the success of Durham Light Infantry, it was directed to take a German communications trench nicknamed “Munster Alley”. The former coal-miners silently dug an assault trench, as close as they could risk, to the German trench and named it “Butterworth Trench” in honour of their officer. During the night of 4-5 August Butterworth’s platoon managed to capture “Munster Alley”, though with heavy losses. Following the German counter-attack in the early morning of 5 August, a sniper shot Butterworth through the head, and he died instantly. His men hurriedly buried his body in the side of the trench, as they were still coping with enemy attacks.

The whole of the Somme area was so heavily shelled and fought over that Butterworth’s body was never found again. Many thousands of soldiers of various nationalities were described as “missing, presumed dead” at the end of the war. This meant they had been blown to fragments by a shell, and their body parts were blown up again, perhaps several times over. Their relatives knew only the place where they had last been seen.

Hence it is claimed that Butterworth’s body lies somewhere near the site of the village of Pozières (po zee air) in what is now a cemetery administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. His only memorial in the area is the great monument (21) at Thiepval (tee ep varl) where thousands of names are carved in the white stone panels of the monumental arches.

In Britain, there is a brass memorial plaque (22) in the Priory Church of St Mary, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, placed there by Sir Alexander Butterworth, in memory of his son George, and also his nephew Hugh Butterworth, killed in 1915 at the Battle of Loos. This site was chosen for family reasons, as Sir Alexander’s father, the Reverend George Butterworth had been Vicar of St Mary’s in the late nineteenth century. Deerhurst is a small village about three miles south of the town of Tewkesbury, and close to Junction 9 of the M5 motorway.

Butterworth’s Musical Legacy

It is clear that Butterworth’s principal memorial is his music. We know that before he left for the front he destroyed a quantity of his manuscripts because he thought they were not of sufficiently high quality. This suggests that he suspected that he might not return from the war, and knew that Britain would remember him from his music alone. His musical manuscripts had been left to his friend, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and on his death, in 1958 they came to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. His other interest was folk songs, and his collection of notes with folk song recordings, on wax cylinders, was deposited with the English Folk Song and Dance Society, at Cecil Sharp House in north London.

An abbreviated list of his surviving works is given below.

Two English Idylls (for orchestra/for piano duet)

A Shropshire Lad (Rhapsody for orchestra; Rhapsody for piano solo)

The Banks of Green Willow (for orchestra)

Love Blows as the Wind Blows (song cycle for voice and piano/instruments)

Suite for String Quartet

Suite for Small Orchestra

Eleven Songs from a Shropshire Lad

Folk Songs from Sussex

Haste On, My Joys! (Song)

I Will Make You Brooches (song)

I Fear Thy Kisses (song)

Requiescat (song, words Oscar Wilde)

In The Highlands (chorus for female voices and piano)

On Christmas Night (folksong, chorus for male voices and piano)

We get up in the Morn (folksong, chorus for male voices)

Morris Dance Tunes (books 8 & 9, with Cecil Sharp)

I close this short appreciation of George Butterworth with a personal anecdote. Years ago, I was in an informal discussion with a group of students, when the topic of Armistice Sunday came up. One of the students, who I shall call Jon, was very critical of the whole ceremony as “glorifying war”. I tried to explain that this was to misunderstand what it was about. It was true that the ceremonial was military, but it was really an opportunity for the whole nation to come together, to remember, to call to mind and to grieve for those who had been lost in war. It was not only the military who died in war but civilians were also killed. For me, on Armistice Sunday, I call to mind my Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary, killed together in an air-raid on Bristol in 1940. I doubt if Jon agreed with this argument but he did see there was another point of view.

The years passed, and I left the college to take up a different job, while Jon left, pursuing his own career. We both continued to live in the same town, and met up accidentally from time to time, greeting each other warmly. Eventually, when I was made redundant for a second time, and took early retirement, I planned to do some computer courses to extend my skills. On one of our accidental meetings, Jon was very kind and helpful in arranging a series of computer courses for me, within the governmental organisation for which he worked.

It was probably about forty years after our conversation on Armistice Sunday, when Jon and I had one of our accidental meetings and the subject of classical music came up. I knew Jon was interested in folk music from Britain and the USA but he had begun to extend his knowledge of the classical composers. We compared notes and favourites, finding he was very interested in Vaughan Williams and enthused about him. I asked Jon if he knew Butterworth’s work. He didn’t know the name, but he wrote it down with intention of following it up. Perhaps a fortnight later our paths crossed and Jon told me of his great pleasure in discovering the few remaining works of Butterworth.


I have made use of a number of reference works

A. “George Butterworth – A Biography” by Robert Weedon, accessible on the internet

B. “On the Rails” by Anthony Burton, Aurum Press, 2004

C. “Venice, Queen of the Sea” Edizioni Storti, 1986

D. “A R Quinton’s England” by Alan C Jenkins, Webb and Bower, 1997

E. “Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable”, 17 th edition, revised by John Ayto, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2005

F. “Goodbye to All That” by Robert Graves, Cassell, 1929

G. “The First World War – An Illustrated History” by A J P Taylor, Penguin, 1963

H. “The Price of Glory – Verdun 1916” by Alistair Horne, Macmillan, 1963

1. Record sleeve of two of Butterworth’s works (Author. Boult and the London Philharmonic did record Butterworth on the Decca Eclipse label but I found the existing sleeves so unsatisfactory that I designed one of my own.)

2. Gresley’s A4 Pacifics for the LNER railway (Burton, op. cit)

3. Aysgarth School, North Yorkshire (google image)

4. Wensleydale, North Yorkshire (google image)

5. Venetian barcaruolo with a big gondola (Edizioni Storti, op. cit)

6. Trinity College, Oxford (google image)

7. Sussex, the view from Blackdown Hill

8. A “side” of Morris men (google image)

9. The town of Ludlow in Shropshire, a painting by Alfred Robert Quinton (Jenkins, op. cit)

10. Butterworth’s selection of “A Shropshire Lad” (Author)

11. Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams as a young man (google image)

12. Volunteers in 1914 (Taylor op. cit)

13. George Butterworth (google image)

14. Joseph Joffre (Horne, op. cit)

15. General Sir Douglas Haig (Horne, op. cit)

16. The Western Front showing the Somme and Verdun battlefronts (Author, simplified from Horne, op. cit)

17. General Erich von Falkenhayn (Horne, op. cit)

18. Heavy guns battering the French at Verdun (Taylor op. cit)

19. British troops in a communications trench at the Battle of the Somme (google image)

20. French troops in a trench at “Fleury village”, Verdun (Horne, op. cit)

21. The Thiepval Memorial to the soldiers killed on the Somme battlefield (google image)

22. Memorial plaque to Hugh (k. 1915) and George Butterworth (k. 1916) in St Mary’s Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire (google image)

23. Bredon Hill, the first two stanzas of seven (google image)


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  1. Deskarati says:

    Another great post Alan.
    After listening to Butterworth’s Shropshire Lad it comes to mind what treats we might have if he had returned unharmed from the Great War. With his experiences of battle and camaraderie, who knows what great works could have followed.

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