London-based military chronicler Lyn MacDonald, in her study 1915: The Death of Innocence, singles out as characteristic the fate of Britain’s aristocratic stud-book, Debrett’s Peerage. This directory needed to have its 1915 edition delayed because “so many heirs to great lands and titles had been killed, that it took the editors many months to revise the entries of almost every blue-blooded family in the United Kingdom.” British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son. Hilaire Belloc, the great poet and journalist, lost a son. Another great poet, Rudyard Kipling, lost a son. Future German President Friedrich Ebert lost three sons.Share
Equally notable is the body-count among artists and intellectuals of the time. France’s Alain Fournier, creator of the exquisite novel Le Grand Meaulnes, was killed in 1914. So was the eminent French poet and philosopher, Charles Péguy. America’s own Alan Seeger, whose verses had been admired by T. S. Eliot, joined the French Foreign Legion and was killed in 1916. Also killed in 1916: Britain’s H. H. Munro, who wrote superb short stories under the pen-name “Saki,” and who, refusing an officer’s rank, enrolled as a private. Killed in 1918: English poet Isaac Rosenberg. Killed in 1918: another American poet, Joyce Kilmer.