10 April 1915: A professional soldier

Today the 9th Battalion Ox and Bucks at Fort Brockhurst near Portsmouth was converted from a Service Battalion to a Reserve Battalion. It comes as a shock: George Calderon’s training as a lieutenant was over, and he could volunteer or be drafted to the front at any moment. But this was what he had always wanted. It seems the photograph below was taken around this time. When George sent it on to Kittie, judging from his key stuck on the back, some of the higher officers had already left for active service.

Officers of the 9th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, April 1915.

Officers of the 9th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 1915.

Reverse of the above photo: George Calderon's key.

Reverse of the above photo: George Calderon’s key.

So George is the man seated extreme right in the second row.

It is quite remarkable (significant? why?) how different Calderon looks in photographs taken at different times in his short life (people have said the same of Chekhov). Particularly striking, I think, is the contrast between him in this photograph and in the middle of the portrait-banner to this blog: there he is an interpreter in a floppy uniform (it was taken just before he left for Flanders in October 1914), here he is very much the smart professional soldier.

You might even say he is ‘unrecognisable’ here. To me he looks a bit drawn. There is a strange gap at the back of his collar that doesn’t appear on any of the other officers. Frankly, he does not look in the peak of health. What at first appears to be the regulation British Army officer’s walking-stick, which so amused French troops, is probably a sword hung at his left side, as with the three young officers in the front row.

He would now be concentrating on training and exercising his own platoon of about fifty men; one of four making up a company, and there were four companies to the battalion.

Also on this day, Sir Ian Hamilton arrived back at Mudros with his General Headquarters from Egypt. Units of the expeditionary force to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula under his command had begun leaving Alexandria for Mudros on 4th.

Next entry: What is ‘The Lamp’ about? (2)


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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