The note darkens

I did not notice it when I got to this point in writing the chapter in my biography, but the day-by-day ‘real time’ of the blog has brought it home to me: the note has definitely darkened by this date in George and Kittie’s lives.

It is not just the death of Jim Corbet, which certainly had a deeply depressing effect on them both, and which George even refers to obliquely in the last letter he ever wrote. Several people have emailed me about my posts concerning Corbet’s death. What I haven’t mentioned, but is well attested, is the number of sons of the Calderons’ other friends that were being killed at about the same age as him.

But the other source of depression for Kittie was, of course, the fact that her husband was now in the front line reserve and could leave for active service at any time. The situation regarding married men seems to have varied, but I believe that as a married man with no children and a wife who was totally dependent on him (she had no near relatives in this country), he could have successfully petitioned to remain in Britain. This is presumably why two of his superior officers in the Ox and Bucks said later that they should not have ‘let him go’ on active service.

Given George’s history of depression, the knowledge that he might be about to leave for active service and get killed must have had a psychological effect on him too, which he repressed. He looks by far the glummest and tensest soldier on the battalion photograph (see my post of 10 April), and one feels he is straining to appear humorous and unconcerned in his letter to his mother from Fort Brockhurst yesterday. His unique sense of the absurd and grotesque — which we saw plenty of in his letters from Ypres — seems almost entirely to disappear from his life now. His commitment to the cause was magnificent, of course, but he had left himself (and Kittie) ‘no way back’.

The Second Battle of Ypres opened today with the Germans releasing 168 tons of chlorine gas at dawn over a four-mile front held by French forces. About 5000 troops were killed in the first ten minutes.

At Mudros the final preparations for the Gallipoli landings had been made. The attack was planned for 23 April, but bad weather yesterday and today meant the departure of the invasion fleet had to be postponed.

Next entry: St George’s Day 1915


About Patrick Miles

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