Calderonia – A Writer Goes to War

Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.
—Wilfred Owen

George Calderon was killed on 4 June 1915 at the murderous ‘Battle of Achi Baba’ on the Gallipoli Peninsula. When his death was officially confirmed in 1919 The Times wrote: ‘one is inclined to say that Calderon’s loss was the heaviest blow which struck the English drama during the war.’

This was no exaggeration. In 1909 Calderon’s comedy The Fountain was a hit with the Stage Society and taken up by all the new repertory companies. It was felt to be superior to Shaw. Calderon’s ‘combination of laughter and earnestness, of shrewdness and enthusiasm, give him a place alone among modern dramatists’ wrote The Times again.

The same year, Calderon successfully directed The Seagull in his own translation for Glasgow Repertory Theatre  the first time Chekhov had been staged in Britain. He wrote eight one-act plays ranging from farce to Symbolist drama, completed his friend St John Hankin’s last play, Thompson, and collaborated with Michel Fokine on a number of ballet libretti. Most of Calderon’s plays went on to be broadcast on radio for decades and his version of The Seagull was last broadcast in 2010.

I have been writing the first full length biography of George Calderon for the past three years and it’s due to come out in 2016. We shall never entirely know what made him sign up in 1914, when his literary career was at full throttle and there was no ‘need’ for him to. But it seems to me that a day-for-day blog of his 1914-15 story can bring us close to his experience of the War and show us what kind of man this was, who sacrificed everything for what he called ‘the people’.

Patrick Miles

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