In Memoriam: Charles Hamilton Sorley

Category: Community, General, Music

A service of commemoration for Charles Hamilton Sorley (C1 1908-15) took place on Sunday 15th November in Chapel.

Sorley was killed by a sniper north of Loos, October 13th 1915 while in acting command of his Company of the 7th Suffolk Regiment.

On the 60th anniversary of the young poet’s death in 1975, there was another Chapel service, also attended by members of Sorley’s family. This was linked with a ceremony to replace the old wooden signpost on the Aldbourne Downs which Sorley mentioned in his poetry. Now, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death, the Marlborough College Archives and Music Department have produced a service of words and music with a similar object.

Sorley was the son of the Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge and won an Open Scholarship to Marlborough College in 1908 at the age of thirteen. He was a Prefect who gained an Open Classical Scholarship at University College Oxford, but, like so many young men of that time, he never took up the opportunity. He chose to spend some months in Schwerin and Jena in Germany to study the language, history and culture he so admired. At the outbreak of war he was on a walking tour in the Moselle Valley, but succeeded, with difficulty, in returning to England, and in August 1914 was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, becoming Lieutenant in November and Captain in August 1915. On 30th May he was sent to France and was killed by a sniper at Hulluch in north-western France in the Battle of Loos on 13th October, 1915, aged 20. His poems, many of which had appeared in The Marlburian, were published after his death in January 1916, under the title Marlborough and other Poems, the fourth and definitive edition appearing in 1919. Letters from Germany and the Army was privately printed in 1916 and published with many additions and biographical notices in 1919, in response to the wide interest aroused in his writings and personality. He had given every promise of a powerful and original genius.

On Sunday we had the honour of hosting members of Sorley’s family in the College for this commemorative service. They kindly agreed to lend the College Archives his medals, his letters and letters from the poet Robert Graves to Professor Sorley after the poet’s death.

Ms CC Russell

College Archivist

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