Bird Watching (UK) - - World War I Centenary -

Well de­scribed dur­ing Vic­to­rian times as the great­est big-game hunter of them all, Fred­er­ick Selous, in 44 years of ex­plo­ration, hunt­ing and con­ser­va­tion, dom­i­nated the scene in south­ern Africa. Known as the ‘Mighty Nim­rod’, his lec­tures were al­ways given to packed au­di­ences and when liv­ing in Great Bri­tain he pur­sued his bird­watch­ing and egg col­lect­ing with the same au­dac­ity and skill as when hunt­ing big game. De­spite be­ing 62, Selous of­fered him­self for ser­vice and sub­se­quently re­turned to East Africa, be­ing awarded the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal in Septem­ber 1916 and was killed, shot by a sniper, on 4Jan­uary 1917. He lies there still in what is now the Selous Game Re­serve.

Or­nithol­ogy lost a very ac­cu­rate, first-rate and in­de­fati­ga­ble ob­server when John Grafton-wig­nall was killed in Me­sop­tamia on 26 Jan­uary 1917. Be­fore re­turn­ingto In­dia in 1912, af­ter one leave in Great Bri­tain, his mother com­plained that he hadn’t given as much time to her as per­haps he ought, spend­ing much of it study­ing Golden Ea­gles, Pere­grines and Short-eared Owls.

A rich vein of po­etry was gen­er­ated by those who served, many mak­ing ref­er­ence to birds. Ed­ward Thomas only be­gan writ­ing po­etry in 1914, and in July 1915, aged 37 and with a fam­ily, he en­listed though he need not have done so. By the time of his death on 9 April 1917, at the Bat­tle of Ar­ras, he had com­posed no fewer than 143 po­ems. The best-known is prob­a­bly Adle­strop, which con­cludes: “And for that minute a black­bird sang close by, and round him, mist­ier, far­ther and far­ther, all the birds of Ox­ford­shire and Glouces­ter­shire.”

On his death on 19 May 1917, Eric Dun­lop, 30, was de­scribed as “one of the most promis­ing or­nithol­o­gists of the north of Eng­land” where he made spe­cial stud­ies of rap­tors and the roost­ing habits of corvids. On this same day Flight Sub-lieu­tenant Bernard El­lis, 18, was killed dur­ing a fight over the Ger­man lines, leav­ing be­hind a di­ary which leaves lit­tle doubt as to the place he might have taken amongst nat­u­ral­ists.

Christo­pher Alexan­der was killed on 5 Oc­to­ber 1917, serv­ing with The Queen’s Royal (West Sur­rey)

Reg­i­ment. The obit­u­ary in Bri­tish Birds by his brother Ho­race, au­thor of Seventy Years of Bird Watch­ing, tells how Christo­pher flushed a Green Sand­piper from a flooded trench, watched a Great Grey Shrike in the trenches at Christ­mas and saw a Great Bus­tard fly­ing over the camp. His last sight­ings in­cluded Melo­di­ous War­bler, Pied Fly­catcher, Quail and Wood­chat Shrike, mak­ing 107 species for the year.

John Buchan wrote These for Re­mem­brance af­ter the war, com­mem­o­rat­ing six friends who gave their lives. One, Ce­cil Rawl­ing, hit by a stray shell on 23 Oc­to­ber 1917, had as his obit­u­ary in Ibis re­ports “a pas­sion for high moun­tains and the ex­plo­ration of the waste places of the world”. He mapped a vast area of the Ti­betan bor­der and dis­cov­ered the source of the Brama­pu­tra be­fore head­ing for New Guinea.

Ce­cil Bar­ing was awarded the Sil­ver Medal in the RSPB Pub­lic Schools Com­pe­ti­tion in 1914 while his ob­ser­va­tions near the Western Front were pub­lished in Bird Notes and News just a few months be­fore his death on 21 March 1918, the third of four broth­ers killed dur­ing the war.

An­other award win­ner was John Bate­son who in three of his years at Char­ter­house had been won the school prize in nat­u­ral his­tory. He was awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross for show­ing splen­did courage and self-sac­ri­fice be­fore be­ing killed on 14 Oc­to­ber 1918.

Cap­tain Syd­ney Brock was se­verely wounded on 16 Oc­to­ber 1918 and died on 11 Novem­ber as hos­til­i­ties ceased, his death de­scribed as a se­ri­ous loss to Bri­tish or­nithol­ogy.

Hav­ing spent 17 years in South­ern Ara­bia be­fore war com­menced, Ge­orge Wy­man Bury be­came heav­ily in­volved as an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in the Red Sea Pa­trol and the Arab Re­volt. A fear­less trav­eller, with nat­u­ral his­tory, par­tic­u­larly birds, be­ing his first love, the Ye­men War­bler (Sylvia buryi) and sub­species of the South­ern Grey Shrike, Streaked Scrub War­bler and Buffspot­ted Fluff­tail in­clude his name, not for­get­ting Bury’s Worm Snake. Suf­fer­ing a long ill­ness as the re­sult of wartime ser­vice, Bury died at Hel­wan, Egypt on 23 Septem­ber 1920 and was buried with full mil­i­tary hon­ours, the last bird­watcher ca­su­alty of the war.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.