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Charles Hamilton Sorley was born on May 19th, 1895 in Aberdeen. His family moved to Cambridge when Sorley was five and his education later continued at Marlborough College, 1908-1913, where he became an excellent debater. His favourite past time however was cross-country running in the rain.
From here he won a scholarship to Oxford but decided to go in January 1914 to spend a year in Germany beforehand to study. It was a fateful decision. War clouds had gathered over Europe and when war was declared Sorley was interned for a few hours, and then instructed to leave Germany. Sorley returned to England and immediately signed up to serve as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Suffolk Regiment. He arrived in France in May, 1915 and, by the same August, had been promoted to Captain.
His poems are small in number but large in influence. ‘Such, Such is Death’ and ‘Millions of the Mouthless Dead’ evocatively capture the horror, carnage and waste of the War.
He did however also manage to write other verse which succinctly captures the human feelings and the nature of what the eye falls upon and the heart understands.
On October 13th 1915, near Hulluch, at the Battle of Loos, Charles Hamilton Sorley was killed by a sniper’s bullet to the head at the tender age of 20.
His last poem was recovered from his kit after his death, and hauntingly reads:―
When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go……..
On November 11th 1985, Sorley was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner.