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Alec de Candole



Alexander Corry Vully de Candole - always known as Alec - was born on the 26th of January, 1897.  He was offered a place at Cambridge, but postponed the offer to join the War effort.  He was killed in action on the 3rd of September, 1918 at the age of 21.

Alec's father was the Ven. Henry Lawe Corry Vully de Candole; his mother Helen (Edith) Thompson.  They lived at Springfield Lawn, The Park, Cheltenham and later at 6 Little Cloisters, Westminster, London.  

Alec was educated at St Faith's, Cambridge; in 1908 he went to St Andrew's, Southborough. In 1910 he was awarded a Foundation Scholarship to Marlborough College, and in 1912 won a Senior Scholarship.

In December 1915, Alec won an Open Classical Exhibition Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, which he postponed for the duration of the War currently being fought, his hope being to take Holy Orders.

Upon leaving school, Alec joined up, and in April 1916 was sent to Cadet school in Oxford, after which he was commissioned into the 4th Wiltshire Regiment.

He went to France in April 1917. After a short leave in September 1917, Alec returned to France, and was wounded on October 28, and came back to England the following month, Nov 1917. 

After some months on Salisbury Plain, he was attached to the Machine Gun Corps, and was sent to Grantham in April 1918.

In July 1918 he left for France, where he was killed on the night of September 3, 1918.

He is not commemorated in Cheltenham or the local area but is commemorated on the Cambridge War Memorial at Holy Trinity Church which can be viewed >here<.   His entry in Wikipedia can be seen >here<.

In March 1919, his book, "Essays on Religion and Life," (The Faith of a Subaltern) was published by Cambridge University Press.

His 83 poems were published privately by his father in October 1919,  The purpose of this WebSite is to make his poems available.

He also wrote a Biblical play, an essay on "Fall of Carthage" and "An Arthurian Romance".

Perhaps his best known poem is this:-

AND if a bullet in the midst of strife 
Should still the pulse of this unquiet life, 
'Twere well: be death an everlasting rest, 
I oft could yearn for it, by cares opprest; 
And be 't a night that brings another day, 
I still could go rejoicing on my way,
Desiring in no phantom heav'n to dwell,
Nor scared with terror of any phantom hell, 
But gazing now I find not death a curse
Better than life perchance, at least not worse; 
Only the fierce and rending agony,
The torment of the flesh about to die,
Affrights my soul; but that shall pass anon,
And death's repose or strife be found, that gone; 
Only with that last earthly ill to cope
God grant me strength, and I go forth with hope

July 17th, 1918.

That poem was quoted in the book A deep cry: First World War soldier-poets killed in France and Flanders by Anne Powell; Sutton Pub., 1993; 470 pages

The book's "blurb" reads:-

Arranged by dates of death, this book gives the short life-and-death stories, including an account of the battles in which they died, of sixty-six published British poets killed in Flanders fields.

“We set off for the Aubigny Communal Cemetery, where we were to visit the graves of Alexander de Candole and Hamish Mann. The focus today was to look at the work of those poets who were deeply troubled by the attitude of the Church towards the war.

Most of us are familiar with Sassoon's biting satire directed at the Church, but I knew little of de Candole, who wrote a book entitled 'The Faith of a Subaltern: Essays on Religion and Life'. It was clear from the readings that had been selected for our anthologies that here was a highly intelligent and sensitive young man for whom the crusading spirit and systematic demonising of the enemy, promulgated by the Church, were totally abhorrent. One can only speculate what a young man of his intellectual calibre might have become, had he not been killed, at the age of 21, in a bombing raid towards the end of the war.”


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