One hundred years ago today, George Butterworth was still alive. On 5th August 1916, his body lay dead on a battlefield in the Somme. He was leading a party of men on a sortie up Munster Alley, when shortly before 4.45 am on 5th August 1915, he was shot in the head. The best authority on Butterworth remains Michael Barlow’s biography “Whom the Gods Love” and this is the one to get. Barlow’s book is an invaluable source, much of it drawn from family letters (now in Oxford) and material at Cecil Sharp House. Curiously, though, there’s little in his book on Butterworth’s war record, since he relied on papers collected by Butterworth’s father. So 15 years ago, I went to the War Office archive thinking his details would be easy to trace. Then I hit a brick wall. No Lt. Butterworth! No wonder Barlow was stymied
Next step, then, was to go to the list of medals, which are meticulously documented. There, I found that Butterworth had enlisted as “Kaye Butterworth!” He’d only been awarded one Military Cross, not three, but that’s still an important achievement since MC’s are not handed out except in exceptional cases. Although I didn’t have time to access the main regimental records, which aren’t in London, I did find the original War Diary of Butterworth’s Regiment. War diaries are moment to moment records of what was happening in battle, written down verbatim as the action was happening. They’re sent to higher command behind lines so the generals can follow what’s happening on the front line, while action is still in progress. In 1914-18 field communications weren’t what they’d be today. Sometimes these diaries are written on scraps, sometimes in pencil and sometimes they’re stained with mud and darker substances. And here is what I found :
and Batty wounded. Other ranks : 4 killed. 18 wounded, 3 shell shock, 5 missing.
The photo at the top shows the officers of the 13th Durham Light Infantry The man circled is supposed to be Butterworth.It’s possible since we know the Kinora films and Morris dancing stills that Butterworth was short and self effacing. Below, Butterworth second from left, in 1912.
Original Source: George Butterworth 100 years ago today