Friday, 23 December 2016


In this final extract from Birds and The War, author Hugh Gladstone pays tribute to the ornithologists who lost their lives in this most terrible of wars. 

IN conclusion, a passing tribute Is due to those British ornithologists who, with thousands of other valiant soldiers, have given their lives for King and Country. 

In days to come, mankind will be astounded by the grand total of human lives sacrificed in the war. 

At present we have figures for our own losses to which we must add the statistics of losses sustained by our allies and our enemies.

This vast total will be swelled still further by those who, though they have not fallen in actual battle, have perished as a direct consequence of the war. 

Shell and bullet, torpedo and gas, are reckoned as just some of the weapons of war. Accidental explosions, shipwreck, massacres, famine and disease, must be regarded as its contingencies.

An MP  stated, early in 1918, that between 10 and 12 million had been killed, and that 44 million had been maimed and shattered in mind and body.

To give the roll of honour, even if it were possible, of all the British lovers of birds who fell  would occupy many pages, but a fairly complete list could probably be compiled from the columns of such publications as The Field Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, British Birds magazine, The Zoologist, The Ibis, and Bird Notes and News

I propose, however, only to record the names of those who were particularly well known on account of their contributions to ornithology and whose deaths, often in the prime of their lives and at the commencement of promising scientific careers, are therefore the more to be deplored :

C. J. Alexander (October 4-5, 1917);
Commander Hon. R. Bridgeman (January 1917) 
Lord Brabourne (March 12, 1915);
Captain Sydney F. Brock (November 9, 1918)
Captain J. C. Crowley (September 9,1916)
 Eric Dunlop (May 19, 1917)
 Captain Leonard Gray (July 31, 1917)
 Lieutenant-Colonel H. H. Harrington (March 8,1916)
Lieutenant-Colonel R. R. Horsburgh (July 9, 1916)
Captain Hon. Gerald Legge (August 9, 1915)
Captain Lord Lucas (November 4, 1916)
Lieutenant-Colonel Aymer Maxwell (October 8, 1914)
Lieutenant L. N. G. Ramsay (March 21,1916)
Captain F. C. Selous (January 4,1917)
Colonel Charles Stonham (January 31, 1916)
George Stout (November 13, 1916)
2nd Lieutenant G. V.Webster (August 4, 1917)
Major H. T. Whitehead (September 26, 191 5) 
 Lieutenant R. B. Woosnam (June 4, 915).

The librarian of the Zoological Society of London, H. Peavot (April 21, 1917), and the assistant librarian of the Linnaean Society, E. E. Riseley (August 1, 1917), fell in action in France.

And I must not omit to record the loss to ornithological art in the deaths of 2nd Lieutenant O. Murray-Dixon (April l0,1917) and Frank Southgate (February 23,1916).

Doubtless, our enemies' losses in the scientlfic ranks have been as  heavy as our own.

If the outcome of this ”the world's greatest war” is to be a permanent peace, it will be as welcome to scientists as to mankind in general.

Science can only pursue her course by a mutual and international exchange of thought and must always conserve an attitude of mind abhorrent to such brutal acts as wars.

Nature, it is true, is at times cruel.

We human beings, who are only her creatures, but endowed with generations of education, should strive, puny though our efforts may be, to eliminate her cruelties and cultivate her beauties until she becomes sublime.

We have seen that the birds were indifferent to the noise of battle, and that migration went on uninterrupted by the struggle of mankind. 

The greeting card of the RSPB, issued at Christmas, 1917, was a picture of a robin sitting on a snow-wreathed identification cross behind the lines.

The following verses, which accompanied the picture, form a fitting ending to these Notes on Birds and the War :

A wooden cross alone may show
A hero's grave ; but this we know,
In summer's warmth and winter's cold.
In autumn, when the leaves turn gold,
In spring, when new life bursts from old,
God sends His messengers of love to seek the spot,
And tell us that the hero's grave is ne'er forgot.

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