SERJEANT HAROLD NOEL DARLING GUTHRIE
16TH APRIL 1917 AGE 23
BURIED: BAILLEUL ROAD EAST CEMETERY, ST LAURENT-BLANGY, FRANCE
Harold Guthrie was the son of William and Ellen Guthrie who were both school teachers. It was unusual at the time for a married woman with children to have a job outside the home. I have not come across many in the course of this project.
In 1901, Mr and Mrs Guthrie and their two children Harold and Bede were living in Hambledon, Buckinghamshire. In 1911 William Guthrie was teaching in Lancashire and boarding with a farmer in Carnforth, Mrs Guthrie was teaching in Norfolk and living in Fring, Harold was working as a bank clerk in London and Bede was still at school in Norfolk.
Harold volunteered soon after the outbreak of war and by 6 March 1915 was in France, serving with the Royal Fusiliers. He lasted three years before he was killed in action on 16 April 1918 during the Battle of Arras.
His mother chose his inscription, quoting from a poem written by Thomas William Hodgson Crosland, an outspoken journalist and poet described by Siegfried Sassoon as a 'vigorous versifier' and 'a human battleground of good and evil'. The poem is called 'Sursum', which means 'on high' in Latin. It was first published in 1917 in a collection of Crosland's poetry, and then again in 'Valour and Vision' (1919). The poem has not stood the test of time:
I saw his dread plume gleaming,
As he rode down the line.
And cried like one a-dreaming
"That man, that man, is mine!"
They did not fail or falter
Because his front so shone;
His horse's golden halter
With star-dust thick was sown.
They followed him like seigneurs,
Proud of both mien and mind -
Colonels and old campaigners
And bits of lads new-joined.
A glittering way he showed them
Beyond the dim outpost.
And in his tents bestowed them -
White as the Holy Ghost.
And by the clear watch-fires,
They talk with conquerors,
And have their hearts desires,
And praise the honest wars.
And each of them in raiment
Of honour goeth drest,
And hath his fee and payment.
And glory on his breast.
O woman, that sit'st weeping -
Close, like the stricken dove, -
He is in goodly keeping,
The soldier thou dids't love!
At the end of the war, Mrs Guthrie was living a few miles from Fringle in Brancaster Straithe. The village war memorial includes not only the name Harold Guthrie but also that of his brother, Bede. Lance Corporal Bede Guthrie was killed in action on 16 August 1918; he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial.