LIEUTENANT RAYMOND ASQUITH
15TH SEPTEMBER 1916 AGE 37
BURIED: GUILLEMONT ROAD CEMETERY, GUILLEMONT, FRANCE
"We greatly regret to record the death in action on September 15th of Lieutenant Raymond Asquith, Grenadier Guards, by which the Prime Minister loses his eldest son and the country a man of brilliant promise."
The Times, September 19th 1916
Raymond's epitaph is spoken by the Chorus in the Epilogue to Shakespeare's Henry V and was chosen by his wife, Katherine. It is often said that Raymond was one of the most brilliant men killed in the war. He was brilliant but never ambitious for his brilliance. As his friend John Buchan put it, Raymond had about him 'The suggestion of some urbane and debonair scholar-gipsy, who belonged to a different world from the rest of us'. In addition, 'he scorned the worldly wisdom which makes smooth the steps of a career'.
On 15 September 1916, the Guards attacked at Lesboeufs. John Buchan later wrote that, 'Their front was too narrow, their objectives too far distant, and from the start their flanks were enfiladed'. Raymond was shot in the chest as he led his men into a hail of bullets. He was taken to a dressing station, putting on a magnificent show of nonchalance and smoking a cigarette to disguise the extent of his injuries.
Margot Asquith, Raymond's stepmother, broke the news of his death to her husband the Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith who, 'put his head on his arms on the table and sobbed passionately'. Later Asquith wrote that, 'Counsellors tell me that I ought not to be sorrowful. But I am: like a man out of whose sky the twin stars of Pride and Hope have both vanished into lasting darkness'. 'Twin stars', 'this star of England', the same stellar image occurred to both father and wife.
Before he died, Raymond had asked the medical orderly to send his water bottle to his father, and his father, who had apparently never written to his son once whilst he was at the front, is said to have kept his son's flask by his bed for the rest of his life.
Raymond was educated at Winchester College whose website Winchester College at War gives more details about his life.