SERJEANT LESLIE COULSON
LONDON REGIMENT ROYAL FUSILIERS
8TH OCTOBER 1916 AGE 27
BURIED: GROVE TOWN CEMETERY, MEAULTE, FRANCE
Leslie Coulson was a pastoral poet with a lyrical love of nature. Even after he went to war nature featured prominently in his poetry, it still referred to lanes and larks and cornflowers but against this now the guns thundered, the shells screamed and the dead lay, causing him to ask:
Who made the Law that men should die in meadows?
Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?
Who gave it forth that gardens should be boneyards?
Who spread the fields with flesh and blood and brains?
His father included this poem, found among Coulson's effects after his death, in the short collection he published in 1917: 'From an Outpost and Other Poems'.
Like so many soldiers, Coulson's life and war service was sanitised and romanticised by the people remembering him. His father wrote: "He was gentle and affectionate, and like all sympathetic natures shrank from inflicting pain", quoting his Colonel's words: "A gallant hero; one of the best men we ever had, loved and honoured by all". That may be, but Coulson himself didn't shirk the fact that his hands had been "trained to kill".
Leslie Coulson was a journalist, the assistant foreign editor of the London Standard. He enlisted in September 1914 went overseas in December and served in Malta, Egypt and Gallipoli before being sent to France in April 1916. By now with the 12th London Regiment, The Rangers, who were heavily involved on the Somme, Coulson was shot in the chest on 7 October in an attack on Dewdrop Trench and died the next day.
Frederick Coulson quoted from the opening lines of Milton's 'Samson Agonistes' for his son's inscription:
Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
Nothing for tears? Only the fact that Leslie Coulson would never go home:
When I come home, and leave behind
Dark things, I would not call to mind,
I'll taste good ale and home-made bread,
And see white sheets and pillows spread.
And there is one who'll softly creep
To kiss me ere I fall asleep,
And tuck me 'neath the counterpane,
And I shall be a boy again
When I come home!
[When I Come Home. Leslie Coulson]