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Lieutenant Lancelot Charles Wise





Lancelot Charles Wise was born on 10 March 1894 at The Lydes, Toddington, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, the second of seven children of land agent Charles Dacres Wise and his wife Madeline Stella Wise (nee Glynn). His uncle had been commanding officer of Hodson's Horse, an Indian Army regiment.

The Wises were a landowning family established for many generations in Devonshire, but at the time of Lancelot's birth his father was working as a land agent for Lord Sudeley in Gloucestershire.

In 1906 Charles Dacres Wise went to Rhodesia as Director of Land Settlement for the British South Africa Company. The family remained in Rhodesia until Charles Dacres retired in 1926.

However Lancelot remained in England to complete his education – at Temple Grove, Charterhouse, and Edinburgh Agricultural College.

He enlisted in the 1st Regiment, King Edward's Horse, at Alexandra Palace on 8 August 1914 (No.512), writing to his parents "Got in passed medical sworn in join tonight … Isn’t it topping."

On 8 December 1914 he sought a commission in the North Irish Horse, his application backed by a number of glowing references. This from Professor Wallace of Edinburgh University:

… he is a young man of good education & exemplary character & in every way a fine type of a young man for a British Officer.  He has a pleasing manner & most gentlemanly address & he has always been a great favourite & leader among his fellow students. 

And from George Davies of Bridgetown House, Stratford-on-Avon:

He is the first pupil who I have had who I could leave in charge of the farm & the men, with confidence.  As a rule men do not like taking orders from a pupil, but whenever I came home, after being away for a few days, I always found things had gone equally as well & as smoothly, as if I had been at home.  All the men liked, & respected him, and took his orders without hesitating. 

On 30 December he was made a 2nd lieutenant and trained at the North Irish Horse reserve headquarters at Antrim. Over the next few years he wrote many letters home to his family in Rhodesia. Extracts from some are shown below. In January 1915 he wrote:

We are now getting along quite swimmingly! Of course I told you a sub & a draft went out from my sqdn. 40 of them. It was a big hole in the sqdn. & we have had to start all over again. Troop drill every morning to teach them drill. None or very few of the recruits had ever ridden before. We are not up to strength yet. I have now got both my horses fit which is a great relief. One is a real topper but has had a pinched back. Fortunately I have got a rattling groom. He has been a groom for years on end I believe. We are getting swords served out next week … I have got a jolly fine lot of men (or rather boys) in my troop. Mostly the clerk & mechanic sort of class. They really ride fairly well. Their horses are awful screws! We have rather an amusing time in the evening about twice a week doing battles on paper with the Colonel, using 1" maps. He is a ripper & a very good Colonel!

Soon after, however, he was sent to England to join D Squadron. He embarked for France with the squadron on 1 May 1915, where they found billets at Busnes on the la Bassée front. Wise wrote:

Well we had a pretty awful journey here. We always entrained & detrained in coal yards in the middle of the night in pouring rain!! Tres agreeable n’est ce pas! Imagine 150 saddles all numbered rather mixed in a coal yard at 1 AM in pouring rain! It really was pretty bad. Well we got here at last 5 AM & had to look round the village for our billets which were written on doors because the man who was supposed to show us which they were spent the night in the ditch as his car upset!! Horses are pretty fit but very tired and stiff. The men are very dreamy at present. We shall soon wake them up! It is very hot here and a lot of thunder about. Horses in an orchard. I am in a bed with clean sheets in a jolly wee house by myself. Quite a decent family. Yest[erday] was the major’s birthday so we had an enormous dinner with champagne, white wine, W & S & liqueur brandy & cigars. Some dinner!

On 1 July he was promoted to lieutenant. Later that month he wrote:

Well no Hun in sight yet thank goodness. We haven’t even shot into the air in the hopes that one was hiding there! However he has condescended to shoot near us! Terrible! He hasn’t even shot or gassed anyone of us. The whole squadron are here still! They are now using us for digging parties every day or night. Beastly dull. We’ve only been shelled 3 times since we started and they were about 200 or 300 yds away & perfectly harmless. The great difficulty was to prevent men running out to pick up bits of shell.

At the end of July 1915 D Squadron moved to the Somme front. Wise wrote:

The squadron had no casualties going into the trenches last night. The Germans couldn’t think who was there. The only reply our fellows gave was that they were better than Huns!! I have got a new horse. A really 1st class Irish hunter. It was Lord Massereene’s 1st charger. He has gone home & I got it in a roundabout way. Jolly lucky. I have now got four good horses & I wouldn’t change them for anything. They must be worth quite a lot! … Major Russell has just turned up from the trenches (7 miles). He says they had a great time.

And soon after:

Dear Dad … We are in the beastly ditches. This is my first day up. I arrived about 1 hour ago. Having walked 2 miles I arrived at a topping dug out … There are several Scotch fellows in another D[ug]O[ut] next to us. We are attached to a Scotch Battn & form a platoon. 2 officers. We have 60 of our men here. They are lovely trenches & very safe.

In February 1916 Wise fell ill with diphtheria. He was sent to recover at an isolation hospital at Bléville, le Havre. During months of enforced idleness he wrote cheerful letters to his family:

Very cheery & dying to get up. I’ve been here a few days & of course as you know by cable have got a very slight touch of Diphtheria. Such a bore as I loose [sic] my squadron for a bit. It’s a very comfy place & they look after one very well & good food. … I’ve just had a long talk with the matron who is awfully nice. She has a piano & when I’m up she has given me the use of her own room & piano. There is another fellow here who plays beautifully & she has lent it to the two of us. She is Irish and so is keen on the NIH!!! The men in the ward are a very amusing lot … There is a French Canadian who practically looks after me & I keep him in cigarettes. He’s a jolly good fellow. Then there’s an old Irishman who is priceless. I sometimes write letters to his wife Biddy for him. He dances jigs to the gramophone & is very amusing. Then there’s a Corp in the Irish Guards who is rather seedy still. Then there’s a fellow who has lost his voice & who talks in a whisper as much as everyone else put together.

In May 1916 Lieutenant Wise was sent home to continue his recovery. A medical board at London found he was suffering from "debility following diphtheria and stress of 14 months service in France". He was granted three months sick leave and returned to Ireland, reporting to the North Irish Horse reserve at Antrim on 28 May 1916. He was declared fit for general service on 8 September 1916.

Wise had long sought a transfer to the 3rd (Skinner's) Horse, an Indian Army Regiment which he had seen while in France. He formally applied on 27 September. He was seconded to Skinner's Horse on 9 March 1917, embarking for India that month.

However he soon fell ill again, and died at Rawalpindi on 2 May 1917. He was buried in Rawalpindi War Cemetery, Pakistan, Plot Y, Row F, Grave 29. On 26 November 1966 his body was exhumed and relocated to Plot 4 Row A, Grave 6. The gravestone inscription reads:

2ND MAY 1917 AGE 23





Lancelot Wise soon after his enlistment in the King Edward's Horse



A photo postcard of Lieutenant Wise's original burial site


First image of Lieutenant Wise courtesy of the Imperial War Museum Catalogue No. HU 127731 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205391021. Gravestone (colour) image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org. Original gravestone image and those of Wise as a boy and with horse kindly provided by Peter Wise and Lancelot E.D. Wise. Second image of Wise in NIH uniform from the University of Edinburgh Roll of Honour 1914-1919, kindly provided by Edinburgh University Library. Image of Wise as a trooper in the King Edward's Horse sourced from the Imperial War Museum's Lives of the First World War (image provided by Martin Carlton).