On 9 May 1915, Captain Cyril Holland of the Royal Field Artillery was killed in action when shot by a German sniper during the disastrous Battle of Aubers Ridge. He was twenty-nine years old. At the time, his brother Vivian was stationed just three miles away.
Cyril Holland, born Cyril Wilde on 5 June 1885, was the elder son of Oscar and Constance Wilde. A career soldier, in December 1905 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery and progressed to full Lieutenancy in 1908. He was also a fully qualified interpreter and spoke flawless German.
While serving in India in 1914, Cyril wrote to his brother to explain that, since the death of their father in 1900:
‘my great incentive has been to wipe (the) stain away; to retrieve, if may be, by some action of mine, a name no longer honoured in the land. The more I thought of this, the more convinced I became that, first and foremost, I must be a man. … I am no wild, passionate, irresponsible hero. I live by thought, not by emotion. I ask nothing better than to end in honourable battle for my King and Country.‘
How tragic that insufferable intolerance left a fine and sensitive man feeling ashamed to carry the name of one of our greatest literary heroes.
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