My thanks again to Barbara who managed to see the very thing at Port Eliot that I had been meaning to and kept missing, so I am very grateful to her for this report...
"The Big Dining Room will be open throughout the festival. The exhibition St Germans and the Great War will be on display, curated by Michael Howells and Catherine St Germans, it commemorates the men of St Germans who fell in the First World War and tells the story of Mousie St Germans and the life on the Estate at that time.." [Festival Programme]
In contrast to the noise and colour and folderols of the Port Eliot Festival the St Germans family set aside a room for quiet reflection with a poignant display of their own marking the lives of members of the household and of the estate.
Display Cases tell the stories of lives lost
Each board records a man's life, his work or relation to the estate, his regiment and where he fell.
One soldier who survived the debacle was John Cornwallis Eliot, 6th Earl of St Germans. This was fairly unusual as
"The First World War had a devastating impact on the British upper classes. Those sons of the British upper classes fortunate enough to survive the First World War returned to find a country in a state of flux and their place in it no longer automatically assured. Their diminished numbers — until late 1917 the upper classes suffered proportionately greater losses in the fighting than any other class — ensured that a resumption of the prewar status quo was physically impossible." [source]
The current (10th) Earl of St Germans writes :
"John Cornwallis Eliot, 6th Earl of St Germans was born in 1890 in London. He was known as "Mousie" by family and friends, yet he was certainly not a mousie little man. He was 6'2" and by all accounts extremely athletic and handsome. He easily established a reputation as that of a charming person. He was recorded as "an amateur comedian of no mean ability and frequently entertained the company at private social gatherings.
Having attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Scots Guards. Later he became a Captain in the 2nd Dragoons of the Scots Greys and fought at the front during WW1. He fought throughout France and Flanders, including at the Somme and Ypres. He was awarded the Military Cross in recognition of several acts of gallantry, was severely wounded and sent home. Being declared unfit for active service he spent the rest of the War on military duty in various barracks around southern England."
Mousie's kit-bag survived in the attics and was found just last year. It takes pride of place in the display as an example of a tangible link with one who served his country alongside men of all ranks and classes in that terrible conflict which began just 100 years ago this month.
dovegreyreader footnote...what is it that makes the sight of a returned bag or case so utterly poignant??
Bookhound and I visited Lanhydrock again recently, the home of the Robartes family cited by Peter Beacham,( one of our guests on Sunday) as one of Cornwall's most wealthy and influential families. We had gone specifically to see son Tommy Robartes valise, returned from the Front following his death and only found in the attics at the house in recent years...more about that and Tommy's death as November approaches.
And my thanks again to Barbara for this report.