Name:Robert Mayson Calvert
DoB: March 1 1896
Regt: Second Lieutenant Manchester
DoD: July 9 1916
Academic Career: CGS 1903-1910
Robert was the youngest of the four children of Robert and Fanny Maria (nee Blaylock). His father Robert was a sea captain. Both families, the Blaylocks and Calverts were Cumbrian, the Blaylocks had farmed in the Burgh by Sands area for generations. With Robert away at sea so much it is not surprising that Fanny and the children lived at Burgh by Sands so that she could have the support of her family.
Robert was a great linguist and he won a school prize for Latin and the French prize three years running. On the sporting front he came second in the 100 yard dash. After CGS he went St. Bee’s School as a Foundation Scholar, he was in their O.T.C 1910-15 and then he went with a Hastings Exhibition, to Queen’s College, Oxford
He was appointed to be temporary Second Lieutenant in the 17th Battalion of The Manchester Regiment on April 8 1915. He had asked to join the Manchester Regt. In March 1916 he joined his regiment in France and died three months later in the battle for Trones Wood. The Battalion had received orders the night before to attack at 5.30am, which they did. The War Diary is very detailed, they did not enter the wood until 6.40am, and there was “fearful shelling“; they were forced to withdraw at 3pm because of their losses, 196 ordinary ranks and 10 officers died that day.
Robert’s father Robert, wrote to the War Office asking about “the manner of his death”. The reply stated that Rupert Carline also of the 17th Manchester Regt., had reported from his bed in Killingbeck Hospital Leeds, that “on the 9th July at Trones Wood, he’d seen Lieutenant Calvert lying dead on the field“. In the War Diary Box at the National Archives there is a small sheet of paper with a list of casualties on it, next to Robert’s name it says “before Trones Wood”, so it seems likely that he died early in the attack before they left the fields and entered the wood. His Obituary in St. Bees School Roll of Honour confirms this it says “He was killed leading his men into action on July 9, 1916, when the battalion attacked and took Trones Wood.”
From the diary of Lt Kenneth MacArdle (held at IWM) – ” Calvert – a student of classics lately from St Bees in Cumberland, with bored looking wrinkles on his forehead and an inability to pronounce his “R”s which he substitutes with “W”s. He was meant for the Civil Service but makes a good enough soldier and is as comic as a clown with a tired resentful expression.” .
Robert was missing in action until his body was exhumed and identified in 1929. It was reburied at Serre Road Cemetery. His family had “Ever remembered at his home” inscribed on his gravestone.
Robert has a brass memorial plaque in the parish church at Burgh-by-Sands, it is next to the memorial dedicated to his great grandparents George and Elizabeth Blaylock. It reads “To the beloved memory of Robert Mayson Calvert, 2nd Lieutenant 17th Manchester Regt. Hastings Exhibition at Queen’s College Oxford, youngest son of Robert Calvert of Burgh by Sands b 1.Mar 1896 killed in action in Trones Wood France, 9th July 1916 during the battle of the Somme”
Robert’s second cousin George Norman, is also commemorated on the CGS memorial, he too was a gt grandson of George and Elizabeth Blaylock. Another gt grandson of George and Elizabeth, Frank Ostell Blaylock Osborne, attended the grammar school 1916-7 and died in WW2 and is commemorated on the WW2 board in the Devonshire Hall. Frank also went on to St Bee’s School like his cousin Robert.
The St. Bees School Roll of Honour entry ends quoting from one of Robert’s last letters where he quoted from R. L. Stevenson’s ‘AEs Triplex’ “Does not life go down with a better grace foaming in full body over a precipice than miserably struggling to end in sandy deltas?” The words might stand as his own epitaph.
In the Nicoll family archive there are a few letters from Theodore Walrond (the music master from 1906-11) to the brothers in which various ‘OC’s’ are mentioned.
Walrond to GS Nicoll, 21.7.16
‘I suppose you saw the news of Calvert’s being killed. Poor fellow! I saw a fair amount of him at the Grammar School; but then he went off to St Bees and I saw him no more’
www.Ancestry.co.uk Probate Register
CGS Memorial Register
St. Bees School, Roll of Honour
National Archives, Kew WO339/28822 and WO95/2339/2
Cumberland News 22/7/1916
Nicoll family archive