David Cuthbert Thomas


On the night of 18 March [Robert] Graves led A Company to the front-line firing trenches and met David Thomas who was with C Company. He wrote:

“About half past ten, rifle fire broke out on the right, and the sentries passed along the news: ‘Officer hit.’

Richardson hurried away to investigate. He came back to say: ‘It’s young Thomas. A bullet through the neck; but I think he’s all right. It can’t have hit his spine or an artery, because he’s walking to the dressing station…

Then news came that David was dead. The regimental doctor, a throat specialist in civil live, had told him… ‘You’ll be all right, only don’t raise your head for a bit.’ David then took a letter from his pocket, have it to an orderly, and said, ‘Post this!’ … The doctor could see that he was choking and tried a tracheotomy, but too late.”

The news reached Sassoon the following morning. Convulsed with grief he rode up to the nearby woods and wailed for his fallen companion. ‘Grief had it way with me,’ he wrote:

“Today I knew what it means to find the soul washed pure with tears, and the load of death was lifted from my heart. So I wrote his name in chalk on the beech—tree stem, and left a garland of ivy there, and a yellow primrose for his yellow hair and kind grey eyes, my dear, my dear.”

The following evening, 20 March, Sassoon went up to the line:

“Tonight I saw his shrouded form laid in the earth … Robert Graves beside me with his white whimsical face twisted and grieving. Once we could not hear the solemn words for the noise of a machine-gun along the line; and when all was finished a canister fell a hundred yards away and burst with a crash. So Tommy left us, a gentle soldier, perfect and without stain. And so he will remain in my heart, fresh and happy and brave.”

Graves, (who later commemorated Thomas in his poem ‘Goliath and David’), felt ‘empty and lost but it did not anger me as it did Siegfried.’

John Stuart Roberts, Siegfried Sassoon.

Al leer el modo en que murió David, recordé esa misma escena en Goodbye to all that de Robert Graves. El párrafo completo correspondiente a la última línea, en la autobiografía de Graves, dice:

I felt David’s death worse than any other since I had been in France, but it did not anger me as it did Siegfried. He was acting transport-officer and every evening now, when he came up with the rations, went out on patrol looking for Germans to kill. I just felt empty and lost.

Robert Graves, Goodbye to all that.

La razón es de suponer:

David Cuthbert Thomas was the son of a clergyman from the small lrural parish of Lannedi in Carmarthenshire, a former pupil of christ’s College, Brecon, and nineteen years old when he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Sassoon’s description of their first meeting in May 1915 leaves no doubt that he was instantly attracted to him.

“He has unpacked and arranged his belongings, and was sitting on his campbed polishing a perfectly new pipe. He looked up at me. Twilight was falling and there was only one small windows, but even in the half-light his face surprised me by its candor and freshness. He had obvious good looks which go with fair hair and firm features, but it was the radiant integrity of his expression which astonished e. While I was getting ready for dinner we exchanged a few remarks. Hs tone of voice was simple and reassuring, like his appearance. How does he manage to look like that? I thought; and for the moment I felt all my age [unos 32 años por aquel entonces]. His was the bright countenance of truth; ignorant and undoubting; incapable of concealment but strong in reticence and in modesty.”

Sassoon found in the nineteen-year-old Thomas and ideal companion — indeed an idealized one — and a substitute for the absent Robert Hanmer and Gordon Harbord. But there was something else, the latent sexual attraction which underscores the romantic description; the hyperbole of someone smitten by physical beauty, innocence and vulnerability. No previous friendship had stirred Sassoon so deeply.

John Stuart Roberts, Siegfried Sassoon.

A propósito:

The battle of the Somme began on 1 July, preceded by heavy bombardment of the German lines. General Haig, the Commander-in-Chief, believed that this had broken the defenses around the Germans, giving the British forces a clear run across no-man’s-land toward the enemy. He was wrong. His troops, mainly inexperienced volunteers led by inexperienced officers, went forward at walking pace and were mowed down. On the first day nearly 58,000 were either wounded or dead. The battle of the Somme lasted four months. By the time it petered out, in November, over 600,000 of the Allied troops were dead or injured. They had forced the Germans to retreat five miles.


Y así nació «Emboscada»

Al abrir mi viejo ejemplar de El periodismo canalla y otros artículos para consultar cierto detalle he descubierto una breve referencia a la novella Emboscada en Fort Bragg, que mencioné a principios de mes. (No os molestéis en seguir el enlace; tan sólo dije que se trataba de una copia de segunda mano y que me había conmovido la dedicatoria que la hija del anterior propietario le había escrito a su padre en la página del título.) Como quiera que sea, el libro me ha causado una gran impresión por motivos que mencionaré más extensamente en otra ocasión —por lo respecta a este blog, parece que siempre es «otra ocasión»—, y leer lo que Tom Wolfe dice sobre sus orígenes me ha provocado un inesperado entusiasmo:

El libro [Todo un hombre] había de aventurarse también tras las cámaras de la televisión para desnudar el mundo de sus informativos; en su momento, se me ocurrió un giro en la trama: un programa de la televisión por cable organizaría una completa operación para atrapar a tres soldados en Fort Bragg, Carolina del Norte, que eran los sospechosos de un asesinato. Por lo tanto, me pasé otra eternidad informándome sobre las prácticas de los informativos de la televisión por cable y la vida del ejército en Fort Bragg y en Bragg Boulevard, la chabacana calle comercial de la base. Pero ¿qué tenía eso que ver con Todo un hombre, cuya acción transcurre en Georgia y California? Nada.

El caso es que Todo un hombre es mi novela favorita de Tom Wolfe. Vivo en un pueblo pequeño sin librería, y por aquel entonces, cuando la compré, no tenía acceso a Internet para encargarla en línea, de modo que un día cogí el autobús matinal a Jerez, anduve hasta El Corte Inglés —podría ser Carrefour—, pagué mi ejemplar, regresé a la estación y esperé como un niño bueno —un niño bueno de 19 años— la llegada del autobús de la tarde. Sé que no hay mucha historia en lo que acabo de contar, pero ilustra muy bien las ganas que tenía de hincarle el diente a la novela. Entonces yo era todavía un muchacho terriblemente tímido y nada desenvuelto, y manejarme sólo, incluso en un escenario tan inofensivo como el que acabo de describir, exigía de mí un enorme esfuerzo. A propósito, creo que debería volver a leer El periodismo canalla. Lo haré cuando tenga oportunidad.

(Puedes comprar los libros de Tom Wolfe —o lo que quieras, bien pensado— en Amazon y en la Casa del Libro.)