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Cyril Holland son of Oscar Wilde Killed 1918


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#51 Simon_Fielding

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 10:51 PM

I have just caught up with this thread - I did a bit of digging on Cyril Holland a few years ago (and was very grateful for some help from Dick Flory!) The CWGC database seemed fine then. I did find the following:

While attending the military preparatory school Radley, Cyril found his niche. In addition to serving as prefect, he was an outstanding athlete, winning awards for his rowing, track, and swimming prowess. In 1903, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich where he also excelled in rowing and track. Joining the Army immediately after leaving Woolwich, he was stationed with the Royal Field Artillery regiment in India. A solitary figure, Cyril traveled when on leave, visiting architectural monuments and art galleries, which his fellow officers found strange.
At the beginning of World War I, he desperately wanted to go into battle, though his regiment had orders to remain in India. Sacrificing nine years of seniority, he transferred to the Meerut division, a calvary regiment destined for France. Unbeknownst to either brother, Vyvyan and Cyril were stationed three miles away from one another.
On 9 May 1915, during the second battle of Neuve Chapelle, Cyril Holland was killed in a duel with a German sniper, dying with glory as he would have wished. In a letter written to Vyvyan in June 1914, Cyril explained his life's mission:
I became obsessed with the idea that I must retrieve what had been lost. By 1900, it had become my settled object in life....All these years my great incentive has been to wipe that 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. There was to be no cry of decadent artist, of effeminate aesthete, of weak-kneed degenerate. That is the first step. For that I have laboured; for that I have toiled....This has been my purpose for sixteen years. It is so still. I have often fallen away. I have despaired, I have cursed my fate and mocked at the false gods. It is my purpose still. 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.
http://vassun.vassar...mily/cyril.html

Sadly, the link is a 'dead' one and I wasn't too sharp on keeping other biographical detail. I'll see what I can find. Vyvyan wrote a famous memoir 'Son of Oscar Wilde which mentions a little about his brother's death.

I must confess to being deeply moved by the whole story, and haunted by this famous picture of Constance Wilde with Cyril:


http://www.law.umkc....de/CONSTANC.jpg

Simon Fielding

#52 linden

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 12:08 PM


I think my post may have been lost .
Vyvyan's son , Merlin Holland , has written about his family , and I think he is still doing so .
I don't know whether he has written about Cyril .
Linden

#53 Max

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 12:52 PM

QUOTE (Simon_Fielding @ Feb 2 2008, 10:51 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Cyril explained his life's mission:
I became obsessed with the idea that I must retrieve what had been lost. By 1900, it had become my settled object in life....All these years my great incentive has been to wipe that 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. There was to be no cry of decadent artist, of effeminate aesthete, of weak-kneed degenerate.

Thank you Simon for your very informative post.

The above passage is what concerns me about the CWGCs recent habit of adding superfluous information to a mans database entry (what did the final verification form say?). It is clear from what Cyril saw as his lifes mission that he would not consider what the CWGC have done as being appropriate, or wanted as he appears to have been trying to put as much distance between him and his fathers peccadilloes as possible...is it now the policy of the CWGC to commemorate the dead sons of sodomites in this way?, or just the sons of famous ones? This is a serious question.

Andy

#54 ianw

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 04:17 PM

Andy - Yes, you do indeed make a serious point. Perhaps, Cyril's life's efforts to expunge the stain created by Wilde are undermined by the CWGC rather glibly noting that he is Oscar's son - although the very presence of this information in a CWGC entry does perhaps illustrate the course his life took to die honourably as a soldier fighting for his country. Whilst the CWGC is only stating fact, they do appear to be flying in the face of the family's avowed intent to distance themselves from Wilde both by actions and the name change.

I suppose this illustrates just how much sodomy has been redeemed and rendered acceptable.

#55 Simon_Fielding

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 04:53 PM

There is a philosophical point here: you're right. The CWGC does seem to have its eye on its online users rather than the nature of the remembrance it was instituted to undertake. I'm a bit irritated by the 'novelty' value of some of the entries which a little online research would fill in anyway - Ian Fleming's father Valentine is a case in point.

Oscar Wilde, by anyone's standards was one of the greatest writers of the 19th century. 'Sodomite' was the word used to describe him by the Marquess of Queensberry (who mis-spelt it on the card he sent in to Wilde at his club). He was tried and convicted and made a very public example of, at a time where others of higher status guilty of the same crimes were forgiven. He served his two years' hard labour and never saw his children again. Sexual politics in the 19th century were ridden with hypocrisy, and however irritating the headlines in the modern press can be, I wouldn't wish their standards back for a second.

That said, it's impossible to deny the pain in Cyril's statement quoted above. Constance Wilde died during spinal surgery in 1898, and the two boys were brought up by her family to despise Oscar and what he had 'done' to them.

I suspect that many millions of homosexuals served and many thousands died in the service of Britain and the Empire from 1914-1918; theirs truly a forgotten sacrifice.






#56 ianw

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 07:16 AM

Yes, I suppose distance in time perhaps justifies the CWGC's reference to Cyril being the son of one of our greatest writers -but it seems clear that poor old Cyril would not welcome it.

Generally speaking I am for the CWGC giving us this fascinating information - for every fact that you might glean from your research there must be vastly more that you would never discover without the help of the CWGC.

#57 Northern Soul

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 12:28 PM

I have to say that I am against this practice of embellishing the entries of casualties to draw attention to their deeds or their famous antecedents/descendants. I think it smacks of commercialism and sensationalism. One of the arguments that has been advanced is that it saves the CWGC time when dealing with enquiries from the public looking for such individuals. Absolute rubbish - the CWGC could easily have a dedicated page listing such individuals without tinkering with their basic commemorative details.

In the case of Holland he obviously didn't want to associated with the name Wilde so it would appear that his wishes (and those of his immediate family) are now being ignored. I don't see where in the CWGC's charter that authority comes from.

But let's leave the examples of Holland/David Niven's father/Archer-Shee/etc. etc. etc. alone and just ask some basic questions:

There are plently of men who only have an initial or initials in their entries rather than full Christian names. With the cross-referenced sources of information available to us to-day then why is there an issue about amendding these entries and giving the individuals a little bit less anonymity.

A lot of us who reasearch these men could easily supply correct next-of-kin information where it is lacking. Why couldn't this be added where corroboration is provided?

If exceptions can be made for some then why not all?

Andy.

#58 Martin Elliget

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 01:42 PM

I honestly can't see what all the fuss is about. Why is recording Cyril Holland's parents' names against his CWGC entry any different to recording Charles Holland's parents' names against his entry or any other of the millions of entries on CWGC? It's historically correct - the fact that Oscar Wilde was famous and gay are irrelevant.

I'm also puzzled by those condemning CWGC for making the information known despite Cyril Holland's apparent wish to erase all connection with his father. Whatever level of interest may have been raised by the CWGC entry alone palls into insignificance compared to that generated by these very threads on this forum. For evidence of this, you only have to type "cyril holland" "oscar wilde" into Google (if I was looking for a connection between two people, this is the first search I would try). The top two results are links to this forum. I don't see the CWGC anywhere in the 10+ pages of results.

If we start selectively omitting information for various subjective reasons, e.g. a famous person's father's sexuality, what will be the next reason? I think that's the start of a pretty slippery slope.

regards,
Martin

#59 Neil Mackenzie

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 03:35 PM

The slight difference is that in the vast majority of cases this information was provided by relatives shortly after the war. For my great uncle this was by way of a Roll of Honour circular and although he was in the AIF I would not be surprised if the British form was the same/similar. If Cyril's next of kin had added the details about Oscar Wilde then fine but presumably this was not the case.

We then come to Andy's very valid point that if CWGC can do retropective amendments for Cyril Holland (and there are valid arguments for doing so) then why not for anyone else on the database?

Neil

#60 Pierre

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 07:49 PM

Here is the promised photo of Cyril's grave at St Vaast Post.

Cheers.
Pierre

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#61 Max

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 10:30 PM

QUOTE (Martin Elliget @ Feb 5 2008, 01:42 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I honestly can't see what all the fuss is about. Why is recording Cyril Holland's parents' names against his CWGC entry any different to recording Charles Holland's parents' names against his entry or any other of the millions of entries on CWGC? It's historically correct - the fact that Oscar Wilde was famous and gay are irrelevant.

As Neil points out it is completely different because CWGC have taken it upon themselves to add the data....Cyrils next of kin had the opportunity to return the FVF shortly after death and obviously chose not to, who are the CWGC to go against these wishes. Cyril appears to have been struggling to escape the shadow of his father all his life....only to be thwarted at the last by an organisation that should know better. The idea of equality in death seems to have gone out of the window. I keep checking my great grandfathers listing on the CWGC website and no details of his family have appeared yet.

QUOTE
I'm also puzzled by those condemning CWGC for making the information known despite Cyril Holland's apparent wish to erase all connection with his father. Whatever level of interest may have been raised by the CWGC entry alone palls into insignificance compared to that generated by these very threads on this forum.


I am afraid that this statement really does not hold water, it is a chicken and egg situation. If the CWGC had not added the data we would not be discussing it, and would therefore not appear on a search.

Pierre, thank you very much indeed for taking the time to provide the photo...it is much appreciated. (PM sent)

Andy

#62 linden

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 12:38 AM


Cyril Holland's nephew (great nephew)? is alive . Wouldn't he have been consulted ? Couldn't he have objected ?
Just asking ...
Linden

#63 Max

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 01:05 AM

QUOTE (linden @ Feb 17 2008, 12:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Wouldn't he have been consulted ?

Linden

He wouldn't have been Cyril Hollands next of kin so would not have been consulted.......I assume that his legal NoK would have been his brother.

Andy

#64 linden

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 05:36 PM

Just watching Giles Brandreth on "Richard & Judy" , He was saying that when he was at Bedales in the '60's Cyril Holland's headmaster was still living in the grounds . He tried to tell the story of his meeting with this man but Richard kept interrupting him .
It seems that Brandreth was fascinated by Wilde and has just written a novel based on a real dinner attended by Wilde and Conan Doyle .

#65 Archer

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 04:04 AM

It is astonishing to read the posts above, purporting to protect the rights of a dead soldier, while at the same time displaying such naked truculence against homosexuals ('sodomites!')

Reducing Oscar Wilde merely to the status of 'sodomite' is as bad - worse - than anything done to his son's entry in the CWGC database.

Who was Cyril Holland without Oscar Wilde? Who are any of us without our fathers good, bad or indifferent?




#66 Max

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 08:37 AM

QUOTE (Archer @ Feb 26 2008, 04:04 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It is astonishing to read the posts above, purporting to protect the rights of a dead soldier, while at the same time displaying such naked truculence against homosexuals ('sodomites!')

I don't know where you get the "naked truculence" idea from. I find the whole idea of sanctioning someone for their sexual proclivities bizarre, then as well as now.

My use of the term "sodomite" was deliberately contentious to better illustrate my point, as I am certain that the word catches your attention. Also, I am absolutely sure that you are aware that one can be a homosexual without being a sodomite, and a sodomite without being a homosexual.

QUOTE
Who was Cyril Holland without Oscar Wilde?

Free, just the way he wanted it.

Andy

#67 David Filsell

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:24 PM

Interesting that the tern sodomite has turned up. Did not Lord Queensbury spell incorrectly in the note which led to the famous trial, or does my memory decieve me?

#68 Archer

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:19 PM

Famously, he spelled it as SOMDOMITE.

#69 Terry_Reeves

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:21 PM

Ok folks, let's get this topic back on course. If you want to discuss homosexuality in the Great War, or what should or should not be published by the CWGC, start a separate thread please.

TR