Letter: The pacifist lieutenant

Thanks to library staff.
Thanks to library staff.

May I through your newspaper thank the library staff of North Yorkshire County Council and the City of York which celebrate local and international writers, one of whom, Herbert Read, Pickering Library celebrate this week and next with a display.

Read was born on a Ryedale farm in 1893 and died at Stonegrave near Nunnington on June 12, 1968. After a happy childhood he and his mother Eliza Strickland and brothers William and Charles lost this with lapse of tenancy on the death of their husband and father Herbert Edward. Read was in uniform by 1914 in Leeds University Officers Training Corps. In 1915 2nd Lieutenant Read joined the 7th Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) at Wareham in Dorset. This was a Kitchener (Service) battalion. Their commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Fife was a Scarborough man, of whom Read thought highly. Fife through his second wife became squire of Nunnington Estate in Ryedale.

In March 1918 for five days, as adjutant of the Green Howards 2nd battalion, he led all that was left of them in the St Quentin (northern France) retreat through hardships and deaths to rest and safety, where he could read the copy of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ he had in his pack. Its message of peace and order in a rural haven was appropriate. The Green Howards History honours Read and his cultural achievements and pacifism.

It is 100 years since this event. Anyone with memories of Read or his works is asked please to leave their contact details at Pickering Library or phone so more events can be arranged, perhaps so schools, groups at libraries can join in.

John Dean
Manor Farm House
Beadlam, Ryedale