Hubert Kiver and Cecil Trenchard

On 18 April 1917 Sherriff sent his mother a photograph which had been taken a fortnight earlier. He told her that:

‘Since it was taken, the man on my right (standing on the left of the photo) has been killed, and the old man sitting on the extreme right of the photo has been wounded. These are some of the awful parts of war – the gradual disappearance of friends like this…’

The officers of ‘C’ Company, 9th East Surreys. Front row, left to right: 2nd Lt Douglass, Capt Warre-Dymond, 2nd Lt Trenchard. Back row, left to right: 2nd Lt Kiver, 2nd Lt Sherriff, 2nd Lt Toplis. Seated: 2nd Lt Homewood. By permission of the Surrey History Centre (Ref: SHC 2332/6/4/2/3)

Cecil William Trenchard was the ‘old man on the right of the photo’. He was born on 7 May 1881, and had come to Europe from Melbourne, in Australia, where he had been a stock agent. He joined up in August 1915, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 11th Surreys, but was soon attached to the 3rd East Surreys. On 4 January 1916 he had a nasty accident (‘going from the Mess Room to duty in the dark over bad ground’) which led to him breaking an arm and a leg, and it took over a year before he was cleared for active service. He arrived in France on 7 March 1917, and joined the 9th East Surreys on 16 March – which explains why he does not appear in the photograph (below) of the Battalion’s officers taken on 10 March.

On 11 April Trenchard was in the front line with the Battalion when he was wounded in the face by shellfire, as recorded in the Battalion Diary:

‘Our TMs [trench mortars] of all three calibres carried out a successful bombardment of enemy’s front line and drew retaliation in the shape of several 4.2s, which knocked our trenches in one or two places, and caused three casualties’.

His wounds were serious enough that he was on the hospital ship St Denis back to England just four days later: his war in France was over, for he permanently lost the vision in his left eye. He remained in the army, however, attached to the 3rd East Surrey garrison in Dover, where he later worked again with Sherriff (who was invalided back to England in August 1917).

The photograph of the ‘C’ Company officers is usually taken as a guide to some of the men who may have been models for characters in Journey’s End. 2nd Lt Douglass, for example (known as ‘Father’ to his colleagues) is often suggested as a model for Osborne (‘Uncle’), and Captain Warre-Dymond, Sherriff’s Company Commander, is cited as a possible model for Stanhope (though without the prodigious love of whisky). There may be some merit in both suggestions, although there may also be traits in other of Sherriff’s colleagues which made their way into the characters of his most famous play. It is natural, given Trenchard’s physique, to imagine that he might have been in part a model for Trotter, but this is highly unlikely. Trenchard served in France with Sherriff’s battalion for less than four weeks, and for most of that time Sherriff was behind the lines training new recruits: he and Trenchard served just two days together in the front line, hardly enough for Trenchard to make an impression.

Hubert William Kiver was the man standing beside Sherriff who had been killed. He was three years older than Sherriff, born in Fulham on 16 November 1893. He was educated at Gresham’s School in Norfolk, arriving in 1906, and leaving at Christmas in 1910. While there he exhibited a talent for drama and music and was enrolled in the OTC, where he proved himself one of the best shots in the school. After leaving Gresham’s he entered the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), where his father Ernest was Professor of piano. He had started to make a name for himself as an actor and vocalist when war broke out.

Officers of the 9th East Surreys, 10 March 1917. Front row: Extreme left, Lt Warre-Dymond; Extreme right, Lt Tetley; Second right, Lt Clark. Second row: 4th left, 2nd Lt Hatten; Centre, 2nd Lt R C Sherriff; Extreme Right, 2nd Lt Lindsay; Fourth right, 2nd Lt Reynolds. Third row: Extreme left: 2nd Lt Douglass; Third left: 2nd Lt Kiver. At back, on right of right window frame, 2nd Lt Toplis. By permission of the Surrey History Centre (Ref: SHC ESR_25_CLARK_7(9))

He joined up in November 1915, and was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant to the 6th East Surreys on 11 December. He was subsequently attached to the 9th Battalion, and was shipped to France in February 1917, joining ‘C’ Company on 27 February. He was killed in action just seven weeks later, on 17 April, when the Germans shelled the Battalion’s HQ in the front line at Cité St Pierre.

De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour recorded some of the comments made by his superior officers, including: ‘In the short time he had been with us your son had made quite a special place for himself in the Regiment. His constant cheerfulness was a marked point.’; and also, from his Commanding Officer: ‘Your son was the life and soul of the 3/6 East Surreys, and was beloved by all, from the Commanding Officer downwards’. While such sentiments might occasionally be seen as rather formulaic, in Kiver’s case they were supported by the unprompted testimony of the Battalion medic, Captain George Pirie, who wrote in his diary on 18 April:

‘The Huns shelled HQ and around it again up till 10 o’clock last night and unfortunately killed 2nd Lieutenant Kiver, who is the musician and songster of the Battalion. He is a great loss to us all.’

After the war Kiver’s name was inscribed on the RAM’s war memorial, and in 1922 a prize was established in his honour, to be awarded to students who had been studying in the Academy for at least three terms, for excellence in the area of singing (baritone), elocution, organ playing orson composition. An award board in the Academy displays the names of the previous winners.