Captain John Eugene CROMBIE
4th Battalion Gordon Highlanders
Date of birth: 30 April 1896
Date of death: 23 April 1917
Died of wounds aged 20
Buried at Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun at IV A 22
John Eugene - always known as Eugene - was born at 91 Onslow Square, London the only son of John William Crombie, Liberal M.P for Kincardineshire and a woollen manufacturer and his wife Marina nee Wason.
John William was a member of the manufacturing family, the Crombies of Cothal Mills and Grandholm, becoming a Director of J. & J. Crombie, Ltd, woollen manufacturers, [after whom the Crombie overcoat is called] the company founded 1806 by his grandfather. In 1892 he resigned from the business to take up politics. He died in 1908. The late John William Crombie, M.P. for Aberdeen, who died on March 22nd, aged 50, left estate of the value of £146,494 net. In the contingency of failure of issue and subject to his widow's life interest, he left one fourth of the residuary estate to the University of Aberdeen to found and endow chairs and laboratories etc for other educational purposes.
Educated at Summer Fields (1905), he went on to Winchester with an exhibition in 1909, and whilst there was a colour-sergeant in the OTC, and in the choir. But for the outbreak of war, Eugene was to have gone to Christ Church in October 1914.
He was a member of the OTC at Winchester and obtained a commission in the Fourth Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders in September 1914.
After being trained at Bedford, he was in France, a Lieutenant, by January 1915, arrived on the Western Front in February and saw action up and down the line. Three months later, on the 23 April, he was wounded and invalided home, aged only 18 years and 4 months. Having recovered from some severe operations, he rejoined his regiment but was injured again in October 1915. After several more operations, he was sent to the Reserve Battalion and assisted in training. He returned to France in November 1916 and was promoted Captain the following month. In April 1917 the Battalion was used in the attacks of the Second Battle of the Scarpe. Eugene died on St George’s Day of wounds which he received during the battle for the Chemical Works at Roeux, on the Somme.
A friend who was with him at Winchester wrote that even at eighteen Eugene Crombie “had an air of perfect maturity. He was wise beyond his years, yet there was a golden thread of boyishness and humour running through all he said and did. He was courageous, morally as well as physically. Those who knew him well knew that within him there was a spiritual fire of true religion which made him love right for its own sake, and that his mind was exquisitely susceptible to the influences of poetry, nature, and music. But this side of him was kept hidden; not all who came into contact with him found it; but it was there, and reveals itself in the few poems he has left us, especially in For Remembrance the last two that he wrote.
“He owed much to Winchester, but has repaid the debt by adding one more name to the long roll of those who have lived and died in accordance with her highest traditions.
“He had looked forward to following in the steps of his father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather, who had all been in the House of Commons, and he showed
every promise of becoming an eloquent speaker, possessing a fine voice, a good
presence, and considerable dramatic talent.”
Administration of his Estate, amounting to £262 6s 0d was granted to his mother.
There is a plaque to his memory in St Machar Cathedral Aberdeen.
His poetry has been published in several anthologies.
From “More songs by the Fighting Men; Soldier Poets. 2nd Series” Publisher: London: Erskine MacDonald Ltd. 1st Edition December 1917
ALWAYS the rolling mist,
Wrapping the scene in wet and fleecy fold,
Moved as a curtain by the sluggish wind,
Lifting and swaying, falling damp and cold,
It sweeps, yet passes never, soft and blind.
Have sunbeams never kissed
These dreary hills and life-forsaken slopes
Hidden like women's shoulders in a gown
That mars their beauty? Only shattered hopes
And ghostly fears people the shadowed down.
These sunless wreaths are curling round my heart:
The deadening ringers of the passing years
Are closing, and I cannot thrust apart
Their tightening grip. . . . No ray of sun appears,
Only the rolling mist.
HUTS, FRANCE, December, 1916.
THE first bright spears have pierced the armoured brown,
Broadened and drooped, and snowdrops speck the field :
The lengthening gaze of daylight looking down
Is shocked to see the hedgerow winter sealed
Sleeping in nakedness, and stirs her frame
And with the hawthorn bids her hide her shame.
Returning through the fields at evening hour
I lay before Thy shrine my offering,
My candle-flame a yellow crocus flower,
Its life but newly lit to Thee I bring
In thanks that I can see Thy guiding hand
In every flower that decorates the land.
BILLETS, FRANCE, March, 1917.