Talbot, Gilbert Walter Lyttelton

He was the son of the Right Reverend Edward Stuart Talbot, Bishop of Winchester. His brother, the Reverend Edward Keble Talbot MC, also came to Winchester (E, 1891-1896). He was Head of his House in his last year, a Commoner Prefect and in Sixth Book, and won the Duncan Prize for Reading. He also edited the Wykehamist, played for three years in Commoner XV, and was included in VI in his last year but could not play.

He was a Page to the Earl of Shrewsbury at the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902 and was painted in 1903 by William Ranken in his formal dress for that occasion.   Further details can be found here: http://www.williamranken.org/#/we-will-remember-them/4585913749

He went up to Christ Church, Oxford in 1910 and took a prominent place in the political and social life of the University, being elected Secretary of the Canning Club in 1911 and President of the Union in 1913. He was a debater of considerable skill and a keen student of politics. A Conservative, he was convinced of the need of a policy of social reform and hoped his party could implement that. A photograph of him in the National Portrait Gallery shows him with Balfour and he was a friend of Harold Macmillan at Oxford. Macmillan described him as a “staunch ally”, and in his autobiography (Winds of Change, Macmillan 1966) wrote of Talbot’s death as follows: “Already the shadow of death had begun to darken all our young lives. Among the most grievous to me of the losses in 1915 was that of Gilbert Talbot. I had known him well at Oxford. I had stayed with him at Farnham, where his father – the Bishop of Winchester – and Mrs. Talbot lived, and savoured the rare quality of that atmosphere. I feel certain that if he had been spared he would have made a great mark in our politics. Politics were his dream and delight.”

He took his degree in the Final Classical School in 1914 and had just started on a tour round the world when war broke out. He returned at once and obtained a commission in the 7th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He went to the front in May 1915 and the following month wrote to his parents that he and Harry Altham (Staff 1913-1949) and Staff Captain to his Brigade, had been to see the ruins of Ypres. He writes at length about the devastation he witnessed.

He was killed at Hooge on July 30th during a British counter-attack following the German Army’s first use of flame throwers on the Western Front. At first he was posted as “Missing” but it was quickly established what had happened.  “He was hit by a bullet to the neck. He fell: gave a smile to his servant, Nash, who tried to stem the gush of arterial blood, and rolled forward on his face. He was dead. Other bullets struck him, and one went through his heart. Nash was twice wounded himself, and was forced to leave him lying there. The body had to lie where it had fallen”. (From an account by Canon Henry Scott Holland in the “Commonwealth”, magazine of the Christian Social Union).

The Reverend Neville Talbot, Gilbert’s brother – and the father of G.S.W. Talbot (A 1935-1940) who was killed in Normandy in 1944 – was a chaplain with the army. He had attended Winchester OTC’s final summer camp before the war. He was determined to recover his brother’s body. “His brother could not endure to let it lie unhonoured or unblessed. After a day and a half of anxious searching for exact details, he got to the nearest trench by the “murdered” wood, which the shells had now smashed to pieces. Creeping out of the far end of the trench as dusk fell, he crawled out through the grass on hands and knees, in spite of shells and snipers, dropping flat on the ground as the flares shot up from the German trenches. And at last, thirty yards away in the open, he felt that he was touching young Woodroffe’s body, another subaltern, and knew that he was close on what he sought. Two yards further he found it.” (Canon H. Scott Holland).  A week later Neville took three men of a Yorkshire regiment out to retrieve the body.

Gilbert Talbot had been twenty-three years old when he died, and is buried in grave I.G.1 of the Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. A brief memoir of him by his mother was privately printed in 1916 and afterwards published by the Chiswick Press.

Talbot House (Toc H) was established at Poperinghe, Belgium in memory of Gilbert, and opened four months after his death in December 1915. Talbot House offered a rare place where soldiers could meet and relax, regardless of rank, in a brief respite from the trenches. Talbot House soon became known by its initials TH, and then, in the radio signallers’ parlance of the day as Toc H. The house remains open as a museum today.

Casualties among Wykehamists had been heavy. One of the officers of 7KRRC killed in the Hooge counter-attack was 2nd Lieutenant Gerald Francis Carter (D1910-1913); his colleague Lieutenant George Herbert Gibson (B1889-1895) was wounded. In 8RB, Captain William Mackworth Parker (E1900-1905) was also killed. Another casualty at Hooge that day was Lieutenant Roger Wentworth Watson (I1907-1912), of ‘C’ Company, 8KRRC.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Talbot
  • Forenames or initials: Gilbert Walter Lyttelton
  • House: H
  • Years in School: 1904-1910
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Rifle Brigade
  • Date of Birth: 1st September 1891
  • Date of Death: 30th July 1915
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer D1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: SANCTUARY WOOD CEMETERY: Grave I. G. 1.