Crombie, John Eugene
Always known as Eugene, he was the son of John William Crombie, MP, of Balgownie Lodge, Aberdeen and Minna Crombie (daughter of the Rt Hon. Eugene Wason, MP for Clackmannan and Kinross). Born in London on 31st April 1896, he entered the School from Summerfields, Oxford, as an Exhibitioner; his letters home suggest he found the Winchester life very much to his taste. He loved music and was a member of Glee Club and Chapel choir. He also loved Gilbert and Sullivan operas and was thrilled to discover that one of the assistants in Wells Bookshop was a fellow enthusiast. He wrote to his mother recounting that he “had spent two hours down there the other day, quoting and singing at each other across the counter”. He also joined the OTC and passed his Certificate A before leaving Winchester. He had intended to go up to Christ Church, Oxford to read History in October 1914 but as soon as the war came he applied for and obtained a commission in the 4th Battalion Gordon Highlanders, and left for the front in February 1915.
He wrote home saying “It’s the greatest fun and we are all longing to be at ’em”, However the reality of trench warfare soon changed his mind, although life was made more bearable by food parcels from home and he asked his mother to arrange for every man in his platoon to be supplied with 50 Woodbine cigarettes each week at his own expense.
He was wounded in April and after a period of light duties in England, rejoined his battalion in July. In October he was again invalided back to England, and underwent several operations. During his time in hospital he had met a VAD nurse, Louie Bulley, who shared his love of music and literature, and many of his letters were written to her. After serving for some time as an instructor at home, he went back to the front in November 1916 to rejoin his battalion, being given command of B Company. He wrote home: “Responsibility is a real thing here, where there are a hundred different ways of chucking men’s lives away if you are not up to the job”. In December 1916 he wrote a poem, posthumously published in the Wykehamist, entitled “The Mist”. He became increasingly disillusioned and in his many letters home he questioned the morality of the war. In a letter to Louie in December 1916 he said that “the war is now out of all proportion to the object”.
He was promoted to Captain early in April 1917 and on the eve of the Arras offensive, on 8th April, he wrote the poem “Easter Day 1917 – The Eve of Battle”.
He was hit by a splinter from a shell on 23rd April 1917 during an attack on the Roeux chemical works during the Battle of Arras, and died at a Casualty Clearing Station the same day.
In the Wykehamist of June 1917 there appeared the following notice: John Eugene Crombie, Captain, 4th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, born April 30th 1896; fell in battle April 23rd 1917. Took his fill of music, joy of thought, and seeing / Came, and stayed, and went, nor ever ceased to smile.”
Further details of Captain Crombie’s life can be accessed here: http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral/memorials/WW1/John-Crombie&print=true
- Surname: Crombie
- Forenames or initials: John Eugene
- House: C
- Years in School: 1909-1914
- Rank: Captain
- Regiment: Gordon Highlanders
- Date of Birth: 30th April 1896
- Date of Death: 23rd April 1917
- How Died: Died of wounds
- Location in War Cloister: Outer F1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: DUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN: Grave V. A. 22.