Skip to content

News

CWGC uses smartphone app to remember composer George Butterworth on centenary of his death

04 August 2016

On 5 August 1916, a sniper’s bullet ended the life of Lieutenant George Butterworth of the Durham Light Infantry – perhaps the outstanding musical talent of his generation.

A century later, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is marking the composer’s death by featuring his story in a new App.

The CWGC Thiepval App has been specially designed to help the growing number of visitors to the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world, the CWGC Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, put a human face to some of the 72,000 names engraved upon it.

George Butterworth’s story is one of more than 600 featured within the CWGC Thiepval App and is representative of all those promising lives cut short by the Great War.

Described by his commanding officer as – "A brilliant musician in times of peace, and an equally brilliant soldier in time of stress" – George Butterworth had already been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry when he was killed in fierce fighting near the village of Pozières. Hastily buried by his adoring men, George’s grave was lost in later fighting.

George Butterworth was brought up in Yorkshire, where his father was general manager of the North Eastern Railway. His mother encouraged his interest in music and from an early age he showed great promise – gaining a scholarship to Eton College before studying at Trinity College, Oxford.

While at Oxford, George formed friendships with folk song collector Cecil Sharp and composer and folk song enthusiast Ralph Vaughan Williams, which would greatly influence his musical direction. His best known pieces are The Banks of Green Willow and A Shropshire Lad.

George was a founding member of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, a leading Morris Dancer and a member of the National Demonstration Team. Of the six male members of the team who enlisted at the war’s start, four, including George, would be killed on the Somme.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of George’s death, the CWGC has made a short film about him and his music. The film is available to watch on the CWGC’s YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/yCPohrh4LUk.

The CWGC Thiepval App is freely available to download from the Google and iTunes stores. The App also enables visitors to pinpoint a name on the memorial, find facts and figures, and reveal personal stories day by day.