Timothy John Manley Corsellis
Timothy Corsellis in 1938, in the Public Domain via Wikipedia
Was reminded of the work of Timothy Corsellis after finding two Youtube clips ( linked below) of the actor Timothy Bentinck reading two Corsellis poems ' Dawn after the Raid' and 'Engine Failure'. Also learnt that Timothy - most known as David Archer from BBC Radio 4's drama 'The Archers'- was named after Timothy Corsellis, and his father,Henry Bentinck was friends with Corsellis.
Born on 21st January 1921, Corsellis' father was a barrister-Douglas Corsellis - who lost an arm fighting in the Gallipoli campaign, and died in a flying accident in 1930. Attending Walmer School in Kent, Timothy Corsellis went on to study at Winchester College.
It is extremely difficult to offer much of an opinion concerning the work of someone who died at the age of twenty. All one can say is that his work that remains shows a great range of topics. The aforementioned 'Engine Failure' concerns RAF training, 'After the Raid' tackles the impact of an air raid on London. And Tim Bentinck's delivery is superb. 'There Is A Meeting Place in Heaven' is Christian themed. Corsellis also wrote a poem titled 'Stephen Spender' some two weeks before he died, in which he offers his impression of meeting Spender, most probably at the offices of 'Horizon' magazine in 1941.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Timothy Corsellis declined to go to university when leaving Winchester College in 1938. He started work at Wandsworth Town Hall , and registered as a Conscientious Objector in April 1939. After the fall of Dunkirk, Corsellis asked to be removed from the list of Conscientious Objectors, and took up training with the RAF . However, Corsellis cited a conscientious objection to bombing civilian and felt unable to take up a post within Bomber Command. He received an honourable discharge from the RAF in early 1941 and worked was an Air Raid warden in London, seeing some of the most horrific sights of the Blitz.
In August 1941, Corellis joined the as 2nd officer Air Transport Auxiliary, which effectively meant flying planes from factories to various RAF bases. On 10th October 1941 , flying from Luton to Carlisle, Coresllis plane accidentally crashed near Dumfries, and he died instantly.
Have shamelessly drawn on an article 'From Winchester to War: Timothy Corsellis ( 1921-1941) , which originally appeared on the War Poets Association website : Informed that this article was written by Helen Goethals.
The Winchester College at War website has a different timeline- linked below.
The Young Poets Network presents the Timothy Corsellis prize for poetry written by those aged between 18-25 who are appraising World War 2 poets. Of course any initiative to introduce World War 2 poetry is much welcomed,and the latest new (2018) can be found here
The poem 'What I Never Saw' looks at the tedium of war in a most anti-heroic fashion, showing has a large part of war can be 'waiting for something to happen'.
What I Never Saw (extract)
What I never saw
Were the weary hours of waiting while the
sun rose and set,
The everlasting eye turned upwards to the sky,
Watching the weather which said,
Thou shalt not fly'.
We sat together as we sat at peace
Bound by no ideal of service
But by a common interest in pornography and
a desire to outdrink one another
War was remote;
There was a little trouble in Abyssinia;
Some of us came from Kenya and said
'Why I was on the spot all the while
And the Italians sprayed the roadsides with
Theirs were the stories of war.
Then came the queuing, the recurrent line of
Dressed in dirt with mud eating their trouser legs,
The collar that is cleaner than the shirt
And the inevitable adjectives.
The papers ran out early today,
There was no butter for the bread at breakfast,
Nobody calls us at dawn
We never strain or sweat,
Nor do they notice when we come in late.
When I was civilian I hoped high,
Dreamt my future cartwheels in the sky'
Almost forgot to arm myself
Against the boredom and the inefficiency
The petty injustice and the everlasting grudges.
The sacrifice is greater than I expected
Of course there is the irony of the last line 'The sacrifice is greater than I expected' when considering Corsellis' death in a military accident.
"I" Always "I"
I passively acquiesce in the avalanche of death
Under my breath I lose the sincere feeling
That while hands are dealing in sin the soul is free.
No harm to me, justifying the material deed
With the new born seed of a higher emotion,
A sudden devotion to a greater thing than imperial expansion
"I" always "I" in this turmoil of souls;
God above holds millions of lives in his arms
Yet the word harm means only one thing to this mind
Help me to find an idea successive to soliptic I!
Let them all die; one day a bullet inscribed with
Shall find the same written upon my heart with shame.
Why in the middle of complete conflagration
Involving a nation, must the solipsist idea
Rise? To conquer fear ? To hide from a wrangling soul
The extinction of the whole? Give me part of God's
From the centre of unrest make me realise
That no man dies; not the souls that once spoke from
behind gristle eyes.
From 'More Poems From The Forces' edited by Kheidrych Rhys, 1941
Have added this poem simply because it's so curious. It as if Corsellis is writing a philosophy essay, trying to make sense of a being young and caught up in war. Trying to find some greater meaning wrestling with solipsism- 'the self is all that can be known to exist' and as Christian Corellis is trying to reconcile his faith with whilst caught up in a 'complete conflagration'. I don't think that the poem has great literary merit- but as a section of war memoir it is fascinating.
Thank you to Patrick Villa of the War Poets Association for pointing out a couple of errors in the original post- hopefully now corrected.
Winchester College Tribute
Timothy Bentinck reads Dawn After The Raid on Youtube
Timothy Bentinck reads Engine Failure on Youtube
Timothy Corsellis Prize page maintained by the National Poetry Society /Young Poets Network
Commonwealth Wargraves Commission entry for Timothy Corsellis
War Poets Association page on Timothy Corsellis
Further poems found by Corsellis Interesting blog post about further poems and notebooks by Timothy Corsellis that were featured on BBC Antiques Roadshow in 2012.
A Burnt Ship blog Companion blog to this one. Poetry & prose related to the Stuart era
World War Poetry website Further writings by Michael Bully
A biography titled 'The Unassuming Sky, The Life and Poetry of Timothy Corsellis' by Helen Goethals was published in 2012.