Olympic Gold

Another day of triumph for Team GB in Rio brings with it the poignant reminder that a former Olympic gold medallist in the same event was killed on the Somme 100 years ago this year.

Frederick Septimus Kelly was no ordinary Olympian (if there is such a thing). Lieutenant-Commander Frederick Kelly served with distinction, seeing action first in Gallipoli where he was wounded (twice) before taking part – and ultimately being killed – in the Somme offensive.

But not only was Kelly a top-class sportsman (winning gold in the 1908 London Olympics as a member of the Great Britain Men’s Eights) but he was a composer, too – a musician of immense promise and another in the roll call of artists whose legacy speaks of enormous, unfulfilled potential.

Kelly was a great friend of Rupert Brooke, and with fellow officer (and composer) W. Denis Browne personally scoured the stony ground on Skyros looking for a suitable ‘corner of a foreign field’ in which to bury the poet. Months later Kelly composed this moving elegy as a tribute to his friend and comrade:

Kelly is buried in Martinsart British Cemetery where – unusually – the grave markers are carved from a local red sandstone rather than the more common, white Portland stone that is so familiar.

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