A dive into the archives: Henry Raymond Preece
THE DIARY AND LETTERS OF HENRY RAYMOND PREECE (1898-1917)
Henry Raymond Preece was born on 16th May 1898 in London, where he grew up. He attended Highgate School as a day boy from January 1909 and remained at the School until July 1915. His home address in the School Register for 1838-1938, is given as Southwood Avenue. Whilst at Highgate, he joined the Officer’s Training Corps or O.T.C. The O.T.Cs were created in 1906, comprising a Junior Division in Public Schools, to overcome the shortage of officers in the militia. During the First World War, the O.T.Cs became officer producing units and some 20,577 officers and 12,290 other ranks were recruited from the O.T.Cs between August 1914 and March 1915.
Raymond Preece joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1915 as 2nd Lieutenant upon leaving Highgate School. He reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant in July 1917. He left the near Eastern Front on 22nd July 1917 and was ordered to France in July 1918. He fell in action on 8th October 1918.
A volume of ‘Letters, Poems and Extracts from Diary’ was privately printed in 1920 by one of his friends and fellow officers, O. P. Walker.
The volume contains a moving tribute to Preece by Walker, mainly from their time during the Great War. It contains many of Preece’s poems, a couple of photographs and also some extracts of letters he sent to his parents from Salonica in Greece where he first posted and also from France. It also contains a moving letter written to his parents in October 1918 from his Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Brady D.S.O praising their late son’s courage.
Many of the poems reflect his life in the army and his thoughts on the War. He also seemed to have had a special regard for the natural environment, as several of his poems, written in Greece make references to the Greek landscape. Some are deeply moving, especially his thoughts on what he would do after the War, which of course never happened.
The extracts of the letters to his parents show that he was very close to them, even remembering to send a special message to his father for his 50th birthday. They describe his life in the army as much as he was allowed to say and are also very poetic as he describes the landscape and people he comes across.
To view a few of his poems and letters please click here.