Witley, April 19, 1917

Thursday        Weather dull. I painted the name on today “Tyrthon”  others are taking up the idea I did not write to day as Im wont to


Now here is a threefold puzzle: Is that word “Tyrthon” or something else? If it is Tyrthon, where did he come up with that name? I can’t find it in Biblical or mythological sources. And where did he paint it?  On the gun in his subsection, presumably, his gun. When you work as long and as hard with a piece of equipment as these gun crews did, not just laying and loading and firing and adjusting, but also cleaning and polishing and dragging it into and out of position and attaching it to the limber and horse team — you get to know that piece of equipment very well. There is plenty of evidence of weapons being named — from Arthur’s sword Excalibur through American navy guns (1) to Frodo’s Sting — and Percy seems pleased that others were adopting his idea.

The only problem with this answer to the third question is that Percy is still officially in limbo, attached to the Ammunition Column, and not yet to the 55th Battery. Of course, it is possible that he is unofficially in a subsection of the 55th, replacing men who had gone to France with the 48th.

Percy’s diary tells us that today is Primrose Day, which is the anniversary of the death in primrose BBC_47503540_primroses_broadhembury2_4661881 of Benjamin Disraeli, British novelist and prime minister. Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to his funeral, and the popular spring flower was adopted as the symbol of the Primrose League, a political “organization for spreading Conservative principles amongst the British democracy.” (2) It was a means for promoting the Conservative Party by building on the popularity of a prime minister whose “career had been colourful, while his sonorous, inclusive, but unspecific rhetoric was ambiguous enough to make him a useful symbol of a remarkable variety of policies.” (3) There exists a brief Pathe film showing Disraeli’s statue at Westminster on this date in 1916, adorned with a wreath bearing the motto of the Primrose League: “Imperium et Libertas”– Empire and Liberty. (2)

(1) “A Gun by Any Other Name.” USS Constitution Museum blog. March 7, 2014.
(2) “Primrose League.” Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition. (1911) 22: 34.
(3) Parry, Jonathan. “Disraeli, Benjamin, earl of Beaconsfield (1804–1881).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP, 2004; online edn, May 2011

The image of primroses comes from a BBC Devon article about Devon’s favourite flower.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

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