Lieutenant Denis Eagar, RFA, c.1918.

Denis Eagar (1898-1918) was born at Cheltenham on 10 December 1898, the youngest of four sons of Captain Edward Boaz Eagar (1860-1899) of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers and Ada Mary Barbara (née Thoyts) (1865-1951).

Denis attended Sherborne School as a Scholar from May 1912 to July 1917, during which time he was a member of The Green.

Denis’ brother Francis Eagar (1893-1915) had also attended Sherborne School (1907-1912) before entering Woolwich and in August 1914 obtaining a commission in the Royal Field Artillery.  When Denis was aged 16, and still at Sherborne School, he heard the news that Francis had been killed at Fleurbaix on 9 May 1915.

During Michaelmas term 1914, Denis and his school friend Edward Kitson (1897-1916) performed concerts for the wounded soldiers at the Red Cross hospital at Sherborne Castle.   In September 1914, possibly for performance at one of these concerts, Denis, then aged 15 ½, wrote the words and music for ‘War Hymn’:

The score for War Hymn by Denis Eagar, September 1914.

Lo! In the Heights, & the valleys of England
News of a great & a terrible war
GOD of our nation & GOD of our Empire
Help us, we pray thee, & guard thou our shore.

Though we have armies, & ships for our battles
Though we have men who will fight for our shores
Yet without thee, is our strength but as weakness
Help us, we pray thee & prosper our cause.

Though we are sinful, & weak in thy sight LORD
Yet ‘gainst oppression & proudness we fight
Thou the all just one, regard not our frailty
Help us, we pray thee, & prosper the right.

Lo! The weak nation is crushed by the tyrant
See! The rude forces with arrogance flow
Into the cities of innocent women
GOD with our help, we will conquer the foe.

LORD we will conquer, full well do we know it
As friend of the weak & oppressed, we fight
Lo! We are confident, strength is in quietness
GOD of all justice will prosper the right.

Denis left Sherborne School in July 1917 and although he had been offered a place at Keble College and hoped later to be ordained, he joined a Cadet Battalion and then the Royal Field Artillery, where he served as a Lieutenant in the B/160th Brigade.

The First World War Memorial in The Green, 1919.

Denis was killed, aged 19 ½, by a sniper on the edge of Wytschaete Wood, Belgium on 28 September 1918.  He is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial and on the Keble College War Memorial.  Both Denis and his brother Francis are also commemorated on the Bishops Cleeve War Memorial in Gloucestershire, and at Sherborne School on the War Memorial Staircase and in their former boarding house, The Green.

An obituary for Denis was published in The Shirburnian in November 1918:

2nd Lieut. D.G. Eagar, R.F.A., was killed by a sniper while acting as F.O.O. to his Battery in France on September 28th 1918.  He came to Sherborne (The Green) in September 1912, having won a Scholarship in the previous July; he left in July 1917, in the Upper Sixth, a School Prefect and Head of his House.  Until the war broke out and the necessity arose Denis Eagar had no thought of following his three elder brothers in a military career, his artistic temperament and musical ability had far other aims in life.  He had always hoped to be ordained, and his simple life and singular sweetness of character would seem to have marked him out for the gentler duties of a clerical life.  His quiet influence and the memory of his unselfish life here at Sherborne will not fail of their effect on those who knew him best.’

After Denis’ death, his mother gave to Sherborne School his ‘Musical Record’: a scrapbook containing programmes for concert he attended between September 1913 and February 1918; a list of church services at which he played the organ between August 1913 and January 1918, with photographs and comments about the organs; and the scores for ‘Song’ with words by C.G. Rossetti (May 1914), and ‘Allegro for Piano’ (June 1914), and ‘War Hymn’ (September 1914).

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist
28 September 2018

See also: Online Resources for Sherborne School and the First World War

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