AN APPRECIATION : BY A COMRADE IN ARMS.
With the passing of Archibald Buckle a dear friend is taken from the circle of those whom one had learned to trust and to respect in years of general strife. That he was the only man in the country holding the DSO with three bars is proof of his military prowess and courage. But it was not given to many to know the inner soul of the man, to know his dogged adherence to the principles of independence and of the right and to know the beatings of the great heart hidden behind a manner which sometimes appeared staccato and abrupt, not over tactful to outside appearances, some times perhaps.
But it was a tactlessness born of a love of directness, a hatred of pretence or of veneer. For to Buckle sham of any sort was like a red rag to a bull, and second as a provocative only to injustice. To suffer or to see injustice roused his fighting ire, and in standing up for the rights of himself or his fellow men, he was as great a thorn in the sides of his seniors in his junior days as to his subordinates in his later days.
For Buckle the path to promotion and fame was not always an easy one, and fully as his exploits were recognised by the end of the war, it was never more than a full measure of his merits. And whatever recognition he ever obtained was never for any of those showy acts of gallantry which have but little effect on the final operations, for Buckle always played first and foremost for his team, sinking his individuality for the general good.
He had no love of war; his strivings were always for the end and for a return to the wife with whom he had passed but a few days of a brief honeymoon when the call to arms on August 4th, 1914 caused a hurried return to London and duty, and to the son who had been born to him whilst he was striving out on the battlefield. He went on the expedition to Antwerp; was of material assistance to his battalion, the Drake Battalion, during the retreat, and soon after his return was given commissioned rank. Then followed a period irksome to him, but supremely useful to the Division. Draft after draft of officers and men departed for Gallipoli, but time after time Buckle was retained by reason of his value in the training of officers and men. Like a hound straining at the leash, he longed to take his part in what he felt to be his job in the line, and many were the passages at arms with those in authority in which Buckle was bound to come out second best.
was not until 1916 that his chance came at
last and he went to France. Well can one
remember his first appearance in the line. He
had tooled his way up to the front and had
stopped for a brief rest in a shanty in which
a fire was burning, and as he enjoyed the
grateful glow his face had darkened with the
smoky grime, so that, all unbeknowing, he had
assumed the colour of a Hottentot- and there
were no mirrors to apprise him of the fact. In
the struggles on the Somme around Pusioux at
the opening of 1917 he played a brave part,
and, although the old Burberry which he was
wearing was riddled by bullets, he sustained
not a scratch. Soon after, in the fighting for
Gavrello in front of Arrns, he again proved
his worth and firmly established his position
as a redoubtable military leader.
How well one remembers his coolness in organising the men when practically every officer had been lost. How one re-collects the calm parade ground air with which he assisted `Long John" Taylor to take up a position with his Stokes gun on the roadway leading up the hill to the Mayor's house, which was a nest of machine guns, and afterwards to witness the crash as a Stokes shell plopped through the roof. But, though Buckle's prowess was recommended for recognition during this engagement, honours were not yet, though his undoubted gift for leadership then displayed, laid the foundations for his future promotion and success. One need proceed no further. Four times was he decorated by the King, five times mentioned in despatches. The records of his prowess are recorded for those who care to read.
But it is not to record his deeds which earned military glory that, as an old comrade, I would write. History will guard those for all time. It is to record an impression of his honesty of heart and of purpose; to speak of a nature honest, and abhorring cant and pretence, asking favours from none; of a man's man, yet singularly ignorant and innocent of the guises- facts of life; of a nature devoted to the stern dictates of duty; anxious to please, but not afraid to criticise; appreciating recognition, yet scorning to seek popularity; a nature which some did not appreciate, but which everyone trusted.
I remember a non-commissioned officer in France confiding in me when Buckle was a Company Officer- "If we were out of the line and the Colonel said `Join any company you like" Lieut. Buckle wouldn't have many in his company. But if he were just going into the line and he said the same thing, he'd have pretty well the whole Battalion." "Why ?" I asked. "Because he looks after his men, he never tells you to do a job unless he knows what he is talking about. He knows what he's doing, he does." Greater praise no officer can have.
To those who had the privilege of his friendship the name of Archibald Buckle will not soon fade. The memory of his deeds and his awards may become dimmed with time but the memory of a simple honest gentleman, whom scenes of strife could not coarsen and whom plaudits and honours could not spoil, will remain untarnished while memory lasts.
`Lofty" Buckle, Petty Officer, Commander Buckle. DSO Different in this world's degree, but never varying in heart, which is the index in which worldly status can have no place. Far from the roar of the guns and the strife where fame and honours were gathered, may his great soul rest in peace. And, in facing life beneath the shadow of a great fighter, his sons can remember that the shadow is that of a great man and a stalwart gentleman.
from a photocopy by R. K. Buckle