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Band of Brothers: the sacrifice of a Great War family

rsz 003 1On the verge of the Great War, the census marks down the name Mary Lucas of Coulsdon, Surrey. Her status entry is simple and stark: 'WIDOW'. Mary's husband, the late Capt. B.W. Lucas of the old 59th Regiment, would barely recognise the war that was about to be unleashed across Europe and beyond; a war of trenches, mustard gas and flying machines. But before 1914, Mary's house, 'Fairmount' was never a lonely place, as it contained her three young sons who would follow in their father's marching footsteps and serve their country as officers, as leaders of men.


The eldest, Richard Jago Lucas would eventually persuade his younger brother Humphrey William Herbert, known in the family as 'Herb' to join him in Middlesex Regiment. But first, Herb would serve far away in Egypt with the Westminster Dragoons, sending his mother postcards of places that looked warm and exotic and as far from Westminster, or even Fairmount, as possible.rsz 006 1 He survived Gallipoli, as the youngest, Philip Bennett Lucas swapped tales of dreadful weaponry and mud in France, where he was serving as a Lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps.


Herb joined up with the Middlesex Regiment at Salonika, and it was on his return to Egypt that saw him flourish in familiar surroundings. He was Mentioned In Despatches, matching the achievements of his eldest brother, but he went one further for the family by being awarded the Military Cross on June 4th 1917.

rsz 005 2However, Mary recalls Herb's fascination with the aviation pioneers heralding the new century, when much of Europe was in derision of their inventions. He was to fulfil a childhood wish by joining the Royal Flying Corps in Oct 1917. After qualifying as a pilot in Egypt, 61st Squadron was returned to England and employed in the Air Defence Force.


Mary was tearful on the return of her eldest, Richard, from France. He had been dangerously wounded. She whispered prayers at the hospital bedside over his bandaged brow for all three sons. But as Richard recovered, and with so much foreign territory under his fabric wings, it was Herb who would strike a terrible blow to his mother's heart.

On 2 Oct 1918, with the end of the war imminent, Herb was forced to execute a crash landing of his Sopwith Camel.rsz bandon hillThe engine stalled, plunging him into the turf. Herb succumbed to his injuries despite the best efforts of medical staff. He was aged just 24. Richard had only returned to The Front a day before it happened. Mary bowed her head without the hands of Richard and young Philip to grip for comfort, as Herb was laid to rest at Bandon Hill Cemetery, Surrey.

Buy the medals of the three Lucas brothers, including Lt. H.W.H. Lucas' beautifully framed M.C. group.

 

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