Tales from World War One

5th November 2018

Edmund Joseph Buisseret – the father of Chelsea Pensioner, Simon De Buisseret – had just joined a monastery in the sleepy town of Hereford, when the First World War broke out. His two older brothers joined the chaplaincy, but as Edmund was only a novice, he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and was immediately uprooted from his quiet existence as a prospective monk and sent to the Somme.

“My father was put in charge of a great gun that needed a team of 40 horses to pull it” Simon tells us, “and he went all over the place during the War – he did the Somme, the French battlefields and the Belgian ones. He said the worst part was the muck in the trenches – the urine and the rats. He also had to perform the awful task of offering the coup de grace for a bloke shot for cowardice – that was nasty. My father was a brilliant man – a mathematician and very saintly – and the First World War didn’t go down very well with him at all.”

Edmund after WW1 (approx. 1918)

Edmund received a Croix de Guerre with twice mentioned in dispatches for his service at the Battle of Loos where they fought almost to the last man. He would go on to serve in the Second World War as commandant of a camp in Shropshire before joining the Home Guard.

“I think he had a rough time, bless him” reflects Simon, “and I’ve learnt a lot from him these past few years, most notably patience and how to accept the bad things as well as the good.”

Since delving into his father’s past and travelling to the Somme to revisit the ground his father once trod, Simon has been inspired to pen a number of poems about the War in memory of his father.

Below is an extract from a poem Simon wrote in the voice of his father, entitled ‘Tales From World War One.’

As I crawled from hole to hole,
As star shells lit the mire,
As I crawled over my dead pals,
And the enemy opened fire,
I thought what was the point
Of this killing spree?
And then the light went out and so I couldn’t see.

I used to be in a monastery
As a Novice Monk, you know.
Now, when I bolt that whistle,
It’s over the top to go…

…In the “safety” of our dugout,
We brewed a cup of tea;
Up to our knees we stood in filth,
In water, dead rats and wee.

The poster said “Your Country Needs You”
So from the monastery I ran.
They said it wouldn’t happen twice;
But then, again, it all began;
First World War Two, the Gulf, Iraq
And then Afghanistan.

Just a few of my memories
As an Officer who survived.
In World War Two I served again,
Proud never to have skived.

My son wrote this and offers it.
He’s really very proud
To be a Chelsea Pensioner.
Just one in a scarlet crowd.

Royal Hospital Chelsea Newsletter

Stay up to date with what's going on at The Royal Hospital by signing up for our e‑newsletter.


View the archive

Major Phil Shannon
Farewell to Major Phil Shannon

We prepare to say a fond farewell to Royal Hospital favourite Major Phil Shannon MBE

Founders Day 2022
Founder’s Day returns to its full glory at the Royal Hospital Chelsea

After 2020’s cancellation and last year’s pared back celebration due to the pandemic, the most iconic date in the Royal Hospital’s calendar returned to its full glory this year. 


Follow @RHChelsea