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Kenneth Macnaughten Mylne (1908)

Letters from the trenches sent by Captain Kenneth Macnaughten Mylne (1908)


Kenneth Macnaughten Mylne, younger brother of Edward Graham Mylne (1902), entered College in Michaelmas Term 1908 and was awarded his B.A. in 1913; M.A., 1921. Keble clearly had a fond place in Mylne’s memory. In 1951 he wrote to College in response to a request in The Record for recollections of College. In his letter Mylne described the relations between the SCR and the Junior College as ‘almost wholly cordial’, and wrote of his fond memories of his tutors, in particular his ‘beloved Fred Matheson’, ‘poor old yellow Gosper’ and Dr Jackson or ‘Jackie’.

Mylne commenced service in September 1914 in the 8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment: Second Lieutenant, 1914; Lieutenant, 1915; Adjutant, 1916 and Captain in 1917.

Mylne was a prolific letter writer, writing 561 letters from France and military hospitals between April 1915 and November 1918. During front line fighting at Ypres, whilst commanding ‘A’ Company as part of an offensive near Poelcapelle, Mylne became lost whilst trying to reach his Company and was missing for 12 hours. Whilst trying to return to his Company Mylne 'passed through several barrages and was subjected to intensive and prolonged exposure'. Mylne’s letters indicate the damaging effect that such an event and the weight of such great responsibility had on him:

We went into the line & my company (‘D’) had a perfectly beastly bit to hold. Things were quiet enough – just intermittent shelling of a pretty heavy sort & a good deal of machine gun work at night. But the line was in a rotten state & the mud awful, & I had too few men to make any proper improvements. I was up & down it a lot the first night doing what I could, & again at ‘stand-to’ next morning. Then things began to get on my nerves pretty badly…

The C.O. wanted me to go sick, but I said I would carry on for the 4 days, & would only see the doctor if I felt the state of my nerves was making me a danger to the company. When Clarke got back to Headquarters, he decided not to risk it & sent up Reynolds from ‘B’ Company to relieve me. I was in the front line at the time & found him at my H. Q. when I got back 3 hours later. Meanwhile 2 of my subalterns had been wounded, which didn’t greatly help me to control my nerves. One (Whitstone) was hit by a chance M.G. bullet, through the leg & not very bad. The other (Stevens) was out on patrol… he was hit on his way back by a rifle bullet & badly bowled over. The rest of the patrol got him in.

It isn’t the shelling or the rifle or M.G. fire. It is that combined with the great responsibility. Of course, Responsibility is what an officer exists for, but everyone has limits, & if I have reached mine, well there it is. It remains to be seen what they do with me.

Mylne survived the war and married Dorothy Susan Constance Parry Okeden in 1918. He went on to have a successful career as a headmaster, forming Dalhousie School Ltd in 1960. Mylne is the author (as ‘Fra Ascensione’) of ‘Liturgia Scotica’ (1962) and ‘Liturgica Anglicana’ (1963). He died in Edinburgh, 14 December 1968.

The above extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Christopher K. Mylne from the complete transcription of Capt. Kenneth Mylne’s letters written to his mother during The Great War, My Dearest Mother: Letters from The Great War (Trojan Press, London, 2013).

KC_MEM 2 D4_1 - Mylne, p 1

KC/MEM 2 D4/1, the first page of Mylne's  second letter in response to an article in 'The Record', 1951