Who's Who - George Butterworth

George Butterworth George Sainton Kaye Butterworth (1885-1918), the British composer, critic and collector of folk song and dance, served with the British Army during the First World War until he was killed by a sniper's bullet in August 1916.

Born on 12 July 1885 in London to a prosperous family, Butterworth was brought up in York before receiving his early education at Eton.  His bent for matters musical took on form during his years at Eton and continued to grow during his time at Trinity College, Oxford, where he studied Greats.  During this period Butterworth met both Ralph Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp, both meetings which served to encourage his musical ambitions.

Following a year spent teaching at Radley Butterworth undertook to study for a brief period at the Royal College of Music.  His interest in collecting folk songs (together with Sharp and Williams) burgeoned at this time.

Musically Butterworth was noted for his work in composing The Banks of Green Willow (in 1913) and for setting Alfred Edward Housman's A Shropshire Lad to music in 1912.  He was at this time also writing criticism for the London Times newspaper.

The onset of war in Europe in August 1914 saw Butterworth enlist as a Lieutenant with the Durham Light Infantry's 13th Battalion.  Before departing for France however Butterworth took care to destroy all of his work which, in his opinion, fell short of excellence.  Consequently his published musical output is somewhat scarce.

Butterworth's two years of service saw him Mentioned in Despatches and win the Military Cross for successfully defending a trench at Pozieres during 17-19 July 1916.  A man with a reputation for bravery, Butterwroth was killed leading a raid during the Somme Offensive at Pozieres on 5 August 1916.

Butterworth's body was never found and his name is consequently among the 73,357 listed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.  He was aged 31 at his death.

German losses at Messines were 25,000, of which 7,500 were taken prisoner.  British casualties were 17,000 killed or wounded.

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