Carter, Desmond Patrick Webb

Unit: Royal Engineers

Date of death: 12 December 1916

Age at death: 19

Cause of death: Pleurisy and double pneumonia

Place of burial/commemoration: Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension

From the Pauline Magazine: He was a Foundation Scholar. Always destined for the Army, he had a brilliant career in the Woolwich Forms at school, and in July 1914, before he was seventeen years old, he passed 1st into Woolwich, scoring over 12,500 marks — a total which is probably a record for a candidate of his age. He passed first in the three mathematics — indeed, his mathematical and scientific ability was of a rare order; he had not only a taste for pure mathematics and an interest in the subject for its own sake, but he was able to apply his knowledge to the problems of everyday life in a remarkable way. Field engineering must have been very congenial to him.

Had he chosen an academic career, he could have gained a University Scholarship in either Mathematics, History, or Science. He could write and speak French fluently, and he had made good progress in German. It may be doubted whether a boy of finer intellectual promise ever entered Woolwich as a cadet. He was an active worker in the O.T.C., a keen cricketer and footballer, and, though he left us too young to attain the higher athletic honours, he represented C Club in the semi-final for the Senior Football Shield at the age of fifteen.

On active service in France he had many exciting adventures and many hairbreadth escapes. Once he led a party under cover of the early morning mist to fix up a telephone wire to establish communication with the front trenches in a newly captured area; the mist lifted, and the German shells began dropping all around them; fortunately all escaped. Another time he led a party under cover of night on an important and dangerous mission to a certain ” City of the Dead ” in No Man’s Land; his letter describing it is wonderfully vivid, and would be of great general interest, but it would be indiscreet to publish it till after the war. He was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch published on 29 December.

His C.O. tells us : ” In the execrable weather conditions of last November, the boy was doing, as he always did, a man’s work. In that work he made the last sacrifice. He fell a victim to pleurisy, followed by single and then by double pneumonia. So died one whom we had learned to love not only for his rich natural gifts and overflowing cheerfulness and good nature, but also for his true, honourable, and Christian character at school.” Of his character as a soldier, let his C.O. speak: ” I cannot say how much I miss him. During the time he had lived with me I was much drawn to him, he was so much a boy and yet so much a man. A boy with all a boy’s enthusiasm, cleanness, and integrity, and a man with a lion’s heart where work, honour, and care of his men were concerned. . . . He was idolized by every member of the Divisional Staff from the G.O.C. downwards, and adored by his men, who would have done anything for him. . . . He was a good and true lad, who kept his faith in God while many lose it.”