Text supplied by Roland Wales.
On 18 April 1917 RC Sherriff sent his mother a photograph which had been taken a fortnight earlier. He told her that:
‘Since it was taken, the man on my right (standing on the left of the photo) has been killed, and the old man sitting on the extreme right of the photo has been wounded. These are some of the awful parts of war – the gradual disappearance of friends like this…’
Hubert William Kiver was the man standing beside Sherriff who had been killed. He was three years older than Sherriff, born in Fulham on 16 November 1893. He was educated at Gresham’s School in Norfolk, arriving in 1906, and leaving at Christmas in 1910. While there he exhibited a talent for drama and music and was enrolled in the OTC, where he proved himself one of the best shots in the school. After leaving Gresham’s he entered the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), where his father Ernest was Professor of piano. He had started to make a name for himself as an actor and vocalist when war broke out.
He joined up in November 1915, and was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant to the 6th East Surreys on 11 December. He was subsequently attached to the 9th Battalion, and was shipped to France in February 1917, joining ‘C’ Company on 27 February. He was killed in action just seven weeks later, on 17 April, when the Germans shelled the Battalion’s HQ in the front line at Cité St Pierre.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour recorded some of the comments made by his superior officers, including: ‘In the short time he had been with us your son had made quite a special place for himself in the Regiment. His constant cheerfulness was a marked point.’; and also, from his Commanding Officer: ‘Your son was the life and soul of the 3/6 East Surreys, and was beloved by all, from the Commanding Officer downwards’. While such sentiments might occasionally be seen as rather formulaic, in Kiver’s case they were supported by the unprompted testimony of the Battalion medic, Captain George Pirie, who wrote in his diary on 18 April:
‘The Huns shelled HQ and around it again up till 10 o’clock last night and unfortunately killed 2nd Lieutenant Kiver, who is the musician and songster of the Battalion. He is a great loss to us all.’
After the war Kiver’s name was inscribed on the RAM’s war memorial, and in 1922 a prize was established in his honour, to be awarded to students who had been studying in the Academy for at least three terms, for excellence in the area of singing (baritone), elocution, organ playing orson composition. An award board in the Academy displays the names of the previous winners.
Hubert Kiver is commemorated at St Luke’s Church, Whyteleafe.
Roland Wales is the author of the new RC Sherriff biography From Journey’s End to the Dam Busters: The Life of R.C. Sherriff, Playwright of the Trenches (2016, Pen & Sword). He has set up a blog featuring Sherriff’s letters home from the trenches on the date they were written, one hundred years ago, see www.rolandwales.com.