While at Rugby School, Rupert Brooke and his friend Geoffrey Keynes were both members of the Rugby School Rifle Corps, School Field Group.
On 20 August 1905, Rupert Brooke wrote a letter to his friend James Strachey, in which Brooke gave the following answer to Strachey’s question ‘Are you in favour of War at any Price?’:
‘Certainly I approve of War at any Price. It kills off the unnecessary.’
In 1905, Brooke was only 18 years old and could not have foreseen the tragedy of the First World War.
When war was announced in 1914, Brooke had just returned from travelling in America and the South Seas. He was keen to enlist but this eagerness was not met with a commission for some time. Geoffrey Keynes has suggested that Brooke was jealous of him for getting commissioned first.
On 30 July 1914, Brooke dined with Prime Minister Henry Asquith at 10 Downing St. with his friends Edward Marsh (then Winston Churchill’s Private Secretary) and Violet Asquith (the Prime Minister’s daughter). It was then that Rupert Brooke first met Winston Churchill. By this time, Rupert Brooke had already had one book of poetry published so was becoming famous.
In September 1914, Brooke received a commission as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Hood Battalion of the Royal Naval Division. Thereafter he served at Antwerp, trained for a winter at Blandford Camp and then joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in February of 1915. During this expedition, he was able to enjoy a short visit to Egypt. He died on the following 23 April, the victim in succession of sunstroke and blood poisoning. In accordance with military tradition he was buried close to where he fell. He died on a French hospital ship and was buried in an olive grove on the island of Skyros, in Greece.
Transcript of a letter from Rupert Brooke to Edward Marsh, 9 March 1915. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/S/5/2, 215.