The Mental Impact of the War
Cecil's capture as a Prisoner of War came early in the First World War, resulting in him spending four and a half years in incarceration. He saw it as his duty as an Officer to be a difficult prisoner and to attempt escape.
‘It is reported that on one occasion he threw an ashtray at a German Officer. This act resulted in the order for his execution by firing squad. At the due hour he refused a blindfold, and unlike a Russian Officer, who broke down in tears before he was executed, Uncle Cecil took out an apple from his top pocket, smiled at the firing squad, and ate it. I think that the German Officer was so impressed with his cool that the death sentence was commuted to solitary confinement, where he remained for eighteen months until the end of the war.
Raleigh went to London with his wife Gladys to bring Cecil home at the end of the war, searching the warehouse where the returning soldiers were being sheltered.
They looked in vain until only one old man was left, huddled in a corner in a greatcoat, and who called out “Hello Raleigh”. It was Cecil and he was virtually unrecognisable on account of the hardships he had endured in the prison camps.
Cecil came home, but was not the same. His wartime experiences had left a scar, and he became something of a recluse. He spent a great deal of time alone in the North Tower here, researching the family's history and sorting their archives. When World War Two broke out, however, he returned to the front lines to serve his country.
The family could not understand Basil's behaviour following the war. His appearance had been significantly altered by the injuries caused by shrapnel, and he flitted between different amusements to try to take his mind off his wartime experiences. As these pastimes included gaming, and as he left his wife, he became the family's 'black sheep' - despite the fact that much of his behaviour was triggered by the shock of his wartime experiences.