In memorium: Evelyn Achille de Rothschild (1886-1917)
November 2017 is the centenary year of the passing of Major Evelyn Achille de Rothschild. The second of three sons of Leopold (1845-1917) and Marie (1862-1937), Evelyn served in the Bucks Yeomanry. He was mobilised with his regiment on the outbreak of the First World War, served in Egypt and Gallipoli, and later fought and fell in the charge on El Mughar in November 1917.
Evelyn was born on 6 January 1886. During his childhood he spent this summers in Scotland at the Sassoon family's lodge. Together with his cousin, Neil Primrose (1882-1917), the son of Hannah Rosebery (née de Rothschild) (1851-1890), they enjoyed the sporting life, and Evelyn became an exceptionally fine horseman. He went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1904, and in 1907 became Joint Master of the Cambridge University Draghounds. He twice represented the University in the Grind and rode the winners of several races in the University Steeplechases. He entered the family business of N M Rothschild & Sons at New Court in 1907, visiting Brazil and Chile in 1913 in the interests of the business.
In August 1914 Evelyn was promoted to Captain and left for Egypt in April 1915. He was then sent to Gallipoli, where he was temporarily in command of the Regiment, but after three months there was invalided to the base. Although letters home had to pass through a censor, surviving letters, preserved in the Archive, sent by Evelyn Achille to uncle, Nathaniel 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) are surprisingly detailed.
This extract is from a letter written by Evelyn on 25 August 1915 after the Battle of Scimitar Hill and attack on Hill 60: “[The division] had to advance in the afternoon across a mile and a half of open country under very heavy shrapnel and rifle fire and moved as steadily as if on parade. They re-formed under a hill and at dark moved on to attack. Our brigade went right on through our first line trenches and got into the Turkish trenches on the next hill but there was nobody on the flanks and the position was enfiladed and untenable and they eventually had to retire… Longford led the brigade in attack in the gallant way we expected and it is very sad that he was killed... It is very sad coming back and finding all the gaps and our casualties are terrible. Five out of eight of our officers hit, seventy-two men wounded and fifty four killed or missing; I hope some of the latter may still turn up and others may be wounded and prisoners but I am afraid most of them are killed.”
Evelyn had been mentioned in Despatches in March 1916 by General Sir Charles Monroe. Returning to the front line, he remained in Egypt until his death on 17 November 1917, and was present at both Battles of Gaza. In March 1917 he became a Major. Wounded in the Yeomanry charge on El Mughar on 13 November 1917, in Palestine, Evelyn died in the Citadel Hospital, Cairo, four days later. His cousin, Captain Neil Primrose fell in the same charge.
The Officer Commanding the Bucks Yeomanry wrote to his father Leopold:"We had some two miles of open country to cross, which was fairly swept by machine-gun and rifle fire. It was about half-way across this plain that Evelyn was struck down by a bullet. After all his death was a glorious one, killed when charging at the head of his men of Bucks."
Evelyn was buried in Cairo on 12 December 1917 and in 1919 his coffin was transferred to Palestine and re-buried in Rishon Le-Zion. On 5 December 1920 Evelyn’s brother, Anthony de Rothschild (1887-1961), unveiled the War Memorial in the churchyard of All Saints Church at Wing, Buckinghamshire, England, near the family’s country estate of Ascott, honouring Evelyn and his comrades from Wing who were killed in the War. Anthony was wounded at the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and ended the War as a Major with the General Staff. He too was mentioned in Despatches, and would later become Senior Partner at New Court, leading the bank through the Second World War, committing significant resources to assist Jewish refugees from Europe. In honour of his younger brother, he named his only son Evelyn (later Sir Evelyn de Rothschild).
The New Court War Memorial, engraved with the names of men from New Court and the Royal Mint Refinery who fell during two world wars will be on display in the Ground Floor Reception as part of the November remembrance commemorations. Read more about the New Court War Memorial here »