Captain Harold Vyvyan St George Harmsworth was severely wounded while serving with the Irish Guards at Cambrai in November 1917.
He died from his injuries the following year.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in taking out two enemy machine-guns under heavy fire.
His brother, Lieutenant Vere Sidney Tudor Harmsworth, of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, was also killed in action – at the Battle of the Ancre in November 1916.
He was aged just 21.
Already a combat veteran, Vere was deafened by gunfire during his service in the Royal Navy, captured at the bombardment of Antwerp in October 1914 and interned in Holland, before escaping and going on to serve at Gallipoli.
Turning down offers of safer jobs, he volunteered to return to the front line in France and was cut down by a shell as he advanced, wounded, across no man’s land. He showed such endurance and courage, according to his commanding officer, that ‘the men of his battalion who survived the action are thrilled with pride in his name’.
Three weeks before his death, Vere wrote a haunting letter to his family, saying:
‘We came into the trenches this morning and go over the top tomorrow. It will be about dawn… Whether I am to emerge from this show, I do not know. Fate has not definitely informed me… I may have been born to live my 21 years and then fade away. It may have been my mission in life.
If I fall, do not mourn but be glad and proud. It is not a life wasted but gloriously fulfilled. The crowning consolation is the knowledge that one will have done one’s utmost to leave the world better than one found it.’
These men were the sons of Harold Sidney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere.
He was Director-General of the Royal Army Clothing Department during the First World War before being appointed Air Minister in 1917.
His grief for the loss of two of his three sons led him to donate the building which houses IWM London today.
On 26 April 2012, the IWM Foundation – the independent charitable trust that was founded by the 1st Viscount Rothermere and is now chaired by his great-grandson, the present Lord Rothermere – hosted its patron Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at a reception to launch a £35million fundraising effort to transform IWM’s First World War galleries in time for 2014.
Lord Rothermere said of his great-grandfather,
‘He was determined that the selflessness and heroism of their entire generation would always be remembered, would always be honoured, would always – always – be part of our national story. I share that determination. If imaginative and intellectual engagement with the past matters, if a sense of personal connectedness to those who have gone before matters, which surely it does, then this museum and our centenary campaign matter too. And matter more than ever as the shadow of time passes over each new generation.’
You can make a donation to the First World War galleries campaign online today.