Siegfried Sassoon met ‘Bobbie’ Hanmer and his cousin Dorothy while riding with the Atherstone Hunt before the war. Although he was deeply attracted to Bobbie, Sassoon never did develop a relationship with him. However, Dorothy was attracted to Sassoon and in an effort to get close to Bobbie he was happy to cultivate a friendship with her. For reasons best know to Sassoon, (but being naive he probably just didn't see it coming), he eventually found himself unofficially engaged to Dorothy who had fallen in love with him. Finally coming to his senses Sassoon realised there was no future for Dorothy with him, in his diary (July 16th 1916) he wrote: “I must go into the night alone. No fat settling down; the Hanmer engagement idea was a ghastly blunder-it wouldn’t work at all. That charming girl who writes to me so often would never be happy with me. It was my love for Bobbie that led me to that mistake.” As can be seen from the inscription above, this book once belonged to Dorothy Hanmer, it bears her signature and the date, June 27th 1914. I came across this book quite by chance and am delighted to add it to my website to fill in that small gap in Sassoon’s life.
While carrying out research into the Hanmers for this website I have discovered that all of Sassoon’s biographers have been making the same error. In 1983 Rupert Hart-Davis published ‘Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918,’ and on page 23 there is a footnote which states...“R. H. Hanmer, a pre-war friend of S.S. who in April 1917 was wounded when fighting with the Second Battalion R.W.F. There had been a shadowy engagement between his sister and S.S.”
Jean Morrcroft Wilson in her book ‘Siegfried Sassoon The Making of a War Poet, A Biography 1886-1916’ (1998), John Stuart Roberts in his book ‘Siegfried Sassoon’ (1999), and Max Egremont in his book ‘Siegfried Sassoon a Biography (2005); all credit Hart-Davis’ book in their bibliography, and all repeat the same error, that Dorothy Hanmer was Bobbie’s sister, when in fact she was his cousin. This may be deemed a small point, but as four highly respected biographers have all perpetuated the same error, I think the time has come to set the record straight.
ThePeerage.com provides the following information: Dorothy Kathleen HANMER 1893 to 1957 aged 63. daughter of Richard and Catherine Hanmer and granddaughter of Henry and Sybella. She married Major Henry HAWKINS in 1930 and lived at Everdon Hall, Daventry. Dorothy had one sibling, a sister called Sybella Gwyneth Hanmer.
Robert Hugh HANMER 1895 to 1971 aged 75. son of Hugh and Margaret Hanmer and grandson of Henry and Sybella. He married Mary Spens in 1922. He was a Lt in the RWF and was awarded the MC. He went on to serve in the RAF with the rank of Group Captain. Was awarded the OBE in 1944 and was Deputy Lt of Shropshire in 1952.
To corroborate this, the 1901 Census records that Dorothy Hanmer, age 7, was the daughter of Richard and Catherine Hanmer. Robert Hanmer, age 5, was the son of Hugh and Margaret Hanmer. These are the facts.