The WWI ‘Saving Private Ryan’ Mystery That Haunts Camilla’s Family

As we already know, Ryan’s three brothers, Harry, Alick and Hugh died in trenches during the First World War but he was saved from death, despite being on duty himself. No evidence has shown that young Rolie was forbidden from going to war.

The photographs of the three fallen soldiers, Harry, Alick and Hugh, hang on the wall of a small chapel of a church in the Surrey Hills. Underneath the photographs are stated the dates of their deaths as –  September 1916, November 1917 and March 1918.

Captain Harry Cubitt of the Coldstream Guards, Lieutenant Alick Cubitt of the Royal Hussars and Lieutenant Hugh Cubitt of the Royal Dragoons lost their lives within 18 months. They were Duchess of Cornwall’s great-uncles and it is believed that Camilla’s grandfather was forbidden from engaging in the conflict on the Western Front.  The story of Rolie Cubitt was depicted in director Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award winning film Saving Private Ryan.

According to Camilla’s younger brother and Rolie’s grandson, Mark Shand, Rolie was absolutely devastated by the news, since all he wanted to do was to follow the steps of his brother Harry and join the Coldstream Guards. ‘Boppa [Rolie] was mortified at not being able to fight for his country,’ he said. Shand said that his grandfather was from that kind of background that made him a man who believed that serving for his country and his King was his only duty and that he was never able to recover from the fact that he was excluded from the war, the Mail Online reports.

‘What was most clear to her was  how desperate Rolie was to get out to fight in France and how utterly devastated he was not being allowed to go,’ said Camilla’s son, Tom Parker Bowles. Rolie’s brother, Harry, served with the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards and was killed on September 15, 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He was 24 years old when he died.

His other brother, Alick, served with the 15th (The King’s) Hussars and lost his life on November 24, 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai. He was 23 years old when he died. Their brother Hugh, served with the 1st (Royal) Dragoons. He was killed on March 24, 1918 and is buried in Noyon Cemetery in France. He died aged 21.

According to historian Sir Hugh Cubitt, the brother’s parents, the  2nd Baron Ashcombe Henry Cubitt and his wife Maud were both devastated to hear the news that three of their sons have died in the war, while the boys’ grandmother was so upset that her hair went white overnight.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE