Cecil Coles

Cecil Frederick Coles (7 October 1888 26 April 1918) was a Scottish composer who was killed on active service in World War I.[1]

Life and career

Coles was born in Kirkcudbright, and educated at George Watson’s School, Edinburgh. In 1907 he went to the London College of Music[2] on a scholarship. He later studied at the University of Edinburgh and Stuttgart Conservatory. On completion of his studies, he became assistant conductor to the Stuttgart Royal Opera and was organist of St. Katherine's, an English church in the city. In 1912, he married Phoebe Relton at St Saviour’s Church, Brockley Rise, London, and took his wife back to Germany; the couple returned to the UK the following year. When World War I broke out, he joined the Queen Victoria's Rifles and became their bandmaster. While on active service, he sent manuscripts home to his friend Gustav Holst. He was killed by German sniper fire on the Western Front, while helping recover casualties. He was buried at Crouy.[3]

Coles' work was "rediscovered" in a 2001 recording.[4]

His music was used as the opening and closing title music for a documentary series entitled The First World War. The piece of music was Cortège, arranged by Orlando Gough.[5] Cortège is one of the two surviving movements of a suite composed by Coles called Behind the Lines.[6] Cortege also appears on Artists Rifles, an audiobook CD issued in 2004 featuring war poetry read by Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves, David Jones, Edgell Rickword and Lawrence Binyon, as well as music by Edward Elgar, George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maurice Ravel, Gustav Holst, Ivor Gurney, Ernest Moeran and Arthur Bliss.[7]



  • Intermezzo (1911)
  • Rondo in A minor (1909)


  • From the Scottish Highlands (suite) (1906–1907)
  • Fra Giacomo (dramatic scena for baritone and orchestra, to a poem by Robert Williams Buchanan) (1914)
  • Scherzo in A minor
  • Overture: The Comedy of Errors
  • Sorrowful Dance
  • Behind the Lines


  • Four Verlaine Songs


  1. Brief biography Archived 16 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Coles: Music from Behind the lines". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  3. Reading Room Manchester. "CWGC - Casualty Details". Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  4. "Coles: Music from Behind the lines". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  5. "Programmes - Most Popular - All 4". Channel 4. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  6. March, Ivan; Edward Greenfield; Robert Layton (2002). The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs Yearbook 2002/3, London, New York City: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051530-5
  7. "Artists Rifles CD audiobook - CD41 Recordings". Retrieved 30 March 2016.
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