Britten originally inscribed the composition draft ‘In commemoration of all the fellow sufferers of the Second World War …’ – but this is scrubbed out and replaced with personal dedications: ‘In loving memory of Capt Michael Halliday RN, Capt PH Dunkerley, RM, Lt Roger Burney RN and O/S David Gill, RN.’
Lieutenant, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve. Listed ‘missing’ in 1944. A former school friend of Britten’s at South Lodge, Lowestoft. He joined the Merchant Navy in the 1930s and remained in touch with Britten.
Captain, Royal Marines. Died June 1959. A pupil at South Lodge, although not at the same time as Britten. He joined the Royal Marines, was a Captain during World War II and imprisoned in 1944, but unlike the other dedicatees of the piece was not killed during the conflict. He was a professional soldier for some time after the end of the war, though became a civilian in the late 1950s. He remained in touch with Britten after the war and in the late 1950s asked Britten to be best man at his forthcoming wedding. The marriage plans were cancelled, and—coupled perhaps with difficulties in adjusting to civilian life—Dunkerley committed suicide in June 1959. Britten considered him to be as much a ‘casualty of war’ as the other dedicatees.
Died on the French submarine ‘Surcouf’ in February 1942. Initially a friend of Peter Pears who, despite being a pacifist at university, was prompted to enlist after the Germans sank the British passenger ship, the Athenia. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was the British Liaison Officer on board the Surcouf, the Free French Navy’s ‘underwater cruiser’ when it was lost shortly after leaving Bermuda on 12 February 1942, possibly as the result of an accidental collision with an American freighter. He had last seen Britten and Pears when the Surcouf visited New York the previous autumn.
Died on active service in the Mediterranean. A friend from Britten’s Lowestoft days, who had been a choral scholar at St Paul’s Cathedral and later joined the Navy. Britten wrote to Gill’s mother asking her permission to include her son among the dedicatees of the piece.