It’s Veterans’ Day, or Armistice Day as it was known until 1954. St. Paul’s has many veterans whom we honor, but this year let us remember T. Frederick H. Candlyn, our organist and choirmaster from 1915 until 1943, who fought in the trenches during World War I. Candlyn marched in every Armistice Day parade here beginning with his discharge in 1919 until he left this city in 1943.
Candlyn arrived at St. Paul’s in May 1915, having recently immigrated from his birthplace in Davenham, Cheshire, England. While he filed first papers for naturalization in July 1916, Candlyn was still a British citizen in May 1917 when the Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed, requiring all men age 21 to 30 to register for the draft. In his native land, Candlyn (then age 24) would have been exempt, as the only son of a widowed mother, but not in the United States. He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, and entered the army on September 21, 1917, leaving Albany with the first contingent of draftees for training at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
Candlyn had a brief break from what he described as “a stiff bit of training” at Fort Devens when he returned to Albany to marry Dorothy Ridgway on December 29, 1917. She was a member of St. Paul’s, and the daughter of longtime St. Paul’s vestryman Frederick W. Ridgway. The newlyweds had a brief honeymoon trip, and then Candlyn returned to training. He became a United States citizen on June 25, 1918 at Fort Devens, and must have been shipped overseas soon afterward, assigned to the medical service.
Candlyn was discharged as corporal on April 25, 1919. Every year thereafter, until he left Albany in 1943, Candlyn marched proudly in the Armistice Day parade, wearing the same olive drab uniform he had worn “over there.”
We have a description of one of these parades, and some details of his military service thanks to an article by columnist Edgar S. Van Olinda in the Albany Times-Union for November 17, 1941.
Those who witnessed the Armistice Day parade last Tuesday probably noted the Governor marching at the head of the column and the lone Civil war veteran, Colonel Hayes, of Brookview riding in the Governor’s open car. But unless you are a consistent curbstone fan or the collector of useless information, you probably missed another very important personage. Once again Dr. T. Frederick H. Candlyn, head of the music department of State College for Teachers, organist and choirmaster of St. Paul’s Episcopal church, paraded in the Legion division.
Dr. Candlyn does it every year; not that the stunt is very remarkable, as there are many who do the same thing. The important part is that he wears the same uniform he used overseas, and it is an enlisted man’s uniform at that.
Dr. Candlyn arrived at City hall just as Grand Marshal “Gil” Sharp and Carilloneur Floyd Walter were synchronizing watches, preparatory to the tolling of the big bell on the dot of 11, followed by the moment of silence, and “taps.” Both of these gentlemen took time out to congratulate the Doctor on his appearance and to ask, “How do you do it?” Most of the O.D. outfits have long since been carried away by the moths and those which are still in the clothes press are so small that most veterans would need the help of a shoehorn.
So, each year, T. Frederick H., on November 11, puts away the tuning fork and baton and dresses himself in the olive drab blouse, breeches and wrapped leggings and does his stuff.
After a brief aside about other Albany musicians who served in the war, Van Olinda continues with some insights into Candlyn’s wartime experience”
What could be more incongruous than our good friend, squatting on the firestep of a trench with a pad of score sheets on his knee, composing a Christmas cantata or a musical setting of the Magnificat with the shells and machine gun bullets whistling overhead?
He has written a delightful organ voluntary entitled “An Indian Legend,” which, while not too difficult to play, exhibits the possibilities of the organ stops. We can’t help but wonder if this, too, is a “front-line” composition.
In an earlier piece, published in the Times-Union for November 18, 1939, Van Olinda also describes Candlyn’s marching in the Armistice Day parade, and a few additional details of his wartime activities.
Dr. Candlyn had an interest in the outcome of the war beyond many Americans, for many of his close relatives still live in England. He stood on the parapet during his trick on watch, slipped on the wet duckboards in the trenches as he lugged rations to his platoon and learned the mechanism of machine gun and hand grenade. But during his rest periods, he jotted down little melodies on paper and when there was entertainment in the “Y” hut, Private Candlyn would be at the piano.
T.F.H. Candlyn gave much for his country with this wartime service. But he and his wife were to give once more to his adopted country. One year after that last Armistice Day parade in Albany, the Candlyns’ son Donald Shore Candlyn was killed by a sniper during the the Battle of the Bulge.