THE Australian musician Chris Latham travelled to Oxford last week on a pilgrimage to honour one of his country’s most romantic war heroes.

Born in Sydney in 1881, Frederick Septimus Kelly, who died attacking a German machine gun emplacement in the last days of the Somme campaign during the First World War, was one of the most talented oarsmen to take to the river at Oxford.

But more than that, he was a brilliant musician and composer, who continued to write beautiful music amid the horrors of trench warfare.

Kelly, who came from Australia to study at Eton and then at Balliol College, Oxford, even wrote a violin sonata during rare moments of peace that he somehow managed to find while fighting at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915.

It was written for the beautiful Hungarian violinist, Jelly D’Aranyi, whom he had met when she was 16, and had played music with regularly, before going off to war.

“It is all there in my head but not yet on paper,” he had written to D’Aranyi. “You must not expect shell and rifle fire in it! It is rather a contrast to all that, being somewhat idyllic.”

D’Aranyi, who never married and kept his photograph on her piano for the rest of her life, performed it at Kelly’s memorial service. But the piece disappeared and was to become known as Kelly’s Lost Sonata.

Violinist Mr Latham’s interest in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, where Australian troops played a leading role, and his love of Kelly’s music, persuaded the him to go in search of the music, a hunt that would stretch across Europe.

Mr Latham spoke about his discovery during a visit to Balliol and to the college’s Historic Collections Centre, in St Cross Church, where he was able to view oars used by Kelly.

While studying in Oxford, Kelly won the Diamond Sculls at Henley three times, in the last race setting a record that stood until 1938. He rowed for Oxford against Cambridge in the 1903 Boat Race and in 1908 competed in the Olympic Games in London, winning gold in the coxed eight rowing event. He gave up the sport to become a composer and concert pianist before joining the Royal Naval Division soon after the outbreak of the war in 1914 and was involved in the unsuccessful defence of Antwerp, in Belgium.

After being promoted to lieutenant, he took part in the Gallipoli campaign and was among the last British troops to be evacuated.

He was then sent to the Western Front, in France, where he was killed, aged 35, at Beaucourt-sur-l’Ancre, on November 13, 1916.

Mr Latham first read about the violin sonata in Kelly’s recently-discovered diaries, which are a Kelly archive held by the National Library of Australia.

He said: “When I realised it was not in the archive, I thought who might still have it? He had written it for D’Aranyi. I thought she must have held on to it. It was then a question of finding her or those who responsible for her estate.”

After investigating the family tree, he traced D’Aranyi’s grand-niece in the Italian city of Florence and learned that she had inherited the manuscript.

“It looked surprisingly new and was really well preserved, written in Kelly’s own hand,” recalled Mr Latham.

“There had been three versions, this was the second, the fair copy he had made. I certainly did not expect it to be such a good piece. It’s actually beautiful.”

Only now is his music receiving proper recognition in the country of his birth.

It would be fitting, indeed, if events in Oxford to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War were to include the music of Frederick Kelly, with the fallen here remembered with the return home of the Lost Sonata.