This 'thing of beauty born in suffering' was devised by my great-great uncle Lieutenant Norman Gibbins of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1917. He had been severely wounded by a shell near Loos in June 1916, and after a year spent recuperating was back in France in June 1917. He would appear to have created this chess problem while recovering from a fall from a horse. Fortunately, he was evacuated sick to England shortly before the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, in which his battalion was virtually annihilated. His mathematical talents were then put to better use as a Cypher Officer in the War Office in London, and with the British Army in Italy.
Norman had been a Maths Wrangler at Cambridge - achieving a First Class degree - specialising in geometry, and had taught maths before the war. Afterwards he became Headmaster of Central Foundation School, London, where his pupils included many talented boys from recently emigrated East European Jewish families. The photograph shows Norman, left, and on the right Daniel Pedoe, later a distinguished mathematician and geometer. Norman published many articles on geometry and chess through his life, several of them with another of his proteges at Central Foundation School, Jacob Bronowski. Norman is probably best remembered for his 1944 article 'Chess in three and four dimensions' in The Mathematical Gazette. He also published a booklet on Fairy Chess Problems, the 'Fairy' referring to a particularly challenging form of chess in which the rules, pieces or board can be changed.
Lieutenant Norman Martin Gibbins, Royal Dublin Fusiliers: Officers' Services. UK National Archives, WO 339/47801
Gibbins, N.M., 1911-1952, a total of 76 articles in The Mathematical Gazette
Gibbins, N.M. and Bronowski, J., 1927-48, A total of six chess problems in British Chess Monthly
Gibbins, N.M., 1947. Fairy Chess Problems. Stroud Publishing
Pedoe, Daniel, 1998. In love with geometry. The College Mathematics Journal, 29.3: 170-88