Eric Alfred Whitehead

Eric was the younger son of Alfred North Whitehead, a mathematician, philosopher and Fellow of the Royal Society and his wife Evelyn. He joined Rigaud’s House in April, 1914 and left the school two years later in 1917. Whilst Whitehead had a place to study at Balliol College, Oxford, he joined the Royal Flying Corps in the autumn of 1917. He went out to the western front in February 1918 where he was killed in action whilst on flying patrol.

Before the war the philosopher Bertrand Russell had been a close friend to the Whitehead family. However, contrasting attitudes towards the war pulled the friendship apart. Russell, a pacifist, opposed the British government and defended the rights of conscientious objectors. His actions ultimately led to his being imprisoned for several months in 1918.  The Whitehead family felt that the war was necessary to secure peace in Europe and all of Alfred North Whitehead’s children served in the war effort.  Eric’s death was a great loss to the family.

Alfred North Whitehead published a book An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge in 1919, which he had been working on since before the war. He dedicated to his son with the following words:

‘Killed in action over the Foret de Gobain giving himself that the city of his vision may not perish. The music of his life was without discord, perfect in its beauty’

Alfred North Whitehead
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Eric James Tyson

Eric James Tyson was born in Balham on the 17th of March 1892. He was the only son of Joseph and Annie Tyson. Joseph Tyson was a Classics teacher at the school between 1885 and 1929, and worked as Bursar to the school. Annie was the daughter of John Branson, of Rockingham, Northamptonshire.

He was admitted to the school in May 1904, and joined Ashburnham. During his time at Westminster, he represented Ashburnham in Fives and Cricket as shown in the 1908 July edition of The Elizabethan where he was in a cricket match against Rigaud’s and in the House Notes section was stated that he ‘did well’. He was also mentioned in the 1909 October edition for competing in house Fives. He was forced to take a break from Football because he was suffering from “water on the knee”.

When he left the school in July 1910, he went on to be a motor engineer. This stood him in good stead because, in August 1914, he enlisted in the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport). After a year, he became 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Flying Coprs. He was gazetted in January 1916 for gallantry on photographic reconnaissance and artillery duties, and was promoted to Flight Commander and Captain by 23rd June 1916.

He was awarded the Military Cross on the 20th October 1916. In November 1916, he rose to the rank of Major, and was put in command of No. 5 Squadron in France. In September the following year, he decorated further with a Distinguished Service Order (pictured).

He was out on an artillery observation mission near Arras, France, when he encountered nine German aircraft. Eric was fatally wounded in the confrontation, with the victory attributed to Sielemann of Jagdstaffel 57.

Tyson died of his wounds the next day, on the 11th March 1918, leaving behind his wife Cora Florence Gladys (née Davies), daughter of Philip C. Davies, of Trinity Road, Ealham. He is buried in the Maroeuil British Cemetery in France.

 Compiled with the assistance of a pupil in the Vth Form.


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Leslie Sidney Last

Leslie Sidney Last was the youngest son of Arthur William Last and Elizabethan Anne Balaam and was born in Sutton. He was a pupil in Ashburnham House from April 1909 until December 1911.  He was athletic and played in his house’s winning Junior Football Team in 1909.  The house ledger recorded that:

“(right back) is a very plucky and sturdy little player; he is a good kick with either foot and tackles admirably.”

He was the 5th member of that team to die in the war – following contemporaries R. Chalmers and J.W.H. McCulloch and G.J.M. Moxon and E.C. Graham.

On leaving the school he became a driver for the Honourable Artillery Company. He later served in Egypt during the war until 1916 when he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery.  From there he went to Salonika before later becoming attached to the Royal Flying Corps in October 1917. Pilots were much in demand at this stage in the war and during 1917 experienced pilots were redeployed from the Sinai and Palestine Campaign to set up a new flying school and train pilots in Egypt. Last ‘obtained his wings’ – his license to fly in December 1917 and was then appointed as an instructor. He was killed accidentally while instructing a pupil near Cairo a less than two months later.

Aircraft crash at the Royal Flying Corps Training School at Aboukir, Egypt
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John Sheridan Gregory

1914 Star © IWM 30007059

John Sheridan Gregory was born on the 15th of September 1889. He was the younger son of Lieutenant-Colonel Gregory Marcar Gregory, of West Kensington, and Edith Laura, the second daughter of John Sheridan, of Earl’s Court.

Before arriving up Ashburnham in 1902, John was educated under Mr George Egerton, Somerset Street.

While he was at the school, he represented his house at Football as a half-back. The Elizabethan notes that he “played very well” in the 1907 House Cup match in which his team won 6-0 against Rigaud’s, and was “on the top of his form” against the Homeboarders.

After he left the school in July 1907, he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge in Michaelmas 1908. He graduated with a BA and LLB in 1911, and was admitted to the Middle Temple in November 1913.

Particularly keen to become proficient in riding and driving, John enlisted in the Officer Training Corps (Army Service Branch). By August 1914, he had qualified for Certificate A, a proficiency award for basic training, and had passed all but his final examination for the Bar.

As soon as he had qualified, he went out to France as 2nd Lieutenant, Army Service Corps (Special Reserve). Then, between April 1915 and August 1917, he served as Supply Officer to the 9th Cavalry Brigade. He rose through the ranks, becoming a temporary Lieutenant in August 1915, a full Lieutenant in February 1916, and a temporary Captain in June 1916.

In August 1917, he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, and returned to England to qualify as an Observer.

An observer operating an aerial camera in WW1

He returned to France in October 1917, and joined No. 16 Squadron R.F.C. before being transferred to No. 35 Squadron in November. He was promoted to Captain on the 29th November 1917, and was preparing to go through the training of a pilot.

He received the 1914 Star for his past services in France. But just a fortnight later, on 19th February 1918, his plane was shot down in an encounter with a German machine between Lempire and Épehy. He died aged 28, and is buried near Peronne.

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Archibald Gordon

Archibald Gordon was the younger son of William Edward Gordon, a barrister and his wife Bertha.  He followed his brother into the school becoming a King’s Scholar in September 1911.

The Elizabethan noted that ‘although of small stature, he was a vigorous athlete, beginning as a cricketer but later going to Water.’ The topic of sport obviously interested him and he spoke at the Debating Society when the motion ‘That in the opinion of this House Athletics in time of peace are a good training for War’ was discussed in 1915.  He is recorded as having ‘made a bitter attack on professional footballers and their supporters, who flocked to see them play. He considered that professional football was not a game, but merely a financial concern which was now acting as a serious hindrance to recruiting.’

He left the school in April 1916 and after briefly working as an assistant master at Temple Grove School, Eastbourne he became a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He took on the role as Observer in the Royal Navy in March 1917.  In June, he left England to serve in the Naval Air Service and drowned in the Mediterranean while on active service patrol.

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Charles George Raphael Cracknell

Charles was the only son of Charles Collins, of Pimlico, and Annie Letitia, daughter of George Turner, of London. He was born on 5th May 1888, and had one sister, Nora. Charles and Nora’s father died when they were young.

Annie re-married in 1895 when Charles was 7 years old. Henry Watts Cracknell was the son of a pharmacist, and worked as an accountant for Edward Penton and Sons Ltd, a large shoe- and boot-making firm owned by his brother-in-law. Henry Cracknell adopted Charles and Nora, and he and Annie went on to have another daughter, Ursula.

He arrived at the school in September 1902, and became part of Grant’s House. After leaving school in 1906, he followed in his stepfather’s footsteps and trained as an accountant. He was articled to a London firm of accountants.

Charles had been known by his stepfather’s surname while he was at school, but he officially changed his name to Cracknell by deed poll on 21st June 1915.

On the outbreak of war, he joined the Honourable Artillery Company on the 4th August 1914. He went out to the western front with the 1st Battalion on the 17th September 1914. He became 2nd Lieutenant with the 24th (Co. of London) Battalion, the London Regiment on 3rd July 1915, and was promoted to Lieutenant in the November of that year. He served in France between 1914 and 1917, and then joined the British Expeditionary Force to Palestine in October 1917.

He died at Tel-el-Brit on the 27th of December 1917, of wounds received in the defence of Jerusalem.

The Allies entering Jerusalem by the Jaffa Gate on 11th December 1917, by James McBey
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2599)
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Walter Vivanti Dewar Mathews

We know very little about Walter Vivanti Dewar Mathews.  He was born in Wandsworth in 1878 and joined the school at the age of 12 in 1890.  He was a pupil in Grant’s house, but is only mentioned twice in the house’s magazine, The Grantite Review, both times in connection with ‘Yard Ties’ – games of rackets which took place in the house yard, where Grant’s Dining Hall now stands.

After he left school there are nearly four years which are not accounted for, but on 23rd June 1898 he took a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery.  He served in South Africa between 1899-1901 in the Boer War and continued his career in the army after returning home.  In October 1914 he was promoted to the rank of Major.

He died on 9th December from wounds received in action on the previous day.  He left behind a wife, Marie Laure. He was buried in Rocquigny-equancourt Road British Cemetery Manancourt, France.  The school appears to have been unaware of his death until at least 1960.  His name was added to the school’s war memorial at some point before 1989.

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Randle William Gascoyne-Cecil

Randle William Gascoyne-Cecil was born on the 28th November 1889 to a high-profile family.

His father, Rupert William Gascoyne­-Cecil, was the Bishop of Exeter. Rupert was admired for his loving personality, but earned himself a reputation for eccentricity. On one occasion, he surprised a guest by throwing powdered copper sulphate on the fire to turn the flames green!

His mother was Lady Florence Mary Bootle-Wilbraham, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Lathom. She was nicknamed “Fluffy”. Randle’s grandfather was Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil.

Randle arrived up Ashburnham in January 1903. He was followed by his three younger brothers Victor Alexander, John Arthur and Rupert Edward Gascoyne-Cecil. There were also three sisters: Eve Alice and Mary Edith, who were twins, and Anne.

Randle’s career at the school was interrupted by a significant absence due to illness in 1904, and he was unable to return until February 1905. He left the school in the December of that year.

In 1908, he matriculated at University College, Oxford, where he was involved with the Officer Training Corps, with the Cavalry Squadron. But he was sent down from the university for throwing rocks through the windows of Balliol College.

After that, Randle worked successively as a secretary, a journalist, and an actor. He appeared in plays at the Gaiety Theatre, London in 1914, and toured America with the actor George Gossmith. In June 1914, he married Dorothy Janaway, but the marriage was short-lived. He divorced her in July 1915.

Meanwhile he had emigrated to Vancouver, where he worked as a car repair assistant for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He enlisted in the Rocky Mountain Rangers, and returned to the UK with the second Canadian contingent in February 1915.

On the 11th July 1915, Randle’s youngest brother, Rupert was killed in action near Ypres.

Randle himself was eventually sent out to the western front with the Scottish Canadians in April 1915. He became a 2nd Lieutenant with the Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery on the 13th June, and he returned to England upon obtaining his commission. He went out again to the western front in February 1916. He sustained injuries on two occasions while he was there, in July and September.

At some point during 1916, Randle re-married. His second wife was Elizabeth Claire Turner, the daughter of George Turner of Birmingham.

He was promoted to Lieutenant in July 1917, and attached to a Trench Mortar Battery. During the same month, he was injured a third time.

Randle was killed in action at Masnières on the 1st December 1917. Seven months later, his widow Elizabeth gave birth to their daughter, on 29th July 1918. She was called Anne Mary.

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Arthur Nesbit Charlton

Arthur Nesbit Charlton initially joined Homeboarders’ house in September 1909, but became a King’s Scholar in 1910. As a Scholar he would have attended the coronation of King George V in Westminster Abbey on 22nd June 1911.

Charlton was athletic at school, receiving his full pinks and playing for the College XI and the school 1st XI.  He spoke at the Debating Society, opposing a motion, in 1913, that ‘in the opinion of this House Great Britain should not participate in the Olympic Games at Berlin’.  He performed in the Latin Play two years running, first as Ancilula in Terence’s Famulus and then in Andria, where his ‘pleasant voice and a Christmassy appearance combined to make Crito’s tardy intrusion into the plot very welcome.’

He was elected to a scholarship at Christ Church, Oxford, in July 1914, but on the outbreak of war decided to join the army.  He took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, he rose through the ranks, attaining the role of Captain in November 1916.  He served on the Western Front from May 1915, and received a mention in dispatched on 4th January 1917.  Charlton was awarded the Military Cross on 30th June 1917.

His obituary in The Elizabethan noted:

‘All who knew him deplore the frustration of a promising career and of so many good qualities of head and heart.’

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John Ince Liberty

John Ince Liberty was born on 26th January 1888. His parents were John Barnes Liberty, an Old Westminster and wine merchant, and Elizabeth Ann (née Ince). He was the only son, but he had two sisters, Gwendolen and Dorothy.

He arrived at the school in September 1901. He started out in Ashburnham, but moved to Grant’s House in 1903. He opted to study the “Moderns”, joined in with the Literary Society readings, and in 1904, was a finalist in the Football Yard Ties.

He left the school in July 1905 “to the sincere regret of all” and went to become a cattle farmer in Argentina.

While at home on holiday, he enlisted with the Honourable Artillery Company on the 8th of August 1914. He served in Egypt with B Battery, but was invalided home.

On the 22nd October 1915, John became 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery, and went out with them to the western front in April 1916. By July 1917, he had been promoted to Lieutenant.

He was killed in action near Ypres, Flanders, on the 28th November 1917.

Gunners of the Royal Field Artillery. Ypres, 27 August 1917. IWM (Q 5945)
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