Category Archives: The Fallen

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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Alexander John Maxwell Gordon

Alexander Gordon joined Westminster in 1907 and boarded in Rigaud’s House.  We do not know much about his first few years at the school.  In 1912 he took part in his houses’ Tug of War Team, weighing in at 11st, by the following year’s match, he had gained 10lb.  He was also part of the Officer Training Corps, obtaining the rank of Lance-Corporal whilst at the school and performing well at shooting matches.

When Gordon left the school in July 1913 and took up a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge.  However, shortly after the outbreak of war, he joined the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, a natural choice given the rifle practice he had had at school.  He took a commission at a 2nd Lieutenant in November and was promoted through the ranks, becoming a Captain in November 1916.  He went out to the western front in September 1917 and was killed in action at Moeuvres in November as part of the capture of Bourlon Wood.

Gordon was buried in Hermies Hill British Cemetery in France.  His death is recorded on a family memorial in Highgate Cemetery.

British infantry, having moved up into captured German trenches at Havrincourt, just south of Moeuvres and Bourlon, on 20th November 1917.
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Franklyn Theodore Rowland Rowlands

Franklyn Rowlands born in Torrington Cottage in Porthcawl on the South Wales coast on the 25th September 1898. He was the only son of His Honour Judge Rowland Rowlands and Mary, daughter of Gwilym Thomas. Franklyn’s parents were predominantly based in London because of his father’s work.

However, Franklyn continued to live in Porthcawl with his Uncle Charles, who was a law student and domestic nurse – and a rugby player. Franklyn eventually joined his parents in St John’ s Wood, and was recorded as living there by the 1911 census. But he continued to return home to Wales during the school holidays, staying with either his Uncle Charles, or his Grandfather Moses.

Franklyn arrived up Rigaud’s in May 1913. He was a keen sportsman. He was captain of the 2nd XI, and he earned his pink and whites in June 1916. He was on the winning Swimming team in July 1916.

Upon Franklyn’s leaving the school, the Head of Rigaud’s noted in the house ledger (written in July 1916):

“The most apt remark I can say about him is that:-

When he was good, he was very very good

But when he was bad, he was         .

He was a weak character, with a good heart. He meant well, but had strange fits of temper & coarseness. On the whole he was a great asset to the House in games & will be a sad loss now he has gone.”

He went on to RMC Sandhurst, and became 2nd Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion, South Wales Borderers on the 1st of May 1917. He was attached to the 2nd Battalion and went out to the western front in October 1917. Only the following month, he was reported missing in action near Rumilly, Cambrai, France on the 21st November 1917.

The following notes were appended to the Head of Rigaud’s comments in the House Ledger:

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John Herbert Williams

John Herbert Williams was in his late 50s when the First World War broke out.  He had a well-established career as a Barrister and Judge, he was appointed a reporter on the staff of the Law Reports in 1911, and was one of the editors of ‘Smith’s Leading Cases,’ brought out several editions of ‘Goodeve’s Personal Property’ and collaborated in a book on ‘The Law of Ejectment.’

Williams had been successful at school, joining Grant’s in 1869 and passing the Challenge in 1872.  He remained a Queen’s Scholar at the school until 1876, when he was elected to Trinity College, Cambridge with the prestigious Triplett Scholarship.  He was athletic at the school and rowed in the 1st VIII and played for the football 1st XI

Anxious to take a share in war service, he applied for and received a commission and went to France to take up the appointment.  He was then 60 years of age.  Soon after arriving in France he was taken ill and invalided home.  He died in the war hospital at Reading.

Williams is almost certainly in this photograph of the Westminster VIII of 1876. Unfortunately, the caption and photograph has been damaged so we are unable to tell which he is.
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Hugh Plaskitt

Hugh Plaskitt was born on the 3rd October 1880. He was the son of Joseph Plaskitt of London, and Emily Julia, daughter of John Cowie of Calcutta. Both Hugh and his older brother Francis Joseph Plaskitt attended the school as Homeboarders, although Francis had left by the time Hugh arrived in 1893.

In 1899, Hugh represented the school at football, covering for regular team-members when they were injured. The Elizabethan records that “He tackles splendidly, but is inclined to roam around the field, and is much too careless in his passing.”

After leaving the school in July 1899, Hugh matriculated into Christ Church, Oxford. While he was there, he represented Oxford at lawn tennis against Cambridge in 1900.

In December 1910, Hugh was admitted as a solicitor to the family firm, F.J. Plaskitt and Co., Copthall Avenue, London. Later that month, on the 28th December, Hugh married his Scottish cousin, Norah Frances. Norah was the daughter of Colonel David Cowie of the Madras Staff Corps.

Hugh developed an addiction to alcohol, a factor that created difficulties in his marriage. The couple eventually separated in 1913 – the year their second daughter was born – and Norah took custody of their two daughters.

A travelling lorry-workshop of the Army Service Corps in 1917. IWM (Q 2759)

During the First World War, Hugh served as a Lance Corporal in the Army Service Corps, the organisation responsible for supplying the army with food, equipment and provisions. He contracted malaria while on active service, and died on the 12th November 1917.

His younger daughter, Naomi, went on to become an actress. She married the actor and director Alastair Sim (1900-1976), and appeared with him in the 1936 film Wedding Group.

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Harold George Fairfax Longhurst

Harold was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom attended Westminster School.  There was one of the Longhurst siblings at the school from 1885 until 1907, when Harold left.  Harold was in Homeboarders’ House and from 1902 was an exhibitioner.

Harold took an active interest in many areas of school life.  He was a Lance Sergeant in the Cadet Corps and on the Committee of the Debating Society.  He often spoke at meetings, proposing the motion that ‘in the opinion of this House the encouragement of Minor Sports at Westminster is not detrimental to the welfare of the rest’, and opposing the motion ‘That this House disapproves of Vivisection’.

He also played sport at the school, playing initially for his house cricket team.  In a house match against Ashburnham in 1906 he scored 46 runs and bowled out three members of the opposing team.  He went on to play for the school’s 1st XI and received half-pinks.  In his final year he was made Head of House.

We do not know what he did immediately after leaving the school, but on the outbreak of war he joined the army, taking a commission as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th Service Battalion of the Berkshire Regiment in September 1914.  He rose swiftly through the ranks and was a Captain by the time he first went out to the Western front in July 1915.  He was wounded in 1916, but returned to action.  He was acting Lieutenant-Colonel when he died during an attack by his battalion on the village of West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.  It had been raining for two days prior to the action and the ground, churned up by shellfire, had become a quagmire making movement difficult.

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Harold Winning Fleming

Harold Winning Fleming’s parents were Alexander (Alec) John Fleming and Lily Huthart Brown. Alec was a medical doctor in Hampstead. Lily was a daughter of Forrest Loudon Brown, of Bombay, India. In 1891, she was working as a teacher of music, and living in Altrincham, Cheshire, with her sister and widowed mother. Alec and Lily were married in September 1894 in Altrincham, Cheshire.

Harold was born in Hampstead, London, on the 25th of April 1898. He was one of four children: he had an elder brother, Alan McKinstry Fleming, and two younger sisters, Lily Woodrow Fleming and Sheila Laudon Fleming. Before arriving at Westminster, he attended St John’s House, Hampstead.

He arrived as a non-resident King’s Scholar in September 1911, and joined Homeboarders’ House. He was absent for two terms, when he went abroad on account of his health. He left the school for good in July 1915, and attended R.M.C. Sandhurst between August 1916 and May 1917.

In May 1917, he was made 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Battalion (16th Foot) The Bedfordshire Regiment. He went out to the western front May 31, 1917, served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, and was mentioned in despatches for gallant and distinguished service.

His Chaplain wrote: “I frequently saw him both in and out of the trenches, and we all liked him for his bright and happy disposition, as well as for his keenness and great efficiency. It was no secret that he was considered one of the most promising of the junior officers in the battalion.”

On 5th October 1917, Harold was killed in action at the age of 19 by a sniper at Gheluvelt, on the Ypres-Menin Road.

One of his brother officer wrote: “I am certain that at his death the 1st Bedfords lost one of the bravest of its officers.”

Another wrote: “ The other officers of his company having become casualties early in the attack (Oppy Wood, near Arras), this officer, 2nd Lieut. H.W. Fleming who was in the trenches for the first time, assumed command throughout the attack, and in the subsequent tour of duty showed coolness, gallantry and ability, and his example afforded great encouragement to his men.”

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