George Benjamin Johnstone Stoddart

George Benjamin Johnstone was a pupil in Ashburnham House between September 1911 and July 1914. His father had died when he was very young and his mother, Rosa, went to work at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Lunatic Asylum. There she met and then married a psychiatrist, William Henry Butter Stoddart and George took his stepfather’s surname, in addition to his own once he had left the school.

We have fairly limited information about George’s time at Westminster. We know from the house ledger that he was beaten regularly, once at the Housemaster, John Sargeant’s request, as he had been annoying another master, Mr Westlake. On several occasions he was beaten for ‘ragging’ (fighting) during the Play Term, 1913 and Lent Term, 1914 and he was also punished for visiting one of the other houses, Homeboarders’, which was strictly forbidden.

He appears to have left the school in order to join the war, enlisting as a trooper in the 2nd Dragoon Guards (The Queen’s Bays) on 1st September 1914, despite being only 15 at the time. He served in France as a cavalry machine gunner from May 1915 until January 1916. At this point he was recommended for a commission, and the army discovered that he was underage and returned him to England. He started to learn farming, but joined up again once he was of the correct age. He became a 2nd Lieutenant in the R.A.F. in October 1917 and then a Flying Officer in January 1918. He went out to the western front on 6th April 1918 and was killed accidentally whilst flying near Picquigny.

Troopers in The Queen’s Bays, shortly before they went to France in 1914. Stoddart could easily be one of the individuals in this photograph. The picture was taken by Christina Broom the famous female press photographer of the period.
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