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.
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.
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.
Ralph Cecil Batley was born on the 2nd December 1862. He was the son of John Batley, of Somerset, and Louise Marie, daughter of James Bonsor, of Lille, France. Ralph was admitted to Grant’s in January 1872, following his brother John Armytage Batley.
While he was a pupil here, he played football. The Elizabethan records that he “did useful work” representing the school against Charterhouse. He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was admitted as a pensioner in October 1881.
He continued playing football whilst he was at university. A couple of years after leaving the school, in November 1883, he returned to Westminster, bringing a team of players to play football against the school team (which Ralph’s team won 2:1).
He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn on the 26th January 1882, and was admitted a solicitor in 1887.
Ralph went out to South Africa. He joined the Salisbury Horse volunteer force, and served with them in the First Matabele War in 1893. He also served with the Rhodesian Horse during the rising of 1895-7. He returned to England in 1897, where he joined the Dorset Yeomanry. During the South African War, he served with the Imperial Yeomanry, but was wounded at Diamond Hill 12 Jun 1900.
Following his injury, he was employed as Civil Commissioner for Pretoria and district. He was made Honorary Captain on 26th Jul 1901, and was mentioned in despatches L.G. 10 Sep 1901. By April 1902, Ralph was promoted to the rank of Major.
On the 14th June 1904, Ralph married Mabel Gwynnedd Terry-Lewis, an actress from a successful acting family. Mabel’s mother, Kate, had also been an actress and was the elder sister of Ellen Terry. Mable retired from her own successful stage career to begin their quiet married life together at Seaborough Court in Dorset. By 1911, the couple had moved to Benville Manor, Corscome, Dorchester.
When his regiment was ordered to Gallipoli, Ralph was declared medically unfit for foreign service. Instead he was given command of 3rd line Dorset Yeomanry battalion.
However, his ill-health meant that he had to retire in January 1917. He was awarded a TD for long service, and died at Silton Lodge in Wiltshire on 23rd October 1917.
After Ralph’s death, Mabel returned to the stage in 1920. She went on to resume her career on the stage and on film. Famously, she appeared as Lady Bracknell opposite her nephew John Gielgud in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1930.
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.
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.”
Edmund Davison’s first years at the school were spent in the shadow of his elder brother, Ralph, who was two years above him in Rigaud’s. Once his brother had left, Edmund came into his own. He excelled at sport, playing for the House team, initially described as a ‘useful and speedy half though not a polished player’. He rose to the 2nd XI and finally appeared in the 1st XI in his final year at the school, receiving full pinks. He won the 300 yard race at Athletic Sports, with a time of 36 2/5 seconds, leading most of the way and winning ‘fairly easily in average time’.
Edmund was particularly valued in the house as a recruiting sergeant for the Officer Training Corps, getting 14 boys to join in his first term alone. He rose through the ranks here and ended his school career as the head of the school’s force, the Company Sergeant Major. He was also appointed a monitor, Head of House and elected Head Town Boy. His last at school was tinged with sadness though, as his elder brother was killed in action on 9th May 1915.
Edmund joined the army immediately upon leaving the school and took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was sent to the front with the 12th Battalion in June 1916 and invalided home wounded in October 1916. Upon his recovery, he returned to the front in July 1917. His death was reported in The Elizabethan:
Mr. DAVISON, the youngest son of Mrs. Davison, of Gordon Square, was at the School from April 1910 to Christmas 1915. His loss is much regretted by the present generation, who remember his zeal and efficiency as an Officer of the Corps. He was wounded soon after going to the Front, but recovered and returned. We have before had to record the death of his elder brother, and we feel deeply for his widowed mother in her heavy loss.
Kenneth was born on 16th December 1896. He was the son of William Rae Morrison, who worked for the Stock Exchange, and Lily Dawtry, originally from Petworth, Sussex. He joined Ashburnham in January 1912, but only stayed until the end of the calendar year.
Kenneth studied on the Modern Side, which meant that he chose to study modern languages and sciences instead of the Classics. There was a longstanding rivalry at Westminster between those who opted to study the Classics and those on the Modern Side. In 1912, the Debating Society met to discuss the “somewhat hackneyed” motion “That in the opinion of this House, classical education is better than modern”. In this iteration of the debate, the main argument given in favour of the Modern side was that “science men … were more generally useful in life, and quicker-witted.” Unsurprisingly, this argument failed to sway the audience, and “the motion was carried by acclamation.”
Two years after he had left the school, in August 1914, Kenneth enlisted with the Honourable Artillery Company. By December he had become a 2nd Lieutenant with the Middlesex Regiment, and went out with them to the western front in 1916. In April 1917, he transferred to the 5th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
Kenneth was at Tower Hamlets, near Ypres, during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. He was killed on the 21st September 1917 by a German who had previously surrendered. He was 20 when he died, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
Sadly, we know very little about the life of Eric James Walrond Hughes. He was born on 25th Februrary, 1892, the only son of the Rev. James Hughes, LL.D., Vicar of St. John with St. Paul, Battersea and Ethelhina Walrond, daughter of Francis Walrond Middleton Abadam, of Middleton Hall, co. Carmarthen. He joined Riguad’s House in January 1903 and left the school in July 1907. He then became a clerk in the office of the Asiatic Petroleum Company and was sent to Hankow (now romanised as Hankou), China in 1912.
He returned home in 1915 to enlist and initially served as a Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, going out to the Western Front in February 1916. He was made an acting Captain in July 1917 and commanded the 154th Machine Gun Company. He was killed in action at Poelcapelle, Flanders on 20th September. He died unmarried.
Lancelot Tudsbery was born on 14th February 1898. His father was John Henry Tudsbery DSc, of Westminster, and his mother was Ruberta Emeline, daughter of John McMurdo Cannon, of Rock Ferry, Cheshire. His brother Marmaduke Tudsbery had spent a brief time in Ashburnham for between 1907 and 1908, and their family home was 100 St George’s Square, SW.
Lancelot arrived at the school in September 1910 and studied on the Classical side. He represented Ashburnham in the OTC, being promoted to Corporal in Lent 1915. During the athletics season in Election 1916 he won the Hammer Throwing with a distance of 1,87ft, and “owed his success to his strength”. He was on the Town Boys’ Tug of War team vs. the King’s Scholars and is recorded as weighing 12st 0 lbs.
In Lent 1916, the Ashburnham House Ledger records “Tudsbery, L. has managed to pass an examination, we know not what, but the mere passing is sufficient glory without its name. He also went through touching farewells to us twice, but each time reappeared.” This exam was apparently the Civil Engineers’ Exam and The Elizabethan wryly congratulates him “on his success in deceiving the examiners”. He was a student of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 4th of April 1916, and he did actually leave the school in July 1916.
On the 13th January 1917, Lancelot joined the Royal Field Artillery (Special Reserve) as a 2nd Lieutenant, and went out to the western front on 30th March 1917. He was part of the ‘B’ Battery, 70th Brigade RFA, which was, at this time, a six-gun battery. His Brigade saw action at the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe (including the capture of Guemappe during the Arras Offensive). They went on to Flanders, where they were in action at the Battle of Pilckem (31 July-2 Aug) and the Battle of Langemarck in August 1917.
Lancelot was killed in action at the age of 19 near Ypres on the 22nd August 1917. He is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3.
Arthur Cecil Estall was born on 3rd October 1890. His father was Thomas Estall of Kensington, a Senior General Manager of the National Provincial Bank of England and a Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners. His mother was Emily, daughter of George Tilly, of Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey. Arthur had one sister, Murriel Hilda Estall (subsequently Gould).
Arthur was admitted to Westminster, as a Homeboarder on 26th April 1901. Between July 1902 and September 1905, e temporarily left the school. From then until he left, he was a keen sportsman. He represented the school at rowing, played for his house football team, and came third in the half-mile with hurdles Open Challenge Cup in 1909. He was in the same Tug of War as Thomas George May – on the winning side – and weighed 11st 6lbs.
After leaving the school in July 1909, Arthur followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a clerk in the Bank of England. He subsequently went into the bill broking business.
He had joined the Honourable Artillery Company upon leaving school, and was promoted to Corporal in 1914. He went out to the western front in September 1914 but was invalided home the following January.
He became a 2nd Lieutenant with the Army Service Corps on 22nd March 1915, and had risen to Lieutenant by September 1915 and to Captain by May 1916. He returned to the front on 18th September 1916.
In March 1917, a note in The Tatler announced Arthur’s engagement to Miss Brenda Sells (pictured), the youngest daughter of Mrs Perronet Sells of Beechwood, Highgate.
On the 6th August 1917, he was wounded in action north of Ypres and died two days later at the 7th Stationary Hospital, Boulogne.
Arthur’s father died only a few years later in 1920. His mother published a memorial in The Times to her son every year until her death in 1947. In 1935, she gave £1,000 to the school’s War Memorial Fund, the interest to be used in assisting in the education of boys at the school.