William Duncan Geare

William Duncan Geare joined Homeboarder’s House at the School in September 1904. His older brother, Harry Leslie Geare, was a Queen’s Scholar and had joined four years previously. Harry would have boarded at the school, but William lived with his parents and sister at 14, Chalcot Gardens in Hampstead.

At school he was good at football and cricket, scoring 63 runs in one match in his final year at the school, and receiving colours for his performance on the house football team. In 1909 he went on to Queens’ College, Cambridge. After completing his degree he decided upon a career in the Church, attending Leeds Clergy School. He was ordained in 1913 and became the Curate of St. Margaret, Ilkley, Yorkshire the same year.

He became a Chaplain to the Forces in May 1916. He later served with the 7th and 9th Battalions King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He was instantaneously killed in Flanders by a shell on 31st July, whilst ministering to the wounded at a regimental aid post on the battlefield. He had been on his way to Plum Farm to bring cigarettes for the men in his regiment. After his death letters he had written home were published by his family.

His Senior Chaplain wrote: “He was absolutely regardless of danger, always anxious to be with his men wherever they went, and he never spared himself in his anxiety to serve them. His bravery and example have been an inspiration, and his work all the time he has been out here has been splendid,” and another officer: “He insisted on living with us in the trenches and sharing our common dangers, and he was always doing good in one direction or another. Almost every day he went round some part of the trenches on his own accord, and whenever there was a raid on he was off like a shot to the dressing station to see what he could do for the wounded.”

One of his men also wrote: “It came as a terrible blow to me and my chums of the 7th and 9th King’s to hear of Mr. Geare’s untimely death. If we were in need of help at any time, Mr. Geare was the one to see us through. At one time we had no canteen to keep us supplied with ‘fags’ while in the line. But Mr. Geare soon altered that, and made us happy. If any concerts were to be organized, leave that to Mr. Geare, and everything would be O.K. In fact if anything was needed to lighten our burdens and make us happy, Mr. Geare was the one to put things right for us. So you can imagine how much we feel his loss, the loss of more than a friend, as he proved himself in his Christian charity and willingness to succour those in need of it. . . . Mr. Geare has certainly, by his heroic death and noble work at all times, shown his critics that clergymen do not, and never did, shirk their duty as patriots by hiding under the protection of the Church.”

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alexander Daniel Reid

Alexander Daniel Reid, son of William and Margaret Reid, was born on 2nd February 1882. The family was from Dufftown, Scotland, and Alexander had an older sister, Rachel, and two younger brothers Stewart and Henry. Alex was admitted to the School as a Homeboarder on 16th January 1896, but he only stayed until December 1897.

He went on to R.M.C. Sandhurst in 1899 and became a 2nd Lieutenant (unattached) on 28th July 1900. He served as a Lieutenant with the Black Watch from October 1902 and was made temporary Major for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in February 1915.

Alex and Harry were both present on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres), which began in the early hours of 31st July 1917. Alex was killed by 10am. According to Harry’s memoir: “… the progress of the battalion was held up and Alex went ahead to ascertain the position. He was killed almost instantly by machine gun fire. […] an attempt was made to bring his body back but was abandoned owing to the rapid advance of the enemy behind a barrage of shell fire.”

Harry recorded his unsuccessful attempt to recover Alex’s body that ended with Harry being stretchered away to a casualty clearing station: “A  small lake lay to the north in front of me called Bellewaarde Lake. It had at one time been surrounded by trees, now only a few shattered stumps remained. The land around it, as far as one could see, had been churned by shell fire and reduced to a complete swamp by the continuous rain. It occurred to me that it would be almost impossible to bring Alex’s body back to the road even if I found him, yet I felt that I could not subject the sergeant and his men to the fatigue and risk of attempting such a task…”

Alex had been keeping a diary of his experiences since April 1916 and, following his death, this was forwarded to their mother who, by then, was living in Cowichan Station, Vancouver.

 

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John Loudon Strain

John Loudon Strain, known as ‘Jack’ to family and friends was the eldest son of William Loudon and Dorothy Maud Strain. He joined Ashburnham House in September 1910 and remained at the school until 1915, when he left, with a scholarship, to attend Trinity College Cambridge. Whilst at the school he was active in the Debating Society and the Scientific Society. In January 1915 he gave a paper to the latter society on ‘Diseases of Plants’ in which he showed ‘a very thorough knowledge of his subject, which he illustrated with large diagrams on the board’

His ambition was to train as a doctor, but he was also determined to play his part in the war. Initially, as a medical student, he was refused a commission, but he managed to obtain a post as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery Special Reserve. He went out to the Western Front in September 1916.

Whilst on leave from the front he visited the school to give a lecture to pupils in the Officer Training Corps within the school.

He was killed in action at Frezenberg, Flanders when he and a fellow officer and signaller were caught in the German barrage.

Jack Strain’s family have produced an excellent website, which commemorates his life and includes transcriptions of letters written by Jack, and those sent to his parents following his death. A letter from his fellow soldier, Lieutenant A. W. Cockburn is particularly poignant:

‘Nobody could help loving Jack, even people who saw him only occasionally. It took a very short time to size him up as the most perfect little gentleman in his unvarying cheerfulness, his thought for others and contempt of danger when occasion demanded it, and the wonderful way in which he lived up to a wonderfully high ideal of thought and word and deed.

Those of us who knew him intimately in Ypres can hardly believe he has gone. He was the life and soul of the Mess, always joking and playing like a child, and yet most efficient as an officer and hugely respected by the men.’

You can read more here: http://www.jackstrain.co.uk/

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Collinson Hobson

John Collinson Hobson was born on 27th August 1893. His parents were Thomas Frederick Hobson, a barrister, of Kensington, and Mary Innes, the daughter of John Borthwick Greig, of Hampstead, who was Writer to the Signet.

John’s elder brother, Frederick Greig Hobson, was up Grant’s between 1905 and 1910. John joined him at the school in September 1907, where he took part in the shooting, boxing, OTC, football and cricket teams.

At the meeting of the Debating Society on Friday 15th December 1912, John proposed the motion ‘that this House deplores the existence of a privileged social class’: “Mr. J. C. Hobson in a few faltering and somewhat incoherent periods pointed to the extremes of wealth and poverty. In every civilised country the wealthy classes were not only idle and luxurious but effete and barriers to all progress. He concluded a sentimental speech by a fervent appeal to the members of the Society ‘to slay the drones of the community, to push the demon of Wealth over the precipice back to the infernal abode from whence it came.’” The motion was lost by 7 votes to 13.

He was head of Grant’s over the uneventful year of 1911-12. In the house ledger, he summed up his first term as follows: “nothing of importance occurred this term. There does not seem to be much talent either for work or games in the house. But many of the younger people are promising. At least it appears there will be no big rows this year.” And his second term “was distinguished by the absence of influenza or any similar epidemic” and by the fact that “there were no rows of any quality”.

He was elected to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1912, and he matriculated in Michaelmas to study History.

He enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 12th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) on the 12th September 1914. After having been promoted to Lieutenant in February 1915, he went out to the western front in April 1915. He was attached to Machine Gun Corps, 116th Company in July 1916.

John was killed in action during the Third Battle of Ypres, on 31st July 1917, near St. Julien. His commanding officer later explained that John had been “selecting a position for his guns – deep in the German lines – when he was killed instantaneously by a German shell”.

Posted in Debating Society, The Fallen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Edgar Percy Basil Morrall

Edgar Percy Basil Morrall was born in Alcester, Warwickshire on 9th August 1884. His father was Lieutenant-Colonel Abel Edgar Morrall of the South Wales Borderers, and his mother was Annie, daughter of George Townsend. Edgar was their only son but he did have a sister, Cathleen, who was two years older.

Edgar arrived at Westminster in April 1896 and joined Ashburnham House. He was only at Westminster until Christmas 1897 and, as he was one of the younger boys, there is little information about his time at the school.

The identity tag shown above was issued to Edgar when he joined the army in October 1914. It is made of compressed fabric, and records his name, his regiment – the 9th (Service) Battalion, the Border Regiment (Pioneers) – and that he was a Roman Catholic.

Edgar became a Captain on 23rd February 1915, and was acting Major when his Battalion went out to the western front later that year. They were later sent to Serbia, and then to the Salonika Front. He was invalided home to England in August 1916, but was well enough to go out again to the western front early in 1917. He was killed in action near Arras, France on 28th July 1917, at the age of 32, leaving behind his wife, Rose Ethel, daughter of John Macdonough MD, of Killarney, Ireland. He is buried at Brown’s Copse Cemetery, Roeux.

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Harold Embleton Macfarlane

Harold Macfarlane was the elder son of Harold and Elizabeth Macfarlane. He was born in Harrow on 11th September 1898 and spent his early years at Mr Douglas Gould’s Preparatory School, The Briary, Westgate-on-Sea.

Both his father and his mother’s brother had been educated at Westminster, and Harold arrived at the school in September 1911. Like his father, the young Harold was a Home Boarder.

Whilst at the school, Harold represented his house at Cricket, Football, Fives and the OTC. Upon leaving the school in July 1916, he joined the army. He received his commission as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Flying Corps on 27th February 1917. He was given his “wings” in May, and went out to the front in June.

Harold was only 18 when he was killed in France while testing a new machine on 14th July 1917.

His father, who died two years later, donated a photograph of Harold to the Imperial War Museum. He also gave them a hand-written biography, in which he describes:

“An all-round sportsman possessing a cheerful and optimistic disposition, he was beloved by all with whom he came in contact. His eighteen years of life were redolent with happy memories.”

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Roland John Howard Bull

Roland was born at 2, Hill Crest, West Hill Road in Wandsworth. He was baptised at St Peter’s, Hammersmith by the Revd. George Henry Tidcombe. Aged 12 he joined Westminster School, becoming a member of Ashburnham House and remaining until 1907. He served for a period in the army, joining the Artists’ Rifles in February 1909. He later trained as a solicitor with his father’s firm, being admitted to the profession in December 1913 and becoming a partner in the family firm, Bull & Bull, shortly afterwards.

On the outbreak of war he joined the army once more, taking a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. In September 1915 he first went out to the Western Front and was attached to the Royal Engineers for Army Signal Service. The group had been formed in 1908 and provided a communications service throughout the war using dispatch riders on motorcycles and wireless communications. As the war went on telephones became increasingly common. Increasing numbers of soldiers were trained specially in communications. Roland was promoted to Lieutenant in June 1915 and then to Captain in 1917. He then moved to the 8th Heavy Artillery. He was killed accidentally at Canada Farm, Elverdinghe near Ypres on 13th July 1917.

His uncle dedicated a memorial to Roland at the entrance to St. Luke’s Church on the Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush.

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Daniel Gifford

John Daniel Gifford was the third son of Robert and Annie Gifford. His father was from Colonia, Uruguay, and his mother was the daughter of Reverend Evan Eugene Hughes, Rector of Llanddeiniolen, Wales. John was born on 10th March 1872 and arrived at Westminster in April 1884. He joined Ashburnham House, and was a keen sportsman. He represented the school in both football and cricket.

After leaving the school in July 1890, John moved to Argentina for fourteen years, where he played cricket for South Argentina. His team beat North Argentina at the Buenos Aires Cricket Club Ground in December 1894.

John returned home and in July 1915, enlisted in the 25th (Service) Battalion the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). He was on active service at Retford, Nottinghamshire, when he died on 8th July 1917.

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Arthur Lindsay Maury Churchill

Arthur Lindsay Maury Churchill was born in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, where his father was Director of Public Works. He joined the school, boarding in Riguad’s House for two years in September 1879. Whilst at Westminster he played football with some success, scoring a goal in a house match against Homeboarders. After he left the school he became a doctor at Westminster Hospital, before moving to work at Wonford Hospital, and County Asylum, Lancaster before undertaking general practice in Mevagissey, Cornwall where his mother had grown up.

Upon the outbreak of war, Churchill, then aged 49, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was attached to the Hampshire Battalion of the Royal Field Artillery in December 1914. He was promoted to the rank of Captain and transferred to the London Irish Rifles in 1915. His Batallion was stationed in Greece in late 1916, and then sailed for Egypt in June 1917. Churchill died on active service whilst the troops were training in the desert conditions at El Sahuth.

He is remembered on a memorial Mevagissey and his name was included in WildWorks’ 100: The Day our World Changed, a continuous theatrical event from dawn till dusk, travelling from the harbour of Cornish town Mevagissey to the nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan on 3rd August 2014.

Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Norman Cairns Robertson

Norman Robertson was born on the 9th January 1876 to William and Mary Elizabeth Robertson. He arrived at Westminster in 1888 where his elder brother, William Alexander, was in his final year. Their younger brother Laurence Grant joined him in 1891. The three Robertson boys were all members of Homeboarders’ House.

It is uncertain what Norman went on to do immediately after leaving the school in 1894. However, on the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps.

On the 20th February 1917, he became a Captain in the 2nd Battalion Royal Hampshire Regiment. During the second Battle of Arras on the 23rd April, Norman was taken prisoner near Monchy-le-Preux. He died two months later, at the age of 40, in a German military hospital at Hanover on 20th June 1917.

His eldest brother, William Alexander was the only one to survive the war; Laurence Grant had already been killed in action during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In memory of his two brothers, William left a bequest to the National Trust, which enabled the purchase of Sutton House – a Tudor house in Hackney. William also commemorated his two brothers on the Robertson’s Corner memorial on the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire.

Commemorative plaque at Sutton House
Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment