Eric Clive Graham was a pupil in Ashburnham House from 1909 until 1913. He was the youngest son of American, Lionel Henry Graham and his English wife, Hilda.
At school he was a keen sportsman, taking part in football, athletics and fives. He was the 4th member of the winning 1909 Ashburnham Junior Football team to die in the war — after R. Chalmers and J.W.H. McCulloch and G.J.M. Moxon. The ledger describes his performance that year in mixed terms stating that ‘he kept goal against Rigauds when Carless was out of school. Although he did one or two good things, he was not safe and had no understanding with the backs’. He was clearly more successful as a forward, being described as the House’s chief goal scorer in his final year at the school.
After leaving the school he went to Ingleden Park, Kent to learn agriculture with a view to farming in Canada. However, on the outbreak of war he changed his plans and enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He left England in February 1916 to join the 1st Battalion at Busreh, on the Tigris in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). He was invalided to Bombay in June, but returned to his regiment in Busreh on 12th October 1916. He was killed in action at Kut-el- Amara, Mesopotamia on 9th January 1917 in one of a series of battles which led to the recapture of Kut and, ultimately, the fall of Baghdad.
Harold Leofric Helsdon was born on 18th November 1896. He was the eldest son of Horace John Helsdon, an architect, and Flora, the eldest daughter of W. Franklin Dickson. He was admitted to Ashburnham House as an exhibitioner in September 1910 and made a monitor in Lent Term 1914.
Harold was made Head of Ashburnham in Play 1914, and although he was not an entirely successful Head of House, he seems to have been reasonably well-liked. His successor wrote the following, rather equivocal, account of Harold’s year as Head of House in the Ashburnham Ledger:
“Helsdon had a great many natural advantages, but he made very little use of them during his last year. He was clever to a very high degree and probably his last year’s behaviour here will cause him much regret and sorrow. Helsdon was extremely good-natured and pleasant to get on with in House matters. In the matter of punishments etc. I consider him to have been scrupulously fair and justÔÇª Helsdon was not much use at games, but he was decidedly keen on them and set the House a good example which I believe has been well followed. Financially Helsdon left the House slightly in debt which should not have been the case ÔÇª Finally I trust and hope that Helsdon will have greater success in his future. He is at present in the Inns of Court OTC and expects a commission shortly.”
(J.L. Strain, Lent 1915)
After leaving the school at Easter 1915, Harold entered the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He became a 2nd Lieutenant for the 3rd Battalion (Reserve) Dorsetshire Regiment on the 28th July of that year. He was attached to 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and went out to the western front in June 1916, where he acted first as bombing officer, and afterwards as intelligence officer.
Just a week after his 20th birthday, on the night of the 25th and 26th November 1916, Harold was killed in night patrol work near Butte de Warlencourt.
Leonard James Moon was at Westminster School, up Grants, from 1891 until 1896. He was the youngest of three brothers who were all exceptional athletes. Leonard was in both 1st XIs and continued to play association football whilst at Pembroke College, Cambridge and cricket of Middlesex in 1899 and 1901. In 1905 he played cricket for the national side against South Africa.
Wisden records that:
In the autumn of 1905 he was second in the averages for the M.C.C.’s team in America with 33.00, and before the next season opened toured South Africa with another M.C.C. side. During the latter tour he made 826 runs with an average of 27.33. He was a vigorous batsman who could cut well, and a useful wicket-keeper. At association football he gained high honours, obtaining his blue for Cambridge and playing for the Corinthians.
After university Leonard went into teaching and became Head Master of Wellesley House School, Broadstairs, Kent. After the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, taking a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion of the Devon Regiment in February 1915. He served in France but lost his life in near Salonica in Greece.
Leonard was recorded in the school’s roll of honour as having died from wounds, but records found in The National Archives reveal that he actually committed suicide. Letters he left just before he died suggest that he was concerned about a rumour which had been spread about him and feared it would bring his regiment into disrepute. Leonard seems to have been suffering from paranoia as a result of what would now be identified as post-traumatic stress. A subsequent investigation found that his concerns were groundless.
Norman Victor Lewis was born on the 12th March 1895. His father, Victor Erskine Lewis, was well known in the theatrical world. His mother, Edith, was of Scottish descent; her father came from Linlithgow. Norman was their only son and they sent him to Westminster in 1909.
He was in Rigaud’s house until 1912, when he left the school for Johannesburg to work as a clerk in the Standard Bank of South Africa. On the 11th March 1915 — at the age of 20 — Norman joined the 12th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant. The following May, he was transferred to the 15th Service Battalion, and then sent to France.
Norman was killed in action at Beaumont Hamel, in the attack near Serre, on 13th November 1916. An eye-witness who survived that battle — Private A. F. MacPherson — wrote in his diary of the early morning attack: “we woke before the time and waited for the bombardment. It came all of a sudden like the long roll of drums, the individual sound of the explosions being merged in one long continuous rumble; appalling to hear. One moment all had been quiet – the next everything was dominated by the crashing rumble of the guns. It was hard to believe that human beings could live through such a whirlwind of fire.”
Norman is commemorated on his parents’ grave at Kensal Green Cemetery, in the London Borough of Brent, with words from the hymn Lead, Kindly Light.
And with the morn those angel faces smile, Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Charles Gow was a member of Rigaud’s House from 1905 until 1908. He was the only son of the Reverend Henry Gow and his wife, Edith. He had a keen interest in Natural History, which may have developed at school; the Westminster’s Natural History Society was founded during his time at school. Upon leaving Westminster he studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge before training as a doctor at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.
He joined the navy as a surgeon, shortly before the outbreak of the war, and served on the destroyer HMS Laforey. After returning home to complete his medical training, he served with the Royal Naval Division in Gallipoli and Salonica before going to the Western Front in early 1916. He was killed while attending to the wounded near Beaucourt-sur-Ancre, France. A letter to his father from Lieutenant Commander Bernard Ellis provides further information:
I am more sorry than I can say to have to inform you of the death of your son Surgeon C.H. Gow of this Battalion who was killed in action on the 13th. He accompanied the Battalion in an attack on the German trenches, and did splendid service attending to the wounded all day long. At dusk he went out from a captured German trench to look after wounded lying in the open, and then he was hit by machine gun fire in two places. He was brought in and died of his wounds not long afterwardsÔÇªI knew him pretty well and I admired him extremely: he was so upright, honest and fearless. His last action was very typical of him, for when he was dying he wrote three notes, thinking entirely of others and not at all of himself. One note I believe has been sent to your wife; another was to direct that his medical staff should have his things and here and any parcels coming for him, the third was to recommend two of his staff for their devotion to duty — their names have been sent in for reward. I think your son was one of the finest men I have ever known, and I offer you and your wife my greatest sympathy in your loss. All the officers of this Battalion unite to praise him, and his own medical staff were quite devoted to him.
D’Arcy O’Flynn was born on the 12th November 1885 to John James Dillon O’Flynn, of Kensington, and Elizabeth Louisa, the eldest daughter of George William Lowe, of Southampton, Hampshire. Unfortunately, when D’Arcy was 9 years old, his family was caught up in scandal.
His parents had married in Madras in 1876 and were living in Houlgate, Dulwich. However, John had been systematically swindling two women — Emma Eliza Bevan and Hetty Michell — out of hundreds of pounds, by claiming to be investing their money in white lead and iron ore companies. Posing as a single man, he had made advances on both women, and even went so as to promise marriage to Miss Michell. Hetty Michell called the wedding off upon discovering the existence of John’s wife and family, but John told her that “the woman you are pleased to call Mrs. O’Flynn is not my wife, and has nothing to do with me”. John O’Flynn was found guilty of fraud and was sentenced to five years’ penal servitude on the 23rd July 1894.
The devastating impact of this scandal upon D’Arcy and his sister and three brothers — not to mention their mother — is uncertain. However, five years later, D’Arcy and one of his brothers, Albert, found themselves at Westminster School. D’Arcy joined Ashburnham in 1899, and left in July 1902.
In December 1906, D’Arcy emigrated to Canada, where he became a farmer. He enlisted in the 47th Battalion Canadian Infantry in May 1915 and was promoted to Sergeant that December. He went out to the western front July 1916 and was at the Canadians’ first major battle of the war at Courcellette, Somme. On the 10th November, D’Arcy was wounded in action and he died the following day — the day before his 31st birthday.
William Penn Gaskell, belonged to a well-known Irish family, and in 1905, upon his father’s death, he inherited the Shanagarry estate, County Cork. He was a descendant of the famous Quaker, William Penn, who founded the state of Pennsylvania.
William came to the school from Rugby and was admitted in 1886 to Homeboarders’ House. He left the school in July 1889 and travelled to Chile. His maternal grandfather was from Peru so his interest in South America was not surprising. William lived in Iquique and Antofagasta, eventually becoming manager of a nitrate works in the town.
On the outbreak of war he made the decision to give up his job and return to England to serve in the Army. He was made a Captain in the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in February 1915 and proceeded to France in August 1916.
He was killed in the action at Flers on the Somme front. He went over the parapet to the attack in support of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who were held up for a time by intense machine-gun fire. Notseeing any Officers of the Scots Fusiliers, he decided to push on, and he rallied the line when he was shot in the arm. While his servant was dressing the wound, a shell burst near and both were instantly killed.
His Colonel wrote :-
‘I admired his pluck and energy very much indeed in setting to work at his age to fit himself for the Front, and I always considered him a magnificent example to all of us and a pattern of everything an Officer and a gentleman should be. His fine example and gallant death, while he rallied his men, made the greatest impression upon all his comrades. His influence on his men was most inspiring.’
Eric Leslie Faire was born on the 30th September 1893 and was the younger son of Harry Washington Faire, of Putney. His elder brother was Washington Morley Faire, and the two boys arrived up Grant’s together in September 1905. Both brothers left the school around Easter 1909, and Eric decided to go and study languages at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
On the outbreak of war, Eric enlisted in the 25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion, the London Regiment.
The Cyclist Battalion was originally intended to be a home defence force. Their two main duties were firstly to ride along the English coast looking-out for signs of German invasion and secondly, once air attacks began in May 1915, to alert civilians by carrying “Take Cover” signs.
However, when the Battalion was sent out to the western front in July 1916, the ability of cyclists to contribute to trench warfare was unsurprisingly restricted. Eric acted as an Interpreter for the Battalion for a short time before he, like many others, was redeployed as a rifleman with the 9th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment, Queen Victoria’s Rifles. He would have fought with the 169th Brigade, which was part of the 56th (London) Division in the Battles of Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette and Morval during September 1916.
The Battle of the Transloy Ridges began on the 1st of October 1916. Eric was killed in action, at the age of 23, a week later, probably as part of the attack on ‘Rainy Trench’, northeast of Lesboeufs.
John Oswald Heath was the only son of John Edgar Heath, of Lee, Kent, and his wife Nora Mary, daughter of Oswald Lofthouse, of Warrington, Lancashire. He was born on 24th May 1895.
He was admitted to Westminster at the end of September 1910, and joined Ashburnham house. Since he had arrived at the school at the slightly older age of 15, he joined the Transitus — a transitional year for pupils who were new to the school. After leaving the school in July 1912, he entered the pottery and glass manufacturing business for a short time before joining the Honourable Artillery Company in 1913.
In September 1914, the HAC moved from Finsbury, London to Belhus Park, Essex, and on the 18th of that month John Heath went out with them to the western front. They landed two days later at Saint-Nazaire and were placed onto lines of communication. He served with them for nine months, which meant that he would have been involved in the First Battle of Ypres.
After those first nine months, he returned to Britain to take a commission as 2nd Lieutenant with the 11th (Service) Battalion, the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment on 28th June 1915. He was promoted to Lieutenant the following February and returned to the western front as the Battalion Bombing Officer on May Day 1916.
He was killed in action, at the age of 21, during the attempt to capture Le Sars during the Battle of Le Transloy on the 7th Oct. 1916. He is commemorated at Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 11 C).
John started at Westminster in Homeboarders’ House, but moved to Rigaud’s during his time at the school, leaving in 1908. He was a member of the Officer Training Corps whilst at school.
We do not know what he did immediately after leaving school, but in July 1913 he joined the Honourable Artillery Company, which is one of the oldest military organisations in the world. He served in Flanders and France from 18th September 1914, but was invalided home in February 1915. Once he had recovered he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Surrey Yeomanry and he went out to serve in Egypt in 4th October 1915. He then served in the Dardanelles for six months as an Assistant Military Landing Officer.
On his return to England John declined a post as Assistant Equipment Officer in the Royal Flying Corps, as he felt he ought to take a more active part in the war. He obtained his ‘wings’ in August, 1916 and became an instructor at the Royal Central Flying School in Upavon, Pewsey, Wiltshire. He was killed on 1st October when flying from Bournemouth Aerodrome, acting as an observer. The aeroplane’s elevator control disconnected causing it to crash near Eastbourne.