Eric was the younger son of Alfred North Whitehead, a mathematician, philosopher and Fellow of the Royal Society and his wife Evelyn. He joined Rigaud’s House in April, 1914 and left the school two years later in 1917. Whilst Whitehead had a place to study at Balliol College, Oxford, he joined the Royal Flying Corps in the autumn of 1917. He went out to the western front in February 1918 where he was killed in action whilst on flying patrol.
Before the war the philosopher Bertrand Russell had been a close friend to the Whitehead family. However, contrasting attitudes towards the war pulled the friendship apart. Russell, a pacifist, opposed the British government and defended the rights of conscientious objectors. His actions ultimately led to his being imprisoned for several months in 1918. The Whitehead family felt that the war was necessary to secure peace in Europe and all of Alfred North Whitehead’s children served in the war effort. Eric’s death was a great loss to the family.
Alfred North Whitehead published a book An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge in 1919, which he had been working on since before the war. He dedicated to his son with the following words:
‘Killed in action over the Foret de Gobain giving himself that the city of his vision may not perish. The music of his life was without discord, perfect in its beauty’