Tag Archives: Artists’ Rifles

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.

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Geoffrey Hamilton Hobson

Geoffrey Hamilton Hobson was born in 1898 in Brondesbury, London.  His father was a ‘Cycles and Accessories’ manufacturer. Geoffrey joined Westminster School from Pamers School in Essex in 1911; his elder brother Eric had started in Grant’s the year before – Geoffrey was in Ashburnham.   He left in December 1913 and joined Melle College near Ghent, remaining there until the outbreak of the war.

In January 1915, aged just 17, Geoffrey enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles.  He went out to the Western Front in August 1915 and then took a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in late 1916.  His battalion was involved in the two Battles of the Scarpe, part of the larger Battle of Arras in the first half of 1917. The second Battle of the Scarpe took place between 9th and 14th April and it is likely that Geoffrey was wounded in the early stages of this battle and moved to Etaples, near Le Touquet on the north French coast for treatment, where he died in hospital on 14th April.

First Battle of the Scarpe. Cheerful British troops boarding London omnibuses at Arras on their return from the capture of Monchy-le-Preux, 11 April 1917. Copyright: © IWM.
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Wilfrid James Nowell

Portrait of an unidentified boy by Wilfrid’s father, artist Arthur Trevethin Nowell (1862-1940). Perhaps it is a portrait of Wilfrid…

Wilfrid James Nowell was the only son of the artist, Arthur Trevethin Nowell and Lucy Helen Daniel.  He attended Westminster School for a brief period from April 1910 until December 1912 and boarded up Grant’s.

Wilfird showed great potential as an artist.  In a biography of his father, Arthur Trevethin Nowell, Christopher Mosley writes:

Some years later Augustus John (1878–1961) called to see his artist friend. His attention was drawn to paintings by Wilfrid. A proud father would tell the story of the day his son took off with one of his canvases and oils to paint a Scottish river in spate. Unaware of the venture Nowell was astonished at the result. The painting took pride of place in his home, never to be disturbed. John expressed a wish to have been equally talented when so young, a politeness perhaps, but, without question, Wilfrid was blessed with a fine natural gift.

We do not know what Wilfrid did immediately after leaving the school, but following the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles.  From there he obtained a commission in the 460th Howitzer Battery of the Royal Field Artillery.  He was initially posted in Egypt in November 1915, but was transferred to the Western Front in March 1916.

His regiment took part in a number of battles from 9th April to 16th May now collectively known as the Battle of Arras.  British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras and achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun.  When the battle officially ended on 16 May, British Empire troops had made significant advances but had been unable to achieve a breakthrough.  Wilfrid was killed in action on the first day of the attack.

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Geoffrey Wilkins

Geoffrey Wilkins was in Homeboarders House between 1898 and 1900. All we know about his time at school is that he played football for his house on two occasions against Grant’s. Homeboarders were beaten on both occasions — the score for one of the matched was 7-0!

We do not know what he did after leaving school but he joined the army on the outbreak of war, enlisting in the Artists’ Rifles on 2nd September 1914. He married Letitia Gertrude Hill on 10th October before going to the front. By May 1915 he was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers.

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He died of wounds received in action on 3rd October 1915 at the Battle of Loos. As with many soldiers he was given a temporary grave until he could be properly buried in Chocques Military Cemetery. The plain wooden cross used to mark this makeshift burial was sent to the church where Wilkins had worshiped — All Souls in St Margarets, Middlesex. Together with the cross from the grave of Corporal Lawrence Richards, another local man it flanks the church’s hand lettered Roll of Honour listing all the men from the parish who were killed in the war. Underneath the names the following caption is carved:

“In the year 1914 England waged war against Germany that faith should be kept between nations and life might be ordered by right and not by violence. For this end Englishmen left their homes and fought and suffered for 4 years. Amongst them men of this parish of whom 86 lost their lives in helping to gain the victory. Wherefore their names are enshrined above in grateful and loving memory and in hope that their deeds and sacrifice may inspire Englishmen for all time.”

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Alfred Crosfield Vernor Miles

19150824_Miles,ACVAlfred Miles joined his elder brother Cyril up Grant’s in September 1908. He seemed set to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a gifted sportsman, winning the Junior Gymnastic Competition in his second term at the school, and reaching the semi-finals for the under-16 100 yards later in the year. He sat the Challenge in June, and was elected to a non-resident King’s Scholarship.

In March 1909, there was an outbreak of measles at the school, and Alfred was one of those who succumbed to the illness. In the boredom of convalescence, he turned to causing mischief. His head of house, Lawrence Tanner, wrote in his diary on Monday April 5th 1909: “ÔǪsome Grantites had been throwing water on to Rigaudites playing in a yard tie, from one of the upper windows. It turned out to be the ‘measlers’ Radford and Miles.”

Throughout his time at the school, Alfred was an active member of the Debating Society and prone to “rhetorical outbursts”. The society’s debate on Civilisation on 8th of February 1912 was reported in The Elizabethan:

Mr. A.C.V. Miles, in the course of some Hobsonian and irrelevantremarks, informed the Societythat the had picked up Civilisation in the streets (according to our reporter), and that he had also found itgrowingon walls, rotten trees, dry sponges, and precipitous abysses.

Alfred took part in the OTC, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in his final year of school. After year of being articled to his father, a solicitor of Hampstead, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion Artists’ Rifles in August 1914. By April 1915, Alfred was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment. He was sent out to the Western front in October 1914, where his brother Cyril joined him the following March.

It was near Vermelles, France, and while he was acting as a Brigade Wiring Officer, that Alfred was killed on 24th August 1915.

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Maurice Day

The Royal Berkshire Regiment in the Ypres Salient, Spring 1915
The Royal Berkshire Regiment in the Ypres Salient, Spring 1915

Maurice Day was a pupil in Ashburnham House between 1906 and 1909. Upon leaving school hewas articled to an architect, and was just out of his articles when the war began. He enlisted in the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles) and went out to the Western Front in the autumn of 1914 to oversee the Officer Training Corps. The Artists Rifles was an extremely popular unit for volunteers. Due to the large number that joined it was formed into three sub-battalions in 1914, and recruitment was eventually restricted by recommendation from existing members of the battalion. He was promoted to the role of Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion ofPrincess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment in March 1915 moving to serve on the front line.

As with the two other Old Westminsters killed on 9th May, Day died in action at the Battle of Aubers Ridge, France.

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Esmond Lawrence Kellie

Two years after leaving school in 1912, Esmond Kellie had passed the exam for the Civil Service. But on the outbreak of war, he joined the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). The following January, Kellie was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, along with another young officer, Charles Kirch.

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In April 2015, the Battalion was involved in the bitter competition over “Hill 60”, a spoil heap just south of Ypres. The small mound afforded an excellent viewpoint from which to observe the ground around Zillebeke and Ypres, and was the only place in the area that was not waterlogged. From the 12th to the 16th of April, the battalion prepared for an attack on Hill 60. They worked day and night reconnoitring disused French and German trenches, and in opening up communication trenches.

They were ready to attack on the 17th and, with the help of mines and heavy artillery, the Hill was successfully taken by the British. However, Hill 60 projected into enemy territory, which left it exposed and costly to occupy. The German counterattack the following day resulted in considerable casualties, and part of the hill was temporarily lost. The shelling and bombing intensified, and Kellie was killed on the 19th of April, along with Charles Kirch who had joined on the same day.

The Germans’ second attempt to recover the hill was successful, and Hill 60 was lost on 5th May, following a series of gas attacks.

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