Tag Archives: Ashburnham

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.

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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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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.

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Geoffrey Richard Dudley Gee

Geoffrey Gee was born in Summergangs, Pinjarra, Western Australia to Raymond Gee and his wife Annie Matilda Alderson. His father was English and at some point before 1888 had emigrated to Perth, where he was Head Master of Hales School for a year.

Geoffrey was sent to school in England, joining Ashburnham House in September 1909. He was made an exhibitioner in 1910, and a King’s Scholar in 1911. Outside of term time he lived with his paternal aunt and her husband, Dr Bernard Ley, in Earl’s Court.

Geoffrey was very successful in a range of school activities. He was athletic, winning the school fives ties and was a runner up in the gymnastic competition (losing out due to a ‘lack of symmetry in some exercises’). He played cricket and football for the 1st XIs, earning full pinks after his performance in the Charterhouse football match, although ‘he dribbled much too close on to his forwards and only passed moderately’. In his final cricket season it was commented that he had ‘persevering temper, and both with bat and with ball did better than some of his critics expected’.

Gee was academic as well, winning the Phillimore prize for translation and speaking regularly at the school’s debating society – opposing a motion to restrict the franchise in this country. He performed ‘very creditably’ in the 1913 Latin Play. In his final term at the school, Election 1915, he was made a monitor.

Although Geoffrey won a place at Christ Church, Oxford, he joined 3rd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment straight after leaving the school. He went out to the western front in August 1916, but was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in January 1917 as an observer.

Geoffrey went up in his aeroplane near Ypres on 4th June 1917 and was never seen again. His name is on the Arras Flying Service Memorial in the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery.

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Rolf Mayne Neill

Rolf Neill was the only son of Harold and Louisa Neill of 22 Eldon Road, Kensington, London. He was born on 7th February 1898 and arrived at the school in September 1911.

He represented his house – Ashburnham – in Football, and eventually captained the Westminster 2nd XI by the time he was in his final year.

He was a member of the school’s Debating Society. On Thursday 9th March 1916, he seconded the motion “that in the opinion of this House it is inadvisable for Great Britain to attempt reprisals for air raids.” He is recorded in The Elizabethan as arguing:

“…we had already attacked fortified towns, but reprisals would be the attacking of unfortified towns. Taking reprisals would only cause competition with the Germans, and make them more ‘frightful’ than ever. Also we have no aeroplanes to spare.”

In February 1915, he enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, and was attached to the machine gun corps the following December. He left the school in April 1916 to join the Royal Flying Corps (Special Reserve) as a 2nd Lieutenant, and he became a Flying Officer with them in August.

In September 1916, he joined a Sopwith Squadron on the western but was only out there for a couple of months before being invalided home. He was able to rejoin his squadron in March 1917, but was killed in action near Messines on the 3rd June 1917.

His obituary in The Elizabethan reads as follows:

Mr. NEILL, the only son of Mr. Harold Neill, of Kensington, was at the School from September 1911 to Easter 1916, and was second Monitor in Ashburnham. He left School to join the Flying Corps, and after some meritorious and successful service, fell within the German lines. Our own generation mourns an excellent fellow.

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Colin Hyde Edwards

Colin was the youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards and his wife, Mrs Hyde Edwards. He joined Ashburnham House in 1909 and spent two years at the school, before going on to Bradfield College.  On the outbreak of war, he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, taking a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in May 1915.

He was reported missing on 8th May in the aftermath of the Third Battle of the Scarpe, but it was only established in September, 1917, that he had died of wounds as a prisoner of war on 22nd May that year.  He has been wounded in action near Fresnoy and taken by the enemy to a war hospital at Shelotille, Douai.  According the press-notice on his death ‘he was only 20 years of age, and had proved himself an enthusiastic young officer of the Regiment which his father was for so long associated’.

Soldiers overlooking the town of Douai, which remained in German hands until 1918.
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Edward Savory Wykeham Leach

Edward Leach was born on 12th May 1891. He was the son of Arthur Francis Leach, a barrister from Kensington, and Emily Archer Cook from Brighton. His brother Wilfrid John Leach was in his final year at the school when Edward arrived up Ashburnham in September 1904.

He came second in the Hurdles race final in April 1907. According to The Elizabethan, “another rather poor Hurdles; yet with a little coaching a vast improvement might be made.”

Edward left Westminster in July 1908 and embarked on a career in the army. He arrived at R.M.C. Sandhurst in 1909 and was made 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment on the 5th October 1910.

In March 1914, he was attached to the West African Regiment and was promoted to Lieutenant the next month. He served in the Cameroons from September 1914 until he was invalided home in February 1916. He had been acting as temporary Captain since September 1915, and was made Captain proper on 18th March 1916.

He went out to France in March 1917. He was attached to the 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, and promoted to Company Commander. He saw action in the Third Battle of the Scarpe near Monchy-le-Preux. He was killed in action at the age of 26 on the first day of the battle: 3rd May 1917.

Germans shelling Monchy-le-Preux. A battery of the Royal Field Artillery 18-pounder field guns firing in the open in the foreground, 24 April 1917. © IWM
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Hugh Dobbie Carless

Hugh Dobbie Carless joined the school in 1910, and although he was a member of Ashburnham House he was made a non-resident King’s Scholar in 1912.  He left the school in December 1914, and although he had a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, Hugh enlisted in the 14th Battalion the London Regiment (London Scottish).  He was made a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion (Reserve) the in June, 1915 and then was attached to the 2nd Battalion and went out to the western front on 29th May 1916.

Troops of the Gordon Highlanders resting outside Tilloy-les-Mofflaines on their way to the front in May 1917. Copyright: © IWM.

Hugh was wounded at High Wood in the Battle of the Somme on 21st July 1916, but he returned to the front after his recovery in January 1917, and was attached to the 7th Battalion.  He died on 24th April 1917, of wounds received in action on the Scarpe the previous day.

In the Ashburnham House Ledger, his successor as Head of Monitor of Ashburnham, H.L. Helsdon, writes a very positive account of his regime:

‘I find the task of criticising my predecessor especially difficult owing to the fact that under his leadership the wheels of the House rolled very smoothly. There was, as a matter of fact, practically only one phase of his management with which I have any fault to find, and that was his lack of originality. It is, perhaps, hardly fair to censure this, as it is certainly doubtful, if originality is a characteristic to be encouraged when in a position of this kind…there is no doubt that Carless was most consistent, and much praise is due to him for this good quality, which is so often lacking. Moreover he was rather a “man of moods” in my humble opinion, and therefore consider that he merits particular credit for not letting them influence, to the slightest degree, his management of the house, when it must often have required an effort to avoid so doing, especially when he was worried by his India Police Examination, captaining of football etc…Finally after this unsuccessful attempt to find fault with anything of any moment in any phase of this management, I must say of Carless that he was thoroughly conscientious in all house business and worked energetically for the good of Ashburnham, something which certainly cannot be said of all his predecessors and last but not least, left the house finances in a comparatively sound condition.’  Play 1914

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Alexander Kenelm Clark-Kennedy

Alexander was born on the 18th December 1883 to Captain Alexander William Maxwell Clark­ Kennedy, of Knockgray, Galloway, and Hon. Lettice Lucy Hewitt, third daughter of James, 4th Viscount Lifford.

His two elder brothers William Hew and Leopold James Clark-Kennedy had both already been at the school, by the time Alexander arrived in September 1898. Whilst at the school, he represented Ashburnham at Football. According to The Elizabethan, he was the best of “a poor lot” in the Ashburnham Football team in November 1893. He left in July 1902, the same year his younger brother Archibald Douglas Hewitt arrived at the school, and went on to Trinity College, Cambridge obtaining his BA in 1905.

He became one of H.M. Inspectors of Factories on the 31st of July 1906, but enlisted as 2nd Lieutenant with the Galloway Rifles (later known as the 5th Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers) the following October. He was promoted to Lieutenant in August 1907.

Alexander acted as secretary to the Employment of Children Act 1909. By January 1912, he was 1st division clerk in the Home Office, but was reappointed an Inspector of Factories 13th August 1912. He also undertook the role of honorary secretary of the Elizabethan club for a year.

Following the outbreak of war, Alexander re-joined the Scottish Borderers with the rank of Captain. He set out with them for Gallipoli in May 1915, but had to be invalided home in October. He was well enough to join his battalion in Egypt in April 1916.

He was killed in action near Gaza, Palestine, on 19th April 1917, and is memorialised on the Carsphairn war memorial, which was unveiled in 1923 by his elder brother William.

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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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