Tag Archives: Ashburnham

Kenneth Rae Morrison

Kenneth was born on 16th December 1896. He was the son of William Rae Morrison, who worked for the Stock Exchange, and Lily Dawtry, originally from Petworth, Sussex. He joined Ashburnham in January 1912, but only stayed until the end of the calendar year.

Kenneth studied on the Modern Side, which meant that he chose to study modern languages and sciences instead of the Classics. There was a longstanding rivalry at Westminster between those who opted to study the Classics and those on the Modern Side. In 1912, the Debating Society met to discuss the “somewhat hackneyed” motion “That in the opinion of this House, classical education is better than modern”. In this iteration of the debate, the main argument given in favour of the Modern side was that “science men … were more generally useful in life, and quicker-witted.” Unsurprisingly, this argument failed to sway the audience, and “the motion was carried by acclamation.”

Two years after he had left the school, in August 1914, Kenneth enlisted with the Honourable Artillery Company. By December he had become a 2nd Lieutenant with the Middlesex Regiment, and went out with them to the western front in 1916. In April 1917, he transferred to the 5th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

Kenneth was at Tower Hamlets, near Ypres, during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. He was killed on the 21st September 1917 by a German who had previously surrendered. He was 20 when he died, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

German prisoners being marched through Cathedral Square, Ypres on 20th September 1917. © IWM (Q 2863)
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Lancelot Tudsbery

Lancelot Tudsbery was born on 14th February 1898. His father was John Henry Tudsbery DSc, of Westminster, and his mother was Ruberta Emeline, daughter of John McMurdo Cannon, of Rock Ferry, Cheshire. His brother Marmaduke Tudsbery had spent a brief time in Ashburnham for between 1907 and 1908, and their family home was 100 St George’s Square, SW.

Lancelot arrived at the school in September 1910 and studied on the Classical side. He represented Ashburnham in the OTC, being promoted to Corporal in Lent 1915. During the athletics season in Election 1916 he won the Hammer Throwing with a distance of 1,87ft, and “owed his success to his strength”. He was on the Town Boys’ Tug of War team vs. the King’s Scholars and is recorded as weighing 12st 0 lbs.

In Lent 1916, the Ashburnham House Ledger records “Tudsbery, L. has managed to pass an examination, we know not what, but the mere passing is sufficient glory without its name. He also went through touching farewells to us twice, but each time reappeared.” This exam was apparently the Civil Engineers’ Exam and The Elizabethan wryly congratulates him “on his success in deceiving the examiners”. He was a student of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 4th of April 1916, and he did actually leave the school in July 1916.

On the 13th January 1917, Lancelot joined the Royal Field Artillery (Special Reserve) as a 2nd Lieutenant, and went out to the western front on 30th March 1917. He was part of the ‘B’ Battery, 70th Brigade RFA, which was, at this time, a six-gun battery. His Brigade saw action at the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe (including the capture of Guemappe during the Arras Offensive). They went on to Flanders, where they were in action at the Battle of Pilckem (31 July-2 Aug) and the Battle of Langemarck in August 1917.

Lancelot was killed in action at the age of 19 near Ypres on the 22nd August 1917. He is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3.

Two men of the RFA sleeping on a limber on a road near Hooge, August 1917.
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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/

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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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