Edmund Davison’s first years at the school were spent in the shadow of his elder brother, Ralph, who was two years above him in Rigaud’s. Once his brother had left, Edmund came into his own. He excelled at sport, playing for the House team, initially described as a ‘useful and speedy half though not a polished player’. He rose to the 2nd XI and finally appeared in the 1st XI in his final year at the school, receiving full pinks. He won the 300 yard race at Athletic Sports, with a time of 36 2/5 seconds, leading most of the way and winning ‘fairly easily in average time’.
Edmund was particularly valued in the house as a recruiting sergeant for the Officer Training Corps, getting 14 boys to join in his first term alone. He rose through the ranks here and ended his school career as the head of the school’s force, the Company Sergeant Major. He was also appointed a monitor, Head of House and elected Head Town Boy. His last at school was tinged with sadness though, as his elder brother was killed in action on 9th May 1915.
Edmund joined the army immediately upon leaving the school and took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was sent to the front with the 12th Battalion in June 1916 and invalided home wounded in October 1916. Upon his recovery, he returned to the front in July 1917. His death was reported in The Elizabethan:
Mr. DAVISON, the youngest son of Mrs. Davison, of Gordon Square, was at the School from April 1910 to Christmas 1915. His loss is much regretted by the present generation, who remember his zeal and efficiency as an Officer of the Corps. He was wounded soon after going to the Front, but recovered and returned. We have before had to record the death of his elder brother, and we feel deeply for his widowed mother in her heavy loss.
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.
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.
Charles Albert Madge was the youngest son of Dr Henry Madge Madge of St. Marylebone, by Margaret, daughter of David Broun, of Broxburn Lodge. He was born on 26th August 1874 and was a member of Home Boarders house between 1887 and 1889. He was a good runner, coming 2nd in the Under 14 300 Yards race at Athletic Sports. He was also musical, although criticised as seeming ‘too often to be singing sharp’ although his reviewer noted that this was ‘very much less of a fault than singing flat, and will vanish completely as his confidence grows’.
He served in the Army during the 2nd Boer War, rising to the rank of Captain in 1901 and being mentioned in despatched on 29th July 1902. He retired from the Army in 1905 but must have settled in South Africa when he married in 1910 — a son was born in Johannesburg in 1912. He was a member of the Headquarters Staff of the Union Defence Force in the country. Jan Smuts, the 2nd Prime Minister of South Africa wrote of his work:
“as Director of the Information Bureau at Defence Headquarters, Colonel Madge has done exceedingly good work, which is none the less meritorious because it has been of a somewhat dull and prosaic nature. It has, however, meant the constant exercise of no small organising ability and sound judgement. The fact that we hear so very little of and nothing against this most important branch of Defence Headquarters in itself speaks volumes for the good work Madge has done.”
He appears to have transferred to fight on the Western Front with other South African Forces later in the war. On 10th May, 1916 he was killed by a minenwerfer while being conducted round the trenches at the Hohenzollern Redoubt by Colonel Rowley who had a miraculous escape from injury.
His son, Charles Henry Madge, became a poet and sociologist and helped develop the ‘Mass-Observation’ project which aimed to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires.
Frank Besson attended Westminster Schoolfrom May 1910 to Christmas 1914 in Rigaud’s House. He was successful at school, taking part in cricket, football, gymnastics – where he made up ‘in strength and energy for what he lacks in style’,and athletics, excelling particularly in the latter. His performances, particularly as a short-distance runner, helped Rigaud’s to win Athletic Sports two years running.
His obituary in The Elizabethan noted that ‘he possessed boundless energy and the divine gift of enthusiasm. His tastes were all for mechanical science and adventure, and before the war he had already designed to join the Air Service.’
Indeed just before leaving the school, on 12th December 1914, Frank addressed the school’s Scientific Society on ‘Theories of Aviation’. A review of his talk noted that ‘he explained the various laws which govern the science of Flight, illustrating his points with experiments on the bench. He thus demonstrated very clearly a thing which many of his hearers perhaps did not know before, namely, why and how a heavier than-air body like an aeroplane will support itself in a less dense medium.’
After training as a pilot Frank served at Dunkirk in August 1915 before going out to the Dardanelles. Hedrowned off the Gallipoli Peninsula whilst on reconnaissancepatrol when his aircraft was brought down into the sea by the enemy. His death was not confirmed until April, when his observer, who had been captured by the enemy forces, was able to get word back to his family.
John White Ferguson was the second son of John Ferguson, a well-known yacht builder. As with many scholars he was a keen debater, advocating for both compulsory Greek and compulsory military service! He showed sporting ability from the start, winning the quarter mile and hundred yards at his first Athletic Sports competition. He became a keen cricketer whilst at Westminster and played for the school’s 1st XI, as well as for the King’s Scholars own team. As a footballer his kicking was described as being ‘particularly fine’ in The Elizabethan. His work kicking and tackling was ‘admirable’ in the Charterhouse match of 1908 – although clearly not quite enough to save the game which was lost 4-0.
Upon leaving the school he was apprenticed to his father in the shipbuilding trade. In April 1913 he joined the Clyde Division of the Navy. On the outbreak of war he took part in the siege of Antwerp and received a Distinguished Conduct Medal. In March of 1915 he was transferred to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action in the aftermath of the 3rd Battle of Krithia on 4th June 1915.
A fellow officer, D.W. Cassie, wrote to the family after the death:
‘I got his, or most of his, official papers and maps. I wanted to get his ring and cigarette case to send home to you but the danger was too great for me to wait and it couldn’t be done. The Hood Battalion is now practically at an end. We have only three officers and 120 men left now, so we no longer count, but before I close I should like to say that I, nor anyone in the Battalion can pay enough tribute to Johnnie’s bravery and gallantry, he died in action, he led his men. …. I am on my way now to Alexandria in charge of 350 Turkish prisoners. It was been given me as a sort of rest after that terrible action.‘