Tag Archives: Battle of Loos

Thomas Reginald Dawson

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Dawson’s grave at Beckenham Cemetery

Thomas Dawson was elected as a King’s Scholar at Westminster School in 1909. He was Secretary of the school’s Scientific Society and an active debater. In one debate he argued against compulsory military service stating that ‘Englishmen are becoming keener every year to volunteer, which makes compulsory service unnecessary.’

Dawson was true to his word and although he won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1914, he joined the army on the outbreak of the war. He took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 19th Battalion of the London Regiment but it was nearly a year before he was sent out to see active service on the Western Front.

Dawson was wounded at the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915. He was sent back to England to have his wounds treated and ended up in hospital in Vincent Square, not far from the school. He died there from his wounds on 4th February 1916 and a number of pupils were able to attend his funeral at St. Philip’s, Sydenham and burial at Elmer’s End Cemetery, now known as the Beckenham Cemetery. Many of them would have remembered him from his time at the school.

The following letter was sent to the Editor of The Elizabethan following his death:

It is with some diffidence that I ask for the inclusion of this letter, because the paragraphs of eulogy that appear with absolute precision in most school magazines on the dead condemn themselves by their sentimental universality as in most cases obviously untrue. Nor shall I eulogise now. Much might be written upon the three young King’s Scholars whom the battle has claimed so far as its toll. First, we saw the death of W. B. W. Durrant, next of K. T. D. Wilcox, and now it is T. R. Dawson—all three only sons. But it is of the last that I should like to speak, for I was one of the few who knew him well, and it would be a pity if to future generations of Westminsters he were but a name on the wall. Not popular, not distinguished in athletic or intellectual ability, not striking except in a personality of extraordinary obstinacy and endurance. Such characteristics devoted to low ideals might have brought fame. Directed on the side of the angels, they were realised in full only by those to whom it was given to know him to the very end. It is as the first Head of Water after the revival that the School collectively owes him the deepest gratitude. Head of Water, but he gave up his place in the four when he saw someone better to fill it. But reference to foregoing pages would show in how many ways he did the ‘spade-work’ while others held more showy positions. And it was only his obstinacy that got him into the Army when the War called for officers, for, like Hannibal, he was blind in one eye. And, personally, may the gratitude be recorded of one who knew what it was to be able to rely on him absolutely when all others might fail– gratitude that ‘Bacchus’ Dawson did live once?

Yours as before,

╬¡╬│¤ü╬À╬│╬┐¤ü¤î¤é ¤å¤ü¤î╬¢╬À╬╝╬▒

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Laurence Anderson

Laurence Anderson was born in Tokyo in 1874. His father, William, was working there as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the Imperial Naval Medical College, and was becoming known as a collector of Japanese art. Laurence was six when the family relocated to London, where his father returned to work at St Thomas’s Hospital.

In January 1888, Laurence was admitted to the School as a Homeboarder, and then went on to Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1895. He went into business in Siam for several years before moving to Malacca, Malaysia in January 1911 to take up a position as manager of Devon Estates, which was in the process of acquiring a large piece of land in the Merlimau District.

On the outbreak of war, Laurence returned to Britain to enlist as 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on the 19th September 1914. He was attached to the 1st battalion, and sent to the western front.

Killed in action on 11th October 1915, leaving his wife Eleanor behind. He is buried at Loos-en-Gohelle and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

The Loos memorial and the Dud Corner Cemetery (taken between the wars)
The Loos memorial and the Dud Corner Cemetery (taken between the wars)
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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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Cyril Vernor Miles

LT_CVMilesJust over a month after his younger brother Alfred was killed in action, Cyril Miles was sent to fight in the Battle of Loos.

At school, Cyril was a keen sportsman, participating particularly in Cricket and Football — receiving a Pink in footer in Lent 1911. But he also earned himself a reputation for playing pranks.

In his third winter at the school, Miles and a group of friends were discovered “very busy emptying pails of water in yard to make a slide for tomorrow if it freezes”, and got into trouble for being on the roof “and snowballing people in College Street, to their amusement and their victims’ disgust as theyÔǪ were quite invisible so they say”. One evening in January 1909, Miles produced a dead mouse that had just been caught in Hall, which his friend Hobson — an aspiring doctor — skinned.

When he left the school in 1911, he went on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he continued to be a core member of the sporting scene. In Feburary 1914, he was mentioned in The Elizabethan:

Mr. C.V. Miles is a tower of strength to the all-victorious Pembroke Soccer team, which we believe to be so far unbeaten. He owns a small motor of a somewhat obstreperous disposition, which has on at least one occasion dragged him into the jaws of that legal code which he is said to be studying.

In August 1914, Cyril joined the South Wales Borderers as 2nd Lieutenant, and was attached to the Welsh Regiment in February 1915. He was sent out to the western front, where he was promoted to Captain on 29th July 1915. His little brother Alfred, who had been there since the previous October, was killed in Vermelles in August 1915.

Only a month later, on 26th September, Cyril was killed in action at Hulloch near Loos.

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Robert William Lee Dodds

19150926_Dodds,RWLRobert Dodds was the only son of a Surrey solicitor and was admitted into Ashburnham in September 1906.During his first year at the school he achieved success in the school concert, where he “shone asÔǪ soprano”. He took part in Ashburnham’s entry for the Inter-House Glee singing competition, although they did not win. They performed the set piece The Haven by Barnby as well as the other competitors but their voluntary — Elgar’s The Sea Hath its Pearls — was “too ambitious”.

After leaving the school at Easter 1911, he became a clerk to a firm of brokers on the London Stock Exchange. On the outbreak of war, he joined the Inns of Court OTC, where he was trained in preparation for his deployment to the front line, along with fellow-OW Winfield J. Bonser. On the 19th September 1914, he became 2nd Lieutenant 13th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. Just over four months later, he was promoted to Lieutenant. On 9th September 1915, he was sent out to the western front with his battalion as senior subaltern, a role which probably included duties such as acting as a representative of the subalterns to the Commanding Officer and advising a younger officer on conduct and appearance.

Robert’s battalion fought in the Battle of Loos, the first battle in which the Allies employed chlorine gas as a weapon. On the 25th of September, the British took Hill 70 under cover of smoke-screens, but it was retaken later in the day due to a delay in reinforcements and supply of munitions. The following day, German reinforcements arrived in large numbers. So when the British attacked again, thousands of infantry men were mown down by machine guns.

Robert Dodds was one of six former pupils who were killed in the first two days of the Battle of Loos.

On the Western Front Association website, you can read an eyewitness account of the Battle of Loos as it was experienced by a 19-year-old Lewis gunner.

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Cecil Hurst-Brown

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Cecil was born in Bayswater, the middle son of William Hurst-Brown, a stockbroker, and his wife Ethel Mary Dredge Newbury Coles.

He was an active sportsman: a double pink whilst at school and then secretary of the University Association Football Club whilst at Christ Church, Oxford. He played cricket whilst at Westminster, gaining a place on the 1st XI and averaging 14.60 and 19.00 in the 1912 and 1913 seasons.

 

Upon the outbreak of war he left university and joined the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. On 16 December 1914, he was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, which he joined in France on 7th June 1915. He died on 26th September 1915, having been wounded in action the previous day.

His younger brother, 2nd Lieutenant Dudley Hurst-Brown, 129th Battery R.F.A was wounded on 13 June 1915, and died two days later. A family historian said of Cecil’s death that “he was the second of two brothers killed within three months of each other. It sent my wife’s great grandmother [Cecil’s mother, Ethel] insane with grief – she spent the rest of her life in and out of mental hospitals – thus two casualties became three – very sad.”

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Kenneth Desmond Murray

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KennethMurray was a King’s Scholar from 1905 until 1911. He threw himself into every aspect of school life. He was an active sportsman who played on the school’s football and cricket teams as well as competing in fives and athletics competitions for his house. He debated, edited the school magazine, The Elizabethan, in 1910 and shared the prize for Orations in 1911 for his recitation of Song of Deborah. He stared in the Latin Play in 1909 where as Micio ‘he managed the long and trying soliloquy that begins the play with much skill, and he was at all times an excellent foil to Deme’. The chance of a leading role in the 1910 performance was snatched from him when the play was cancelled due to the death of Edward VII.

Murray was elected head to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1911 and made a promising start to his degree, receiving a 1st Class in his Classics Mods. The outbreak of war meant that he failed to finish his qualification, leaving to serve in the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in December 1914. He went out to the Western Front in August and as killed barely a month later at the Battle of Loos.

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Edward Townshend Logan

Edward Logan was born in Valparaiso, Chile where his father worked as a copper merchant. He arrived at Westminster at the age of 15, and joined Grant’s House.

He achieved fame within the school for his disastrous performance in the Junior Sculls in July 1882. The report in The Elizabethan reads “the most remarkable feature of this race was Logan’s course, from a Surrey station into the Middlesex bank; Hawkins, who remained for some time in obscurity, suddenly forged ahead at the corner, and won, while Crews, rowing very pluckily, passed Logan, when stranded, thus securing the second place.”

In 1888, six years after leaving school, he joined the Cheshire Militia, rising steadily through the ranks over the following decades. In the Boer war, he served as a Captain with the Mounted Infantry and was mentioned twice in dispatches. On the 22nd January 1896, he married Hilda Emma Frances Duckworth, a widow, in Rossett, Denbighshire.

He was awarded the Queen’s Medal (three clasps), the King’s Medal (two clasps) and, on 24th March 1901, he received a Distinguished Service Order Medal for the “gallant leading of the advanced guard.” At the end of the Boer War, Logan left the army to join the South African Constabulary, where he rose to Commandant of Middleburg, Transvall.

He returned to England in 1907, and lived with his wife at Christleton Bank, Cheshire. He re-joined the army, where he became commanding officer of the 3rd batt. Cheshires in Birkenhead. At the outbreak of war, he was soon put in command of the 5th Durham Light Infantry and sent to France — to the Battle of Loos — in September 1915.

Lieutenant Colonel Logan was killed in action on the 25th September, along with his younger brother. According to the Cheshire Observer, attendance at the service in his honour was “striking testimony to the high esteem and warm regard in which he was held”.

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Throughout the rest of the war, his widow organised support for the Cheshire Regiment from the people of Christleton.

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Winfield Joyce Bonser

Winfield Bonser was born in Singapore and was admitted to as a Queen’s Scholar in January 1900. In his second term, he competed as a member of the College tug-of-war team, weighing 10st 3lb. He also took part in Cricket and Football, and was a member of the Debating Society.

As a Scholar, Bonser was amongst the Westminster pupils invited to the Coronation of King Edward VII on 9th August 1902, where he would have joined in the tradition of shouting “Vivat Rex!” The Coronation Song Book for the service describes how “these vociferous exclamations have been incorporatedÔǪ in a somewhat novel manner, as the Westminster boys, stationed aloft, sing their enthusiastic manifestations of loyalty”. The Captain of the King’s Scholars at the time, G.T. Boag, was unimpressed with such novelty, reporting in The Captain’s Book that “the acclamations for some unearthly reason were set to music and stuck into the midst of an anthem.”

After leaving the School, Bonser was admitted as a pensioner to Christ’s College Cambridge in October 1904, and became a scholar in November 1906. He achieved a 1st Class in the Classical Tripos, and went on to train as a barrister. He was called to the bar at Inner Temple on 28th June 1911. On the outbreak of war, he joined the Inns of Court OTC, and received a commission in the Rifle Brigade in September 1914.

Over the course of the next six months, Bonser rose through the ranks, becoming a Captain the following March. In July 1915, he went out to the western front, landing in Boulogne.

The day before Bonser died, the battalion moved out of their billets in Laventie. He was killed in action at Fauquissart, near Estaires, on the first day of the Battle of Loos.

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