We know very little about Walter Vivanti Dewar Mathews. He was born in Wandsworth in 1878 and joined the school at the age of 12 in 1890. He was a pupil in Grant’s house, but is only mentioned twice in the house’s magazine, The Grantite Review, both times in connection with ‘Yard Ties’ – games of rackets which took place in the house yard, where Grant’s Dining Hall now stands.
After he left school there are nearly four years which are not accounted for, but on 23rd June 1898 he took a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He served in South Africa between 1899-1901 in the Boer War and continued his career in the army after returning home. In October 1914 he was promoted to the rank of Major.
He died on 9th December from wounds received in action on the previous day. He left behind a wife, Marie Laure. He was buried in Rocquigny-equancourt Road British Cemetery Manancourt, France. The school appears to have been unaware of his death until at least 1960. His name was added to the school’s war memorial at some point before 1989.
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.
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”.
Throughout the rest of the war, his widow organised support for the Cheshire Regiment from the people of Christleton.
George Drought was at the School for only a year before he migrated to Dulwich College, which was near his home. He was in Homeboarders house whilst at the school so the daily commute must have proved taxing. He joined the army after leaving school, obtaining his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in November 1899. He served in the South African (Boer) War from 1900-1902 and went to the front line again when the First World War broke out.
He died on 14th June from wounds received almost a month earlier in action at Festubert, France on 17th May 1915. He had married a woman named Louise Lockhart and had a son with her, George Richard Smerger Drought. He was not yet 5 years old when his father died. Louise married again in 1917.
His headstone is inscribed:
‘Greater love hath no manthan this
that a man lay down his life for his friends’
at the Glenealy Parish Church, County Wicklow
His son died fighting the in the Second World War by amachine-gunner trying to capture Floridia, Sicily in 1943. He in turn left behind two sons and a daughter all just a few years old.
Sidney Herbert FosterMurielwas the only son of the Rev. William Carter Muriel, Vicar of Fulham, and was at the School from 1891 to 1894. He was in Homeboarders house and a good fullback on the house’s football team, receiving half pinks. He went through Sandhurst, and obtained his first commission early in 1898 in the 1st Border Regiment. He served in the South African War, was wounded at Ladysmith, and mentioned in dispatches, and obtained the Queen’s Medal with four clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. He served as Adjutant of his Battalion, and obtained his Company in 1909.
His Battalion sailed from Avonmouth on 17th March 1915 and landed at Cape Helles between 25th and 27th April 1915. They found themselves indangerous conditions, beneath high, well-fortified cliffs. The maintained a foothold on the peninsular at the cost of significant loss of life.
Muriel waskilled in action at Sedd-el-Bahr, a small village with an Ottoman castle on a promontory on the Gallipoli peninsular. He is the only Westminster pupil to have been buried there; the other 5 pupils who died in the campaign are commemorated on the Helles Pont Memorial.
On 18th February 1915 it was reported that Arthur Martin-Leake had been awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross for his ‘most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty’ during ferocious fighting near Zonnebeke, Belgium, in October and November 1914.
Braving constant machine gun, sniper and shellfire, he rescued a large number of wounded comrades lying close to the enemy’s trenches. Recommending him for a Bar to his VC, his commanding officer wrote: ‘By his devotion many lives have been saved that would otherwise undoubtedly have been lost. His behaviour on three occasions when the dressing station was heavily shelled was such as to inspire confidence both with the wounded and the staff. It is not possible to quote any one specific act performed because his gallant conduct was continual.’
Martin-Leake was the first man to be honoured with two VCs. Following his time at Westminster School he qualified as a Doctor at University College Hospital. He served in the South African Wars winning his first VC at the age of 27.
During an action at Vlakfontein, on the 8th February, 1902, Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake went up to a wounded man, and attended to him under a heavy fire from about 40 Boers at 100 yards range. He then went to the assistance of a wounded Officer, and, whilst trying to place him in a comfortable position, was shot three times, but would not give in till he rolled over thoroughly exhausted. All the eight men at this point were wounded, and while they were lying on the Veldt, Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake refused water till every one else had been served.
At the outbreak of the First World War Martin-Leake, then aged 40, feared he would be considered too old to volunteer for the Western Front. To avoid being rejected he travelled to Paris and enlisted at the British Consulate before attaching himself to the first medical unit he could find—the 5th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps.
Richard de Rupe Roche was a Grantite, joining the House in 1893. He was a half-back in the House football team, but although he weighed in at 10st 4lb he did not help the house to victory against Home Boarders in the Tug of War.
Upon leaving school he joined the Army and fought in the Boer War. He was ‘wounded dangerously’ on 28 Mar 1901 at Rondal, and awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia, South Africa. He was discharged the same year but maintained links with the military establishment by joining the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. He was a noted marksman, four times making the final hundred to qualify for the King’s prize at Bisley in the years leading up to the Great War. He also represented Ireland in shooting competitions in 1913 and 1914
Called up in August 1914, he went with his Battalion to France on 1 November 1914, and was mentioned in despatches for his bravery at the end of the month:
‘On the 30th November, Lieutenant J. B. Baber and Corporal R. de R. Roche captured the first prisoners for the Battalion. They had gone out at night to patrol along a ditch some way in front of the line, when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by three different parties of the enemy who had apparently arranged to meet at a certain spot. Two of the enemy patrols passed by without having their suspicions aroused, but the third consisting of three men was making its way towards the place where Lieutenant Baber and Corporal Roche were crouching. The latter immediately opened fire, and after killing one man rushed the remaining two, who threw down their rifles and surrendered.’
The circumstances of Roche’s death during the Houplines operations are also described in The War History of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Westminster Rifles 1914-18, by J. Q. Henriques:
‘On 8 January, just as it was beginning to get light, Corporal R. de R. Roche was shot as he was crossing the open to get some water for his gun. He was not missed until daylight, when he was seen lying in the open in rear of the trench and in full view of the enemy, who was not more than a hundred and twenty yards away. It was practically certain death to attempt to reach him; but two very gallant men, Rifleman P. H. A. Tibbs, a stretcher-bearer, and Rifleman Pouchot (both of No. 2 Company), crawled out to him to see if anything could be done. As soon as they were seen, the enemy opened fire on them, but both men went on and succeeded in reaching Corporal Roche, who was found to be dead. Rifleman Tibbs was killed as he was kneeling over his body; but Rifleman Pouchot, who saw that both men were beyond help, managed to get back to our lines untouched. He was awarded the D.C.M. for his bravery on this occasion, and thus won the first decoration gained by the Battalion. Rifleman P. H. A. Tibbs was mentioned in despatches. Corporal Roche was a noted rifle and revolver shot, and a very keen member of the Regiment. At home he had always been ready to give to others the benefit of his experience; he had served in the South African War, and in France had already done some splendid work for which he was mentioned in despatches. In him the Battalion lost a good soldier and a true comrade.’
A less comfortable but probably more accurate account of Roche’s final moments appears in The Daily Graphic, a witness describing how he was actually found ‘gasping for breath, with a terrible wound in his face’, and how Tibbs was shot down as he tried to bandage him with a field dressing; similarly, further mention of the incident is to be found in the diary of Sergeant B. J. Brookes, also of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, who stated that their bodies lay out in the water – for the area was flooded – for a long time, ‘the stretcher bearer lying with his arm round the neck of the other man’, since the Germans kept a close eye on them in the hope of catching further victims.
Pictured is the name plate from a temporary grave marker of Roche. The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981; Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old.
On the 11th of January 1890, Thomas Stapleton boarded a ship and set off to make a new life for himself as a farmer in North Queensland. Three years after leaving Westminster in 1885, Stapleton had enrolled at the Hollesley Bay Colonial College. This was a college that provided young men who were intending to emigrate with practical training to prepare them for their new lives.
Stapleton spent only 5 years in Australia. A series of bad seasons, the spread of cattle ticks and rabbits were making the agricultural conditions difficult. He returned to England, only to emigrate again in 1896, this time to South Africa.
In the Boer War, he served with the Border Mounted Rifles as a Trooper, and as a Sergeant in the Natal rebellion. So by the outbreak of war in 1914, Stapleton was already an experienced soldier. He enlisted as a rifleman in the 1st battalion of the Rifle Brigade on the 13th October and was sent to the Western Front in November.
On the 19th of December 1914, the 1st Rifle Brigade was involved in an attempt to take the ‘Birdcage’ — a fortified German strongpoint east of Ploegsteert Wood. The attack failed — partly because British heavy artillery were firing short of target — and there were heavy casualties. Thomas Stapleton was among them.
Albert Alexander Leslie Stephen spent five terms at Westminster before migrating to Eton. His father was Major James Young Stephen and his maternal grandfather Admiral Sir Cornwallis Ricketts so a military career was perhaps inevitable. At the age of nineteen Stephen became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Scots Guards and remained with that regiment for his military career. He served in South Africa in the Boer War and received the Distinguished Service Order,typically awarded to officers ranked majoror higher, but occasionally awarded to especially valorous junior officers.
In August 1914 the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guard embarked for France, joining the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the British Expeditionary Force. They took part in some of the major defensive battles of the initial few months of the war. Stephen was listed in Sir John French’s Dispatch of 8th October. On 29th October Stephen sustained wounds during the Battle of Gheluvelt and died a few days later in Ypres.