Arthur Nesbit Charlton initially joined Homeboarders’ house in September 1909, but became a King’s Scholar in 1910. As a Scholar he would have attended the coronation of King George V in Westminster Abbey on 22nd June 1911.
Charlton was athletic at school, receiving his full pinks and playing for the College XI and the school 1st XI. He spoke at the Debating Society, opposing a motion, in 1913, that ‘in the opinion of this House Great Britain should not participate in the Olympic Games at Berlin’. He performed in the Latin Play two years running, first as Ancilula in Terence’s Famulus and then in Andria, where his ‘pleasant voice and a Christmassy appearance combined to make Crito’s tardy intrusion into the plot very welcome.’
He was elected to a scholarship at Christ Church, Oxford, in July 1914, but on the outbreak of war decided to join the army. He took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, he rose through the ranks, attaining the role of Captain in November 1916. He served on the Western Front from May 1915, and received a mention in dispatched on 4th January 1917. Charlton was awarded the Military Cross on 30th June 1917.
His obituary in The Elizabethan noted:
‘All who knew him deplore the frustration of a promising career and of so many good qualities of head and heart.’
Hugh Plaskitt was born on the 3rd October 1880. He was the son of Joseph Plaskitt of London, and Emily Julia, daughter of John Cowie of Calcutta. Both Hugh and his older brother Francis Joseph Plaskitt attended the school as Homeboarders, although Francis had left by the time Hugh arrived in 1893.
In 1899, Hugh represented the school at football, covering for regular team-members when they were injured. The Elizabethan records that “He tackles splendidly, but is inclined to roam around the field, and is much too careless in his passing.”
After leaving the school in July 1899, Hugh matriculated into Christ Church, Oxford. While he was there, he represented Oxford at lawn tennis against Cambridge in 1900.
In December 1910, Hugh was admitted as a solicitor to the family firm, F.J. Plaskitt and Co., Copthall Avenue, London. Later that month, on the 28th December, Hugh married his Scottish cousin, Norah Frances. Norah was the daughter of Colonel David Cowie of the Madras Staff Corps.
Hugh developed an addiction to alcohol, a factor that created difficulties in his marriage. The couple eventually separated in 1913 – the year their second daughter was born – and Norah took custody of their two daughters.
During the First World War, Hugh served as a Lance Corporal in the Army Service Corps, the organisation responsible for supplying the army with food, equipment and provisions. He contracted malaria while on active service, and died on the 12th November 1917.
His younger daughter, Naomi, went on to become an actress. She married the actor and director Alastair Sim (1900-1976), and appeared with him in the 1936 film Wedding Group.
John Collinson Hobson was born on 27th August 1893. His parents were Thomas Frederick Hobson, a barrister, of Kensington, and Mary Innes, the daughter of John Borthwick Greig, of Hampstead, who was Writer to the Signet.
John’s elder brother, Frederick Greig Hobson, was up Grant’s between 1905 and 1910. John joined him at the school in September 1907, where he took part in the shooting, boxing, OTC, football and cricket teams.
At the meeting of the Debating Society on Friday 15th December 1912, John proposed the motion ‘that this House deplores the existence of a privileged social class’: “Mr. J. C. Hobson in a few faltering and somewhat incoherent periods pointed to the extremes of wealth and poverty. In every civilised country the wealthy classes were not only idle and luxurious but effete and barriers to all progress. He concluded a sentimental speech by a fervent appeal to the members of the Society ‘to slay the drones of the community, to push the demon of Wealth over the precipice back to the infernal abode from whence it came.’” The motion was lost by 7 votes to 13.
He was head of Grant’s over the uneventful year of 1911-12. In the house ledger, he summed up his first term as follows: “nothing of importance occurred this term. There does not seem to be much talent either for work or games in the house. But many of the younger people are promising. At least it appears there will be no big rows this year.” And his second term “was distinguished by the absence of influenza or any similar epidemic” and by the fact that “there were no rows of any quality”.
He was elected to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1912, and he matriculated in Michaelmas to study History.
He enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 12th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) on the 12th September 1914. After having been promoted to Lieutenant in February 1915, he went out to the western front in April 1915. He was attached to Machine Gun Corps, 116th Company in July 1916.
John was killed in action during the Third Battle of Ypres, on 31st July 1917, near St. Julien. His commanding officer later explained that John had been “selecting a position for his guns – deep in the German lines – when he was killed instantaneously by a German shell”.
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.
The only child of James Louis Garvin, editor of The Observer, Garvin attended Homeboarder’s House from 1908-1914. At school he was a talented fencer, winning the Public Schools Foils Championship at Aldershot in 1913. He was an active member of the debating society, speaking for the motion ‘this House deplores the modern tendency to vegetarianism’ and against a motion welcoming ‘the building of a Channel Tunnel’ according to The Elizabethan ‘pacing to and fro in oratorical frenzy, [Garvin] spoke grimly of financial loss, and said the expense would be unjustifiable’. He took part in play readings, although it was noted that when he recited an extract of Henry VIII he was ‘too low in pitch and too melancholy’.
He was going up to Christ Church with a History Scholarship when the War broke out, and he joined the South Lancashire Regiment. The Elizabethan records that
‘He was killed in the Battle of the Somme on the night of July 22 during an intense bombardment, in which he gave a noble example of courage, resourcefulness, and coolness, and even after he was hit his one message was ‘ to carry on with the Company.’ Although somewhat reserved, his personality made an unusual impression on those with whom he came in contact. By his death a life of literary promise is cut short.’
The British Library holds a diary which Garvin kept whilst at the front. As a Captain, Garving was in charge of D Company of the 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment. On 20 July he recorded the company as having a fighting strength of three officers, six sergeants and 109 men in other ranks. The company was stationed near Bazentin-le-Petit in preparation for the attack on High Woods, which formed part of the Somme Offensive.
‘The diary extract shows the monotonous nature of life in the trenches. Captain Garvin records the detail for Friday 21 July starting at 4am with stand to and the cleaning and inspection of rifles. The soldiers spent the rest of the morning cleaning and improving their trenches with a break at 8am for breakfast and lunch at 12.30pm. In the afternoons they were allowed to rest. On the following day Captain Garvin noted down the formation and objectives of the company’s assault against the enemies’ forces. This was his last diary entry as Captain Garvin was killed by machine gun fire during the attack at 11.30pm that night.’
Matthew Phillimore was born on the 17th March 1896. He was the younger son of George Grenville Phillimore. He was admitted to the school as a King’s Scholar in September 1909.
Matthew and his elder brother Henry were the latest in a long line of Phillimores to attend the school — over 25 members of the family across 5 generations were pupils at Westminster. Members of the Phillimore family were still actively involved in school life. Matthew’s father, for example, was involved with the publication of The Elizabethan. The school was also awarding the Phillimore Translation Prize and the Phillimore Essay Prize.
In 1912, both Matthew and his brother Henry took part in the Latin Play, Famulus. The write-up in The Elizabethan reviews the performance of each:
“Mr. M. A. PHILLIMORE made a capital Dorus. He quaked with terror, said aye or no as required of him and, in general, had such an air of terrified idiocy as rendered him irresistibly comic.”
“Mr. H. A. G. PHILLIMORE as Sophrona was suitably, old and feeble, though his gait suggested rather temporary lameness in one foot than perpetual infirmity.”
At the end of his time at the school, Matthew was elected to an exhibition at Christ Church, Oxford. He matriculated in Michaelmas 1914, but he was there for just six months before joining the army on 23rd April 1915. He became a 2nd Lieutenant for the 11th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment, which was billeted in Brighton, and was attached to the 9th Regiment.
In the February of 1915, eight companies of Royal Engineers were created to dig mines below the front line, and to detect and destroy enemy mines. Matthew was attached to one of these tunnelling companies and he went out to the western front in October 1915.
Matthew Phillimore was killed in action near B├®thune on the 25th June 1916. His parents gave a processional cross to the Church of St John the Baptist, Shedfield in his memory. His brother Henry was wounded in 1917, but survived the war and went on to become a preparatory schoolteacher in Abingdon.
Eustace Walter Russell was the younger son of the Rev. Robert Henry Hadden, Vicar and his wife, Eva Prudence. The family home was at Hazel Hatch in Addlestone, Surrey.
Eustace was educated at Westminster School, joining Ashburnham House in 1903 and went up to Christ Church in 1908, the year after his brother.
Whilst still an undergraduate at Oxford, he joined the 4th Battalion, Territorial Force in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 29th November 1908. In 1910 he was attached to the 52nd Light Infantry at Shornecliffe and in September 1911 he was promoted to Lieutenant.
In 1912, although still in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, Eustace was called to the bar of the Inner Temple and became a Barrister. In 1913 he went to Siam (now Thailand) where he worked in a legal position for the Siamese Government. He returned to England the following year, and was promoted to Captain, on Tuesday 1st September 1914.
In 1915 he was sent to France with the 4th Battalion. Shortly afterwards he was wounded in the face. It was feared that he would lose his eyesight, however, he was treated in France and returned to his regiment. He was promoted to Temporary Major, now becoming the most Senior Officer in his Battalion.
On 7 June 1916 he was admitted to hospital in Abbeville suffering with appendicitis. Although he was operated on that day he could not be saved and died four days later in 2 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne. His death was announced in The Times on Wednesday 14 June.
Charles Dennis Fisher was born in 1877 at Blatchington Court, Sussex; the ninth of eleven children of the famous historian Herbert William Fisher. He attended Westminster School as a Queen’s Scholar from 1891 until 1896. He was academically brilliant, being elected head to Christ Church, Oxford and becoming a Slade Exhibitioner in 1897. Fisher became a tutor at Christ Church in 1903 and remained at the university until the outbreak of war. He was a skilled classicist and edited the text of Tacitus in the Oxford series of Scriptures Classici.
At the school Fisher developed a love of cricket, frequently playing for the School and College 1st XI. He was less successful as a footballer and a review in The Elizabethan noted that he was:
‘a hard-working forward, though somewhat clumsy, and liable to fall down at critical times. As a goal-keeper, a position which he held up till the last six or seven matches, he caught the ball well, but perhaps hardly made the most of his reach’ (he was 6ft 3”)
Perhaps unsurprisingly it was the cricket which he kept up at University, playing for Oxford against Cambridge in 1900 and for Sussex in 1901. He continued to be involved in the school after leaving and was made a Governor in 1908.
On the outbreak of war he was disabled from joining the army on medical grounds. Anxious to play his part he learned to drive and enlisted in the Ambulance Corps, serving in Flanders and mentioned in despatches for his bravery under fire. He managed to obtain a commission as a Lieutenant in the Navy in 1915 and was appointed in HMS Invincible. The ship was sunk in the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916 with the loss of 1026 lives.
Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate, dedicated the following verse to Fisher following his death:
Over the warring waters, beneath the wandering skies
The heart of Britain roameth, the Chivalry of the sea,
Where Spring never bringeth a flower, nor bird singeth in a tree;
Far, afar, O beloved, beyond the sight of our eyes,
Over the warring waters, beneath the stormy skies.
Staunch and valiant-hearted, to whom our toil were play,
Ye man with armour’d patience the bulwarks night and day,
Or on your iron coursers plough shuddering through the Bay,
Or neath the deluge drive the skirmishing sharks of war:
Venturous boys who leapt on the pinnace and row’d from shore,
A mother’s tear in the eye, a swift farewell to say.
And a great glory at heart that none can take away.
Seldom is your home-coming; for aye your pennon flies
In unrecorded exploits on the tumultuous wave;
Till, in the storm of battle, fast-thundering upon the foe,
Ye add your kindred names to the heroes of long-ago,
And mid the blasting wrack, in the glad sudden death of the brave,
Ye are gone to return no more.-Idly our tears arise;
Too proud for praise as ye lie in your unvisited grave,
The wide-warring water, under the starry skies.
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?
Kenneth Wilcox was the only son of Rev. G.A. Wilcox, who was the vicar of St George’s Battersea Park and who had previously been temporary chaplain to the forces. Kenneth was admitted into Homeboarders’ in May 1905 for a year.
He sat the Challenge over the 23rd, 24th and 25th June 1909 and was elected a resident King’s Scholar. He was a strong member of the Junior College Football team in 1911. The house notes recall that “KTD Wilcox led our Juniors to victory over Rigaud’s, and at present looks like repeating the performance at the expense of Homeboarders”.
In July 1913, he was elected to an exhibition at Christ Church, Oxford, and matriculated the following Michaelmas term. He did not finish his degree, however, because in less than a year he had enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. The Public Schools Battalions were set up for former public schoolboys who wanted to fight as soldiers beside their friends, rather than serving as officers. In October 1914, he became 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th (Service) Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and went out to the western front on the 8th of October 1915.
Exactly a month later, Kenneth Wilcox was fighting just south of Ypres at Lankhof Farm — sometimes also known as Lankhof Battery —a cluster of bunkers, which can still be seen today. He was killed there at the age of 20 and is commemorated at Chocques Military Cemetery. His obituary in the Elizabethan tells us that he “died of wounds on the Western front, and was laid to rest by his father”.