Tag Archives: Debating

Harold George Fairfax Longhurst

Harold was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom attended Westminster School.  There was one of the Longhurst siblings at the school from 1885 until 1907, when Harold left.  Harold was in Homeboarders’ House and from 1902 was an exhibitioner.

Harold took an active interest in many areas of school life.  He was a Lance Sergeant in the Cadet Corps and on the Committee of the Debating Society.  He often spoke at meetings, proposing the motion that ‘in the opinion of this House the encouragement of Minor Sports at Westminster is not detrimental to the welfare of the rest’, and opposing the motion ‘That this House disapproves of Vivisection’.

He also played sport at the school, playing initially for his house cricket team.  In a house match against Ashburnham in 1906 he scored 46 runs and bowled out three members of the opposing team.  He went on to play for the school’s 1st XI and received half-pinks.  In his final year he was made Head of House.

We do not know what he did immediately after leaving the school, but on the outbreak of war he joined the army, taking a commission as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th Service Battalion of the Berkshire Regiment in September 1914.  He rose swiftly through the ranks and was a Captain by the time he first went out to the Western front in July 1915.  He was wounded in 1916, but returned to action.  He was acting Lieutenant-Colonel when he died during an attack by his battalion on the village of West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.  It had been raining for two days prior to the action and the ground, churned up by shellfire, had become a quagmire making movement difficult.

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Sidney Frederick Johnson

19170110_Johnson,SFSidney Frederick Johnson was the second son of George and Blanche Johnson. He was born on the 19th August 1887 and arrived at the school in September 1901.

He threw himself into all elements of school life, from football and cricket, to debating and chess, to the School Mission. In Play Term 1905, he was made Head of Ashburnham, alongside being Captain of the School Football XI and also Captain of House Football and Cricket. His successor wrote in the House Ledger:

“to fill so many responsible positions eodem tempore needed a fellow of many parts: many of these parts he possessed and many he did not possess. No man has done more for the House GamesÔǪhe has succeeded by his own prowess and personality in establishing confidence in quite inferior players. For example he was absent on account of an exam from a large part of the HBB 1st inns in their shield match with us: but directly he came on the field, them who had been playing half-heartedly before put twice as much into their work as they had before his arrival.”

Upon leaving the school, Johnson achieved a BSc at the London University. He enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Queen Victoria’s Rifles in May 1910 before becoming a partner in Hendren’s Trust, Ltd., a financial company for promoting British enterprise in Canada.

On the outbreak of war, Johnson decided to re-join the army. But first — a fortnight before taking a position as 2nd Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion (Reserve) Border Regiment — he married Helen Marguerite, the elder daughter of Farquhar Robinson, of Montreal, Canada on 28th November 1914.

Johnson was attached to the 2nd Battalion and went out with them to the western front on 20th February 1915, but was invalided home in May 1915 as a result of wounds he received at Festubert. He was promoted to Lieutenant the following March and returned to the front on the 29th December 1916. He was appointed brigade bombing officer with the rank of temporary Captain on the 7th October 1916 and was killed in action at the age of 29 at Beaumont Hamel on the 10th January 1917.

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Thomas Reginald Dawson

19160204_Dawson,ThomasReginald
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,

εγρηγορος  Φρονημα

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