George Stack was the son of Richard Stack, an Irish physician. He was born in 1879 and joined Westminster School in 1893. He was admitted as a Queen’s Scholar and remained with the school for a year, before leaving in April 1894. Little is known of his time at the school, and it is not until he joined the military in 1898 do firm records of his life begin.
He enrolled in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and remained there for three years, finishing his military training and leaving in 1901. Stack became Lieutenant in 1901, and served in South Africa for two years. He was then involved in fighting during the Great War, having gained the rank of Captain in June 1907.
Throughout his time on the front he continued to climb the ranks for the British Forces, becoming Major in 1915 and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1917. This final rank was awarded to him only partially, the word ‘Brevet’ signalling that he had earned the rank through gallantry and bravery in the field, but did not have the authority of a Lieutenant-Colonel.
Stack is mentioned several times in despatches, primarily during 1916 and 1917. In 1917 he was wounded, yet no records indicate whether he was invalided home or rested at a military field hospital.
Once more there is a gap in the records, and tragically we hear no more of George Stack until 1919. It was this year that he passed away, losing his life in Gaza in September 1919. How he came to be there, and what his role was in this capacity is unknown, as is the manner in which he died.
Macnab was born on 2nd December 1870, the third son of Alexander Macnab and Elizabeth Gilpin. He joined the school in 1885 as part of Homeboarders House, and remained for the following two years. Very little is known of his school life, although his role in active military service is honoured in many editions of the Elizabethan running 1899-1918.
He joined the Border Regiment in October 1891 as 2nd Lieutenant, gradually rising up the ranks and becoming Captain of the Northumberland Fusiliers in May 1900. Macnab was then sent to South Africa, serving there for two years, before returning to England in 1903. He continued his military career throughout the early 1900s and became Brigadier General in 1915, one of the highest military rankings. In 1916, he was called to duty in France, where he was mentioned in two separate despatches for his bravery and valour.
While in France, he contracted a serious illness and was forced to return to the UK, whereupon he received the honour of ‘The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George’ as a companion. He married Beatrice Marian in 1918, before passing away on the 13th October that year, as a direct result of illness contracted in service.
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.
The eldest of three brothers to attend Westminster, George Hodgson had a seemingly unremarkable time at the school. He was involved in the literary society, as well as being a decent cricket player, though seemed to concentrate more on his school work than anything else. The same can’t be said of his time at Cambridge, where he started at Trinity College in 1907. He spent a lot of time in his first 2 years coxing the third college boat, at which he was apparently so bad that “he has been thanked by the county council for so ably assisting their work of widening the river at that point”. An interest in Beagling, which he won trophies for, followed by some illness meant he did little coxing in his final two years.
He went straight into the army, having received his commission from the university, where he joined the Border Regiment in September 1911 as a second lieutenant. The years before the war were spent in England, but in 1914 his battalion was put under control of the 7th Division at Lyndhurst, before leaving for Belgium at the beginning of October. As with Tomlinson’s battalion, they assisted with the evacuation of Antwerp before moving to Ypres, where Hodgson spent the next month. He was made a lieutenant a few days after they arrived.
Both he and his younger brother were injured around the same time, though it was George who had the worst of it. While his brother was invalided home, he was taken to the military hospital in Boulogne, where he died of his wounds 4 days later, on the 6th of November 1914, aged 26. His service was distinguished after his death by mention in John French’s despatch the following January.