Ralph Forster was born on the 13th July 13 1898 and arrived at the school in September 1912. His father – Ralph William Elliott Forster – had been at the school before him as a Homeboarder, but Ralph junior became a member of Grantite.
He played on the school football team and took part in the Officers Training Corps, as Lance-Corporal. He left the school for RMC Sandhurst in December 1915.
On the 16th of August 1916, Ralph enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant 1st Battalion “The Buffs” (East Kent Regiment). He went out with them to the western front in the autumn of 1916.
He was one of three Old Westminsters who were killed on the 3rd of May 1917.
Alexander was born on the 18th December 1883 to Captain Alexander William Maxwell Clark Kennedy, of Knockgray, Galloway, and Hon. Lettice Lucy Hewitt, third daughter of James, 4th Viscount Lifford.
His two elder brothers William Hew and Leopold James Clark-Kennedy had both already been at the school, by the time Alexander arrived in September 1898. Whilst at the school, he represented Ashburnham at Football. According to The Elizabethan, he was the best of “a poor lot” in the Ashburnham Football team in November 1893. He left in July 1902, the same year his younger brother Archibald Douglas Hewitt arrived at the school, and went on to Trinity College, Cambridge obtaining his BA in 1905.
He became one of H.M. Inspectors of Factories on the 31st of July 1906, but enlisted as 2nd Lieutenant with the Galloway Rifles (later known as the 5th Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers) the following October. He was promoted to Lieutenant in August 1907.
Alexander acted as secretary to the Employment of Children Act 1909. By January 1912, he was 1st division clerk in the Home Office, but was reappointed an Inspector of Factories 13th August 1912. He also undertook the role of honorary secretary of the Elizabethan club for a year.
Following the outbreak of war, Alexander re-joined the Scottish Borderers with the rank of Captain. He set out with them for Gallipoli in May 1915, but had to be invalided home in October. He was well enough to join his battalion in Egypt in April 1916.
He was killed in action near Gaza, Palestine, on 19th April 1917, and is memorialised on the Carsphairn war memorial, which was unveiled in 1923 by his elder brother William.
Vivian Bristowe was one of ten children – five boys and five girls. They lived at 11 Old Burlington Street, with their father, John Syer Bristow, and mother, Miriam Isabella Bristowe (née Stearns). All five of the boys were sent to Westminster, and their father, a physician specialising in the nervous system, was also physician to the school.
Vivian was the youngest son. He was born on the 12th of June 1874, and arrived as a Homeboarder in September 1885. He represented his house in the football, and The Elizabethan includes the following account of a game that Homeboarders won 9-1: “The ground was very heavy and slippery after the recent thaw, and towards the end of the game the players were covered with mud” Saturday March 12th 1892.
There is not a lot of information about Vivian or his time at the school, but we do know how much he weighed!
After leaving the school in July 1892, he became a stock jobber – a market maker on the London Stock Exchange, and continued playing football on the OWW team. He went out to South Africa shortly before World War I, where he worked as secretary to his eldest brother, Leonard Syer Bristowe – by then Hon. Mr Justice Bristow – in Pretoria.
He enlisted in the South African Medical Corps in November 1915, and joined the East African Expeditionary Force in January 1916. While on active service at Rug, Rufigi River, East Africa, he contracted dysentery and died on the 14th of April 1917.
His Colonel wrote of him: “he did excellent work, and never fell out in the most arduous treks imaginable… His pals miss him, and I miss a steady and trustworthy man, who was never known to shirk his duty.”
Nevil Furze was born on 30th April 1897. He was the youngest son of Herbert Furze, of South Kensington, and Mary Ford, daughter of Edward Tidswell, of Chigwell, Essex. He was admitted to the school in April 1912, where he joined Homeboarders’ house.
During his time at the school, Furze threw himself into the Football and Cricket scene, earning House Colours in both sports. The Elizabethan contains some congratulatory comments about some of his performances:
“The start of the second half was sensational; the Visitors pressed; Carless cleared and sent out to Furze, who ran through the whole defence and scored with a beauty (2-1).” (1st November 1914 against Old Wykehamists).
He left the school in July 1914 and, in September, enlisted in the 18th (Service) Battalion (1st Public Schools) the Royal Fusiliers. He became a 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion (Reserve) The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment in June 12, 1915, and went out to the western front attached to the 2nd Battalion in September 1915.
Furze was involved in the operations at Bucquoy in March 1917. He was killed while leading a night attack there on 14 March 1917. Following the unsuccessful British attacks, the Germans retired from Bucquoy.
Sigurd Dickson was the youngest son of Sir John Frederick Dickson, who had also been a pupil at the school. Sigurd was in Grant’s House from 1897-1902. He played football and cricket for the school — a review of his performance over the 1901/2 season was printed in The Elizabethan:
S.A. Dickson played at his very best against Charterhouse. He lacked weight, but was neat. As was the case with most of the team, he could not face adversity.
Upon leaving he became a District Commissioner in West Africa, and subsequently in South Africa. Later he worked in business as a rubber-planter in the Federated Malay States; rubber production was a large growth industry due to its use in the manufacture of car tires.
Sigurd returned home on the outbreak of the First World War and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He was attached to the 102 Brigade and went out to the western front with them in 1916.
On 15th and 29th November 1916, Haig met the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre and the other Allies at Chantilly. An offensive strategy to overwhelm the Central Powers was agreed, with attacks planned on the Western, Eastern and Italian fronts, by the first fortnight in February 1917. Early in 1917 troops were assembled in the area in preparation for the attack. British determination to clear the Belgian coast took on more urgency, after the Germans resumed unrestricted submarine warfare on 1st February 1917. Sigurd was killed in action near Ypres on 1st February.
Sidney 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 GamesÔÇªhe 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.
Eric Clive Graham was a pupil in Ashburnham House from 1909 until 1913. He was the youngest son of American, Lionel Henry Graham and his English wife, Hilda.
At school he was a keen sportsman, taking part in football, athletics and fives. He was the 4th member of the winning 1909 Ashburnham Junior Football team to die in the war — after R. Chalmers and J.W.H. McCulloch and G.J.M. Moxon. The ledger describes his performance that year in mixed terms stating that ‘he kept goal against Rigauds when Carless was out of school. Although he did one or two good things, he was not safe and had no understanding with the backs’. He was clearly more successful as a forward, being described as the House’s chief goal scorer in his final year at the school.
After leaving the school he went to Ingleden Park, Kent to learn agriculture with a view to farming in Canada. However, on the outbreak of war he changed his plans and enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He left England in February 1916 to join the 1st Battalion at Busreh, on the Tigris in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). He was invalided to Bombay in June, but returned to his regiment in Busreh on 12th October 1916. He was killed in action at Kut-el- Amara, Mesopotamia on 9th January 1917 in one of a series of battles which led to the recapture of Kut and, ultimately, the fall of Baghdad.
Leonard James Moon was at Westminster School, up Grants, from 1891 until 1896. He was the youngest of three brothers who were all exceptional athletes. Leonard was in both 1st XIs and continued to play association football whilst at Pembroke College, Cambridge and cricket of Middlesex in 1899 and 1901. In 1905 he played cricket for the national side against South Africa.
Wisden records that:
In the autumn of 1905 he was second in the averages for the M.C.C.’s team in America with 33.00, and before the next season opened toured South Africa with another M.C.C. side. During the latter tour he made 826 runs with an average of 27.33. He was a vigorous batsman who could cut well, and a useful wicket-keeper. At association football he gained high honours, obtaining his blue for Cambridge and playing for the Corinthians.
After university Leonard went into teaching and became Head Master of Wellesley House School, Broadstairs, Kent. After the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, taking a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion of the Devon Regiment in February 1915. He served in France but lost his life in near Salonica in Greece.
Leonard was recorded in the school’s roll of honour as having died from wounds, but records found in The National Archives reveal that he actually committed suicide. Letters he left just before he died suggest that he was concerned about a rumour which had been spread about him and feared it would bring his regiment into disrepute. Leonard seems to have been suffering from paranoia as a result of what would now be identified as post-traumatic stress. A subsequent investigation found that his concerns were groundless.
Dallas Gerard le Doux was born in Glamorgan in 1897. He took the additional name of ‘Veitch’ from his stepfather, John Gould Veitch, who married Dallas’ mother, Dorothy, when Dallas was six years old. It was natural that Dallas would attend Westminster School as his maternal uncle and stepfather were both Old Westminsters. He joined the school on 22nd September 1910 as a member of Grant’s House, the same house his stepfather had attended in the 1880s.
He also followed in his stepfather’s footsteps onto the football pitch. Veitch senior was a football Blue and played for England against Wales in 1894, scoring three goals in the match. Veitch junior was a Cricket and Football pink, captaining the Cricket 1st XI in his final year at school, 1914.
1914 was a difficult year for the family. In October, Veitch senior died, aged only 45, after problems with his health, particularly his lungs. Dallas left school in December and entered a firm of chartered accountants, perhaps wanting to help support his mother and sister. However by April 1915 he was gazetted to the Royal Sussex Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. In June 1916 he was attached to the 7th Battalion and went out to the western front.
He was killed in the early morning of 4th August whilst gallantly attacking a German bombing post as part of an attempt to take the town of Pozieres. He was barely nineteen years of age.
The 7th Sussex Regiment war diary entry for that day reads:
“At 3am received orders to send one company over to RATION TRENCH to get in touch with 8th Royal Fusiliers and work up to the right, also one platoon to attack Strong Point on the right, after this had been captured they were to work down RATION and get in touch with ‘A’ Coy. ‘A’ Coy went too much to the left but reached RATION TRENCH finding the Buffs already there, Col Cope, (O.C. Buffs) ordered ‘A’ Coy to push forward and take the ridge which they reached without any difficulty but were heavily counter attacked and obliged to fall back to RATION TRANCH. The platoon on the right came under heavy Machine Gun fire and were not able to capture the Strong Point. Later in the day orders were received for two Companies to attack the right of RATION TRENCH in conjunction with attack of 9th Royal Fusiliers. Two platoons were again to attack Strong Point on right from POZIERES TRENCH ‘B & ‘D’ Coy’s attacked across the open but lost direction, some however reached their objective and got in touch with 9th Royal Fusiliers. The two platoons of ‘C’ Coy were unable to capture Strong Point owing to heavy Machine Gun fire. The result of this operation was that practically the whole of RATION TRENCH was captured and consolidated. Casualties during this two days, 2nd Lts WOOD & LE DOUX VEITCH killed, 2nd Lt’s COOKE, FITZSIMONS & ROLFE missing, Captain TROWER wounded. Other Ranks 18 killed, 25 missing, 109 wounded.”
Noel Marshall Vernham was a member of Rigaud’s house from 1910 until he left to join the army after the outbreak of war in 1914. Whilst at the school he was an accomplished gymnast, helping Rigaud’s to secure second place in the Senior House competition and representing Westminster at Aldershot. He was also represented the House at fives and football.
Vernham’s athletic antics appear to have got him into some scrapes — in July 1913 he broke his nose, but made a speedy recovery and in November 1913 he injured an eye. He took part in the Officer Training Corps and advanced through the ranks whilst at school, helping to prepare himself for his military career. Initially he enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment, but was transferred to the East Surrey Regiment in March 1915. He first went out to the western front on 19th March 1916.
After his death his father received a letter from another member of his son’s regiment which was printed in The Elizabethan:
SIR,—With reference to the death of 2nd Lieut. Vernham, I wish to describe what I saw of it. At 4 a.m. on the morning of July 28 the regiment proceeded into action at Longueval. Mr. Vernham was then commanding No. 14 Platoon, No. 4 Company. This platoon was immediately in front of me in a communication trench, which was being very badly knocked about, owing to the very severe shelling which was prevailing at the time. Mr. Vernham, however, highly indifferent and utterly regardless of all danger, stood and walked about on top of the trench, organising and generally looking after his men. He stood on top that he might more easily do this, fully aware that every second his life was in danger, as there was no pause whatever between one shell and another. However, he was not the least disturbed, but added greatly to the safety of his platoon by moving them every moment to places of safety (such places as existed); of these, there were very, very few. About 5.30 a.m. to 6 o’clock he was killed by a very powerful shrapnel shell which burst above his head, a piece striking him on top of the head. Death was instantaneous. Owing to his bravery and zeal and continued thought of the welfare of his men, his platoon looked to him as their chief protector and thought the very world of him. It was chiefly owing to his zealousness and great care for his men that he met his death in this way. I can assure you, his loss was felt very acutely by his company, more especially by the platoon he commanded, and they offer their deepest sympathy to you in the loss of such a gallant son. His body was buried at Longueval.