Leslie was the son of J.V.N. Plumptre and Mary Ling. He was adopted by Henry Heigham and adopted his surname in addition to that of his father. He joined the school aged just nine years old from Shrewsbury House Preparatory School. He started initially as a day boy in Ashburnham in 1907 and then became a boarder in Grant’s. Leslie left in Easter 1913, then aged fifteen, and joined HMS Worcester. The ship was the home of the Thames Nautical Training College and cadets received training with a view to becoming seamen in the navy.
Leslie’s career took him in a different direction and he joined the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1917 before taking a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment in September 1917. In December he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, and he went out to the Western Front in March 1918. Eleven days after arriving, he was wounded and invalided home, but he returned to the front on 19th May. Once again, less than a fortnight after arriving he was injured in a bombing raid. He died from his wounds on 4th June 1918.
Cecil Martin Sankey was the only son of Major William Sankey, of Ealing, and Alice Bertha, daughter of Albert Woecki, of Bayswater. He was born on the 27th September 1897, and was admitted into Grant’s in January 1911.
He was opted to study the ‘Modern’ subjects, and he threw himself into the sports scene at Westminster. He represented the school at both Cricket and Football
He left the school in July 1914, and enlisted in the 9th Battalion, London Regiment. He attended RMC Sandhurst from January 1916, and in August was joined the East Kent Regiment as 2nd Lieutenant. He went out with them to the western front in September 1916.
Cecil was awarded the Military Cross on 12th March 1917. In December of that year, he was attached to the RAF, and he rose to Lieutenant in February 1918.
On the 15th May 1918, he was accidentally killed while flying at Northolt, Middlesex. He is commemorated by a stained glass window in the Church of St Matthew, Ealing Common.
Norman Mortimer Joseph Kohnstam was the eldest of three brothers to attend Westminster. His parents were Rudolph Kohnstam, of Hampstead, and Emily, daughter of Jacob Piza, of Maida Hill.
He was born on the 26th February 1897, and was admitted to Grant’s in 1910. He became a non-resident King’s Scholar in 1911.
Norman was made Head of Grant’s in 1914. The following incident – in his own words – is recorded in his house ledger on 29th March 1915:
It is the last evening of Lent Term 1915 and the event that I am to describe took place on the last evening of Lent Term 1914; on the evening in question we had our annual fire-escape practice, the canvas shute had been thrown out of window and according to custom I was the first to descend; I managed to get half way down without any misadventure, but no further, there I remained, the lower end of the shute had unfortunately either been retained at the big dorm window or had stuck in a window on the way down, anyhow after a considerable amount of rather unnecessary excitement on the part of everyone but myself I was at length hauled into safety hanging onto the rope that constituted part of the fire escape, the rope I might say is in a distinctly work out and rather precarious condition and I advise no-one to repeat my adventure unless absolutely necessary.
Only a short time into his tenure as Head of House, Norman fell ill with scarlet fever:
…from which I did not rise for 10 weeks, for the next 6 months I was kept in exile and did not return to Westminster until Lent Term 1915. I left at the end of that term somewhat abruptly as I was at last enabled to take a commission, which I am still waiting for as I write.
After leaving the school at Easter 1915, Norman enlisted as 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion, the Manchester Regiment in May. He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 1st of February 1916, and later became a Captain. He joined the Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli in October 1915 and remained at Suvla Bay until the evacuation in December. He served in the Sinai Peninsula between January and June 1916.
His younger brother Oscar Jacob Charles Kohnstam was killed in the trenches on the Somme on the 29th June. And Norman himself was sent out to the western front less than a month later. He was killed in action on the 22nd of March 1918.
Charles was the only son of Charles Collins, of Pimlico, and Annie Letitia, daughter of George Turner, of London. He was born on 5th May 1888, and had one sister, Nora. Charles and Nora’s father died when they were young.
Annie re-married in 1895 when Charles was 7 years old. Henry Watts Cracknell was the son of a pharmacist, and worked as an accountant for Edward Penton and Sons Ltd, a large shoe- and boot-making firm owned by his brother-in-law. Henry Cracknell adopted Charles and Nora, and he and Annie went on to have another daughter, Ursula.
He arrived at the school in September 1902, and became part of Grant’s House. After leaving school in 1906, he followed in his stepfather’s footsteps and trained as an accountant. He was articled to a London firm of accountants.
Charles had been known by his stepfather’s surname while he was at school, but he officially changed his name to Cracknell by deed poll on 21st June 1915.
On the outbreak of war, he joined the Honourable Artillery Company on the 4th August 1914. He went out to the western front with the 1st Battalion on the 17th September 1914. He became 2nd Lieutenant with the 24th (Co. of London) Battalion, the London Regiment on 3rd July 1915, and was promoted to Lieutenant in the November of that year. He served in France between 1914 and 1917, and then joined the British Expeditionary Force to Palestine in October 1917.
He died at Tel-el-Brit on the 27th of December 1917, of wounds received in the defence of Jerusalem.
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.
John Ince Liberty was born on 26th January 1888. His parents were John Barnes Liberty, an Old Westminster and wine merchant, and Elizabeth Ann (née Ince). He was the only son, but he had two sisters, Gwendolen and Dorothy.
He arrived at the school in September 1901. He started out in Ashburnham, but moved to Grant’s House in 1903. He opted to study the “Moderns”, joined in with the Literary Society readings, and in 1904, was a finalist in the Football Yard Ties.
He left the school in July 1905 “to the sincere regret of all” and went to become a cattle farmer in Argentina.
While at home on holiday, he enlisted with the Honourable Artillery Company on the 8th of August 1914. He served in Egypt with B Battery, but was invalided home.
On the 22nd October 1915, John became 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery, and went out with them to the western front in April 1916. By July 1917, he had been promoted to Lieutenant.
He was killed in action near Ypres, Flanders, on the 28th November 1917.
John Herbert Williams was in his late 50s when the First World War broke out. He had a well-established career as a Barrister and Judge, he was appointed a reporter on the staff of the Law Reports in 1911, and was one of the editors of ‘Smith’s Leading Cases,’ brought out several editions of ‘Goodeve’s Personal Property’ and collaborated in a book on ‘The Law of Ejectment.’
Williams had been successful at school, joining Grant’s in 1869 and passing the Challenge in 1872. He remained a Queen’s Scholar at the school until 1876, when he was elected to Trinity College, Cambridge with the prestigious Triplett Scholarship. He was athletic at the school and rowed in the 1st VIII and played for the football 1st XI
Anxious to take a share in war service, he applied for and received a commission and went to France to take up the appointment. He was then 60 years of age. Soon after arriving in France he was taken ill and invalided home. He died in the war hospital at Reading.
Ralph Cecil Batley was born on the 2nd December 1862. He was the son of John Batley, of Somerset, and Louise Marie, daughter of James Bonsor, of Lille, France. Ralph was admitted to Grant’s in January 1872, following his brother John Armytage Batley.
While he was a pupil here, he played football. The Elizabethan records that he “did useful work” representing the school against Charterhouse. He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was admitted as a pensioner in October 1881.
He continued playing football whilst he was at university. A couple of years after leaving the school, in November 1883, he returned to Westminster, bringing a team of players to play football against the school team (which Ralph’s team won 2:1).
He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn on the 26th January 1882, and was admitted a solicitor in 1887.
Ralph went out to South Africa. He joined the Salisbury Horse volunteer force, and served with them in the First Matabele War in 1893. He also served with the Rhodesian Horse during the rising of 1895-7. He returned to England in 1897, where he joined the Dorset Yeomanry. During the South African War, he served with the Imperial Yeomanry, but was wounded at Diamond Hill 12 Jun 1900.
Following his injury, he was employed as Civil Commissioner for Pretoria and district. He was made Honorary Captain on 26th Jul 1901, and was mentioned in despatches L.G. 10 Sep 1901. By April 1902, Ralph was promoted to the rank of Major.
On the 14th June 1904, Ralph married Mabel Gwynnedd Terry-Lewis, an actress from a successful acting family. Mabel’s mother, Kate, had also been an actress and was the elder sister of Ellen Terry. Mable retired from her own successful stage career to begin their quiet married life together at Seaborough Court in Dorset. By 1911, the couple had moved to Benville Manor, Corscome, Dorchester.
When his regiment was ordered to Gallipoli, Ralph was declared medically unfit for foreign service. Instead he was given command of 3rd line Dorset Yeomanry battalion.
However, his ill-health meant that he had to retire in January 1917. He was awarded a TD for long service, and died at Silton Lodge in Wiltshire on 23rd October 1917.
After Ralph’s death, Mabel returned to the stage in 1920. She went on to resume her career on the stage and on film. Famously, she appeared as Lady Bracknell opposite her nephew John Gielgud in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1930.
Leonard Davies Looker was the only son of William Looker, of Westminster, and Katherine, daughter of John Price Davies, of Knighton. He was born on 16th September 1888 and was admitted up Grant’s in September 1900.
In 1902, Leonard came second in the U13 120 Yards Race, and gave a good performance at the high jump. He was tanned “for messing in dormitory, not owning up and lying” and “for sending John round to Master’s when he had been fagged to go himself.” He gave a strong performance against the much older W.T.S. Sonnenschein in a game of racquets: “Looker started with a long lead in spite of all his physical disadvantages, but Sonnenschein gradually wore him down.”
He left the school in December 1906 and became a member of Lloyd’s in 1911. On the 21st September 1916 Leonard married Molly, the elder daughter of Richard John Davies, of Poynder’s Road, Clapham Park. Soon afterwards, he joined the army.
He enrolled as 2nd Lieutenant, 5th Battalion, Royal West Surrey Regiment on 19th December 1916 and went out to the western front in January 1917. He was killed in action at Klein Zillebeke, near Ypres, on 1st August 1917.
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”.