Tag Archives: Grant’s

Douglas Charles Hamilton-Johnston

Badge of the Black Watch

Douglas was the eldest son of Augustus and Bessie Hamilton-Johnston, who lived in Chelsea. He was born on 20th May 1889 and attended Charterhouse before arriving up Grant’s in 1904. After he left the school in 1906, Douglas matriculated at London University, and later spent some time in Frankfurt.

On his return to Britain, Douglas enrolled at RMC Sandhurst, perhaps inspired by his mother’s father who was a Major-General. After completing his training in February 1909, he joined The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion and became Lieutenant three years later. The Bareilly Brigade was formed in 1914 as part of the Meerut division of the British Indian Army, and Douglas’s battalion became part of this new brigade.

In October 1914, Douglas arrived at the western front with his battalion and served as Transport Officer of No. 1 Company. He was wounded slightly in December by a shell at Centre Section, Festubert, but recovered and was promoted to Captain in February 1915. He was wounded a second time on the 3rd March while preparing for the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, and this time was invalided home.

Whilst back in Britain, Douglas helped to train volunteers at the training camp at Bordon, Hampshire. One of the volunteers, David Elder Robertson, wrote to his parents on 26th September 1915, following a three-week brigade exercise: “ÔǪ Well I was glad when it was over for I was a tired one without sleep. If I had not had a stripe I would have got a sleep all right but I had to look after a section. Well I told them I was handing in my stripe and I was paraded in front of the Captain [D.C. Hamilton-Johnston], and I was fairly put through the mill and asked my reason for it I made the excuse I had no notion of it and he told me I was foolish. He said I was picked out as qualified for the job and that if I changed my mind I would not be long in getting another but I stuck to my decision so he said he would see about it. I am still wearing the stripe till I am told to hand it in but I have heard no more about itÔǪ”

Douglas returned to the western front in November 1915, and went with his battalion to Mesopotamia, where he was mentioned in despatches. In January 1916, he became a temporary Major, taking over from Colonel Wauchope, who had been severely wounded at the Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad. On the 21st January 1916, Douglas lead the 2nd Black Watch in an attack on Hanna, but by the end of the day he was reported as “wounded and missing (presumed killed)”. His former commanding officer, Wauchope, wrote:

“And right well did he respond to the call of duty. Both as Adjutant, under Colonel Wauchope, and as Commanding Officer, he had complete faith in the Battalion as had the Battalion in him. He was first wounded and then killed in this assault, but he died with the knowledge that he had kept its fighting spirit unbroken to the end.”

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Wyndham John Coventry


Wyndham was at the school for barely two years, joining Ashburnham House in April 1902 and leaving in July 1904 at the age of 17.

He represented Ashburnham in the Senior House Match against Grant’s in 1904. The match was not going well for Ashburnham, when: ‘About this time Aglionby unfortunately put his finger out and was compelled to leave the field. Coventry took his place behind the wickets, and the change was not forhe better.’ But he had more success when the game resumed on Friday: ‘Coventry, the only batsman to offer any resistance, was last out for a plucky 23, after batting nearly an hour and a half.’ Wyndham was rewarded with House Colours at the end of the Season.

He came from a military family. His maternal grandfather, John Joseph Grinlinton had served in the Crimean campaign and was knighted in 1894. Therefore it is not surprising that Wyndham joined the army after leaving school. After passing out from Sandhurst in 1907 he joined the Indian Army. Here he excelled in horse riding and held the unique distinction of having won both Indian Cavalry Steeplechases (for horses and ponies) on the same day in 1914.

On the outbreak of war he left India with drafts for the Western front and worked as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps until June 1915. He was then recalled to his regiment in India and joined the expeditionary force to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in July 1915. He took part in the battles of Kut and Ctesiphon and was mentioned in despatches by General Townshend for gallant and distinguished service in the field. He died on 1st January 1916 from wounds received in action at Ali Gharbi the previous day. His colonel wrote: ‘He is indeed a great loss to the regiment, and the Indian officers and men feel it as much as we do; we shall miss him very much’.

A memorial to Wyndham in Hampshire
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Hugh Barby Crowe

19151028_Crowe,HBHugh Barby Crowe was born in 1894 to Percy and Annie Crowe and was sent to Westminster in 1907. Unlike his Rigaudite uncles George and Harold Allen, who were at the school before him, Hugh was up Grant’s.

He quickly established himself a reputation as a talented singer and gave a solo performance of Stevens’s setting of ‘Sigh no more, Ladies’ at the Election Term Concert up School in May 1908, which “showed the audience what a great variety of beautiful boys’ voices there is at Westminster”.

When he left school to go to Cambridge, he joined a thriving and close-knit community of Old Westminsters at Trinity College. They would contribute a termly letter for the House magazine the Grantite Review, and in Play 1912 the author wrote that “Mr H. B. Crowe has already shed glory upon the revival of “Water” at Westminster by having been tried for the Trial VIII’s; he is about to wrestle with his “Little-Go” [The Little-Go was a nickname for the exams that new students would sit shortly after matriculating].

In Election 1914, the editor of the Grantite Review noted that “owing to the absence of our Oxford and Cambridge Grantite correspondents on military duties, it has been impossible to receive any correspondence from them whatsoever”. Crowe had left university in May 1912 to join the 1st Battalion City of London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) as 2nd Lieutenant.

He rose to Lieutenant on 1st January 1914, and later became A.D.C. to Lord Lucan commanding the 1st London Infantry Brigade. On the 16th of September, Hugh became 2nd Lieutenant 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, but was attached to the 5th Battalion at Dover until he joined his own Battalion on the Western Front in November 1914. He was promoted to Lieutenant the following February.

It was only two months before he was invalided home from Ypres with concussion, and the Grantite Review recalls that he “came to see us when he was convalescent, like the good Grantite he was”. On his recovery, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion and went out to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on August 14th 1915.

Hugh was acting as Military Conducting Officer on HMS Hythe, when she was involved in a collision with HMS Sarnia. They had been sailing off the coast of Gallipoli without lights to avoid attracting attention. The ship sank in ten minutes and 154 men — including Hugh Barby Crowe — were drowned.

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Cyril Vernor Miles

LT_CVMilesJust over a month after his younger brother Alfred was killed in action, Cyril Miles was sent to fight in the Battle of Loos.

At school, Cyril was a keen sportsman, participating particularly in Cricket and Football — receiving a Pink in footer in Lent 1911. But he also earned himself a reputation for playing pranks.

In his third winter at the school, Miles and a group of friends were discovered “very busy emptying pails of water in yard to make a slide for tomorrow if it freezes”, and got into trouble for being on the roof “and snowballing people in College Street, to their amusement and their victims’ disgust as theyÔǪ were quite invisible so they say”. One evening in January 1909, Miles produced a dead mouse that had just been caught in Hall, which his friend Hobson — an aspiring doctor — skinned.

When he left the school in 1911, he went on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he continued to be a core member of the sporting scene. In Feburary 1914, he was mentioned in The Elizabethan:

Mr. C.V. Miles is a tower of strength to the all-victorious Pembroke Soccer team, which we believe to be so far unbeaten. He owns a small motor of a somewhat obstreperous disposition, which has on at least one occasion dragged him into the jaws of that legal code which he is said to be studying.

In August 1914, Cyril joined the South Wales Borderers as 2nd Lieutenant, and was attached to the Welsh Regiment in February 1915. He was sent out to the western front, where he was promoted to Captain on 29th July 1915. His little brother Alfred, who had been there since the previous October, was killed in Vermelles in August 1915.

Only a month later, on 26th September, Cyril was killed in action at Hulloch near Loos.

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Alfred Crosfield Vernor Miles

19150824_Miles,ACVAlfred Miles joined his elder brother Cyril up Grant’s in September 1908. He seemed set to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a gifted sportsman, winning the Junior Gymnastic Competition in his second term at the school, and reaching the semi-finals for the under-16 100 yards later in the year. He sat the Challenge in June, and was elected to a non-resident King’s Scholarship.

In March 1909, there was an outbreak of measles at the school, and Alfred was one of those who succumbed to the illness. In the boredom of convalescence, he turned to causing mischief. His head of house, Lawrence Tanner, wrote in his diary on Monday April 5th 1909: “ÔǪsome Grantites had been throwing water on to Rigaudites playing in a yard tie, from one of the upper windows. It turned out to be the ‘measlers’ Radford and Miles.”

Throughout his time at the school, Alfred was an active member of the Debating Society and prone to “rhetorical outbursts”. The society’s debate on Civilisation on 8th of February 1912 was reported in The Elizabethan:

Mr. A.C.V. Miles, in the course of some Hobsonian and irrelevantremarks, informed the Societythat the had picked up Civilisation in the streets (according to our reporter), and that he had also found itgrowingon walls, rotten trees, dry sponges, and precipitous abysses.

Alfred took part in the OTC, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in his final year of school. After year of being articled to his father, a solicitor of Hampstead, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion Artists’ Rifles in August 1914. By April 1915, Alfred was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment. He was sent out to the Western front in October 1914, where his brother Cyril joined him the following March.

It was near Vermelles, France, and while he was acting as a Brigade Wiring Officer, that Alfred was killed on 24th August 1915.

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Edward John Longton


Edward Longton began atWestminster in Grant’sHouse on 29th April 1909 and left in July 1914. He played for the School’s Cricket XI in his final year at school and features heavily in cricket match reports in The Elizabethan. It was noted that ‘Longton was not given sufficient opportunities of showing his ability as a bowler, but he proved a useful bat.’ He was a schoolboy member of Surrey County Cricket Club between 1911-14.

By December of 1914 he had joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Essex Regiment and was swiftly transferred to the 1st Battalion who sailed from Avonmouth for Gallipoli on 21st March. They landed on Cape Helles on 25th April 1915. He took part in his Regiment’s action at the Third Battle of Krithia. He was initially declared as missing, but confirmed as killed in action on 6th June 1915.

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Cecil Henry Viney

Cecil Henry Viney was in Grant’s House 1905-1907 and left school to pursue a career as a painter. He was a student at the Royal Academy Painting Schools up until the war, but sadly none of his work survives. On the outbreak of war he obtained a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion of the Northants Regiment. He went out to the Western front in March 1915 and was killed in action at Fromelles, France on 9th May, 1915. He was one of three Old Westminsters to die that day in the Battle of Aubers Ridge, part of a series of conflicts that took place that spring over the strategic town of Ypres.

This battle was an unmitigated disaster for the British army. No ground was won and no tactical advantage gained.

View of the Battle of Aubers Ridge, attack on Fromelles. During the bombardment at 5:20am, 9th May 1915. Smoke is rising from the German lines.
View of the Battle of Aubers Ridge, attack on Fromelles. During the bombardment at 5:20am, 9th May 1915. Smoke is rising from the German lines. (┬® IWM (Q 51624)
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Albert Ernest Morgan

19150310_Morgan,AlbertErnestAt the beginning of the First World War, the Royal Flying Corps, in which Albert Ernest Morgan was a pilot, were used entirely to support ground troops through photo-reconnaissance and artillery observation. Although technology advanced very quickly throughout the war, to start with it was rudimentary at best. Heavy equipment weighed planes down, a lack of usable communications made any work more difficult, and no parachutes made it even more dangerous for the men flying the planes.

After spending less than 3 months on the Western Front, Morgan was involved in directing artillery fire in the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle on the 10th of March, 1915. The plane was hit by shellfire, killing both him and his observer, Aubrey Gordon Irving. They were buried next to each other, their graves now in the Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard, in France. On Morgan’s, rather poignantly, his mother had engraved ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori’.

Morgan started at Westminster in September 1902, aged 13. He was a half boarder (he lived in Bayswater) in Grant’s for the next 3 years, but other than this we know nothing about his time at the school. He seems to have not been involved in any sport or activities while here, and we don’t even know where he went after he left in 1905. We do know that he received his commission in the Royal Fusiliers in 1911, and was in the Royal Flying Corps from 1914, where he was an assistant instructor.

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Richard de Rupe Roche

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.’

Temporary Grave Marker held at the IWM, London
Temporary Grave Marker held at the IWM, London

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.

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Denis Duncan Philby

Whilst at school Denis Duncan Philby lived in the shadow of his older brother Harry St. John Bridger Philby. Harry Philby was Captain of the School and elected to Trinity College Cambridge with the junior Samwaies scholarship. A talented cricketer, Harry went on to become a well-known Arabist and father to Kim Philby, the infamous 3rd man.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers at Aldershot in 1914
The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers at Aldershot in 1914

Comparatively we know little of Denis Duncan Philby’s short life. He joined Ashburnham House in 1903 but later moved to Grant’s, presumably so that he could board. He took part in a House debate stating vociferously that he disapproved of Oliver Cromwell’s policies, particularly those towards Ireland. The football report notes that he ‘was very good at pushing his way up the touchline and at times surprised us by scoring goals’.

He joined the army well before the outbreak of war, joining the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1910 (presumably there was some family connection with Ireland). He was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers on August 18th 1914 and went out to the Western Front a few days later.


On the 27th August the 2nd Battalion was chosen to form the rear-guard to cover the retreat of the 1st Division during the Battle of Mons. The 2nd Battalion suffered large casualties losing 9 officers and 87 other ranks whilst many more were taken prisoner. They stemmed the German forces who were five or six times their strength for over a day, allowing their division to escape. When the scattered battalion reassembled on 29 August it was down to a mere 5 officers and 196 others. New recruits were co-opted over the next two months to bring the battalion back up to size.

The next action took place at Klien Zillebeke, near Ypres on November 12th, defending against the last major German offensive in the First Battle of Ypres. It was here that Philby was killed in action. He is buried in the New Irish Farm Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

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