Tag Archives: Gymnastics

George Claude Rivers

George Rivers, often known to his friends as Charlie, joined Rigaud’s house as a day pupil in 1899, becoming a boarder in the spring, 1902. He played Cricket for his house and for a Town Boy team but with limited success as a batsman, scoring few runs and often being bowled out quickly. He also enjoyed gymnastics, but is described in The Elizabethan as ‘careful but lacks strength’. Nevertheless, he earned half pinks during his final year at the school.

After leaving the school he went to work in Burma. He must have returned to London by 1913 as he married Miss Elsie Margaret Pickthall on 1st November and soon after the couple had a daughter. Once war was declared as he joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. and then took a commission as 2nd Lieut, 9th (Service) Batt. the East Surrey Regiment just before Christmas 1914. He was a ‘Grenade Officer’ — in charge of the bomb throwers within his battalion.

Rivers went out to the western front on 30th August 1915. Just under a year later his regimental history tells us his battalion was:

‘ordered up to the Briqueterie, near Montauban, in support of the 73rd Infantry Brigade, who, together with the 17th Brigade, attacked and captured the western outskirts of Guillemont. On the 21st the Battalion, together with the 8th Battn. the “Queen’s”, moved up in the new front line, the “Queen’s” occupying the trench just west of the quarry in Guillemont, whilst the Battalion held the trenches in the rear of the “Queen’s”.’

Rivers was killed in heavy shelling on the part of the enemy near Trones Wood during 21st August 1916, along with three other men from the regiment.

19160821_RiversGC
Unloading ammunition at battery position behind Arrow Head Copse, near Guillemont; August 1916 (IWM)
Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Noel Marshall Vernham

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.

Yours obediently,

E. HAYES, C.S.M.

Q 4010
Black Watch back at rest after delivering a counter-attack at Longueval on the morning of 19th July 1916.
Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frank Besson

Frank Besson attended Westminster Schoolfrom May 1910 to Christmas 1914 in Rigaud’s House. He was successful at school, taking part in cricket, football, gymnastics – where he made up ‘in strength and energy for what he lacks in style’,and athletics, excelling particularly in the latter. His performances, particularly as a short-distance runner, helped Rigaud’s to win Athletic Sports two years running.

His obituary in The Elizabethan noted that ‘he possessed boundless energy and the divine gift of enthusiasm. His tastes were all for mechanical science and adventure, and before the war he had already designed to join the Air Service.’

Indeed just before leaving the school, on 12th December 1914, Frank addressed the school’s Scientific Society on ‘Theories of Aviation’. A review of his talk noted that ‘he explained the various laws which govern the science of Flight, illustrating his points with experiments on the bench. He thus demonstrated very clearly a thing which many of his hearers perhaps did not know before, namely, why and how a heavier than-air body like an aeroplane will support itself in a less dense medium.’

After training as a pilot Frank served at Dunkirk in August 1915 before going out to the Dardanelles. Hedrowned off the Gallipoli Peninsula whilst on reconnaissancepatrol when his aircraft was brought down into the sea by the enemy. His death was not confirmed until April, when his observer, who had been captured by the enemy forces, was able to get word back to his family.

19151220_Besson,Frank
A Wight seaplane used in the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915
Posted in The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Debating Society, The Fallen | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment