Tag Archives: Homeboarders

Stephen Arthur Herbert Codd

19160909_Codd,SAHStephen Codd was the only son of Arthur and Florence Codd of West Hampstead. He was born on the 24th October 1891, and was admitted to Homeboarders House as a non-resident King’s Scholar in 1905.

He was a keen public speaker, regularly participating in the Debating Society. On 17 February 1910, Stephen argued in favour of Vivisection: he “fluently demonstrated what benefits had been conferred upon mankind by vivisection, and indulged in some rather gruesome detail.”

In his final year at school, he won first place in the Orations — a public speaking competition — and was commended for his “sweeter voice” and was “word perfect” in the final performance of a passage from Isaiah predicting the fall of Babylon.

Stephen left the school in July 1910, and entered the office of the High Commissioner for South Africa, Herbert, 1st Viscount Gladstone. However, after three years, Stephen decided to take holy orders, and went to King’s College London, where he gained the Wordsworth Latin Prize in the Intermediate B.D. Exam, in 1914.

In September 1914, he enlisted in the Universities and Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, and was made 2nd Lieutenant, 11th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regt in the December of that year. He was attached to the 7th Battalion and went out to Gallipoli on 24th September 1915. That November, Gallipoli was hit by a great blizzard; Stephen suffered from frostbite and was invalided home.

After his convalescence, he went out to the western front on 24th August 1916, where he took part in the attack at High Wood. The plan was to use tanks later on in the month, and Stephen’s regiment was preparing the way by attempting to penetrate into the German trenches. Stephen was the only officer of his battalion to succeed in doing so, but he was never seen again.

In June 1917, the King’s College Review quoted a letter that Stephen’s Colonel wrote: “The regiment attacked on the 9th and your son gallantly led his men into the enemy’s lines but were driven out by superior numbers. Your son was last seen at the head of his men… he was a brave splendid officer and at once made himself popular with his brother officers and men.”

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Laurence Grant Robertson

Laurence Grant Robertson was born in London on 5th May 1877 to William and Mary Robertson. He had two elder brothers — William Alexander and Norman Cairns — who both attended Westminster school before him.

When Laurence arrived at the school in May 1891 he, like his brothers, was assigned to Homeboarders, the house for non-boarding pupils.

After leaving the school in April 1895, Laurence trained as a chartered accountant and worked for the Local Government Board as a member of the District Audit Staff.

In February 1915, he obtained a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Ordinance Department, which had responsibility for equipment, ammunition and clothing. However, the Elizabethan notes that “he did not consider that he was doing sufficiently active work” and so requested to be transferred to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in July 1915. He landed with them at Boulogne-sur-Mer in July 1915 and fought at the Battle of Loos the following September.

He was killed in action at Delville Wood in the Battle of the Somme, France, on 30th July 1916 at the age of 36.

This chalk drawing by William Roberts shows British infantry men armed with rifles attacking the remains of Delville Wood. It was commissioned in 1918 by the Ministry of Information.

┬® IWM (Art.IWM ART 1887)
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William Vernon Rayner

William Vernon Rayner was in Homeboarders house from 1894 until 1898. Rayner played cricket for the school, although it is difficult to see why he was included on the team as he was not a good fielder and the most runs he is recorded as scoring is 4! He played for the school against Charterhouse and Eton, as well as in a special match against a team made up of members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In football, he played as a forward for Homeboarders. He scored their only goal in a 4-1 loss against Rigaud’s in the house football final in 1897. He performed even better in goal and in a match against the Old Carthusians in 1898 played ‘splendidly, saving shot after shot in fine style’ ensuring his team won 6-0.

After leaving school he became a solicitor and practiced in Smith Square. In the 1911 census he is noted as boarding at No. 10 Vincent Square. He then moved to Buenos Aires where he worked for the British Consulate. On the declaration of war, he returned to England and enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers. He served as a Lance-Corporal in France but was sent home wounded in March 1916. He returned to the front in late June 1916, and reported ‘missing’ three weeks later, when the advance was made near Bethune; presumed killed in action July 23, 1916.


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Roland Gerard Garvin

The only child of James Louis Garvin, editor of The Observer, Garvin attended Homeboarder’s House from 1908-1914. At school he was a talented fencer, winning the Public Schools Foils Championship at Aldershot in 1913. He was an active member of the debating society, speaking for the motion ‘this House deplores the modern tendency to vegetarianism’ and against a motion welcoming ‘the building of a Channel Tunnel’ according to The Elizabethan ‘pacing to and fro in oratorical frenzy, [Garvin] spoke grimly of financial loss, and said the expense would be unjustifiable’. He took part in play readings, although it was noted that when he recited an extract of Henry VIII he was ‘too low in pitch and too melancholy’.

He was going up to Christ Church with a History Scholarship when the War broke out, and he joined the South Lancashire Regiment. The Elizabethan records that

‘He was killed in the Battle of the Somme on the night of July 22 during an intense bombardment, in which he gave a noble example of courage, resourcefulness, and coolness, and even after he was hit his one message was ‘ to carry on with the Company.’ Although somewhat reserved, his personality made an unusual impression on those with whom he came in contact. By his death a life of literary promise is cut short.’

The British Library holds a diary which Garvin kept whilst at the front. As a Captain, Garving was in charge of D Company of the 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment. On 20 July he recorded the company as having a fighting strength of three officers, six sergeants and 109 men in other ranks. The company was stationed near Bazentin-le-Petit in preparation for the attack on High Woods, which formed part of the Somme Offensive.

The British Library note that:

‘The diary extract shows the monotonous nature of life in the trenches. Captain Garvin records the detail for Friday 21 July starting at 4am with stand to and the cleaning and inspection of rifles. The soldiers spent the rest of the morning cleaning and improving their trenches with a break at 8am for breakfast and lunch at 12.30pm. In the afternoons they were allowed to rest. On the following day Captain Garvin noted down the formation and objectives of the company’s assault against the enemies’ forces. This was his last diary entry as Captain Garvin was killed by machine gun fire during the attack at 11.30pm that night.’

┬® From the Garvin archive, British Library, Add MS 88882/9/58
┬® From the Garvin archive, British Library, Add MS 88882/9/58
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Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox

19151108_Wilcox,KTDKenneth Wilcox was the only son of Rev. G.A. Wilcox, who was the vicar of St George’s Battersea Park and who had previously been temporary chaplain to the forces. Kenneth was admitted into Homeboarders’ in May 1905 for a year.

He sat the Challenge over the 23rd, 24th and 25th June 1909 and was elected a resident King’s Scholar. He was a strong member of the Junior College Football team in 1911. The house notes recall that “KTD Wilcox led our Juniors to victory over Rigaud’s, and at present looks like repeating the performance at the expense of Homeboarders”.

In July 1913, he was elected to an exhibition at Christ Church, Oxford, and matriculated the following Michaelmas term. He did not finish his degree, however, because in less than a year he had enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. The Public Schools Battalions were set up for former public schoolboys who wanted to fight as soldiers beside their friends, rather than serving as officers. In October 1914, he became 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th (Service) Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and went out to the western front on the 8th of October 1915.

Exactly a month later, Kenneth Wilcox was fighting just south of Ypres at Lankhof Farm — sometimes also known as Lankhof Battery —a cluster of bunkers, which can still be seen today. He was killed there at the age of 20 and is commemorated at Chocques Military Cemetery. His obituary in the Elizabethan tells us that he “died of wounds on the Western front, and was laid to rest by his father”.

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Charles Thomas Bruce

Charles Thomas Bruce was the eldest son of the late Hon. Thomas Charles Bruce, M.P. attended the School as a member of Homeboarders House from June 1876 to March 1880. He was a nephew of Lady Augusta Stanley, and lived at the Deanery. He was attached to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff’s mission to Constantinople and Egypt, 1885-6. On his return he married Edith Mary Parker in 1897 and they had a child together around 10 months after their wedding. Sadly Edith died in 1912 and Bruce married for a second time in 1914 to Gwendolen Mary Speir. In the war he commanded a field hospital in Flanders, where he contracted the enteric fever which killed him.

Enteric fever is now more commonly known as typhoid and still kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide each year. Work began to develop a vaccine against the disease in the 19th Century. A British bacteriologist Almroth Edward Wright created an effective vaccine which was first used successfully in the Boer War in the 1890s. On the outbreak of the First World War, Wright convinced the army to produce 10 million vaccines for troops sent to the Western Front, undoubtedly saving hundreds of thousands of lives. The British Army was the only combatant at the outbreak of the war to have its troops fully immunized against the bacterium. For the first time, their casualties due to combat exceeded those from disease. Unfortunately Bruce, as the commander of field hospital rather than a soldier, must have not received the vaccine.

A Doctor operates in a Field Hospital in the First World War
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Laurence Anderson

Laurence Anderson was born in Tokyo in 1874. His father, William, was working there as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the Imperial Naval Medical College, and was becoming known as a collector of Japanese art. Laurence was six when the family relocated to London, where his father returned to work at St Thomas’s Hospital.

In January 1888, Laurence was admitted to the School as a Homeboarder, and then went on to Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1895. He went into business in Siam for several years before moving to Malacca, Malaysia in January 1911 to take up a position as manager of Devon Estates, which was in the process of acquiring a large piece of land in the Merlimau District.

On the outbreak of war, Laurence returned to Britain to enlist as 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on the 19th September 1914. He was attached to the 1st battalion, and sent to the western front.

Killed in action on 11th October 1915, leaving his wife Eleanor behind. He is buried at Loos-en-Gohelle and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

The Loos memorial and the Dud Corner Cemetery (taken between the wars)
The Loos memorial and the Dud Corner Cemetery (taken between the wars)
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Geoffrey Wilkins

Geoffrey Wilkins was in Homeboarders House between 1898 and 1900. All we know about his time at school is that he played football for his house on two occasions against Grant’s. Homeboarders were beaten on both occasions — the score for one of the matched was 7-0!

We do not know what he did after leaving school but he joined the army on the outbreak of war, enlisting in the Artists’ Rifles on 2nd September 1914. He married Letitia Gertrude Hill on 10th October before going to the front. By May 1915 he was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers.


He died of wounds received in action on 3rd October 1915 at the Battle of Loos. As with many soldiers he was given a temporary grave until he could be properly buried in Chocques Military Cemetery. The plain wooden cross used to mark this makeshift burial was sent to the church where Wilkins had worshiped — All Souls in St Margarets, Middlesex. Together with the cross from the grave of Corporal Lawrence Richards, another local man it flanks the church’s hand lettered Roll of Honour listing all the men from the parish who were killed in the war. Underneath the names the following caption is carved:

“In the year 1914 England waged war against Germany that faith should be kept between nations and life might be ordered by right and not by violence. For this end Englishmen left their homes and fought and suffered for 4 years. Amongst them men of this parish of whom 86 lost their lives in helping to gain the victory. Wherefore their names are enshrined above in grateful and loving memory and in hope that their deeds and sacrifice may inspire Englishmen for all time.”

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George Thomas Acton Drought

George Drought was at the School for only a year before he migrated to Dulwich College, which was near his home. He was in Homeboarders house whilst at the school so the daily commute must have proved taxing. He joined the army after leaving school, obtaining his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in November 1899. He served in the South African (Boer) War from 1900-1902 and went to the front line again when the First World War broke out.

He died on 14th June from wounds received almost a month earlier in action at Festubert, France on 17th May 1915. He had married a woman named Louise Lockhart and had a son with her, George Richard Smerger Drought. He was not yet 5 years old when his father died. Louise married again in 1917.

Battle of Festubert. Gunners of the 25th Battery, Royal Field Artillery manning their gun at Festubert, May 1915 (IWM)

His headstone is inscribed:

‘Greater love hath no manthan this
that a man lay down his life for his friends’

at the Glenealy Parish Church, County Wicklow

His son died fighting the in the Second World War by amachine-gunner trying to capture Floridia, Sicily in 1943. He in turn left behind two sons and a daughter all just a few years old.

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The Officer Training Corps

In 1914 Westminster School had what was known as an Officer Training Corps (‘Corps’ is pronounced ‘core’ as it originates from the French meaning body).

The Cadet Corps, as it was originally known, had begun in 1902, in the wake of the Second Boer War. Uniforms were acquired shortly afterwards and around 100 boys took part in regular drills. By April 1903 a company of pupils attended a camp in Amesbury, where they were shocked by the ‘very hard mattresses’ and blankets ‘not of the finest texture’. Manoeuvres later in the week were ‘enlivened by a snowstorm’ but on the whole the pupils enjoyed themselves. Over the following years the Corps became established as a routine part of school life. A similar process occurred in many other Public Schools at this time.

Parade in Vincent Square, 1913
Parade in Vincent Square, 1913
Two of the drums being used by the marching band remain in the school archive.

Lord Haldane, whilst Secretary of State for War, formalised these various Corps into Officers’ Training Corps (OTC). Haldane was particularly concerned with the performance of the British Armed Forces during the Boer Wars. By providing this early military training he hoped to increase the number and quality of young men joining the army as officers. The Corps had two divisions, a junior division for Public Schools such as Westminster and a senior division for Universities.

In the Summer of 1914 more Westminster pupils than ever attended the OTC camp at Mytchett, but it was cut short as the Army Cooks assigned were recalled. A pupil’s account in The Elizabethan remarked that ‘Camp is apt to be more pleasant when gloomy rumours, such a prevailed in Mytchett, are not rife’

When pupils returned to Westminster after the summer holiday, those not already in the OTC rushed to join. There were 109 new recruits at the beginning of the Play Term leaving fewer than 60 boys in the school who were not members of the corps.

In 1913 Homeboarder’s House won the inter-house drilling competition.
Back Row: Robertson, Gonne, Canning, Howe, Garvin, Fisher, Campion, Chidson
Middle Row: Aisnworth-Davis, Forbes, Aitken
Front Row: Brookman, Kitchen, Aitken
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