Tag Archives: Inns of Court Officer Training Corps

John Ernest Vivian Rathbone

Rathbone was a well-liked pupil whilst at the school. He joined Ashburnham House in May 1911 and stayed at the school until the age of 17, leaving at Easter 1915. The Elizabethan records that ‘he showed great energy and in his regiment he was a very effective and particularly popular officer. At School he was a football Pink and Company Sergeant Major in the Corps.’ He was also active within his house, serving as a monitor in his final year. His Head of House recorded in the Ashburnham ledgers that it was ‘…clear that Rathbone was a really good chap and I liked him immensely. He was senior NCO in the corps his last term and he did a great deal for the House in this line. He was immensely keen on all games. He was rather wild in his nature… he was however, I believe a true sportsman out and out.’

On leaving school Rathbone joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion of the Dorset Regiment in June 1915. He was severely wounded at the Somme in July 1916 but quickly returned to the front. He was killed in action near Arras in 1918.

Rathbone was the younger brother of (Philip St John) Basil Rathbone, who survived the war and found fame as an actor, perhaps best known for playing Sherlock Holmes. When asked about his brother’s death in later life, Basil stated that he had instinctively felt his brother’s death at the moment that he was killed. He wrote the following passage in a letter to his family on 26th July 1918 following John’s death:

‘You ask how I have been since we heard, well, if I am honest with you, and I may as well be, I have been seething. I was so certain it would be me first of either of us. I’m even sure it was supposed to be me and he somehow contrived in his wretched Johnny-fashion to get in my way just as he always would when he was small. I want to tell him to mind his place. I think of his ridiculous belief that everything would always be well, his ever-hopeful smile, and I want to cuff him for a little fool. He had no business to let it happen and it maddens me that I shall never be able to tell him so, or change it or bring him back. I can’t think of him without being consumed with anger at him for being dead and beyond anything I can do to him.’

John Rathbone, centre, with elder siblings Basil and Beatrice.
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Harold Leofric Helsdon

Harold Leofric Helsdon was born on 18th November 1896. He was the eldest son of Horace John Helsdon, an architect, and Flora, the eldest daughter of W. Franklin Dickson. He was admitted to Ashburnham House as an exhibitioner in September 1910 and made a monitor in Lent Term 1914.

Harold was made Head of Ashburnham in Play 1914, and although he was not an entirely successful Head of House, he seems to have been reasonably well-liked. His successor wrote the following, rather equivocal, account of Harold’s year as Head of House in the Ashburnham Ledger:

“Helsdon had a great many natural advantages, but he made very little use of them during his last year. He was clever to a very high degree and probably his last year’s behaviour here will cause him much regret and sorrow. Helsdon was extremely good-natured and pleasant to get on with in House matters. In the matter of punishments etc. I consider him to have been scrupulously fair and justÔǪ Helsdon was not much use at games, but he was decidedly keen on them and set the House a good example which I believe has been well followed. Financially Helsdon left the House slightly in debt which should not have been the case ÔǪ Finally I trust and hope that Helsdon will have greater success in his future. He is at present in the Inns of Court OTC and expects a commission shortly.”

(J.L. Strain, Lent 1915)

After leaving the school at Easter 1915, Harold entered the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He became a 2nd Lieutenant for the 3rd Battalion (Reserve) Dorsetshire Regiment on the 28th July of that year. He was attached to 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and went out to the western front in June 1916, where he acted first as bombing officer, and afterwards as intelligence officer.

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment resting during Battle of the Somme 1916
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment resting during Battle of the Somme 1916

Just a week after his 20th birthday, on the night of the 25th and 26th November 1916, Harold was killed in night patrol work near Butte de Warlencourt.

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Leon de Barr Kelsey

Leon de Barr Kelsey was the only son of Richard and Annie Kelsey, of South Kensington. He attended Homeboarders’ House from April 1898 until July 1901.

Leon was knocked out in the first round of the 300 yards race at the Athletic Sports Competition in 1900. However, he did make it into the Cricket 3rd XI, scoring 49 runs in one match.

After leaving the school Leon embarked on a career as an architect, studying for six more years before entering his father’s business as a bootmaker. Leon’s father died in 1911, aged only 54, and it must have been Leon’s responsibility to support his widowed mother and younger sister.

In April 1915 Leon entered the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He took a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd Battalion of the London Regiment. He went out to the western front on 24th September 1915.

He left all his money and belongings to his younger sister Lilian, who was not yet 30. Unusually, his body was brought back to England and he is buried in Highgate Cemetery, directly behind Karl Marx.

Troops from the London Regiment at the Somme, 6th September 1916
Troops from the London Regiment at the Somme, 6th September 1916
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