Tag Archives: King’s Scholar

Thomas Reginald Dawson

Thomas Dawson was elected as a King’s Scholar at Westminster School in 1909. He was Secretary of the school’s Scientific Society and an active debater. In one debate he argued against compulsory military service stating that ‘Englishmen are becoming keener every year to volunteer, which makes compulsory service unnecessary.’

Dawson was true to his word and although he won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1914, he joined the army on the outbreak of the war. He took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 19th Battalion of the London Regiment but it was nearly a year before he was sent out to see active service on the Western Front.

Dawson was wounded at the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915. He was sent back to England to have his wounds treated and ended up in hospital in Vincent Square, not far from the school. He died there from his wounds on 4th February 1916 and a number of pupils were able to attend his funeral at St. Philip’s, Sydenham and burial at Elmer’s End Cemetery, now known as the Beckenham Cemetery. Many of them would have remembered him from his time at the school.

The following letter was sent to the Editor of The Elizabethan following his death:

It is with some diffidence that I ask for the inclusion of this letter, because the paragraphs of eulogy that appear with absolute precision in most school magazines on the dead condemn themselves by their sentimental universality as in most cases obviously untrue. Nor shall I eulogise now. Much might be written upon the three young King’s Scholars whom the battle has claimed so far as its toll. First, we saw the death of W. B. W. Durrant, next of K. T. D. Wilcox, and now it is T. R. Dawson—all three only sons. But it is of the last that I should like to speak, for I was one of the few who knew him well, and it would be a pity if to future generations of Westminsters he were but a name on the wall.

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Dawson’s grave at Beckenham Cemetery

Not popular, not distinguished in athletic or intellectual ability, not striking except in a personality of extraordinary obstinacy and endurance. Such characteristics devoted to low ideals might have brought fame. Directed on the side of the angels, they were realised in full only by those to whom it was given to know him to the very end. It is as the first Head of Water after the revival that the School collectively owes him the deepest gratitude. Head of Water, but he gave up his place in the four when he saw someone better to fill it. But reference to foregoing pages would show in how many ways he did the ‘spade-work’ while others held more showy positions. And it was only his obstinacy that got him into the Army when the War called for officers, for, like Hannibal, he was blind in one eye. And, personally, may the gratitude be recorded of one who knew what it was to be able to rely on him absolutely when all others might fail– gratitude that ‘Bacchus’ Dawson did live once?

Yours as before,

εγρηγορος  Φρονημα

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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 8th Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and went out to the western front on the 8th 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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Kenneth Desmond Murray

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KennethMurray was a King’s Scholar from 1905 until 1911. He threw himself into every aspect of school life. He was an active sportsman who played on the school’s football and cricket teams as well as competing in fives and athletics competitions for his house. He debated, edited the school magazine, The Elizabethan, in 1910 and shared the prize for Orations in 1911 for his recitation of Song of Deborah. He starred in the Latin Play in 1909 where as Micio ‘he managed the long and trying soliloquy that begins the play with much skill, and he was at all times an excellent foil to Deme’. The chance of a leading role in the 1910 performance was snatched from him when the play was cancelled due to the death of Edward VII.

Murray was elected head to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1911 and made a promising start to his degree, receiving a 1st Class in his Classics Mods. The outbreak of war meant that he failed to finish his qualification, leaving to serve in the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in December 1914. He went out to the Western Front in August and as killed barely a month later at the Battle of Loos.

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John White Ferguson

19150607_Ferguson,JWJohn White Ferguson was the second son of John Ferguson, a well-known yacht builder. As with many scholars he was a keen debater, advocating for both compulsory Greek and compulsory military service! He showed sporting ability from the start, winning the quarter mile and hundred yards at his first Athletic Sports competition. He became a keen cricketer whilst at Westminster and played for the school’s 1st XI, as well as for the King’s Scholars own team. As a footballer his kicking was described as being ‘particularly fine’ in The Elizabethan. His work kicking and tackling was ‘admirable’ in the Charterhouse match of 1908 – although clearly not quite enough to save the game which was lost 4-0.

Upon leaving the school he was apprenticed to his father in the shipbuilding trade. In April 1913 he joined the Clyde Division of the Navy. On the outbreak of war he took part in the siege of Antwerp and received a Distinguished Conduct Medal. In March of 1915 he was transferred to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action in the aftermath of the 3rd Battle of Krithia on 4th June 1915.

A fellow officer, D.W. Cassie, wrote to the family after the death:

I got his, or most of his, official papers and maps. I wanted to get his ring and cigarette case to send home to you but the danger was too great for me to wait and it couldn’t be done. The Hood Battalion is now practically at an end. We have only three officers and 120 men left now, so we no longer count, but before I close I should like to say that I, nor anyone in the Battalion can pay enough tribute to Johnnie’s bravery and gallantry, he died in action, he led his men. …. I am on my way now to Alexandria in charge of 350 Turkish prisoners. It was been given me as a sort of rest after that terrible action.

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Royston Cecil Gamage du Plessis Le Blond

Royston Le Blond was born in 1887 in Norbiton, Kingston Upon Thames. In the 1901 census he is recorded as being a scholar at the Abbey School, Brackley Road, Beckenham, Kent. He was clearly very academically able and joined Westminster as a King’s Scholar in 1901. He left the school for Trinity College with the Triplett Scholarship in 1906.

Le Blond made the most of his time at school, taking part in Football, Cricket and Athletics as well as debating, taking part in the school’s Scientific Society and performing in the Latin Play. He became particularly exercised on the topic of speed limits, which was debated by the school society in 1906, and gave a speech with which many present day motorists would sympathise!:

‘Police-traps were a shameful abuse of justice ; they were often inaccurate and so unfair, and did no good to anyone except the policemen themselves, who were rewarded for every victim they caught—a temptation to neglect their proper duties for this lucrative method of business—and to the municipal councils, who reaped an excellent harvest from the fines’

He went on to add that he hoped:

‘the new Government would soon adopt the moderate and sensible system in vogue in France, where the speed limit was eighteen and a-half miles per hour and was strictly enforced in towns only’

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Le Blond staring as Syrus in The Adelphi, 1905

It is perhaps unsurprising that given his love of argument he opted for law as a profession, and was admitted to Inner Temple in 1909. He joined the 12th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade as 2nd Lieutenant in September 1914 and by January 1915 had been promoted to temporary Captain. He died in Camp at Salisbury on 17th May following an operation. He was buried at the Brompton Cemetery, London and there is also a brass memorial plaque for him at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Orton Waterville, Peterborough. The inscription reads as follows:

IN GLORIAM DEI MAIOREM
ET IN MEMORIUM
ROYSTON CECIL GAMAGE DU PLESSIS LE BLOND
NATI AD XXVI KAL APR MDCCCLXXXVII MORTUI AD XVII MAI MCMXV
SCHOLARIS WESTMONASTERIENSIS
COLL SANCT TRIN APUD CANTAB PENSIONARII
ARTIUM BACCALAUREI
INTER ADVOCATOS TEMPLI INTERIOSIS ADMISSI
A PUERO POETARUM
ET ARTIUM ERUDITORIUM STUDIOSISSIMUS
INGENIO BONO ET AMABILI INDOLE
OMNIUM ANIMOS SIBI CONCILIAVIT
BELLO INGENTI
A BRITANNIS CONTRA GERMANOS SUSCEPTO
HIC STATIM SE PATRIAE
LAETUS LIBENSQUE OBTULIT
ET ECENTURIONE CITO FACTUS TRIBUNIS
12TH BATTALION THE RIFLE BRIGADE
MORTE NIMIS IMMATURA OBIIT
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William Blencowe Wells Durrant

William Blencowe Wells Durrant was the only son ofFrederick Chester Wells Durrant the Attorney-General of the Bahamas, West Indies. Durrant was clearly very academically gifted – he joined the school as a King’s Scholar in 1908 and obtained a Classical Scholarship at Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1913.

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He was less gifted on the football pitch – indeed his first appearance in the annual football match between the scholars and the Town Boys was rather disastrous. Playing in goal, he managed to allow the opposition to score five times! One of the goals was particularly unfortunate, initially hitting the post but then rebounding off Durrant (who had fallen down trying to save it) and landing straight into the net.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given his father’s occupation, Durrant particularly excelled in public speaking. He was a stalwart of the school debating society and spoke in a style described as ‘fluent but rambling’. He also appeared in the Latin Play two years running, playing female parts both times. A reviewer commented that ‘his movements were far too masculineand strenuous, and he wielded his fan with morevigour than grace.’

On the outbreak of war Durrant left Cambridge and took a commission in the Rifle Brigade. He was killed in action near Ypres on 8th May 1915.

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