Tag Archives: London Regiment

Thomas Reginald Dawson

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Dawson’s grave at Beckenham Cemetery

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. 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,

╬¡╬│¤ü╬À╬│╬┐¤ü¤î¤é ¤å¤ü¤î╬¢╬À╬╝╬▒

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Dudley Leycester Summerhays

Dudley Leycester Summerhays was in Homeboarders house for over five years between 1902 and 1908. He travelled into school from his family home in Wimbledon. He served his Articles in order to become a solicitor, but on the outbreak of the war enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment. He soon got a commission in Queen Victoria’s Rifles, with whom he saw nearly six months’ service at the Front.

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The Landscape, Hill 60 by Paul Nash
┬® IWM (Art.IWM ART 1155)

After his death a fellow Old Westminster wrote to the school’s magazine, The Elizabethan:

‘SIR, As a brother officer and old Schoolfellow of Mr. Dudley Summerhays, with whom I spent five months in the trenches in Belgium, I feel I must place on record how much he was beloved by the officers and men in his regiment. All through the hardships of the winter one quality in his fine character was always apparent, that of his great unselfishness. He was ever thinking of others and never of himself, and he is mourned by officers and men as a comrade in the truest sense of what that word means. Yours faithfully, KENNETH W. JOHNSON, Queen Victoria’s Rifles.

His Colonel wrote to his father on the 22nd April, 1915:

MY DEAR MR. SUMMERHAYS, It is with the most profound regret and distress we tell you that your boy has given his life for his country, being killed yesterday morning. He died a hero’s death on Hill 6o, having taken his men forward to assist Major Lees who was gallantly holding a crater against tremendous odds ; he was killed close to Major Lees, and instantly, being hit by a bomb on the head.

It is perhaps some consolation to know that his superbly gallant conduct has kept the above hill, from which the enemy dominated our positions, entirely in our hands, and we have been able to make the position good and can now hold it I trust to the great advantage of the whole army. I cannot tell you in any way adequate what a loss he is to the Regiment and myself, his many sterling qualities and his devotion to duty endeared him to one and all of us indeed; it was their love for him that prompted his men to follow him and stick to him to the last. The whole night through they fought on and on and stuck to their leaders who so heroically led them.

You must forgive me if I have been blunt or curt in writing this, but I have just come through a big strain, and am still surrounded by the incessant noise of heavy artillery. We of the Regiment will never forget the superb example set us by your son, and can only hope when our time comes to try to emulate his heroic behaviour and utterly unselfish patriotism.

Believe me, Yours very sincerely, R. B. SHIPLEY.

P.S.-Please accept and convey to your family the most sincere and heartfelt sympathy of my Regiment and my own self.’

 

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Esmond Lawrence Kellie

Two years after leaving school in 1912, Esmond Kellie had passed the exam for the Civil Service. But on the outbreak of war, he joined the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). The following January, Kellie was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, along with another young officer, Charles Kirch.

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In April 2015, the Battalion was involved in the bitter competition over “Hill 60”, a spoil heap just south of Ypres. The small mound afforded an excellent viewpoint from which to observe the ground around Zillebeke and Ypres, and was the only place in the area that was not waterlogged. From the 12th to the 16th of April, the battalion prepared for an attack on Hill 60. They worked day and night reconnoitring disused French and German trenches, and in opening up communication trenches.

They were ready to attack on the 17th and, with the help of mines and heavy artillery, the Hill was successfully taken by the British. However, Hill 60 projected into enemy territory, which left it exposed and costly to occupy. The German counterattack the following day resulted in considerable casualties, and part of the hill was temporarily lost. The shelling and bombing intensified, and Kellie was killed on the 19th of April, along with Charles Kirch who had joined on the same day.

The Germans’ second attempt to recover the hill was successful, and Hill 60 was lost on 5th May, following a series of gas attacks.

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Robert Chalmers

19150326_RobertChalmersRobert Chalmers was in Ashburnham House from 1907 until 1911 when he left for Peterhouse, Cambridge. He must have had a change of heart though as he ‘vanished’ from the University after his first year and reappeared at Lincoln’s Inn where he had joined with a view to becoming a barrister. This clearly didn’t suit him either as in May 1914 he took a commission in The Prince of Wales’s Own Civil Service Rifles in the London Regiment.

Chalmers did not go out to the Western front until March 1915. He saw action in Festubert and of his last hours we have an account from a fellow officer, published inThe Elizabethan:

‘He was a gallant fellow. He died fighting without orders and practically with another regiment, otherwise he would certainly get a decoration. Another battalion was attacking, bombingalong the trench, by night, and I had a party working alongside. Chalmers had a patrol of three men keeping touch between us and the attack. The bombers got hung up and the attack was being driven back. Chalmers might have come back to tell us, but he didn’t. Bombs are infernal machines ; it is folly for anybody but an expert to touch them. Chalmers left his patrol, dashed forward, rallied the bombers as they fell back, and led the way, running along the top of the parapet, flashing an electric torch down into the trench and throwing bombs. He won the trench for them. He was absolutely fearless. Of course he was hit. He had two wounds, one slight, in the shoulder, and the other a ghastly wound, in the stomach. When the stretcher-bearers came to attend to him he sent them away to look for his bomb-throwers, and when they returned he sent them back again because he said they had not had time to bind up the others thoroughly. The doctor tells me the pain must have been awful. At last we got him on a stretcher, but an excited fool of a sentry thought we were Germans and held us up for about a quarter of an hour. When we got clear it was nearly light and we could not go back the way we had come. We took him round over all manner of obstacles, barbed wire, ditches, dead bodies, and heaven knows what. The doctor said he had just a chance, but he died next morning. He was conscious and talked to me, addressing me by name, and he never uttered a complaint. The only thing he wanted was to thank the men who were carrying the stretcher.’

He died on 26th March.

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