Tag Archives: Mesopotamia

Wyndham John Coventry

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Wyndham was at the school for barely two years, joining Ashburnham House in April 1902 and leaving in July 1904 at the age of 17.

He represented Ashburnham in the Senior House Match against Grant’s in 1904. The match was not going well for Ashburnham, when: ‘About this time Aglionby unfortunately put his finger out and was compelled to leave the field. Coventry took his place behind the wickets, and the change was not forhe better.’ But he had more success when the game resumed on Friday: ‘Coventry, the only batsman to offer any resistance, was last out for a plucky 23, after batting nearly an hour and a half.’ Wyndham was rewarded with House Colours at the end of the Season.

He came from a military family. His maternal grandfather, John Joseph Grinlinton had served in the Crimean campaign and was knighted in 1894. Therefore it is not surprising that Wyndham joined the army after leaving school. After passing out from Sandhurst in 1907 he joined the Indian Army. Here he excelled in horse riding and held the unique distinction of having won both Indian Cavalry Steeplechases (for horses and ponies) on the same day in 1914.

On the outbreak of war he left India with drafts for the Western front and worked as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps until June 1915. He was then recalled to his regiment in India and joined the expeditionary force to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in July 1915. He took part in the battles of Kut and Ctesiphon and was mentioned in despatches by General Townshend for gallant and distinguished service in the field. He died on 1st January 1916 from wounds received in action at Ali Gharbi the previous day. His colonel wrote: ‘He is indeed a great loss to the regiment, and the Indian officers and men feel it as much as we do; we shall miss him very much’.

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A memorial to Wyndham in Hampshire
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Alfred Tomlin East

Alfred Tomlin East was the only son of the late Sir Alfred East, R.A., President of the Royal Society of British Artists. One of his father’s paintings is owned by the school and hangs in Weston’s.

East was in Ashburnham House from September 1891 to April 1895. He became an engineer and worked as a special assistant during the construction of the Bombay Municipality Waterworks. He enlisted in the Indian Marines at Bombay at the outbreak war and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the Indian Army in 1915; in July he was attached 17th Company 3rd Sappers and Miners and left Bombay with the Expeditionary Force to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in the following month.

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The role of British and Indian troops in Mesopotamia was originally envisaged in limited terms — securing the oil pipeline at Abadan. The success the forces met with in late 1914 and early 1915 led the Viceroy and Indian government at Simla to reconsider and they decided to order further advances with a view to securing the Shatt al Hai, a canal connecting the Tigris and Euphrates river and potentially capturing Baghdad. The British government disagreed and wished to conserve forces for the Western front. The Viceroy was given permission to act as it wished, but told in no uncertain terms that no reinforcements should be expected.

The initial success experienced by the British and Indian forces quickly disintegrated in the face of Ottoman opposition. The Siege of Kut Al Amara began on 7th December with the besieging of an 8,000 strong British-Indian garrison in the town of Kut, 100 miles south of Baghdad, by the Ottoman Army. Alfred Tomlin East died on Christmas Day, 1915 of wounds he received in action during the siege a week earlier.

Memorial to Alfred Tomlin East in Mumbai Cathedral.  Many thanks to Geoff Brown, who commented below, for supplying this image.
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Guy Neale Landale Labertouche

The Battle of Shaiba was fought on April 12-14 1915, between British forces defending Basra, and men from the Ottoman Empire, attempting to retake the strategically important city. It is considered a turning point in the long Mesopotamian campaign, as after it, the allies generally held the advantage in the area. Labertouche was a Major with the 122nd Rajputana Infantry, in the Indian army, at this time. He received fatal wounds on the 14th of April, and died on the same day.

Labertouche atte19150414_Labertouche,Guynded Westminster from April 1886 until July 1888. He was a homeboarder, and a good cricketer, but little else is known about his time at the school. He was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1871, to Peter Paul, a public servant, and Eleanor Annie. There he attended the prestigious Scotch College from 1881, where they have noted that “he did not star scholastically or in sport”, so nothing is known about his time there; we don’t even know in which year he left, or when his family moved to England.

He received his first commission in early 1892, into the Sussex regiment. From there he spent a few months in 1895 as aide-de-camp to the acting governor of Victoria, Australia, before leaving in November to go to Bombay. He was in the India Staff corps from 1896, and was involved in a number of actions, including suppressing the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. He was married to Janet Muriel Campbell Stewart in 1908, and promoted to the rank of Major in 1910.

Labertouche was commemorated at Basra War Cemetery, in modern day Iraq. After years with little maintenance to the site, headstones were removed by the British army in 2003 for safekeeping. Since then, the cemetery has been almost completely destroyed, although in the last few years, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Iraqi security forces have been attempting to restore it, though it is unclear how much progress they have been able to make.

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