Austin Woodbridge was the son of solicitor Thomas Woodbridge, and the seventh member of his immediate family to study at Westminster School. He was born 18th May 1876, and arrived at the school in 1891, joining Grant’s House. While at the school, he participated in football and cricket to a significant degree, earning his pink-and-whites in 1894. He left the school that same year.
He is recorded in the Elizabethan several times as an Old Westminster participating in sporting events, and, interestingly, as a member of the Freemasons. He became a member of the London Stock Exchange in 1900, and continued to work on the stock exchange thereafter. In 1905, he married Ethel Mary, the third daughter of George Sunday.
The next surviving records of Woodbridge emerge in military documents, allowing us to identify his military progress. Here he served as a member of the 8th Battalion Middlesex Regiment from 1912, before becoming a Major in April 1915. He held a special appointment in 1917, and was subsequently awarded the Military Cross.
At the end of the war he married his second wife, Norah Woodbridge. The fate of Mary Ethel is unknown. Austin Woodbridge continued working active service after the ceasefire, remaining in France and the Western Front. It was here that he passed away, dying of influenza on 28th February 1919.
Kenneth was born on 16th December 1896. He was the son of William Rae Morrison, who worked for the Stock Exchange, and Lily Dawtry, originally from Petworth, Sussex. He joined Ashburnham in January 1912, but only stayed until the end of the calendar year.
Kenneth studied on the Modern Side, which meant that he chose to study modern languages and sciences instead of the Classics. There was a longstanding rivalry at Westminster between those who opted to study the Classics and those on the Modern Side. In 1912, the Debating Society met to discuss the “somewhat hackneyed” motion “That in the opinion of this House, classical education is better than modern”. In this iteration of the debate, the main argument given in favour of the Modern side was that “science men … were more generally useful in life, and quicker-witted.” Unsurprisingly, this argument failed to sway the audience, and “the motion was carried by acclamation.”
Two years after he had left the school, in August 1914, Kenneth enlisted with the Honourable Artillery Company. By December he had become a 2nd Lieutenant with the Middlesex Regiment, and went out with them to the western front in 1916. In April 1917, he transferred to the 5th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
Kenneth was at Tower Hamlets, near Ypres, during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. He was killed on the 21st September 1917 by a German who had previously surrendered. He was 20 when he died, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
William Ash began Westminster School in Dale’s boarding house in 1883, before migrating up to Rigaud’s. He was a keen cricketer, playing for the school in the Charterhouse match. Cricket continued to be an important activity in his life after leaving the school, in 1888, for the army. In addition to taking part in military cricket, he also played for Old Westminsters, Free Foresters, the Butterflies and Berkshire and was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club from 1896. He married Edith Learoyd, the second daughter of Edward Wright Barnett, in 1894.
His first commission in the army was as a 2nd Lieutenant in the The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (The Middlesex Regt.), in 1892. He was made a Lieutenant in 1895 and a Captain in 1900. He served in the South African War in 1902 and continued to advance through the army ranks after the conflict had finished. When the First World War broke out he had achieved the rank of Major and was serving in Malta. Ash went to the western front in November 1914 and was wounded at Loos on 25th September 1915 and invalided home. He returned to the front on 3rd May 1916 to command a Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.
At 11pm on the night of the 14th September 1916 his Battalion moved forward from the village of Montauban to assembly trenches in Carlton and Savoy Trenches for an attack on the village of Flers the following day. By 1am on the 15th they were in position and at 6.20am the leading units went into the assault, led by tanks which were being used for the first time in the history of warfare. The Middlesex men moved off at 10am; as they went forward they had to shelter from enemy shelling on a number of occasions. At midday they were ordered to take up positions at Scimitar Trench and they again moved forward under fire, with the battalion split either side of the Flers Road. By this time Flers itself had been taken but the situation in the northern part of the village was obscure. The battalion resumed the attack and at 5pm they lost their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel William Claudius Casson Ash, who fell mortally wounded, having led the attack. He died at Etaples on 29th September from his injuries.
His widow, Edith, placed an In Memoriam notice in The Times every year until her death, in her 80s, in 1955. Each year she included a different paragraph, the following is from 1926:
Edward Whinney was the sixth son of Frederick Whinney and Emma Morley. He was born in London on the 31st August 1870 and was admitted to the school as a Homeboarder in September 1884. During his time at the school, he was a keen cricketer. Even after he left, he continued to represent the school in the Old Westminsters XI.
After leaving school in July 1887, Edward and became a member of the London Stock Exchange. On the 7th October 1987, he married Maude Clementine Louise, who was the elder daughter of John Crow, of Hampstead.
He had already served in the army, and following the outbreak of war, he rejoined his old former regiment, becoming a Captain of the 2/7th Battalion (Territorial Force) Middlesex Regiment on the 23rd October 1914. He was promoted to Major just over a month later, and was transferred to the 12th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regtiment. He served with them at Gibraltar and in Egypt, before going out to the western front in June 1916.
He was killed in the action at Thiepval on the 26th Sept 1916, at the age of 46, leaving behind him his wife, three sons and a daughter.
Noel Marshall Vernham was a member of Rigaud’s house from 1910 until he left to join the army after the outbreak of war in 1914. Whilst at the school he was an accomplished gymnast, helping Rigaud’s to secure second place in the Senior House competition and representing Westminster at Aldershot. He was also represented the House at fives and football.
Vernham’s athletic antics appear to have got him into some scrapes — in July 1913 he broke his nose, but made a speedy recovery and in November 1913 he injured an eye. He took part in the Officer Training Corps and advanced through the ranks whilst at school, helping to prepare himself for his military career. Initially he enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment, but was transferred to the East Surrey Regiment in March 1915. He first went out to the western front on 19th March 1916.
After his death his father received a letter from another member of his son’s regiment which was printed in The Elizabethan:
SIR,—With reference to the death of 2nd Lieut. Vernham, I wish to describe what I saw of it. At 4 a.m. on the morning of July 28 the regiment proceeded into action at Longueval. Mr. Vernham was then commanding No. 14 Platoon, No. 4 Company. This platoon was immediately in front of me in a communication trench, which was being very badly knocked about, owing to the very severe shelling which was prevailing at the time. Mr. Vernham, however, highly indifferent and utterly regardless of all danger, stood and walked about on top of the trench, organising and generally looking after his men. He stood on top that he might more easily do this, fully aware that every second his life was in danger, as there was no pause whatever between one shell and another. However, he was not the least disturbed, but added greatly to the safety of his platoon by moving them every moment to places of safety (such places as existed); of these, there were very, very few. About 5.30 a.m. to 6 o’clock he was killed by a very powerful shrapnel shell which burst above his head, a piece striking him on top of the head. Death was instantaneous. Owing to his bravery and zeal and continued thought of the welfare of his men, his platoon looked to him as their chief protector and thought the very world of him. It was chiefly owing to his zealousness and great care for his men that he met his death in this way. I can assure you, his loss was felt very acutely by his company, more especially by the platoon he commanded, and they offer their deepest sympathy to you in the loss of such a gallant son. His body was buried at Longueval.
Kenneth 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”.
Philip Moses Marks was born in the United States, the son of British-born author and art critic Montague Marks and grandson of David Marks, England’s first Reform rabbi, minister of the West London Synagogue. His mother Agnes’ family were also illustrious — his maternal aunt was the poet Emma Lazarus whose sonnet ‘The New Colossus’ is engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Marks was in Ashburnham House from September 1902 to Easter 1905. We do not know much about his time at school, except that he was frequently tanned (beaten) by monitors in his House for misdemeanours. We do not know what he did between leaving school and the outbreak of war, although he did get married in 1911 to Cynthia Dow White. In 1914 he joined the 17th (Empire) Battalion Royal Fusiliers. By June 1915 he was attached to the 4th Battalion, The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) and went out to the Western Front. He was killed in action at Hooge in Flanders on 29th September 1915.