Geoffrey Wilkins was in Homeboarders House between 1898 and 1900. All we know about his time at school is that he played football for his house on two occasions against Grant’s. Homeboarders were beaten on both occasions — the score for one of the matched was 7-0!
We do not know what he did after leaving school but he joined the army on the outbreak of war, enlisting in the Artists’ Rifles on 2nd September 1914. He married Letitia Gertrude Hill on 10th October before going to the front. By May 1915 he was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers.
He died of wounds received in action on 3rd October 1915 at the Battle of Loos. As with many soldiers he was given a temporary grave until he could be properly buried in Chocques Military Cemetery. The plain wooden cross used to mark this makeshift burial was sent to the church where Wilkins had worshiped — All Souls in St Margarets, Middlesex. Together with the cross from the grave of Corporal Lawrence Richards, another local man it flanks the church’s hand lettered Roll of Honour listing all the men from the parish who were killed in the war. Underneath the names the following caption is carved:
“In the year 1914 England waged war against Germany that faith should be kept between nations and life might be ordered by right and not by violence. For this end Englishmen left their homes and fought and suffered for 4 years. Amongst them men of this parish of whom 86 lost their lives in helping to gain the victory. Wherefore their names are enshrined above in grateful and loving memory and in hope that their deeds and sacrifice may inspire Englishmen for all time.”
Robert Dodds was the only son of a Surrey solicitor and was admitted into Ashburnham in September 1906.During his first year at the school he achieved success in the school concert, where he “shone asÔÇª soprano”. He took part in Ashburnham’s entry for the Inter-House Glee singing competition, although they did not win. They performed the set piece The Haven by Barnby as well as the other competitors but their voluntary — Elgar’s The Sea Hath its Pearls — was “too ambitious”.
After leaving the school at Easter 1911, he became a clerk to a firm of brokers on the London Stock Exchange. On the outbreak of war, he joined the Inns of Court OTC, where he was trained in preparation for his deployment to the front line, along with fellow-OW Winfield J. Bonser. On the 19th September 1914, he became 2nd Lieutenant 13th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. Just over four months later, he was promoted to Lieutenant. On 9th September 1915, he was sent out to the western front with his battalion as senior subaltern, a role which probably included duties such as acting as a representative of the subalterns to the Commanding Officer and advising a younger officer on conduct and appearance.
Robert’s battalion fought in the Battle of Loos, the first battle in which the Allies employed chlorine gas as a weapon. On the 25th of September, the British took Hill 70 under cover of smoke-screens, but it was retaken later in the day due to a delay in reinforcements and supply of munitions. The following day, German reinforcements arrived in large numbers. So when the British attacked again, thousands of infantry men were mown down by machine guns.
Robert Dodds was one of six former pupils who were killed in the first two days of the Battle of Loos.
On the Western Front Association website, you can read an eyewitness account of the Battle of Loos as it was experienced by a 19-year-old Lewis gunner.