Tag Archives: Royal Field Artillery

Wilfrid James Nowell

Portrait of an unidentified boy by Wilfrid’s father, artist Arthur Trevethin Nowell (1862-1940). Perhaps it is a portrait of Wilfrid…

Wilfrid James Nowell was the only son of the artist, Arthur Trevethin Nowell and Lucy Helen Daniel.  He attended Westminster School for a brief period from April 1910 until December 1912 and boarded up Grant’s.

Wilfird showed great potential as an artist.  In a biography of his father, Arthur Trevethin Nowell, Christopher Mosley writes:

Some years later Augustus John (1878–1961) called to see his artist friend. His attention was drawn to paintings by Wilfrid. A proud father would tell the story of the day his son took off with one of his canvases and oils to paint a Scottish river in spate. Unaware of the venture Nowell was astonished at the result. The painting took pride of place in his home, never to be disturbed. John expressed a wish to have been equally talented when so young, a politeness perhaps, but, without question, Wilfrid was blessed with a fine natural gift.

We do not know what Wilfrid did immediately after leaving the school, but following the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles.  From there he obtained a commission in the 460th Howitzer Battery of the Royal Field Artillery.  He was initially posted in Egypt in November 1915, but was transferred to the Western Front in March 1916.

His regiment took part in a number of battles from 9th April to 16th May now collectively known as the Battle of Arras.  British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras and achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun.  When the battle officially ended on 16 May, British Empire troops had made significant advances but had been unable to achieve a breakthrough.  Wilfrid was killed in action on the first day of the attack.

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Sigurd Ayton Dickson

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Dickson photographed in 1899 with the Grant’s Cricket Team

Sigurd Dickson was the youngest son of Sir John Frederick Dickson, who had also been a pupil at the school. Sigurd was in Grant’s House from 1897-1902. He played football and cricket for the school — a review of his performance over the 1901/2 season was printed in The Elizabethan:

S.A. Dickson played at his very best against Charterhouse. He lacked weight, but was neat. As was the case with most of the team, he could not face adversity.

Upon leaving he became a District Commissioner in West Africa, and subsequently in South Africa. Later he worked in business as a rubber-planter in the Federated Malay States; rubber production was a large growth industry due to its use in the manufacture of car tires.

Sigurd returned home on the outbreak of the First World War and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He was attached to the 102 Brigade and went out to the western front with them in 1916.

On 15th and 29th November 1916, Haig met the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre and the other Allies at Chantilly. An offensive strategy to overwhelm the Central Powers was agreed, with attacks planned on the Western, Eastern and Italian fronts, by the first fortnight in February 1917. Early in 1917 troops were assembled in the area in preparation for the attack. British determination to clear the Belgian coast took on more urgency, after the Germans resumed unrestricted submarine warfare on 1st February 1917. Sigurd was killed in action near Ypres on 1st February.

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George Thomas Acton Drought

George Drought was at the School for only a year before he migrated to Dulwich College, which was near his home. He was in Homeboarders house whilst at the school so the daily commute must have proved taxing. He joined the army after leaving school, obtaining his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in November 1899. He served in the South African (Boer) War from 1900-1902 and went to the front line again when the First World War broke out.

He died on 14th June from wounds received almost a month earlier in action at Festubert, France on 17th May 1915. He had married a woman named Louise Lockhart and had a son with her, George Richard Smerger Drought. He was not yet 5 years old when his father died. Louise married again in 1917.

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Battle of Festubert. Gunners of the 25th Battery, Royal Field Artillery manning their gun at Festubert, May 1915 (IWM)

His headstone is inscribed:

‘Greater love hath no manthan this
that a man lay down his life for his friends’

at the Glenealy Parish Church, County Wicklow

His son died fighting the in the Second World War by amachine-gunner trying to capture Floridia, Sicily in 1943. He in turn left behind two sons and a daughter all just a few years old.

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