Tag Archives: Royal Scots Fusiliers

Rolf Mayne Neill

Rolf Neill was the only son of Harold and Louisa Neill of 22 Eldon Road, Kensington, London. He was born on 7th February 1898 and arrived at the school in September 1911.

He represented his house – Ashburnham – in Football, and eventually captained the Westminster 2nd XI by the time he was in his final year.

He was a member of the school’s Debating Society. On Thursday 9th March 1916, he seconded the motion “that in the opinion of this House it is inadvisable for Great Britain to attempt reprisals for air raids.” He is recorded in The Elizabethan as arguing:

“…we had already attacked fortified towns, but reprisals would be the attacking of unfortified towns. Taking reprisals would only cause competition with the Germans, and make them more ‘frightful’ than ever. Also we have no aeroplanes to spare.”

In February 1915, he enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, and was attached to the machine gun corps the following December. He left the school in April 1916 to join the Royal Flying Corps (Special Reserve) as a 2nd Lieutenant, and he became a Flying Officer with them in August.

In September 1916, he joined a Sopwith Squadron on the western but was only out there for a couple of months before being invalided home. He was able to rejoin his squadron in March 1917, but was killed in action near Messines on the 3rd June 1917.

His obituary in The Elizabethan reads as follows:

Mr. NEILL, the only son of Mr. Harold Neill, of Kensington, was at the School from September 1911 to Easter 1916, and was second Monitor in Ashburnham. He left School to join the Flying Corps, and after some meritorious and successful service, fell within the German lines. Our own generation mourns an excellent fellow.

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William Penn-Gaskell

19161012_PennGaskell,WWilliam Penn Gaskell, belonged to a well-known Irish family, and in 1905, upon his father’s death, he inherited the Shanagarry estate, County Cork. He was a descendant of the famous Quaker, William Penn, who founded the state of Pennsylvania.

William came to the school from Rugby and was admitted in 1886 to Homeboarders’ House. He left the school in July 1889 and travelled to Chile. His maternal grandfather was from Peru so his interest in South America was not surprising. William lived in Iquique and Antofagasta, eventually becoming manager of a nitrate works in the town.

On the outbreak of war he made the decision to give up his job and return to England to serve in the Army. He was made a Captain in the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in February 1915 and proceeded to France in August 1916.

He was killed in the action at Flers on the Somme front. He went over the parapet to the attack in support of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who were held up for a time by intense machine-gun fire. Notseeing any Officers of the Scots Fusiliers, he decided to push on, and he rallied the line when he was shot in the arm. While his servant was dressing the wound, a shell burst near and both were instantly killed.

His Colonel wrote :-

‘I admired his pluck and energy very much indeed in setting to work at his age to fit himself for the Front, and I always considered him a magnificent example to all of us and a pattern of everything an Officer and a gentleman should be. His fine example and gallant death, while he rallied his men, made the greatest impression upon all his comrades. His influence on his men was most inspiring.’

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