Tag Archives: South Africa

Vivian Ernest John Bristowe

Vivian Bristowe was one of ten children – five boys and five girls. They lived at 11 Old Burlington Street, with their father, John Syer Bristow, and mother, Miriam Isabella Bristowe (née Stearns). All five of the boys were sent to Westminster, and their father, a physician specialising in the nervous system, was also physician to the school.

Vivian was the youngest son. He was born on the 12th of June 1874, and arrived as a Homeboarder in September 1885. He represented his house in the football, and The Elizabethan includes the following account of a game that Homeboarders won 9-1: “The ground was very heavy and slippery after the recent thaw, and towards the end of the game the players were covered with mud” Saturday March 12th 1892.

There is not a lot of information about Vivian or his time at the school, but we do know how much he weighed!

After leaving the school in July 1892, he became a stock jobber – a market maker on the London Stock Exchange, and continued playing football on the OWW team. He went out to South Africa shortly before World War I, where he worked as secretary to his eldest brother, Leonard Syer Bristowe – by then Hon. Mr Justice Bristow – in Pretoria.

He enlisted in the South African Medical Corps in November 1915, and joined the East African Expeditionary Force in January 1916. While on active service at Rug, Rufigi River, East Africa, he contracted dysentery and died on the 14th of April 1917.

His Colonel wrote of him: “he did excellent work, and never fell out in the most arduous treks imaginable… His pals miss him, and I miss a steady and trustworthy man, who was never known to shirk his duty.”

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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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Thomas Stapleton

On the 11th of January 1890, Thomas Stapleton boarded a ship and set off to make a new life for himself as a farmer in North Queensland. Three years after leaving Westminster in 1885, Stapleton had enrolled at the Hollesley Bay Colonial College. This was a college that provided young men who were intending to emigrate with practical training to prepare them for their new lives.

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Stapleton spent only 5 years in Australia. A series of bad seasons, the spread of cattle ticks and rabbits were making the agricultural conditions difficult. He returned to England, only to emigrate again in 1896, this time to South Africa.

In the Boer War, he served with the Border Mounted Rifles as a Trooper, and as a Sergeant in the Natal rebellion. So by the outbreak of war in 1914, Stapleton was already an experienced soldier. He enlisted as a rifleman in the 1st battalion of the Rifle Brigade on the 13th October and was sent to the Western Front in November.

On the 19th of December 1914, the 1st Rifle Brigade was involved in an attempt to take the ‘Birdcage’ — a fortified German strongpoint east of Ploegsteert Wood. The attack failed — partly because British heavy artillery were firing short of target — and there were heavy casualties. Thomas Stapleton was among them.

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The British Cemetery at Ploegsteert Wood
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