Tag Archives: Third Battle of Ypres

Harold Winning Fleming

Harold Winning Fleming’s parents were Alexander (Alec) John Fleming and Lily Huthart Brown. Alec was a medical doctor in Hampstead. Lily was a daughter of Forrest Loudon Brown, of Bombay, India. In 1891, she was working as a teacher of music, and living in Altrincham, Cheshire, with her sister and widowed mother. Alec and Lily were married in September 1894 in Altrincham, Cheshire.

Harold was born in Hampstead, London, on the 25th of April 1898. He was one of four children: he had an elder brother, Alan McKinstry Fleming, and two younger sisters, Lily Woodrow Fleming and Sheila Laudon Fleming. Before arriving at Westminster, he attended St John’s House, Hampstead.

He arrived as a non-resident King’s Scholar in September 1911, and joined Homeboarders’ House. He was absent for two terms, when he went abroad on account of his health. He left the school for good in July 1915, and attended R.M.C. Sandhurst between August 1916 and May 1917.

In May 1917, he was made 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Battalion (16th Foot) The Bedfordshire Regiment. He went out to the western front May 31, 1917, served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, and was mentioned in despatches for gallant and distinguished service.

His Chaplain wrote: “I frequently saw him both in and out of the trenches, and we all liked him for his bright and happy disposition, as well as for his keenness and great efficiency. It was no secret that he was considered one of the most promising of the junior officers in the battalion.”

On 5th October 1917, Harold was killed in action at the age of 19 by a sniper at Gheluvelt, on the Ypres-Menin Road.

One of his brother officer wrote: “I am certain that at his death the 1st Bedfords lost one of the bravest of its officers.”

Another wrote: “ The other officers of his company having become casualties early in the attack (Oppy Wood, near Arras), this officer, 2nd Lieut. H.W. Fleming who was in the trenches for the first time, assumed command throughout the attack, and in the subsequent tour of duty showed coolness, gallantry and ability, and his example afforded great encouragement to his men.”

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Kenneth Rae Morrison

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.

German prisoners being marched through Cathedral Square, Ypres on 20th September 1917. © IWM (Q 2863)
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Arthur Cecil Estall

Arthur Cecil Estall was born on 3rd October 1890. His father was Thomas Estall of Kensington, a Senior General Manager of the National Provincial Bank of England and a Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners. His mother was Emily, daughter of George Tilly, of Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey. Arthur had one sister, Murriel Hilda Estall (subsequently Gould).

Arthur was admitted to Westminster, as a Homeboarder on 26th April 1901. Between July 1902 and September 1905, e temporarily left the school. From then until he left, he was a keen sportsman. He represented the school at rowing, played for his house football team, and came third in the half-mile with hurdles Open Challenge Cup in 1909. He was in the same Tug of War as Thomas George May – on the winning side – and weighed 11st 6lbs.

After leaving the school in July 1909, Arthur followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a clerk in the Bank of England. He subsequently went into the bill broking business.

He had joined the Honourable Artillery Company upon leaving school, and was promoted to Corporal in 1914. He went out to the western front in September 1914 but was invalided home the following January.

He became a 2nd Lieutenant with the Army Service Corps on 22nd March 1915, and had risen to Lieutenant by September 1915 and to Captain by May 1916. He returned to the front on 18th September 1916.

In March 1917, a note in The Tatler announced Arthur’s engagement to Miss Brenda Sells (pictured), the youngest daughter of Mrs Perronet Sells of Beechwood, Highgate.

On the 6th August 1917, he was wounded in action north of Ypres and died two days later at the 7th Stationary Hospital, Boulogne.

Arthur’s father died only a few years later in 1920. His mother published a memorial in The Times to her son every year until her death in 1947. In 1935, she gave £1,000 to the school’s War Memorial Fund, the interest to be used in assisting in the education of boys at the school.

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Thomas George May

May joined Homeboarders’ in May 1906 but migrated up Rigaud’s during his time at the school. He was athletic and was awarded pinks in his final year at the school, following a football match against Winchester. We know he weighted 11st 3lb at that time was he also took part in the final of the Inter-House Tug of War, losing to his former house. He left school in July 1909.

He started his career as a tea and rubber planter in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and on the outbreak of war enlisted with the Ceylon contingent. He served in Egypt and Gallipoli and went to France in 1916. He returned to England that year and was appointed a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the newly created Machine Gun Corps.

The experience of fighting in the early clashes and in the First Battle of Ypres had proved that the machine guns required special tactics and organisation. The Machine Gun Corps was formally established in October 1915.

In February 1917 May went out again to France. He was killed in action near Ypres, Flanders during the Battle of Passchendaele.

Two machine gunners of the 33rd Battalion Machine Gun Corps siting a barrage position with a prismatic compass and a range finder, Battle of Passchendaele, 1917. (IWM)
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Leonard Davies Looker

Leonard Davies Looker was the only son of William Looker, of Westminster, and Katherine, daughter of John Price Davies, of Knighton. He was born on 16th September 1888 and was admitted up Grant’s in September 1900.

In 1902, Leonard came second in the U13 120 Yards Race, and gave a good performance at the high jump. He was tanned “for messing in dormitory, not owning up and lying” and “for sending John round to Master’s when he had been fagged to go himself.” He gave a strong performance against the much older W.T.S. Sonnenschein in a game of racquets: “Looker started with a long lead in spite of all his physical disadvantages, but Sonnenschein gradually wore him down.”

He left the school in December 1906 and became a member of Lloyd’s in 1911. On the 21st September 1916 Leonard married Molly, the elder daughter of Richard John Davies, of Poynder’s Road, Clapham Park. Soon afterwards, he joined the army.

He enrolled as 2nd Lieutenant, 5th Battalion, Royal West Surrey Regiment on 19th December 1916 and went out to the western front in January 1917. He was killed in action at Klein Zillebeke, near Ypres, on 1st August 1917.

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Frank Charlton Jonas

Frank Jonas was a Rigaudite, joining the house in 1895 and leaving in 1898. After leaving the school he travelled to Copenhagen to study brewing and went on to become a manager of a branch brewery of Messrs. Miskin and Co. in India. In 1908 he married Maria, the only daughter of John Fell Swallow, of Mosborough Hall, Derbyshire. On the outbreak of war, he returned to England and joined the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps. He took a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Cambridgshire Regiment in October 1914. He went out to the Western Front in November 1916.

A Death Plaque to Frank Charlton Jonas, sold at auction in 2014

In July 1917 Jonas was commanding C company, whose soldiers were drawn from the Cambridgeshire towns of Whittlesey and Wisbech. They were in the second line of the advance that day and pushed past St Julien occupying captured bunkers – Jonas was sent with two platoons to occupy the bunker known as Border House and hold at all costs. They killed or captured the defenders and held it against successive counter attacks until ordered to withdraw. The party that remained at the end of the day was led by a Lewis gunner by the name of Private Muffett who declined to withdraw until he received written orders because those were the only conditions Jonas said that the position should be relinquished. Muffett had held the position by replenishing the drums for his Lewis gun from the contents of a knocked out Tank.

During the offensive, heavy rains and shelling destroyed the drainage system in the Ypres Salient, creating a swamp-like terrain. This meant that over 125,000 casualties, including Captain Jonas, were never found.

Jonas has two memorials in Duxford, the village where he lived with his wife in the old rectory and where his parents, George and Jane Jonas, owned a farm. The Duxford village memorial Celtic cross was unveiled in 1920 and can be found on the village green. The names on this memorial are ordered by rank and as Captain Jonas was the highest-ranking casualty from the village, he is listed at the top. There is also a plaque within Duxford Church. He has also been commemorated in Ely Cathedral on one of 16 painted oak panels in the Chapel of St George.

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William Duncan Geare

William Duncan Geare joined Homeboarder’s House at the School in September 1904. His older brother, Harry Leslie Geare, was a Queen’s Scholar and had joined four years previously. Harry would have boarded at the school, but William lived with his parents and sister at 14, Chalcot Gardens in Hampstead.

At school he was good at football and cricket, scoring 63 runs in one match in his final year at the school, and receiving colours for his performance on the house football team. In 1909 he went on to Queens’ College, Cambridge. After completing his degree he decided upon a career in the Church, attending Leeds Clergy School. He was ordained in 1913 and became the Curate of St. Margaret, Ilkley, Yorkshire the same year.

He became a Chaplain to the Forces in May 1916. He later served with the 7th and 9th Battalions King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He was instantaneously killed in Flanders by a shell on 31st July, whilst ministering to the wounded at a regimental aid post on the battlefield. He had been on his way to Plum Farm to bring cigarettes for the men in his regiment. After his death letters he had written home were published by his family.

His Senior Chaplain wrote: “He was absolutely regardless of danger, always anxious to be with his men wherever they went, and he never spared himself in his anxiety to serve them. His bravery and example have been an inspiration, and his work all the time he has been out here has been splendid,” and another officer: “He insisted on living with us in the trenches and sharing our common dangers, and he was always doing good in one direction or another. Almost every day he went round some part of the trenches on his own accord, and whenever there was a raid on he was off like a shot to the dressing station to see what he could do for the wounded.”

One of his men also wrote: “It came as a terrible blow to me and my chums of the 7th and 9th King’s to hear of Mr. Geare’s untimely death. If we were in need of help at any time, Mr. Geare was the one to see us through. At one time we had no canteen to keep us supplied with ‘fags’ while in the line. But Mr. Geare soon altered that, and made us happy. If any concerts were to be organized, leave that to Mr. Geare, and everything would be O.K. In fact if anything was needed to lighten our burdens and make us happy, Mr. Geare was the one to put things right for us. So you can imagine how much we feel his loss, the loss of more than a friend, as he proved himself in his Christian charity and willingness to succour those in need of it. . . . Mr. Geare has certainly, by his heroic death and noble work at all times, shown his critics that clergymen do not, and never did, shirk their duty as patriots by hiding under the protection of the Church.”

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Alexander Daniel Reid

Alexander Daniel Reid, son of William and Margaret Reid, was born on 2nd February 1882. The family was from Dufftown, Scotland, and Alexander had an older sister, Rachel, and two younger brothers Stewart and Henry. Alex was admitted to the School as a Homeboarder on 16th January 1896, but he only stayed until December 1897.

He went on to R.M.C. Sandhurst in 1899 and became a 2nd Lieutenant (unattached) on 28th July 1900. He served as a Lieutenant with the Black Watch from October 1902 and was made temporary Major for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in February 1915.

Alex and Harry were both present on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres), which began in the early hours of 31st July 1917. Alex was killed by 10am. According to Harry’s memoir: “… the progress of the battalion was held up and Alex went ahead to ascertain the position. He was killed almost instantly by machine gun fire. […] an attempt was made to bring his body back but was abandoned owing to the rapid advance of the enemy behind a barrage of shell fire.”

Harry recorded his unsuccessful attempt to recover Alex’s body that ended with Harry being stretchered away to a casualty clearing station: “A  small lake lay to the north in front of me called Bellewaarde Lake. It had at one time been surrounded by trees, now only a few shattered stumps remained. The land around it, as far as one could see, had been churned by shell fire and reduced to a complete swamp by the continuous rain. It occurred to me that it would be almost impossible to bring Alex’s body back to the road even if I found him, yet I felt that I could not subject the sergeant and his men to the fatigue and risk of attempting such a task…”

Alex had been keeping a diary of his experiences since April 1916 and, following his death, this was forwarded to their mother who, by then, was living in Cowichan Station, Vancouver.

 

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John Loudon Strain

John Loudon Strain, known as ‘Jack’ to family and friends was the eldest son of William Loudon and Dorothy Maud Strain. He joined Ashburnham House in September 1910 and remained at the school until 1915, when he left, with a scholarship, to attend Trinity College Cambridge. Whilst at the school he was active in the Debating Society and the Scientific Society. In January 1915 he gave a paper to the latter society on ‘Diseases of Plants’ in which he showed ‘a very thorough knowledge of his subject, which he illustrated with large diagrams on the board’

His ambition was to train as a doctor, but he was also determined to play his part in the war. Initially, as a medical student, he was refused a commission, but he managed to obtain a post as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery Special Reserve. He went out to the Western Front in September 1916.

Whilst on leave from the front he visited the school to give a lecture to pupils in the Officer Training Corps within the school.

He was killed in action at Frezenberg, Flanders when he and a fellow officer and signaller were caught in the German barrage.

Jack Strain’s family have produced an excellent website, which commemorates his life and includes transcriptions of letters written by Jack, and those sent to his parents following his death. A letter from his fellow soldier, Lieutenant A. W. Cockburn is particularly poignant:

‘Nobody could help loving Jack, even people who saw him only occasionally. It took a very short time to size him up as the most perfect little gentleman in his unvarying cheerfulness, his thought for others and contempt of danger when occasion demanded it, and the wonderful way in which he lived up to a wonderfully high ideal of thought and word and deed.

Those of us who knew him intimately in Ypres can hardly believe he has gone. He was the life and soul of the Mess, always joking and playing like a child, and yet most efficient as an officer and hugely respected by the men.’

You can read more here: http://www.jackstrain.co.uk/

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John Collinson Hobson

John Collinson Hobson was born on 27th August 1893. His parents were Thomas Frederick Hobson, a barrister, of Kensington, and Mary Innes, the daughter of John Borthwick Greig, of Hampstead, who was Writer to the Signet.

John’s elder brother, Frederick Greig Hobson, was up Grant’s between 1905 and 1910. John joined him at the school in September 1907, where he took part in the shooting, boxing, OTC, football and cricket teams.

At the meeting of the Debating Society on Friday 15th December 1912, John proposed the motion ‘that this House deplores the existence of a privileged social class’: “Mr. J. C. Hobson in a few faltering and somewhat incoherent periods pointed to the extremes of wealth and poverty. In every civilised country the wealthy classes were not only idle and luxurious but effete and barriers to all progress. He concluded a sentimental speech by a fervent appeal to the members of the Society ‘to slay the drones of the community, to push the demon of Wealth over the precipice back to the infernal abode from whence it came.’” The motion was lost by 7 votes to 13.

He was head of Grant’s over the uneventful year of 1911-12. In the house ledger, he summed up his first term as follows: “nothing of importance occurred this term. There does not seem to be much talent either for work or games in the house. But many of the younger people are promising. At least it appears there will be no big rows this year.” And his second term “was distinguished by the absence of influenza or any similar epidemic” and by the fact that “there were no rows of any quality”.

He was elected to Christ Church, Oxford in July 1912, and he matriculated in Michaelmas to study History.

He enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 12th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) on the 12th September 1914. After having been promoted to Lieutenant in February 1915, he went out to the western front in April 1915. He was attached to Machine Gun Corps, 116th Company in July 1916.

John was killed in action during the Third Battle of Ypres, on 31st July 1917, near St. Julien. His commanding officer later explained that John had been “selecting a position for his guns – deep in the German lines – when he was killed instantaneously by a German shell”.

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