Tag Archives: Westminster Abbey

Victor Roundell George Biddulph

Victor Biddulph was the only son of George Tournay Biddulph and Lady Sarah Palmer, youngest daughter of Roundlell, 1st Earl of Selborne. He was born on 24th May 1897, after his parents had been married for over a decade. He shared his birthday with Queen Victoria, who insisted that the baby should be named after her. Victor was baptised the week following the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Henry VIIth Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

Victor’s paternal uncle had been at the school in the 1850s, so it was natural that he should also attend Westminster. He joined Grant’s House as a half boarder from September 1911 until Easter 1914. He was probably planning on joining his father’s bank, or perhaps he intended to practice law. Either way, he joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps in 1915 and became a 2nd Lieutenant the 5th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade on 11th August 1915. His parents were keen supporters of the Ham & Petersham Rifle Club so his choice of regiment is perhaps unsurprising.

The following year Biddulph was attached to the 8th Battalion and went out to the western front on 12th July 1916. He was killed in action on the Somme, near Flers aged just 19. His body was not found, but a gravestone was added at the foot of his mother’s grave — she had died in 1910.


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Westminster in War Time

THE presence of some great military camp,with all its bustle and activity, may serve as aperpetual reminder to our contemporaries in thecountry or sleepy Cathedral towns of the crisisthrough which England is passing. In manycases matches are arranged between the campand the School, and the camp supplies the morehopeful side of this war ; the darker side is oftenrepresented by wounded and convalescentsoldiers in the sanatorium, who, however, arethemselves as a rule the least depressed ordiscouraging. There is, of course, everywhereto be noticed the extreme activity of the O.T.C.,but beyond the points we have mentioned thereis little in the country to make one realise thenearness and the greatness of the present war.

And are we more forcibly reminded ourselves? True, we have no great camp close by,no wounded in our Sanatoria, and the O.T.C.here can indulge in no frequent field-days. Butthere are other signs here in London which makeus proud to belong to the greatest of all cities ;we live well within range of the War Office, andthe Victoria Tower stands like a sentinel overthe Abbey and her children. Victoria Streetis ever on the alert with khakied forms of allranks, from the Tommy to the high Staff Officer.From Green thoughout the morning, and oftenthe afternoon too, proceed sounds denoting theinculcation of elementary drill into willingrecruits by patient sergeants of the LondonScottish, Queen’s Westminsters, and other(County of London) Battalions, The LondonRegiment (we cannot get out of the habit ofstrict Army List titles !).

Fields, too, bear ample witness of hard wearby Yeomanry and others, and are constantlypassing on that hard wear to the footballenthusiast, who cheerfully puts up with aground full of treacherous footholes of mud andnerve-racking patches where bricks seem tohave taken the place of soil. The hurried anteprandialvisit to the posters seems more thanever essential to liven up some noted pessimistwith a reported German disaster. And if BigBen, the School clock-tower, seem a trifle gloomyin his silence, yet good comes out of evil, andthe erratic Abbey clock affords an excellentexcuse for the late arrival in form. Even thesombre cloisters have their awakenings ; therewas a time when the giants of old would dovaliant battle in the milling green, but morefearsome than that is the sight of some graveprebend in the uniform of Chaplain to the Forces.

And the darker side of the war for us issupplied by the daily arrivals at the Westminster
Hospital, over which there flutters now, as overSt. Thomas’s across the water, the flag of theGeneva Cross. The darker side in a lightersense, as an Irishman might put it, is also forcedupon us nightly by the darkened streets, alongwhich, mirabile dictu, the traffic seems to fly atunslackened pace. The pitchy black is relievedin the early evening by the searchlights onVauxhall Bridge and elsewhere, reminding usthat if the much-talked-of Zeppelins do reachLondon, we within the Abbey precincts shall be
among the first to suffer.

And finally, if we cannot make a field-daya weekly fixture, the Westminster ContingentO.T.C., as is natural, no doubt, as is right, isworking at the highest pressure to fit for activeservice all whose time is coming to serve theirKing.

Taken from the Editorial to The Elizabethan, February 1915

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In 1914, as today, Westminster School was not in session. The School’s annual summer holiday had begun in early July, a matter of days after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo. The event would have undoubtedly been discussed by pupils and masters at the school, but we have no records of their thoughts on the matter. By the time the school returned in September, war had been declared and over 100 Old Westminsters had signed up to fight.


Tonight there will be a solemn commemoration onthe centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in neighbouring Westminster Abbey. Drawing upon Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark that “the lights are going out all over Europe”, Westminster Abbey will mark the centenary by moving from light into darkness, until one candle remains at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which will be extinguished at 11pm to mark the moment of the declaration of war.

The Abbey Vigil will be broadcast live at 10.00pm on BBC2 and many churches and other organisations across the country will hold similar vigils.

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