James Hamilton Spence was the only son of Hamilton Robert Spence and his wife Constance (whose brother was also an Old Westminster). He joined the school in 1911 and was admitted into Grant’s House.
He was exceptionally athletic. He took part in gymnastics, fives, racquets, swimming, athletics and football whilst at school and also became a Lance-Corporal in the school’s Officer Training Corps. He won the Under 15 High Jump and Long Jump for his house and The Elizabethan noted that ‘Spence showed exceptionally good athletic ability for a boy of thirteen, his Long Jump has only been beaten twice in the last sixteen years.’
The school’s magazine also reviewed his performance on the football pitch. A report of the Town Boy’s match against the King’s Scholars states that ‘Spence was the better of the backs, but kept too far up, and was apt to muddle his halves.’ During the 1914-15 football season it was noted that he ‘played with dash’ and that ‘Spence improved greatly and was very useful. He kicked and headed reasonably well, and always tried to put the ball to one of his own side, and he learnt to anticipate where an opponent was likely to pass. His worst faults were keeping a little too far up the ground, and at times a curious hesitation in getting rid of the ball when on the defensive.’
On leaving the school he went to the Royal Millitary Academy at Woolwich, joining the Royal Artillery as a 2nd Lieutenant in October 1915 and served on the Western Front. In 1917 he became attached to the Royal Flying Corps. He took off on the evening of 16th July 1918 and his aircraft was last seen going down in flames near to Courthiézy whilst attacking a Halberstadt 2-seater enemy plane. The Elizabethan noted that he was ‘a lad of high character and fine physique’ and ‘did excellent service before he was brought down in the enemies’ lines.’
Richard Edward John Thomson was in Rigaud’s House from 1906 until 1909. He was interested in a military career from an early stage and joined the school’s Officer Training Corps, taking part in shooting competitions – with mixed success. He left the school after passing his Woolwich qualifying examination and in 1910 joined the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He joined the Indian Army in 1912 as aDouble Company Officer for the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs. With this regiment he saw active service atNowshera and Lorala before joining the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in September 1914. He was killed in action at Neuve Chapelle on 18th May 1915.
The same day, just a few hundred metres away,Lieutenant John Smyth of the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, led ten volunteers on a perilous mission to supply bombs to the front line. Lieutenant Smythconveyed a supply of 96 bombs to within 20 yards of the enemy’s position over exceptionally dangerous ground, after the attempts of two other parties had failed. Lieutenant Smyth succeeded in taking the bombs to the desired position with the aid of two of his men (the other eight having been killed or wounded), and to effect his purpose he had to swim a stream, being exposed the whole time to howitzer, shrapnel, machine-gun and rifle fire. Smyth was awarded the Victoria Cross, Lance-Naik Mangal Singh the Indian Order of Merit, and every sepoy in the party the Indian Distinguished Service Medal.
Speaking at the500th Birthday Anniversary of Guru Nanak at Grosvenor House in Park Lane in December, 1969 the thenBrigadier the Rt. Hon. Sir John Smythe, Bt. V.C. made the following speech:
56 years ago I joined the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs in Loralai, Baluchistan and at once became embued with the teachings and the life of Guru Nanak. The Sikh Gurus, the Sikh religion, the Gurdwara, the Granth Sahib became part of my life. The British and Sikh officers of the Regiment were convinced that religion was an important factor in the make-up of a good soldier and we fostered that in every way possible.