Tag Archives: Ypres

Geoffrey Richard Dudley Gee

Geoffrey Gee was born in Summergangs, Pinjarra, Western Australia to Raymond Gee and his wife Annie Matilda Alderson. His father was English and at some point before 1888 had emigrated to Perth, where he was Head Master of Hales School for a year.

Geoffrey was sent to school in England, joining Ashburnham House in September 1909. He was made an exhibitioner in 1910, and a King’s Scholar in 1911. Outside of term time he lived with his paternal aunt and her husband, Dr Bernard Ley, in Earl’s Court.

Geoffrey was very successful in a range of school activities. He was athletic, winning the school fives ties and was a runner up in the gymnastic competition (losing out due to a ‘lack of symmetry in some exercises’). He played cricket and football for the 1st XIs, earning full pinks after his performance in the Charterhouse football match, although ‘he dribbled much too close on to his forwards and only passed moderately’. In his final cricket season it was commented that he had ‘persevering temper, and both with bat and with ball did better than some of his critics expected’.

Gee was academic as well, winning the Phillimore prize for translation and speaking regularly at the school’s debating society – opposing a motion to restrict the franchise in this country. He performed ‘very creditably’ in the 1913 Latin Play. In his final term at the school, Election 1915, he was made a monitor.

Although Geoffrey won a place at Christ Church, Oxford, he joined 3rd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment straight after leaving the school. He went out to the western front in August 1916, but was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in January 1917 as an observer.

Geoffrey went up in his aeroplane near Ypres on 4th June 1917 and was never seen again. His name is on the Arras Flying Service Memorial in the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery.

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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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John Oswald Heath

John Oswald Heath was the only son of John Edgar Heath, of Lee, Kent, and his wife Nora Mary, daughter of Oswald Lofthouse, of Warrington, Lancashire. He was born on 24th May 1895.

He was admitted to Westminster at the end of September 1910, and joined Ashburnham house. Since he had arrived at the school at the slightly older age of 15, he joined the Transitus — a transitional year for pupils who were new to the school. After leaving the school in July 1912, he entered the pottery and glass manufacturing business for a short 19161007_Heath,JOtime before joining the Honourable Artillery Company in 1913.

In September 1914, the HAC moved from Finsbury, London to Belhus Park, Essex, and on the 18th of that month John Heath went out with them to the western front. They landed two days later at Saint-Nazaire and were placed onto lines of communication. He served with them for nine months, which meant that he would have been involved in the First Battle of Ypres.

After those first nine months, he returned to Britain to take a commission as 2nd Lieutenant with the 11th (Service) Battalion, the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment on 28th June 1915. He was promoted to Lieutenant the following February and returned to the western front as the Battalion Bombing Officer on May Day 1916.

He was killed in action, at the age of 21, during the attempt to capture Le Sars during the Battle of Le Transloy on the 7th Oct. 1916. He is commemorated at Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 11 C).

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James Pitcairn Blane

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James Pitcairn Blane was in Ashburnham House from May 1895 until July 1901. He was a keen cricketer and played in the school’s XI with the highest batting average in the team of 24.0. When he left the school he became a mining engineer, spending four years in Western Australia and travelling to West Africa on several occasions. On the outbreak of war he was the manager of a mine in Cornwall. He joined inthe8th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in October 1914 and went out tothe western front in May 1915.

Blane was seriously wounded at 5pm on 19th November whilst to the left of the B16 trench to the north-east of Ypres. He was hit by a ‘whizzbang’ the nick name given to German field artillery shells. The name derived from the fact that the shells fired from German 77mm field guns travelled faster that the speed of sound and therefore soldiers heard the ‘whizz’ of the shell travelling through the air towards them before the ‘bang’ issued by the gun itself upon firing. The result of this high velocity was that defending soldiers had very little notice of the incoming shell. Blane was taken to the nearby military hospital in Poperinghe but died in the early hours of the morning of 23rd November.

His younger brother, Hugh, also died in active service in 1914 and his father was killed in action at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Blane had played cricket for MCC and is also commemorated on the club’s roll of honour.

 

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George Constantine Paul

19151017_Paul,GC_2 George Paul was born in Belgium. His father, Paul Paul (1865-1937) was an eminent landscape and portrait painter who also painted under the name Politachi. His mother, Marion, died in 1909 when George was just 13 years old. He started at Westminster the following year in Ashburnham House and remained at the school until July 1914.

George Paul played an active part in House life. He was tanned [beaten] by a monitor, McCulloch for ‘coming into upper [the senior boys study] when not properly dressed’. He made up for his misdemeanours by his sporting ability and was awarded house colours and later full pinks. In 1913, thanks to Paul’s help, Ashburnham House managed to win both the inter-house Football and Cricket competitions.

Paul played football for the school, although it was wryly noted in The Elizabethan that he and a contemporary Veitch would never be ‘of much value till they realise that feeding their forwards well is nearly as valuable as robbing their opponents of the ball’. He can’t have been that bad a player as he made it on to the 1st XI during his last year at school, although the report for the season state that ‘he must learn to keep his eye on the ball when he tackles instead of making rather a blind dash for it.’

That summer, following the outbreak of war with Germany, he joined the army. He served in The King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was killed in action at Ypres, Belgium when he was just 19 years old.

(c) Bushey Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
One of George Paul’s father’s paintings now held by the Bushey Museum and Art Gallery.
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William Blencowe Wells Durrant

William Blencowe Wells Durrant was the only son ofFrederick Chester Wells Durrant the Attorney-General of the Bahamas, West Indies. Durrant was clearly very academically gifted – he joined the school as a King’s Scholar in 1908 and obtained a Classical Scholarship at Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1913.

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He was less gifted on the football pitch – indeed his first appearance in the annual football match between the scholars and the Town Boys was rather disastrous. Playing in goal, he managed to allow the opposition to score five times! One of the goals was particularly unfortunate, initially hitting the post but then rebounding off Durrant (who had fallen down trying to save it) and landing straight into the net.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given his father’s occupation, Durrant particularly excelled in public speaking. He was a stalwart of the school debating society and spoke in a style described as ‘fluent but rambling’. He also appeared in the Latin Play two years running, playing female parts both times. A reviewer commented that ‘his movements were far too masculineand strenuous, and he wielded his fan with morevigour than grace.’

On the outbreak of war Durrant left Cambridge and took a commission in the Rifle Brigade. He was killed in action near Ypres on 8th May 1915.

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Gordon Stewart Ness

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Gordon Stewart Ness was at Westminster for only two years. In The ElizabethanGrant’s House recorded that they were ‘very sorry to have lost him when he left unexpectedly in the middle of the Election Term 1902′. We don’t know whether he then enrolled at another school, but in 1904 he matriculated at Clare College, Cambridge. He also joined the 4th Battalion of the Black Watch as a volunteer. In 1909 he began working at Lloyd’s as an underwriter.

Ness married Gladys Harrison in Kensington in the spring of 1914. Soon after (in fact, considerably less than 9 months after) a son was born, Anthony Patrick Ness on 5th June. After the declaration of war Ness joined the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and went out to the Western Front on 11th September. He was killed in action at Ypres on 10th November 1914. Gladys Ness gave birth to his second child in June 1915, a daughter named Marguerite. Gladys never recovered from the loss of her husband and their children were raised by Ness’ sister, Catherine Ann Horsley.

Ness’ son went on to marry Lady Brigid Guinness, who had formerly been married to Prince Frederick of Prussia, grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II. His daughter, Marguerite, married Heinz Friedrich Eberhard, Baron von Westenholz. The School has been in touch with their son, Ness’ grandson, who kindly provided us with a photograph of his grandfather. Ness is commemorated on the school’s war memorial, the Menin Gate at Ypres, the Lloyd’s of London Arch on Leadenhall Street and at his home town of Braco Castle, Dunblane.

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Memorial to Gordon Stewart Ness in Braco
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George William Houghton Hodgson

The eldest of three brothers to attend Westminster, George Hodgson had a seemingly unremarkable time at the school. He was involved in the literary society, as well as being a decent cricket player, though seemed to concentrate more on his school work than anything else. The same can’t be said of his time at Cambridge, where he started at Trinity College in 1907. He spent a lot of time in his first 2 years coxing the third college boat, at which he was apparently so bad that “he has been thanked by the county council for so ably assisting their work of widening the river at that point”. An interest in Beagling, which he won trophies for, followed by some illness meant he did little coxing in his final two years.

He went straight into the army, having received his commission from the university, where he joined the Border Regiment in September 1911 as a second lieutenant. The years before the war were spent in England, but in 1914 his battalion was put under control of the 7th Division at Lyndhurst, before leaving for Belgium at the beginning of October. As with Tomlinson’s battalion, they assisted with the evacuation of Antwerp before moving to Ypres, where Hodgson spent the next month. He was made a lieutenant a few days after they arrived.

A military hospital in Boulogne, formerly a Casino, photographed in 1916 (IWM)
A military hospital in Boulogne, which was formerly a Casino, photographed in 1916 (IWM)

Both he and his younger brother were injured around the same time, though it was George who had the worst of it. While his brother was invalided home, he was taken to the military hospital in Boulogne, where he died of his wounds 4 days later, on the 6th of November 1914, aged 26. His service was distinguished after his death by mention in John French’s despatch the following January.

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