KILBURN GRAMMAR SCHOOL
ROLL OF HONOUR
Peter Reder & Neville Wrench
The War Memorial
“Before a representative assembly of Parents and Friends of those Old Boys who made the great sacrifice, Governors, the Staff and Scholars of the School, and the Old Boys, the War Memorial was unveiled on Dec 5th last by W B Luke Esq., Chairman of Governors, presented to the School by Mr A E Brunsdon, Chairman of the Association, accepted on behalf of the School by the Headmaster, our President, and dedicated by the Right Rev the Lord Bishop of London. A guard of honour was formed by the School Cadets, and the whole ceremony, which was carried out in a befitting manner, was very impressive.
The thanks and warmest praise of the Association must be given to Mr G Sexton, the designer of the Memorial and to Mr A Lister who, as Secretary to the War Memorial Committee, carried out the final arrangements in a most satisfactory manner.
The names on the Memorial have purposely been inscribed in no order, as it is impossible to obtain a comprehensive list. The Committee ask to hear of any names not included.
At the same time as the unveiling of the Memorial, a tablet, put up by the masters of the School to the memory of Mr Henley, our old friend and master, was unveiled.”
The Memorial Board was hung at the far end of the School’s hall and contained the names of fifty one alumni who fell in the first world war. Beneath it was placed the tablet commemorating the master, Frederick Henley.
It has been possible to discover more about these men personally, as well as their fate, through web sites such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and ‘Ancestry’, a subscription genealogy programme containing census data, birth, death and marriage registrations and military sources. However, only some of the soldiers’ service records are available because nearly two thirds of the original paper documents were destroyed by German bombs in the blitz in 1940. Those that survived have heavily singed borders and are known as the ‘Burnt Records’, but usefully include attestation forms, health details and service summaries.
The School’s memorial board only recorded the men’s initials and in some instances it was necessary to access the KGS archives in Willesden Library to confirm their identities. Surprisingly, the admission records only started at 1901, which meant that nearly half of the men could not be found in the archive.
A number of anomalies were also apparent. Reginald Ernest Mordant Toop was named on the original memorial board but he survived the war and it was his brother, Robert William Toop, who was lost. This was corrected in the published history of the School. The name H Dane is inscribed on the board but a wartime copy of The Kilburnian records that H Dean was serving with the Artists’ Rifles Officers Training Corps. The closest match that could be made was with Henry Douglas Dean. For three men whose names were inscribed (S Chappell, C Robertson and R G Wheatley), their death is not reported in any of the official war casualty records and there is good evidence of their survival beyond the war years. Nevertheless, if we have made any errors in identifying the men then we offer apologies to their memory.
Ultimately, it was possible to identify and discover information about forty eight alumni and the one master who fell.
Many of the men would have been among the first entrants to the school. Indeed, Charles Poston and Eric Saxby were numbers 1 and 2 respectively in the first 1901 admissions ledger. By contrast, James Brooman and Cecil Stanton had only left the School the year that war broke out. Hugh Gill, Alexander Keith, James Miller and Leslie Westaway had been Head-Boys at the School. Four had gone on to University: Alexander Keith to Downing College, Cambridge; Clement Le Sueur and James Miller to King’s College, London; and Leslie Westaway to Goldsmith’s College.
The majority of the men were in their twenties when they died but nine were still teenagers. In August 1914, the minimum age for voluntary enlistment was set at eighteen and for service overseas at nineteen. With the introduction of conscription in March 1916 this was reduced to eighteen. The service records that have survived reveal how easy it was for recruits to exaggerate their age, since enlistment forms only required them to declare how old they were not their date of birth, while medical forms only recorded ‘apparent age’. The lower age limits were often ignored by recruiting sergeants and by young volunteers keen to enlist, so it appears that William Barnes declared himself to be twenty instead of eighteen and Frederick Ramsay added a year onto his age of eighteen. Edward Chipp died only three months past his seventeenth birthday, having enlisted at the age of sixteen.
Léon Barbu, William Barnes, Walter Easty, Gordon Frith, George Myers, Eric Saxby and Herbert St Cyr were their parents’ only son, while the Brooman family lost twin sons Arthur and James within a month of each other. George and Norman Knight also were brothers. Harold Kearley is the only man identified as married and he left a young son and daughter. Léon Barbu’s family had emigrated to Australia in 1910 and from there he had joined up with his father’s old French regiment. The Knight brothers had emigrated to Canada in 1903 and enlisted with Canadian forces.
Six of the men joined the Royal Flying Corps or its successor the Royal Air Force and were commissioned as Lieutenant or 2nd Lieutenant. All the others served in land forces, the highest ranked being Captain James Miller. Charles Poston had enlisted with the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve but was part of the landing assault in Gallipoli.
The Gallipoli campaign claimed the lives of Edward Chipp and Herbert Kempster. William Carr and Frederick Ramsay were killed in the Middle East, Wallace Crocket in Italy and Gordon Frith died in India.
All the other men were lost on the Western Front. William Baker and Leslie Westaway were killed on 1st July 1916, the dreadful first day of Somme offensive. Sidney Eves died of wounds the following day and Aubrey Fraser seven days after that as a prisoner of war; Eves and Fraser had served in the same battalion (1st/5th, London Regiment) and are likely to have been wounded in the same 1st July action. Arthur Brooman would have known Cecil Stanton at school; both enlisted in the 1st/16th Battalion, London Regiment and were killed on the same day at Gravelle. Leslie Fennell and Arthur Woodman, serving in the 1st/15th Battalion, London Regiment, were killed within two weeks of each other two months after reaching the front. George Godson and William Gough also died just two months after landing in France. Henry Dean only survived at the front for three weeks and George Samuels just seven days. Herbert Kempster was killed the day after he landed in Gallipoli. Four men – John Barrett, Wallace Crockett, Albert Feavearyear and Ralph Hamilton – fell in September 1918, within sight of the Armistice.
Not all the men died as a result of enemy action. Wallace Crockett was killed in a flying accident in Italy, Gordon Frith succumbed to dysentery in India and Norman Knight did not recover from an appendicectomy operation in a London hospital. He was buried in England, as was Sydney Gabriel, who died of wounds in Liverpool. Aubrey Fraser lies in a cemetery in Germany, where he died of wounds as a prisoner of war. Many others are buried in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in northern Europe but twenty two of the men have no known grave and are commemorated on monuments close to where they fell, such as the Arras and Thiepval on the Somme, the Menin Gate and Tynecot in Flanders, and the Helles Memorials.
At the outbreak of war, the School was just sixteen years old. It clearly felt the losses among its old boys keenly, for wartime copies of The Kilburnian listed alumni serving in the armed forces and recorded those believed to have been killed. A century later, it remains appropriate to honour their service, sacrifice and memory.
Three men named on the Memorial actually survived.
Stanley Hughes Chappell was listed in a wartime The Kilburnian as serving with the London Scottish (14th Battalion, London Regiment). In May 1918 he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the 17th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment which did not have a combat role. He died in 1954. He may have been confused with a different Stanley Chappell who lived in south London, attended Alleyn’s School, joined the RFC and was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1918.
C Robertson was listed in The Kilburnian as serving with the Seaforth Highlanders. The closest match is to Cecil Duncan Robertson, who attended KGS between 1913 and 1914. He transferred from the Seaforth Highlanders to 20 Squadron, RAF and his last known address was RAF Ambala, India. His promotion to Pilot Officer was gazetted in November 1920 and to Flying Officer in November 1922.
Richard George Wheatley was listed in The Kilburnian as serving with the London Rifles (5th Battalion, London Regiment). He later transferred to the Royal West Sussex Regiment and then to the Tank Corps. He emigrated to Canada in 1919, married in 1931 and died in Hendon in 1970.