The bravest man in the trenches

Many of the former pupils of Reading School were serving with distinction.


Military Cross

Temp. 2nd Lieut. F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berks Regiment.- For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy twice attacked under cover of liquid fire, 2nd Lieut. Edwards showed great pluck under most trying circumstances and held off the enemy. He was badly wounded in the head while constructing a barricade within twenty-five yards of the enemy.

2nd Lieut. (Temp. Lieut.) W/C. Costin, Gloucester Regiment. – For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy penetrated our front line he pushed forward to a point where he was much exposed, and directed an accurate fire on the trench with his trench guns. It was largely due to his skill and courage that we recaptured the trench. An Old Boy of Reading School, he won a scholarship at St. John’s College. Oxford.

2nd Lieut. D.F.Cowan.

Killed in Action.

Lieut. Hubert Charles Loder Minchin, Indian Infantry, was the eldest of three sons of the late Lieut-Col. Hugh Minchin, Indian Army, who followed their father into that branch of the service, and of whom the youngest was wounded in France in May, 1915. Lieutenant Minchin, who was 23 years old, was educated at Bath College, Reading School, and Sandhurst. After a probationary year with the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was posted to the 125th (Napier’s) Rifles, then at Mhow, with whom he served in the trenches.

After the engagement at Givenchy on December 20th, 1914, he was reported missing. Sometime later an Indian Officer, on returning to duty from hospital, reported that he had seen Lieut. Minchin struck in the neck, and killed instantly, when in the act of personally discharging a machine-gun against the enemy. The Indian officer has now notified that he must be believed to have fallen on that day.
2nd lieut.

F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berkshire Regiment, awarded the military cross, died of wounds on August 10th. He was 23 years of age, and the youngest son of the late Capt. H.H. Edwards, Royal Navy, and Mrs. Edwards, of Broadlands, Cholsey. He was educated at Reading School and the City and Guilds College, Kensington. He had been on active service 10 months. His Adjutant wrote:

“He was the bravest man in the trenches. All the men say he was simply wonderful on the morning of August 8th. We lost a very gallant soldier and a very lovable man.”

2nd Lieut. Arthur Joseph Bliss, Leinster Regiment, younger son of Mr. Joseph Bliss, Solicitor, of High Wycombe. Born 1888, he was educated at the Wycombe Royal Grammar School and at Reading School. He was afterwards articled to his father and was admitted a solicitor in 1911. He enlisted on August 7th , 1914, in the R.A.M.C., and in April, 1915, he was given a Commission in the Leinster Regiment.

Lieut. C.C. Okey Taylor.- Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, of the 3rd Buffs, attached to the Trench Mortar Battery Z/14, 14TH Division, British Expeditionary Force France, fell in action on Sunday, December3rd. 1916. He was quite not 22 years of age, and the only son of Mrs. Taylor, of 31, Weltje Road, Ravenscourt Park, London, W., and of the late Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Much sympathy is expressed for his mother, sister, and aged grandfather, and for the many friends who mourn the loss of this young officer. He was educated at Reading School, and was in the midst of a successful course at the Central and Technical Engineering College, Kensington, when the War broke out.

He received a Commission March, 1915, was promoted in April, 1916, and showed a devotion to duty and enthusiasm in the field which only ended with his life, laid down for King and Country. His Captain writes:

“It is with great regret that I have to convey the sad news that your son, Lieutenant C.C.O. Taylor, was killed in action yesterday, the 3rd instant. He was at a gun position with his men when the dug-out was blown in. His death must have been instantaneous, and two of his men were killed with him. We have recovered his body, and he will be buried to-morrow, and as many of his brother officers that are available will attend. I need hardly say how deeply sorry all his friends are, and to me it is a personal loss, since he has been associated with me longer than any other officer, and we have been together since he joined the Expeditionary Force. One cannot speak too highly of his ability, his devotion to duty, and the keen interests he took in all his men and their welfare. It is a sad loss which we all feel, and offer you our deepest and heartfelt sympathy.”

2nd Lieut. Frederick Wise, York and Lancaster Regiment, youngest son of the late Mr. W.E. Wise, of Mortimer, aged 22.

Norman Reginald Allnatt, second son of Blake Pearman and Eliza Matilda Allnatt, of “Homeland,” Woodcote Road, Caversham, aged 29.

Collier.— Killed in action at Delville Wood.

2nd Lieut.C.J. Fuller, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Fuller, 36, Eastern Avenue, Reading. On July 22nd. Aged 20.

2nd Lieut. F.M. Wise. – It is deep regret that a wide circle of friends will learn of the death of 2nd Lieut. F/M. Wise, will serving his country in France. The gallant officer was the youngest son of the late Mr. W.E. Wise and Mrs. Wise. He was educated at the Reading School, and only attained his majority on May 21st of the present year. Of an enterprising turn of mind, he set out for Canada some three or four years ago, and when war broke out he was in British Columbia, where he taken up fruit farming. The call to arms sounded, and he at once responded by joining the Canadian Highlanders.

In an incredibly short time he received his baptism of fire, for in March of 1915 he was in the thick of the fighting on the French front. Constantly in action, he received a bayonet wound in the early days of the fighting, and was in hospital in France for a month. On his recovery he re-joined the Canadians, but quite recently he had been given a commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment. Unfortunately he was killed in action on September 5th, and was then cut off at the commencement of what would no doubt have proved a brilliant career. Much sympathy is felt with the widowed mother and other members of the family.

2nd Lieut. C.J. Fuller. – Of four officers of his company who took part in the advance on July 1st he alone came through without a scratch. On July 10th he wrote to his parents:

“We were the leading battalion in the attack. Our prisoners were all well-equipped. They appeared to be have just come back from a rest, for in their trenches there were great coats, tunics and general clothing in top-hole condition. They had enough stores to refit a company and possessed remarkable dug-outs.”

On July 18th he wrote:

“I have three slight wounds and do not expect to go into hospital. The Huns’ shell fire was terrific, but we were congratulated by the Brigadier for our good work. Our fellows are fighting very bravely: I know they will do well.”

Educated at Reading School, Lieut. Fuller won his colours there and was a member of the Officers Training Corp. He enlisted early in the war and underwent his training with 2nd Lieut. H.P. Sadler, who alas! has also made the supreme sacrifice. They received their commissions at the same time, but were separated at the front. An all-round athlete, Lieut. Fuller was a member of the Reading Rowing Club and a keen motor cyclist. In civil life he assisted his father in the business of oil and colour merchant, Minster Street, Reading. A brother, Lce-Cpl. H.J.Fuller, was wounded in action while in the Kings Royal Rifles and has been discharged from the Army and is “doing his bit” in the Marine Transport.

Lieut Eric Baseden. – Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Baseden have been much touched by the very many expressions of sympathy they have received in the death of their son, Lieut. Eric Baseden, Royal Berks Regiment.
The Colonel wrote:

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that your son, Lieutenant Eric Baseden, was killed in action in the recent fighting while gallantly leading his platoon. I deeply sympathise with you in your sad loss. He was a most excellent officer in every way, and I can ill afford to lose him.”

Lieut. Mackinlay, of the Signal Company, wrote:

“Although I have only known your son for six months or so, we saw a good deal of each other and had become great friends. He was attached to this company until recently, and worked with me for several months preparing for the 1st of July. I count it a great privilege to have been regarded as one of his friends. He was always so cheery and bright in difficult times. And took his hardships and disappointments like a man. If he had not been such a good fellow he would have been seconded to Signals some time ago. We all tried hard to get his papers through, but his battalion, knowing what they would lose if they lost him, refused to sanction, and he returned to lay down his life as cheerily as one would expect who knew him. I know what a disappointment the refusal of his transfer was to him, but I admire the way he took it.

His battalion went over the parapet two days after I saw him last and he came through safely. Then his battalion were withdrawn to support trenches a few hundred yards back… Eric was killed instantaneously by a shell while in the trenches, and was buried by his men immediately behind the trench. I find it hard to realise he has gone. I sympathise most deeply with you. You have lost a son to be proud of, and I have lost a very dear friend.”


Lieut. W.E. McIlroy, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, second surviving son of the late Mr. W. McIlroy, Holybrook House, Reading, and Mrs. McIlroy, Newbury.

He was wounded while in France and was transferred from a hospital in Rouen to Manchester, where he is making satisfactory progress. Lieut. McIlroy, who was educated at Reading School, enlisted in 1914, and went to France in July 1915. His two brothers are serving.

2nd Lieut. H.G.P. McIlroy, the eldest, joined the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry in 1914 and went to France with that regiment early in the Following year. Shortly afterwards he returned home to take up a commission and was attached to the East Yorks Regiment. He spent the greater part of last autumn and winter on the East Coast as a Machine gun instructor, and during the air raids was in charge of anti-aircraft guns. He returned to France Last May. Sapper R.F. McIlroy, R.N., D.E., the youngest, went to Gallipoli last summer, and after the evacuation of the peninsula spent many months on the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. He was wounded there in the foot and the arm. In May he was transferred to France.

The Head Master has heard from Capt. Griffiths (9th Seaforth Highlanders), who seeks to have been in many hot corners lately. This is his description of a German trench:

“one of these dug-outs had been constructed right underneath a large farm that I had to put into a state of defence in the village of L—-, and had rooms bordering on the main shaft large enough to accommodate a hundred men. We were almost the first to enter this “palace” and discovered several good souvenirs. Every man in my platoon came home with a helmet.”

GASTON DEVOS also writes from France. He is in a training camp of about 6,000 men where, in addition to the hard work, plenty of recreation seems to be provided. He says that he finds his O.T.C. training at School of real use to him.

The following letter has been received by Mr. Pullen-Burry from Col. Stokoe with regard to the death of Sergt. C.A. Pullen-Burry, D.C.L.I.-

Dear Sir,

It is with the very greatest regret that I write to tell you of your dear son’s death killed in action. He was a great friend of mine and every night in trenches he used to bring me his intelligence report and have a cup of cocoa and some cake with me. I have several times wanted him and asked him to take a commission but he used to say that he thought that he was more useful as he was.

He was so fearless that I have several times heard the remark that Pullen-Burry was asking for it. His splendid pluck and intelligent work was so well known in the Brigade and Division that directly his death was reported both Generals wired to me, a thing without precedent in the case of a sergeant.

Only two nights before he was nearly killed by a gas-poisoning, from a coke-stove in his dug-out. I carried him into my dug-out and had to pump his arms and pour a stimulant down his throat as he was absolutely pulseless. It was some time before we got him round and at one time thought him dead. His first remark on regaining consciousness was, “Well, Sir, I had better back to the telephone”- a wonderful spirit of devotion and duty – others who were in a similar state were asking for the doctor and brandy. He had absolutely no suffering and although he breathed for several hours he never regained consciousness.

I know what his loss must mean to you, but you must have great consolation in knowing what a splendid work he has done in his short life and must be proud to have such a son.

On behalf of every officer and man and myself in the Battalion please except our deepest sympathies.

Your’s very truly,
W.STOKOE, Lt.-Col.

A touching letter was also received from the Signallers of the Battalion.

Reading School Magazine, December 1916 (SCH3/14/34)

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