A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.


Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.


Gunner Seymour Waldegrave Soole. On February 3rd, in the General Hospital, Portsmouth, suddenly, of cerebromeningitis, Seymour Waldegrave Soole, Gunner, R.F.A., ELDEST SON OF THE LATE Rev. Seymour H. Soole, Vicar of Greyfriars, and Mrs. Soole, Sunnyholme, Reading aged 40.


In the New Year’s Honours List appears the name of Lieut-Colonel S.M. Rice as having received the C.I.E. “for meritorious work in connection with the war.”

The King has been graciously pleased to confer the Military Cross on 2nd Lieut. Alec Penlock Aveline, Royal Berks Regiment. He led a raid against the enemy’s trenches with marked ability and succeeded in capturing 52 prisoners. He has at all times set a fine example.


Colonel C. F. Templer (Indian Army) is gazetted Brigadier-General.

R.F. Wright is in Russia, in the Royal Naval Air Service. He has sent home Nature Notes to Mr. Deimer, from which we take the following extracts. Except for sea- birds which he met on his mid-winter voyage, there was not much bird life visible. We envy him his brief sojourn in the warmth of the Arctic Circle –

“The weather conditions may interest some people. When we were right in the Arctic Circle it was for 2 days less cold than in England. This I believe was partly due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. Once North Cape was passed the real cold began. THE sun was above the horizon for only 5 hours, and the masts, and decks and rails began to have ice on them. There is no glare about the sun when it rises. One can look right at it without hurting one’s eyes. All the colours of the sunrise are softer than in England……

In some ways the most beautiful sight we saw the Aurora which we saw one very fine starlit night. The light is quite white and very soft and is moving a little all the time……

On land the sleighs are sometimes drawn by a team of reindeer. They are quite small, grey deer, but they can move faster than the horses that seem to be more generally used. Some of the dogs look very much like foxes.”

O. Fielding Clarke, after seven weeks in hospital with diphtheria, has now got a Commission in the R.F.C. and is taking an E.O. Course in Reading.

2nd Lieut. Vincent S. Holbrook, formerly member of the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps and Reading School Cadet Corps (O.T.C.), ON PROBATION Special Reserve of Officers, Royal Flying Corps, E.O. 3RD class, is confirmed in rank.


W.J. Spikes
H.L. Brigham
F.T. Muncy
A.S. Higlett
W.R. Tapper
M.W. Baseden
H.P. Dymore-Brown
R.J. Saunders
J.R. Durran
F.L.J. Shirley
H.E. Aust
C.E. Tranter
O. Fielding Clarke
E.P. Weller
J.W. Matthews

We received the following jottings from an O.R. in France:-

“The French seem to love enormous trains with as many engines as possible. By yesterday had attained a great length, and rests by the wayside were quite frequent. At one of them we ran across a ripping little wood. It was a glorious sunny day and we had a splendid shave and general clean up, all in a cup of hot water borrowed from the engine. It is quite usual to get out and walk if one gets cold or fed up with things. A brisk walk soon improves matters and the train is sure to catch up if one waits long enough.

“We have quite a good billet, well-ventilated but comfortable. It is possible for shells to pop in – hence we sleep in the cellar which beggars description. My servant has improvised a bed from a door supported on a pair of steps, and an orange box with a couple of small barrels to prevent it from collapsing in the middle. The ground floor of the house is fairly well furnished. Our table is composed of old planks varying in thickness, while the “Morning Post” of November 14th makes an excellent table cloth.

The fireplace is a work of art. A few bricks piled up firmly bound with mud make a graceful exit for smoke through what was once a window, but which is now obliterated with packing case lids. At the top of the brickwork is balanced a piece of stove pipe, and the back draught is immense.

Our coal limber has gone astray but the Boche has turned the roof of a barn into firewood so we do not worry. There is an upper floor to the billet, but only one of the four of us is hard enough to spend the night there. From here a splendid view of the stars can be obtained. The servants talk of rats and hence the real reason for my dive into the cellar. To-day I had an excellent bath in a disused brewery and feel civilized again.

“One poor misguided aunt of one of our subs packed two eggs in hay in a tin – this was meant to be a treat, I suppose. The parcel arrived when we were resting and for two days the Mess was uninhabitable. If he gets any more such gifts there’ll be much trouble.”

E.J. Ward arrived in England on March 17th. For the last nine years he has been Resident Engineer to the European Commission of the Danube and was stationed at Sulina in Rumania. He had an exciting journey of 85 days, via the Black Sea, Russia and Finland.

Reading School magazine, April 1917 (SCH3/14/33)

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