Shot through the head

News of the last days of Berkshire soliders continued to trickle in.

Casualties

Sergeant A E Bolton (2nd DG, Queen’s Bays), died in France; Private W H Brown (8th Royal Berks), twice wounded, and prisoner since last April (omitted before); Frank Hicks (2nd Royal Berks), at last officially presumed killed on 9th May, 1915; W Painter (RE), wounded and gassed; J W G Phillips (RAF Labour Company), killed; H J Pembroke (1st Royal Irish Fusiliers), killed in action, 1st October, 1918; G H Poulton-Smith (RGA), wounded; died (of pneumonia) in Italy.

Captain Bullivant’s Death

One day last September, his unit, the 1st Middlesex Yeomanry, was holdig a line of out-posts in Palestine, when a Turkish column was reported to be moving across the front. He rode forward with an orderly to reconnoitre, sending his trumpeter back with orders for the squadron to follow. When they did, however, they at once came under fire, and had to go into action (no doubt dismounted), without having see him or being able to gather which way he had gone in the tangle of ridges and valleys; and the engagement continued for some hours, finishing up in the dark, miles from where it began. Search was made for him early next morning, and a patrol brought in his body. He had been shot through the head, and “must have come right on to them when he galloped over the ridge”, writes his subaltern. His orderly had had his horse shot, and could not himself be traced at the time of writing. A gallant death: but a sad loss to his family and to this parish, in which he took great intrest, and in whose affairs we hoped he was destined to play an active part. He was a Rugby and Cambridge man.

Lieut. Alfred Searies has made a wonderful recovery, and been home on leave. He was buried and damaged while occupying a “pill-box”, and only recovered consciousness five days later in hospital. His MC has been duly awarded him.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1918 (D/EX725/4)

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“The real thing: he was a rock, strong, capable, self-reliant, and possessed the complete confidence of every man and officer in the battalion”

A tribute was paid to a Burghfield hero.

THE WAR

IN MEMORIAM

George Ouvry William Willink, MC
2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

George was only 2 ½ years old when the family came here, in July 1890, so his life’s home has been in the parish, and he loved it. And that he has not been spared to live out his days at Hillfields is a sore loss to all classes.

Perhaps no record can be more suitable for printing in the Magazine than the following notice by his Eton Tutor, Mr Vaughan, his parents’ old friend, which appeared in the Eton College Chronicle:

“George Willink came from Mr Locke’s school, St Neot’s, Eversley, in 1901 to Mr Vaughan’s House. Diffident at first, and somewhat slow in thought, he yet showed already those qualities of steadfastness, unselfishness and good temper, which in time won for him the respect and affection of all. He made himself, by pluck and concentration, one of the best in the House at football and fives. In the Lent Half of 1907 he played for Eton v. Harrow in the first “Rugger” match between the two schools, when Eton won by 12 points to 0, and in the summer of that year rowed 2 in the Eight at Henley, and thus at the end of his blameless career came into his own.

“He was always so self-effacing”, writes the boy who was his most intimate friend in the House, “that it was only those who knew him really well, as I did, that realised what a splendid fellow he was”.

It might truly have been said of him at Eton, as it was at Oxford, that “Things, whatever they were, would go all right, if he was mixed up with them.” Throughout his life he thus exercised far more influence than he himself realised. “If my own sons”, his Oxford tutor wrote, “should grow up with that sort of character, I should feel more thankful for this than for anything else in the world.”

In 1907 he went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he not only rowed in the Varsity Trial Eights, and managed his College Boat Club, of which he was captain, but worked hard at History, and reaped his reward by obtaining a Second Class in the History School in 1911. In 1913 he was called to the Bar. A keen member of the Eton, and of the Oxford, OTC, in both of which he was a sergeant, he had, on coming to London, joined the Inns of Court OTC (in which his father had once been a captain), and was a lieutenant when the war broke out.

He commanded for some time as captain, No. 1 Company of the Battalion at Berkhamsted, and the universal testimony of officers and men to his good work is remarkable. The words of one of the former (Sir F G Kenyon) may be quoted: “There never was an officer more hard-working, more conscientious, more self-sacrificing, and without claiming any credit for himself”.

In 1916, as soon as he could obtain permission to leave Berkhamsted, he joined the Berks Territorials, in his his brother Captain F A Willink had already seen foreign service, and in July proceeded to France.

In 1917 he was mentioned in dispatches, and later gained the MC for a daring rescue by digging out with a few men, under heavy fire, some buried gunners. Rejoining his regiment, after a “course” behind the lines, on March 23rd, he took over command of his Battalion, the CO having been killed a few days before.

On the 28th he fell while he was gallantly leading, in advance of his men, a counter-attack. “On the first day that I took over the brigade, in September 1916,” writes his Brigadier, “I put him down in my mind at once as the real thing. He was a rock, strong, capable, self-reliant, and possessed the complete confidence of every man and officer in the battalion.”

In the words of a barrister, twenty years his senior in age, who served as his CSM at Berkhamsted: “He was one of the ‘gentlemen unafraid’ and as such has found his welcome in Valhalla’”.

More might be said, especially as to the affection which he inspired, as well as confidence. But this is not the place for it, and after all, his Burghfield neighbours know.

Honours and Promotions

Temp. Lt Geoffrey H B Chance to be Temp. Captain from 27th April 1917.

Casualties

Private E J V Cox (Worcester Regiment), missing; Private F G Cummins (Royal Berks Regiment), severely wounded; Private D Hutchins (Royal Berks Regiment), wounded.

Lance Corporal Howard Pembroke (see Magazine for April) has been definitely offered the choice of a commission in either the Infantry or the Royal Air Service. But he prefers to remain in the ASC, where however he will have to wait for a similar chance until he is older.

Burghfield parish magazine, July 1918 (D/EX725/4)

“He died gloriously doing glorious deeds during the course of our brilliant advance “

Tribute was paid to former students at Reading School who had fallen in recent months.

Killed in Action.

Central Ontario Regt. Pte. F.C.(Eric) Lawes, eldest son of Mr. F.J. laws., of 116, Hamilton Road, Reading, aged 22 years. On August 8th.

Captain Brain, Killed In Action.

The sympathy of the whole town will go out to Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Brain in the loss of their second son, Captain Frances Sydney Brain, Royal Berks Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd October. Born IN 1893, he was educated at Reading School and Leighton Park School, and in 1912 he obtained a scholarship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Cambridge University O.T.C., and on February 26th, 1915, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, being promoted Lieutenant on July 29th, 1918. He proceeded to France in June, 1916, and was recently promoted Captain. The news of his death was received by his parents on Wednesday, and was contained in a letter from the chaplain of his regiment, who wrote as follows to Mr. and Mrs. Brain:-

“I am so grieved to have to tell you of the loss of your gallant son in action on the 3rd inst. He was hit on the head by a shell during the course of our brilliant advance and died instantly. I hope it will be of some little consolation to know that he died gloriously doing glorious deeds. He is a great loss to the regiment, as he was one of our most promising officers. In him I, too, had a friend, and more than a friend, for we were both of the same Varsity, and had mutual friends. I was able to get his body and bring it back to a little cemetery which we started here, where he lies with others of his regiment. We had the service of the Church of England, the last post and a funeral party. My prayers go up that the Almighty will give you strength to bear your sorrow.”


Lieut. H.M. Cook Killed.

Lieut. Howard Mortimer Cook, who was killed on August 8-9, would have been 29 September 1st had he lived. He was the elder son of Mr. John R. Cook, late of Lloyds Bank, Reading, and Mrs. Cook, and grandson of the late Town Clerk of Reading (Mr. Henry Day). He was educated at Reading School and St Edmunds Hall, Oxford, where he rowed in the eight. Although his original intention was to take Orders, at the outbreak of war he was on the point of leaving for Holland to take up teaching in schools, and his passport bore the date of August 4, 1914. He applied for a commission at once, having in the meantime joined a Public Schools Battalion as a private, and in November, 1914, he was gazetted to the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment. He went to the front in February 1916, being attached to the 5th Battalion, and shortly afterwards was wounded in the head by shrapnel but after a few months at home he returned to the front. He and two other officers were especially mentioned in certain orders of the day as having accomplished some very good work at Cambrai, in which the 5th Berks played so prominent a part. In May last he was transferred to the machine-gun corps. He was killed by the explosion of a mine when taking his section into action during the night. His commanding officer wrote that although he had only been in his battalion a short time he was very popular and his death meant a sad loss to the regiment.

Mathews.

Previously reported missing, now known to have been killed in action on the 31st July, Captain John Waldron Mathews, F.A.F., of San Julian, Patagonia, elder son of E.J. Mathews and Mrs. Mathews, Brockley Combe, Weybridge, aged 28.

Death of Lieut. F.L. Hedgcock.

We greatly regret to record the death of Second Lieut. Frederick Leslie Hedgcock, M.G.C., who was killed in action on Sunday Sept, 29th, at the age of 20, after having served with his Regiment in France over seven months. He was educated at Reading School and Brighton College, and was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Hedgcock, of St. Margaret’s, Shinfield Road, Reading. Mr Hedgcock has two other sons serving in the Army, the eldest, Captain S.E. Hedgcock, now on the staff in Mesopotamia, and Lieut. S.D. Hedgcock, recently gazetted to the R.E. Both have been on active service, the eldest at Suvla Bay and the second son twice in France.

A brother officer writes: –

“we were fighting in a very important sector, and had done very well. Your son was shot through the heart, and was therefore instantly killed.”

His Major writes that he was killed while leading his men into action.

“On behalf of the officers and man of the company, I would tender you our heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement. We have lost an excellent officer and you have lost an excellent son.”


Pte. L.C. Shore

Pte. Leonard C. Shore, Lincolns, who died on August 19th of wounds received in action in France, was the son of Lance-Corpl. Shore and Mrs Shore, of 51, Francis Street, Reading, and was 19 years of age. He was educated at the Central School, and at Reading School, having won an entrance scholarship to the latter. Prior to joining up in April, 1917, he was in the office of the surveyor of taxes at Richmond (Surrey). His father, an old soldier, is serving with the Rifle Brigade in Egypt, where he has been for the past three years.

Funeral of Capt. S.J. Hawkes.

At St Bartholomew’s church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Capt. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt.

At St. Bartholomew’s Church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Captain. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt, who died suddenly in his barrack quarters at Dublin on the previous Wednesday. The Rev. T.J. Norris was the efficient clergyman, being assisted by the Revs. A.T. Gray, B. Mead and H. Elton Lury, C.F., the latter reading the lesson. The deceased officer was before the war, greatly in the boys of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and held this position of Scoutmaster of the St. Bartholomew’s Troup. Educated at Reading School, where he was a member of the Officers Training Corps and of the Rugby xv. He joined the University and Public Schools Brigade. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, and subsequently transferred to the Military College, Sandhurst, where he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks Regt. He soon went to France, and after serving there for some time was wounded and returned to England, and later, with the rank of Captain, went to Ireland. As recently as last month Capt. Hawkes was on leave in Reading on the occasion of the wedding of one of his brothers, at which ceremony he performed the duties of best man. A short time ago Capt. Hawkes successfully passed the difficult examination for the Royal Air Force to which he had transferred just prior to his death.

Reading School Magazine, December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

Promise of such a splendid leader

A young man with a bright future was the latest to fall at the Front.

Walford Vernon Knowles

By the death of Walford Knowles on the last day of the old year, yet another name is added to the Roll of boys from Trinity who have laid down their lives in defence of home and country and of human liberty, whose names will live while Trinity stands.

In a letter dated the 6th of January, 1918, Capt. H. A. Curtis writes:

“It is with deep regret that I have to write and inform you of the death of your son. It happened at about 6.15 on the morning of December 31st. We were ‘standing to’ at the time, and the enemy put down a heavy barrage on to the position we were holding. As is usual, all Officers were on duty at the time, and it appears that a heavy shell fell within a yard or so of your son, killing him instantaneously. I am more than sorry to have lost him, as during the short time he was with us he had become very popular amongst his brother Officers, N.C.O’s. and the men, and we all miss him dearly. It seems all the more sad owing to the fact that this was his first tour of trench duty, and he gave promise of such a splendid leader.”

The elder son of our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Knowles, he was born in January, 1898 and educated at Reading School, into which he took an open Scholarship in 1909, one of the first Scholarships offered by the Reading Town Council. In 1916 he passed the Higher Certificate Examination with distinction in French and German. During his last year at school he won the Laud Scholarship (the blue ribbon of Reading School). Also an exhibition at Worcester College, Oxford, and was further awarded the Ewelme Exhibition at New College, Oxford.

It was not only in his studies that he did well, but in every side of School life he made his mark, becoming a member of the Rugby Football and cricket teams, a sergeant in the Officers’ Training Corps, and finally Captain of the School. Of those who have in recent years held this coveted position he is the third to make the supreme sacrifice during the war, the other two being Marsden Cooper (another Trinity boy) and D.J. Davies.

“As head of the school,” says Mr. Keeton, the Headmaster, “he was extremely conscientious and energetic, and in all departments showed the same qualities and zest and keenness and the desire to do his very best. He won the esteem and affection of all, both masters and boys.”

On reaching military age he carried the same characteristics into the sterner school of war, passing with credit through his cadetship at Gales and afterwards Portsmouth. He went out to France early in October as a Second Lieutenant in the County Regiment and in his all-too-brief period of service had already won the affection and esteem of his comrades and superior officers.

Walford Knowles was in the fullest sense of the words a child of Trinity. There he was baptized, and there he attended during the whole of his life. For several years a loyal member of the Institute, he joined this Church and was received into its fellowship on his confession of faith on September 13th, 1914. During the early winters of the war, and especially during last autumn, before leaving for France, he showed a very keen interest in the Trinity Soldiers’ Club, where his presence and companionship was always appreciated by the men.

The sad news of his death reached us a few minutes before the January Church Meeting, and a resolution of deepest sympathy with his parents and family was passed with the heartfelt consent of all present. In moving that this message be sent, the pastor spoke of the very fine qualities both in mind and heart which had endeared Walford to so a wide circle of friends, and caused them to entertain high expectations for him of a successful career at the University and after that of a life of fruitful service. He referred to his own close and intimate friendship with him, and the great opinion he had formed both of his character and abilities. Undoubtedly there were in him the making of a genuine scholar, a sincere and able thinker, a trusty friend, and a particularly fine type of Christian citizen.

We are sure that the sympathy of Trinity folk as a whole goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Knowles, and their family in this sorrow, and the prayer of us all is that they may be greatly comforted.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

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.

O.R. NEWS.

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.
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“A special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close”

A Reading teenager’s burial at the front is described.

Trinity Roll of Honour.

Two more of our “boys” are this month enrolled, one of whom, we are sorry to hear, has already made the supreme sacrifice.

John Bernard Eighteen.
Henry Thomas Eighteen (Killed).


Marsden Cooper.

It is the deepest regret that we have to record the death in action of another of our young men who have gone out from our Church. After a brief two months only at the front, Second Lieutenant Marsden Cooper has fallen in the fight for his country and the right. He was an Officer full of the highest promise, having done well in everything he attempted. Our deep sympathy goes out to Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper in their bereavement.

We print an extract from the Chaplain’s letter to his parents:

“Though he had not been here long he had impressed everyone with his constant cheerfulness and straightforwardness of his character. We laid him to rest in a little Cemetery just behind the firing line late on Saturday evening. There had been some difficulty in preparing the grave owing to a sudden and somewhat violent bombardment, but about 7.45 the news was brought to our dug-out that all was ready and we felt out way out along the communication trench and then over it to the Cemetery.

It was so dark that we could not see that we had arrived at the place until one of the pioneers spoke to us. There were seven or eight of us all told, and as we stood around the open grave we repeated the words, ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and we will give thee the crown of life,’ and ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ and together we thank God that your boy had not counted his life dear unto himself, but had laid it down for King and Country. I may not, of course say where the grave is, but I have forwarded full particulars with map reference to the Authorities. “A small wooden cross with durable inscription has been made by the Battalion Pioneers, and was placed in position on the following day.”

The following is the appreciative testimony of the Headmaster of Reading School:

“The deceased officer was only 19 years of age, and went 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 the College. Not only had he 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 his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and 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.”

Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: magazine, February 1917 (D/EX1237/1)