Saturday, 5 January 2008

BSA Deaths in the First World War

Some 115 male students had been admitted to the BSA before the First World War. Although at least four had died by the outbreak of hostilities (or in the early years of the war), it is surprising how few casualties were sustained from the ranks of former students.

Two were killed at Gallipoli. Lieutenant George Leonard Cheesman, a Fellow of New College who had enlisted in August 1914, was serving with the 10th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment. He landed with his unit at Suvla Bay on 7 August 1915 and took up position on the front-line at The Farm. He died in the Turkish surprise attack on Chunuk Bairun, led by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) on the morning of 10 August 1915. More than 1000 British troops died including Brigadier-General A.H. Baldwin. Captain William Loring was serving in the 2nd Scottish Horse. He had earlier served in the Boer War, first as a corporal in the 19th (Lothians and Berwickshire) Company, Imperial Yeomanry, and then as Lieutenant in the Scottish Horse. In the intervening period he had become Warden of Goldsmith's College. Loring's force landed as an infantry unit at Suvla Bay on 2 September 1915, and he died from wounds on a hospital ship; the date is disputed, either 22 (BSA) or 24 (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) October.

All the other BSA casualties were on the Western Front. Captain Kingdon Tregosse Frost, a lecturer at the Queen's University, Belfast, had joined the Officers' Training Corps (OTC) in Belfast. At the outbreak of war he was sent with the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment to Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). He was involved in the battle of Mons and was killed on 24 August 1914 (not 25 August as on the War Grave, or 4 September as on the BSA war memorial) near Elouges ‘fighting like a demon, having refused to surrender’. He was buried at Wihéries Communal Cemetery, Hainault. Lieutenant Cyril Bertram Moss-Blundell had been due to hold a school studentship at the BSA in 1914/15. He was commissioned in the 14th (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry in January 1915; Maurice S. Thompson, a former student of the BSA, had been commissioned in the same Battalion in August 1914. Moss-Blundell and Thompson arrived in France on 11 September 1915, and their unit took part in the battle of Loos on 26 September; during the fighting Moss-Blundell was killed. (Thompson survived the war.)

Captain Guy Dickins, fellow of St John's College, Oxford, was commissioned in November 1914 in the 13th (Service) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps; Captain Erwin Wentworth Webster, fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, and a former student of the BSA, received his commission for the same unit on the same day. Their unit was in France by July 1915. Dickins was injured at Pozières on 13 July 1916, during the battle of the Somme, and died of wounds in a field hospital on 17 July. He was buried at Amiens. Webster survived the Somme, but was killed on 9 April 1917 leading his company into action on the first day of the battle of Arras (First Battle of the Scarpe).

Roger Meyrick Heath had enrolled as a private in the Royal Fusiliers in September 1915. He was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant to the 9th, attached 3rd, Somerset Light Infantry, and posted to France in 1916. He was killed in action near Delville Wood on 16 September 1916, his first day in the trenches.

A plaque listing the casualties was erected in the BSA.

1 comment:

David Gill said...

For a possible reason why there were so few deaths see my comments at