Gresham's School in Wartime

We would like to invite people who have an interest in our WWI story to get in touch with us through the blog. Our sixth form researchers will be contributing their own experiences of the project to the blog and we hope to update the website as new material becomes available. If you have any relevant comments or contributions of stories or archive material we would be delighted to hear from you.

If you would like to submit a blog entry, please email Liz Larby.

RAF Centenary - Gresham's WWI airmen

As part of the Centenary of the RAF a service of commemoration recently took place at Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade and spectacular flypast, involving 100 aircraft, over Buckingham Palace.  The RAF was formed from the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, fighting effectively in WWI from 1st April 1918 in support of ground forces over the Western Front. At least 18 of our OGs who fell in WWI were airmen, including four RNAS, many transferring from the Army to train as observers late in 1917/early 1918.  We have recently commemorated the lives of OG airmen Richard Rumsby, Douglas Wells, Alec Malcolm and Arthur Estcourt who all lost their lives a hundred years ago serving with the RAF.  Pictured below is Charles Douglas Wells.


The Five Barker Brothers

The Five Barker Brothers

The Barker family hailed from Sunderland where their father Col. Charles William Panton Barker had settled with his wife Mary Tone at The Hawthorns in Ryehope, Bishopwearmouth, in Durham.  Charles was a solicitor and clerk to the Borough Magistrates, and two of his five sons would later join him in the family firm of Dixon and Barker. The 1891 Census sees the family, by now three sons, Charles, John and Harold, and two daughters, Ethel and Gertrude, at Ryehope with two servants to look after them. All the boys attended the Sunderland High School before Gresham’s, and the family enjoyed holidays on the Norfolk Broads.  Charles and John were registered in January of 1901 and were amongst headmaster Howson’s first pupils in his new School on the Cromer Road site. 

Charles William Tone Barker (1886-1918) set the standard for the brothers that were to follow him, excelling at athletics and steeplechase, playing rugby, cricket and hockey for the School, winning prizes, taking part in debates, and ending his career here as House and School Captain.  He was honoured in his final year, being chosen by Howson to plant a tree on Arbor Day 1904 to mark his great contribution to the School.  Like his brothers, Charles often returned to Gresham’s to attend Old Boys’ dinners or play sport and was a generous contributor to School funds. He had a career as a solicitor before enlisting in August 1914, serving with his brothers in the Durham Light Infantry before his death in March 1918 (see profile in Roll of Honour section).

Harold Frederick Barker (1891-1918) registered at Gresham’s as one on the first boarders in the new Woodlands House with his brother Edwin in September of 1903.  He too showed sporting prowess, in running races, at swimming, as well as playing rugby and hockey for the School. As House Captain and School Prefect, Harold was also asked to plant a tree to mark his service to the School and left at Christmas of 1908 to study for the law exams.  He qualified just months before the outbreak of war, serving as a Captain with the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery before transferring to the Royal Field Artillery and going to France with the Wearside Brigade, which his father was instrumental in forming and had served as its first CO. Harold married Kathleen Patterson at St. Aidan’s, Grangetown, Sunderland on 9 September 1915, and was killed in action in March 1918, five days after Charles, having been promoted to Major five days before his death (see profile in Roll of Honour section). Charles, being unmarried, left his estate to his brother’s widow Kathleen.

Arnold Septimus Barker (1891-1917) was the youngest of the brothers, who registered in the Junior House at Christmas 1905, moving up to Woodlands in August 1910.  He features less in the magazines, but the Woodlands house book records that he played both rugby for his house and hockey for the School and did well in the steeplechase competition.  On leaving School in the Summer of 1912 Arnold went into the offices of coal exporters Hudson & Co. in Sunderland but enlisted with the 19th Hussars on the outbreak of war.  Like his brothers he returned to Gresham’s to play rugby and later subscribed to the Chapel Fund. He too served in the 7th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry with three of his brothers, going to the front with the Northumberland Division in April 1915 where he suffered the effects of the first severe gas attack.  He was finally discharged in Autumn of 1916 and went to Singapore to work in the shipping office of Guthrie & Co. in the hope that the climate might be beneficial to his health. Arnold died in Singapore in May 1917 and is buried in the war cemetery there (see profile in Roll of Honour section).

John Hugh Barker (1888-1958) was the second of the brothers to attend the School, registering in January of 1901.  Like Charles he was one of Howson’s first boarders, and soon showed promise as a debater, discussing topical issues such as the construction of a Channel Tunnel and trades unions.  John was particularly entertaining on the subject of anarchists, suggesting the ‘extermination of the species’, and when debating the degeneration of English newspapers spoke strongly in favour, but apparently went so deeply into his subject that many were unable to follow! He showed a talent for acting, taking part in a French play in his first year, and playing the role of Cobweb in the 1902 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. John also did well at sports, beating Charles to win the Fives competition in 1904, running as one of the hares against Charles who was a hound in the paperchase, playing cricket for the School and doing well at athletics. He returned to play cricket as an OG and to attend meetings of the Old Boys Club.

The 1909 Gresham magazine reports that John and his younger brother Edwin have returned from Canada, having spent almost a year farming and breaking horses for the war effort in Saskatchewan where they found the work very rough and the weather exceedingly cold.  Their return was hastened by John unfortunately developing blood poisoning after drinking water contaminated by dead gophers!  The report concludes that John was studying to be an architect, but in the following year he is learning farming at Purleigh in Essex.  Whatever his career path, John clearly returned to Canada at some stage as he enlisted as a Private with the Canadian Infantry on 5 February 1914, stating his occupation as farmer. By 1915 he had returned to England with the Canadian Contingent and was in camp near Folkestone and was possibly able to attend the marriage of his sister Gertrude.  Later that year he was listed as serving with the Durham Light Infantry as 2nd Lieutenant, and in the following June was recorded as being wounded in the neck whilst serving as a Lieutenant.  His CO wrote to John’s father of how ‘wonderfully cheerful and, as always full of grit’ the young man was despite his near miss.  John was promoted Captain in 1917 and attached to the Royal Fusiliers, again being wounded in 1918.

Returning to Canada once again after the War, John married Margaret Howd in British Columbia, and their first child was born there.  The couple went on to have four more children after returning to England, where John continued to enjoy the outdoor life in Cumbria, particularly fishing and shooting, and also writing prose and poetry.  He made occasional broadcasts about his beloved Canada for the BBC from their Newcastle studios.   John had rejoined the Army after the War, relinquishing his commission on completion of service in 1921, and finally left the army reserves in April 1938.  However, on the outbreak of WWII John was called up for service and wounded once again whilst serving with the Royal Artillery during a raid on Barrow-in-Furness.  He died in 1958 and is buried near his home at Greenwell, Cumbria, at Kirkby Thore Church.

Edwin Carr Barker (1892-1928) boarded in Woodlands with Harold from September of 1903, but the only mention of him at School is playing the part of an attendant in the 1904 production of Twelfth Night. He was recorded as returning from Canada in 1909 with his brother after a year’s farming and reputed to be considering going out to South Africa.  Edwin’s Canadian attestation papers, dated June 1915, stated that he was a boatbuilder, who had five years’ military experience in the School OTC, as well as serving with the Seaforth Highlanders.  Five months later he was training in England in Hampshire, but soon hospitalised with influenza.  He went out to France with the Canadian Infantry in April 1916, suffering concussion and bruising after being buried by a shell three months later.  Edwin’s career as a soldier was cut short when it was discovered he had trouble marching due to a problem with a big toe, and he was returned to England for treatment in Kent.  An operation to remove the bone in his toe followed owing to necrosis which was put down to a childhood infection.  Three months convalescence in Sussex followed, and then three months back at base in Kent.

Edwin finally returned to France in April of 1917, but again things went wrong for him and he was reprimanded for his part in a drunken incident at Le Havre. In November he suffered a gunshot wound to the back and four weeks later was evacuated to England to a military hospital in Carlisle, where, to add to his troubles, he was found to have syphilis.  Edwin remained in England for the remainder of the War, finally being discharged in May 1919. He returned to Canada a year later and in 1921 was lodging with the Anderson family in Jordan River, Nanaimo, British Columbia, and working as a farmhand.  Edwin returned home for a month in 1922 after the death of his mother in August but went back to Canada before Christmas.  Col. Barker passed away in March 1926, and in October Edwin married Madge Robertson McGregor in Victoria, British Columbia.  His last journey to England was to visit his sister Gertrude(Shuttleworth) in Durham in 1928, but he died three days after returning to Canada on 25 November at the Montreal General Hospital.  Edwin is buried in the Mount Royal Cemetery there.

The Barker brothers had been amongst Howson’s first pupils in his newly reformed School and were instrumental in setting standards and traditions for later Greshamians. Howson was a friend of the family and often spent holidays with them, teaching the boys fishing and to enjoy the countryside.  He was possibly the author of the tribute to Charles and Harold, two of his most distinguished pupils, which appeared in The Gresham Magazine in June 1918 describing how they were loved and esteemed at School, praising their courage, unswerving loyalty and good comradeship. Col. Barker and his wife must have been very proud of their boys, some who followed their father into the legal profession, others who made a new life in a strange land, but particularly for all of them for fighting for their country. The Barker brothers are remembered on a grave monument in Grangetown Cemetery, Sunderland, alongside their parents.



I am indebted to Tony Vine, the grandson of John Barker, for providing me with photos and information on his family which have added greatly to the story.

Francis Arthur Perkins - an OG engineer, researched and written by James

Francis Arthur Perkins was born in Peterborough on the 26th February 1889. He was the son of John Edward Sharman Perkins who was an engineer. Francis joined Gresham's in the Lent term 1905 and left in the Summer of 1909. He was a Howson’s boy and got a prize in Latin prose and was a successful sportsman. After he left Gresham’s he  went to Emmanuel College in Cambridge where he successfully gained a pass degree in mechanical engineering in 1910.

When the First World War started he joined up with immediate effect into the Royal Engineers. While he was with them he went to the Dardanelles in Palestine and then to Egypt. He was demobilized in 1918 with the rank of Major.

After the First World War he went to work in engineering. He was a third-generation engineer. He first started at a company called Lawes Chemicals Limited, and then followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather who both worked for Barford and Perkins, a family firm that manufactured roads, rollers, compactors, agricultural rollers and many other agricultural machines. After working at both companies he went to Aveling and Porter in Kent. While working for them he started work on a high-speed, lightweight, diesel engine with someone called Charles Chapman. Soon after starting this work, though,  Aveling and Porter went bankrupt, forcing Francis and Charles to start their own company.

The family firm was eventually sold to Massey Ferguson which is a major Agricultural company today.

Irene Statham - Gresham's own suffragist

Irene Statham – music teacher (1905-8) and ‘suffragist’

Marian Adelaide Irene Statham was born in Plymouth in 1878.  Her father Edward was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and her mother Annis née Forbes hailed from Jamaica.  The 1891 Census sees the family, including younger sister Nora, resident aboard a reformatory ship, Clarence, moored off Birkenhead, where Edward is Captain. Irene came from a musical family, her uncle Henry was an amateur musician, who played the organ and contributed articles to Grove’s and the Dictionary of Music & Musicians. Her cousin Heathcote, himself an OG (1905-8) went on to become an organist of international repute, as well as a composer and conductor.  By 1901 Irene and her mother and sister are staying in Notting Hill, Kensington, whilst her father is boarding in Arundel, Sussex and gives his occupation as retired Commander RN.

Irene came to Gresham’s in 1905 to teach violin and piano, performing in her first concert with four others in 1906. In 1907 she performed in her first staff play, A Pair of Spectacles, playing the parlour maid.  The following year Irene again played a maid in Punch, and was credited for her realistic ‘intonation and imitation of a cheerful menial’, helping to set the scene when the curtain rose without a trace of nervousness.  It is perhaps for her concerts that she was most remembered at School, though, and following a 1907 performance The Gresham Magazine reported, “Miss Statham is always sure of a hearty reception, she can and does undertake great music and interpret with poetry and insight, with delicacy of phrasing and, we venture to think, perfection of style.”

Music was already flourishing when Irene Statham arrived to teach in 1905, with a small choir performing public concerts. In 1906 the much-heralded orchestra was launched, and thanks to the connections in the musical world of its director Geoffrey Shaw, the School attracted regular well-known visitors such as Cecil Sharp.  From 1910 Walter Greatorex continued the good work, establishing music as an important part of the life of the School, and producing many talented OG musicians such as Lennox Berkeley (1914-16).

The 1911 Census sees Irene as a boarder in Hanworth House in Holt, along with other single teachers including Vivian Smith and Dalziel Hammick.  Interestingly, she gives her occupation as violin teacher and suffragist, and in the following year takes part in a debate on the topical subject of women’s rights. On 2nd March 1912 Mabel Smith, a South Yorkshire politician, moved that ‘This House disapproves of the Enfranchisement of Women’.  Miss Statham showed the absurdity of the present system under which women were allowed to canvass but unable to vote, and were not permitted to sit on town councils.    Mrs Field, wife of the School Chaplain, ‘boldly declared that she belonged to the most militant class of suffragists.’ Another of those who spoke in favour of women’s suffrage was headmaster Howson who believed that women could take part in public life ‘without detriment to home and family���, pointing out many examples of their ‘excellent activities’ in public life.  The subject of unfair and outdated distribution of votes had been keenly debated at School since 1908, when an important discussion took place with 120 in attendance, when the motion that ‘This House would welcome the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to women’ was carried by 27 votes.


Irene Statham left Gresham’s in July 1914 and was credited with having much to do with the success of music in the School.  She went on to study the ‘new method of teaching’ under Professor Yorke Trotter who put his system of musical education based on rhythmic movement into practice at the London Academy of Music. Irene remained a spinster all her life, living in Westminster during the 1930s and up to the 1950s.  She died in Purley, Surrey in 1963. 

I would love to know what happened to Irene after leaving Gresham's and to find out more about her suffragist involvement. If anyone has a photo of her I would be very pleased to have a copy. 

The Preston family

The family had settled in Holt around 1844 when William Preston, grandfather of OG Sidney Preston who died on 10 April 1918 (see profile in Roll of Honour) had established himself as a ‘professor of music’, later opening a printing and stationery business on the High Street.  His younger sons, Thomas and Arthur took over the business, adding the sale of musical instruments, and later photography.  Preston Brothers took some of the early photographs in the Gresham’s albums, as well as printing postcards of Old School House and an 1888 athletics programme.  Around 1900 the business was known as the Reliance Works, and was taken over by Rounce & Wortley, who carried on the tradition of providing printing services for Gresham’s for many years. Eight members of the family attended the School, including Sidney’s father and uncle, four of his brothers, and one cousin.

Thomas and Sarah Preston contributed to the growing fund for the Chapel in 1914, where their son Sidney was later to be commemorated.  Two more of their sons, OGs Reginald (1891-1958) and Chamberlain (1893-1971) are recorded as serving in the War in the printed register, in the Indian Army and Norfolk Regiment respectively, and their daughter Mary, like her cousin Eva, worked as a nurse at nearby Letheringsett Hospital. Reginald was registered at the Old School House in January of 1899, but features in several photos of pupils of Weybourne Station in 1903.  Like his brother Sidney he played cricket for the School and did well at athletics and the paperchase.  He also played rugby for a North Norfolk team.  Reg played an attendant in the 1904 production of Twelfth Night, and won a prize for science before leaving in the Summer of 1907.  1909 OG News records him as working for Lincoln & Lindsay, bankers of Brigg, in North Lincolnshire, and the 1911 Census also has him as a bank clerk. Reg is listed as serving in 1914 as a Private with the 9th (cyclists) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, later earning promotion to Lieutenant serving with the Lincolnshire Regiment when they were attached to the Indian Army. He married Dora Druance at St. Faith’s Church, Lincoln in 1916.

Reg’s younger brother ‘Chummy’ Chamberlain attended The Limes School in Holt before registering in the Old School House in January of 1906.  He is recorded as winning a prize for maths in 1907 and being awarded a Holt Foundationship in 1909.  On his army attestation papers of 1914 he gives his profession as photographer, and his pictures, along with those of his father and brothers, form part of the Checkley Collection in the Norfolk Record Office. Chamberlain served as a Private, then a Lance-Corporal with the Norfolk Regiment, being wounded in 1915.  His cousin Louis Goodall Preston (1899-1942) registered at Old School House a few months after Reg, and soon showed the family prowess at sport, doing well at athletics, although he was no model pupil, being caned twice, once for bad work, and once for lying.  In the 1911 Census Louis is recorded as a motor engineer, but just two weeks later he left Liverpool aboard the SS Campania for the US, to settle in Colorado where his Uncle Arthur Ling was already established.  He married Lorna Annis, and their daughter Lillie was born in 1916. Louis worked in the US and Canada for the next thirty years, divorcing and re-marrying in 1933.  Another family rift was possibly the reason for Louis’s uncle, OG William Gowen Preston (1847-1927) leaving Holt sometime after 1871 with his wife and eleven children.  Shortly after, the family was in receipt of poor relief, but he is later recorded in Norwich and other Norfolk towns working as a pressman or printing machine worker, returning to the long-established family profession.

I am indebted to family member Debra Watkins for her Preston blog and to Philip West who is writing a book on the family. The photograph shows the family on Salthouse beach, courtesy of Norfolk Record Office MC 2043/8/909x6

Henry Neil Newsum - older brother of Clement Neill who died on 27/9/1917 - by Kit and Dolf

Henry was a boarder in Howson’s between 1908 and 1912.  He received colours in rugby and hockey as well as being a good cricketer, and was made a School prefect. In 1912, as School Captain, Henry played an important role on the ceremony for laying the foundation stone of the Chapel, handing a copper box to Sir Edward Busk, Chairman of Governors, for burial as a time capsule. Henry attended University College, Oxford before becoming a timber merchant in the family business in Lincoln.  He joined the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1915, serving as a Captain, and won the Military Cross for a courageous act of reconnaissance. Both brothers trained their companies for the action of 26 September 1917 which claimed the life of the younger, and it was probably due to the insistence of a CO that Henry stay behind that the family did not lose two sons that day.  After the War Henry created a unique memorial to his brother by having his study in Howson’s panelled in oak complete with a beautifully carved school crest and plaque.  Much later, in 1932, he wrote a book about the experience, ‘Behind a Mask – the European War 1914 – 18’, perhaps inspired by the death of his brother. He married Beatrice Hillas, and sent his son David to Gresham’s (Farfield 1942-46). Henry Newsum died in 1968 and was buried in the cemetery at St. Peter’s Church, Eastgate, Lincoln, where there is a memorial window to his brother.  He is pictured below in a 1911 cricket XI, front row, left.

James Humphrey Cole - OG surveyor of the Great Pyramid of Giza

James was born in 1891, the fourth of six children of Herbert and Amy Cole, who lived at Hill House in Brundall, Norfolk.  His father was a solicitor, and James attended King Edward VI School in Norwich before registering at Gresham’s in September of 1904. James’s older brother Arthur also attended the School (1902-5) and his adventures in the silver mining district of Canada are recorded in The Gresham magazine, followed in November 1917 by his death at Passchendaele while serving with the Canadian Mounted Rifles. James won an Open Scholarship to Gresham’s and boarded in Bengal Lodge.  He soon proved himself to be a sportsman, playing rugby for various teams, and doing well at athletics and gymnastics, as well as representing his House at swimming.  James won several prizes for science and maths, and was a regular and entertaining speaker at the debating society, addressing some ‘more or less coherent remarks’ on Turkey in 1908 and denouncing the war with Italy. After leaving at Christmas of 1909 he was to return to play in an OG rugby match the following year, and much later in 1920, attended an OG reunion at the School.

In 1909 James was awarded a scholarship of £80 per year to study maths at St. John’s College, Cambridge where he achieved First Class Honours, as well as playing cricket and stroking for the Lady Margaret Boat. In 1912 he was appointed to a post with the Egyptian Civil Service as a mathematician carrying out survey work. During the War James was asked to assist the British Army in compiling maps from aerial photographs, becoming so successful he went to Mesopotamia at the request of renowned T.E. Lawrence of Arabia to conduct the first ever aerial survey of the town of Baghdad. In 1917 he left to carry out further surveys in the Sudan and Egypt on which the entire irrigation system of the two countries was based. He was Mentioned in Despatches for his work in 1918, and later made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  After the War James was in charge of survey work in the Nile Valley which occupied him for the next twenty years and led to the publication in 1925 of the first accurate survey of the Great Pyramid of Giza.  James Cole retired to Sheringham, and his obituary in the 1963 OG Magazine described him as “a man of quiet and modest disposition who was much liked and esteemed by all who knew him.”

Sun compass designed for use in tanks in the desert during WWII by James Cole.

Photograph copyright  IWM(FEQ 416)

Wartime debating at Gresham’s - researched by Henry, himself a debater of some note

The most remarkably obvious fact about the Gresham’s debating society is simply how popular it is.  Dozens of people vote in each debate, but what is even more striking is that many of them speak on either side.  Individual houses also had their own debating societies, showing the seriousness in which it was taken.  The motions of these were, as might be expected, rather more esoteric than the main debating society, for example, ‘In the distant future passengers will cross the Atlantic by air rather than by sea’. It is perhaps less surprising that debating was seemingly so essential to the life of the School, given the reforms introduced by Howson and later Eccles, making Gresham’s arguably the leading school in the country for those who desired a less traditional and more radical education, for those privileged enough to afford it, of course! 

The main debates were far more dominated by current events.  While some of the contributors clearly mirror the opinions of their fathers, often Liberal MPs, there were enough Conservative members to make for a lively debate. It was all recorded with the dry and quietly insulting wit of the anonymous reporter, eg. ‘J.H. Cole confidentially addressed some more or less coherent remarks’, and the ‘verbose invective’ of N. Drey when quoting figures ‘absolutely unintelligible to himself and others.’ Henry and his classmates were amused by the archaic attitudes shown by some OGs in their debates, particularly in bringing class into everything, although ‘politics is not the trade of a gentleman’, clinging onto to colonialism wherever possible, and, of course, when discussing the thorny subject of women’s suffrage.

Lieutenant-General Sir William George Holmes(1892-1969) – a distinguished OG career soldier

William was born in Westminster, the son of Dr William Reid and Elizabeth Holmes.  The 1901 Census records the family, including older sister Elizabeth, living in St. James with a governess, housemaid, parlour maid and cook to look after them. He attended Prep. School in York before registering at Gresham’s in January of 1904.  He boarded in Woodlands, where he later became a prefect, playing both rugby and cricket for House and School.  William also did well in the junior steeplechase, and performed in two plays, ‘The Tempest’ where he was ‘splendid’ as the jester, and as Sir Toby Belch in ‘Twelfth Night’ in which he was described as ‘quite first rate’.  An obituary in the OG Magazine reveals that he was a keen and accomplished boxer and swordsman as a young man.

He leaves the School at Christmas of 1909 and in the following year is mentioned in the honours lists for admission to Sandhurst where he also continues his rugby playing.  In 1911 he is commissioned into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and is listed as serving with them as 2nd Lieutenant in 1914.  William was wounded twice during his service in France, Belgium and Italy, and received the DSO & Bar in 1917, when, “During the final stages of the fighting he was the soul of both defence and offence,” and “it was mainly due to his gallantry and dash that the enemy counter-attack was defeated.”  He also won the Italian medal for valour and was mentioned in dispatches four times. Continuing his army career after the War, William is promoted to Colonel in 1933, and in 1937 becomes the youngest Major-General.  In WWII he commands the Territorial Army’s 42nd Infantry Division in France, going to North Africa after Dunkirk as Lieutenant-General. Between 1943 and 1945 he is in command of the IXth Army in Palestine.  After his knighthood in 1945 he retires to a ranch in Arizona.


George Lee Temple - Gresham's 'Baby Airman'

In the early hours of 2017 a themed pub in Acton, The Aeronaut, suffered a disastrous fire which saw party-goers evacuated and the building’s upper floors gutted. The pub was celebrating the New Year with typical events, including cabaret acts and circus performances with airborne feats in honour of its local hero George Lee Temple. Born in Acton in 1892, George was the youngest of the four children of retired naval lieutenant George and his wife Philippa.  He attended Trent College before registering at Gresham’s in January of 1908, winning a prize for drawing in the following year, as well as representing School House in swimming races, before leaving at Christmas. George soon embarked on a motor apprenticeship in Coventry and was a keen ‘daredevil’ motor cyclist, racing in a team for the Singer Works.  An accident in 1912 perhaps brought him to the realisation that his talents lay in the fledgling aviation business, though, and in September he went into partnership and opened a flying school at Hendon. The young man began learning to fly and purchased a biplane.  He was granted his Royal Aero Club Certificate in February 1913, but sold his interest in the flying school that Summer after concluding that there was money to be made in exhibition flights for the entertainment of the enthralled public.  One of his daring stunt flights, on 17 May, drew a crowd of 6,000, who each paid 6d to enter the landing ground and watch the aerial acrobatics.  

On 4 September George became the youngest pilot to make the journey from France to England, but his performance in a handicap race from Hendon to Brighton was somewhat hampered by his compass falling off into his lap! On 25 November he became the first Englishman to attempt the bunt(loop) in England, a feat so dangerous he was lucky to escape with his life, indeed The Times reported that he joked he would kill himself with these exploits one day!  Having succeeded at flying upside-down, although not achieving the elusive loop, George continued to give daring performances to large crowds, the adulation encouraging him to take even greater risks. Luck ran out for the so-called Baby Airman, though, on 25 January 1914 when he set off from Hendon in very cold and windy weather despite recovering from a bout of flu.  After flying his Bleriot plane round the enclosure for ten minutes the engine suddenly failed, causing the machine to execute a complete loop, landing upside-down in the middle of the aerodrome.  George died of his injuries, which included a broken neck, later believed sustained by collapsing at the controls due to illness, but the plane was unscathed.  The 21-year-old airman was buried in the cemetery at Acton in the family plot, his memorial an angel, and his epitaph read, “Now gallant boy pursue thy happy flight with swifter motion haste to purer flight.” (Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery)