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.

Oliver Redgate(1898-1929) WWI Flying Ace by Walter and Joaquin

Oliver was the son of another Oliver Redgate, who played cricket for Nottingham, and Annie Eveline.  He lived in Nottingham and attended Grosvenor House School before entering Gresham's in the Lent term of 1911 at the age of 15.  During his time at Gresham's, as a boarder in Farfield, he played cricket and won a prize for Latin.  After leaving School, Oliver joined the Royal Naval Air Service in January 1917 as a 2nd Lieutenant.  In July 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage when leading his patrol in defence of enemy attack.  Later that year he suffered a leg wound which saw him removed from combat for the rest of the War.  He left the RAF in 1919 as Captain, and returned to Gresham's to attend an OG reunion and play in a cricket match.  After the War he settled in East Leake, Nottinghamshire, with his family.  He died of TB in 1929.  The East Leake & District Local History Society has inherited his archive and is researching his biography.  

Living Memory Project 11 November 2016

This year Gresham’s has been able to get involved with the Imperial War Museum’s Living Memory Project in which communities remember the ‘forgotten front’ of the 300,000 war graves and memorials in the UK.  Head of Teaching & Learning, Simon Kinder, will visit the local graves of three OGs Robert  Beeton, Frederick Chestney, and Mervyn Trendell to lay flowers and leave a marker of their stories in remembrance with three representatives of the CCF. The WWI CAS team have researched the boys and written the following short pieces about them :

Robert Henry Beeton

Born on 27 March 1899, the son of carpenter Robert Samuel Beeton, he attended as a dayboy from 1911 to 1915 and went on to study business for a year at St. George's College, London.  After that he went to the RFC cadet school in Farnborough in 1917, and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in December.  Robert died of severe burns received in a flying accident near Huntingdon on 1 February 1918 and is buried in the graveyard at Weybourne Church. At his funeral were sixteen members of the OTC in uniform, some scarcely younger than him.

Frederick William Chestney

Fred was a local boy who lived in Holt his whole life.  He was born on February 9 1899 and started school as a dayboy in 1910.  In his five years at School he fell in love with the idea of being a teacher, and after leaving in 1915 he joined Holt County School as an assistant.  He was conscripted in March 1917, just a month before his 18th birthday, and became a teacher in an army school. Frederick was almost immediately struck by tragedy as he became ill with TB in May and was in hospital until July when he was discharged from the army.  He spent his last few months at home battling the illness before he passed away on 30 January 1918, just days before his 19th birthday. Frederick is buried in the cemetery of Holt Church.

Mervyn Henry WollastonTrendell

Mervyn was born on 8 July 1899, the youngest son of Rev. George Trendell of Sheringham, and attended from 1913 to 16.  He gained his wings in the RNAS after leaving School, and was reported to be the only one in his class entitled to have the letters 'VGI'(very good indeed) after his name.  He joined HMS Galetea in February 1918, and was flying a Sopwith Camel carrying despatches when his plane clipped a tree and crashed in May.  Seriously injured, he was taken to a RN hospital where he died of his injuries on 19 May aged 18. His body was brought home and buried in the churchyard at Upper Sheringham where his father was vicar.


Battlefields trip

Year 9 visited the Somme on 3 - 6 October as part of their WWI studies.  They visited the graves of OGs Archer Neal, Cosmo Duff-Gordon, Guy Tyler and Charles Shepherd at Delville Wood, Foncquevillers and Guillemont Road Cemeteries and held an act of remembrance at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which includes the names of 8 OGs.

Eric Lund Yates(Woodlands 1910-15) - a survivor's story

A transcript of Eric’s wartime diary has recently come into the archives and three members of the CAS group, Isaac, Henry and Will, were intrigued to read of his adventures in France between August and November 1916.  Eric went on to study at Manchester University and train as a sales manager.  His son Michael transcribed the diary for the benefit of his own children and their cousins.

Eric Lund Yates was born on the 26 July 1897, his father Walter was a stockbroker, and when he was just 13 he joined Gresham’s School as a boarder in Woodlands. He spent five years at Gresham’s, being involved in music and the OTC, eventually becoming a house prefect.  He left the School in 1915 and immediately applied for his commission in the 3rd Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment in July 1915, however they mislaid his papers!  He reapplied to the 3rd Battalion South Lancashire Special Reserve of officers and was gazetted to his regiment on 29 October 1915.  On 22 August he left for his ‘Great Adventure’, briefly working as a censor behind the lines before joining his regiment at Plugsteert on 12 September. The next day he was placed in command of 9th Platoon of which he was very proud.  Despite the difficult circumstances, Eric showed a great sense of humour, whilst bedridden in hospital after his inoculations.  This is shown in a particularly memorable diary extract when Eric good humorously added ‘xs from the censor’ to his love letters.  On 17 November his station was hit by a shell, and although he and his men were injured they held their position before being involved in the next charge offensive.  During this attack Eric is shelled again and, although he appears uninjured, he collapses from ‘dizziness’ in the next few days.  He is sent home, and marries the nurse he meets when recovering at the Roehampton Hospital.

Rev Edward Habershon, army chaplain

I recently had an enquiry from a National Trust volunteer Janet Durbin who had come across the story of Rev Habershon in connection with the Polesden Lacey house where she works.  Edward served as a forces chaplain and was sent to recuperate at the house after being injured and suffering the effects of poisoness gas.  The chaplain was lucky to survive, as many apparently went over the top armed only with their swagger stick and Bible, and the Trust is currently researching some of their stories.  We know that Edward did recover as he came to Gresham’s as chaplain in 1932, having spent some years working for the YMCA London Boys’ Club, the Cheltenham College Mission, and eight years as chaplain at Stowe.  He was remembered at Gresham’s as a kindly and popular man, who taught Divinity and English alongside his duties in Chapel.  His daughter recalled him taking the ‘Digging for Victory’ campaign of WWII very seriously, providing the evacuated School with organic vegetables during their exile in Cornwall, and carefully adhering to the clothes rationing regime by refusing to wear socks! Rev Habershon left Gresham’s in 1946 to take up a living near Salisbury. He is shown in this 1930s staff photo seated next to the headmaster on the front row.

Alice, Chloe and Georgia reflect on the year's work

Over the past year we have been researching numerous Old Greshamians who fell in WWI.  We have found this to be not only really interesting as modern Greshamians but also as historians.  The skill of archiving will also prove beneficial to us in our history based university courses in the near future.  It has been good fun and we have really enjoyed coming down every week and researching students such as Stanley George Marriott and Joseph H. Simpson, both of whom were enthusiastic participants in school life.

Somme commemorations

Gresham's will be remembering those who fell at the Somme in a special service on 1 July. We are researching the 10 OGs and one member of staff and profiles will appear on the website shortly but please get in touch if you would like information on the any of the following in the meantime - 

George Fenchelle, Walter Gissing, Henry Scott-Holmes, Geoffrey Barratt, Henry Russell, Mark Hill, John Foster, Douglas Richardson, Archibald Gilmour, Dawson Atkin, and Geoffrey Day.

Lost at the Battle of Jutland

Cuthbert Hill died aged 18 on 31 May 1916 when his ship Invincible went down at the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea. He attended from 1907-15 and was a popular Howson’s and School prefect, who showed great talent for acting and sport, as well as winning many prizes for school work.  Soon after leaving School he was accepted for training at the Royal Naval College at Keyham, near Devonport, passing out of the college in January of 1916 and being appointed as midshipman to HMS Invincible. He writes to his ‘Dear Mummie’ in May from his ship of the Scotch mists out at sea and of the enjoyable visit he made to School whilst on leave when he played cricket and rode one of the master’s motorbikes.  Invincible was destroyed when a barrage of shells caused a magazine explosion on 31 May.  The ship broke in two and sank in fifteen seconds, leaving only six survivors out of the 1.031 men on board. The battlecruiser was taking part in the largest naval battle of the War, off the Danish Jutland coast which resulted in huge loss of life, including fourteen British and eleven German ships.  Both sides claimed victory and debate still continues today over the significance of the battle. The School will commemorate Cuthbert Hill in a special service on 25 May.

Dawson Atkin's service medals

Thanks to parent Steven Todd for sending this photo of the service medals of George Dawson Hope Atkins(Woodlands 1911-14) who died on the Somme on 16 July 1916 working to dig trenches to 'consolidate the line'.

Dream team

I would like to thank my team of sixth form researchers for all their help so far - namely Georgia Rose, Kim Sly-Jex, Alice Goldsmith, Maddie Bailey, Emma Dugdale, Hannah Rice, Evie Rossi, Katie Francis, Joe Melvin and Leo Thomson.  Thanks is also due to the two members of the History Department who have supported the project from the start,  Chris Cox and Tim O'Donnell.

Liz Larby