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.

Prize book - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - awarded to G.H. Lowe donated by his father-in-law Tony Mortlock

The prize was awarded for English in 1913 to Guy Humphrey Lowe(9/6/1898) who was born in Harrow.  His father was Charles, a surveyor, his mother Charlotte, and like his older brother Harlowe, Guy attended Woodridings School in Pinner before Gresham’s. He registered at Old School House in May of 1911 and progressed to Woodlands, where he was soon representing the House at cricket.  Guy also played hockey and rugby for the School, returning as an OG to play in matches, and did well in the steeplechase and athletics.  He won prizes for Latin, English and History in 1913, and performed a piano solo at a concert, as well as singing in the choir.  In 1916 Guy achieved promotion to Lance-Corporal in the OTC, and in the following year is reported to be at a training centre prior to becoming a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He attended OG events in the early 20s and married Miss Ella Brookes at Hendon in June 1923.  The register records that Guy went on to have a career as a technical brewer, and his father-in-law believes he suffered lung damage throughout his life because of gas attacks during the War.  Guy died aged 89 in Staffordshire.

Harlowe Robert Lowe(9/5/1897) began the family tradition of boarding in Woodlands, having registered at Michaelmas 1905 in the Junior House.  Like his brother, he too showed promised at athletics and steeplechase, played cricket for Woodlands, and hockey and rugby for the School. Harlowe won a prize for French and was promoted to Band Corporal in the OTC.  The family were great supporters of the School, Charles giving money to the Chapel Fund in 1912, and both sons subscribing to the Old Boy’s and War Memorial funds.  Harlowe is listed as serving as 2nd Lieutenant in the Gloucestershire Regiment in 1916, being awarded the M.C. for “handling his platoon with great courage and skill.”  He married Miss Molly Doig at the Savoy Chapel in 1931, attended a London OG dinner in the following year, and like his father, became a chartered surveyor. Harlowe died in 1950 and the OG magazine printed an obituary reiterating his great love of Gresham’s, showing his faith in all it stands for by sending his son Ian to Woodlands. 

Guy and Harlow had another brother, John Henry Charles Lowe, too young to serve in the Great War, who boarded in Woodlands from 1926-30.  He too won prizes for French and English and served in the OTC, as well as performing in House and School plays.  In his final year, he took part in debates on subjects such as the spirit of adventure and progress in modern society, often in the company of another Woodlands boy, young Donald Maclean.

Ronald Neal - brother of Archer Neal who fell on 15 September 1916

Ronald was born on 22 November 1893, the second of the four children of Holt watchmaker & jeweller Owen Neal and his wife Fanny. The family, including sisters Hilda and Frances, lived on the High Street, not far from Old School House. He attended The Limes in Holt before registering at Gresham’s in September of 1904 as a dayboy.  Ronald won a prize for writing in 1906 and was awarded a scholarship to continue his education in 1909, playing cricket for the dayboys that Summer, just as his younger brother would a few years later. He returned to the School in 1919 as an OG to play in a hockey match. In October 1914 he is listed as serving as a Trooper with the Royal Dragoons, and two years later receives the news of his brother’s death on the Somme.  OG News for 1918 records Ronald as being at Cadet School, and later as serving in a Cavalry Regiment, being awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.  In 1922 he is reported as wounded during fighting in Johannesburg whilst serving with the South African Mounted Police.  Ronald married Catherine Hart in 1927 at Christ Church, Arcadia, and his death in the Transvaal Province is recorded in 1945.

Year 9 Project Michaelmas Term 2016 : A School Photograph

This Term students in Year 9 have continued their work on WWI in History, with a particular focus on the boys from Gresham's who fought and in significant number, fell in the conflict. Students have worked in groups to launch their own research project based upon an old school photograph. Their task was to find out all that they could about the young men in the photo, those that fell and those that survived. They have, in most cases, had the opportunity to visit the School archives, and to use the School registers and various School magazines and national databases to research and present their findings. They have produced work of a very high standard, worked collaboratively to corroborate evidence and to meet tight deadlines. In consequence Year 9 have learned much about the methodology and the pitfalls of genuine historical enquiry. It has been a fascinating and highly important process and one which the students have clearly engaged with and enjoyed. Chris Cox, Head of History

The Marriott brothers - researched by Isaac, Will & Henry

Stanley Marriott, the middle of three brothers who attended the School as dayboys, died on 21 October 1916(see profile on Roll of Honour)  The family of seven children were brought up at Brinton Grange, Norfolk, by their civil engineer father, William, and mother Gertrude.  William senior served with the Midland & Great Northern Railway for forty years and is remembered as an important figure for helping bring vital rail links to Norfolk. One of the volunteers at the North Norfolk Railway's Marriott Museum, Chris James, is researching his biography.

Stanley’s older brother, William Aubrey Layard, born in 1886, attended the School in 1897-98, before the move to the present site, and before the start of The Gresham Magazine in 1900. After qualifying as a doctor at Glasgow University in 1908, William went on to enjoy a successful career in medicine, including an appointment as Medical Officer at the London Homeopathy Hospital, and a practice in Norwich.  He is also remembered for his association with the Baptist Church in Norwich and for helping to found the Red Cross Society in Norfolk. He died in 1967, and was survived by his wife Irma, who was also a doctor.  

Francis Keene Marriott was born in 1892 and attended Bracondale School in Norwich before coming to Gresham's in September 1906.  He did well here, becoming a School Prefect, playing in teams for cricket and hockey, and returning as an OG to play in matches.  He was a regular subscriber to the Chapel Fund and donated to the Howson Memorial Library.  In 1915 he qualified as a doctor at the London Hospital, but soon obtained a commission as Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  Lieutenant Marriott was awarded the MC in 1916 for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty".  After leaving the Army he established a rural practice in Yoxford, Suffolk, where he became a well-known local figure, holding office on the Parish & District Councils and the British Legion.  He served as a Major in WWII in the Home Guard and taught first-aid in the Yoxford area.  Francis took an active part in the MBA and worked at the Patrick Stead Hospital in Halesworth, but loved spending time in his home and garden with his wife and two daughters enjoying the delights of country living.  He died after an illness of several months, aged 55, on 30 August 1949. The photograph shows the Marriott family enjoying a chilly picnic on Cromer beach.

Dorothy M. Bristow(1881-1969) Art mistress 1915-40 researched by Alice & Chloe

Dorothy was born in Brixton, the daughter of William and Martha.  She studied at the Slade and was a successful still life painter before becoming a teacher.  Miss Bristow, or the 'Bristine', was welcomed to Gresham's in 1915 on a temporary basis to take the place of art teacher Vivian Smith during his military service, and stayed for 25 years.  Before the opening of the Art Room in 1921, classes were held in the physics labs, and the subject given very little importance.  Dorothy soon became involved in fund-raising for the new buildings and the war effort, holding popular annual exhibitions and sales of arts and crafts.  Art came into its own with the new rooms and its teaching was given more time and extended to higher forms.  Pupils began winning prestigious prizes, and several OGs such as Gerald Holtom, Richard Chopping and Robert Medley were inspired to follow successful artistic careers. Miss Bristow led sketching parties out onto Kelling Heath at weekends and encouraged the boys to use the art facilities outside lessons.  Firm, but fair, she was both loved and teased by her pupils, and was a familiar figure, dressed in grey and carrying a bag of art materials and an umbrella, walking along the Cromer Road.  This 'brave woman who took her lonely place in a man's world' was a friend to may a homesick junior, and had became part of the fabric of the School by the time she retired in 1940. Dorothy lived the rest of her life in a rural cottage on the Downs with her sisters Olive and Grace, dying at the age of 88, a much-loved and remembered Gresham's character.  She can be seen seated, third from right, in this 1930s staff photograph.

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.