University College Reading and The Great War

 

I should start by saying thank you to Verity Andrews and Caroline Gould for introducing me to this subject, encouraging my work and identifying many of the sources I have been examining.

The aim of the work was to try to add some detail to the names and photographs contained in the Memorial Album to gain a better understanding of the connection between the people concerned and the College.

From the College Calendars it was possible to see the examinations students had passed; the qualifications they had obtained; and whether they had won scholarships, gained prizes or become associates of the College. From details of the Student Union Representative Council and the committees of the various College societies it was possible to see the participation of some students in non-academic College life.

Once the war had started the University College Review included a list of those on Military Service. Starting with the December 1914 edition, it listed the names of those who had joined up with, where available, details of their unit and rank and the period when they had been at the College. People who had been members of the Officer Training Corps (OTC) were identified, as were those who were members of the College staff (both academic and non-academic). This list continued to be updated and appeared until the Review stopped being published after the December 1916 edition. The Review also published a Roll of Honour and obituaries of some of those who died.

Tamesis, the Student magazine, also published a Military Service list drawing on the same information used for that in the Review.

The Old Students’ Association produced its first News in November 1914. It also contained details of those On Service. The last edition published before the end of the war was dated December 1917 and the editions published until then provided more names to add to those obtained from the Review and Tamesis. From these and other printed sources, including local newspapers, it has been possible to compile a list of over 570 people, who were members of the armed forces or nurses and had a College connection; of these 146 lost their lives. The age range of those who died was 18 to 45, with the vast majority being 30 or less. Four of the deaths occurred after the Armistice, two in 1919. Whilst most of the dead had been students of the College, not all were. Some joined the OTC at the start of the war but were never students; some like Samuel Bruce McLaren (Professor of Mathematics) were members of staff; and Rex Lewin was both a former student and member of staff.

The first to die was Sergeant Herbert Westwick, who had been Instructor of the College’s OTC:

H Westwick photo Tamesis

He died on 14 September 1914 leaving a wife and three children. There was no photograph of him in the memorial album but we did find a drawing of him in Tamesis (above), which captured him in a moment of relaxation and has great warmth.

The College dead included three pairs of brothers: Herbert Charles and Leonard Leaver Hyde; Clifford Holt and Gerald Holt Rothwell; and Frank Wortley and Paul Emery May Simmons. There were also two brothers-in-law: Eric Baseden and Wilfred Drake. Herbert Melville Wright was the son of Francis Henry Wright, Registrar of the College, and Walter Thomas Lucking was the only son of George Lucking, the College’s Head Porter.

I had never heard of Ernest Denny but, having seen that he was a poet, we managed to find two books (Galleys Laden and Triumphant Laughter) in which his work appeared. The University has copies of both books, which were published after Denny’s death, and it would be interesting to know whether any of his poems appeared in print before his death in 1917.

Some of those who died had left Britain, at least temporarily, to pursue careers abroad. When war broke out some joined the forces of the countries they had moved to (Canada and New Zealand), whilst Basil George Hope Maclear returned to Britain from South Africa, where he had been farming since 1904.

One woman is amongst the dead. Florence Faithfull was born in India in 1891, the daughter of an officer in the Indian Army. Whilst we could not find her in the 1911 census her four siblings were living in Redlands Road. She served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse throughout the war until her death in January 1918 when she was drowned in Basra.

There are one or two mysteries. Why do the names of Francis Pearse and Wilfred Owen not appear on the Clock Tower Memorial, and who was H Turner? His name appears both in the album and on the memorial, but without a Christian name it is proving hard to discover more about him.

Not all who went to the war died; some returned to the College to resume their studies and others returned to resume their academic careers. Randolph Chell wrote about the war in With the 10th Essex in France (London 1924). Post-war editions of the Old Students’ News include details of the marriages of some of those who returned, and the subsequent birth of their children, and details of their subsequent careers. But I cannot help but wonder how many of those who did survive returned with physical or mental scars and how they managed to resume a peacetime existence. The post-war deaths of two former students are attributed, at least in part, to them having been wounded or gassed.

Jeremy Jones

Reading at War Project Volunteer

War poets at the University of Reading

The WW1 memorial book at the University Reading is full of fascinating stories. The book has been digitised and can be seen on our Flickr site. Over the next few months we will be looking at some of the lives of these men and women in more detail.

To start we are going to look at two men, both who were War Poets.

Ernest Denny (1889-1917). 

Ernest Denny

Ernest Denny

Ernest Denny was a Yorkshire man by origin, born in West Wisling to parents Robert William and Ellen Hannah Denny. He trained as a teacher and during his attendance at the Reading University College he was a notable presence not only in the sporting sphere but the academic and political as well.

Denny was Deputy Tennis Captain for the years 1914-1915 but did not limit himself, as in the same year he was a member of the Student Union Representative Council, on the committee for the Debating Society, Vice President of Shells, Cofferer of the Gild of the Red Rose and Sub-Editor of Tamesis, the student magazine.

Denny was also a poet and his book ‘Triumphant laughter: Poems, 1914-1917’ was published after his death. During the war he served with the 15th battalion London Regiment and died of his wounds in Belgium. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery. Click here to see his page on our Flickr site.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

One of the most famous names in the book, Wilfred Owen. Unlike Ernest Denny’s clear connection to Reading University College, Wilfred Owen’s connection is much more tenuous. Despite appearing on the list of service-people with links to the university he does not appear on the memorial itself. It appears that he first studied Botany and Latin but was encouraged by Professor Edith Morley of the English Department to change his studies to English. At this time he was a lay assistant at Dunsden.

A great deal is, of course, already known about Wilfred Owen and is well known as a war poet. He was born in Oswestry in 1893 to Thomas and Harriet S Owen (known as Susan), Wilfred was a teacher by trade. He served in the First World War as a Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was killed in action on the 4th November 1918 at the age of 25. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Joncourt in October 1918 a mere month before his death. Click here to see his page on our Flickr site

 

Reading at War – WW1 commemorations and Flickr

By Hayley Whiting – Digital Content and Online Engagement Officer

A key theme of the Reading Connections project is Reading at War. The University of Reading holds in its archive a volume put together to commemorate those servicemen and women who fell during WW1 who were connected to the then Reading University College. It contains photographs of many of those listed on the war memorial built on the London Road Campus and those images have now been digitised and made available on Flickr.

026

At team of volunteers, myself and Ceri our intern have researched the service history, personal details and connections with the College for all those listed in the memorial book. This information, with the photographs, is now available on a dedicated Flickr site. The aim is for others with connections to these servicemen and women to add any information they have and the process will be one where others can gain from our research and us from them! All the information will be transferred to our online catalogue.

There are so many fascinating stories behind the photographs and the research has revealed that the College had connections with war poets, Wildred Owen and Ernest Denny, artists, eminent mathematicians, teachers and more. Each name in the volume reveals a huge sacrifice and the research has been heart-wrenching at times. There are some names for which we have not been able to discover the connection to the College, such as Francis Edward Bradshaw-Isherwood, the father of the writer Christopher Isherwood, and the Flickr site provides a way of reaching those who may be able to add vital information to aid our research.

E Denny W photo

The end result of this project will ensure that the contribution of those connected with the University of Reading who lost their lives in WW1 will not be forgotten.  Explore the Reading Connections Flickr site to learn more.