The Magnus Grammar School

in the First World War

By Trevor Frecknall

 The Magnus School’s Diary of The Great War

 Thursday 23 July 1914: The Magnus Grammar School had a Champion of All-England as the War clouds gathered. xxxx Wetherall received the Royal Geographical Society’s Silver Medal, which was awarded annually to the boy who came out first, nationwide, in geography in the Cambridge Local Examination.

 Thursday 30 July 1914: There were historic sporting moments, too. Playing cricket in a house match, Cyril E Pearson scored 200 not out in 45 minutes with the help of six sixes and 27 fours. He hit three balls so far, they were never found.

 Monday 3 August 1914: The Magnus – along with Lover’s Lane and Barnby Road Schools – were designated as billets for the 880 Territorial soldiers of the 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, who were ordered to end their summer training camp in Yorkshire a week early and return to Newark with the declaration of War only 24 hours away. But before the soldiers arrived on the 9.15pm train into Northgate Station, orders were changed. Only the Newark Company’s 100 officers and men disembarked at Northgate, and they were marched to the new Drill Hall ‘built in the nick of time’ in Sherwood Avenue and officially opened by the Duke of Portland on Saturday 20 June 1914.

 Tuesday 15 September 1914: The head of the Magnus, the Reverend Henry Gorse, informed the governors that the 17 candidates for scholarships were ‘very weak’ in spelling while their knowledge of English grammar was ‘practically non-existent’. Gorse was always a forthright chap: he banned all football at the school in 1911, insisting that only rugby union be played in winter.

 Sunday 27 September 1914: Newark Parish Church harvest festival celebrations concluded with a service at which the Reverend Gorse said Britain was confident about the result of the War because ‘Germany will reap what she has sown.’

 Monday 28 September 1914: Newark Town Council agreed to house Belgian refugees in empty properties in Victoria Street and Middlegate. The arrival of refugees all over Britain impacted hugely on Old Magnusian Thomas Matthew Blagg, who had taken up a post in the Civil Service as an Inspector of Immigration. His efforts were eventually rewarded with an MBE in 1933, by which time he was also revered as one of the county’s foremost historians.

 Sunday 25 October 1914: Arthur Harold Ellis became the first Old Magnusian to be killed in action in The Great War. The son of Mr and Mrs A H Ellis of Castle Terrace, Newark, he was a regular soldier stationed in Malta when hostilities began. In August 1914 he was sent to Albania, but was moved to France in October 1914. His regiment was in action almost immediately as the Germans staged a series of attacks, called ‘The Race to the Sea’, aiming to reach the Channel ports and threaten an invasion of England. After Arthur had been reported missing, one comrade said that he had been seen, badly wounded somewhere between 25 and 31 October. But it was eventually decided that he must have been killed. Private 1096 Ellis of the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

 Saturday 28 November 1914: As if soldiers were not in enough danger facing the enemy, they were also in peril on the streets of Newark … sufficiently so for 15 parsons of all religious denominations to write to the Newark Herald – a weekly newspaper that came out on Saturdays while the Newark Advertiser was published on Wednesdays – telling parents to make sure their daughters behaved properly in the presence of the soldiers who were training in the town. The letter read: ‘Many girls, and especially those who are still quite young, are allowed to linger in the streets on their way home from the various employments, and not infrequently are to be seen attracting the attention of young men. While it is important that the troops should not be hindered in their attempts to act in accordance with Lord Kitchener’s Appeal, it is equally important that the girls of our town should conduct themselves with becoming dignity. We therefore ask all parents to make such rules in their homes as shall enable them to know where their daughters are in the evenings, and also in whose company they are spending their time. Feeling also the urgency of the appeals of the late Earl Roberts and Earl Kitchener to our patriotism, we would venture to say to all our fellow townsmen: On no account let us ever treat a soldier or a recruit to strong drink.’ It was signed by the Reverend Gorse; W Paton Hindley, Vicar of Newark; Henry Babb, Wesleyan Methodist Minister; William James Betson, Vicar of St Leonard’s; William Broadley, Wesleyan Minister; Joseph Dobson Burns, Minister of London Road Congregational Church; Jonathan Dann, Primitive Methodist Minister; Hugh Farrie, Assistant Curate, Newark Parish Church; Ernest W Godfrey, Baptist Church Minister; John Edward Hadican, Holy Trinity Church; George E Jordan, Salvation Army officer; A Parkinson, Assistant Curate, Newark Parish Church; William B Sealy, Christ Church; W H S Snow, United Methodist Minister; and H G Wilkinson, Wesleyan Methodist Church.

 Tuesday 15 December 1914: Newark Education Authority accepted a tender of £378 18 shillings from G Brown & Son to tackle the dry rot in the Magnus Buildings.

 Saturday 9 January 1915: The Advertiser was proud to report that Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair, Commander of Cruiser Force B, who had just become the first British seaman to choose a merchant ship (the Alsatian) to be his flagship, was the son of Old Magnusian Dudley Raikes de Chair (born 1842), who was in the school’s Army Class under the Reverend Herbert Plater, went on to travel the world while rising through the ranks in the Navy and ultimately reached the status of Assistant to the Controller of the Navy. The ‘Navy War’ website records that the Alsatian survived the war to become Empress of France for the Canadian Pacific line.

 Friday 26 February 1915: Old Magnusian Major Arthur Rowland Greenwood MB (born 19 January 1874 in Newark) was mentioned in despatches for his heroic medical work with the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium and France. He was the third son of the late Thomas Frederick Greenwood, medical practitioner in Middlegate from 1858 to 1890 and surgeon (retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel) of the 4th Sherwood Foresters Militia. Arthur had become a Specialist in Operative Surgery with the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1903, and served in India and Somaliland before attaining the rank of Major in 1912. He went on to be transferred to Malta on 25 July 1915 to tend men who were wounded in the Dardanelles and various parts of Africa. He was taken ill himself and invalided back to England on 13 August 1916 but returned to earn promotion to Lieutenant Colonel on Boxing Day 1917, serve in Salonika, Greece, until the end of The Great War and finally retire on 21 June 1924.

 Friday 9 April 1915: Old Magnusian Cyril Foster, aged 23, was in business at Kuala Lumpur, Malay Straits, and wrote home to his parents George, a grocer, and Kate at 18 Winchilsea Avenue, that he had completed a month’s musketry training at Singapore and left the day before the riot broke out in which several of his companions and an officer of his corps were shot. [Thirty-five Britons had been killed in what started out as a fight between rival factions of Indian nationals in the 5th Battalion Light Infantry Regiment in Singapore.] Cyril was in the Singapore Rifles Volunteers and went to work each day in khaki and armed with his gun. He had to be on parade at 5.30 every morning and after business every evening and so was having ‘a strenuous life’. It was a far cry from his early working life as his Dad’s delivery lad but his parents were relieved to hear he was well.

 Friday 14 May 1915: Cyril Alfred Hopewell, only 16, an Old Magnusian and son of auctioneer Herbert Alfred and Gertrude Letitia Hopewell of 6 Northgate, discovered he had become one of the youngest ever to pass a two-day examination for entry into the Auctioneers’ Institute.

 Monday 17 May 1915: Another Old Magnusian, Bertrand Hayes, aged 18 and a pupil teacher, wrote to his parents George and Clara at 24 Winchilsea Avenue about a bombing raid by Zeppelin airships on Ramsgate: ‘My dear Mother and Father – At last the Zepps have paid us a visit. My word, what an exciting time we have had! The excitement started at about 7pm on Sunday. We heard a tremendous roar out to sea and heavy gun firing. I was just returning from the post and saw a very fast cruiser steaming north at a tremendous pace. It was firing incessantly. Far beyond it in the mist was the cigar-shaped form of a Zeppelin. After about half an hour’s chase the cruiser drove the airship back, but we were soon to know that it had not gone for good. About midnight we were aroused by gunfire from the straits and about 2.15am this was joined by the rattle of the small guns of the patrol boats, some of which were in and others just outside Ramsgate harbour. Then about five minutes later terrific explosions were heard and we then knew that airships had arrived and were bombarding Ramsgate. Just then our telephone bell rang and the commander of the Marconi station, about 100 yards from the school, warned us that one was coming our way. We hurried out to the dug-out in the grounds. It appears that there were two Zepps over Ramsgate. One went south to Dover and the other north to Margate. Only a few minutes elapsed before the roar of the engines told us she was near. She passed right over us and the Marconi station and the lighthouse but, strange to say, dropped no bombs. We looked out and could see her with lights in her cars (of which there are two) all twinkling like stars. I heard that a good deal of damage had been done at Margate … 20 bombs were dropped in Ramsgate but 14 failed to explode. One hotel, the Bull and George, was practically reduced to dust.’

 Sunday 30 May 1915: Old Magnusian Corporal Thomas Rowland Smith wrote to his uncle, Jonathon Henry Smith, chemist, at 10 Bridge Street, about life with the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry in Cairo, the Egyptian capital: ‘We are in Barracks about 2 miles from Cairo and it is fearfully hot out here although the summer is only just arriving. We shall soon melt with the sun glaring day after day. There are dozens and dozens of barracks here and most of the Australians have left for the Dardanelles, but there are a lot of New Zealanders and also different regiments of London Yeomanry who have been here for months. We get plenty of work, but not so much food as we did at home. The Government rations per man here to 1lb meat and 1lb of bread with tea and ½oz of rice per day. We get about 6d a day extra out here and that buys bacon, a sausage or eggs for breakfast and 1oz jam and butter for tea, but I can manage alright … Our barracks are very old ones. In fact, they were built by Napoleon.’ Thomas had been his uncle’s assistant pre-War and was expected to succeed him as the chemist. He was later attached to the Imperial Camel Corps and was killed in action in Palestine in March 1918 [see the Diary for 4 April 1918].

 Sunday 4 July 1915: Newark learned of the death in action of one of the candidates who lost out to the Reverend Gorse when the headmastership of the Magnus last became vacant. The Reverend John Garrett Bussell, 33-year-old son of a former Vicar of Balderton and grandson of a former Vicar of Newark was serving with the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and left a widow, Dorothea, 30, and two young children, John Garrett, 4, and Kathleen, 2. He is remembered in Tancrez Farm Cemetery, Hainault, Belgium.

 Sunday 18 July 1915: In glorious sunshine, Colonel Sir Lancelot Rolleston inspected the 100-strong Newark Volunteer Reserve on the Magnus Grammar School Field and was ‘very interested’ to note that it was the only Company of its kind in the whole of the county drilling with arms. There is a good reason for this: the men had begged and borrowed single-barrelled shotguns, obsolete rifles and carbines from farmers and anyone else willing to donate. The men’s voluntary work was real enough, though, with a German invasion of the East Coast of England feared and expected in equal measure. As more and more men aged 40 and under were needed on the battle fronts, the older Volunteers took over guard duties on railways, at munitions works and of Royal Engineers stores.

 Friday 23 July 1915: Old Magnusian Claud Davenport, the Lieutenant in charge of transport with the 1/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, spent a brief furlough back in Newark – and appealed for donations of goggles for his motor cyclists, explaining: ‘They would be a great protection from the German gas.’ Gas warfare was so new at this time that British officers still had to learn that it affected men’s breathing, often fatally.

 Sunday 22 August 1915: Stretcher bearer Michael Herbert Edmonds Colton, 21, suffered a hero’s death amid blazing gorse in one of the most vicious battles of the Dardanelles campaign in Greece. The eldest son of the late Michael Herbert Colton of South Scarle Hall, Bert, as he was universally known was more genteel than warlike, but a thorough patriot. While attended the Magnus he became one of the first Scouts in the movement founded by Baden Powell. After leaving school, he went into the office of Edward Bailey and Son, Auctioneers, in Kirkgate and spent his recreational time either as District Scoutmaster or as a baritone singer in local concerts. Bert perished when the Yeomanary Division – which had been retrained in an infantry role – was ordered to charge up a target known as Chocolate Hill. In an age before telephone, radio, television or email, his widowed mother Minnie Jane Colton received letters over the next few weeks and months assuring her what a hero he was. Major Harold Thorpe of Coddington wrote from a crowded dug-out with shells flying all around: ‘Your brave son … brought no less than 14 men out of one patch of burning gorse and personally dressed the wounds of 10 of them. Unfortunately he was struck by a shrapnel bullet in the head and fell mortally wounded. I cannot express my admiration of the work done by the stretcher bearers … He has always been in my Squadron and has always been the pattern of what a soldier should be.’ Private Frank Robinson, 22, son of photographer Frank and Clara Robinson of Lombard Street who was also serving with the Yeomanry, wrote to Miss Ivy Lees, also 22, at 41 Portland Street: ‘He died like a hero. His duties as stretcher bearer took him right into the firing and there is no ducking as they have to carry the stretcher. Anyway, he and his chum carried in 34 cases before he was shot in the head. He is the only one hurt among the Newark fellows. We have lost the Colonel and some men killed and a few officers and some men wounded.’ A memorial service was held for Bert in South Scarle Church on Thursday 30 September 1915 immediately after the funeral service of his uncle, Thomas Edward Boot Colton, a land owner, merchant and for 15 years a Notts County Councillor. Private 1715 Colton of ‘A’ Squadron Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry is also remembered on the Helles Memorial.

 Tuesday 7 September 1915: News reached Newark that Old Magnusian Arthur Edward Dunn, 38, had been decorated for bravery while commanding HMS Gazelle in the Dardanelles. First he received congratulations from Vice-Admiral John M de Robeck, Commanding the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, for successful mine laying operations. Next he had the Royal Naval Reserve Officers’ Decoration conferred by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. Commander Dunn was a son of the late Robert Lowthorpe Dunn and of Mrs Jane Dunn, formerly of Thorpe Lodge Farm. A century later, the worldwide web enables us to explain why he was so deserving of respect. An article at says that when war broke out he was Marine Superintendent in London for the New Zealand Shipping Company. He immediately applied to the Royal Navy for a ship but was offered only secretaries’ posts until October 1914, when he was invited to command a 500-ton Channel steamer destined to sweep for mines as The Gazelle. After a cold and dangerous winter in the North Sea, he was directed to the Mediterranean and took up the story: ‘The Gazelle was fitted up for mine-laying and associated with the French mine-layer, Casa Blanca. The work had to be done on very dark nights and no lights were allowed. The first expedition passed off all right, but on the second one we were alone and had to lay eight mines across the entrance to the Gulf of Smyrna. We had just begun our work when a searchlight from one of the forts picked us up, and the guns opened fire. In addition, they kept revolving the searchlights on us so that we were almost blinded, and should have been done for if the Doris had not come along and blazed away with her big guns while we dropped the rest of our mines and sneaked away. On the next trip the Casa Blanca laid several and then one exploded but, luckily, clear of the ship. Of ours, the first three lots floated away all right, but the next lot exploded as soon as they touched the water and blew up several of the others as well. The noise was awful and bits were flying about in all directions. Several of the men were hit by pieces. We were recalled to Mudros for a doctor, and gave the reminder of our mines to the Casa Blanca. A few hours later we heard that she had struck one of her own mines and had gone down with a loss of eight officers and 89 men. We were now the only mine-layer attached to the Allied Fleet and they kept us busy. We used to lay over 50 mines every night that we could go out, and we took quite a lot of talent with us on those trips – the Commanding Officer of our senior ship, two doctors and one English and one French torpedo officer besides our own crowd. The job ended with a message of thanks from Admiral de Robeck. Then there was much patrol work…’ We clearly have not heard the last of Commander Dunn!

 Thursday 15 October 1915: With farm workers being enlisted to fight in the forces and food shortages feared, Edgar E Stokes, the Nottinghamshire Education Committee’s Agricultural Organiser, began a 10-week course at the Magnus, on two nights a week, teaching anybody who was interested how to grow vegetables.

 Sunday 9 January 1916: The Newark Company of the Volunteer Training Corps commenced a special recruits’ squad for men enlisted under Lord Derby’s scheme, which forced men to either serve in the armed forces or, if they were allowed to remain in civilian occupations, to spend a certain number of hours each work with the Volunteer Force. The recruits trained at the Magnus Grammar School from 10am every Sunday. This in itself emphasised how important anti-invasion work was deemed: very few activities were allowed on the Sabbath other than, of course, attending services.

 Sunday 5 February 1916: The youngest Territorial Major in the British Army died after being wounded twice in three weeks. Samuel Boyd Quibell, 25, the eldest son of factory owner Oliver and Elizabeth Quibell of Shalem Lodge, London Road, Newark, had been educated at Miss Wallis's private school in town and the Magnus before proceeding to the Leys School, Cambridge. On leaving he joined his grandfather’s tannery, Thomas Holmes and Son, in Hull. Having been in the Cadet Corps at school, he obtained a commission in the 4th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment (Territorial Force), was gazetted Captain aged 22 and became the youngest Major at 24. He went to the battlefront on 23 April 1915 and within a few days was among the novices called-up to relieve Canadian soldiers who had borne the brunt of the Germans’ first gas attack. On 5 January 1916 he was hit in the jaw and neck by a fragment of shell, but was adjudged fit again in a week. On 23 January he was hit in the chest by a bullet. Doctors diagnosed a glancing wound. For a few days, Sam made good progress, but then had a relapse which proved fatal. He is remembered in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

 Sunday 12 February 1916: A nephew of the Mayor of Newark, Alderman William Edward Knight, was killed while moving into front line trenches. Old Magnusian James Walter Hammond, 33, whose widowed mother Louisa lived in Trent Bridge House, Newark, enlisted in August 1914 with his younger brother Frederick. Both went to the Western battlefront in July 1915 and fought side by side through the Battle of Loos and many other actions. On Sunday night 12 February 1916 the Platoon was proceeding up to the trenches after a bombardment when a shell burst by the side of the communications trench, killing James. It fell to Fred to write home to tell his mother and uncle. James is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

 Monday 28 February 1916: Newark Borough Tribunal, which had the task of deciding whether men should be sent to fight or were of more use in their civilian occupations, postponed until 1 May a decision on whether to send Magnus science teacher G B Nickel into the Services after headmaster Gorse pointed out that four teachers had already enlisted.

Wednesday 29 March 1916: Old Magnusian Michael Vincent Maguire, a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles, was ‘severely wounded’. His father, Captain M Maguire, the chief recruiting officer in Nottingham, received a telegram on 31 March saying he had been rushed to a casualty clearing station a couple of days ago with a multiple compound fracture of the left leg caused by a mortar explosion. Michael was engaged in British Government survey work in British Columbia when War broke out and immediately rushed to enlist. Canadian attestation records spell Michael’s surname ‘McGuire’ and reveal he was born 16 November 1889 in Limerick while his father was serving in Ireland. He had served for four years as a Territorial solider in the Royal Horse Artillery before emigrating to Canada, where he worked as a surveyor. He had enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in Victoria, British Columbia, on 4 January 1915. Genes Reunited records that Michael V McGuire was married in Pancras, London, in the third quarter of 1915 to Miss Effie Cunliffe Kidston, born 1895 in Scotland, who had emigrated to Canada with her family in 1912. Canadian records reveal that, after The Great War, Michael and Effie crossed the Atlantic again and by 1921 had set up home in Coldstream, Yale, British Columbia. Effie reached the grand old age of 96 before she died on 1 June 1991 in Vernon xxxx

 Wednesday 27 April 1916: Vicar’s son John Stuart Frost joined the Nottingham and Notts Bank (Southwell branch) as soon as he left the Magnus, aged 15, in 1903. Five years later, he was transferred to the Bank’s headquarters in Thurland Street, Nottingham, and looked forward to a quiet career in finance while pursuing his sporting interests of rowing in the summer and hockey in the winter. But patriotism out-weighed personal ambitions and he was commissioned in the Royal Naval Reserve on 3 September 1915. Today – only a few weeks after he heard of the death of his father, the Reverend J T Frost, who had served the Baptist Church in Southwell for many years – Jack, as he was inevitably called, was serving as Assistant Paymaster on the battleship HMS Russell when it struck a mine in the Mediterranean and sank off Malta. Jack is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial, the Magnus War Memorial and the Rowers’ War Memorial, Trent Bridge, Nottingham.

 Thursday 28 April 1916: By amazing coincidence, another Baptist vicar’s son nicknamed Jack was killed in action; this time in France. Reginald Jonathan Carey Leader was only 20. The son of the Reverend George Charles and Mrs Leader, he earned a scholarship from Newark Wesleyan School to the Magnus and showed excellent promise both in his studies and sports. When his parents left Newark in 1912 for Stockton-on-Tees, he completed his studies at Stockton Grammar School then set out on a journalistic career. But when War broke out, he at once joined the Durham Light Infantry as a private and gained his commission twelve months later. He had been at the battlefront about nine months. Second Lieutenant Leader, 14th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, is remembered in Bard Cottage Cemetery, Ypres.

 Wednesday 5 July 1916: Cecil Sefton, youngest son of William F, a brewery travelling salesman and Mary Jane of ‘Maple Dene’, Lime Grove, was killed by a shell at 10.30 this morning. Lieutenant Stuart Rawson wrote: ‘We have lost one of the cheeriest and best workers one could ever hope to have.’ Cecil was 25, educated at the Magnus, went on to work in a gentleman’s outfitter’s, was an active member of Newark Rowing Club; and, like three of his four brothers, volunteered to fight. He had been in France with the 20th Battalion (Public Schools) Royal Fusiliers since November 1915. Bill and Mary Sefton had much more grief to bear before this War was over. Private 5605 Sefton is remembered in the British and Indian Military Cemetery in the hamlet of Gorre near Bethune and on the Newark Rowing Club Memorial.

 Monday 10 July 1916: Away from the War, Cyril Coldron Smith, 23, son of Walter Smith of Newark Market Place, was awarded a Beit Fellowship for Scientific Research, which had been set up in 1906 by the will of Alfred Beit, a brilliant financier and a director of the British South Africa Company with many interests including the development of Rhodesia’s railway system. Educated at the Magnus and then the University of Bristol, Cyril was at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College London.

 Thursday 13 July 1916 was a fatally unlucky day – though it was eleven months before one Newark mother had the sad fact confirmed. The drama began for widow Mrs Florence Mary Robinson of 78 Harcourt Street when the 7th Battalion Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment attacked Trones Wood, lost direction and came under fierce enemy fire. Yet 150 men still reached the eastern edge of the wood and struggled on to an unlikely victory. By Wednesday 23 August Mrs Robinson was desperate for news of her only son, Hassell Ernest Robinson, 21, who was reported wounded and missing. The Old Magnusian had worked in the drawing office at Ransome’s and had gained practical experience at Simpson’s in expectation of a career as a draughtsman – joining his mates in local football and cricket teams – before enlisting in January 1916 and going to the battlefront on 22 June 1916. On 6 August 1916, Mrs Robinson was told by the War Office that he was wounded and missing; no effort had been spared to discover more news. The West Kents’ Chaplain wrote that Hassell went over the parapet with the bombers and feared he was mortally wounded during the bayonet charge. Yet this morning Mrs Robinson had a letter from the Commanding Officer regretting he had no more news and imploring her to hope for the best. Earnestly though she hoped, it was eventually confirmed in June 1917 that Lance Corporal G/11707 Robinson had indeed been killed on 13 July 1916. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

 Friday 21 July 1916: One of the Magnus’s most able water sportsmen, William Derry, aged 27, paid the ultimate price for returning to defend ‘The Mother Country’ five years after emigrating to Australia and settling into a totally different life. William won many swimming prizes while at the Magnus and added the Marsh and Clinton Cups as a member of Newark Rowing Club. He continued his link with water upon leaving school by completing a plumber’s apprenticeship with his brother, Robert I Derry in Stodman Street. He went to Australia intending to follow the plumbing trade but instead took to farm life. When The Great War broke out he was among the first to volunteer at Cookamundra, New South Wales and went to Egypt with the 1st Battalion Australian Infantry, arriving February 1916. There he met many of the Sherwood Rangers he had known in Newark. He sailed from Alexandria to Marseille aboard Invernia in March 1916. According to a letter from Captain H Price, who had earned the Distinctive Service Order for his bravery in action, William was attached to a light trench mortar battery and was killed when a shell struck his mortar during fighting around the town of Pozieres. Private 3286 Derry has no known grave and is remembered on the Memorial at Villers-Brettonneaux, a village 16km from Amiens.

 Former Magnus boarder Archibald Gordon Ford was also killed on 21 July 1916, at the age of 20 – after experiencing brutal action on three battlefronts over ten months. As a member of the 1st Field Company Royal Engineers, he put his knowledge of mechanical engineering to good use by helping spirit besieged Allied forces away from Dardanelles danger without the Turkish Army realising what was happening. Among the last of the Allies to be evacuated, he then had a spell in Egypt where he experienced several brushes with the Turks along the Suez Canal. Transferred to France, he was officially reported to have been killed ‘while out with a working party’ – which almost certainly meant he was attempting to tunnel under German trenches when tragedy struck. Sapper 2451 Ford is remembered at the Hamel Military Cemetery near Albert.

[NH 12 August / 1911 census / CWGC]


Monday 24 July 1916: Old Magnusian A Robson, only 18, sent a letter about his ‘wonderful escape’ for inclusion in the Novarcensian magazine: ‘We had a go at the Germans on 1 July. We went over the top and I came safely back through an absolute hail of bullets, without a scratch. I had two narrow escapes. A piece of shrapnel pierced the brim of my tin hat. And a bullet from a sniper entered my tunic below the second button, went into my right breast top pocket, through my pay-book and mirror, and the lid of a cocoa tin. It cut all my cigarettes in half, and the bottom of the tin turned the bullet out again. I also had two holes in my wool waistcoat and a smaller one in my shirt. It was a wonderful escape as I ran 300 yards across ‘No Man’s Land’ with a machine gun turned on me and sundry shells bursting. I never expected to reach our lines again. I am out of the trenches now and many miles behind the line ... I am to stay here until I am 19 years old next February.’

 Sunday 20 August 1916: Alfred Hughes, 28, wrote to tell his widowed mother Sophia, 68, at 16 Crown Street, that he had been awarded a commission in the Royal Engineers. The Old Magnusian’s heart and soul were in Africa, which possessed a great fascination for him, and he was on his way to the Belgian Congo to take charge of road and telegraph construction.

 Laxton villagers were stunned on the same Sunday to hear that bright young Oscar Willis had been killed, aged 29. They had been expecting he would take over as head teacher at the village school from his father Frank, 58, when the time came. He had gone from there to the Magnus, served his ‘apprenticeship’ as a pupil-teacher at Lover’s Lane Council School, graduated to assistant at Tuxford Council School, and emerged from a course at Saltley Training College with a distinction in mathematics, which helped him get a post in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham. But now the villagers learned he was one of the first British soldiers to be gunned down on the parapets as the great advance began on the Somme. All the War Office managed to tell Frank and his wife Ruth was that Corporal Oscar Potter Willis, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was reported ‘wounded and missing’ on 1 July. A soldier quite unknown to the family, Corporal Roberts of the Welsh Guards, wrote on 15 August to Oscar’s sister Ruth Barbara, 30: ‘I am sorry it is very bad news I have to send. Your brother Oscar is killed. I don’t know whether you have had the news before. But I found him and I gave his pay-book to the Sergeant-Major, and a photo of a Sergeant-Major and a Sergeant. I trust that you will accept my deepest sympathy.’ The photo was of Oscar’s older brother, Harold, a Sergeant with the Leicestershire Regiment in Ireland. Members of Oscar’s Battalion also wrote, explaining that he was at the head of a party carrying ammunition for the machine guns, and was hit immediately on reaching the parapet and probably fell into a shell hole and died. ‘Poor old Oscar,’ a college chum of his wrote to Mrs Willis, ‘a thorough gentleman, a true friend, solid and staunch to the end.’ Oscar is remembered in the No.1 cemetery in the village of Serre 11 kilometres from the town of Albert. By a cruel twist, his sister Ruth was killed during World War Two. She was cycling home to Laxton from an Air Raid Precautions exercise at Ossington aerodrome when a stray German plane attacked her.

 Friday 1 September 1916: Newark discovered that one of its bravest boys, George Collett, had been killed in action on 18 July 1916 – aged only 16. The military authorities knew he had been born in December 1899, in Harcourt Street, where his parents resided until his mother died, but decided to ignore his father’s request for him to be sent home as he was strong enough to withstand the rigours of the trenches and wished to remain serving his country. Educated at the Magnus, he gave up his scholarship to enter paid employment with the General Electric Company at Witton aged 13. When War broke out soon afterwards, he determined to join the Army. He was not yet 15 years old but 5 foot 9 inches tall when he not only volunteered but also persuaded the authorities he was 19½. Indeed the Army doctor who examined him commented that he was extremely well developed for someone under 20! George had completed his training and was in France before his father Joseph, a former Borough Councillor, discovered exactly where he was. Joseph asked the Army to send the boy home. George demurred. And in March Joseph received a letter from the military authorities stating that George ‘has been medically examined and found physically fit to bear the strain of active service, and as he has expressed the wish to remain with his unit in the Expeditionary Force, he is being retained.’ George wrote to Frances Hines, 17, a daughter of a butcher at 139 Barnbygate: ‘I think it is my duty to stop out here. I assure you that the wet, muddy trenches are no attraction – it is no delight to sit in two foot of water all night long. Nevertheless, why are we all sticking it so? Supposing all us chaps were to give in? Then the Boches would get through. We have seen and heard what the Germans did to the peasants when they advanced in the early part of the War. And we know they would do their work just as well on the English civilians provided they got through and overran England. That is the reason we have got to hold out. So you can see the reason why I am sticking it. There are plenty of chaps not much older than me doing the same.’ Private 3279 George William Collett of the 1/8th Royal Warwickshire Regiment is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial; his age is not recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

 Wednesday 4 October 1916:  Classmates of Hubert Everard Clifton always knew he was one of the brightest Magnusians. But it was some time after his death today, aged 25, that they discovered he was also among the bravest – when he was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Xxxx citation. He had been such a star at the Magnus while his father Richard was Wesleyan Superintendent Minister at Newark that he went to Trinity College, Cambridge University, and was about to embark on a career in the legal profession when War broke out. After enlisting in the 1st Battalion Devon Regiment in 1914, he shrugged-off his first War wound with no problem, but the second, in the forearm, caused a severe haemorrhage. He was in hospital in France for a time and was then shipped to Fort Pitt Military Hospital, Chatham, where pneumonia supervened. Second Lieutenant Clifton is remembered in Torquay Cemetery and Extension.

 Wednesday 1 November 1916: The boy who became Sir Donald Wolfit, the Newark area’s best-known actor, lost his big brother Philip to War wounds at the age of 19. After earning a scholarship at the Mount School and attending the Magnus until he was 15, Philip went to Canada and joined his grandfather, J H Tomlinson, in Victoria, British Colombia. He began to learn surveying and was engaged with his uncle, Nowell Johnson, on Government work. As soon as he had finished this engagement, he joined the 88th Battalion of Canadians at Victoria in December 1915 and sailed to England in June 1916, when he had a few days leave and visited his parents in Balderton. Returning to camp, he volunteered to join a draft, was transferred to the 43rd Canadians and sent to France early in August 1916. He was in the firing line for only about a month before suffering severe wounds on 9 October. In addition to injuries to the right arm, left hand and head, severe shrapnel wounds in the hip caused complications. He was shipped to England on 17 October and underwent several operations at King George’s Hospital, London. He was treated with the best medical skill possible and with every care and attention, but owing to septic poisoning and haemorrhage no hopes are entertained of saving the young life. His parents, William Pearce Woolfitt, a brewers’ accountant, and Ontario-born Emma, were present when he passed away ‘most peacefully, practically in his sleep,’ at 10.15 tonight. They returned home to London Road, Balderton, and received a letter from the Chaplain of King George’s Hospital: ‘…All of us who have come in touch with the dear boy have felt that it was fitting that he should be called away on All Saints’ Day. His sheer goodness has inspired us all. His patience and cheerfulness were wonderful all through, for he has been suffering much pain. On Sunday morning he received Holy Communion with much joy and devotion. We have lost a lot of boys since July, but in no case do I remember such a widespread feeling of sorrow and sympathy in the Hospital as was felt today.’ Philip’s military funeral service took place in Newark Parish Church on Saturday 4 November 1916, after which he was interred in the Cemetery, London Road. His mother and father were buried with him in 1925 and 1938 respectively. Note: when Donald opted for the stage, he dropped one of the o’s from his surname.

 Wednesday 24 January 1917: Tonight’s London Gazette announced that the King had been graciously pleased to reward several Sherwood Foresters for their bravery in the Dublin Rebellion during Easter 1916. Captain and Acting Adjutant Arthur Holmes Quibell, 22, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The eldest surviving son of Oliver and Mrs Quibell of Shalem Lodge, he was an Old Magnusian who went on to Nottingham University. He became Captain only a week before the Rebellion, was slightly wounded but was able to carry on and take over the role of Adjutant when Captain-Adjutant Leslie Melville was more seriously wounded. Captain Quibell ‘showed fine presence of mind and leadership to A Company’ according to his citation, but was very reticent as to his particular part in the drama. He insisted: ‘The honour is for the Company. They did their work splendidly’

 Wednesday 28 February 1917: The Brocklebanks of Carlton-le-Moorland suffered their second bereavement of the War. Private 52909 Geoffrey Brocklebank, 19, was killed while fighting with the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, and is remembered in the Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, and on the Magnus War Memorial. The Old Magnusian was the son of farmer William and Mary, whose nephew Trooper Joseph Hugh Turner Brocklebank, only son of farmer Joseph Brocklebank of Carlton-le-Moorland Grange, was one of 23 killed when the Mercian carrying Lincolnshire Yeomanry reinforcements through the Mediterranean to Turkey was attacked by a submarine. Trooper 1834 Brocklebank is remembered on the Helles Memorial.

 Saturday 3 March 1917: Trainee Royal Engineers based in Newark, who only took up rugby union at the start of the winter, romped to a 34-0 victory over the Magnus 1st XV, ample revenge for a narrow defeat in their opening fixture a few weeks earlier and proof that they were quick learners.

 Friday 9 March 1917: Old Magnusian Frederic H Ellis, 31, whose parents lived in Appletongate, left his job as Highways Surveyor with Sleaford Rural District Council, and his 28-year-old wife Ida at home at 72 Grantham Road, Quarrington, having been granted a commission in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.

 Friday 13 April 1917: At a meeting of the Notts Education Committee, Colonel E H Nicholson called attention to distinctions recently gained by the Magnus Grammar School. The headmaster’s son, Henry John Lancelot Gorse, 13, had gained the premier entrance scholarship – ‘the Spencer Churchill’ – to Harrow School, and of the masters who volunteered for the Forces, Lieutenant Davenport had been awarded a bar to his Military Cross and Lieutenant Smith had been promoted Captain. Xxxx Davenport citations

 Saturday 19 May 1917: Thomas Parker of Calverton has received an intimation that his 22-year-old son, Wilfred Ernest was killed in action on the night of 8-9 May 1917. Educated at the Magnus and St Mark’s College, London, he joined the Middlesex Regiment (Territorial Force) in November 1913, was discharged as a Corporal in November 1915 and was instantly commissioned in the 15th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Second Lieutenant Parker is remembered on the Arras Memorial.

 Tuesday 22 May 1917: Former Magnus teacher and Newark Town footballer Lieutenant William Victor Cavill of the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment had been awarded the Military Cross. He entered the enemy lines and, single-handed, captured several Germans. Born in Gloucestershire in 1888, he was an assistant master at the Magnus for some time, and played in the Midland League for the town’s football team. He had been in France since July 1916, was wounded in January 1917, but was destined to receive his MC in June 1917 and to end The Great War as Staff Captain, 18th Infantry Brigade. Confirmation that he thrived after the War came in the London Gazette of 8 June 1920 when he was promoted Captain and made Commander of the Ardingley College Contingent of the Officers’ Training Corps. He went on to teach at Haileybury from 1923-27 – and lived until 24 September 1959.

 Saturday 2 June 1917: Sutton-on-Trent School headmaster William Taylor and his wife Agnes were informed that the eldest of their three serving sons had been killed in action. William Barron Taylor, 26, an Old Magnusian renowned for regularly winning the sprints at Newark’s annual Whit Sports, joined the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry in 1908 and worked for the Midland Railway at Derby before enlisting in the Royal Fusiliers in 1914. He was wounded in the Battle of the Somme on 19 July 1916, was sent home to recuperate, but returned to France in March 1917. Lance Corporal Taylor was killed on 3 May while serving with the Royal Fusiliers and is remembered on the Arras Memorial. Of his brothers, one was fighting in France and the other in training.

 Wednesday 6 June 1917: The son of a former Magnus headmaster, Captain Cyril Edward Spencer Noakes, 23, of the Sherwood Foresters, had been ‘dangerously wounded in the chest and shoulder by the accidental explosion of a bomb.’ He was the son of the Reverend Dr Edward Spencer Noakes, who moved back into service of the Church of England from the Magnus and became Archdeacon of Derby.

 Thursday 7 June 1917:  Former Magnusian Richard Lacey Thornton, only 19, was killed in action with the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. The son of Richard and Emma Thornton of Thurgarton, he lived in Newark but enlisted in Derby. Private 49325 Thornton is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

 Saturday 23 June 1917: Could the threat of invasion be increasing..? Col Nicholson, as group leader under the Newark War Emergency Committee, called a parade of his Cyclist and Motor Cyclist Sections on the Magnus field this evening: 120 riders were presented with red and white striped armlets which had been kindly made-up by the ladies of the Mayoress’s Working Party,  which was formed at the start of the War to provide warm clothing for soldiers and support for the families they had left at home.

 Friday 27 July 1917: A capital programme of events was completed at the annual Magnus School Sports. There were no prizes: the scholars merely competed for the reward of success.

 Friday 10 August 1917: George Brockton, 19, of Farndon was reported missing in an attack on Inverness Copse. An Old Magnusian, he was an apprentice at Ransome’s before enlisting in May 1916 and going to France in June 1917 with the 7th Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. His parents George and Lucy, who were farmers, were desperate to know what had happened to the sixth of their seven children. It was Friday 5 October before his family heard that Private T206932 Brockton was officially presumed to have been killed on 10 August. He is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

 Tuesday 14 August 1917: Police pensioner Herbert Rogerson and his wife Susannah at Carlton-on-Trent learned that their only child, Herbert Noel, had been killed in action. He was 20 and had been sent to France after eight weeks’ training. Educated at Goole Secondary and Magnus Grammar School, he worked on a farm and had a reputation as the nicest and most popular young man in the village. Private Rogerson is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

 Tuesday 18 September 1917: It was reported to a meeting of the Magnus School governors that scholarships had been awarded to Mount School quartet G H Dobney, J Fryer, A Dowse and R Snaith; Wesleyan School trio A W Richardson, H M Eddowes and L W Bird; J Seymour, Barnby Road; and C E Daybell, Coddington. Three boys had been successful in the Cambridge Locals: ironmonger’s son John Gwilliam Maltby of 29 Winchilsea Avenue obtained first class honours with distinction in physical geography and chemistry; auctioneer’s son Walter Harvey Pink of 1 Whitfield Street third class honours with distinction in chemistry and geography; and George Dakin of Sutton-on-Trent passed. All the scholars were being urged to assist in the gathering of horse chestnuts for munitions.

 Thursday 4 October 1917: Educated at the Magnus and Wandsworth College, 24-year-old James Ernest Ford left a heart-broken fiancée as well as devastated parents when he was killed in action with the 1st Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers during at an attack across the Lauterbeek. The eldest son of Captain James Henry William and Sarah Ford of 11 Appletongate, Newark, he was embarking on a career in accountancy and serving as a motor-cyclist in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry (Territorial Army). Mobilised with the Regiment on the outbreak of war, he entered the Dardanelles campaign in 1915 and was given a commission. After being invalided from Gallipoli to England with dysentery, he recovered to be drafted to France in November 1916. He became engaged to the daughter of a retired Army officer, Miss Beryl Hunter in August 1917, but never got home again to see his bride-to-be. It was 13 before James and Sarah received a telegram: ‘Regret to inform you Capt J E Ford KOSB was killed in action on 5 October. Army Council expresses their sympathy.’ Three letters over the next few days told them how valued he was by his comrades. The chaplain wrote: ‘The Battalion was engaged in heavy fighting … and your son was in command of his Company. Everybody’s testimony is to the same effect – that he did splendidly. That was only what we expected of him from his previous record. He was an excellent officer at all times and did his duty nobly.’ Now his parents have the task of breaking the news of his death to 24-year-old Beryl. James is remembered at the Tyne Cot Memorial, Ypres, and on the Newark Rowing Club Memorial. Beryl was married in 1923 to Stephen V Palmer at Hendon, north London.

 Friday 5 October 1917: George Gregory, whose parents George and Elizabeth resided in Beacon House, Beacon Hill Road, Newark, was in a hospital in London after being bombed by the enemy while out in charge of a listening party on the night of 18 September 1917. It was ‘some time’ before he could be taken to a dressing station but he was now progressing favourably. Educated at the Magnus, he joined manufacturing chemists Maw Son & Maw in 1913 as the manager of their South African department and went out to South Africa. On the outbreak of War he joined the London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles), went to France in January 1915 and was promoted to Sergeant in 1916.

 Wednesday 24 October 1917: The Advertiser carried news of two more deaths of local heroes from the same family. Second Lieutenant Grosvenor Garnet, aged 23, the sixth and youngest son of James Garnet, had been killed in action in France on 9 October 1917. Educated at the Magnus, he sailed to Canada in 1910 and on the outbreak of War joined the Canadian Light Infantry, arriving in England with them in July 1915 and going out to France in September 1916. He was subsequently transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers; and was killed leading his Company of the 1st Battalion into action. Second Lieutenant W Addison wrote: ‘In spite of many hardships we had from time to time to undergo, your son always set us a splendid example in cheerfulness and courage.’ … Only 18 years and four months old, Second Lieutenant Henry Graham, a grandson of James Garnet, had been killed in action in Mesopotamia on 27 June 1917 while attached to the 67th Punjabis and placed in command of a cavalry patrol. His Major explained: ‘Your son went out to drive off, with the assistance of armoured cars, a party of Arabs who were attacking a convoy about four miles away. No cavalry officer being available, and as your son was always extremely keen to go on little jaunts of that sort, he was offered the command and accepted with sparkling eyes. The last I saw of him was when he rode out of camp at the head of the cavalry, looking as happy as a lord. The cavalry drew back and pursued the Arabs but, going rather too far, found the enemy increasing and working round the flank (right). So at 10.30 your son gave the order to retire and he and four men covered the right flank ... The main body was able to get back to the road but the right flank party were surrounded and shot down.’ Henry’s younger brother Robert completed the family’s unwanted trilogy by dying of pneumonia in Plymouth in 1918 while serving as a Midshipman ... Henry is remembered on the Basra Memorial in Iraq; Grosvenor in the Cement House Cemetery, Langemark-Poelkapelle near Ypres.

 Thursday 8 November 1917: It was announced that the Magnus School’s former French master, Captain Ernest Harold Robinson had won his third bravery honour while serving with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He already had a Military Cross and bar. Now he has earned a Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous gallantry in the field: the official announcement appeared in the London Gazette on 26 November 1917, but without the citation. He went on to be promoted to Major in 1918.

 Saturday 24 November 1917: Frank Thompson’s wife Mary Elizabeth received a ‘wonderful letter’ from his officer to inform her of his death in the trenches: ‘He was the type of man I, as his commander, felt honoured to have had. Owing to his great ability in the use of the Lewis gun, he was sent to a school to receive additional instruction. While there, he won great admiration from his instructors … On his return he took command of my Platoon gun and subsequently gave every possible satisfaction … The plain facts are that he was sniped through the head whilst standing in the front line trench.’ The son of George and Elizabeth Thompson of North Collingham, Frank was educated at Newark Magnus and was building a career with the General Post Office pre-War. Rifleman 37781 Thompson of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

 Tuesday 19 December 1917: The Newark Borough Tribunal gave pupil teacher J W Barber, 18, until 6 August 1918 to pass an examination after hearing he was a member of the Volunteer Regiment and a Sergeant in the Magnus Cadets. If he had been less militaristic, he would have been conscripted into the Army immediately.

 Thursday 27 December 1917: Another young Old Magnusian Percy W Spray, also 18, set off for France and the War. The son of farmer James and Mrs Spray of the Old Hall, Barnby-in-the-Willows, he was granted a commission as Second Lieutenant in October and posted to the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry. He survived to appear in the 1918 Absent Voters’ List.

 Monday 31 December 1917: Newark looked forward to creating a War Museum when the country was once more at peace. The Museums Committee asked residents to take to the Museum in the Old Magnus Buildings ‘anything that will be of interest’: letters, communications, bullets, shrapnel, gas masks … emblems of flag days, recruiting and war loan posters, War workers’ badges and armlets.

 Saturday 5 January 1918: Military Crosses were awarded to three local warriors in the New Year’s Honours List. One of them was Old Magnusian Charles James Neal, a Captain in the Royal Field Artillery, whose parents lived in Kneeton.

 Friday 25 January 1918: The Magnus School was pleased to announce that, at the Cambridge Local Examinations held in December, the following boys passed: Seniors – John Richard Grandorge, Second Class Honours; G Harwood, Third Class Honours; W W Bates, H S Pink and P Woolfitt, Third Class Honours, distinguished in geography; D J Peet, R H Wilkinson and G M Russell, Third Class Honours. Juniors – L R Bee, First Class Honours; E Parker, First Class Honours, distinguished in history; T L Shipman, Third Class Honours; F H Shuker, Third Class Honours, distinguished in history; W E Streets, Third Class Honours, distinguished in arithmetic; B S Mumby, A H Barker, L J C Gill and E H Hurst all passed. In addition, Grandorge, Woolfitt, Bee, Parker, Mumby and Hurst also passed in oral French.

 Thursday 14 February 1918: A telegram this afternoon informed Richard and Agnes Hindley of 90 Victoria Street that their son Robert had perished on three days earlier at the age of 33. They then had to relay the news to his wife of nine years, Jessie Louisa, 35, at 55 Lime Grove with four young children, all under the age of seven. A Magnus Old Boy, Robert worked in Peacock, Willson’s Bank (later taken over by Lloyd’s) while spending his spare time playing football for the Old Magnusians, cricket for Farndon and winning trophies with Newark Rowing Club. He joined the Royal Navy in 1915 and eventually applied for special service on the boat on which he met his death. The telegram said: ‘Regret to inform you that Assistant Paymaster R M Hindley was killed on the 11th inst. Letter follows.’ The Admiralty letter stated that his boat was torpedoed. History informs us it was the HMS Cullist, a ‘Q-ship’, a merchantman equipped with hidden guns designed to trap U-boats: 43 of the crew of 70 were killed when she was sunk off Drogheda by U97. A later communication added more anguish to Robert’s family by informing them that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had approved his promotion to Acting Paymaster, back-dated to 15 November 1917. Robert Muir Hindley is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. His brother Second Lieutenant Harold B Hindley, 30, was suffering from trench fever from serving with the Machine Gun Corps in France.

 Sunday 24 February 1918: Archibald Langrish Knight, 22, elder son of Archibald and Lillie Knight of 98 Hawton Road, died of wounds in a French casualty clearing station tonight. An Old Magnusian, he worked from 1911 in the County Court office under his father until enlisting in February 1916 in the 2/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. He was transferred to the Royal Engineers Signal Service only 25 days before he was mortally wounded. He is remembered in the Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, between Arras and Ayette, and on the Newark Rowing Club Memorial. His brother Thomas, a mine sweeper wireless operator in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, appeared in the Absent Voters’ List later in 1918.

 Wednesday 30 March 1918: After spending ten months providing medical assistance to the sick in German East Africa [as Tanzania was called] 37-year-old Herbert Frederick Jenkins Tinsley died of malaria. An old Magnus boy, for a number of years he assisted his father in the butchering business in the Market Place. Later he lived in Sutton-on-Trent and in addition to other duties was the district correspondent for the Herald. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps on 9 October 1916 and, after a period at Blackpool, went to East Africa in the summer of 1917. He left a widow, Annie and little son, Cecil, nearly five. Annie had five brothers serving in the Army. Private 95002 Tinsley is remembered on the Dar-es-Salaam British & Indian Memorial, Tanzania.


Thursday 4 April 1918: Chemist Jonathon Henry Smith of 10 Bridge Street learned that the nephew he was training to take over the business has been killed in Palestine. ‘Tommy’ Smith, 29, born in Bakewell, Derbyshire, moved to live with his uncle aged eight, went to the Magnus, became an eager oarsman with Newark Rowing Club and an intrepid horseman, entered his uncle’s business and was studying chemistry at Edinburgh University upon the declaration of War, since when he had been a regular and optimistic correspondent [see 30 May 1915]. As he was already a trooper in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, he returned home and was posted to Egypt and thence to Gallipoli, where he was promoted Sergeant as the result of his part in the hard fighting. After a home leave in spring 1917, he was on a ship that was torpedoed with the loss of the Regiment’s horses; but all the men survived and reached Egypt. Tommy obtained a commission in the Sherwood Foresters in February 1918 and was attached to the Imperial Camel Corps in Palestine. In his last letter to his uncle, he wrote in an entirely happy vein. But now the shock news was that 2/Lt Thomas Rowland Smith died of wounds on 13 March. A month later, a letter from his Commanding Officer arrived for the mourning chemist: ‘I would like to write you just a short line to tell you how we feel the loss of your gallant nephew. His Company bore the brunt of the three days’ hard fighting on the 28, 29 and 30 March. And they answered in the most gallant fashion to any call that was put on them. There is nothing I know that can compensate for the loss of the boy, but the knowledge that he died a most gallant death, and doing his duty most manfully, is something.’ A further letter from a brother officer added more detail: ‘We were at a place called Amman on the Hedjaj Railway, about 50 miles east of the north end of the Dead Sea. The [censored] Battalion Camel Corps were attacking the town whilst a demolition party were engaged in blowing up the railway. On the night of the 28th we attacked the redoubt in front of the town, which we captured and held during the next day. On the morning of the 29th your nephew was running to me to take an order, and was sniped and hit in the chest. He was taken back to the field ambulance but the wound proved fatal. He was buried with two brother officers at a place about two miles west of Amman on the main road to Jericho, and a stone cairn erected over the site.’ Thomas is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial. Of his battling brothers, three were in Palestine and one in East Africa.


Monday 8 April 1918: Widow Minnie Jane Colton at South Scarle Hall, and formerly of 10 Harcourt Street, Newark, discovered a second son had been killed in action. She was assured that Second Lieutenant Stanley Edmond Colton, only 19 and already the proud owner of the Military Cross, died a hero; but that was scant consolation to a lady who lost her other son, stretcher-bearer Michael Herbert Edmond (Bert) of the Sherwood Rangers, in the great charge by the Yeomanry on the Gallipoli Peninsula [see Diary for 21 August 1915]. Stanley was a Magnus Old Boy of fine physique; a good athlete who played in the cricket XI and rugger XV. He went to Sandhurst in August 1916, was granted a commission as soon as he was old enough and posted to the Northumberland Fusiliers in May 1917. From his arrival in France on 30 November 1917, his prowess as an athlete stood him in good stead as bombing officer; and he won the MC within weeks. His award, announced in the London Gazette as recently as 18 February 1918 (page 2159), revealed that at Bullecourt during hostile attacks he succeeded in taking a bombing patrol along the whole of the support trench occupied by the enemy. Later he conducted bombing parties against the enemy blocks. On the following day cleared a trench for a distance of 400 yards. Reporting Stanley’s death, his Commanding Officer, Colonel D F de C Buckle, wrote to Mrs Colton: ‘Please accept my sincerest sympathy in your great loss. Ever since your son joined the Battalion, he has shown himself a thorough soldier and a most capable leader. The bombing attack at Bullecourt, which won him the Military Cross, was a fine feat. On the 28th, the day on which he was killed by a sniper, he did splendidly and was the leader in a bombing enterprise which drove off the Germans at a very critical moment. In his death the Regiment has lost a fine officer who, I am sure, would have risen rapidly. He will be greatly missed by all.’ He is remembered on the Arras Memorial.


Wednesday 10 April 1918: The Advertiser reported that Lieutenant Martin Walter Cuckow, an assistant master at the Magnus prior to joining the 7th Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire Regiment), had been awarded the Military Cross. His record is available at the National Archives, ref: WO 339/36675. Xxxx citation


Wednesday 17 April 1918: News reached Newark that former Magnus head boy Alfie Balmer, 19, son of the Great Northern Railway bookstall manager George and Emma Taylor Buckle, was missing in action. He was such a bright lad: he passed his Senior Cambridge examination with first class honours; and was placed 40th of 2,000 competitors for posts in the Civil Service. The Edinburgh Gazette of 7 April 1916 recorded George Alfred Rodney Balmer, as he was Christened, was among the Inland Revenue clerks who passed an examination on 22 March 1916 to become a Surveyor of Taxes. When old enough, he joined the Civil Service Rifles, 1/15th Battalion London Regiment, but had been missing since 20 March 1918. He was eventually reported as wounded and a prisoner of war at Lemberg. He surely returned home, because a George A R Balmer (almost certainly our Old Magnusian) married Mary Robson in Beverley, Yorkshire, in autumn 1925. They had three children while living in Louth: John in 1927; twins Peter and Richard in 1933. George Alfred R Balmer passed away in Manchester aged 78 in 1977.


Monday 27 May 1918: The Bradford Daily Argus and Yorkshire Observer reported that one of the widest-travelled Old Magnusians of the era had been killed in action. Herbert William Gross Paine was born 10 December 1879 at Bury St Edmunds, educated at the Magnus, served as a police officer in the South African Constabulary, and was working as a clerk for the National Mutual Life Assurance Company and residing at 39 Daniel Street, Wellington, New Zealand, when he enlisted on 24 July 1916. He left New Zealand on 16 February 1917, arrived at Devonport on 2 May, reached France in June 1917 and was slightly wounded on 27 March 1918. He was killed in action while fighting in the Wellington Regiment. Corporal 32534 Paine is remembered in the Sucrerie Military Cemetery, Colincamps and, with his name spelt differently, on the Magnus War Memorial.


Monday 10 June 1918: A late night telegram from the War Office informed widow Mary Gibson in Magnus Street that her extremely intelligent son John Auchenlosh, 36, was missing. The Old Magnusian had enjoyed a distinguished scholastic career, earning a Master of Arts (London) and B.Sc. He joined Tiffins Secondary School for Boys, Kingston-on-Thames as mathematics and science master in 1907; was married in 1910, but lost his wife Catherine after a short illness in early 1917. He had been prepared to enlist in 1915 but was not called-up until Easter 1917, when he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant at Christmas and went to France in February 1918, attached to the 116th Siege Battery. In his last letter home, dated 21 May, he wrote of much fighting and very little sleep. Now the telegram revealed he had been missing since 27 May. A letter from his Captain swiftly followed, explaining: ‘He was last seen at the forward section of the Battery with about 60 men, the Major and two other officers, holding the Battery position with rifles against the Germans after the guns were blown-up. This happened about 8am on the 27th and since then we have heard no news of him or the people who were with him. We have made every effort to find out where he and the others are, but have had no news and so have had to conclude that they were all captured…’ It was Friday 6 December before Mrs Gibson was informed ‘from verbal recollections collated by the Red Cross’ that John had been killed on 27 May, the day on which he was posted missing. The report was originated by a returned prisoner of war, who stated that he was told by Bombardier Brailsford that Lieutenant Gibson had been killed. He explained: ‘I saw Brailsford in hospital behind the German lines in June. He said that after he was taken prisoner at Craonne Wood between Reims and Soissons on 27 May he was being taken back by a ‘Jerry’ when he passed Lieutenant Gibson lying dead. He had been severely wounded in the shoulder.’ Second Lieutenant Gibson is remembered on the Soissons Memorial beside the River Aisne.


Thursday 27 June 1918: The Royal Engineers staged a grand military mounted display in the grounds of the Magnus Grammar School this afternoon, attracting a large crowd of spectators enjoying half-day closing. A capital selection was played by the RE Band. The spectaculars included gun carriage races, tent pegging and vaulting displays. One cadet was kicked so hard on the head by his falling horse that he was rendered unconscious and, after on-field treatment from a doctor, was removed to hospital.


Saturday 29 June 1918: Sidney Harston, a multi-sports star while at the Magnus, disappeared at the age of 18 while flying a Sopwith F.1 Camel (serial No. D3361) over enemy territory in France. After earning a scholarship from the Mount School, the second-oldest son of painter Sidney Charles Harston and his wife Margaret Kathleen of 23 Lombard Street completed his education at the Magnus. Aged 13, he won a two-mile open swimming race against adults. He also carried off Newark elementary schools’ premier swimming honours and captained the Magnus rugby XV. Determined to select his own military unit, he joined-up in October 1917, a month before his 18th birthday, and entered the Royal Air Force. He went to France in April and had been engaged in hazardous work as a scout accompanying the bombers. Lieutenant Harston is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial for airmen with no known grave. His elder brother John was also in the RAF, having originally gone to war as a bugler in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry in 1914.


Sunday 30 June 1918: Fred Porter, 18, youngest (and brightest) son of butcher Thomas Minnitt Porter and his wife Elizabeth at 10 Bargate, was missing. While he was at the Magnus, he had shown considerable prowess in educational affairs and secured a large number of prizes for languages, scripture and other subjects. He then entered the offices of Quibell’s until he reached military age and voluntarily joined-up in October 1917. He went to France as recently as April and saw a great deal of heavy fighting with the Durham Light Infantry before being posted missing on 27 May with the greatest German onslaught of the entire War in full swing. Now his parents appealed for any news. When it came, it was of the worst: he was presumed killed on 27 May and remembered on the Soissons Memorial. His eldest sibling, Thomas William Minnitt, 25, was permanently disabled after seeing much service as a Trooper with the Sherwood Rangers (and lived to the age of 56). His second brother, Francis Herbert Victor, 20, survived the War as a mechanic with the RAF (and lived to the age of 64 in Newark).


Saturday 20 July 1918: As the result of examinations held at the Magnus today, the following boys were offered scholarships: Reginald Davis, Balderton; Robert Harston, Mount; S Mayoh, Norwell; Sidney Oliver, Wesleyan; Albert Smithson, Balderton; Eric Whate, Wesleyan; Kingsley Lafford, Lover’s Lane; cousins Leslie George Halstead and Ronald George Halstead, Wesleyan; James Cook, Mount; L P Moore, Claypole; Alfred Farrar, Mount.


Monday 22 July 1918: Leonard George Steel – taken prisoner in Africa, wounded in France – was killed in Greece at the tender age of 23. What a War for the Balderton grocer’s son whose adventures began when he earned a scholarship from Balderton Council School to the Magnus! On completion of his education he joined the Merchant Service and on the outbreak of war was taken prisoner off the East Coast of Africa. After his liberation was negotiated, he was attached to the Royal Naval Transport Service. While on one voyage, his ship was blown up by a mine on 12 January 1916 and young Len was the last to leave the vessel along with the Chaplain. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve and later transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service. He saw much action in France, most spectacularly in May 1917 when he was wounded by shrapnel that also pierced his engine. After recovery he was for some time restricted to an instructor’s role at Chingford until on 8 February 1918 he was sent to the East with 62 Wing, which was formed specifically to operate against Turkish targets in Macedonia and Thrace. He disappeared on one such mission. Lieutenant Steel is remembered in the Lancashire Landing Cemetery, Gallipoli.


Monday 5 August 1918: Newark’s Patriotic Fair – an annual event designed to earn copious funds for all of the town’s Great War charities – attracted huge crowds to the Magnus grounds for sales of all kinds of donated goods, demonstrations and sports. The gate money of £286 6s 5d constituted a record for one day in the town.


Tuesday 13 August 1918: Septuagenarians Thomas and Margaret Blagg at 25 Cartergate received the news that their youngest son, Sidney, was dead. They knew, from a letter received the previous Tuesday that he had been wounded. They thought he had been cut-off by a German attack on 29 July and taken prisoner. But now a letter arrived from his Commanding Officer in the 1/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment explaining that when the Battalion retook ground that they had lost, they found his body. To add to the anguish, Sidney had written home only two days before he died saying he had been promised leave at the end of the month. Aged 37, he was educated at the Magnus, went to work for the Union of London and Smith’s Bank at Nottingham, spent eight years in the South Notts Hussars, and entered the War with the rank of Sergeant, spending three years as Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant. For his services in Egypt, he was mentioned in despatches by General Allenby. He had fought in Salonika and Palestine before Egypt; went on to be gazetted in the Sherwood Foresters in March 1918, went to France at the end of June and was involved in some of the most strenuous fighting. Second Lieutenant Blagg is remembered on the Soissons Memorial, the Magnus War Memorial and, as he had been a member of Nottingham Rowing Club, the Rowers’ Memorial on Trent Bridge, Nottingham.


Wednesday 14 August 1918: The Advertiser reported that Old Boys and many others connected with the Magnus would be pleased to hear that Captain E H Robinson, MC, DSO had recently been promoted to the rank of Major.


Wednesday 28 August 1918: William and Sarah Sefton of Mapledene, Lime Grove, discovered they had lost a third son to this War. Cecil was killed in action on 3 July 1916. Charles had been missing since 21 March 1918 and they have given up hope that he had survived the massive German onslaught. And now a letter from a fellow officer, Jack Greenhalgh, informed them their youngest, Percy, 28, ‘received a direct hit from a large shell.’ The letter went on: ‘I was with him at the time and the day is one I shall never forget. We took over a section of the line on Thursday last and from the first, bad luck attended Percy. Within the first few minutes of taking over, two shells dropped into his post, killing five and wounding three. Like the very fine officer he was, he stuck to his post, dressed the wounded and cheered up the remainder of his platoon, setting them a fine example of pluck. There is no wonder that his men loved him … No words of mine can express how much we, his fellow officers, miss him; always cheery, helping one whenever he could, a fine example to officers and men. As I saw him lying there on the battlefield, Shakespeare’s grand compliment to Brutus flashed through my mind and I said unconsciously: ‘This was a man.’ Percy is dead but his spirit lives with us.’ An Old Magnusian who enjoyed football, cricket, rowing and swimming to proficient levels, Percy began his working life at Wakes and Lamb in Newark before moving to the Western Electrical Company in London. He enlisted in 1914 and received a commission in the East Lancashire Regiment; and was married early last year to May T Halph-Smith of Peterborough, who had been staying with his parents since he went abroad.


Sunday 15 September 1918: Despite an incessant drizzle, the Newark Company of the Volunteers received high praise again at its annual inspection on the Magnus School Ground. At the start of the day, the Newark men paraded at the Drill Hall in Cherry Holt Lane while the Collingham members were transported to town in cars kindly loaned by Messrs G Sheldon, J Gibson, H Hatcliffe and A Widdowson, and the Southwell section arrived in a lorry belonging to Hole’s Brewery. Headed by the Bugle Band, they marched to the Magnus, where two Platoons engaged in drill, another demonstrated bayonet fighting and a fourth indulged in musketry while the signallers were busily engaged at the far end of the field. The inspecting officer, the General Officer Commanding Clipstone Camp, expressed great satisfaction and remarked that it was the strongest Company he had inspected so far and undoubtedly the most efficient.


Thursday 10 October 1918: Old Magnusians Alfred Ford and Thomas Walter Harrison were among 501 people to perish when the Irish mail boat, the Leinster, was torpedoed 16 miles out of Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) on the way to Holyhead. Like many more of the casualties, they were on the way home on leave on the defenceless vessel. It went down in history as the greatest ever loss of life in the Irish Sea and the highest ever casualty rate on an Irish owned ship. Alfred – the husband of Sarah Beatrice Ford and father of Amy Beatrice at 25 Stebbing Street, Notting Hill, London, and third son of the late Francis Ford, a pioneering coach builder, and Annie Ford of 34b Appletongate, Newark – enlisted aged 18 years and four months in March 1900, was promoted to Lance-Corporal in 1903, Corporal in 1906, Sergeant in 1909 and Company Quartermaster Sergeant on 5 March 1917; and transferred to 502 Company on 28 July 1917. He is remembered in Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin. Thomas Harrison, born 1883, attended the Magnus though his parents lived at Kelstern Grange near Louth in Lincolnshire; and set about a career in law while settling with his wife, Katie Ella, in Horncastle. He enlisted at Lincoln's Inn, London, in May 1915, and after initial training with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, he was commissioned to the Lincolnshire Regiment three months later. He left for France the same month. On 9 June 1917, during attacks on Lens, he was uncomfortably close to a bursting shell: diagnosed with shell shock, he was treated in various hospitals before being examined at Lievin in July 1918 and declared fit for home service. Attached to 2/1st Battalion Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons at Bantry. When the Leinster was torpedoed, Thomas acted instinctively with heroic fortitude and assisted in handing women over the side of the stricken ship to the waiting lifeboats below, and was seen on deck just prior to the Leinster going down. He is remembered on the Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton; the Magnus War Memorial and the War Memorial at St. Mary's Church, Horncastle.


Friday 11 October 1918: Lieutenant Edwin Herbert Scales was killed today, only three weeks after joining the Allies’ decisive attacks that drove the Germans back and ended The Great War. The younger son of corset manufacturer Richard Scales and his wife Susannah of Norfolk House, London Road, Edwin had studied at the Magnus and given two-and-a-half years’ service with the Army Service Corps before he was sent home along with many others to train for an infantry regiment. He went to France in his new role on 16 September 1918, attached to the 1st Battalion The Buffs (East Kent) Regiment. He is remembered in the Tincourt New British Cemetery.


Wednesday 23 October 1918: A telegram arrived at 1 Barnbygate, announcing the death from malaria in Egypt of Private Edward Alexander Knight, 26, of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry. The son of a grocer, a bright lad, Edward gained a scholarship from the Wesleyan School, completed his education at the Magnus, and became articled to Loman Bros chartered accountants in Nottingham. Despite being a member of Newark Rowing Club, he was never robust; and after mobilising with the Rangers, he was too ill to join them until October 1916. Nevertheless, as he had fought with them for the past two years, his death from illness was totally unexpected. He is remembered in Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel.


Tuesday 29 October 1918: Newark had four more magistrates sworn-in: Magnus Headmaster Gorse; George Alvey Rouston, 59, who had a long and honoured record as a Friendly Society worker and was acting secretary of the Newark Old Age Pension Committee; Major Harry Stallard, who had spent three years in France as medical officer to the Sherwood Foresters and was a Newark Borough Councillor; and Samuel Grocock, 56, president of the Newark Trades and Labour Council and a prominent and trusted Labour man.


11 November 1918: By the cruellest of fates, while Newark was wildly celebrating the end of The Great War, Richard and Susannah Scales lost a second son. Like Edwin, Captain Edward Lionel Scales, born December 1890, had been educated at the Magnus. He then acted as clerk to the Vicar of Christ Church, Newark, prior to joining the Special Reserve of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own Middlesex Regiment in August 1913 and was later attached to the King’s African Rifles. After contracting malaria during his service in German East Africa, succumbed to pneumonia at Fort Pitt Military Hospital, Chatham, a month to the day after his brother Edwin was killed.


Sunday 17 November: Six days after The Great War officially ended, special services were held in nearly all Newark churches ‘to thank God Almighty for over-ruling the War and giving victory to our arms and those of our Allies’, the Advertiser reported. At the Parish Church there were early morning celebrations of Holy Communion, the preacher being the Reverend Gorse; a children’s service in the afternoon taken by the curate-in-charge, the Reverend Parkinson; and Festival Evensong at 6pm led by the Archdeacon, the Venerable Hacking.


15 July 1919: Royal Air Force Captain Walter Kemeys Francis died. Born in 1895, he attended the Magnus prior to 1911, joined the Royal Naval Air Service in October 1914 and served in France from May 1915 before returning to Britain as a trainer of new pilots. The cousin of the famous Lieutenant Warneford, who brought down the first Zeppelin to be grounded over Britain and was awarded the Victoria Cross, Walter was also highly regarded, and his name was included in a King’s Birthday Honours list with the award of the Air Force Cross. He was killed with seven others on a training flight in East Anglia – a reminder that, even in peacetime, the Armed Forces face danger.


Mysteries remaining 100 years on…


John Houghton Smith is named on the Magnus Grammar School war memorial. Believed to be John Houghton Smith, born St. Peters Hill, Grantham, May 11th, 1882, son of John Henry Smith (deceased) & Amelia Smith. Attended Magnus from Sept. 1895 to July 1897. In 1901 was residing with his elder sister, Amelia Smith, in North London and employed as a draper's assistant. Not identified in CWGC register.


This page was added by Website Administrator on 24/10/2014.
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Some details of service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force by John Houghton Smith and death in 1918 can be found here:

By N Bramley
On 12/10/2021

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