June 2014 Item of the Month
On the eve of war: the University College 1914 Shooting Eight
University College’s shooting Eight is shown here with the Gee Cup which it had won for the third year in succession in 1914. All are in their Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) uniform (1908 service dress) with short magazine Lee Enfield rifles as shooting was very much part of OTC training.
Some form of military training for students had first begun in Michaelmas term 1903, amongst some Hatfield men. Other colleges soon contributed as well and a varsity section was formed by 1904 as part of the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, carrying out company drills and learning musketry. A one-week camp was held at Castleton in the summer of 1904 with the varsity men being part of C Company of 4/DLI. In Durham, regular drills were carried out near the Baths Bridge.
This initial enthusiasm appears to have faded somewhat until the Secretary of State for War, Lord Haldane, perceiving a shortage of a cadre of trained officer material to feed into the Territorial Army, established a system of Officers’ Training Corps at public schools (the junior branch) and universities (the senior branch) in June 1908. Durham University had had its first recruiting meeting on 1 May, with students apparently lured by coffee and cigarettes. The first military manoeuvres were held at Ponteland on 30 May in new military uniforms, and a fortnight’s summer training camp took place at Ambleside when Durham combined with Manchester University. The Durham Colleges comprised A Company, the College of Medicine B Company and Armstrong College C Company, with a further D Company also being recruited from Armstrong in 1910. Regular early morning weekly drills on Palace Green (or in the Covered Market if wet) were supplemented with field days, a week in Barracks in Richmond at Easter and a fortnight’s summer camp, usually in conjunction with other OTCs to allow for full battalion exercises. Camps were held at Ambleside (1908, 1909), Richmond (1910), Shorncliffe in Kent (1911), Ilkley (1912), Stobs (1914). Cadets were encouraged to formalise their training by passing Certificate A and then B, being helped in this by a section of books in the library, a lecture room and a Military Education Officer.
Despite some concerns expressed in 1911 of a lack of enthusiasm for the OTC in Durham, compared to the Newcastle contingents, and even a threat to close down the Durham Company, numbers overall stood at 310 in January 1912 with Durham’s A Company comprising 70 of those. There was some debate as to whether this military training was something that even ought necessarily to be part of a university education, with articles for and against appearing in the Durham University Journal and the Union Society holding a debate on the subject in March 1914.
There was an inter-company competition, but a shooting competition for just the cadets in A Company (i.e. those from the Durham Colleges) was instituted in 1910. The cup was presented by Dr and Mrs Gee, who were great encouragers of shooting. The first competition was held in March 1910 on the local range at Kepier for Eights from colleges in Durham. Hatfield won it, with St Chad’s second and University College third. Safety issues with the range at Kepier led to the competition being held at Richmond from 1912. The University College Eight won by a record score, with Colour Sergeant Whitfield top scoring for them with 48, though a St John’s man was the best individual shot overall.
As the centenary of the First World War looms, it is perhaps salutary to reflect on the careers of the ten men depicted in this photograph, all of whom would very soon have to put their military training into all too real practice. All served in the war, were commissioned, and fought in France at some stage in the infantry. Three of the ten died in the war; six of them were awarded the Military Cross, or more, for their service.
Alick Todd, an Arts scholar, B.A. (1914) and rugby player, served with the 4th DLI, the 2nd Yorkshire Regiment, and the 10th DLI, attaining the rank of Captain and being awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry: the citation records “[h]e went over our barrier in broad daylight to reconnoitre the enemy’s barrier 50 yards away. On the two following days he organised and carried out two successful bombing attacks. He had to go a long way under heavy shell fire while making the arrangements with another unit, and was without food for 24 hours”. Todd went on to join the Royal Flying Corps and served in 18 Squadron as an Observer/Gunner. He fought in France from 1915-1917, was wounded in 1915 and again in 1917: he was shot down whilst on a photo reconnaissance patrol on a snowy 12 April 1917, dying of his wounds in captivity four days later, aged 24. He is buried at Sauchy-Cauchy Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.
James Herbert Crosland Herald, an Arts student and all-rounder (cricket, rowing, football), attaining the rank of temporary Lieutenant in the 2/8th DLI, and fought in France in 1915 and 1916. He died of wounds at Ypres on 24 January 1916, aged 21. He is buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Sydney Frank Dixon, a Theology scholar, B.A. (1914), and all-rounder (tennis, rowing, chess), attained the rank of temporary Captain in the 9th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He fought at Gallipoli from 7 September 1915, and then in Mesopotamia from 1916 to 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross, and survived. He worked in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for a time after the war.
Geoffrey Harrison Grimshaw, an Arts student, attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, serving with the 6th North Lancashire Regiment at Gallipoli in 1915, and then with the 8th in France in 1916. He was killed in action at the Somme on 10 July 1916. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
Cecil Robert Gomm Fox, was a Theology scholar, B.A. (1919) and an active member of the College cricket, chess and debating teams, and of the Durham Inter Collegiate Christian Union. He attained the rank of temporary Lieutenant with the 14th and then the 9th Royal Fusiliers in France in 1916 when he was wounded. After the war he was ordained in 1922, and spent many years working as a missionary in China.
Albert Howard Waton, B.A. (1920), M.A. (1923), was another all-rounder (hockey, cricket, rugby, football, athletics, rowing, tennis), and a President of the Union Society. He attained the temporary rank of Major in 1919, serving with the 18th DLI in Egypt in 1915 and then in France in March 1916, then at the 5th Infantry School in France from 1916 to 1917, the 5th Army HQ in France from 1917 to 1918 and was GSO3 of the 9th Division in France in 1918 and Brigade Major to the 87th Infantry Brigade in France from 1918 to 1919. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre and was Mentioned in Despatches. The M.C. was awarded “for repeatedly going forward during obscure situations and bringing back valuable information. Again, as liaison officer, he remained forward in an exposed position, continuously shelled, observing and reporting the enemy’s movements, thus enabling a timely counter-attack to be launched, which restored the line”. After the war he was ordained, and worked in the dioceses of York and Durham for the rest of his life. He was appointed a M.B.E. in 1945.
Frederick Ernest Banister Whitfield, a De Bury scholar, B.A. (1913), M.A. (1916), was a keen cricketer, a member of the Union Society, and edited the University Journal in 1913. He attained the rank of Captain in the Welsh Regiment, and then acting Major in the R.A.F. He fought in France from 5 March 1915, and was mentioned by the Secretary of State and was wounded twice. He was appointed a M.B.E. in 1918, then a Wing Adjutant.
William Douglas Lowe, Captain in the photograph, was a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel by the end of the war, having served in the 18th DLI in Egypt 1915-1916 and France 1916-1917, then the 16th West Yorkshire Regiment in France in 1917, the 11th East Lancashire Regiment in France 1917-1918 and the 18th DLI again in France 1918-1919. He was Mentioned in Despatches in 1916, 1917, and 1918 (twice), and was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and the Distinguished Service Order in 1918. The D.S.O. citation records, “[h]e was an indefatigable under all conditions throughout heavy fighting. After the Brigadier and Brigade Major were casualties, and the brigade was without communication to the rear, he shouldered the whole responsibility until touch was regained”. Lowe taught at the University before and after the war, acting as Censor and Bursar of University College from 1913 until his death, and composed the lyrics of the Durham University Song (1905). He died suddenly in 1922 probably due to the strain of his war service.
Angus A. Macfarlane-Grieve, B.A. (1913), M.A. (1919), was an enthusiastic rower, representing the College, composing several boating songs, and coaching after the war. A 2nd Lieutenant in the photograph, he was a substantive Captain but acting Lieutenant-Colonel by the end of the War. He served with the Seaforth Highlanders and then the 4th Highland Light Infantry in the UK in 1914-1915, the 2nd Highland Light Infantry in France 1916-1917, the 2nd Essex Regiment in France 1917-1918, and the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders in France 1918-1919. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and the Italian Silver Medal in 1917. He died in 1970.
Douglas Edward Ince, an Arts student, cricketer and a University rower, attained the rank of Major, serving with the 18th DLI in Egypt December 1915-1916 and France 1916-1919. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1918. In the absence of Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. Lowe, it was Ince who commanded 18th DLI at the hanging of their colours in Durham Cathedral on 27 May 1919.
Sources: The University of Durham Roll of Service 1914-1919; Durham University Records collection; Miscellaneous Photograph Albums; The Durham University Calendar; The Durham University Journal; The Sphinx student magazine; The London Gazette; The Times; Crockford's Clerical Directory; War Office (WO 100) - Campaign Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1949 (General Series) (Ancestry.co.uk); Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 (Ancestry.co.uk); The Sky Their Battlefield, Trevor Henshaw (Grub Street, 1995).