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Remembered Today:


Lt John George Will RFC 29 Sqn

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Initials:J G

Nationality:United Kingdom


Regiment/Service:Royal Flying Corps

Unit Text:29th Sqdn.

Secondary Regiment:General List


Date of Death:25/03/1917

Additional information:Son of Dr. and Mrs. Will. of Bethnal House, Cambridge Road, London. Former Scotland International Rugby Football player.

Grave/Memorial Reference:(Addenda Panel)Memorial:ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL

Lt John George Will, 29th Sqdn RFC Kia 25/3/17

From an old Thread.

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Will, John George played Rugby for Scotland

Internationals: 7: 1912 F+ (1t) W- (1t) I- (1t) E+ ; 1914 W- I- E- (2t)

John Will was born on 2 September 1892, son of Dr and Mrs Will.

Played as a Wing for: Merchant Taylors’ School, Old Merchant Taylors, Cambridge University (Blue 1911-1913)

Remarks: He was one of the six members of the last pre-War Scottish team who were killed in action.

War service: Lieutenant, Leinster Regiment, [wounded] and General List, attached to No 29 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.

At 0825 hrs on 25 March 1917, Lt Will took off from Le Hameau aerodrome in Nieuport 17 No A6751 on an escort mission in company with another No 29 Squadron aircraft. The other pilot had to return to the aerodrome due to revolution counter problems; he then changed aircraft and returned to the front, but failed to find Will, who did not return. [There were no German fighter claims that day.] He is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais, France [Addenda Panel].

In December 1917 John Will’s grave lay in front of a newly-advanced British Artillery battery. 2Lt Huntley Gordon found a cross made from a broken propeller in front of his gun position, and wrote “Round the propeller-hub is painted ‘2nd Lt J G Will RFC’. He was the wing-threequarter known before the war as ‘the flying Scot’ . . . The Grave must have been made by Boche airmen – a curiously chivalrous act, for they can hardly have thought it likely that we would advance far enough to see it.”


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Posted (edited)

Attached is a copy of the 36 page booklet produced by Merchant Taylors' School for the commemoration of JG Will's life on Sat 25th March 2017. The occasion was also marked in that his nephew, Roger Hamer, attended, and presented memorabilia, including part of his propellor to the School to be retained in the School archives. Below is the article posted on the OMT Facebook group:


This Saturday, starting at 12.45 in the Memorial Garden, the School and OMT Society will commemorate one of Merchant Taylors’ greatest ever sportsmen, who lost his life 100 years ago, this week, in the First World War.

John George Will, was the eldest of seven children and attended Merchant Taylors’ from 1905 – 1911. At School he established himself as the elite athlete of his generation. At the House Athletics of 1909, he entered five races, from 100 yards up to the half mile and won them all. This was such an achievement that he won the China Cup – awarded for the elite athlete of the year. The Cup is currently on display in the cloister, alongside other artefacts in an exhibition dedicated to his life. Jock Will dominated Athletics at Merchant Taylors’, leaving the School as the holder of the Public Schools record for the quarter mile. He also found time to be a member of the 1ST XI cricket side
But it was in Rugby that Jock Will was to gain an international reputation. He was elevated to the senior XVs at an early age, mostly as a fly half but, because of his speed, as a winger also. Despite his commitment to sport, he still found time to be a monitor – as such he was afforded the privilege of carving his name on the monitors table, a tradition that has only recently come to an end. The table bearing his name is also in the cloisters. He gained a place to read medicine at Downing College, Cambridge in 1911 and was immediately gained a Blue for playing against Oxford in the annual varsity match.
Such was his talent that he came to the attention of the selectors of the Scotland international rugby team – his father was Scottish. He played seven times for Scotland, scoring 7 tries, and this included the last Calcutta Cup match against England before the war, held on March 14th 1914. Although Scotland lost by 16-15, Will scored two tries and was heralded as the leader of a spirited fightback against an England side that went on to win the Grand Slam. A newspaper report paid tribute: “Will was at the top of his form. Both of his tries were extremely good… proof, if such were needed, of what the extra turn of speed means to a first-class wing. The Old Merchant Taylor will be Captain of Cambridge next Season, and he has thoroughly earned that distinction”.
In August 1914, the First World War broke and Will enlisted immediately, thereby missing the opportunity to captain Cambridge against Oxford. In fact, all top class rugby was suspended within weeks as rugby players flocked to the cause. This was to have a telling impact, of the players who took the field in the 1914 Calcutta Cup match, 6 Scots and 5 English lost their lives.
JG Will enlisted in the Honourable Artillery Company amongst a host of former Merchant Taylors’ boys. He went over to Ypres in 1915 and was wounded at Hooge. He came home to recover but did not sit around, instead he learned to fly so that he could join the new Royal Flying Corps. Initially his wounds prevented him from returning to the War, but that changed in 1917 when he was allowed to take his place as a fighter pilot.
On March 25th, he was one of two planes that flew out over enemy lines. The British aviators had the misfortune of encountering the crack flying squadron led by Baron Mannfred von Richtofen – the Red Baron. Although it remains uncertain, it would appear that JG Will was shot down by the Red Baron’s brother. The Germans who found Will’s plane buried him and used his propeller as a grave marker.
Like so many graves, Will’s was lost to the action of war and he is commemorated on the flying Services Memorial at Arras. He is also remembered on Rolls of Honour at Downing College, Cambridge and at Merchant Taylors’ School and the War Memorial Clubhouse of Old Merchant Taylors’. Next Saturday, on the anniversary of Jock Will’s death there will be a short ceremony in the memorial garden to mark the career of this extraordinary Merchant Taylors’ sportsmen, before Old Merchant Taylors’ play their rugby match against Hitchin. You are welcome to attend.
This commemoration the first in a series of events designed to commemorate the Merchant Taylors’ sportsmen whose careers were cut short by the war. The public school sporting ethos fitted in with the portrayal of the First World War as a game, the loss of a generation of talented sportsmen was to change views of war forever – perhaps that is a worthy legacy for JG Will.
We will be welcoming his nephew, Roger Hamer to the ceremony on Saturday and he has kindly agreed to donate much of John George Will's letters and artefacts to the School. This will be an incredible legacy to pass on to future OMTs.









Edited by Gonker44

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