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Public Schools and the Great War


Moonraker
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Mellor in the Eton OTC picture of 1913, listed as Adjutant.

Andy

Here's John Mellor in later life from his regimental obituary alongside Andy's picture of him ....

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And here for interest is that KRRC obituary. An Old Etonian as well as Adjutant of the Eton OTC ...

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I have absolutely no idea what the first sentence of the obituary means. You'll gather I was never at Eton.

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Refers to his House, Colours he was awarded, that he was in the Eton Hunt and elected into the sixth form prefects (Eton Society or 'Pop' - which would require a paragraph on its own to explain!). It also shows us he was an 'Oppidan' not a King's Scholar with his fees paid.

And I am not an Old Etonian ;-)

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And here's me thinking Mixed Walls was a rather large icecream.

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And he was roomed at the boarding house of Miss Jane Evans, the College Dame.

That's his House - not sure the original Miss Evans was still alive then.

UPDATE: some judicious Googling reveals Miss Evans died "in office" in 1906, so you're quite correct: he would have been present in her time as Dame.

'College' at Eton generally refers to the King's Scholars funded by the original Foundation of Henry VI, so I think the term 'College Dame' would not be appropriate here.

These were Houses rather than merely boarding houses in the more general 'real world' sense. There is still a House at Eton called Evans's - IIRC in Miss Evans's original building.

On the colours, the Field Game and the Wall Game are both ball games local to Eton (and Old Etonians.in e.g. the Guards, Oxbridge etc.)

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M.C. & O.B.E., Eton 1897 - 1901, Mixed Wall 1900 & 1901, Field Eleven 1901, Whip to The Beagles 1900.

Andy

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Mr G

The whole OTC senior/junior and cadet units are a murky mazy!

Christ College Brecon is very much a public school, be it a minor one. Acts of parliment and all that jazz. I can not think of any others. There was another cadet corps that I competed with, from a North Wales school but can not remember the name. CCF unit so would of been from a public school.

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I have no doubt that is true. What defines a 'minor' public school is beyond me. The evidence would suggest age or size are not factors in the diminutive label, so one might reasonably conclude it is another more intangible factor. It is beyond the scope of this thread but I would be intrigued to know what defines a 'minor' public school rather than any other public school. I assume the HMC did not make this definition. I would genuinely be amazed to see an act of parliment (sic) defining any public school for the simple fact there isn't any agreed definition. This should not be confused with the Schools Grant Act of 1855 which pre-dates the HMC by some years and is anchored in the ownership rights and transfer of ownership rights of land and buildings paid for by the Government. Something entirely different to the elusive definition of a 'public school' .. I would be grateful, if you could show me where in Hansard this act of parliament defining Christ College Brecon as a public school is recorded as this is an area where I have a lot of interest. Presumably it post-dates the first meeting of the HMC.

 

The Marxists would have field day with the history of the HMC (Groucho not Karl). A long list of schools desperate to 'belong' to an elite club that wouldn't have them in the first place. If some schools' website are anything to go by there are some interesting attempts to back-fit an imagined social history by way of demonstrating qualification to this ill-defined elite club. I include my own children's school which in its desperation to be accepted proudly emphasises its Royal patronage and membership of HMC whilst quietly de-emphasising its more modest and humble 'charitable' foundations which in point of fact were based on stolen property during the dissolution of the monasteries. Don't let facts get in the way of a good story. I digress. I need to get back on topic: Despite its long and ancient history (40 years older than Eton) and alleged Royal patronage, none of its graduates were commissioned into the Guards in the Great War. The simple fact is that membership of the HMC was not the qualifier for some Regiments.

 

On core topic: regardless of what arbitrary sheets of paper dictated who was a suitable candidate, I would simply be astonished to find an ex-Grammar school boy recruited in 1914 into the Grenadier Guards or the Life Guards as an Officer. I suspect (but cannot prove) that the Grenadiers didn't need a list to tell them who was suitable based on the school the candidate went to. It wasn't an issue: the selection process had been in place for centuries; based on perceptions of class. The Army List screams out loud that there was a social hierarchy manifested in the Officer ranks of the British Army and some regiments in particular. I have done the hard yards on the May 1915 Army list and there is a significant amount of evidence that the Army was still in a mental straight-jacket when it came to Officer recruitment in August 1914. A class apartheid. There is simply masses of evidence starting with Sherriff.

 

Two generations later. In the blazing summer of 1976 I recall walking into an ordinary Line Cavalry Officer's mess and meeting a lone Officer. I asked him why there was no-one about. He explained that everyone was in the garden having a party as it was the 4th June. As he was the only Officer who had not attended Eton (as a lone Catholic he had attended Ampleforth) he wasn't invited to their most important day of the year. There was no bitterness, simply a recognition of the strict code by which they were bound....and the code by which probably their fathers and grandfathers were bound. If this was happening in 1976 in a line Cavalry Regiment (and not a particularly wealthy one) I suspect that the rigid social framework of Edwardian Britain would have largely ignored any list of Public Schools and stuck to its own selection code. It may well have been different in the parts of the Army that saw massive and rapid expansion - the Guards and the Cavalry saw little change in this respect and therefore did not have to compromise their so-called social standards. The fact that there is a Cavalry and Guards club speaks volumes. Why these two arbitrary arms formed a partnership? ..and not, say, the Cavalry and ASC club which were at least both on horses....? It is simply that after 'purchase' was abolished in the 1870s the aristocratic elite retreated into a few clumps of so-called 'smart' Regiments - most notable the Cavalry (Household and Line), Guards, and some selected Line Infantry Regiments. Clubs within clubs - and it took more than a piece of paper to tell them who was suitable material.

 

Things obviously changed as the War progressed, but as the bitter but talented R A Lloyd reminds us, the Life Guards did not commission a single OR during the War. This is all a rather long-winded way of highlighting that there was not one Army. Getting a King's Commission* in the Grenadiers or the Life Guards (for example) was a rather more difficult challenge to getting a King's Commission in the ASC in August 1914. The idea that a young educated man could bypass 300 years of deep-rooted class-prejudice because he had attended a grammar school on an 'approved' list is something I think would be very unlikely in August 1914.

Any mistakes are mine. MG

* I would exclude the QMs from this.

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Mr G

The whole OTC senior/junior and cadet units are a murky mazy!

Christ College Brecon is very much a public school, be it a minor one. Acts of parliment and all that jazz. I can not think of any others. There was another cadet corps that I competed with, from a North Wales school but can not remember the name. CCF unit so would of been from a public school.

Probably Rydal or Ruthin - both in North Wales, not sure about cadet corps though.

There's also Ellesmere College, which is in Salop only a mile or two outside Wales.

Don't forget Monmouth - you must have played against them all the time at Brecon!

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Martin G wrote: "On core topic: regardless of what arbitrary sheets of paper dictated who was a suitable candidate, I would be simply astonished to find an ex-Grammar school boy recruited in 1914 into the Grenadier Guards or the Life Guards as an Officer."

I did a quick (unscientific) survey of the source of commission for Grenadier Guard officers using a random 50 pages from The O.T.C. Roll: A roll of Officers and Ex-Members of the Officers Training Corps Gazetted to Commissions in the Army August 1914 to March 1915 with the following results:

Eton - 28

Harrow - 2

Winchester - 2

Inns of Court - 2

Downside - 1

Dulwich - 1

Westminster - 1

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Martin - do you have dated historic lists of the HMC member schools?

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Outside of the Army lists, no, but one has only to look at the length of the list at the first meeting - around a dozen - , the length of the list in 1914-15 (as you have shown - 160?) and the length of the list now - over 240 to get an idea of the growth.

 

Not exactly the same but closely related; for anyone interested in this general thematic it is worth plodding through Gerald Gliddon's very detailed "The Aristocracy and the Great War". There is an extremely high number of the Aristocracy who served in the Great War concentrated in just a relatively small number of Regiments. I don't have the exact numbers immediately to hand - I have posted them before on another thread - but from memory the Coldstream Guards were at the very top of the list with the usual suspects behind. Interestingly some of the line cavalry regiments had high concentrations such as the 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) while others were notable by their lack of Officers from titled families.

 

Within the very complex social structure of Victorian and Edwardian society and the 'clubs within clubs' some so-called 'smart' Regiments occasionally drifted into and then out of fashion as patronages changed. The Yeomanry is particularly interesting in this sense due to its ties with ancient landed gentry rather than the sons and grandsons of industrial magnates - the mill-owners whose fabulous wealth eventually bought land, title and to some extent married into the fringes of the landed classes and over a few generations became gentrified. The industrial revolution essentially upset the establishment and redistributed wealth, land - and eventually through political patronage - title, which after a few generations put the grandsons of mill-owners into smart cavalry regiments.

 

I did the analysis as I had suspected that the idea the Yeomanry was full of the aristocracy was exaggerated. I was wrong - it was significantly more concentrated than I would have ever thought. Not everyone in a titled family used a title and rather than use the Army lists to trace the aristocracy, Gliddon's book made it slightly easier. I say slightly because there is no index. If you are researching a Cadogan or a Curzon for example you are expected to know where his family seat was; a rather tough challenge if one doesn't even know which county they lived in. An excellent book nonetheless (although with a few small errors) laid out essentially as a gazetteer of country estates by county giving detailed biographies and service details of every member of the aristocracy....and incidentally (on topic) where they went to school. That part was not surprising. As a distillate of young ex-public school boys who served in the Great War it is a valuable refernce book.

 

The casualty stats for this group are quite harrowing. If being killed in action is any crude measure of the cost of commitment to the cause - however unpalatable that may be - the aristocracy certainly paid a disproportionately high price for their assumed position as leaders....which going full circle (back on topic) might partly explain why a few old established schools had such large concentrations of the public schools' casualties. I am not particularly keen on ghastly league tables of death, but it is sometimes an unpleasant necessity to crunch the numbers in order to know where to start one's research.

 

Title and privilege could on occasion be used to advantage - cushy ADC jobs or jobs on the General Staff for example. When reading the Hon Edward Cadogan's "Under Fire in the Dardanelles" it was interesting to note how disdainful he was of some (un-named) brother Officers who used their influence and connections to secure posts away from the front line in Gallipoli. Cadogan believed that everyone must do his bit in the trenches before exercising this advantage;

 

" I met Jack Agnew who had a telegram in his hand from General 'Joey' Davis asking me to go on his staff. I refused without any hesitation because I considered it such a rotten thing to do to leave your regiment when you go out on active service for the first time. I think everybody ought to try the front line if they can. If they cannot stand it then I don't blame them so much for going on staff, but everyone should test themselves and I wanted to do so now"

 

This is interesting as Cadogan clearly had an opportunity to get away from the front line trenches, yet chose to stay - a value synonymous with the cult of the public school and the social conditioning of his class; doing one's duty. It is also interesting as he essentially implies that 'going on staff' to get away from the front line was an option open to some Officers, and by extension an option that some took. An option not of course open to Other Ranks and it is interesting that a man with a choice provided by privilege chose to stick it out. He eventually did take a staff job at GHQ in December 1917 in Palestine, more than two years after being faced with that first choice. For anyone wanting to understand the complex social stratifications of the British Army and the Yeomanry in particular, Cadogan's dairies are a fascinating read. MG

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Outside of the Army lists, no, but one has only to look at the length of the list at the first meeting - around a dozen - , the length of the list in 1914-15 (as you have shown - 160?) and the length of the list now - over 240 to get an idea of the growth.

My list is Junior Division of the OTC from the Army List - not the Headmasters Conference. I was wanting to run a comparison of the cadet schools against the HMC list.

Does anyone know where historic lists of HMC member schools could be found?

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On core topic: regardless of what arbitrary sheets of paper dictated who was a suitable candidate, I would simply be astonished to find an ex-Grammar school boy recruited in 1914 into the Grenadier Guards or the Life Guards as an Officer. I suspect (but cannot prove) that the Grenadiers didn't need a list to tell them who was suitable based on the school the candidate went to. It wasn't an issue: the selection process had been in place for centuries; based on perceptions of class. The Army List screams out loud that there was a social hierarchy manifested in the Officer ranks of the British Army and some regiments in particular. I have done the hard yards on the May 1915 Army list and there is a significant amount of evidence that the Army was still in a mental straight-jacket when it came to Officer recruitment in August 1914. A class apartheid. There is simply masses of evidence starting with Sherriff.

Trying to find the article but entry to particular Regiment was often a two way thing. A graduate of the RMC especially if he finished well could choose which regiment to go to, however, there was a socialising period when the Regiment decided if the officer was right for them. Also Regiments such as the Guards required a personal income to exist as an officers pay was insufficient at that time to keep up with mess bills, servant/orderly and uniform etc.

Could be C. B. Otley or Tim Travers.

I do know the British Army was well below requirement regarding officer recruitment in the years leading up to the Great War.

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Just found reference. It is in A Nation in Arms: A Study of the British Army in the First World War by Beckett & Simpson see Chapt on Officers answers a lot of questions raised

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Just had a glance in work so just a few points.

Martian, the schools own history refers to local landowners, clergy etc in an act of parliament 1855. Will search Hanstard.

Monmouth at the time would be ​English ​ at the time. Just thought as typing there is a big public school there down by the river. EDIT Monmouth school, 400 years old. School website makes the case to train such young thrusters for the armed forces.

I have never attended Christ at Brecon(a friend is a mistress(oh er) there), I attended a normal valley comp. Where the school liaison officer steered me away from some of the smarter regiment' s. No longer the school attends but where the face fits. Local infantry, parachute or a Corp was the guidance given.

EDIT 2 Today there are familiar visits to regiments. Much to see you as you see them before entering Sandhurst.

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Returning to more concrete research, I have now managed to find the regimental obituary for Lt.-Col. George Soltau-Symons, the Old Etonian KRRC officer who was Adjutant at Eton OTC (and its predecessor unit) 1900-1909 before Mellor and Capt. R.C.A. McCalmont, Irish Guards - see a couple of pages earlier in this Topic.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I suspect the Army's list is related to whether the school has a cadet corps or not.

I doubt if every "public school" had a cadet corps? St. Paul's for example??

[EDIT: St Paul's did have a cadet corps at this time - see Dick's correction below]

Just out of interest, how have the book's authors, Seldon and Walsh, defined 'public schools'?

Interesting thread.... I just found what, at first glance and review at least, appears to be an authoritative and historical source directly relevant to the subject of the original post, as well as most of the subsequent related discussion topics:

"The O.T.C. and The Great War", by Captain Alan R. Haig-Brown , published in 1915.

I've cut and pasted an excerpt, from page 25 of chapter 2 "The Birth of the O.T.C.", that mentions Army "views", as related to institutions qualifying for the O.T.C. program, about the terms "University" and/or a "Public School":

"The Army Council took a broad view of the terms " University " and " Public School " in forming the 0. T. C. It was open to all educational establishments to offer themselves for acceptance, and few in the early stages were rejected provided they could show some reasonable hope of success and some tolerably good facilities for training. All the Universities and a huge majority of the Schools came in at once, and so full is the Junior Division to-day that membership is now exceedingly difficult to obtain, although the Corps has not yet been definitely closed to fresh aspirants. In the case of the Junior Division, I have heard much criticism of this "open arms" attitude of the authorities, but both from a military and a political point of view it was undoubtedly a wise one. Nothing would have been more difficult than to say to any School, " Your establishment is not worthy to provide a contingent to the O. T. C." unless it had proved its unworthiness. This could not have been proved until it had had the opportunity to try. On the other hand, nothing is easierand the regulations make full preparation for such actionthan to say, " You have been tried and found wantingdepart from amongst us.""

Here is a link to a free PDF copy of this interesting book:

https://ia600400.us.archive.org/15/items/otcgreatwar00haig/otcgreatwar00haig.pdf

Cheers,

Thomas

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Quote from MBrockway:

Does anyone know where historic lists of HMC member schools could be found?

Whitaker's Almanack used to include a list of HMC schools. I have not looked at a recent edition.

Daggers

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Quote from MBrockway:

Does anyone know where historic lists of HMC member schools could be found?

Whitaker's Almanack used to include a list of HMC schools. I have not looked at a recent edition.

Daggers

Great tip, daggers, and historic editions probably reasonably available in the research libraries - many thanks!

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HMC=Head Masters Conference?

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