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Guest mruk

Charles Laughton-Actor

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Guest mruk

The Yorkshire Post, Monday December 17, 1962 [p6]

Charles Laughton

"...He was born at the Victoria Hotel, Scarborough, in July, 1899, which was owned by his mother, Mrs Eliza Laughton, before the family moved to the Pavilion Hotel. He was educated at Stoneyhurst College. When Laughton left school, he was sent to learn hotel management at Claridge's . But his heart was set on the stage and he gratefully handed over hotel responsibilities to his younger brothers [Frank and Tom]....Charles Laughton's mother once described her son as having been 'a rather fat, funny, very kind, but strong-willed child."

I've included this extract because there is no mention of Laughton's war service. Oddly, there are only a couple of lines given to his time in the Royal Huntingdonshire Rifles in Simon Callow's biography, and I was wondering if any members have any more details of the time Laughton spent in the First World War? I would also be grateful for any info on Ronald Coleman, and according to my mother, Nigel Bruce, another two actors who also served too.

Many Thanks,

Dave

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Kate Wills

Dave

For Laughton, await the arrival of Gloria Porta, who will tell you all you want to know and bucketloads more besides. He served with the 7th Northamptonshires in the final months of the war.

Ronald Coleman was with the London Scottish (14th Londons)

Have you tried the 'Search' facility?

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Guest mruk

Thanks Kate. Thanks Max.

That's the thread I was initally looking for before I posted here, but forgot where it was. Fascinating stuff.

Regards to Both,

Dave

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Stebie9173

He was actually a member of the Huntingdonshire Cyclists Battalion serving on coastal watch duties on the Yorkshire Coast (near Filey, I believe) before serving with the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment in France in the later period of the war, as Kate has said, via the Bedfordshire Regiment. His records seem to be in the Burnt section, I'm told.

Medal card of Laughton, Charles

Corps Regiment No Rank

Bedfordshire Regiment 48603 Private

Northamptonshire Regiment 42063 Private

Steve.

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Guest mruk

Thanks Steve,

I've just had a look on Wikipedia, which says that Laughton was also gassed at some stage. I've also tried Googling for Nigel Bruce but can't seem to access anything. My mother told me a while back that she seems to think he took a lot of shrapnel in the leg. Any idea which action, or unit attached please?

Regards,

Dave

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gporta
bucketloads

Or as Laughton himself put it in James Whale's "The Old Dark House": "boocketfuls!" (dig that Northern accent!).

What is known so far (that is, his Great war experiences aren't known in detail: he would rarely speak of them) can be seen in This page at the Hunts Cyclist website . Research done by Mr. Martyn Smith with a wee -but earnest- collaboration from me.

Shortly: He was with 2/1st the Hunts Cyclists in Lincolnshire for some time. His MIC and Medal Roll Entry mentions also the 4th Bedfordshires and the 7th Northamptonshires (Surviving Battalion orders of the 2/1st the Hunts Cyclists in Summer 1918 mention him being drafted to France in August). He would recall later having seen Leslie Henson playing in Lille after the armistice (this was not his only taste of theatre in the army, as Kate Wills knows ;) ). he had learned French as a kid in a French nuns' convent and it seems that, on occasion, he worked as a translator during his time in the Western Front (from his own words, it doesn't sound like a sustained or official appointment). L. Brayshaw, who said he was in the training staff for the 87th Training Reserve Battalion at Catterick Camp (Catterick or TRB experts migh confirm this -or not-) recalls training the actor-to-be there.

Biographies mention he was gassed "in the last week of the armistice" (the date is "family tradition" and should be checked when sources are available), and his own description and some after effects described by his wife, sound pretty like Mustard gas.

Some of his war letters are known to survive, which give some insight about his war service... As many a Tommy, he seems to have welcomed food packages (with, possibly, some hidden woodbines) and other commodities sent from home.

There is also a List of the men drafted along with him to France in August 1918... maybe any of you has a relative there?

I'm attaching a photo of Laughton (the lad in the center) as an early recruit with two unidentified boys... Anyone can recognise a relative? (note: the photo is reproduced here only for research purposes, for further reproduction, I'd have to clear © issues with the owner)

There's also a link devoted to Second Lieutenant John Dermot MacSherry : he was for some time a classmate of Laughton at Stonyhurst (he was a year older) and both competed for Classics prizes. MacSherry was a noteworthy actor in the school's plays as stated in old reviews of The Stonyhurst Magazine... So, no wonder, he became Laughton's hero at the school. Sadly, Macsherry died in a raid prior to the battle of Messines while serving in the 3rd Bn. Connaught Rangers.

Gloria

P.S.: His war record didn't survive the WW2 fires (Unless I'm an awfully clumsy researcher, that is), but if someone is interested in another Charles Laughton who served with the South Wales Borderers, well, lucky person, you will find him.

post-6853-1161816887.jpg

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gporta
I've also tried Googling for Nigel Bruce but can't seem to access anything. My mother told me a while back that she seems to think he took a lot of shrapnel in the leg. Any idea which action, or unit attached please?

It might be featured in his unpublished memoirs "Games, Gossip, and Greasepaint": excerpts from it can be read

in this message board, with a reference about the after effects of his wound twenty years later.

Gloria

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Stebie9173

Here is Nigel Bruce's Medal Card:

Medal card of Bruce, William Nigel Ernle

Corps Regiment No Rank

Honourable Artillery Company 852 Private

Somerset Light Infantry Second Lieutenant

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documen...p;resultcount=1

And his obituary 9-10-1953

post-6536-1161819946.png

From the Gazette:

LG 30-12-1916

Home Service Battalions.

Som. L.I.

The undermentioned cadets to be temp. 2nd Lts. (on prob.) : —

15 Dec. 1916.

William Nigel Ernle Bruce.

LG 9-2-1918

War Office,

9th February, 1918.

REGULAR FORCES.

INFANTRY.

Som. L.I.

Temp. 2nd Lt. W. N. E. Bruce, from a Home Serv. Bn., to be temp. 2nd Lt. (attd.), retaining present seniority.

LG 16-11-1921

War Office,

16th November, 1921.

REGULAR FORCES.

INFANTRY.

Service Battalions.

The undermentioned relinquish their commissions on completion, of service: —

1 Sept. 1921.

Somerset L.I.

Temp. Lt. W. N. E. Bruce, and retains the rank of Lt.

Steve.

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Guest mruk

Many Thanks Steve, Many Thanks Gloria.

Charles Laughton, along with a number of his generation, such as Nigel Bruce, Errol Flynn, David Niven, and Alan Hale...who I still call 'Casey Jones' Dad', are among that rare breed who actually hold some presence on screen, and can actually act. There is something effortless in each performance, which I don't find in the stilted or jerky movements of some. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt spring to mind, and perhaps highlight the difference between the true star and the slightly average, not to mention the mediocre. Does anybody remember the ending in 'Se7en'?--a great film spoiled only by Pitt's overacting and hysterics at the end. This is much appreciated, and I've loads to be working on here.

Many Thanks to All,

Dave

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JulianB

And don't forget that Bruce's opposite - Basil Rathbone, the archetypal Sherlock Holmes - served with the Liverpool Scottish.

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Guest mruk

Thanks Julian,

I'm ashamed to say I'd never considered Basil Rathbone. I would also like to thank PBI for his kindness and patience, and the help he has given me restoring my PC. I can now access links [and the NA-MIC]. Cheers.

Kind Regards to Both

Dave

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gporta

Incidentally, Laughton attended Stonyhurst's OTC for two terms within the period 1913-15. In the photo attached (reproduced by kind courtesy of Stonyhurst College) you can spot him in the center of the front row. In the School's OTC records, hid general Eficciency is described as "good" and his musketry as "2nd class".

post-6853-1161867649.jpg

(Note: again, if anyone can spot a relative in the picture, I'd be delighted to know)

One interesting thing is that, in 1929, he played Harry Heegan in Sean O'Casey's "The Silver Tassie". As the Irish footballer maimed in the war, he was considered physically miscast to portray the triumphant athlete of Act 1 (though the fact that he was cast in the role is a good indicative that he was already regarded as a versatile actor), but very good, and with the required rage and pathos, as the broken man in the wheelchair. I've been collecting information about this play for some time and wonder if there could be still any original spectators around. The play was directed by Canadian Artillery vet Raymond Massey (it was not the first war-related play directed by Massey: not long before he had directed "the White Chateau")

(Dave, re old and new acting: I am of the opinion that actors of yesterday were better because they first had to earn their "chevrons" by demonstrating their craft and/or talent in Rep, Amateur stage or Vaudeville before they reached Broadway, the West end or the films. And they had to learn to speak their lines in an intelligible way. Nowadays most people people gets "automatic promotion" just by their looks... They try to fix their lack of acting skills and talent with a "Method" Crash-Course which often makes matters worse)

Gloria

P.S.: I think Rathbone was awarded a MM.

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Guest mruk

Many Thanks Gloria,

Stoneyhurst College, RC boarding school, is just north of Preston, Blackburn, and Accrington, and looks a magnificient stately 'pile'. According to their website, their building is over 400 years old, and the college holds a collection of some very rare and precious artefacts. They also keep records of former masters and boys, and I wonder if it's worth contacting them for further information on Charles Laughton. The O.T.C. sounds very interesting too, and maybe it's worth having a look at the 'The Gryphon', the journal for Leeds University [O.T.C.]. They have backdated issues to 1906-08

Kind Regards,

Dave

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gporta

Dave,

I contacted Stonyhurst about a couple of years ago, and its archivist Mr. David Knight was very helpful to me... indeed beyond the call of duty, as he checked old magazines and dusty ledgers in order to answer whatever request I sent him (including background information about the school premises and activities during the period Laughton was there). He was -as I- surprised to learn that, for such a well-known former student, he had not been appropiately vindicated in old magazines. So he wrote a rather complete article about Laughton's days at the school in the 2005 school magazine.

One of the saddest discoveries was to find out John Dermot MacSherry's fate. I asked Mr. Knight what had become of him, as I found strange that someone, whose acting skills made the teenage Laughton awe in wonder, was conspicuously absent from old actor's directories. It could well be, I thought, that MacSherry took another path in life and kept his acting skills as a hobby. It turned out that he never had that choice as he died in the war. His family was from Birmingham and he was their only son.

I don't know whether the news of MacSherry's death ever reached Laughton, but this is not impossible as his younger brothers were still at Stonyhurst and MacSherry's obituary in the 1917 Stonyhurst Magazine was a sizeable one.

I don't think that Leeds University might have anything in its records about Laughton... unless OTC reports were customarily sent by Public Schools to related Universities with OTCs. On the other hand, in spite of being, as records indicate, a rather good student, Laughton left Stonyhurst in 1915 without continuing his education: his parents (hoteliers from Scarborough) sent him to work at Claridges (London) as an apprentice to learn hostelry from the bottom up. They probably thought that as an hotelier he would not require University degrees.

Gloria

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Guest mruk

Many Thanks for your detailed reply Gloria,

I was thinking of the Gryphon Magazine in terms of the reports they published about other universities--sports, plays, and O.T.C. activities etc., and thought there might be some useful info regarding Laughton and MacSherry included there, and I think you are right to assume that the death of John MacSherry would have reached Laughton at some point, given that his two brothers were pupils at the time. I'll make an appointment with Leeds University anyway, if not to satisfy my curiosity, and ask to look at the relevant volumes.

Kind Regards,

Dave

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gporta

:) Go ahead Dave... and keep me posted if something interesting pops up!

MacSherry was quite a keen member of Stonyhurst OTC and left school attaining the rank of Company-Sergeant-Major. So if there were any activities in common with other school's OTCs it is not unlikely that he would have been involved. Apart from theatrical leads in school, he won prizes for elocution, so, again we might possibly find MacSherry in any inter-schools competition. laughton and him got Classics prizes at school so maybe they might be mentioned elsewhere for that.

Sports-wise, Laughton doesn't figure in any of the school's teams listed in the school's sources during his stay (not that this surprises me :lol: )... though an entry in the School's ledgers mentions "ckt" (Which Mr. David Knight believes to be an abbreviation for "cricket") so even though he didn't make it into any of the teams, it could be that he tried his hand at it. No mentions of sports in MacSherry's obituary, which doesn't mean he didn't take part in them, of course. Other than this, MacSherry was a member of the school's Sodality.

Laughton 's only known theatrical venture in Stonyhurst was playing a secondary part -an innkeeper- in "The Private Secretary", where MacSherry played the part of Mr. Cattermole

MacSherry later joined "E" Company, No. 6 Officers' Cadet Battalion at Balliol College, Oxford in August 1916, being gazetted to the 3rd Connaught Rangers the following February.

Gloria

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Steven Broomfield
And don't forget that Bruce's opposite - Basil Rathbone, the archetypal Sherlock Holmes - served with the Liverpool Scottish.

MC winner, I believe, commanding the Scout section

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Stebie9173

I wasn't going to bite but....

Medal card of Rathbone, P St J B

Corps Regiment No Rank

Liverpool Regiment Lieutenant

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documen...;resultcount=21

LG 7-2-1917

War Office,

1th February, 1917.

TERRITORIAL FORCE.

The undermentioned Cadets to be 2nd Lts.

25th Jan. 1917: —

Liverpool Regt.—

Philip St. John Basil Rathbone.

LG 7-11-1918

Military cross

Lt. Phillip St. John Basil Rathbone, L'pool R.

For conspicuous daring and resource on patrol. On one occasion, while inside the hostile wire, he came face to face with one of the enemy, whom he at once shot. This raised the alarm, and an intense fire was opened, but he crept through the entanglements with his three men and got safely back. The result of his patrolling was a thorough knowledge of the locality and strength of all enemy posts in the vicinity.

His file, I believe:

WO 374/56295 RATHBONE, Lieut P S B 1916-1919

Steve.

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Guest mruk

Many Thanks Steven. Many Thanks Steve,

for taking the time and effort on this one.

I came across Ronald Coleman in a book on Researching Army Records, though I've forgot the author, but this is turning into something of a revelation for me. I was also trying to look up Will Hay and his 'toothless' sidekick, as I thought they would have been old enough for war service, but nothing yet so far, although Will Hay was apparently something of a respected astronomer, and was integral in discovering a new galaxy. Interesting stuff, and they don't put enough of the old films on telly. I love the Will Hay flicks, along with Sherlock Holmes, and the actors mentioned above. They are a genre apart.

Kind Regards,

Dave

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PBI

[attachmentid=46775

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Guest mruk

Thanks for the attachments PBI,

The second photo looks like the time Laughton spent in the 2/1st Hunts Cyclists, and though there's some argument about whether it's him or not, it's amazing how remarkably young a lot of the boys are. Some of them look like the GPO Telegram Boys you see on a lot of the old films.

Cheers,

Dave

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gporta

Dave,

Re the identification in the group photo, Having compared it with other photos of Laughton -and photos from his brothers, too-, I personally believe it's him... However, since the photo doesn't have any notes in the back identifying the soldiers, I wouldn't settle for a 100% certainty, just to stay on the safe side... hopefully a relative of some of the other boys might have a copy with names? The only person positively identified there is Sergeant William Mould

BTW, the photo is marked "Nainby, Alford" if this may ring any bells. No leaves in the trees, so it must have been taken in a cold season.

At the Hunts Cyclists website you can see the picture in better resolution clicking here and a second photo of the same group clicking here, too.

Gloria

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Guest mruk

Thanks Gloria,

I can certainly see the resemblance, though he does look a lot leaner, and taller than his 5ft 10 inches suggest, but maybe this had something to do with the training, and the daily regime of 'swedish drill' that most soldiers underwent. I think my eyes are also playing tricks, because I can see what appear a couple of [dark] stripes on his left arm--unless they are just folds in the material, which is most probably the case.

Regards,

Dave

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gporta

Yes, the "stripes" got me curious. However, comparing them with the more clear stripes of the Sergeant and the Corporal at his sides, I'd say that they are pleats. He looks tall, but in comparison with the people around (whose height we don't know). Re the leanness, as a young man he wasn't exactly fact, rather on the "a bit tubby" side, and most certainly he did more exercise and ate less in the army than he was used to at his home (then the Pavilion Hotel, Scarborough), so there were chances for him loosing weight while training (+ Drill, marches, parades, etc...) in the army.

Eyes, nose and jaw profile resemble other youthful photos, and the soldier bears as well reasonable likeness to Laughton's younger (and leaner) brothers. Again, it could just be some other person with a fair resemblance. As I said, I think it's him, but without further documental confirmation I leave it as a good possibility of being him -and not the 100% sureness.

Gloria

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