July 9th 1918

Lieut. Raymond Burch (RAF)

We are very sorry to hear that Raymond Burch was killed on June 28th – the  third of our airmen to die this year.

His Colonel has written a detailed letter to his parents:

“He went off on Friday morning (June 28th) early to assist the infantry in the attack they were making. About 6.30 a.m. we had a report to the effect that his machine had been hit by a shell and had crashed to the ground a total wreck, and that both pilot and observer were killed. 

Later on, we heard that the infantry, near which the machine fell, had taken the bodies to the cemetery at Borre, a village near Hazebrouck, and that their padre had buried them there.

Apparently the shell burst directly on the machine, and they must have been killed instantly, so I hope and pray that they felt nothing and were spared the agony of falling out of control…”

Raymond graduated as a pilot in May 1917 and was deployed to 4 Squadron in France in April this year. He had been flying the Royal Aircraft Factory  RE 8, which is used for reconnaissance and as a light bomber.

RE 8 aircraft.

His Colonel also writes warmly of Raymond, both as a pilot and a person.

“He was an excellent pilot, very conscientious and painstaking, and perfectly forgetful of self in the execution of his duty. The Squadron has lost one of her best sons and his death leaves a gap which it will be hard to fill.”

 

Raymond was a rather delicate, quiet, self-dependent boy. Though his bent was always scientific, he was not without literary and artistic taste and capacity.

He was married in 1916 and leaves his wife with a son, who was born last year.

October 20th 1915

Tom Whittingham

Lieut. Thomas Whittingham (Leicestershire Regiment)

It transpires that, only four days after writing to console us on the deaths of Leslie Eastwood & Tom Higginson, Tom Whittingham was himself killed, along with Alasdair Macdonell on October 13th at Loos.

He was killed in the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The 4th Leicesters had the honour of leading the attack and Tom’s platoon was in the first line.

He sent a message, which was passed down the line, of best wishes to the men in their effort, while they stood waiting for him to lead them over the parapet.

When the time came, having first mounted the parapet, with a walking-stick in one hand and revolver in the other, he led the advance at a slow double over the 150 yards that separated them from the enemy, through machine-gun and rifle bullets, till they reached the limit of the hand-grenade range of the Germans, where they received a momentary check while our bombers replied.

Then Tom called on them to advance, and they were within a few yards of the enemy’s trenches when a German officer threw a bomb, which hit the ground and exploded right in front of him – killing, it is said, five and wounding others.    

Tom is the third Old Dragon to die in the fighting around Loos, content we hope in that it is (as he said himself in his letter) “the noblest death a man can die.”

 

From the OPS, Tom gained an exhibition to go to Felsted School, where he joined the OTC. From there he went to L’Ecole de Commerce in Lausanne and then spent six months in Germany in the Hartz Mountains.  Returning home in 1913 he was articled to a firm of accountants and at the same time gained a commission in the Leicestershire Territorials.

We heard that, as Scout Officer, he took personal interest in the men under him; he also applied himself to know and help the young fellows in an artisan quarter of a large town parish, taking part in their games and working up a Bible class, and getting to know them in their home life. In a short time he won a considerable influence.

As a boy at the OPS, his influence on others was always for the very best, and his steady, quiet determination to get the right thing done in the right way, gave promise of a good, useful life.

Tom was wounded in April and he came to visit us all last term, well on  the road to recovery. He returned to the Front on July 12th.

He was one of our most loyal old boys and we shall miss him sorely. It seems only yesterday that he and Alasdair Macdonell were with us. Their deaths touch us most profoundly.

 

                  

October 13th 1915

Lieut. Tom Whittingham (Leicester Regiment) has most kindly written offering his condolences on the death of the two members of our staff, Leslie Eastwood and Tom Higginson:

Tom Whittingham

Lt. T Whittingham

9/10/15. “I must write to sympathise on the loss of two of the staff. But it is by far the noblest death a man can die, and it does one no good to sorrow about these things. Out here, unfortunately, one rarely seems to be able to realise a casualty fully when it occurs; death seems to come as a matter of course. It is only when a death occurs amongst the men one is always with, and knows best, that one can grasp the full meaning of what has happened.”

* * * * * * *

We were delighted to see Surgeon Basil Playne (RN, RND) arriving with his DSO decoration to show to the boys and demanding an extra ‘half’ as a reward for his endeavours. He was motoring through Oxford on his way home with his wife.

Jim MacLean

Capt. J MacLean

Lieut. Jim MacLean (Royal Engineers) – with his Military Cross –  was also with us for the weekend and gained ‘no prep’ by telling the boys one evening all about life in the trenches with bombs, grenades etc. He startled us by saying that the soldiers spent all their time carrying up provisions and building material to the front trenches, as there wasn’t any ‘fighting,’ and explained how bridges and pontoons are built over rivers and canals under fire.

He was awarded the MC “for conspicuous gallantry and determination during the nights of August 25th – 31st 1915, when he skilfully erected a bridge over the Yser Canal near Boesinghe under heavy rifle fire. Although he lost several of his men, he carried the work through satisfactorily.”

If we get any more visits from Old Dragons demanding extra ‘halves’ and ‘no prep,’ we shall get no work done at all!