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!