St Edward’s and the Gallipoli Campaign
Chris Nathan, School Archivist, writes: One hundred years ago in April 1915, the Gallipoli Campaign claimed the lives of 135,000 men in what turned out to be a fruitless and incompetently led offensive where the allied cause met defeat and failure against tough Turkish opposition. Forever afterwards history pointed to Winston Churchill being both the instigator of the original plan and therefore having to carry the responsibility for its failure.
The School, according to very recent research, had 30 alumni present of whom six were killed and another eight wounded, some badly. Two Military Crosses were awarded to this small band together with five ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’. Seven were with the ANZAC forces, twenty-one with the British Army, one with the Intelligence Service and another with the Royal Navy. At least three were Boer War veterans and two survived this particular campaign only to be killed later during the Great War in France.
Amongst those killed was Beverley Ussher, a regular soldier, who was shot while acting as an observer at Helles, serving with the Leinster Regiment. His elder brother, Stephen (OSE), had been killed just six months previously in France and his younger brother, Richard (also OSE), would die of war-induced illness in 1922 following a distinguished naval career. Beverley, who had been at the School for seven years in the 1880s, had been an outstanding pupil – a School Prefect and sportsman captaining both the cricket XI and rugby XV. Also killed was Walter Richards, another sportsman of high note, being one of the finest gymnasts ever to attend the School. Richards was also a School Prefect and a member of XV, XI and the rowing IV – one of the very first pupils to represent the School at both the main summer sports. He was killed leading a suicidal charge on the enemy trenches at Razor Back Monash Valley. Yet another fine School sportsman was Reginald Blyth, Senior Prefect in 1896 and a member of both the XI and XV before going up to Brasenose College, Oxford – he died ‘trying to help a wounded colleague’. One of those lost fighting with the ANZACs was Walter Frampton, an Australian by birth, who again had represented the School at cricket and rugby, and later went onto Glasgow University and thence to the Coolgardie Mines in Australia. He was badly wounded during the campaign, was shipped back to Egypt for treatment and died shortly afterwards.
A younger OSE lost was Howard Jefferson, born in the USA who ‘took time to settle at an English public school’ but later adapted well and became very much part of St. Edward’s. He was a member of the rugby XV and rowing IV, later joining the City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) with whom he left for the Dardanelles. John McMurdo was a short-term pupil in 1900/1 who became a regular soldier and was a Captain with the Essex Regiment when he was lost during the landings at Sedd el Bahr.
The Gallipoli Campaign came very early on in the Great War and to those at the School the very calibre of those lost came as even heavier blow than it might have done later on when such news was commonplace. At this stage there were 270 OSE in action or in training and ‘only’ nine had been reported killed, thus this one scene of action taking with it such a comparatively high number of casualties was particularly hard to take.