King, HR‘Summer Hols begin’ wrote the Rev. H.R. King in his diary on Tuesday, 31 July 1917.  The Rev. Henry Robinson King (1855-1935), a master at Sherborne School, kept a daily diary in which he recorded the weather, world events (in red), and his own activities.  The previous day had been fine until the evening when it turned wet, but the 31 July was ‘suddenly cold and uninviting’.

Across the channel, heavy rain fell on 31 July and the British offensive, now known as the third battle of Ypres, commenced with the Battle of Pilckem Ridge.  In a series of battles that took place between 31 July and 10 November 1917, the British tried to drive the German forces from the ridge to the east and south of the town of Ypres.

The phases of the Third Battle of Ypres, 31 July-10 November 1917:

  • 31 July-2 August 1917, Battle of Pilckem Ridge.
  • 16-18 August 1917, Battle of Langemarck.
  • 20-25 September 1917, Battle of the Menin Road.
  • 26 September-3 October 1917, Battle of Polygon Wood.
  • 4 October 1917, Battle of Broodseinde.
  • 9 October 1917, Battle of Poelcapelle.
  • 12 October 1917, First battle of Passchendaele.
  • 26 October-10 November 1917, Second battle of Passchendaele.

‘The poppies grow’ in John McCrae’s 1915 poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, but in 1917 an unusually wet summer had resulted in the whole battlefield becoming a sea of mud in which men drowned and their bodies were lost.  By the 10 November 1917, the Allied forces recorded 325,000 casualties with German losses estimated at 260,000.  On the walls of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial are recorded the names of 54,856 Allied soldiers with no known grave.  The memorial was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, the architect of Sherborne School’s own War Memorial, and unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927. Blomfield was also responsible for designing the Cross of Sacrifice for the Imperial War Graves Commission.

Back home, the Rev. King recorded in his diary on 31 July 1917, ‘No good news reported from Flanders. The Times is complaining of the reticence. Russia no better. English cruiser (11,000 tons) has been torpedoed, 38 men killed. Rumanian army re-organised is doing what it can.  Lansing – American Sec. – has been talking plainly & well to America.’

The Rev. H.R. King's diary entry for 31 July 1917.

The Rev. H.R. King’s diary entry for 31 July 1917.

The previous day at Sherborne School, the exam results had been announced and an end of term concert was held in the Big School Room.  The 1st XI had had a successful season, captained by J.D. Wyatt-Smith, winning seven out of their nine matches, and the Annual Inspection of the O.T.C. by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien had gone very well, with the General giving the corps an exceedingly good report to the War Office. During the Summer term, six members of the School (A.H. Whitford-Hawkey, C.J.B. Scholey, C.C. Betts), including three School Prefects (W.R. Milligan, J.D. Wyatt-Smith, D.G. Eagar), had left for military duty, but fortunately, the majority were spared until the last week of term.  Four of the six leavers would be dead by the end of the War.

That year the Rev. King and his family took their summer holidays at Loch Earn in the central highlands of Scotland and at Portinscale in Cumbria, as it was in Belgium, it was also a very wet summer at home.  When the family returned to Sherborne for the start of term on 27 September 1917, King recorded in his diary that rain had fallen 41 out of the 58 days they were away.

Between 31 July and 10 November 1917, ten former pupils of Sherborne School lost their lives in the fighting at Ypres Salient:

Hubert Mackenzie Gray (Abbeylands 1908-1910), Acting Captain, Royal Fusiliers, died on 10 August 1917 leading an attack on Westhouk Ridge, just north of FitzClarence Farm.

Robert Moore (School House 1907-1913), 2nd Lieutenant, Rifle Brigade, died on 15 August 1917 from wounds received the previous day at the Steenbeek.

Leslie Stuart Palmer (School House 1906-1909), Lieutenant, Dorsetshire Regiment, died on 20 September 1917 during the second phase of an attack at Shrewsbury Forest.

Kenneth Thomas Limbery MC (Harper House 1905-1910), Captain, 133/134 Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, died on 26 September 1917 at Voormezeele.

Roger Alvin Poore DSO (Abbeylands 1885-1889), Lieutenant-Colonel, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, died on 26 September 1917 at Polygon Wood.

Basil Ralph Gardiner Holmes (Abbey House 1908-1912), 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery, died on 2 October 1917 in Flanders.

Maurice Porter Bennett (Lyon House 1911-1915), Lieutenant, Royal West Surrey Regiment, died on 6 October 1917 from wounds received in action near the Menin Road.

Douglas Fitch (The Green 1911-1913), 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery, died on 16 October 1917 in Flanders.

Henry Gifford Turrell (The Green 1911-1913), 2nd Lieutenant, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, died on 3 November 1917 from wounds received on 22 August 1917.

Thomas Basil Maryon Streatfeild (School House 1911-1916), 2nd Lieutenant, Royal West Kent Regiment, died on 7 November 1917 in Flanders.

Passchendaele block

We will remember them.

See also:
Sherborne School Roll of Honour
Online resources for Sherborne and the First World War

Visit Sherborne School Archive News for more stories from the archives.

Posted 28 July 2017 by Sherborne School Archives.

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