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Brockhurst and Marlston House School
The Good Schools Guide

Brockhurst and the two World Wars

According to the Brockhurst Chronicle of 1919, one hundred and eighty old Brocks and eleven masters served in the 1914-18 War. Of these eighteen old Brocks were killed or died of wounds and three masters were also killed in action. The record of awards is impressive and pride of place must go to Lt. Commander Leyland-Harrison who won a V.C. at Zeebrugge on the night of April 22-23 1918. He died in an attempt to silence the guns on the mole in order to safeguard the main British attack, and "The Times" described him in so doing as displaying "redoubtable resolution and courage of the highest order in pressing his attacks". Harrison was a noted rugby football player having played for England against Ireland and France in 1914 and for the Royal Navy. In addition to the V.C. old Brocks won 7 D.S.O.'s, 14 M.C.'s, 1 O.B.E., 1 D.F.C., and 1 Cross of Legion of Honour. The masters were awarded 1 D.S.O., 1 M.C. and two mentions in despatches, another received a mention also and yet another the Croix de Guerre. The D.S.O. awarded to 2nd Lt. R. W. Bowell of the Leicestershire Regt. is worthy of particular mention since an award of the D. S. 0. to an Officer of less than field rank is often reckoned to be a near miss for the V.C. Bowell with a Sgt. and twenty men held an advanced trench for two days and three nights without rations and managed on the third night to withdraw without casualties. Bowell had only been in France for a month and this was his first time in the front line. He was a former master at Brockhurst and apparently survived the war.

Apart from the fading recollections of their immediate families it is a sad fact that their names do not "live for evermore" except in so far as they are enshrined in parish churches throughout the land or come to light when ancient school records or magazines are examined. Yet these laconic entries make wistful reading and endless platitudes spring to mind which are best left unwritten. For example, "B. C. Gibbons, Midshipman R.N. drowned on the torpedoing of H.M.S. Otranto, Oct. 6th 1918 aged 16", Captain G. Orly Sloper M.C. who died at Murmansk the only son of Mr & Mrs G. D. Sloper of West Woodhay House, Berkshire, Captain B. H. Hanbury Sparrow M.C. brother of Lt. Col. A. Hanbury Sparrow D.S.O., M.C. of the Royal Berkshire Regt. who died in Mesopotania and whose three uncles also fell in the war.

Among the more poignant entries are those of D. C. Mackenzie and Capt. The Rev. B. J. Gedge. Mackenzie appeared in the school magazine of 1905 when he took seven wickets for seven runs against the Mill Mead 2nd XI. In the Fathers Match "Mr Mackenzie was careful to explain to his son the exact kind of balls he wanted to have, but we are afraid filial obedience is not to be found on the cricket field". In the Chronicle for 1907 we read how at Charterhouse "he won promotion and a prize at Christmas" and in 1908 he wrote that he "raised another promotion and is no longer a fag, thank goodness". In 1911 we read that "D. C. Mackenzie has received his commission in the Seaforth Highlanders and is posted to the India Battalion next trooping season. At present he is with the 2nd Bn. at Fort George". In 1915 Atkinson received a letter from another Old Brock serving on H.M.S. Fox which read "I suppose you will have heard that D. C. Mackenzie has been killed in France. He was a white man through and through and I'm afraid it will be a terrible blow to his people. He was shot in the head while moving along a shallow trench and who should pick him up but Donald (Capt. D. C. Mackenzie, D.S.O.) his cousin — and also an Old Brock. From the cricket square at Brockhurst to Flanders spanned ten years only.

On the 11th July 1916 Capt. The Rev. B. J. Gedge C.F. married A. H. Atkinson's daughter, Miss M. Kathleen Atkinson at Church Stretton. Like his brother Peter, Basil Gedge had been a master at Brockhurst but Peter and a third brother had already been killed in the war. Basil was posted to Salonica almost immediately after his wedding and died of wounds on the 24th April 1917. It was, perhaps, characteristic of the stoicism of Atkinson that he made no mention of his loss other than to produce two or three letters from his son-in-laws' fellow Officers offering their condolences. One in particular tends to summarise the ethos which successive headmasters have sought to teach throughout Brockhursts' history, namely "that character - that manly Christian character - is the true aim of education, and that devotion to duty and self sacrifice are infinitely greater qualities than mere intellectual efficiency".

Unfortunately we have no adequate record of the war service of Old Brocks in the 1939-45 war. The reason for this is that the school was going through considerable upheaval. John Park had taken over from R. P. Marshall in 1942 and between that date and the end of 1945 the school had three moves — Broughton Hall, Maer Hall and finally Marlston House, and with the disappearance of the School from Church Stretton many Old Brocks who would otherwise have kept in touch with the School lost contact with it.

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Hermitage, Newbury
Berkshire RG18 9UL

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