Abingdon School’s Roll of Service

Abingdon School's Roll of Service 1914-1919 
(click on the link above or the picture to view)

The Roll of Service was published in April 1919 and contains the names of Old Abingdonans and former members of staff who served in the Armed Forces of the British Empire during the First World War, 1914-1918. The School made every attempt to compile a definitive list, but a quick flip though the pages will show the mass of amendments and corrections made to this copy by the Second Master, Edmund Ross-Barker. A revised list was never published but a recently compiled spreadsheet provides a complete list.

Abingdon was a very small school in 1914. When term began in September 1914 there were 75 boys on the roll. This had fallen from an all-time high of 126 in the Michaelmas term 1911, the average since the beginning of the century having been in the region of 100.

There are 334 names printed on the Roll of Service, the names of the 66 dead in capital letters. Ross-Barker’s amendments raised the total up to 379 and the number of dead up to 73. This was the number used for the war memorial in the Chapel, dedicated on Founders Day, 18 June 1920. It took until March 1921 for news to reach the School that Archibald Dunn had been killed in action on 14 June 1918, so his name is not on the memorial, neither is that of Arthur Webb as news that he had been a casualty only reached the School in April 2014.

Two of the 73 names on the war memorial do not qualify for inclusion in the Government’s 1921 publication, Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919: Philip Deacon and Lt Colonel Lacey Johnson.  Deacon, a District Commissioner with the Colonial Civil Service in Nandi, Kenya, died of influenza in October 1918, whilst Johnson, who was 59 when he died of heart failure in April 1915, was a member of the Montreal Heavy Brigade, a part-time volunteer military force. However, regardless of the fact that neither man qualified by the Government’s criteria, Abingdon chose to commemorate them both on the school memorial.

The oldest Abingdonians to die were Percy Shepherd-Turneham who was 38 when he was killed in September 1916, and Charles Baker who was 39 when he was killed in September 1918. Shepherd-Turneham was a dentist in civilian life and Baker had emigrated to Canada. The youngest Abingdonians to die were both 17: Geoffrey Tinegate was 17 and 5 months when he was killed in Gallipoli in August 1915 and Thomas Leach was 17 and 10 months when his ship was torpedoed in October 1918. Tinegate, serving in the army, was under age whereas Leach, a signaller in the Merchant Navy, was not.

The qualifying age for military service changed as the war progressed: 4 August 1914: 19 to 30; 28 August 1914: 19 to 35; 23 October 1914: 19 to 38; 31 May 1915: 19 to 40; January 1916: introduction of conscription for men of 18 to 41; April 1918: extension of conscription to men up to 50. 

Age was not the only criteria for service that had to be met.  Men had to meet the minimum height requirement. In August 1914 this was 5’3’’, by September it had risen to 5’6”, dropped to 5’5” on 10 October, dropped again to 5’4” on 23 October and again to 5’3” on 5 November. In February 1915 it was further dropped to 5’2” and to 5’1” in May, but by the end of the month this had been raised to 5’2” again, which is where it remained until the end of the war. In addition, there was a minimum weight requirement of 112 lbs and a minimum chest measurement of 34”, which fell to 33 ½” in May 1915. Finally you had to meet the sight requirements and not be working in a reserved industry.

Abingdon’s Roll of Service is a very inclusive list with the names of masters who only spent a term at the School and of boys who had scarcely been there for a full year. But for all the care of the compilers, the list depended on the School being informed and if it wasn’t informed they had no means of knowing, so there are quite probably Old Abingdonians who both served and died in the war of whom we are still unaware.