WWI Faces: From Hockey Players to WWI Heroes (Part 2)

The E Company Hockey Team at Sandhurst, 1915 (Top Row, left to Right) Isaac Usher, Frank Layard, Charles Cook, Thomas Wilmot, Douglas Wimberley, James Fowlie, Norman Kelley (Front Row, Left to Right) Thomas Carlyle-Davies, N.A. Baillie-Hamilton, Ivor Cochrane, JH Priestman, Trevor Southgate
The E Company Hockey Team at Sandhurst, 1915
(Top Row, left to Right) Isaac Usher, Frank Layard, Charles Cook, Thomas Wilmot, Douglas Wimberley, James Fowlie, Norman Kelley
(Front Row, Left to Right)
Thomas Carlyle-Davies, N.A. Baillie-Hamilton, Ivor Cochrane, JH Priestman, Trevor Southgate

Dr. Frances Hurd who has this picture in hand talked about the lives of the men in it.

Isaac Usher, The Royal Irish Regiment (Referee)

He might be a referee but he was a cadet like the others in the picture. Usher was born to a Protestant doctor who was well-loved in his town for the care he gave to Catholics. he grew up in Dundrum, Dublin, studied there before signing up in Sandhurst. He died July 14, 1916 while leading an offensive attack on a trench during the battle of the Somme and his body had to be left in the battlefield. However, it was recovered and buried and later on, in 1920, was exhumed and buried again. His father, Dr. Usher, was killed in one of Ireland’s first road accidents. He had a memorial put up in his name which, ironically, became a source of strife between Catholics and Protestants.

Frank Layard, the Border Regiment

He was born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where his father worked as a tea planter, though, his family originally came from the Channel Islands. He was a recipient of the Military Cross in April 1917 amidst fighting near Arras – he had located an enemy position and organized a machine gun offensive against that post. However, he died the next month after that t the tender age of 20. There was a shadow of doubt over his death and his family had suffered a period of anxiety over his real fate and had hoped that he was just taken as a prisoner of war. That ended when his body was found during battlefield clearances in 1920.

Charles Cook, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

Cook came from a military family with his father being the captain in the Indian Army in Dungan Dali, known then as the North West Frontier Province but is now the present Pakistan. In fact, Cook was born in that place. Prior to going in the college, he went to Tonbridge School where he was involved in a number of sports. He lost a leg during the war, thus, got discharged. Nevertheless, he did have a brief stint in military service after that – as an observer in a balloon with the Royal Flying Corps in 1918. He got married to Mildred Jennings in 1923. Jennings was formerly married to George Leon and had a grandson actor, John Standing or Sir John Ronald Leon in real life. When Jennings died in 1951, Cook married Doris Holdaway. She had been working as a servant to the couple. Cook passed away in 1981.

Thomas Wilmot, Worcestershire Regiment

Wilmot was a son of a vicar and had attended Cathedral Schools in Worcester and Hereford. He enlisted first in the Royal Fusiliers before he got accepted at Sandhurst. He also was a Military Cross recipient for fending off German counter attacks on a captured trench in Bethune. Shortly afterwards, his unit got transferred to  the just starting Somme battle. He died on August 25 at a hospital hours after getting wounded in the stomach by a shell during a German trenches attack on the Somme’s Delville Wood. Before dying, he was able to ask a nurse to write a letter to his mother telling her where he was and sending his love. He was the first of three brothers to die from the war. The Imperial War Museum has a collection of his letters, a number of which mentioned his sport playing. He even described how he met the two Sandhurst instructors in the picture in one of his letters. he also wrote about the time, a year before his death, when he was incorrectly reported to be dead. On the war raging around him, he reportedly told his mother:

“I can’t describe everything. You have got to see it to imagine it. Everything is so awful.”

Douglas Wimberley, Cameron Highlanders

Wimberley was also born to a military family and went on to have the most illustrious military career among his teammates – serving in both world wars, achieving a major-general rank in his career and playing an important role in the El Alamein victory. He was born in Iverness and went to Wellington College which was traditionally seen as a Sandhurst feeder school. He got a Military Cross during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 where he got wounded. He was then promoted acting and temporary major the next year and was sent off to Russia where a civil war was ongoing. Afterwards, he served in Ireland during the Irish War of Independence and served under Bernard Montgomery. Throughout the interwar years he remained active in the military and on 1941 had taken command of the 51st (Highland) Division. In this post, he became known as Tartan Tam as in his appeal to the men’s Scottish patriotism, he urged them to don on tartans as much as possible. The said unit fought in North Africa where Wimberley once again served under Montgomery and was key at winning the El Alamein battle. Later on, he led the division to the invasion  of Sicily. He retired from the army in 1946 and went on to become the principal of University College, Dundee. He died 1983.

James Fowlie, Highland Light Infantry

Fowlie was born in Singapore where his father, Dr. Peter Fowlie, worked as an elected Municipal Commissioner. he fought in the battle of the Somme and got promoted to lieutenant. he was working as an intelligence officer when he was killed in the battle of Arras in the wee hours of April 24, 1917. he died in the field where Layard died a few weeks after. Fowlie was in an advanced position sending information about the course of the fighting in a telephone when the area where he was had been hit by a shell. His death had made news in the Singaporean and Scottish press.

Norman Kelley, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

Kelley was the eldest of the group and also had the most unusual military career among the group. he was born in Liversedge, West Yorks in 1894 and was a son of a carpet manufacturer. He went to Manchester Grammar and had studied architecture before enrolling in Sandhurst. He spent only a month in the front lines in late 1915 as during his assignment, he suffered an epileptic seizure, fell over and dislocated his shoulder resulting to his spending the whole WWI in a medical facility and on half pay. In 1920, he returned to serve with his unit in Guernsey for a month. he was then discharged from the military in 1922 and passed away in 1940.

Thomas Carlyle-Davies, the Welsh Regiment

Carlyle-Davies was the son of a banker and hailed from Pembroke, West Wales where he was captain of his school’s rugby team. He started his studies at Clare College, Cambridge University but went to Sandhurst when war broke out. His unit became involved in the Battle of Loos in September 1915. On October 1, hsi unit’s attack was countered when they ran out of bombs and were cut off. Davies was among the dead – the hockey team’s first casualty. His comrades told differing accounts about his death as his body was never found. He was declared dead officially in 1920.

Captain and Adjutant N.A. Baillie-Hamilton, Black Watch

Hamilton was one of the two instructors who played in the E Company hockey team. In 1901, he served in the Boer War as a second lieutenant. Along with Captain Priestman, the other instructor, he went off to France in the middle of a leave in 1915 to discover more about life in the front.

Ivor Cochrane, South Wales Borderers

Cochrane was the team’s captain. His father was a medical graduate and was born in India while his mother was from London. Cochrane himself grew up in Glamorgan and went to Wellington College before moving to Sandhurst. When he passed, he was sent on assignment in Gallipoli, got wounded and was evacuated to Malta. He was in service during the Salonika campaign which was in Balkans; it was where the Allied forces were sent initially as Serbian support. He also got stationed in France. After the war, he remained in the army and was even able to serve in Egypty during WWII prior to being returned to British soil after being seriously injured. And even if he was born and brought up in Wales, he was residing in Weston-super-Mare at the time of his death in 1944 – he was 44. His remains lie in the Kewstoke Village, Somerset.

Captain J H Priestman, the Lincoln Regiment

Priestman is the second of the two instructors who played in the team. He got promoted to major in 1923 and served in Malta and Palestine in 1935 and 1936.

Trevor Southgate, Essex Regiment

Southgate was born in Norwood, south of London and went to Felsted School located in Essex. His father was stationed in Rio de Janiero during WWI. IN his case, Southgate was closely connected to the Machine Gun Corps, the Indian Army and the Royal Flying Corps within the duration of the war. He met Vera Murdoch who hailed from Dovecourt  and got married on January 1917. He then worked for the United Africa Company, a trading firm, who stationed him in Nigeria after the war.

– The Telegraph Reports



Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE