Bedales 1896 - 1899 Lieutenant Indian Army Reserve of Officers 20th Deccan Horse

At 34, Edward Lawford was the oldest ex-Bedalian student to die in World War One.  Born the second son of Percy Lawford and his wife Anne née Aikin, Edward grew up initially in Kensington but on census day 1891 he and his elder brother Charles Aikin Lawford were at “The Little Boys School” in Birkdale, near Southport in Lancashire.  Amongst the other pupils in this small school were Henry Garrett (possibly related to Mrs Badley) and Arnold and Ralph Wicksteed, certainly relations by marriage of the Lawfords and the Wicksteeds, similarly related to the Lupton family.  At home that day in Hampstead Percy Lawford and his wife Anne were accompanied by their daughters Janet Elinor aged 15 and Alice Charity aged 14 and their youngest son, three year old John Percy.

Edward’s cousin Ernest Arthur Enfield had arrived in Sussex in January 1896 and Geoffrey Lupton, a few weeks younger than Edward, arrived as he did after Easter making the school numbers up to 35 boys.  The Lawfords, the Enfields and the Luptons all had Unitarian Ministers in their ancestry and a history of campaigning for minority rights, including anti-slavery, and supporting all kinds of educational establishments in Leeds, Lancashire and London (UCL).  The arrival of Edward at Bedales in April 1896 suddenly ceased to be puzzling.

The Bedales Record, published at the end of that term, reported “two farmers have joined us this term”, one being Edward Lawford.  Throughout his school career there are references to some work on the farm, especially in the dairy.  In the Autumn Term of 1897 Edward was being instructed in butter-making and he and Roland Atkinson were responsible for making butter every Friday.  In the Winter Term of 1898 Edward supervised his cousin Ernest making butter; Ernest took over full responsibility in the Spring Term of 1899.  Edward was away from school for the whole of the Summer Term of 1897, possibly with some serious illness as in the Autumn he was not allowed to play football.  Consequently Mr. Badley organised the creation of a small golf course for Edward and two other boys and golf became another of the many sporting activities for Bedalians.

In his first year Edward played in two cricket matches with little success.  He featured in about four 2nd XI matches in 1898 and in his final term (summer 1899) played regularly for the 1st XI.  Most frequently he was out caught (or caught and bowled) and a couple of times run out.  He had occasional successes in athletics, learned to swim in his first year and in his final term was a founding committee member of the Cycling Club.  There are occasional mentions of success in reading (public performances) but never in debates and he displayed some interest in geology, bee-keeping and book-binding.

The three cousins left Bedales at the end of the Summer Term 1899.  I hazarded a guess that the families might have objected to the introduction of girls in 1898 but, in view of the number of distinguished female writers in their shared ancestry, this seems less likely.  The youngest, Ralph Roscoe Enfield, had spent only a year at Bedales.  He left for Nottingham High School whence he gained an Exhibition to  Christchurch, Oxford and, following distinguished war service (three times mentioned in despatches and, in summer 1918, the M.C.), went on to a national and international career in the civil service and was knighted in 1947.

Edward might have spent a year or so at another school but then studied mining engineering at Cambourne College in Cornwall.  There is no mining connection in his immediate family but his father’s sister had married Ernest William Enfield whose maternal grandfather, John Taylor, was one of the most distinguished mining engineers in mid-Victorian England.  He and his son managed mines in Cornwall but the tentacles of their businesses spread around the world.

On 14th April 1905 Edward Lawford sailed from London on “Manora” with his destination recorded as Madras.  He spent the next five years at Ooregum mine, Mysore which was engaged chiefly in mining gold.  He returned home for a few months in 1910 but in February 1911 again sailed east, this time to Ceylon.  The following year he transferred to the Malay Peninsula where he was involved with something which current Bedalians would deplore, clearing forest land to establish cocoa plantations.

It is possible that Edward had already signed on to the Reserve of Officers for the Indian Army (I will clarify this next time I am able to visit the British Library).  After the outbreak of war Edward was attached to the 20th Deccan Horse and, with a detachment, sailed for France arriving in June 1915.  In October 1915 Edward was seconded to the 1st Army Heavy Artillery Group as Staff Captain and was still with them when he died.  The appointment as Aide-de Camp dated 15th October and as Staff Captain, dated 4th December 1915, was confirmed in the London Gazette.

First World War communication groups on the internet have provided an interesting insight into Edward’s last battle.  A section from the 1917 – 1918 War Diary of 5th Cavalry Division, Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade, written by Captain Mulloy, has been transcribed and gives an account of “the raid on Ascension Wood”.  The attack began at 12.20am on 13th June when several Troops, including one led by Lieut. Lawford, left “Graham’s post”.  There was a good deal of fierce fighting, with the British led force being bombed and fired on at short range, and several Troops (possibly including Lieut. Lawford’s) lost contact with the main group.  Captain Mulloy’s group sustained quite heavy losses and also inflicted damage on the enemy forces so at about 2am he ordered “the wounded to be collected and .. the party to retire as it was getting light.  … Lieut. Lawford I had no news of from the time he entered the wood. …”

A series of posts on the Great War Forum translate from a description of the battle by a German Officer Ernst Jünger in his book “Storm of Steel”.  He recounts someone shouting, “Watch out. Left.  A mob of attackers was running towards us from the left , headed by an enormous figure with an outstretched revolver, swinging a white club.”  The following day he and a few other Germans ventured onto the site.  “There were still three bodies laying in the grass- two Indians and a white officer who had shoulder boards with two gold stars. ...  The officer had received a shot through the eye which had exited the side of his head.  He had a large six-shot revolver in his left hand while in his right hand he clutched a wooden baton which was splattered with his own blood.  His helmet had been shot through … In his breast pocket was a metal flask filled with cognac.”  Jünger took the helmet as a memento.  (There is a picture of it on the website).  There is general agreement with a post by Lieut. Col. Hedley Mallett (04 04 2014)  “Jünger’s “blond giant”, whose helmet now graces Jünger’s study, was Edward E. Lawford formerly of the Indian Reserve.”  It would seem Mallet had some knowledge of the family as he added, “According to his family he was certainly blond – but not very big.”  (Any confirmation would be much appreciated.)

Edward Lawford’s body was never recovered so he is commemorated on Panel I of the Indian Army Memorial at Neuve-Chapelle.  Edward’s parents and sisters had moved to Dolgellau some time before the census of 1911.  In Wales he is twice remembered: once on the Parish Church Memorial in Dolgellau with the name of the family house “Arcoed” attached and also in the nearby  village of Bontddu.  He is of course also remembered in Bay 6 of the Bedales Memorial Library.  Two of the great grand-children of Edward’s cousin Ralph Roscoe Enfield are current students at Bedales.

Sources: Bedales Archives: Online -DNB: Great war Forum: British Legion’s “Lest we forget”. Ancestry & findmypast.