Bedales 1903-1911 Lieutenant. 237th Field Company, Royal Engineers

George was the second child and eldest son of Dukinfield Henry Scott and his wife Henderina Victoria née Klaassen.  He and his five surviving siblings attended Bedales between 1903 and 1920.  George’s great and great-great grandfathers were Church of England clergymen, as were several of their many sons, but George’s grandfather followed a different path:  George Gilbert Scott, born in Gawcott Buckinghamshire in 1811, was one of the most celebrated architects of nineteenth century Britain.

After home education and a year spent in a preparatory school run by his uncle, at the age of 16 George Gilbert began his apprenticeship in an architect’s office.  Moving between a number of offices, by the mid-1830s he was employed chiefly in designing workhouses called for by the new Poor Law Act of 1834, a tedious but relatively well-paid occupation, and he also built a few rather uninspiring churches.  By the end of the decade, partly through acquaintance with a builder employed by Augustus Pugin, George had become interested in developing his earlier talent in sketching medieval buildings.  Converted to the Gothic style, his first major success came in 1840 with the competition for the Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford.  His national and international career is well documented and provided George and his wife Caroline (née Oldrid) with a lavish lifestyle.

Dukinfield Henry, born in 1854, was George Gilbert Scott’s youngest son; home tutored until he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford in 1872 and initially interested in botany, by contrast he read Classics until 1876 and then abandoned that for engineering.  By 1879 he had returned to his earlier interest in botanical studies and pursued them in Germany and England.  Sufficiently wealthy not to need employment, Dukinfield nonetheless devoted most of the rest of his life to research, including a ten-year period as Honorary Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew.  I have included this skeletal background to offer a plausible explanation for the Scotts choosing to send their sons and daughters to an experimental school like Bedales.  Education for women was clearly important to them: Henderina had been one of Dukinfield’s first research students.

Young George was almost 10½ when he came to Bedales after Easter in 1903 and therefore went into the main school rather than joining the youngest children at Hillcroft.  It wasn’t until Dunhurst was opened in 1905 that the Bedales entry age was raised to 11.  In the Summer Term of 1903 George was the third youngest pupil in the School: three years later he had been joined by his younger brother Thomas (a very small boy in the front row of the school photograph) and his older sister Margaret.  Margaret left at the end of the Summer Term 1909 on her way to Somerville College: George was to follow her to Oxford two years later.

I haven’t found much about George’s school career.  In ‘The Show’ in the Summer Term of 1907 Thomas outdid his elder brother sharing the first prize for Geology whilst George was only “commended”. Margaret figures in reports about botany, possibly sharing her parents’ interest.

George and Margaret were elected members of the flourishing Scientific Society in 1906 and remained members throughout their school careers.  Its aim, Dmitri Jarintzoff declared, was to stimulate an interest in all branches of science, even in prospective engineers.  George was also actively using his hands, making an inlaid mahogany box and a music stool in the Winter/Spring of 1907/1908.  In Summer Term 1909 he made a fossil cabinet and was awarded a second prize for it in ‘The Show’.

In his final year, in the Spring Term of 1911 George was a leading speaker in a senior debate, the only example I’ve found of his sharing in this popular Bedales pastime.  Opposing the motion that “This House approves of the proposal by the United States of America to fortify the Panama Canal” he argued “it is not evident that in preparing for war a nation is ensuring peace.”  Unfortunately, he did not carry the day. Also in this term George was made a school Prefect and in the Summer Term he was captain of one of the four teams organised for Sports Day.  In ‘The Show’ he was awarded 5 stars and a prize for an induction coil and in June passed Oxford Responsions, a necessity to allow his entrance to Christ Church in the Michaelmas Term.

This is a meagre record by comparison with some others I have researched.  Possibly George was overshadowed by the brilliance of the slightly older Pauly Montague, Ferenc Békassy, Michael Pease (all to be Cambridge men) and Dmitri Jarintzoff, who preceded him to Oxford.  Amongst slightly younger contemporaries Oswald Horsley, Vyvyan Trubshawe and George Murray were constantly to the forefront in sporting and academic activities.  However, he does seem to have earned respect overall.  A brief obituary for George in The Bedales Chronicle in the month after his death paints a picture of an influential figure, respected by his contemporaries.  It stated: “ ... his loss will be widely and deeply felt for he had many friends; he was one that many of us looked to for help, whether in matters of conduct for his wise and level headed judgment, or in everyday problems of household mechanics for the handyman’s ingenuity and resource.”

Whilst at Oxford George spent a good deal of time with other OBs.  He also made occasional visits to Bedales, possibly to see his younger sisters Violet and Constance.  After their arrival in Oxford the following year George spent a good deal of time with Vyvyan Trubshawe and Oswald Horsley.  In his second year he seems to have relaxed a good deal (always the advantage of the old Oxford system when almost everything depended on six days of exams in the final year).  The letters from Oxford OBs included several jokey references including one accusation that George “had completely succumbed to the influence of Bacchus” by imbibing too much cider.  His major preoccupation seemed to be with his motor cycle; “Scott being an engineer his engine is nearly always in pieces and undergoing some essential alteration. ... Scott tells me ‘it’s running so much better now.’  To which statement I being in his sidecar, keep a discreet silence wondering what on earth it was like before”, reported Vyv Trubshawe to The Chronicle

For his third year there are increasing references to his hard work “Scott … as befits a third year man with finals in a month puts in his eight hours with mathematical precision.”  This industry paid off.  On 12th July The Chronicle was pleased to reporte, “We offer our heartiest congratulations to G K Scott on obtaining 1st Class in the Engineering Schools at Oxford.”  George had barely two months left to savour this.  Before the end of September, he had put his hobby to good use and on 20th September 1914 volunteered for the 14th Signals Company of the Royal Engineers as a Motorcycle Despatch Rider.  He was 21 years and 10 months old and at his medical examination measured as 5 feet 10¾ inches with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.

Arriving at Chatham on 25th September as a Sapper, the following day George was promoted to Corporal.  The Chronicle on 11th November 1914 listed G K Scott as stationed at Aldershot with the 14th Signals Company but shortly afterwards he applied for a commission in a Field Company.  His application for “a temporary commission in the Regular Army for the period of The War” was dated 15th December 1914 and was accompanied by a letter of recommendation from Charles Frewen Jenkin, the Professor of Engineering at Oxford, written three days earlier.  “He not only has a very good knowledge of theory as is shown by his getting a Ist Class in the Honours Exam for the B.A. degree but he was a most satisfactory man in the Laboratory & Drawing Office & in the Surveying Course. … He has had rather an unusual school experience which has brought out more practical handiness than many public school boys have.He would be a particularly pleasant man for his fellow officers.”  Corporal George Klassen Scott was discharged from the 14th Signals and commissioned as Temporary Second Lieutenant in the 130th Field Company of the Royal Engineers on 12th January 1915.

So far I haven’t traced George’s movements in 1915, though the editor of The Chronicle thought he first went to France in September.  He was promoted to full Lieutenant on 2nd February 1916.  On the 22nd May 1916 a telegram was despatched to his father saying Lt. Scott had been slightly wounded “but remains on duty”.  On 16th June George scribbled a pencilled note to Vyv Trubshawe, on pages torn from a small notebook, commiserating with him on having been wounded again: “We have had a fairly unpleasant time in the line this time and are now in the rest area.  So far we haven’t had much of that commodity …” he added wryly.

A few weeks later the news was much more serious; a Medical Board later reported George had been admitted to hospital on 26th July on the Somme and “He was operated on 2 days afterwards and the appendix was found to be gangrenous.”  On 25th August he was evacuated from Boulogne on a hospital ship and the Board of 30th August declared his condition had been aggravated “by medical service conditions” and deemed him unfit for duty, even light home duties, for two months.  

Two months later a further problem had emerged; in mid-July a shell had burst close by George and ten days after he was suffering from acute pain and a discharge from his left ear.  This continued to be a problem, exacerbated by a bout of influenza, and George remained unfit for duty until he was “Boarded” at Salisbury on 6th January 1917.  There he was declared fit, ordered to report to Deganwy on 12th January and almost immediately was despatched to France; he had about a month left to live.

In The Bedales Record of September 1917 Mr. Badley described George’s last hours.  “On February 24th, during a trench raid he had gone to the captured trench to lay a tape from that to our front line to enable the wounded to find their way back.  This he had just completed, under fire, and was returning when he was struck by a shell and killed instantaneously. … He was buried in a military cemetery a few miles from Ypres.

The list of George Klaassen Scott’s “effects”, returned to his parents on 27th March via Messrs Cox and co, throws light on his character.  He had a French-English Dictionary and a book of “French conversation” reflecting his desire to communicate with the local population and a book of psalms (perhaps carried over from the evangelical Christianity of earlier generations of his family).  The Bedales Roll (the 1916 edition?), which contained information about all previous Bedalians and the addresses of those still living, would allow him to keep in touch with valued fellow school members, possibly on a card from his book of “Golden Thoughts” postcards; he had plenty of stamps.  Presumably the damaged cigarette case, cheque book, whistle and stamp book were on his person when the shell exploded.  Professional possessions included a Sam Browne belt and his ammunition pouch and identity disc and he kept himself tidy with hair brushes, comb and scissors.

For the second time in a month siblings at Bedales heard of the death of a much loved older brother.  The effect was felt throughout the school.  In March The Bedales Chronicle commented:- “The dates of his coming and going connected him … with an unusually large number of Bedalians both long past and now present … Of those he was actually at school with 160 we know to have been serving and 23 have given their lives in this war.”

Dr. and Mrs Scott had now lost all three sons; the youngest Arthur had lived for only a year, Thomas returned to school triumphant from his interviews at Oxford and died on 3rd April 1914 (he is buried in Steep churchyard) and finally George, on the verge of a successful career in engineering, was struck down like so many of his contemporaries before they had begun to fulfil their promise.

Their four daughters survived; Margaret was already married and Constance and Mary (at Bedales when the news of George’s death arrived) went on to marry.  If any descendants of these three OBs read this account of George we would be delighted to hear from them.

Sources:  Bedales Archives: War records at TNA: genealogical sites online: DNB (and the later volume relating to those who died in 1930s) and (with the family’s permission) letters retained by Vyvyan Trubshawe.