Bedales 1900 – 1906, 2nd Lieut 3rd South Lancs (Attached to 2nd Batt)

Raymond, the youngest son of Sir Oliver Lodge and his wife Mary, was the first of four of their twelve children who came to Bedales.  Aged eleven, he arrived at “New” Bedales in Steep in September 1900 and for all of his time in the School the buildings were slowly taking shape around the students.

Oliver Lodge was one of the most experimental and influential British physicists of the later C19 and early twentieth centuries. His educational background was unconventional.  He became an external student of London University in 1872 at the age of 21 and a full time student at University College in January 1874; eighteen months later he was a B.Sc. and in 1877 gained his doctorate.  That year he married Mary Fanny Alexander Marshall and they had six boys and six girls.  As Professor of Physics at the new University College of Liverpool from 1881 and then first Principal of the University of Birmingham from 1900 to his retirement in 1919 he had a major influence in the development of science education.  He was renowned as a brilliant lecturer and experimental demonstrator.

There is only one reference to Raymond in The Record for 1900 – 1901; apparently he had been working hard at his private garden, marking off the sections with stones.  When his elder brother Noel arrived in September 1901 Raymond became “Lodge minor” for the next three years.  Noel particularly was a talented sportsman, being a member of the 1st XI Cricket, Football and Hockey teams for most of his time at Bedales.  Raymond featured occasionally, especially as a football goalkeeper, and in his last years, and as an OB, performed successfully as a tennis player.  Both boys seem to have enjoyed debating and spoke, albeit briefly, in a few debates each year. On at least two occasions Raymond played a small part in a play or a Merry Evening.  Noel was a Prefect in his last year but Raymond didn’t achieve such distinction.  However, on 21 November 1905 he delivered a lecture to the Scientific Society on “Wireless Telegraphy” (one of his father’s major areas of discovery) ending with a demonstration; “a bell was rung at one end of the lab by an operator at the other, with no connecting wires in between.” It was probably this apparatus that won him a Prize in “The Show” for 1906.  

In his memoir of his son Sir Oliver commented “At school ... his active wit rather interfered with the studies of himself and others, and in the supposed interests of his classmates had to be more or less suppressed, but to the end .. (he was) .. one of the wags of the school.”

From Bedales Raymond went on to read Mechanical Engineering at Birmingham University but may have left after four years without taking his degree.  He went to the Wolseley Motor Works for two years apprenticeship and then moved to work for his brothers at Lodge Brothers Works where they were developing their father’s inventions in the manufacture of spark plugs.  

When war was declared on 4th August 1914, whilst his parents were in Australia, Raymond decided to volunteer and on 21st September applied for a commission in the 3rd South Lancashire Regiment.  Accepted on 26th September he was sent to Great Crosby near Liverpool for training and then on more active service on the Firth of Forth and near Edinburgh.  Returned to Great Crosby Sir Oliver states “he gained his desired opportunity to go out to Flanders on 15th March 1915”.  On 16th March Raymond was able to spend six hours at home in Edgbaston to say goodbye en route from Great Crosby to Euston.

Some of Raymond’s “letters from the Front” were included in his father’s book “Raymond or Life and Death” published in 1916.  There are constant references to the “servants” of the young officers (privates in the regiment) who were living in the kitchen whilst five young men shared a nearby room.  “We have excellent meals of limited and simple rations by the exercise of a little native cunning on the part of our servants, especially mine.” (3rd April)  He wrote of the little difference between front line and “Rest Billets”; “here we ‘pig’ it pretty well in a house and there we ‘pig’ it almost as comfortably in a dug-out.  There we are exposed to rifle fire, nearly all un-aimed, and here we are exposed to shell fire – aimed but from about five miles away.”

In mid-April Raymond asked his brother if he could get hold of some morphia tablets for wounded men; “if a man is hit in the morning he will usually have to wait till dark to be removed”.  Later he wrote “it is extraordinary that what is wanted at the moment is not so much a soldier as a civil engineer” to lay-out, dig and drain the trenches.  Raymond was in his element here: his fellow officers elected him “O.C. Works” and he concentrated on improving their trenches. In mid-May the Brigadier-General complimented the Colonel on the work and Raymond and his party were loaned for a week to another division to do the same job!

In June the tone of Raymond’s letters grew more sombre (though he wrote home delighted – “I have got the machine gun job and am going for a fortnight’s course, starting on 26th June.”  Whilst waiting it is obvious that Raymond’s battalion was enduring some unpleasant experiences.  They were losing men and officers to shells and bullets and several officers were invalided home with shell shock.  

After the course Raymond had a brief five days leave, three of which he spent at home in Edgbaston and then returned to Flanders.  Part of the time he was with Lieutenant Roscoe and his machine gun Company and after Raymond’s death Roscoe wrote to Sir Oliver. “Being of a mechanical turn of mind, he was always devising some new ‘gadget’ for use with the gun – for instance, a mounting for firing at aeroplanes, and a device for automatic traversing; and those of my men who knew him still quote him as their authority when laying down the law and arguing about machine gunning. ... I wish we had more like him, and the endless possibilities of the Maxim would be more quickly brought to light.”

On 6th September 1915 the commanding officer of C Company was hurt in an accident and Raymond took temporary charge of the Company; he had to escort the Army Corps Commander on an inspection on 9th September. On 12th September he wrote a brief note home “we are going into the front-line trenches this evening at 5pm for an ordinary tour of duty”.  In fact it was far from ordinary; the area was “a mass of ruins and broken trenches” (Lieut. Roscoe) and very exposed so that on 14th September the Company was given orders to withdraw.  Raymond and a fellow officer were at the tail end of the withdrawal and were both struck by a shell. Ventris was killed out-right, Raymond was wounded in the back and died of his wounds about half an hour later.  He was buried “on the right of the Menin Road, just past where the Zonebeke Rail cuts”, with a wooden cross marking the head of the grave and with a small one at the foot.  After the war his body was moved to Grave II D 5 in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Ypres.

For many years Sir Oliver Lodge and his wife had been interested in the possibility of contacting people beyond the grave.  He was a close friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and shared many of his views. After Raymond’s death the attempt to contact his beloved son dominated Sir Oliver’s thinking and writing.  He attracted many followers and as many critics and in some ways this aspect of his thinking tarnished his reputation as a physicist.

Fifteen other of the boys who appeared with Raymond in the School photograph, summer 1906, also died during or as a consequence of the war.

Sources; Bedales Roll and Chronicle:  Birmingham University: Raymond or Life and Death: D.N.B: Ancestry.co.uk