Malcolm Russell Carter 07/04/1893 - 23/03/1918
Bedales 1905.2 - 1910.2

Malcolm was born in Croydon, the second son of Henry James Carter and his wife Sarah née Addison.  The earlier background of the families has eluded me.  Malcolm’s paternal grandfather Robert George Carter, seems to have been a builder with quite a large family; two of his sons, Henry and his elder brother William became school teachers.  Their mother’s younger brother Thomas Cockram was himself a school teacher and in 1871 William, at the age of 16, was already an Assistant Schoolmaster.  In that census Henry was still at school but ten years later both brothers were Assistant Masters at Dulwich College.

The brothers went on to become Headmasters.  I haven’t found William in 1891, but he was Headmaster of Watford Endowed School on census day 1901 and ten years later still there, though then it was described as Watford Grammar School.  Another mystery is the exact date of Henry’s marriage to Sarah; as in 1911 they had been married 21 years I presume it had taken place in 1890.  Certainly they were married before census day 1891 as they were in Croydon where Henry was a Schoolmaster.  This seems to have remained their home for the rest of their lives, Henry becoming headmaster of the Endowed School before 1901 (described as “Secondary School” in 1911) and all five of their children were born there.

Eldest son, John, must have attended a local school; he was the only child at home on census day 1911.  After Easter, about the time of his twelfth birthday, Malcolm arrived at Bedales; at the same time his younger brother Leslie went to Dunhurst.  Malcolm has left little impression in the school Records.  At the Show in the Summer Term of 1906 he, in collaboration with Vyv Trubshawe, was commended for Notes and Drawings on their collection of Wild Flowers.  In the following year, he did a little better, sharing the first Prize for Entomology with his study of “The Life History of the Puss Moth” with one of the Rathbone boys.  The next time his name appeared in comments on The Show was rather dubious praise in his final term in 1910.  “Nicol, Carter and Bendit showed aquariums with newts and dragonflies, but these have not been quite carefully kept throughout the term; their notes were fairly good but showed no complete life-histories kept.”

The Carter family had endured a dreadful experience in the School year 1908 – 1909.  Whilst still at Dunhurst an accident befell Leslie.  “One day he and some others were shooting with a bow and arrow at a mark.  The house boy coming out asked to join, and by some unhappy mischance, shooting before the time, struck Leslie in the eye.”  It was necessary for Leslie to endure an operation and he lost the eye; he was held in great respect for his bravery and bearing the loss.  When he progressed to the Senior School in September 1909 he “won many friends, for none could know him without loving so fine a nature”.  Tragedy struck again just over a year later, just after his younger brother Harry Graham (known at school as Graham) had arrived at Dunhurst.  Leslie suffered appendicitis and “the operation showed that the trouble was of a particular nature, and that his case was hopeless”.  (These comments come from Mr. Badley’s tribute in The Bedales Record.)

Malcolm had left school at the age of just seventeen for a career in farming.  On census day 1911 he was at Albert Wadman’s Gibraltar Farm near Lewes as “farming pupil”.   In 1912, his preliminary training completed, he moved to Magor in Monmouthshire. I was rather surprised not to see his name mentioned in any account of work on the farm or with the poultry but, in its obituary in May 1918, The Bedales Chronicle (edited by his brother Graham) stated, “A boy of even temper and retiring disposition he spent much of his time on the farm; and became a keen enthusiast for farming; soldiering must have been for him a calling even more uncongenial than for most.”

Perhaps inspired by the same sense of duty and desire to defend his country as many of his contemporaries, on 6th October 1914, he applied for 4 years in the Territorial Force.  His medical report from Lincoln’s Inn on 29th September had described him as 6 feet & ½ inch tall, with vision and physical development good and consequently fit for service. This was confirmed by a formal Military Medical Examination and Malcolm was accepted as a Lance Corporal in the OTC for Home Service.  His membership of the Inns of Court OTC was reported in The Chronicle that month. 

On 19th January 1915 Malcolm submitted his application for a “Temporary Commission in the Regular Army for the Period of the War” and was accepted on 9th February as a Second Lieutenant in the 11th East Surrey Regiment.  The Bedales Chronicle reported this in its “Corrections and Changes” to the list of OBs serving in its publication on 7th March.  That same month Malcolm visited Bedales, probably to see his brother and sister.

I haven’t been able to track much of Malcolm’s career.  He is described as Temporary Lieutenant 1st & 2nd (Regular) battalions East Surreys on 18th May 1916.   Certainly on 3rd September he was at Guillemont with the 1st Service battalion.  Taking part in an attack he was struck in the left buttock by shrapnel, part of it being removed in France before he was sent back to hospital in England.  A Medical Board on 14th September in London reported that the wound wasn’t permanent but he was not fit for General Service so he was granted six weeks’ leave and he returned home to Croyden.  A local doctor saw him on 2nd November and reported the wound was healed but he was not quite up to normal strength.  Six days later he was examined by an official Medical Board in Croydon and they came to a different conclusion -”the wound is not satisfactorily sound – the skin is breaking down in places”, and declared him not fit for duty for 3 months.  In mid-December Malcolm was declared “fit for light duty at home” and on 12th December he joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.  Medical Boards in Dover inspected Malcolm twice but it wasn’t until 11th February 1917 that they decided “he has recovered” and he went to the 8th Battalion.  It took another month before, on 14th March, he rejoined his Battalion “in the Field”.  By August 1917 Malcolm had fallen victim to a common illness for troops in the trenches and was in hospital in France with gastro-enteritis.  After two weeks he was discharged and returned to duty but on 1st September the R.A.M.C reported that due “to active service conditions” the illness had recurred and they recommended three weeks’ sick leave.  He was sent to UK on 5th September and returned to France on the 25th but immediately he was back in hospital and it wasn’t until 4th October he was back with the regiment.  This is a clear illustration of the difficulties of maintaining a fit army in the trenches at Passchendaele on the Western Front.

Malcolm was placed in command of a Company and given the rank of Acting Captain on 27th October.  He was one of those fortunate enough to be granted Christmas leave and spent 19th December to 2nd January in the UK.  He surrendered the command of the Company and his temporary rank on 15th February.  In The Chronicle Obituary, possibly written by his brother, the final comment is, “he developed a marked power of leadership, based on his affectionate nature and that faithful care that the farmer learns,”

During the retreat in front of the German “Operation Michael” Malcolm was lost.  Unlike some of the other casualties I haven’t found letters from fellow officers, COs or soldiers.  Initially he was reported killed on 24th but on 8th April that was changed by the CO to “reported wounded and missing 23rd March.  The entry in his file, WO339/34342, is merely a pencil note, “some officers have reported him missing”.

On the 18th May Henry Carter asked for his son’s effects to be returned to him at “Steep, Beech Avenue, Sanderstead”.  (Does that indicate the strength of the family’s attachment to Bedales?)  When Mr Badley wrote his “in memoriam” tribute for The Record in September he concluded “nothing further has been heard to encourage the hope that he may still be living”.

Malcolm is the third OB to be commemorated on the Poizieres memorial as having fallen in this week; his name is on Panel 44 and 45 and, of cours, in Bedales Memorial Library, Bay 2.

Sources: Bedales Archives: TNA @ Kew: genealogical websites.