Dunhurst 1905-1906: Bedales 1906-1914, Second Lieutenant 149th Brigade Royal Field Artillery

Percy was the third child (eldest surviving son) of Percy James Winser and his wife Amy née Knight.  Although Percy senior had been born in Hadlow, Kent where his father Edwin was a “Draper, Grocer and Ironmonger”, by 1871  his grandfather had moved the family north to Salford and described himself as “Mineral Merchant and Landowner”.  By 1881 Edwin was a “Merchant and Manufacturer” and Percy an Industrial Chemist.  In 1891 in Lower Beddington, Cheshire, Percy, recently married, was Manager of a Soap Works.  His eldest child Edwin lived barely a year, but daughter Dorothy, born in 1893, thrived, to be joined by brother Percy in 1895.  Eight years later, on 28th February, Amy gave birth to her fourth child James but died the following day (1st March 1903).  Percy senior remarried in 1905 but his second wife Winifred, 27 years his junior, had no children.

The first member of the Winser family to come to Bedales was Percy’s father’s cousin, Eric Franklin, born in 1884.  At the age of 13 in September 1897 Eric arrived at “old” Bedales.  He moved with the school to Steep in 1900 and, after flourishing academically and on the sports field, left school in July 1903, progressing to Emmanuel College, Cambridge to read Mechanical Sciences (he had a distinguished war service in the Sherwood Foresters being mentioned in despatches and winning the Military Cross.).

Percy’s sister Dorothy was only 11 when she arrived at Bedales in September 1904, just over a year after her mother’s death.  Her father remarried in the summer of 1905 and in the September, about a month short of his tenth birthday, Percy arrived at newly established Dunhurst.  A year later he joined Dorothy in the senior school; both of them were in Steep on census day 1911. [Both young Winsers had distinguished careers at school and when my broken arm is recovered I will elaborate.]

Percy left Bedales in the summer of 1914 and matriculated at Caius College, Cambridge in the Autumn.  In January 1915 he joined the Cambridge OTC as a private and on 4th May 1915 applied for “a temporary commission in the Regular Army for the duration of the war”, expressing a preference for the Horse Transport division of the Army Service Corps.  However, he was posted as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery and presumably was training and serving in England for the next eight months.  On 20th January 1916 Percy was posted to the 150th Brigade of the RFA “in the Field” but within two months he was back at Larkhill for a gunnery training course.  20th May saw him back across the Channel with C Battery of the 151st Brigade.  I haven’t been able to follow his career so far but, following reorganisation within the RFA, he was posted to B Battery of the 149th Brigade.

At the end of January 1917 Percy had eight days’ home leave, probably his first reunion with his siblings since the death of their father in October 1916, and returned to his battery soon after 3rd February.  In late April 1917, Percy’s step-mother Winifred at Heath House, Knutsford, received the telegram informing her that Percy had been killed on 23rd of the month.  Mr. Badley reported that Percy was killed “by a shell bursting on the side of a trench where he had been at an observation post all morning. He was buried in a military cemetery close to the village, ´which´, his Colonel wrote, ´he helped to capture two days before.  He was doing so well that if he had been spared he would have been the next to be promoted Captain in this Division´.”  The Cemetery is Henin Communal Cemetery Extension, south-east of Arras; Percy lies in grave II E 21.

The probate of Percy James’s will on 23rd March 1917 (effects £72,609 6s 1d) is followed immediately in the Register by the entry on 30th July of probate for Percy Ralph’s humble estate worth £454 13s 7d.  I don’t know the story behind Dorothy’s first marriage, in June 1916, to Francis Winstanley Haskins just 14 days before his death.  In February 1919 she married a fellow Bedalian Josiah Wedgwood and they had 3 children, 2 of whom followed them to Bedales.  James Knight Winser was at Bedales from 1915 – 1920 and as his second wife married OB Marjorie Colam; it was also her second marriage.

Sources (limited by my accident): Bedales Archives; TNA; genealogical sites