Brian Somerset Bickmore was born in 1892, the third of four brothers who came to the Dragon. He was the son of the late C.E. Bickmore, Mathematical Lecturer at New College, Oxford. He came to the Dragon as a day boy in 1900 and left in 1905. He was a keen-minded boy with a merry twinkle in his eye and a very firm mouth, loyal and affectionate. He was always full of life and greatly interested in his work. He got prizes in the School Sports for swimming and jumping, represented the Day boys vs. Borders in the Gymnasium Competition and won his boxing contest in 1904. He won the prize in the Modern Form in 1905. He passed into Osborne in 1905 and went to Dartmouth in 1907.
He became a Midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1909. When the war started he was Sub-Lieutenant in H.M.S. Monarch, 2nd Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet, and served the first year of the war in the North Sea. In 1915, he was appointed to H.M.S. Comet and served three years in the East Mediterranean Fleet. He was expected home on leave when another ship ran into the Comet on the 4th August 1918. His cabin was completely destroyed and nothing was seen of him afterwards.
His Captain wrote: ‘He was such an excellent fellow and a very fine officer. The ship service can ill afford to lose such a man. He would shortly have had a command of his own.’
The Comet was sunk by a torpedo three days after the collision, whilst trying to reach harbour. He was mentioned in dispatches for distinguished services during the war, in the London Gazette of 20th February 1919. His name is engraved on the Naval Memorial in Plymouth.
St. John (Jack) Backhouse was born in 1888 and spent a year in School House at the Dragon School in 1900. He was the third son of the late R. Salmon Backhouse Esq., of Leeds, and of Mrs Salmon Backhouse of London. He was a merry, sturdy youngster, keen on games. He went on to the Seafield Engineering College for a year and then to King’s College School, Wimbledon. In 1905 he was apprenticed to an Inventors’ Engineer in London. In 1909 he went out to Rosario and was on the Falleres-Central Argentine Railway. In 1912 he got a good appointment in Liebig’s Fabricia Colon Entre Rios as draughtsman.
He was the first of the British to sign the book at the British Legation in Buenos Aires to serve in the war. He came home at his own expense and recruited in the first Sportsman Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He served as a private till June 1916, when he obtained his commission in the East Lancashire Regiment. He then joined the Army Cyclist Corps and went to Salonica. In 1917 he joined the R.F.C. at Cairo and got his ‘wings’.
After returning to Salonica he was killed with his observer in a two-seater on the 3rd April 1918. A leaflet dropped by a German aeroplane stated: ‘On the 3rd April at 3pm one of your two-seaters was brought down 3km west of Osman, near Livunovo, after a brave fight in the air. The Pilot, Lt Backhouse, was killed by a bullet through the head, the Observer, Lt Still, was killed by the fall. The burial was carried out with full military honours. Signed 1st June. The German Airmen.’
Captain Walmisley wrote: ‘Lt Backhouse was doing an Army Reconnaissance about 60 miles beyond the lines and beyond the Rupel Pass, and was attacked by three hostile Scouts. One of these dived on the tail of Lt Backhouse’s machine and shot him through the neck. The machine fell from 8-10 000 feet. Your son had endeared himself to all who knew him in the squadron, and in him we lost one of the best and bravest pilots out here.’
Jack is buried in the Sofia War Cemetery.
Frank Benham was born in 1886, son of the late F.R. Benham, of Stafford, and Mrs Benham. He was a boarder in School House and at the Dragon from 1898 to 1900. He was a most amiable and popular boy.
He sang in the school concerts each year and played the Duke in As You Like It in 1900. He distinguished himself in sports, playing in the Football XV in 1898, 1899 and 1900, Hockey XI and Cricket XI in 1900, but especially as a hurdler and also in the Inter-School Sports at Reading in 1900. He also took the 5th Form prize in 1899. He went on to Marlborough and was placed in the Senior Army Class in 1903.
He passed into Woolwich and became a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery (R.F.A.) in 1906, and joined the Southern Nigerian Regiment. In 1914 he was appointed to the 23rd Brigade R.F.A. in the First Expeditionary Force, made Captain, and went through the Mons retreat and the battle of Le Cateau. He was in command of his battery at Mametz Wood on the 5th August 1916 when he was severely wounded by the explosion of a German shell in his dug-out. He died, as a result of these wounds, on the 22nd August 1916 in Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, Millbank, London, aged 30. His mother received the Mons medal which was granted him.
Frank is buried at Castle Church (St Mary) Churchyard in Staffordshire.