Walter, known as George, was the second son of C. R. L. Fletcher and Mrs. Fletcher of Norham End. He was born in 1888, came to the Dragon 1896 as a day boy and left in 1900. He was a useful forward in our XV, and won prizes for High Jump in the School Sports. He was joint Head of the School with Robin Laffan (the two were great friends at the Dragon School, at Eton, and at Balliol). He won many prizes for classics and recitation, also the prize for an Illustrated Diary of the Summer Holidays, and a prize for painting in 1898. Perhaps he will be best remembered as an actor, playing Trinculo in The Tempest in 1899 and Touchstone in As You Like It in 1900. He also acted most convincingly as Lancelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice in January 1901.
He and Laffan were our first Eton scholars. George was seventeenth on the roll in 1900 and was called up in January 1901. At Eton he was Captain of the School in his last half, won the Latin Verse Prize, rowed in the School VIII in 1906, was 12th man in the College Wall XI, was a member of ‘Pop’, and was President of the College Debating Society. George went to Balliol in January 1907, rowed in the College VIII, and was a member of the Leander Club, also of the Canning Club in 1907. He became a Master at Shrewsbury in 1911 and a Master at Eton in 1913. His elder brother, a lieutenant in the Navy, had sailed in the Colossus on the 27th July 1914; his younger brother Regie was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant R.F.A. on the day of the declaration of war. George joined the Intelligence Corps on the 5th August, went through the retreat from Mons, was in the first battle of the Marne, and at the invitation of its Colonel exchanged into the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers during the battle of the Aisne. With this regiment he fought till his death on the 2oth March 1913 near Bois-Grenier, France, having twice been Mentioned in Dispatches.
Four days before his death he crawled out at night to the German lines, climbed a tree, and cut down from it a French flag which had been captured by the enemy. This flag was sent to his parents after his death. It was hung for a few days in the Dragon School Hall, and is now in the Eton College Ante-chapel.
An extract from a letter by his friend Robin Laffan to the Draconian:
‘The war has taken its cruel toll from a family universally beloved by all who know them. In August last the three sons of Mr. C. R. L. Fletcher flew to arms as a matter of course. Today Leslie, on board H.M.S. Colossus, is the only one still with us. In November came the tale of Regie’s splendid death; and now the blow is renewed with the tidings of George’s similar end. In the Litany we pray to be delivered from sudden death. But sudden death is an evil with those alone who are not prepared for the summons and we who know George Fletcher will be thankful that, if he had to die, death came quickly. He was wounded in the head in his trench and never recovered consciousness. His letters from the trenches abound in the fun which kept himself and his men cheery in the midst of their hardships. Knowing his enemies, he had an intense admiration and even affection for them. Like a true patriot, he delighted in the different culture of foreign nations. He had quite exceptional gifts as a linguist, and two months at Tilly’s and six months as a schoolmaster in Schleswig gave George a considerable knowledge of Germany and the Germans. He used to relieve the tedium of the trenches with friendly sarcasm shouted at the opposite lines.’
An officer wrote:
‘He was the bravest man I ever saw. We had heard of his latest exploit, when he crawled at night between the flarelights to climb a tree in the German lines where they had hung a captured French flag. Now it waves in our trench. He ought to have been given the Victoria Cross and a Court-martial; but it was worth doing: nothing delighted and inspirited the Tommies more.’
George is buried in the Bois-Grenier Communal Cemetery in France.