Remembering Trinity Hall’s fallen

The College’s Book of Remembrance in the Chapel contains the names of Trinity Hall members who have died serving their country, including 134 names of members who died during the First World War. Here are some of their stories.

RAF, Evelyn Travers Clarke (far right)

Above far right: Evelyn Travers Clarke

“Remembrance Day provides us with a poignant reminder that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants whose service and sacrifice exemplify that we should each live a life worth living.”

Group Captain Paul Sanger-Davies MVO MA BA RAF
Trinity Hall postgraduate (MPhil in Politics & International Studies, 2020)

William Rhodes Moorhouse: The first airman to receive the Victoria Cross

William Rhodes Moorhouse gained his pilot’s certificate in 1911 and began designing monoplanes. He competed in aviation competitions and was the first to cross the English Channel from Douai to Ashood with two passengers in a biplane. In 1914, William volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps for training. He was attached to No. 2 Squadron in March 1915, then based at Merville in France.

On 26 April 1915 he was instructed to attack the German-held rail junction at Courtrai, following the first gas attack on the Western Front. He successfully released his bombs but was hit by machine gun and rifle fire while flying low. Although his aircraft was damaged – and his thigh torn open – he elected to try and regain the Allied lines rather than crash-landing behind German lines. He received hits to his abdomen and hand, but nevertheless finally managed to land successfully, making his report before being taken to a military hospital for treatment. He died the following day, aged 27, and received the Victoria Cross on 22 May 1915.

William Rhodes Moorhouse landing a plane on Parker's Piece, 12 October 1911
William Rhodes Moorhouse landing a plane on Parker’s Piece, 12 October 1911

 

Evelyn Travers Clarke: A Legacy

Evelyn Travers Clarke, a languages scholar at Trinity Hall and a jazz fan, was tragically killed in the Second World War. He was navigator on a Lancaster Bomber which went missing and was believed to have been shot down and crashed into the sea of the south west coast of Holland in February 1944. That night, Bomber command lost 79 planes and more than 550 men. A memorial panel was placed on one of the dykes in the area on the 60th anniversary of the crew’s death. Evelyn went straight into the RAF after graduating and was killed in action two and a half years later, aged 23, and therefore was not fully able to benefit from his university degree. In 2000, John Travers Clarke, also an alumnus, established a fund in his brother’s name to ensure that other Trinity Hall students have a chance to benefit in a way denied to his brother.

What does Remembrance Day mean to me?

The RAF very quickly becomes your extended family. You have a common bond formed during training and through traditions built over generations. We are but 102 years old, but we share much from hundreds of years of the Army and Navy in the UK and with the armed forces all around the world.

Around Remembrance Day I first remember lost friends. Friends taken too early in wars or training, in the air and on the ground. My Facebook fills up with images of them, shared photos of past fun, fancy dress parties and too many beers. Their lost futures are imagined and good wishes are offered for them wherever they are now.

Beyond my friends I then think of the vast extended family of armed forces lost over the years around the world, each of them fulfilling small roles as cogs in big wars. I can’t comprehend the numbers of dead even after visiting huge grave sites like Thiepval in France. I try to imagine the individuals, the fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers. Wearing a uniform and doing what needs to be done while thinking of their friends and family, thinking of the next hill to haul a heavy bag over, of the next wet forest to sleep in. I imagine them laughing and joking with their comrades in the quiet, boring times in war. I imagine them sharing the suffering but with a shared belief, wide-eyed with adventure and with the horror.

May peace be with them all, fly well my friends. Per Ardua Ad Astra

Squadron Leader Rob Print MEng CEng CMgr
Trinity Hall Postgraduate (MPhil Engineering for Sustainable Development)

Entry in Charles Crawley’s Trinity Hall: The history of a Cambridge College

“In August 1914 war came to men in residence and to freshmen expected in October, at first as a temporary interruption – for some indeed an exhilarating one – but turned before long into a prospect of fading or blighted hopes of Cambridge life.  After more than four years, The College had long been almost empty of students. After the war, not very many of those who survived came back to finish courses begun and interrupted by it; most men in 1919/20 were freshmen, whether veterans or recent school-leavers, for hardly any men had come up during the war.  On all who came back, or first arrived, from active service abroad, that experience had left an unmistakable mark (as those of us who first came then to Cambridge without it could not help noticing). There is no accurate record of the number of Hall men who were in uniform during the war, but the list of 134 men who died in service suggests a contrast with the pattern twenty-five years later. More than a quarter of the former were over 35 years old in 1914 (four of them over 45, and one over 65; none of them had been freshmen after 1914. In contrast, among the 104 men who died on service in 1939-45 none were over 45 in 1939, all but seven were under 35 then, and nearly forty had come up from school during the war for two years or one year or at least six months. The difference was due to conscription from the start, with government direction of training and call-up in the second war, compared with indiscriminate recruiting in the first; also to the large number of candidates for commissions who were sent here for short courses of six months as members of the University during the middle years of the second war. Consequently in 1945-6 the proportion of completely new faces was smaller than in 1919-20.  For these reasons, after the first war much more than the second, the College had to make an entirely fresh start, and to do so with a new Master, new Senior Tutor and new Bursar, a smaller number of fellows and much more slender reserves of money.”