Remembrance Service -10th November 2017
On Friday 10th November at RGS we remembered and honoured those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure and protect our freedom. A two-minute silence was held and wreaths were laid at memorials.
Our special thanks go to John Rowlands (’73) for reading the Act of Remembrance in the Service. The Last Post was played and after the reflective silence, a poignant rendition of Abide with me was sung by Polyphony. The Corps of Drums played whilst students were dismissed. An invited group from the Reigatian Community attended a special service and lay a wreath in the Memorial garden.
“These heroes were sons, brothers, fathers and husbands and should never be forgotten.” Wrote John Rowlands in Reigate Grammar School WWI Memorial publication
To highlight the importance of remembering the individuals who gave their lives, this year we want to tell you about Ronald Dempster. Ronald was the first Reigatian to be killed after answering the call to join up following the declaration of war.
Died: 30 July 1915 (aged 19)
Regiment: 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade
Ronald was the son of Dr John Henry Dempster and Grace Shaw Watson Dempster. His father, Dr John Dempster, was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and lived and practiced at 81 Station Road, Redhill. He was also the Medical Officer for the Philanthropic Farm School at Redhill.
Ronald’s Statement of Service record shows that he attested (joined up) on 1 September 1914, and was posted just 3 days later. He clearly volunteered at the earliest opportunity, as the UK declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, just under a month before.
He was rapidly promoted to Corporal three weeks later, and again to Sergeant three months after that. This rapid promotion may, in part, be thanks to his membership of the school Officer’s Training Corps (OTC). Ronald is pictured in his OTC uniform above, aged around 13.
His unit, the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, landed at Boulogne in May 1915 after their deployment had been delayed due to lack of arms and ammunition. As part of the 14th (Light) Division, this Battalion was stationed at Hooge in Belgium around the time Ronald was killed. This area was the scene of intense fighting throughout most of the war, as it was one of the eastern-most parts of the Ypres Salient (an area of trench that projects out from the rest of the line into enemy territory), and thus open to attack from three sides by the Germans.
On 30 July 1915, the Germans managed to take control of Hooge, and it was in this action Ronald Dempster lost his life. This date is significant as the first time the German Army utilised the flamethrower in open battle, and Ronald’s division had the unfortunate honour of being the first to experience this. The Germans used it to flush the British out of their trenches and into the open, where they were cut down by withering rifle and machine gun fire.
Ronald was declared missing on 31 July following this action, but after further enquiries his commanding officer declared him as killed in action on 30 July 1915.
Ronald Dempster has no known grave, but is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.
Photographs from the day can be seen in the PHOTO GALLERY here.
You can also read the whole WWI Memorial at RGS publication ‘They Were More Than Just Names’ here