Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Introduction to the Corpus Christi College Roll of Honour 1914-1918

During the course of the First World War, 351 Corpus men saw active service. Of these, 90 were killed - the entire intake for about 4½ years at pre-1914 rates of entry. At 25 per cent of those serving, Corpus’ losses were the highest for all Oxford colleges. Much depended on the college’s social composition: those, like Corpus, with the highest public school entries fared worse than others with a smaller proportion from public schools. Whatever the make-up of the particular college, recruits from Oxford colleges were overwhelmingly public school men who were quickly commissioned as junior officers and whose lives as leaders in the front line were generally short.

Of the 90 student casualties, 15 had earned an order (two Victoria Crosses, nine Military Crosses and four Mentions in Dispatches) during their World War I service. Aside from the Corpus Christi College students who died, there were also two 'servants' who were killed in the war.

Corpus fatalities from the First World War were spread across many generations. Most of those who were killed matriculated at Corpus during the first years of the twentieth century, but there were a significant minority of older soldiers who fought and died with their younger counterparts. The oldest Corpuscle Great War fatality was W.J. Newton, who matriculated in 1879 and died aged 54, of illness contracted while on active service. The next eldest, at 47, was R.J. Cholmeley, who matriculated in 1890; and of the 18 students who matriculated in 1891, three were to die during World War I. With the exception of the 1898 matriculation year, the Corpus student body was then destined to see fatalities across every matriculation year from 1895 to 1918.

Unsurprisingly, those who matriculated in the years during and immediately preceding the First World War were least likely to return from the battlefields. Almost half of those students who matriculated in 1912 or 1913 were killed. Of the sixteen matriculating or elected members of 1914, ten did not survive the War; three of the fourteen who matriculated or were elected in 1915 also died. The 1916 year group suffered the highest losses, as only one student survived the war from that year; four others who had been offered a place at Corpus subsequently died on active service. Two of the four matriculating students from 1917 did not survive. 

Sadly, although it saw the end of the war, the small matriculation year of 1918 (six students) did not escape unscathed: C.B.D. Wake, a 1918 scholar-elect, was killed in action about six weeks before the Armistice, aged just 19.

The full
1914-1918 Roll of Honour includes details of their regiments, and information from obituaries where available; it is also available to download as a PDF.


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