28th London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles), 21st December 1916
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Frederick Rotheram Cecil was born on 26th November 1892 at Knightsbridge, London, and was the eldest son of his father Rotheram Cecil and mother Henrietta Girling who married at Dronfield, Derbyshire on 29 November 1891. His father, who had gone abroad to seek relief from his illness, died at the Hotel des Anglais, Mentone, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France in 1894 from Tuberculosis when Frederick was 14 months old, this resulted in Frederick taking over his fathers Title of being The Lord of Dronfield in Derbyshire. Fredericks younger brother Rotheram was born after his fathers death.
The family were financially secure and in the 1901 Census the family were residing in the Isle of Wight and they were attended to by 3 domestic helpers.
In the 1911 Census, Frederick was living in Rectory House school, a small residential establishment of only a few pupils at Steeple Morden, near Royston, Cambridgeshire.
In 1912 up to the start of the Great War, Frederick attend Downing College, Cambridge where he was studying Agricultural Science. It was stated in a news report when he took over the Lordship of the estate on his 21st birthday in 1913, that he was of athletic build and had enjoyed football and cricket at college and had shown himself as a keen runner, his hobby was shown as motor cycling.
On the 11 December 1915, Frederick was attested into the army at London. He was to join the 28th Battalion, The London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). On the date of his attestation he was described as follows:-
- Age – 22 years
- Height – 5’11”
- Chest – 37″ with 2″ max expansion.
- Trade – Motor Driver.
He was mobilised on 26 January 1916 and his initial training was carried out at Hare Hall Camp, Romford, where it appears that Frederick missed much of the training through illness. Had he been able to fully apply himself it is probable that he would have been commissioned. Also during this period his younger brother, 2nd Lieutenant, Rotheram Bagshawe Cecil, Sherwood Foresters, went missing and was later reported Killed in Action on the 1st July 1916, the first day of The Battle of the Somme.
On 14 October 1916, Frederick was allocated to a draft to go to France / Flanders. Between 4th to 6th November 1916, prior to his transfer to a Theatre of War he was given sick leave, however, he did not return to camp as he should have but remained in his accommodation as he believed he was still sick. He was escorted back to camp by staff on the 7th November and reprimanded by the Officer Commanding for his conduct. That night Frederick went missing and failed to be traced for Roll Call.
On 13 November 1916, a Court of Enquiry was held at Hare Hill Camp, Romford, investigating and recording the absence without leave, and deficiency (if any) of equipment and clothing of Frederick (the Statements from this enquiry are noted below). It is likely that he committed suicide shortly after this time although he was officially found and pronounced deceased on the 21st December 1916. The details of his suicide are listed below.
His death left his mother Henrietta a widow with no surviving close family members. On 26 January 1917, Probate was granted in favour of his mother to the value of £24,621, a substantial sum in those days. On her death in 1966 the family estate was passed to relatives.
The Derbyshire Courier dated Tuesday 2 January 1917
The following is an extract from the above publication:-
CADET’S TRAGIC DEATH
DRONFIELD SQUIRE FOUND DROWNED
Illness and Worry
A painful sensation was created throughout the Dronfield district last weekend by the news of the tragic death of Mr Frederick Rotheram Cecil, Lord of the Manor of Dronfield, whose body was found in the Serpentine, Hyde Park, on Thursday morning of last week. At an inquest held by the Westminster Coroner on Friday, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Suicide whilst temporarily insane’. He was 24 years old and was a cadet in the Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training Corps.
Mr. Frederick Charles Boyas, of King’s Bench Walk, Temple, solicitor to the family, stated that Private Cecil was studying for army surveying before he enlisted last January. He was very well off. Witness last saw him on 31 October, when they lunched together at the Holborn Restaurant. Mr. Cecil was then expecting to be drafted to France and said he would very much have preferred being transferred to the Engineers where he could have driven a motor. He said he did not mind fighting or being shot but he did not like the monotonous life of the trenches, which he thought would ruin his health. At that time he was just getting over an attack of influenza.
Absent From Camp
He was Absent from camp on 7 November, when he was under orders for France. He had previously absented himself without leave. Subsequently he disappeared, and nothing had been heard from him since, except that he called at his rooms off Regent Street and at a house in Maida Vale. When witness last saw him he was more cheerful than he had seen him for a long time, but he had a wandering look, as he usually had. He had never mentioned suicide, and except for the reluctance to go into the trenches there was nothing that would create that feeling. Witness tried to cheer him up and encourage him, and told him that trench life would be the best thing for him. He was a sober man and had a young lady, but there was no quarrel of any kind. There was no trace of insanity in the family. His father died at the same age from consumption.
Rarely Fit For Duty
Captain Newton, of the Artists’ Rifles, said that since he enlisted Mr. Cecil had been subject to illnesses. In fact he was rarely fit for duty, and because of that and the want of training witness could not recommend him for a commission. On 14 October he was transferred to a draft for France, where he would have had a similar opportunity of gaining a commission as he would have in England, and he was rejected on 29 October by the doctor owing to influenza. He had sick leave from 4 to 6 November, and as he did not return an escort was sent for him at his residence and brought him back, when he seemed to think that because he was still ill, he could remain away.
On 7 November witness reprimanded him, as he did not seem to realise his responsibilities as a soldier, and pointed out to him that he had a brother missing, probably killed, and a mother to think of. He seemed to take it all in, simply saying “Yes, sir.” and “No, sir.” He was absent that night at roll call, and had not since been seen. Other evidence showed that the body had been in the water about a month and that death was due to drowning. Some letters and 8s. 6d. in money were found on him.
Lord of the Manor
It was in November, 1913, that Mr. Cecil celebrated his coming-of-age and came into the possession of estates in a large area in and around Dronfield, and the still larger area in the Abbeydale, Sharow and Highfields district of Sheffield. He shared with his younger brother widespread popularity amongst al classes in Dronfield and district, and his coming-of-age was marked by the pealing of the bells of Dronfield Parish Church, by the hoisting of flags on the Church tower and on the Manor House, and later by festivities and presentations which revealed the goodwill of the tenantry and the townspeople. Born at Knightsbridge he was educated at Tonbridge School and at Cambridge University, and cultivated habits of sportsmanship and good fellowship which won for him the esteem of the many people in the Dronfield district who knew him and enjoyed his company.
Statements from the Board of Enquiry
The following statements are from the Board of Enquiry on the 13th November 1916 at Hare Hall Camp, Romford presided over by Lieutenant-Colonel W. Shirley with members Lieutenant E.F. Willis and 2nd Lieutenant F.R. Beausire :-
Captain C.E. Newton, having been sworn, states as follows:- On the 7th of November, 1916, 6923, Private F.R. Cecil was personally ordered by me to report himself either to Company Quartermaster Sergeant Cursons or to Sergeant Schmalz at 8.30 p.m. on that evening. I am informed and believe by both C.Q.M. Sergeant Cursons and Sergeant Scmalz that he did not so report. I have since made enquiries about his whereabouts and have failed to obtain any trace of him.
2124, Company Quartermaster Sergeant F.J. Cursons having been sworn states as follows:- 6923 Private F.R. Cecil did not report to me at 8.30 p.m. on the night of Tuesday, the 7th day of November 1916, and has not since reported to me.
3856, Sergeant E.V. Schmalz, having been sworn, states as follows:- I was Orderly Sergeant on Tuesday the 7th Day of November 1916 and 6923, Private Cecil did not report himself to me at 8.30 p.m. as ordered. He was also absent from the Roll Call at 9.45 p.m. on that date and was reported absent at the Last Post to the Orderly Officer of the day and had not reported to me on the finish of my tour of duties on Saturday the 11th day of November 1916.
2124 Company Quartermaster Sergeant F.J. Cursons of “D” Company produced a detail statement of clothing issued to 6923, Private F.R. Cecil, after allowing for the articles found amongst his belongings in camp allowed a deficiency of the following articles:-
- 1 Pair of Boots
- 1 Cap
- 2 Pairs of Drawers
- 2 Tunics
- 2 Pairs Trousers
- 1 Cardigan
- 1 Pair of puttees
- 1 Cap badge
- 1 Pair of Titles
of which the Court assessed the part worn value at One pound Eleven shillings and three pence.
The Court Declare that No.6923, Private F.R. Cecil absented himself without leave from Hare Hall Camp on the 7th Day of November 1916, that he is still absent, and that on the 30th day of November 1916, he was deficient of the articles enumerated above. Dated this 30th Day of November 1916.
Frederick Rotheram Cecil was born at Kensington, London, in the third quarter of 1892.
His family is shown as follows :-
- Father – Rotheram Cecil, (1869–1894)b.Hendon, d.Mentone, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France.
- Mother – Henrietta Jervis Girling or Cecil, born 1869 at Kensington, London, d.1966.
- Brother – Rotheram Bagshawe Cecil, born c.1895 at Southwold, Suffolk.
From information found in the 1901 and 1911 Census and Pension card, the following addresses have been ascertained.
- 1901 Census – ‘Beechwood’, Ashey, Isle of Wight.
- 1911 Census – ‘The Rectory House’, Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire.
- 1916 – Manor House, Dronfield, Derbyshire.
Frederick Rotheram Cecil did not serve in a Theatre of War, as such he was not awarded any service medals.
Frederick Rotheram Cecil is remembered along with his brother Rotheram Cecil on a Memorial Window at St. John the Baptist Church, Dronfield, Derbyshire.
Frederick is also remembered on the Downing College, Cambridge Roll of Honour.
Links to Additional Information
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – F R Cecil
- Lives of the First World War – Frederick Rotheram Cecil
- A Street Near You website – F R Cecil
- Find a Grave – Frederick Rotheram Cecil
- Imperial War Museum Memorials website – Cecil Memorial Window, St John the Baptist Church, Dronfield, Derbyshire.
- Imperial War Museum Memorials website – Downing College, Cambridge, Roll of Honour.
- WW1 Lives – Rotheram Bagshawe Cecil – Brother
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- The Derbyshire Courier dated 2 January 1917.
- 1901 Census.
- 1911 Census.
- British Army Service Record (Burnt)
- Ancestry: English and Welsh Probate Callander.
- Vincent Stuart