Brian Calkin, an ex-St Paul’s chorister and Repton schoolboy, left school to work with his father in the City (Messrs Henry Head &Company Ltd) at the outbreak of war. He joined the Inns of Court OTC in June 1915 from where he was discharged to a commission in the 3rd Queen’s Royal West Surrey’s on 20th August 1915. His attestation papers show that he was 6ft 3/4inch tall with a 37 1/2 inch chest. His application form for a commission was signed by his mother as he was under the age of 21. He served in France from age 18. His medical reports show that he was gassed twice, once in June 1917 and then at Ypres in September 1917.
The Kitchener Military Hospital reported ‘He has completely recovered from the effects of shell gas poisoning of the mustard variety’.
After each of these episodes, he returned to France. Whilst on embarkation leave in early 1918, he fell ill with German Measles and was hospitalised in the London Fever Hospital. He was declared fit for service on 19th March 1918. He returned to France for a third time and was killed in action at Loos on 10th July 1918.
He is remembered in St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampstead, where he was brought up, Repton School and Windlesham where his parents had a country house. The Rev A.J. Hutton provided an entry in the Windlesham Roll of Honour for all men on the Windlesham War Memorial and that for Brian Calkin is reproduced below.
‘Lieutnt Brian P.B. Calkin was in his 21st year* when he joined up.
His parents then had a small country house at Windlesham, Brian Calkin had had five years of his earliest education at St Paul’s Cathedral choir School and had taken part in King George’s & Queen Mary’s Coronation Service in Westminster Abbey. Passing on to Repton, his public school days were cut short by the war & he entered his father’s office at 16 years of age & insisted then on doing special constable’s work at night . In the Spring of the following year & six month’s under military age, he joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. and obtained a Commission in August in the 3rd Queen’s RW Surreys. At Sittingbourne, being very keen on physical development, he specialised in & became master of physical training & bayonet fighting to his battalion. His love of music & his interest in his men was such that he gave all his spare time to giving concerts for them. His Orders first took him to France in August 1916, where with the exception of trench fever all went well with him until the following July 1917 when he was gassed. Having recovered from this, he had only rejoined his Regiment a few weeks when he was badly gassed again and invalided to Hospital at Brighton, where he remained some months unfit for service abroad. At Sittingbourne after leaving hospital, he took up his old work of physical training until on April 20th 1918 he left for France for the last time. Here was attached to the 8th Queen’s and was 2nd in command of his company; he was, in fact, temporarily commanding it when on the morning of July 10th 1918 he was struck down & killed by a trench mortar bomb. Later his body was recovered & laid to rest in the military cemetery outside Bethune. His Colonel writes of him: ‘He was more than usually competent for his years, and was completely confident that things would run all right when he was in charge’. The Sittingbourne Gazette writing of him after his death says ‘He was of a bright, cheery nature, a splendid type of young manhood, and the news of his death has quite a gloom over the battalion for he was a favourite with officers & men alike.’’
*Rev Hutton appears to have incorrectly described Brian as 21 when he joined up. He was probably just over 17.
Hutton A.J., date unknown, Windlesham Roll of Honour SHC Ref: Z_682_1 12A; Z_682_1 12B
National Archive WO339/39183
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1924
Brian Calkin, Chorister: courtesy of Paul Calkin and family
Brian Calkin, office: courtesy of Paul Stevens, Repton School Archives
Repton School Memorial: courtesy of Paul Stevens, Repton School Archives
St Paul’s Choristers Memorial: with permission of Hannah Woolley, St Paul’s Cathedral