At 2 o’clock on the afternoon of Wednesday 19 June, in the vast Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery of Tyne Cot near Ypres, we stood at the graveside of Captain William Miles Kington DSO, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and former Kennyite (Fearon's boarding house). The air was heavy, but the threat of thunderstorms had receded and the sun made a brave appearance. A crowd of perhaps a hundred visitors had been drawn over by the signs that there was something special going on: a colour party representing the local branches of veterans’ associations, a guard of honour from the Royal Regiment of Wales, a padre in cassock, surplice and hood. And this certainly was a special event: the Ceremony of Rededication of Captain Kington’s headstone. We had the great honour of representing his old school.
Kington was killed on 20 October 1914, struck by an artillery shell from a German field gun, but his body was only recovered in 1921. Seven years after his death, there were no indications of personal identity, only buttons and pips showing regiment and rank. When the body was moved into the new cemetery at Tyne Cot, the headstone recorded that the burial was of a Captain of the Great War, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Known Unto God. However, there was one further piece of identification on the body which provided the final clue. The burial record showed that with the body recovered in 1921 were medal ribbons indicating that this unknown captain had fought in the South African War of 1899-1902 and had won the DSO, the second highest award for bravery in the British army. Given the huge volume of work being undertaken by battlefield clearance teams and the war graves commission, it is perhaps not surprising that this important detail was missed. And it is easy to forget that, in the pencil and paper era, searching, checking and cross-referencing data was a very difficult process. With the huge amount of information now available online, including the war burial records (available in digital form from 2014) anyone can turn their hand to helping to identify the unknown fallen of the Great War. Remarkably, three amateur enthusiasts almost simultaneously hunted down the true identity of that Captain of the Royal Welsh buried in Tyne Cot. Submitting their findings to the MoD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, the identification was formally acknowledged earlier this year and the CWGC commissioned the new headstone which was being rededicated.
Amongst those present were Captain Kington’s four adult great-grandchildren: Anna, Jerome, Tom and Sophie. They had known almost nothing of William Kington and were clearly moved by the whole experience of discovering his history. Thanks to information supplied by the MoD, they were able before the service to visit almost the exact spot, in the middle of a field of maize near Zonnebeke, where their great-grandfather had been killed. This was a deeply poignant moment and it was an enormous honour to be present and to be representing WinColl both then and at the Ceremony, where we were able to lay a wreath on behalf of the school and to pay respects to a rediscovered member of the Wykehamical community.
29th May 2020
The role of our Porters - providing a warm welcome - as well as security for the school is as important today as it was 600 years ago. Suzanne Foster, our College Archivist, explains how the job has evolved over the centuries.
18th May 2020
The traditional programme of inter-school sporting fixtures has been a feature of life at Winchester for more than 150 years. With no opportunity during lockdown to face familiar opponents, Mark Burley, Director of Sport provides an insight into the history of sport in public schools, as well as the role that Winchester has played in making it such a prominent part of school life.
8th May 2020
On the anniversary of VE day, we look back at how Winchester marked this day in history.
27th April 2020
In view of the current COVID-19 outbreak, Tim Giddings examines the school’s previous encounters with epidemics.
8th January 2020
The stunning collection of Chinese art bequeathed to the school by Major Montagu and Eileen Duberly in honour of their son James, is now available to view online through the development of a new Winchester College Collections Database.
30th September 2019
The Treasury museum at the school is now free to the public and open daily, as we make these wonderful treasures more accessible to all.