King’s suffered a huge amount of loss during the First World War – sadly, at least 239 staff and students didn’t make it home. But two former students who did survive the War, showed incredible acts of heroism and were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for members of the British armed forces, given for gallantry ‘in the face of the enemy’.
Captain Archie White, who studied English Literature and had been President of King’s Student Union, won the Victoria Cross ‘for most conspicuous bravery at Stuff Redoubt’ in the autumn of 1916. He was awarded it when ‘for four days and nights by indomitable spirit, great personal courage and skilful dispositions, he held his position under fire of all kinds and against several counter-attacks’.
The Reverend Noel Mellish, who studied Theology at King’s, was the first chaplain to win the Victoria Cross in the War. The citation for his award described how, ‘on three consecutive days of heavy fighting near Ypres in March 1916 he went to-and fro continuously between the trenches, attending to and rescuing at least 22 wounded men from an area that was swept by machine-gun fire.’ This was, as the citation points out, ‘far outside the sphere of his normal duties’.
King’s War Memorials website http://www.kingscollections.org/warmemorials/home celebrates the lives of more than 700 students and staff from King’s and its partner institutions who were killed in the First and Second World Wars, and other twentieth-century conflicts. Detailed biographies serve as a permanent reminder of the selfless service to society enshrined in King’s public ethos and the personal sacrifices of its students and staff.
“King’s Archives is a unique and world-renowned resource for the history of medicine, science, technology, warfare, Victorian London and much more – and it’s open to all. See https://www.kcl.ac.uk/library/archivespec/archives/access.aspx to find out more.”