Skip to main content
Library Services

Remembrance Day 2023: Stories Behind the Names

At this year’s Remembrance Day service passages from the Roll of Honour books held in the University Archives will be read. These books record the names of Queen Mary students who died in military service during World War 1 and World War 2. The stories of three students will be read this year and we have used other student records in the archives to fill in details of the lives beyond their military service. 

Photographic portrait of William Walter Busby man in military uniform

William Walter Busby portrait, Owned by 2nd Newham Scouts

William Walter Busby (1891-1916): a Science student at East London College

William Walter Busby was born 12 August 1891 to Charles Edward Busby and Minnie Walter of 14 Sherrard Road, Forest Gate, West Ham [now Newham]. Busby lived with his parents his whole life. His father was a clerk for a Chemist, born in Brixton and his mother was from Germany. He and his family were part of the Congregational Church, a type of Protestant Christianity. He had one older brother Charles, a younger sister Violet and a younger brother Wilfrid.

As a child he went to Shaftesbury Road Council School and later Sandringham Road Council School, both in East Ham. He continued his education at the Carpenters Company School Stratford where he was awarded a scholarship to attend East London College [later known as Queen Mary University of London].

He was a founding member of the 2nd Newham Scouts, a Scout group in Barking, Dagenham & Newham in 1908 that still exists to this day. He was the Scoutmaster of the 2nd West Ham Troup of Boy Scouts and District Scoutmaster for West Ham.

In October 1908 aged seventeen he entered East London College as a Science student. He studied Maths, Chemistry and Physics for two years, receiving an “Intermediate” qualification in Sciences 1910. This was a midway qualification awarded before a full Bachelors at that time. He continued to study Chemistry for an Honours Bachelor of Sciences for the next four and a half years whilst working as an Assistant Analytical Chemist. He was in the University of London Officer Training Corps which recruited University students to train for leadership roles in the army. He also attended classes at Birkbeck College.

He never completed his degree as World War 1 broke out in August 1914 and he didn’t sign up for the next academic year. Instead at the outbreak of war he joined the 13th Essex Regiment known as “West Ham Pals” or “The Hammers”, a new battalion of volunteers created in West Ham, Essex. Busby and the other recruits were housed in wooden huts on the grounds of the 'Old House' in Wanstead Park, Essex. He was trained at various locations in East London and Essex and further afield in Mansfield, Nottingham and Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. Busby was made a temporary Second Lieutenant during training.

On the 17 November 1915 Busby left for France with the “West Ham Pals” and once they arrived became part of the 2nd Division of the 6th Brigade of the British Army engaged in trench warfare on the Western front. They went first to Bethune, Calais where they were based in an old tobacco factory. His diary records Christmas of 1915 in France “was not altogether a success...the cooks were drunk" although he was cheered by news from home that West Ham’s football team beat Arsenal on Christmas day. Diaries of the Battalion tell us of an incident in 1916 where Busby attempted to save Private Frank Cowell, shot by a sniper, by dragging him back into the trench. Cowell survived to be evacuated but later died at a casualty clearing station.

Between April and May 1916, he was granted leave to visit home. He stayed with his parents, visited his former Scouting colleagues and families of his fellow soldiers. After he returned he joined one of the deadliest battled in human history the Battle of the Somme. The first day of the battle 1 July 1916 was so loud it could be heard in London. He was awarded a Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry” for events on the first night of the battle; “he led his men with great dash into the enemy’s trenches, and, after the withdrawal, remained for some time assisting to find and bring in the wounded”. By this time Busby had been promoted to temporary Lieutenant.

Fighting near Delville Woods at the end of July Busby was shot in the knee and was sent to a hospital in Rouen for 12 days. Whilst he was gone his battalions headquarters was bombed killing major officers of the battalion and leaving many more shellshocked and wounded. By August so many senior officers had died that more junior members of the Battalion had to be promoted; on 31 August Busby was promoted to acting Captain.

During the Battle of Ancre, one of the last major battles of the Somme, his battalion captured a German trench. Whilst Busby led his platoon in this action he was hit in the head by bits of a German shell. His last words recorded by Private J Clark were "Goodbye my lads, I hope you will get through, alright". He was twenty-five when he died 13 November 1916.

He is buried at Serre Road No 2 the largest cemetery in the Somme, France; his grave inscription chosen by his parents reads “Ever in our thoughts”. He is remembered by the 2nd Newham Scouts who renamed themselves the Busby troop and changed their neckerchiefs to khaki in his memory. He is remembered in East London College’s Roll of Honour.

Credit to West Ham Pals and E7 Now and Then blogs for quotes and detail about life in the West Ham Pals Battalion.

Norman Arthur Allen (1901-1940): an Engineering student at East London College

Signature of Normal Aleen dating 26 July 1922Norman Arthur Allen was born 29 January 1901 in Walthamstow to William Charles Allen and Grace Bayliss. His father was a painter with a van and sign writing business. The family later moved to Leytonstone, Romford and finally Southend-on-sea. He had two older siblings Margie and George and four younger siblings Elsie, Nora, David and Zillah. Nora died during their childhood. Norman Allen went to school at Southend High School.

June 1917, aged sixteen, he entered East London College to study for an Intermediate in Engineering which he received in 1918. For this he studied Maths, Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics and Engineering Drawing and Design. He lived at home in Southend-on-sea during this part of his studies. 1918 onwards he continued at the College to study for a Bachelor of Sciences in Engineering covering subjects like Heat Engines, Theory of Machines and Strength and Elasticity of Materials. He became a student member of Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1919. He received his Bachelor of Sciences with Honours Second Class in June 1920.

Diagram showing wiringHe went onto further study at East London College through evening classes where he became an Electrical Engineering research student working under Professor J T Macgregor-Morris. He received a research grant from East London College Council to experiment in the Electrical Engineering Laboratories. He carried out experiments between September 1921-July 1922 resulting in the thesis “The Laws of Dielectric Losses in Paper Insulated Cables.” By this time he had moved to Belmont Park, Blackheath, Lewisham. He was awarded a Master of Sciences degree for his thesis in June 1923.

Allen married Kathleen Lucy Bolt in July 1925 in Rochford. He returned to East London College for a final time as a Doctorate student in October 1926. After conducting research in the Electrical Engineering labs he received his PhD in May 1927.

He became an Associate Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1927. His first daughter Rosemary Norah Allen was also born this year. At this time they lived in 40 Manor Park, Lee in South-East London. In the 1930s the family moved to Sidcup which at the time was still a village in Kent and is now part of South East London. He worked as a Chartered Electrical Engineer. He had two other children John Philip Christopher and Jennifer Elizabeth.

His home named “Belfairs” at 16 Upperton Road, Sidcup was bombed during the Blitz, a targeted air attack on towns and cities in Britain by the German Airforce which began 7 September 1940 during World War 2. Their house was hit directly on the fifteenth day of the Blitz on London. Norman Arthur Allen aged thirty-nine, his wife Kathleen aged thirty-eight and their youngest daughter Jennifer, seven years old, died in their home 22 September 1940. He is remembered in Queen Mary College’s Roll of Honour.

Alfred Ronald Faulkner Jonas (1922-1943): an Arts student at Queen Mary College

Arthur Ronald Faulkner Jonas was born 28 November 1922 to Michael Jonas and Rosina Jeanette Faulkner. He had older siblings Coleman, Sidney, Pearle and Julia. His father Michael Jonas died when Arthur was eight. His mother Rosina Faulkner worked as a “machinist”. The family lived in Stoke Newington at 95 Osbaldeston road. Arthur Jonas attended Dame Alice Owen Owen’s Boys School, at the time based in Islington, for his final year of school aged seventeen to eighteen.  

Photograph of Alfred Jonas smoking a pipe with notes regarding death handwritten underneathHe joined Queen Mary College in January 1941 for the second term after receiving a London County Council scholarship and an additional loan from Queen Mary College [later known as Queen Mary University of London]. At the time the College was based out of Kings College, Cambridge where it was evacuated to for the duration of the war due to the bombing of London and requisition of its premises. King’s College provided lodgings for only 90 students so Jonas lived instead at 7 Trumpington Street, Cambridge while he studied.

Jonas studied History for an Honours degree and Latin for the Intermediate qualification. At this point Modern History was the only type of History taught and he would have been taught by Professor F Clarke. He joined the Historical Society and the Table Tennis Club. However a note added to his second year notes writes “Probably not returning expecting to be called up for service in RAF.” Jonas had been legally obliged to sign up for some form of national service by the National Service Act (1939) since he turned eighteen; he was in the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserves.

Jonas was called up to active duty in June 1942 as a Flying Officer in the British Airforce. His base was at Manston, Kent and he was with the 198th squadron. On the 25 November 1943 while returning from offensive action his plane dove into the sea of the English Channel eight miles off the Isle of Wight. He was missing and presumed dead aged twenty-one a few days before his twenty second birthday.

Jonas is commemorated at Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. He was awarded a number of medals posthumously including the Air Crew Europe Star Medal. He is remembered on both Dame Alice Owen’s School World War 2 War Memorial and Queen Mary College’s Roll of Honour.

How to find out more

Interested in finding out more about another student? Start with the below sources which are either online or available to view by appointment in the Archives Reading Room:

Queen Mary College Student Index Cards c1910-1960s, Queen Mary University Archives

East London College Roll of Honour 1914-1919, Queen Mary University Archives

Queen Mary College Roll of Honour 1939-1945, Queen Mary University Archives

Meanings of Service website, digitised material relating to the First World War held at the Queen Mary University of London, Royal London Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital archives.

University of London Students 1836-1939, digitised copies of lists of students and University of London graduates, 1836-1939 made available through Senate House Library




Back to top