This photograph in Worcester City’s collection shows the triumphant HJ George, romping home as winner in the Open Half-Mile, at the Worcester Royal Grammar School’s 1915 sports day.
For ‘open’ events, all students were allowed to participate, with the younger boys being given head starts based a sliding scale in yards. George, being in his last year at the school, started from ‘scratch’ (without any advantage).
The school magazine tells us that for the annual sports day on 20 May, 1915 “the weather conditions were splendid and the events were keenly contested”. Although it mentions the event was held quietly “owing to the War”, it was not until several editions later that the magazine starts to list pages of casualties. A year into the First World War, the enormous impact it would have on this generation of young men was still ahead.
“In the Half-Mile (Open) George, running from scratch, covered the course in good style, and had little difficulty in obtaining first place. Bakewell (scr.) was second, with Maund (10 yds.) and Johnson (10 yds.) third and fourth respectively.”
George also came second in the Open Quarter-Mile, and Woolfe House was particularly pleased that through his efforts they managed to beat School House in the Grammar School’s cricket tournament that year. Cyril Hemus from School House and George opened the batting for the school cricket team and most sporting matters saw them up against each other. Hemus won many of the 1915 annual sports track and field events, and had also won the school heavyweight boxing and the fives competition that year. He scored a perfect 115 points in the 1915 Officer Training Corps shooting competition.
Both boys would join artillery regiments after leaving school – George to the Royal Garrison Artillery and Hemus initially to the Artist Rifles and then to the Royal Field Artillery. George was wounded in early 1918 but survived the war, coming back to the school’s annual sports day in 1919 to take fourth place in the 220-yard old boys’ race.
Hemus was never able to take up the scholarship he won in Natural Sciences at Brasenose College, Oxford. He died of wounds sustained in action in France in March 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the Battery was in action and being subjected to a most intense gas-shell bombardment, his courage and coolness were most marked, and by constant supervision he ensured that all gas masks were kept adjusted with the result that no casualties were caused owing to gas”.