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Kenneth Restall

Rank: Lieutenant

Lifetime: 1896-1916

Restall

Kingston Grammar School's Roll of Honour on which the name of "K Restall" appears

Lieutenant Kenneth Restall of the 12th Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own Middlesex Regiment died on the 26 September 1916 aged 20. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

He was the eldest son of Walter Tapley Russell O.B.E and Mrs Edith Jennie Restall of Rothesay (14 Sandy Lane), Hampton Wick. His father, according to the 1911 Census, was born in Kensington in c1859 and was a civil servant working as the “Chief Examiner in the Exchequer and Audit Department” (the predecessor to the National Audit Office) and “Private Secretary to the Comptroller and Auditor General”. His mother was born c1867 in Hornsey. He had two younger brothers, Frank Percy Restall born a year later than Kenneth and like him in Stoke Newington/Hackney, and Walter Lawrence Restall born in 1904 by which time the family had already moved to Hampton Wick. The family lived in 14 Sandy Lane from 1903 until 1926.

In the 1911 Census all the boys are described as students. According to the Archives at Kingston Grammar School, Kenneth Restall attended the school from 1906 until 1912 and he is commemorated on their War Memorial. From various articles he wrote in the old school magazine in 1907 and 1908 it is clear he was a keen entomologist catching butterflies on holiday in Sussex and locally in Richmond Park and Oxshott Woods and helped establish a Natural History Society at the school. He was also an actor, playing the part of Xanthias in a school production of Aristophanes’s “The Frogs”. He also won a Shakespeare Prize at the 1912 Prize Day. After he left Kingston Grammar, he remained in contact with the school as a member of the Old Kingstonian Hockey Club.

His Obituary, published in The Times on October 6th 1916 states he was then educated at the City and Guilds of London Technical Institute, Finsbury where he studied Mechanical Engineering and the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington where he was a student and member of the London University O.T.C. at the outbreak of the war. Like most of his comrades in the Hockey Club he enlisted at the beginning of the war but he spent the war fighting in France not playing hockey in India. Having enlisted initially in the Bucks Hussars in November 1914, he was almost immediately commissioned in the Middlesex Regiment. He had gone to the front in July 1915 and served continuously until his death in September 1916. The Times quotes his commanding officer who said:

I looked upon him as a very high-souled young man: straight as a die, gallant as God made any man, and a very keen and efficient officer. Always willing, always ready for any work – pleasant or unpleasant – very capable and clever, he was full of promise as a gentleman and an officer … He had already done well on one occasion – a raid in June – and I was hoping to recommend his name for the general’s notice after this action, as I felt absolutely assured he would have given me occasion to do, had he not been killed almost at the outset of the action. He was acting as adjutant at the time.

Lieutenant Restall’s service record does appear to have been reasonably distinguished. His is mentioned several times in the various University of London OTC Memorial Books. His entry in the Roll of the Fallen merely states that he fell at Thiepval. However, there are also two references, in the London OTC Roll of War Service and list of Honours & Distinctions, to him being mentioned in despatches (more specifically General Haig’s despatches on 13 November 1916).

Whilst he was a pupil at Kingston Grammar School he became a friend of R. C. Sherriff. Sherriff was another Hampton Wick pupil at KGS. He survived the Great War to acquire fame and fortune in the 1920s as a playwright particularly as the author of the hugely successful anti-war play Journey’s End which drew on his experiences as an officer in the trenches. Sherriff commented on the death of two of his school friends, George Webb and Restall, in a letter dated 12 December 1916 to his father, Herbert Hankin Sherriff:

I am very sorry to hear that Dick Webb and Restall have been killed –they were 2 of my earliest school friends and friends I kept right up till and after the outbreak of war. I knew Webb since I first went to the Grammar School when I was seven (?) years old and Restall about a year after.

Whilst in the trenches, Lieutenant Restall wrote to a friend that “I’ve struck some good books since I’ve been here [including] [Jerome K] Jerome’s ‘They and I’”. This comment is quoted in the commentary, The Works of Jerome K Jerome.

By 1920, when his son’s medals were sent to him, Mr Restall appears to have moved, perhaps temporarily, to 26 Seaward Avenue, West Seabourne, Bournmouth according to the notes on his son’s Medal Card at the National Archives.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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