A fallen hero: the adventures of

Cathy Linacre

Head of Reference Service (RICS)

Leopold Reginald Hargreaves, known as "Rex", was one of 66 chartered surveyors killed during the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago in 1916. What makes this story stand out from other similar stories I've researched? Rex was the son of Alice Liddell, who the character of Alice in the literary classic 'Alice in Wonderland' was based.

The front line on the Somme

Rex worked in Canada at the start of the war, but returned home and joined the army on 15 August 1914. He was made a Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion Irish Guards on 23 December and was at the "front" in France from November 1914 until the following November when he was invalided home.

Rex returned to France in August 1916 and died of wounds received at the action at Les Boeufs on 25 September while captaining a company in the Irish Guards. He is buried at the Guillemont Road Cemetery.

On 14 November 1916, he was awarded a posthumous Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry in action. He set a fine example of coolness and courage at a somewhat critical period and, personally, took forward and established a covering party.”

Alice's adventures

For those who don’t know, the original version of 'Alice in Wonderland' was based on a story by Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). He invented the tale for Alice and her sisters on a picnic by the river in Oxford. The book was published in 1865.

Alice Liddell married Reginald Hargreaves, a gentleman and cricketer for Hampshire, in 1880 at the age of 28. They married just across the road from our very own headquarters on Parliament Square — Westminster Abbey.

Tragically, Alice lost two sons during the war, the aforementioned Rex and his brother Alan Knyveton, killed in action 15 months earlier on 9 May 1915, aged 33, at Fromelles. He was awarded the D.S.O. in recognition of his services with the Expeditionary Force. Another son, Caryl, also served with the Scots Guards and survived the war. The whole family are commemorated on a plaque on the wall of at St Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst.

Rex also had a royal godfather in Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria with whom Alice had been romantically involved. The affair was rapidly squashed by their mothers, but each named a child after the other.

Although my interest was spiked by the Alice in Wonderland and royal links, I thought this was also poignant story of a family, like many others, who lost more than one son in the First World War.

Image credit: Archives New Zealand, Flickr

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