Raymond Douglas Belcher (Ju./Sc. 1892-00)


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Major, Royal Field Artillery
Born: March 5th, 1883

Age at Death: 34

Died of Wounds, nr. Cambrai, France, December 7th 1917.
Son of Rev. T Hayes Belcher, Head Master of Brighton College 1881-1893.
Awarded S.S.O. and M.C.

Brother to Harold Thomas Belcher (Ju./Sc. 1885-1893), Arthur Hayes Belcher (Ju./Sc. 1886-1895) and Gordon Belcher (Ju./Sc. 1894-1904). Cousin to Basil Belcher (Ju./Ch. 1905-1911). 

A donation to the memorial statue has been made in honour of this soldier by The Davis Family:

"We see you standing among them all
Standing so strong, proud and tall
The world looks at you, but does not see
Everything you sacrificed to keep us free"
Author: Trish C (extract)

Obituary Brightonian XVI April, 1918
Died of wounds, December 7th, 1917
Raymond Douglas Belcher came to Brighton College in February, 1892. He left in 1900, being then a member of the Cricket XI., the Fives VIII., the Gymnasium VIII., and the 2nd Football XI. After studying for the engineering profession in this north of England he obtained, in 1906, an appointment in the Steamers and Boats Department under the Sudan Government. He resigned this post in 1910, and shortly afterwards wen to take up work in the Argentine. On the declaration of war he returned to England, and enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers, but was soon gazetted to a commission in the R.F.A. He went to France in May, 1916, and has seen continuous fighting since then. He was promoted Captain in 1916, and Major in 1917. He was slightly wounded four times, was twice mentioned in despatches, and was awarded the Military Cross early last year. During the German attack near Cambrai, on November 30th last, he was seriously wounded, and died at a base hospital in France on December 7th. He was afterwards awarded the D.S.O., in recognition of the work he did while commanding his battery in Cambrai fighting.

Major Raymond Douglas Belcher MC DSO (School House 1892-1900)
Raymond Douglas Belcher was born on the 5th March 1883 in Brighton. His father, the Revd Thomas Belcher, who was famously headmaster of the school between 1881 and 1893, and his wife Annie [nee Neame]. He was the youngest of Thomas Belcher’s 7 children and was the third to attend the school and then be killed in the First World War.[1] The one Belcher son to survive the war was ordained like his father and, after being a housemaster, became, like his father before him, Headmaster of the school between 1933 and 1937. Among Belcher’s cousins, three were also to feature in the school’s roll of honour,[2] although one who survived, Philip Neame was to win the VC and to go onto to a very distinguished military career.

While at the school Belcher was a keen cricketer who played for the 1st XI in in his final year as well as successful athlete. He was obviously less academic than some in his family, although he does appear to have achieved the remarkable feast of winning a French prize despite being in set four of five.

After school Belcher obtained an engineering apprenticeship in Newcastle and began his career as an engineer and businessman. In 1906 his career took him to the Sudan where he worked for the “Steamers and Navigation Department” on the Nile. After briefly returning to London in 1909 he then travelled to Argentina, then the boom economy of the World, where he worked for the Entre Rios railway. The records are unclear but, having completed his work for the railway, he may then have obtained further work on, or even purchased an estancia (i.e. a large private estate) in Corrientes region. What is clear from his declaration in the Steam ship Demerra’s manifest is that his ‘intended country of permanent residence’ was Argentina and that his return to Britain in 1914 was solely for the purpose of joining up and fighting in the war.

Belcher received a commission as a 2md Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in February 1915 and followed his unit, the 63rd Artillery Brigade attached to the 12th division to France in May 1915. For the next two and half years Belcher saw continuous fighting and was promoted first to Captain in 1916 and then to Major in overall command of C battery in 1917. He was wounded four times, mentioned in despatches twice and while in action at Arras in Summer 1917 was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry when he rallied a group of infantry who had fled a trench where he was acting as an observer.

On November 30th 1917 his battery was in action at Cambrai where it was confronted by attacks by waves of the infamous German storm troopers which had broken through the main British lines to attack the artillery behind. In the course of this action Belcher was mortally wounded and died of his wounds a week later in the Red Cross Hospital, Treport. After Belcher’s incapacitation one of his subordinates, Lieutenant Wallace, won a VC for his part in repelling the German attack.

Raymond Belcher is buried in the Mont Houn Military Cemetery, Le Treport, France. His name appears on war memorials in both Argentina and Surrey and he features on the Belcher Window in the school’s chapel.

Source: LEST WE FORGET PROJECT, Brighton College 2014/15

[1] The others being Gordon Belcher and Harold Belcher.

[2] His paternal cousin Basil Henry Belcher and his maternal cousins Gerald Neame and Geoffrey Neame.

 

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