The Slow Dusk

In October 1922 President Warren sent the following letter[1] to Canon John Philpott, the father of one of the Magdalen men killed in the Great War. It is likely that other families received a similar letter.



You are aware, I think, that the College, last year, carried to completion the visible and material Memorial to those dead, and never-to-be-forgotten sons and Members of the College, who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914-1918.

A Memorial Cross was erected, and stands in the front Quadrangle of the College, and the names of those who fell have been carved on stone tablets let into the walls of the passage-way leading from the Chapel Porch into the Cloisters, being part of the main entrance to the College.

These Memorials were unveiled and dedicated on Shrove Tuesday, February 8th, of last year, and will, we hope, remain, and be cherished so long as the College shall exist, as an abiding monument of the sacrifice made by those whom they commemorate, and our grateful affection.

It was part of the original plan of the College to carry out, in addition, another form of memorial, “a War Memorial Album,” which should contain a portrait, and a brief record of each of the fallen, and that a copy should be presented, in each case, to the nearest living representative. Efforts were begun early in the War to obtain portraits and records. Circulars were sent to all the relatives and friends whose addresses could be found. Many of these most kindly responded. But, from the first, difficulties appeared. Not a few of the circulars came back through the Post Office, and to not a few more no answer of any kind was returned.

To add to these, the original editor was called away by duties arising out of the war. For a considerable period however, the College persevered. But after the war these original difficulties increased, and others also appeared. When the material collected had been arranged and prepared, it was found, not only that it was incomplete, but that the cost of production was immensely enhanced, and that the project could hardly be entertained, even if a complete list, and an adequate presentation could be carried through.

Under the circumstances the whole plan no longer seemed justified.

The College, after long deliberation, and with great reluctance, felt itself driven to the decision that the idea of printing and circulation must be abandoned. It has been decided therefore, to deposit the material collected in the College Library, for careful preservation. There it will remain as a valuable record and will be accessible to members of the College, and to any relative or friend who may, at any time, desire to inspect, or refer to it.

We have thought it right to inform you of the position arrived at. We trust that you will believe that it is no want of affection or gratitude, but only the inherent difficulties, that have led us to the decision which I now, on behalf of the College, very reluctantly, communicate to you.

Believe me to be,

Most faithfully and sincerely yours,

President of Magdalen College.


Now, a hundred years later, Warren’s objective of a War Memorial Album has been fulfilled in an online version: The Slow Dusk.

Based on the material deposited in the College Library and information from many other sources, this website provides brief but full biographies of all the members of Magdalen who were killed in or died because of the Great War. The website also considers what those members of Magdalen who were “deemed […] to have been duly enlisted in His Majesty’s regular forces”, did during the war – including those who were for whatever reason exempt from military service. The cohorts of 1912 and 1913 have been examined in some detail so that, by considering the fate of their contemporaries, we get some idea of what those killed might have achieved, and what Britain lost by their deaths. Finally, we look at the opposition to the war among members of Magdalen by studying those who were known to have been Conscientious Objectors and those who were known or thought to have been pacifists.

We are grateful to many families for providing us with information, photographs etc. and we have acknowledged their help in the biographies and the extensive list of acknowledgements. We are aware that many data exist which we do not have, we hope that anyone with corrections, comments or additions will contact us so that we can bring the entries up to date. This website has been created with the help of a generous grant from Michael McGowan, Magdalen (1982-87); the title of this website comes from Wilfred Owen’s (1893-1918) best-known poem Anthem for Doomed Youth, and we thank Prof. John Stallworthy FBA FRSL (1935-2014) one time editor of Owen’s letters & poems for letting us use The Slow Dusk as our title.

Richard Sheppard

David Roberts

[1] Original in the RAF Museum, Hendon, associated with J.R. Philpott RFC who died on 15 January 1918.