404 NPL employees were sent to war in late 1914 and many others joined them over the course of the war. For those who left the laboratory, their posts remained open for them on their return.
Some did return, but many were not so fortunate, and we remember them today, alongside colleagues who later served and lost their lives during World War Two;
Private Harry Edward BARWOOD
Royal Army Medical Corps Stretcher-bearer
Born in Wimbledon in March 1896
Joined NPL in 1913 aged 17
Enlisted as a pre-war Territorial and was sent to France in December 1914
Wounded at Ypres on 20 April 1915 and died of his wounds at Netley Hospital on 4 May 1915, aged 19
Lance Corporal Charles Granville Guy CRAWLEY
Civil Service Rifles Infantryman
Born at Farnborough, Hampshire in 1899
Worked at NPL as a Laboratory Assistant in the Aeronautical Department
Enlisted in November 1916 and was sent to France in December 1917
Served on the Western Front and was badly wounded on 2 September 1918 and died of his wounds three days later, aged 19
Private Donald EWEN BSc MSc
London Scottish Infantryman
Born at Edgbaston, Birmingham in July 1887
Joined NPL in 1911 working as a Research Assistant in the Metallurgy Department.
Enlisted as a Reservist in 1913 and was sent to France in September 1914. After being involved in many Western Front battles, an order for his release from service had been obtained from the War Office to enable him to return to NPL to take charge of research on optical glass, but the telegram did not reach him on time and he was killed and listed ‘missing’ near Loos on 13 October 1915, aged 28.
Private Horace John HEAD
Post Office Rifles Infantryman (‘Boy Soldier’)
Born at Hackney Downs in September 1898
Joined NPL in 1913 working first in the Administration Department and then the Metrology Division
Enlisted in August 1915 when aged 16 having lied about his age and arrived in France on his 18th birthday in September 1916
Went into action to capture the Butte de Warlencourt on the Somme battlefront on 7 October 1916, but was listed ‘missing’
Captain Gilbert Henry MILLAR
Royal Air Force Observer
Born at Hampstead Heath in June 1884
Educated at Rugby School and Cambridge University. Joined NPL in 1910 working as an Assistant on the William Froude Tank
Enlisted with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in August 1914 and was captured during the defence of Antwerp in October 1914 Escaped captivity and returned to England in September 1915. Commissioned as a Lieutenant and obtained a pilot’s certificate to fly with the Royal Naval Air Service. Attached to HMS Furious in late 1917, he was killed in a flying accident on 29 April 1918, aged 33
World War Two
Chief Petty Officer Thomas Leonard BASKERVILLE BEM OBE
Royal Navy mine disposal officer
Worked at NPL in the Ship Tanks during secondment from the Royal Navy.
Died aged 44 on 23 January 1941 in an accidental explosion on the East Coast of England after defusing an enemy mine. Was serving as a member of the shore establishment at HMS Vernon in Portsmouth. Buried in Teddington Cemetery
Flight Sergeant Ronald George Edwin BUCKNER
Royal Air Force wireless operator/air gunner
Served operationally with No.10 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command.
Was killed when shot down in a Handley Page Halifax Bomber during a raid to Frankfurt on the night of 20 December 1943, aged 25.
Laid to rest in the Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany
Leading Aircraftsman Oliver James HENDON
Royal Air Force Regiment
Was serving in Southern England with 2889 Squadron, RAF Regiment, when he was killed by the explosion of a V-1 ‘Doodlebug’ Flying Bomb on 10 August 1944.
Age not known but is buried in Rhondda Cemetery in Glamorganshire
Flight Lieutenant Frederick Robert POVEY
Royal Air Force radar officer
Worked at NPL from 1937 as an Experimental Officer in the Radio Department.
Was commissioned into the RAF Technical Branch in 1940 and killed aged 23 in a bomb explosion during active service in Malta on 1 April 1942.
Buried in Capuccini Naval Cemetery
Bombardier Thomas STYLES
Royal Artillery gunner
Killed in Rangoon whilst serving in the Far East with 8 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery on 6 May 1944 aged 31. Buried in Taukkyan War Cemetery in Burma (now Myanmar)
11 Nov 2021