Frederick Youens and Ian Fraser continue to be an inspiration to us all, and a source of pride that we - through RGS - are so closely associated with them.
Our boarding house, Fraser Youens, is named after two very remarkable old boys, Frederick Youens and Ian Edward Fraser, who fought in the First and Second World Wars respectively.
They continue to be an inspiration to us all, and a source of pride that we - through RGS - are so closely associated with them. Both were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award ‘for gallantry in the face of the enemy’ that a serviceman in the British and Commonwealth forces can aspire to attain. “…some have made the greatest sacrifice of all. They felt that their country called them, and they did not hesitate to answer to the call: while we deeply mourn their loss, the School will always keep their memory green, and when happier times come back again, the example of their self-sacrifice will still remain for all the succeeding generations who will receive their education within these walls” Headmaster Mr Arnison, in 1915
Frederick Youens, VC
- Born August 1892 in High Wycombe
- OW 1911
- Conflict: WW1 1914 - 17
- Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
- Killed in action: July 1917
- Buried: Railway Dugouts Burial
In July, 1917, Frederick Youens was fatally wounded in Belgium, just one month before his 25th birthday. A High Wycombe boy, he had made his mark at RGS, through acting in school plays, as a prefect and as a member of the Debating Society too. Frederick had wanted to be a teacher before the war, and had been offered a scholarship to Oxford University. The outbreak of WW1 was to change all of that.
Although he had already been injured, Youens went to help organise a Lewis gun team that was in disarray (see illustration). An enemy bomb fell on their position and, when it did not explode, he picked it up and threw it over the parapet away from the gun team. Another bomb fell almost immediately in the same place. Again Youens picked it up in an attempt to save his comrades. Tragically, it exploded in his hand, fatally wounding him and some of those he had tried to save. His selfless courage rightly earned him the highest military honour, and a place in our own hall of fame.
Ian Fraser, VC,DSC, RD and Bar, JP
- Born December 1920 in Ealing; educated at RGS (OW 1935)
- Died December 2008; buried Landican, Wirral, Merseyside
- Conflict: WW2 1939 – 45 Rank: Lieutenant
- Awards: Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Cross; Legion of Merit;
- Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve and Bar
- Scuba Diving pioneer
Ian Fraser died in 2008, at the grand age of 87, having lived a fascinating and successful life. The award of his VC, in July 1945, for an extraordinary act of gallantry at the close of WW2, is the culmination of wartime service characterised by dedication, courage and outstanding resourcefulness.
Ian Fraser commanded HM’s Midget Submarine XE-3 in the successful attack on the Japanese heavy cruiser, Takao, in the Singapore Straits. The citation reads as follows:
“The XE-3 deliberately left the believed safe channel and entered mined waters…for 40 minutes, XE-3 pushed her way along the seabed until finally Lieutenant Fraser managed to force her right under the centre of the cruiser. Here he placed the limpets and dropped his main side charge. The courage and determination of Lieutenant Fraser are beyond all praise. Any man not possessed of his relentless determination to achieve his object in full, regardless of all consequences, would have dropped his side charge alongside the target instead of persisting until he had forced his submarine right under the cruiser.”
Not a man to rest on his laurels, Ian Fraser utilised his wartime experiences and achievements to set up and resource his own highly successful companies, Universal Divers and North Sea Diving Services. * The actor, Martin Delaney, played Ian Fraser in a TV programme, ‘Victoria Cross Heroes’, which was narrated in part by HRH Prince of Wales, and tells the story of Fraser’s attempt to sink the Takao.
The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross was conceived during and after the Crimean War, the first major conflict to be reported by correspondents in the field of war. William Howard Russell, of The Times newspaper, reported on the bravery of common soldiers, men whose bravery went unrecognised. The House of Commons decided, on 19th December 1854, that Queen Victoria should create a medal – “an order of merit for distinguished and prominent personal gallantry to which every grade and individual from the highest to the lowest may be admissible.”
Prince Albert’s support convinced the Queen that this was the right thing to do and, when he won the battle for it to bear her own name, the Victoria Cross was born.
The bronze for the Cross came from a captured Chinese-made cannon used by the Russians at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. What is left will fashion only around 80 more, but the Cross is so rarely bestowed and so highly prized - with only 11 awarded since the end of WW2 - that the bronze should last for many years to come.
A very small number of VC holders are alive today. RGS is rightly proud of both its VC holders, who are part of one of the world’s most exclusive fraternities.