ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

1914: The call to arms

The outbreak of war in August 1914 brought the old order in Europe to an end, but also marked a halt in the progress of many men who were on their way to becoming Chartered Accountants.

A meeting of the ICAEW Council on the day after the declaration of war agreed that, subject to the consent of their employers, articled clerks should be allowed to proceed on active service without prejudice to their articles. Soon the letters column of The Accountant was filled with enquiries from articled clerks seeking to enlist.

The call for volunteers was enthusiastically answered by articled clerks across the country. The Bristol Chartered Accountants Students' Society estimated that 30% of articled clerks in their area had volunteered within a month, inevitably depleting the staff of many accountancy practices. One firm in London found itself with much the same problem - Goodricke, Cotman, Hooper, Phipps & Co. reported that 18 members of their audit staff had joined the forces by early 1915 (a large figure for accountancy firms of the time).

A list of 326 articled clerks who had already enlisted was published in The Accountant on 26 September 1914 and was soon followed by a series of supplementary lists. It is startling to reflect that a quarter of the young men named in the first list would never return, having lost their lives in France, Flanders and beyond.

Amongst the first wave of articled clerks to reach the front were Arthur Daphne, Edmund Parker and Cyril White. These three articled clerks had all worked for Goodricke, Cotman, Hooper, Phipps & Co. at some stage and had passed the Intermediate examination – only the Final examination stood between them and a career as Chartered Accountants. 

In common with many men in the City, the three articled clerks enlisted with the territorial forces,  joining the 5th Battalion City of London Rifles, based at 130 Bunhill Row. On the declaration of war they were mobilised and moved to Crowborough for final training, before sailing for Le Havre on 4 November 1914.

It is tempting to think that professional ties were forgotten once these young men reached the battlefield, but in the early days the paths of many articled clerks and students crossed in France and Flanders. A few articled clerks asked for copies of The Accountant to be sent out to them so they could keep track of who was out there, who was still on the staff back at home and how their clients were doing.

The men of the 5th Battalion City of London Rifles found themselves at Ploegsteert in Belgium as the first winter of the war approached, but Arthur Daphne did not get to see the year out. Arthur was the first man of his company to fall, killed by a single shot as he tried to rescue a wounded comrade on 13 December 1914.

Cyril White and Edmund Parker experienced the Christmas Truce of 1914 and survived to see the spring, but both fell at Ypres in April-May 1915.

Cyril White 1895-1915

Cyril White was born in Ealing on 1 March 1895 and was the eldest son of Frederic Charles and Mildred Sarah White. He attended Epsom College between 1907 and 1909.

After leaving school Cyril was articled to Lionel Goodricke and worked for his accountancy practice in the heart of the City, just around the corner from Chartered Accountants' Hall. Cyril was well on his way to becoming a Chartered Accountant, having passed his Intermediate examination in November 1913.

In early 1914 Cyril joined the territorial forces and at the outbreak of war volunteered for foreign service, serving as a private with the 5th Battalion City of London Rifles (London Rifle Brigade). He sailed for France with the battalion on 4 November 1914.

Cyril shared his first experience in the trenches with readers of 'The Accountant', which reprinted one of his letters home in the edition of 12 December 1914:

"We came back last night from spending 48 hours in the trenches, and 24 hours in the reserve trenches. It was quite the most exciting time I ever spent."

The experience of being near to a house that was shelled by the Germans was described by Cyril in great detail:

"The noise of the shells approaching is the most disturbing. One hears the report of the gun, followed immediately by a sort of whistle of the shell, gradually getting lower in note and getting nearer. Then apparently a slight pause and the explosion."

"I was in the road next the house doing a little digging when the first shell fell. I soon got back to my place in the trench. We were about 150 yards from the German trenches. It was exciting going to and from the trenches, stray bullets whistling about all over the place. On the way back the chap next but one to me had a narrow escape. A bullet entered his pack in the middle of the back, hit his mess-tin inside, passed through it, and was deflected out of the side of the pack."

After his spell in the trenches Cyril found himself in the battalion transport. His new job was to drive wagons transporting rations from the supply columns’ drop points, to the troops and to deliver stores and munitions (barbed wire, wood and sandbags) to a point 800 yards behind the trenches.

The conditions were already proving problematic with Cyril commenting (The Accountant, 6 March 1915) that it would take "a lot of fine weather to dry this puddle of a place up", adding that "I can’t myself see an advance taking place just yet, as the transport conditions would be so bad for guns and supplies, but there is no doubt that we are in for a terrific struggle when it becomes fine enough to move. I feel sure [the battle of] Mons, &c., will be nothing to the time coming."

This was to be Cyril's last contribution to 'The Accountant'. He died on 25 April 1915  aged  20. A fellow articled clerk, Edmund Parker, wrote to The Accountant and reported that a shot killed him and three horses whilst he was taking ammunition to the firing line. The company's position at the time had been at a very exposed point – on the toe of the horse-shoe – which required the transports to go along a road which was subject to frequent shelling for some miles.

Cyril's principals lamented the loss of an undoubtedly clever accountant who they felt would have done well in the profession.

Rifleman Cyril White is buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium. His name also appears on the war memorial at Epsom College, on his firm's Roll of Honour and on the war memorial at Chartered Accountants' Hall.

Arthur Daphne 1892-1914

Born in 1892 Arthur Daphne initially worked as an accountant's clerk at the firm of Goodricke, Cotman, Hooper, Phipps & Co. in 1909. He was later articled to Mr W. S. Dawson in the City of London.

In  May 1909 Arthur joined the territorial forces, enlisting with the 5th Battalion City of London Rifles (London Rifle Brigade) at 130 Bunhill Row. In his spare time Arthur was also Assistant-Scoutmaster at the Fifth North London Scout Troop.

Arthur passed the Intermediate examination in December 1912, taking third place in the list of honours and would have sat his Final examination in November 1914 had he not gone to the front with the London Rifle Brigade.

At the outbreak of war Arthur had reached the rank of Lance Corporal in the battalion and whilst training with the battalion at Crowborough on 19 September 1914, agreed to make himself available for foreign service. He sailed for France with his battalion on 4 November 1914 and was killed at the front on 13 December 1914 while trying to rescue a wounded comrade.

Fellow articled clerk Edmund Parker was just ten yards from Arthur when he died and described the events in a letter home on 11 March 1915:

"We were digging a trench on the edge of a wood about 100 yards, I think, behind the firing line. One man was hit, and while lifting him up poor old Daphne also got one. The same shot – we believe – hit our officer in the head, but he is making a wonderful recovery. I and one or two others who were working a little farther up the trench were moving towards them when we were stopped by a corporal, as there were enough men there already. I think Daphne must have died immediately, as the bullet went through both carotid arteries. He was the first man killed in our company, and we felt it a good deal."Lance Corporal Arthur Daphne is buried in Lancashire Cottage Cemetery, south of Ypres. His name also appears on the war memorial at Chartered Accountants' Hall.

Edmund Parker 1893-1915

Edmund Parker was born in 1893, the fifth son of Thomas and Margaret Ann Parker, of Balderton, Myddle, Shropshire.

A career in accountancy beckoned Edmund after completing his education at Westminster School and taking the Preliminary examination in November 1910. Edmund was articled to Cyril Hooper of Goodricke, Cotman, Hooper, Phipps & Co. in January 1911 and passed the Intermediate examination in November 1913.

On the outbreak of war Edmund volunteered for service with the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), and made his way to France with the battalion on 5 November 1914. In a letter home in March 1915 Edmund told Mr Hooper that he had settled into the routines of the battlefield, describing the pattern of life:

"Each of the four companies does three days at a time [in the trenches]. Then we go to a large town for three days' rest, including a bath; then three days in farms just behind the trenches, from which we supply parties to take up stuff to the trenches, and also to work there; after this three days in the village just behind, and then up to the trenches and so on."

Edmund spent Christmas Day 1914 in the trenches and said that it was not at all bad, "as we had a perfect truce and could stroll about as we liked."

The last published letter from Edmund, dated 7 May 1915, described a lucky escape for Edmund and his brother (who had just come out with the draft from England). Edmund learnt that German forces had launched a violent attack on the line they had retired from, using much gas and shelling the empty trenches heavily. Sadly, by the time of publication Edmund was already dead.

Edmund was killed in action on 13 May 1915. On this day, the battalion suffered the heaviest bombardment of the war to date and experienced very heavy casualties. Two platoons of the London Rifle Brigade alone were wiped out by intense shelling of their location at Shell Trap Farm, where shells had been observed falling at a rate of over a hundred per minute.

The London Rifle Brigade had begun the day just 278 strong, having lost most of its men in the earlier fighting, but by evening a further 91 men had gone (Short history of the London Rifle Brigade, 1916).

Shortly before his death Edmund had been promoted to lance-corporal and he had been advised to apply for a commission.

Lance Corporal Edmund Parker's name is recorded on the Menin Gate in Ypres. His name also appears on the war memorial in the church of St. Peters in Myddle, Shropshire, on his firm's Roll of Honour and on the war memorial at Chartered Accountants' Hall.

Start your research

The story of these three men from the first wave of volunteers is not untypical of the wartime experiences of other Chartered Accountants and articled clerks. There are many remarkable stories amongst the pool of ICAEW Chartered Accountants and students who served in the First World War, from the soldier who signed his articles whilst on active service in Gallipoli to the ICAEW President who escaped from German lines in 1918.

You can start your research into Chartered Accountants who served in the First World War through our collection of online resources at icaew.com/ww1 and the enquiry team at the ICAEW Library & Information Service can assist you with your research.

Contact the enquiry team by phone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, by webchat or by email at library@icaew.com