Bishop Copleston remained in
for a further 11 years and thus was only recently returned to India when
the First World War broke out. During
his time in England
(now Ceylon ),
he wrote a number of books on Buddhism and had previously distinguished himself
at Sri Lanka . He was elected a Fellow of St. John's
College, Oxford University ,
in 1868 and was twice elected President of the Oxford Union.
Reginald Trench Copleston does not appear on the 1891 census (presumably because he was in
with his parents) but he
does feature on the 1901 census. He
appears as a 15 year old living with two maiden aunts, two sisters and three
(female) servants at Abberton, Ceylon . The household comprised Jane Hurstpierpoint, Sussex E Copleston (head, single, aged 52 and living on her own
means), her sister Mary E Copleston (aged 44, also living on her own means and
their nephew and nieces: Frances M Copleston (aged 17), Anne R Copleston (aged
16) and Reginald. All three had been
born in . Jane and Mary, like the children’s father,
had been born in Barnes, Ceylon Surrey.
Reginald Trench attested with Royal Fusiliers at
on Westminster 29th September 1914. His short service attestation paper gives his
age as 27 years and eight months, his occupation as electrical engineer and his
height as five feet, ten inches. He had
fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion.
He was given the army service number 221 and posted to the 19th
Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.
July 1915 Reginald was appointed lance-corporal but may already
have been contemplating somewhat higher office.
On 25th September he applied for temporary commission in the
regular army (with a preference for the infantry, even though he could ride)
giving his permanent address as 25
St John’s Road, Putney and Damerel, Newick in .
(The 1915 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Sussex notes Bishop Copleston living
at Damerel). Reginald noted his present address for correspondence as D
Company, 28th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, Farm Camp,
Epsom. Five days later his commanding
officer approved his application and the following month, on 19th
October, the War Office wrote back: Sussex
“Sir, I am directed to inform you that Lance Corpl R T Coppleston, 28th Batt, Royal Fusiliers has been appointed to a Second Lieutenancy (on probation) in the Special Reserve of Officers and posted to the 3rd Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment stationed at Fort Stamford, Plymouth, but prior to joining his unit has been selected to undergo a course of instruction at the Chatham School of Instruction and should report himself without fail to Fort Darland, Chatham on 31st October 1915 between 2 and 4pm.
“He should provide himself with bedding and and camp kit before joining, but uniform, if not ready, can follow him. He should draw his outfit allowance from his Army Agents or Paymaster.”
Reginald was discharged from the 19th Royal Fusiliers on
26th October 1915
and granted a commission in the 3rd King’s Own (Royal Lancaster)
Events over the next twelve months are unclear and there is nothing noted in his surviving service papers held at the National Archives in
Kew. In February
1916, Chailey Parish Magazine mentions him for the first time, stating Copleston, 2nd Lieutenant R T, King’s Own
(Lancs) Regt, but it is not until 20th October 1916 that another note in his file
appears. This is to state that Reginal
Copleston of the 3rd King’s Own (attached 7th King’s Own
Royal Lancaster Regiment; 56th Brigade, 19th Division),
left the battalion.
From subsequent entries and Medical Board notes it appears that he probably went to
around the beginning of July 1916 and saw three and a half months’ active
service. On 3rd France November 1916 he embarked for from England aboard Tar Brydel; arrived at Boulogne the same day and
went straight to the 4th Dover . A Medical Board, held at the hospital ten
days later reported: “Scabies and Neurasthenia.
He has been three and a half months in London
General Hospital . At Hebuterne at the beginning of October 1916
he had scabies on the arms, back and abdomen.
Treated in hospital two weeks at France . This is now cured. In addition he has had insomnia, loss of
memory, dull headaches, unable to carry on. Boulogne
Unfit General Service and Home Service 8 weeks. Unfit Light Duty 6 weeks. Grant leave 3.11.16 – 24.12.16. Inform o[fficer] c[ommanding] Res Bn. Condition caused by exposure to infection and stress of service.”
Reginald obviously left
at some point during the next few weeks because on 13th December he
was writing to The War Office from The Royal Albion Hotel in London Brighton,
enquiring about his next Medical Board.
This was duly held at Caxton Hall on the 6thJanuary 1917 where it was
found that, “Although not sleeping fully he is much better and is fit for light
duty at home. Unfit General Service [for] 2 months and Home Service [for] 1 month. Fit [for] Light Duty at home.
January 1917 he joined the 3rd Bn Royal Lancaster Regt
at , Fort Stamford and one month later, on 9th
February, attended his third Medical Board, this time at the Plymouth
in Military Hospital Dorchester.
The Board reported, “He now sleeps very well. Has occasional headaches in the morning. He states he forgets what he has read easily. Unfit General Service 2 months. Fit [for] service at home.”
By the time he attended his next Medical Board (at
), Reginald Coppleston was
stationed with the 43rd Training Reserve Battalion at Sandhill Camp,
Sutton Veny, Wiltshire. The Board found
that he was “anaemic and still complains of headaches. Unfit [for] G[eneral] S[ervice] [for] 1
month. Fit [for] Home Service.” Bath War Hospital
Finally, in May 1917, his fifth Medical Board held at the
at Sutton Veny found that he
was fit for General Service. Military Hospital
Again there is a gap in his service record. It would seem that Reginald returned to his regiment but by 10th November he had been approved as a probationer for the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (IARO). It could be that his father pulled some strings or perhaps Reginald pointed to his own background in
(and possibly Ceylon ). India
November 1917 he was seconded for service with the IARO and exactly
one month later embarked for
at Devonport on the transport ship India . On 9th February 1918, having
completed his period of probation, he was admitted to the IARO and appears to
have remained in India at least until January 1921at which point surviving
correspondence in his army file at Kew ceases. Walmer