W G Edwards, Old Boy of St George’s School

Among the many famous Old Boys of St George’s School, Windsor Castle, W. G Edwards should hold a special place.  At school in the 1890s, he was a distinguished chorister.  On his death aged 93 his obituary in the school magazine states that throughout his life he displayed a fanatical devotion to the school, never losing an opportunity to visit the school and enthralling boys and staff with his lectures and anecdotes.  He was also the best Old Boy correspondent, writing lively and informative letters about his life and work running a large farm in Africa.

In 1910 he went to Kenya, then known as British East Africa, and worked as an administrative officer, but in the following year he began to farm and, in a letter in the magazine, he writes of the customs of the Wataveta people at Taveta, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.  He served in East Africa in the First World War and in 1916 he writes of patrolling the railway running from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, in deep bush country and of German attempts to bomb the railway.  In the same year, now a battalion signalling officer, he reports that his battalion had survived a sustained shelling attack and having pushed back the enemy, had laid 7½ miles of telephone wire.  By 1917 he was a Captain, with temporary command of a Company.  Shortly afterwards he describes two battles in which he was involved against German forces and, just after the end of the war, the trials of a march through German East Africa where crop failure had led to famine, lions were a danger and his party was unlucky in shooting meat.  He was awarded the M.C. and left the Army as a Major.

By 1922 W. G. Edwards had returned to his farm on which he had 594 beasts; while he employed a number of native workers he writes to say he is looking for more pupils – an early example of work experience.  He was to guide many prospective young farmers.  Nine years later he writes of camping out on his new farm at Rumunati.  Some of the lions kill to eat, others for pleasure.  There was dissension between WGE’s Masai herdboys and his Turkhana and on his suggestion that differences be settled by fists, one Turkana went “gugger”,  leaping high in the air and shrieking before collapsing.  WGE’s Masai and Tunkana all fear for their lives and those of  their children as the new herdboy is a witchdoctor. By 1934 WGE writes of having 100 breeding cows; he can still pay some of the wages in kind, for, as he notes, the “natives ….still pay for their wives in cattle”.

In 1935 WGE visited the school, travelling from Nairobi by plane.  He addressed the boys recommending air travel on long distance journeys and spoke of his many adventures with lions and other wild animals in East Africa.

WGE had founded the Old Boys Club several years earlier and by 1935 it had over 160 members.  Old Boys attended the annual service to commemorate those who had given their lives in the Great War.  An Old Boys’ Tea came to be held at the school’s annual Sports Day, also a cricket match against the school.   At the Old Boys’ Feast in 1937 the boys consumed 2 pies each 1½ feet long, a 1 foot long sausage and 35 bottles of ginger beer; the Feast was followed by a concert given by the Old Boys.  In the same year it was decided that masters, as well as former pupils, were eligible to join the Club and in January 1939 there was an Old Boys’ weekend at the school.

During World War II, WGE showed kindness and hospitality to many in the armed forces in Kenya and the UK.  In his last letter for the school magazine in 1953 he writes that he is well guarded by four spearmen, two by day armed with rifles, and two by night armed with shotguns and that he feels the government are now getting on top of the situation. W. G. Edwards died in 1977.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.