Poppy Harry Olivier Sumner GIBSON (1885–1917)Poppy


From Lancing College
Roll of Honour

Harry Olivier Sumner Gibson was born at the Rookery in Old Headington on 13 May 1885, the son of Walter Sumner Gibson (born in Fawley, Hampshire in early 1849, the son of William Gibson) and Julia Elizabeth Olivier (born in Wallingford in early 1852).

At the time of the 1881 census Harry’s father Walter Sumner Gibson was a single man of 32 living alone with two servants in Godalming and working as a schoolmaster; but in 1883 he bought The Rookery in Old Headington (now Ruskin College) from the Revd J. W. A. Taylor, and took over the boys’ school that was based there. Meanwhile his mother Julia Olivier was living in Poulshot, Wiltshire, where her father Henry Arnold Olivier was Rector)

The marriage of Harry’s parents took place in Hampshire on 2 January 1884 and was announced thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal two days later:

Jan 2, at All Saints’ Church, Crondall, Hants, Walter Sumner Gibson, of Headington, near Oxford, fifth son of the late Rev. W. Gibson, Rector of Fawley, Southampton, to Julia Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the Rev. Henry A. Olivier, formerly Rector of Poulshot, Devizes.

The couple had six children, all born at the Rookery and baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington:

  • Harry Olivier Sumner Gibson (baptised on 11 June 1885)
  • Arthur William Sumner Gibson (born 8 March 1887 and baptised on 12 April)
  • Mabel Emily Gibson (born on 17 January 1889 and baptised on 24 February)
  • Cuthbert Walter Sumner Gibson (born on 9 December 1890 and baptised on 11 January 1891)
  • Frank Arnould Sumner Gibson (born on 23 February 1893 and baptised on 19 March)
  • Winifred Margaret Gibson (born on 10 April 1897 and baptised on 6 May).

Harry attended Hartford House School in Winchfield, Hampshire and then Winchester School from 1897 to 1904, where he was School Prefect, won the Natural Science Prize, and was in the College XV.

In 1897 Harry’s father sold The Rookery and went to work as a schoolmaster in London. At the time of the 1901 census he was living with his family (plus five boarders and four servants) at 197 Bedford Hill, Streatham. Harry himself was boarding at Winchester School on census night.

In 1904 Harry won a scholarship to New College, Oxford and obtained his B.A. (2nd Class) in Natural Science in 1908. During 1908 he carried out biological research studies in Naples.

Harry then became a Science master at Lancing College in Steyning, Sussex from 1909 to 1913, and can be seen living at the college at the time of the 1911 census, when he was 25. His father was then working as a private tutor in Tooting.

In 1913 Harry was appointed an Assistant Inspector under the Board of Agriculture.

On 4 June 1914 Harry Olivier Sumner Gibson married Hester Worth Townsend, who was born in Leominster near the beginning of 1887, the daughter of the Revd John H. Townsend of Oatlands Park, Surrey.

They had two children:

  • John Sumner Townsend Gibson (registered in the third quarter of 1915 at Samford, Suffolk)
  • Helen Olivier Costeker Gibson (registered in the second quarter of 1917 at Westhampnett, Sussex).

Meanwhile in 1914 Harry’s father was appointed an academic reader at Oxford University Press, and moved with his wife to 9 Lathbury Road in St Margaret’s parish.

PoppyHarry Gibson volunteered early in the war, enlisting on 31 August 1914. He served as a Lieutenant in the 11th Battalion of the London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles). He went to Gallipoli in September 1915, and served in Egypt and on the Suez Canal from 1915 to 1917. He was killed in action near Wadi Gaza at the Second Battle of Gaza in Palestine at the age of 31 on 19 April 1917 when he advanced with his platoon through “an exceedingly heavy barrage and crossfire from machine guns”. He is buried at the Gaza War Cemetery (XIV.F.8). His family paid for the additional inscription THINE EYES SHALL SEE THE KING IN HIS BEAUTY / R.I.P. on his headstone.

Gibson is listed on the roll of honour of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington and also on the war memorial outside St Margaret’s Church and St Barnabas Church in Oxford. He is also on the memorial in New College Chapel (below):

Memorial to Gibson in New College Chapel

Administration was granted in London to his widow, Hester Worth Gibson, on 7 June 1918. He left £2,012, and his last address is given as Winton, St Albans.

His obituary in the Oxford Chronicle of 19 October 1917 is shown below:

Obituary of Harry Gibson


St Margaret's Church War Memorial

After the War

Harry’s parents
  • Walter Sumner Gibson died at 9 Lathbury Road, Oxford at the age of 68 on 20 January 1918, and Mrs Julia Elizabeth Gibson died at that address at the age of 70 on 5 September 1922.
Harry’s widow
  • Hester Worth Gibson died at Mylors, Church Hanborough, Oxfordshire at the age of 93 on 15 July 1980.
Harry’s children
  • John Sumner Townsend Gibson (born 1915) married Dorothy Mary Williams in the Witney district in 1944. They emigrated to Canada, and he died there in 2015.
  • Helen Olivier Costeker Gibson (born 1917) was calligrapher to the Ashmolean, and died at Long Hanborough in 2008.

(Harry’s first cousin was the famous actor Laurence Olivier.)

See also


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