Reginald Herbert Secretan 31 July 1917

Reginald Herbert Secretan, the second son of Mr and Mrs Herbert Secretan of Leverstock Green in Hertfordshire, was born in June 1895. He came up to Sidney House in September 1909, leaving school just in time for the War in the summer of 1914. After 18 months service as a dispatch and motor driver, he returned home in August 1916 to take up a commission in his local Hertfordshire Regiment. His weak eyesight, a bar to his gaining a commission in 1914, was now it seems, no longer an obstacle. He returned to France with them in January 1917 and was killed in action on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, always known as Passchendaele.

His last letter home was typical of his continuing optimism and enthusiasm. “We are in quite a nice place, I will do my best to let you know how I am getting along, but please don’t worry too much as it’s going to be awfully difficult. I have a good job and I think my luck will hold as it has done up to now. I am awfully bucked with life and the men could not be better.”

Even at the 11th hour and with a sudden dreadful change in the weather, which would make the coming attack so difficult, he tried to strike a re-assuring note. “Today [29th July 1917] we moved off under a glorious sun, and just before we reached our camp, it came down dogs and cats, I have never known it rain so hard before! We are all right now and hope it will be a good day. Well, good-night Ma, and rest assured your son will be all right.”

When he was at school, his mother had confided to Headmaster Sanderson that her boy “was backward as regards book learning” and that “the Masters at his Preparatory School had found him difficult to teach”. Sanderson, whose mantra was that there was no such thing as a dull boy, reassured her that he had “many such boys and their parents have been astonished at their progress, there is lots to interest him here.” And indeed he was right. Looking back over Reggy’s successful career at Oundle - he was an excellent sportsman and became Head of House - his mother later wrote, “I feel we can never be grateful enough to Oundle, no other school could have provided him with such interesting work and thereby made a man of him”.

Reginald Secretan was 22 years old at the time of his death. He has no known grave and his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow