The Green Room Plaque

 
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THE GREEN ROOM PLAQUE
 

The Green Room Plaque was "found" and photographed when it came up for auction in a Sale Room in Rugby, Warwickshire, in 2009.  The Plaque commemorates twelve actor members of the Green Room Club who died in WWI.

Since that date, considerable research has been undertaken, using family history sources, military archives and contemporary newspapers in UK and USA, to find the stories of these actors, their backgrounds, careers and military service.  In the process some of their relatives have been traced and provided with copies of the information acquired.  Some research was also carried out by members the Great War Forum, who were sent a copy of another photograph of the plaque; their help with military history matters has been invaluable, and they have allowed their findings to supplement the findings of this project. 

The Green Room PlaqueThe Green Room Club was a London club for actors.  Named for the Green Rooms at theatres where actors relax when not on stage.  The club was inaugurated on 21 July 1876. Since then it has moved several times: In 1903 it was at 46 Leicester Square, and that year Claude Monet painted Leicester Square from the Green Room balcony.  The Club remained there until 1940, when bomb damage made the club unusable and it moved to Whitcomb Street.  During that later period the members included Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Laurence Olivier.

The memorial brass was sculpted by Ferdinand Victor Blundstone [1882-1951] who also designed several other memorials including the Plimsoll Monument on the Victoria Embankment, London; and war memorials at Folkstone, Stalybridge and for the Prudential Assurance, Holborn.  With Joseph Armitage, he provided the sculptural work for the Tyne Cot Memorial which forms the north-east boundary of the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. 

The details of the Memorial have been provided to the War Memorials Archive, formerly the UK National Inventory of War Memorials, which is coordinated by a Projects Officer at the Imperial War Museum, London

An illustrated Booklet about the sculptor, the plaque and the twelve actors commemorated has now been published (ISBN: 978-0-9563350-6-7) and supports the illustrated talk on the Green Room Plaque.  The booklet is available from the author.  Further details can be obtained from:- John Frearson - johnphfrearson@btinternet.com and http://johnphfrearson.host22.com/John-Frearson-Publications.html  

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THE ACTORS COMMEMORATED 

Twelve actors are named on the plaque, ten officers and two NCOs.  This perhaps reflects upon the standing and leadership qualities of these members of the acting profession.  They are listed below, as named on, and in the order of their deaths, as listed on the plaque, together with some brief details of their lives and military service. 

L/Cpl. Lionel Mackinder d. 1915 - Born in about 1869, he seemed to be easily researched until it came to finding details of his early days.  Lionel Mackinder proved to be a stage name for Edward Stephen Harris.  In the 1890s he ran his own touring company and married actress Gracie Leigh, also a stage name for Grace Ellis, the daughter of a well known marine artist.  He performed in many light musicals from 1895 to 1914, many, such as My Girl; Circus Girl; and Our Miss Gibbs; with management of Mr. Edwardes at the Gaiety.  He was ... one of the first actors to enlist on the outbreak of war, and had a toupee fitted to his bald patch and took fifteen years off his age!  He joined the Berkshire Regiment, going to France in November 1914.  He was proposed by his own company for a Captaincy, but was shot in the throat by a sniper and killed at Festubert before this unusual promotion could take place He is buried at the Le Touret military cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoue. 

Lt. Frank Saker d. 1915 - Born in Liverpool in about 1881, he was a member of an acting family, he worked as an actor from the age of thirteen.  In 1904 joined the army, being appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Connaught Rangers, later retiring to the reserve and acting again from about 1910.  He had rejoined and been promoted Captain by September 1914 and was killed in First Battle of Ypres at Zonnebeke, Belgium, on the very first days of that offensive, probably on the 30 October 1914.  The plaque states 1915 which was when his death was officially announced as it was thought he was a prisoner; much official correspondence ensued to sort out his pay made after his actual death, his gratuity, and the pension for his wife.   

Capt. A Holmes-Gore d. 1915 - Born in 1871, he qualified as a solicitor, but found that profession offended his socialist principles!  He turned to acting and directing, and was very successful, both on the stage and for movies in UK and USA.  Returning to England to make The Prisoner of Zenda in 1915, he studied and trained with the United Arts Service Rifles and gained a commission as a Captain with the 1/8th Hampshire Regiment.  He was landed at Gallipoli, and after returning to his men although wounded in three places, was recorded as Killed in Action on 12 August 1915 at Suvla Bay.   

Capt. Arthur Curtis d. 1916 - Arthur John Powles-Curtis was apparently his later fuller name, under which he served in the war, although he acted as Arthur Curtis, having decided after two years not to go into the Priesthood.  He acted from the early 1900s in both UK and USA, particularly with H B Irving and his company in favourites such as the Lyons Mail; The Jury of Fate; The Bells and Louis XI, and he was on the Irving Australian tour in 1911/12.  He trained with the Inns of Court OTC, was commissioned and went to France in March 1916.  He was wounded on the Somme in September and died of wounds soon after, in Queen Mary's Hospital, London, on 11 September 1916.  He was buried in the St. Mary Kensal Green RC cemetery. 

Capt. Basil Hallam d. 1916 - Born Basil Hallam Radford on 3 April 1889 and educated at Oxford, his first appearance was with Sir Herbert Tree in 1908, playing in Shakespearean productions.  He acted in both UK and USA.  He made his mark as Gilbert the Filbert in The Passing Show at the Palace Theatre in 1914.   Although unfit for the infantry, he badgered his way into motor transport and then into the Royal Flying Corps.  He went to France in 1915 and by 1916 was - despite sea-sickness aloft - a Flight-Commander (Temporary Captain) in No.1 Army Kite Balloon unit He died tragically in August 1916, near Albert on the Somme.  The balloon, from which he was observing, broke away.  His parachute harness failed and his death was witnessed by Rudyard Kipling ... something black, which had been hanging below the basket, detached itself and fell some three thousand feet ...  He was buried in Couin British cemetery. 

Capt. Guy B Rathbone d. 1916 - he was born in Liverpool on 29 May 1884, and became a member of the Frank Benson Shakespeare Company (he was a third cousin of Frank Benson) and pursued a busy acting career until gaining a commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment in 1915.  He was at Gallipoli and when the force was withdrawn, transferred via Egypt to Iraq, in the bid to relieve the siege of Kut.  He died at Mespot Sannaiyat, near Kut, on 21 April 1916, when he was commanding A Company, Gloucestershire Regiment.  He is remembered on the Basra Memorial. 

L/Cpl. Charles Bibby d. 1917 - Born in November 1878 in Stretford, Manchester, he also started his acting career with the Benson Company in 1898.  He was later with the Beerbohm Tree Company and was one of the original members of the Company formed by Miss A. E. Horniman when she took over the Gaiety, Manchester in 1908.  He remained mainly in Manchester, but also went on tour with her Company in UK and to Canada.  He joined up in 1915 and served with the 23 Battalion. Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) going to France later in 1915.  He was killed in action on the Somme on 3 May 1917 and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. 

Lt. Marcus Draper d. 1917 - Mark (Marcus) Denman Draper was born in 1885 in Alfreton where his father was a vicar.  His initial acting experience was also with Sir Frank Benson; he toured in repertory and was later in management for seven years.  He married actress and frequent co-star Gladys Purnell.  In 1915 he joined the 28th (Artists Rifles) Battalion, London Regiment and was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps in January 1917.  Only two weeks later, he was killed in an accident during a training flight from Northolt Camp, Ruislip.  Two of his brothers also died in WWI, and another was badly gassed. 

Capt. Leopold Profeit d. 1917 - was born in about 1878, he was the son of Queen Victoria's Balmoral commissioner, Doctor Alexander Profeit.  He acted in London and on Broadway from 1899 to 1913, and married actress Dorothy Rundell in August 1915.  He served in 8 Bn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry, entering the Salonika theatre on 31 October 1915.  He was killed near Lake Dorian on 25 April 1917 in a decisive attack that he had planned.  He was buried at the Karasouli Military Cemetery. 

Capt. C C Trevor Roper d. 1917 - Charles George Cadwalader Trevor-Roper was born on 9 February 1884 at Mold in Flintshire, and educated at Clare College, Cambridge and the Academy of Dramatic Art.  He played in London under H. B. Irving and was on his tour to Australia in 1911.  He became a lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and was gazetted Captain in December 1914 in the Hampshire Regiment.  He died in France on 3 August 1917 ... of wounds received in action at Ypres the previous day... and was buried in the Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery.  In WWII, his son was a crew member with Guy Gibson for the Dambusters Raid. 

Major Charles Blackall d. 1918 - Born in about 1875, he served as Lieutenant with the 3rd Buffs (militia) in the Boer War.  He continued in the Reserve and acted in UK initially in amateur companies and in pantomime.  His break came when he gained a part in The Whip, written by a friend who attended the same church.  The play was a hit, including a train crash and a horse race with real horses galloping on a moving belt.  It was a hit - and he and his wife, appeared with the play in UK, Australia and USA.  He was re-gazetted with the 3 Bn. Buffs (East Kent Regiment) in 1914 and went to France in late 1914.  His poems written home to his wife were published as Songs from the Trenches, and he became one of the WWI Poets.  He was acting Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 4th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and leading his men when he was killed on 10 December 1917.   

Lt. Henry Hargreaves d. 1918 - It was assumed that this was Harold Hargreaves, the son of a Burnley colliery clerk; but this has been found to be incorrect.  He was William Henry Hargreaves, born in Birkenhead on 27 July 1882.   He acted as W. Henry Hargreaves, so as not to be confused with an older actor William Hargreaves, from at least 1906, in which year he also married actress May Dallas-Palmer.  Henry joined the 15th Bn. Middlesex Regiment and later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, gaining his pilot licence on 22 May 1916.  He was in action in Palestine and died of wounds on 8 May 1918.  He is buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery.