2nd Lieutenant Ferdinand MARSHAM-TOWNSEND
Date of birth: 17 April 1880
Date of death: 16 May 1915
Killed in action aged 35
Buried in the Guards Cemetery at Windy Corner, Cuinchy. Plot IV. K. 20.
Ferdinand was the younger son of the Hon. Robert Marsham-Townsend and his wife Clara Catherine Paley. His grandfather was the 2nd Earl of Romney.
He was educated at a preparatory school in Mortimer near Reading, Eton and came up to Christ Church in 1898.
In 1910, he was a beneficiary in the Will of Lady Meux who demised the manor of Wootton Bassett to him. He sold it off in lots in 1913.
“The bequest to Mr. Ferdinand Marsham Townshend consists of £500 and all the real or personal property in Wiltshire. The Wiltshire property cost something like £1,000,000, but it was bought in the seventies, when agricultural land was high. Lady Meux sold a large part of it several years ago for about £300,000 but retained Dauntsey House and a good deal of the land. Lady Meux spent a considerable sum in collecting Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities (including mummies) for which she built a museum in Theobald's Park. She has now left this collection to the British Museum.”
Ferdinand was a keen steeplechase rider and, also, a racehorse owner. He was a member of the Bachelors' and Bath Clubs. His father died on 11 December 1914.
Ferdinand joined the Scots Guards, Special Reserve, as Second Lieutenant on 3 February 1915 and went to France on 18 March. He was killed in action in Rue du Bois, near Festubert on 16 May.
The following account of the fighting on the 16th May 1915, was published in a weekly paper:
"Another episode which sent my mind back to the early days of the war was the heroic stand of the officers and men of the Scots Guards in the sanguinary fighting in the Rue du Bois. Two officers and eighty men of the Scots Guards fought to the last cartridge, and were found dead in the Rue du Bois, surrounded by heaps of German corpses. This was during the fighting at Festubert. This is what Mr Valentine Williams says of these brave fellows: 'Soaked by the rain, blackened by the sun their bodies were not beautiful to look upon; but the German dead spread plentifully around, the empty cartridge cases scattered about, the twisted bayonets and the broken rifles showed the price a Scots Guard sets upon his honour. No monarch ever had a finer lying in state than those eighty guardsman dead amid the long coarse grass of this dreary Flanders plain.'"
Lieutenant Pike-Stephenson was one of the two officers referred to. He is buried at Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, France. The other was also a freemason, 2/Lt Ferdinand Marsham-Townsend of Apollo University Lodge No 357. No doubt together they contemplated their inevitable destiny.”
Ferdinand is commemorated in the Scadbury Chapel in St Nicholas Church, Chislehurst among memorials to Townshends, and Marsham-Townshends of Scadbury. The simplest are wooden crosses to Ferdinand Marsham-Townshend (d. 1915) and his nephew, Thomas Marsham-Townshend (d.1944) who were killed in action in the First and Second World Wars. His name is on the Sidcup War Memorial, the Bexley Memorial and the Roll of Honour of the MCC.
Probate was granted to his brother and a solicitor. He left £49,425-10s-4d.