• Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant Roger Paul Hepburn M.C., 30th Signal Company, attached to 21st Infantry Brigade, R


Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Second Lieutenant Roger Paul Hepburn M.C., 30th Signal Company, attached to 21st Infantry Brigade, Royal Engineers, died of wounds received two days earlier during the fighting at Ypres.

He was the youngest son of Sir Henry Hepburn, owner of the Hele Paper Mill which produced paper used for bank notes throughout Britain and the Empire. Educated at Rugby School and Magdalen College, Cambridge, where he was an active member of the Officers’ Training Corps, he graduated with a 1st Class degree in Natural Sciences. On the day that the outbreak of the Great War was declared, his maths teacher returned from an examiners’ meeting to discover that several of his students, including Roger Hepburn, had left college on their motorbikes immediately upon hearing the news – on their way to join the British Expeditionary Force as despatch riders.

Second Lieutenant Hepburn served for eight months on the Western Front, achieving the rank of corporal, before being commissioned in May of 1915. As a second lieutenant, he was aware that the junior rank had a notoriously high death rate, so he re-trained as a signaller. In November of 1915 he returned to the front as a brigade signals officer, and was wounded in February of 1916. In June of 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross for general good service - his commanding officer wrote, “I found him of the utmost help, and always considered his opinion of very great value. He was without equal in bravery and disregard for his personal safety and comfort.”

Two days before his death he was hit by a shell, taken to No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station at Poperinghe, but his injuries were such that he could not be saved. He is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery at West-Vlaanderen in Belgium.

Roger, from Bradninch in Devonshire, was 24 years old and engaged to be married.

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