In Memoriam: Aubyn Harrisson Pumphrey

Photograph of Aubyn Harrisson Pumphrey in uniform.
Aubyn Harrisson Pumphrey

Aubyn Harrisson Pumphrey, of Stockton-on-Tees, died of pneumonia following influenza in Paris on the 23rd October, 1918, aged 26 years.

He was born in 1892 and attended Bootham School from 1905 to 1910. He was keen on Natural History at school.

The School magazine, “Bootham”, of February 1907, in the report of The Seventy-third Annual Report of Bootham School (York) Natural History, Literary & Polytechnic Society, January, 1907 tells us that in the Christmas Exhibition, in Entomology:

“A. H. Pumphrey has made a few microscopic preparations of various parts of insects.”


“A. H. Pumphrey shows 9 microscopic slides very neatly prepared, but rather disconnected in idea.”

Aubyn won the prize for Microscopy. He also won the Workshop prize for Book Shelves.

In 1907 he became an assistant Secretary for the school Natural History Club, and also a curator of Zoology.

“Bootham” of February 1908 has The Seventy-fourth Annual Report of Bootham School (York) Natural Hlstory, Literary & Polytechnic Society January, 1908.  It contains, in the section on Natural History Diaries:

“A. H. Pumphrey has not written so much, but he has some successful photos, of nests and young birds. Both he and Levin would do better to spend more time on preparing photographic illustrations, which are more valuable than copies of bird pictures, or even of stuffed birds.”

The Workshop report in this issue contains the following:

“The year 1907 has not shown such a large output of work as sometimes : the quality, however, has been good, and things were busier in the Summer term than usual. ……… Some improvement has been shown in wood-turning. There has been less boxmaking and a greater variety in the way of picture frames, serviette rings, tool handles and candlesticks. Holmes and A. H. Pumphrey are the two best in this line.”

Aubyn won prizes for Natural History Diaries and Workshop Turning. In 1908 he additionally became a curator of Microscopy for the Natural History Society.

The February 1909 issue of “Bootham” contains The Seventy-fifth Annual Report of Bootham School (York) Natural History, Literary & Polytechnic Society. January, 1909. It shows that Aubyn had by now joined the committee of the Society and was a Registrar. The report tells us:

“During the Spring Term six meetings were held : all full of interest, and showing evidence of good work. On one occasion A. H. Pumphrey gave a very good account of the birds which he had seen at Bamborough during the Christmas holidays. The value of the paper was considerably increased by a number of excellent blackboard diagrams.”


“At the beginning of the Autumn Term an Exhibition of Holiday Work was held in the Art Room. ……. the Diaries of H . G. Burford, R. B. Graham, D. Eliott, A. B. Cohen, D. Gray and A. H. Pumphrey showed what good use had been made of spare moments during the vacation.”


“Many excellent reports dealing with the holiday activities already referred to were read at the various meetings held throughout the Term. In addition to these, several members contributed papers giving the results of their observations in the neighbourhood of York. …… Special reference ought to be made to A. H. Pumphrey’s lantern slides of “Bird Life” at Skipwith and other places. Those of the gull’s nests are worthy of Mr. Lazenby.”

and in the report of the Christmas Exhibition of 1908:

“The other feature of the Show is A. H. Pumphrey’s set of lantern slides of Natural History subjects, which, in the judges opinion, is one of the best pieces of work ever exhibited.“

They awarded the 1st Prize to Aubyn, three of whose slides—the view of the Minster and the two views of birds’ nests with eggs—were especially commended.”

Aubyn also won Workshop prizes for Tables, and Turning.

Aubyn joined the committee of the Photographic Club at school and the football committee for 3rd and 4th teams.

In December 1908, Aubyn passed the Cambridge Extension Lectures exam.

In the Autumn of 1909, Aubyn was the President of the school Natural History Society. “Bootham” of March 1910 tells us, in The Seventy-sixth Annual Report of Bootham School (York) Natural History, Literary & Polytechnic Society. January, 1910, that:

“During the Spring Term four meetings were held, all full of interest, and showing evidence of good work. On one occasion A. H. Pumphrey gave a very good account of the birds which he had seen at Bamborough during the Christmas holidays.”


“the Diaries of A. H. Pumphrey, A. B. Cohen, R. Darby and C. Holden showed what good use had been made of spare moments during the vacation.”

In the report of the Photographic Club in this same issue, we read:

“The exhibits, as a whole, were good, and consisted of lantern slides, prints and enlargements. Of the lantern slides those of A. H. Pumphrey were undoubtedly the best” and “In some of the exhibits—especially those of A. H. Pumphrey— careful choice of subject is combined with a neatness of printing and mounting, which the judges warmly commended.”

Aubyn received further praise for his photographic entries in the Christmas Show 1909:

“In the Pickard Instantaneous Competition the judges at last found a photograph undeniably instantaneous—the photograph by A. H. Pumphrey of the Delagrange aeroplane in full flight at Doncaster.”


“The photographs entered for the Pickard Time Exposure Prize received special commendation from the judges, A. H. Pumphrey’s picture of crocuses, “Signs of Coming Spring,” being described as one of the best photographs ever entered by a member of the School.”

This same issue of “Bootham” contains the Report of Committee For Awarding the Old Scholars’ Natural History Exhibition:

“For this year’s Exhibition there is only one competitor, Aubyn H. Pumphrey. He has sent in a diary of observations of birds, illustrated with many excellent photographs of nests. From most of these he has made lantern slides. His work is patient and painstaking, and neatly set out; he has made some study of flight, and the construction of feathers, and also of protective colouring. He has done good work in the Natural History Club, and some of his blackboard drawings illustrative of his lectures are reproduced on a well-known postcard. The judges were very much pleased with his use of the loose leaf system for his diary, a method which has also to some extent been adopted by Graveson. This system needs to be used with discretion, but for some purposes it is an invaluable way of arranging records of observations. We award Aubyn H. Pumphrey the sum of five pounds.”

In the Autumn Term 1909, Aubyn was playing in the 2nd XI Football team:

“Nov. 20, v. ACKWORTH. Won, 7—1. Won in spite of the absence of three prominent forwards. A. H. Pumphrey (3) was the principal scorer”

In the Spring Term, 1910, Aubyn became a Reeve at school. (A Reeve is similar to a prefect.)

The October 1910 issue of “Bootham” contains Aubyn’s “Bene Deccessit” entry:

“A. H. PUMPHREY has been in the School for five years, and was made a reeve last January. He has been a prominent member of the Natural History Club, and gained the Old Scholars’ award last year for his ornithology and photographs of birds. He played for the second football XI last season.”

The Natural History report for the year after Aubyn left Bootham notes his absence:

“A. H. Pumphrey and R. B. Graham, our two most accomplished ornithologists, both left us last summer, and we badly miss Pumphrey’s diary in the Show this year.”

After he left school he was an Apprentice Sugar Miller.

At the Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the Old York Scholars’ Association, Whit-Monday, June 1st, 1914, Aubyn was elected to serve three years on the O.Y.S.A. Committee.

It is reported in the March 1915 issue of “Bootham” that Aubyn H Pumphrey was working under the Friends War Victims’ Relief Committee. He had volunteered in 1914 for their work in France. He undertook engineering work, and helped evacuate invalids and refugees.

The next we hear of Aubyn is in the June 1917 issue of “Bootham”, which contains the report of the Old York Scholars’ Association Meeting. Whitsuntide, 1917. It contains a letter as follows:

“ Chalons sur Marne, ” 28th May, 1917.

 To Bootham School, York, Angleterre.

Meilleurs salutations de deux war victims and deux F.A.U., se trouvant dans la meme ville.


At the Meeting it was proposed and accepted that Aubyn H. Pumphrey be reappointed to remain on the committee “for the period of the war.”.

In “Bootham” of July 1918 we read:

“AUBYN H. PUMPHREY (1905-I0), FRANCIS GlBBINS (1903-7), and LONGSTRETH THOMPSON (1904-6) send news of their work in the F.W.V.R. ” I am now at N , ” writes A. H. P., ” running- a small saw-mill belonging to the American Red Cross. .. . I am the only F.W.V.R. here, but I am fortunate in having a nice little room a t the A.R.C. depot. ” He meets a number of interesting people, mainly Americans, but finds it somewhat lonely being’ separated from the rest of the F.W.V.R. men.”


“ALEXANDER S. HAMILTON (1910-15) is with a convoy, F.A.U., and has had a very hot time during the recent retreat. One dark evening he was driving downhill into a town that was being bombed. A car came alongside with Aubyn Pumphrey on board. They had just time to hail one another—ships that pass in the night.”

Then “Bootham” of December 1918 reports, in “Bootham Oversea”:

“Once again we have to close this article upon a note not unmixed with sadness. Most readers will have heard by this time of the death from pneumonia of AUBYN PUMPHREY (1905-10). His four years’ work in France with the F.W.V.R.C. has been of a most devoted character, and when he fell ill his “leave” had voluntarily been long delayed. T. EDMUND HARVEY speaks of PUMPHREY’S chivalry,” and those of us who knew him well recognise how apt is the term. We shall cherish the memory of his unselfish work for humanity. “

And in “Deaths”:

“PUMPHREY.—On 23rd October, 1918, at Paris, of pneumonia, while serving with the F.W.V.R., Aubyn Harrisson Pumphrey, of Stockton-on-Tees (1905-10), aged 26.”

His “In Memoriam” is in the April 1919 issue of “Bootham”, as follows:

“AUBYN HARRISSON PUMPHREY (1905-10) volunteered in 1914 for the work of the Friends’ War Victims’ Relief Committee in France, working at hut building in Sermaize, then in the agricultural and in the motor departments, being one of those who helped amid the gas shells in evacuating invalids and refugees from Rheims. In 1917 the Mission undertook reconstruction work in the Somme area, and he was asked to take charge of a saw mill near Noyon, which was to prepare timber for the adjoining department of the Oise; this he set up himself, and ran with the help of a scratch team of French workmen, sometimes snatching a few hours at week-ends to join on his motor cycle the neighbouring Mission Equipe at Ham, though often he stayed to repair machinery which was at work all the week. When the German advance came, in March, 1918, he was busy day and night helping the civilians to evacuate, falling back with the American Red Cross to Compile, and working without rest, having to drive his car for days together in a gas mask. He was later asked to take charge of the motors of a mobile hospital near the front, looking forward to return when the pressure was less to the purely civilian work of the F. W. V. R. C. as soon as he was needed there. More than once he was urged to take his overdue leave, but he steadily refused; he could not go, he said, while the need was so great. Worn out thus, he came up to Paris in October with the influenza fever upon him; he had not strength to resist the pneumonia that developed, and passed away in the British hospital on October 23rd, 1918. Keen on his work and the ideals beyond it, unsparing of himself, and withal so chivalrous, courteous and modest, his memory shines bright in the hearts of his friends.      T. E. H.”

Another tribute to Aubyn is given in the diary 1917-19 of William Bell, a fellow worker in the F. W. V. R. C., and entitled “A Scavenger in France”, as follows:

“23 OCTOBER. Aubyn Pumphrey passed away to-day, as a result of pneumonia following upon an attack of “Spanish Influenza,” according to the doctor who attended him. Pumphrey was one of the group who worked at Ham all last winter; and was in charge of a saw-mill at Noyon most of the time his engineering knowledge being thus made use of. He was a tireless worker; anxious at all times to give of his best; and one of the most lovable of men. I feel that he has died at his post through sticking to it too long when he was very ill. But, like all true soldiers who fall on the field of battle, he did his duty to the very last and “How can man die better?”

Aubyn Harrisson Pumphrey is buried in the cemetery of St. Cloud, near Paris.

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