The Schoolboy Stow-away

Brian Osborne’s family lived in Windsor, and he went to school at nearby Eton College. His school reports describe him as a “straight, cheery, unassuming and courageous lad”. In summer 1914, when Brian was on school holiday aged 15, the tensions across Europe impacted his father’s anthracite business, which lost its export business, and he could no longer afford Brian’s school fees.

At White’s Club in London, his father met up with the Commanding Officer of the West Kent Yeomanry, Sir Samuel Scott, who offered Brian a position as trumpeter in the regiment. Brian was already a good horseman, but had to learn to play the trumpet before joining.

War soon broke out, and in 1915 the regiment was sent to Liverpool to board a troopship, the SS Olympia, bound for Gallipoli in Turkey. Aged 16, Brian was too young to be allowed to join them. But he was determined not to miss out. Through his letters home to his mother, we have a vivid account of what happened next.