William Ralph Martin-Leake was born in Sri Lanka, he came to live in Alleyn Park and attended Dulwich College, before going to Cambridge to read Classics. He returned to the College as a house master in 1889 and two years later whilst playing for the Harlequins won his first England rugby cap. He was also a founding member of the Barbarians.
He was ordained at Southwark Cathedral in 1909 and one year later in 1910, became the Prep’s third Headmaster. The Rev WR Martin Leake was a visionary and many of our brilliant traditions were conceived and established by him…including the taking of annual photographs of boys with their form master, tribes, our motto and slips.
The Headmaster looked to appoint brilliantly talented young staff, and one of his first recruits was Robert Firth.
Robert spent four years at DCPS from 1895 to 1901, gained a scholarship to Dulwich College aged 12 and played for and captained the 1st XV and 1st XI in his final year. He won a scholarship to read Classics at King’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1909 with First Class Honours. Having taught Firth whilst a master at Dulwich College, Martin-Leake followed Robert’s success at Cambridge and recognising Robert’s outstanding potential and promise recruited this very able young man, his prodigy, onto his staff in 1910.
For four years the Prep thrived. Then came the Great War.
At the end of the summer term of 1916 Robert Firth resigned from the Prep, enlisted with the London Rifle Brigade and after a period of training was posted to Ypres.
In late September 1917, the Rev WR Martin-Leake, Headmaster of the Prep, read out the news to the boys in assembly that their popular young Classics master, Robert Firth, had been killed at St. Julien.
And here we are, one hundred and one years on, at the Prep that these two wonderful men helped forge.
At the recital in April we launched our Memorial Wall Appeal, so that we could have a permanent reminder of the 292 serviceman who, like Robert were former pupils at the Prep, sacrificed their own lives for others.
We feel that, with it being the centenary of the Armistice, now is the time for us to recognise and celebrate each wonderful life, each tragically cut short.
If you would like to contribute to the Memorial Wall Appeal you can make a bank transfer, with the reference ‘Plaque Appeal’ to account number 11146923, Sort Code 56-00-18. If you would prefer to pay by cheque, please make it out to Dulwich Prep London, write ‘Plaque Appeal’ on the back and send it to The Bursar at the school address.
Our appeal target is £30,000 which will help pay for the production of the plaques; all contributions may be gift-aided.
Please give generously to this worthy cause. All contributors will be invited to a reception on 9th November when the plaques will be unveiled and there will be a display of all the work undertaken by the current pupils to commemorate the Armistice.