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  • Photos on this page are courtesy of Simon Williams
Person Details
He was the son of William Joseph, a hotel keeper, and Annie O’Rorke of 'The Drift' Magdala Road Nottingham and the husband of Myra Roberta O’Rorke of 17, Evelyn Court, Cheltenham. The family originally came from Ireland and settled eventually in Nottingham after first living in Birmingham. There appear to have been seven children, six of them boys. Below is an article by Ms Yvette Gunther about the two brothers;- Nottingham High School’s own War Horse. Last year, a photograph appeared in a box of old items that had been buried deep in storage for some time. It had no identification and seemed much older than everything with it. It showed a Vicar with a medal. I left it on my desk, not for a moment thinking that anyone alive would be old enough to know who it was. A couple of weeks ago, Mr Williams, History Master, told me about a book he had found on the internet which was written by an ON who served as a Chaplain in Northern France and who had been held by the Germans. The book was about his experiences as a POW. We discussed the possibility that the photograph might just be of him and we knew we would probably never know. The name of B.G.O’Rorke meant nothing to me but later that day, I found a request for information, from two years previously, from his great grandson, and the penny dropped. Almost weekly in the school archives I uncover extraordinary stories of Old Nottinghamians and their place in the world; recently especially of men who were pupils in the last years of the nineteenth century. Last week, by this strange series of coincidences, I came to know of Benjamin and Frederick O’Rorke, two brothers who attended the High School from 1892 - 4. Sons of the owner of the Caledonian Hotel on Lister Gate which was bombed in the only Zeppelin raid on Nottingham in 1916, both brothers’ careers exemplified courage and public service. A very good student, Benjamin had taken Holy Orders after Oxford University and became a chaplain during the Boer War. He was a chaplain to the forces, 2nd class and then senior chaplain to the forces, Devon and Cornwall, finally finishing up as assistant deputy chaplain general British Expeditionary Force. He was captured during the retreat from Mons on 25th August 1914 at Landrecies when the Coldstream Guards and others fought a rear guard action to hold off the Germans as the BEF escaped. He was a prisoner of war in Germany for 10 months before being repatriated and returning to France with the 33rd Division as senior chaplain. Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO, he died in Falmouth Military Hospital on Christmas Day 1918 from pneumonia, aged 43. His younger brother Frederick had no less an eventful war but was luckier. By training as a vet, Major Frederick O’Rorke F.R.C.V.S. served with the Army Veterinary Corps on the Western Front, 1914 - 1919, initially as Executive Veterinary Officer at Le Havre and later as Chief Veterinary Officer at III Corps Headquarters. In a diary found later he described his original appointment as the officer in charge of disembarking horses from the transport ships at Havre, examining and passing horses when fit and then as Executive Veterinary Officer where he described his responsibility for retaining injured or sick horses until they were well enough to be dispatched to their units, and the disposal of dead horses. He refers to disorganisation, including the lack of water troughs and rations, the quality of the animals, his travels around units inspecting the condition of horses and experiments concerning the effects of chlorine gas on horses. He also was mentioned in Dispatches and survived that war and the next, dying in 1975 aged 95 years. On the 25th January, 120 years to the day that the brothers entered NHS, Chris Davies, his great- grandnephew found Frederick’s army photograph in the National Portrait Gallery Archive and confirmed our anonymous photograph as the same one he had seen as a child in his grandmother’s house.
Educated Nottingham High School, Exeter College, Oxford, BA 1897, MA 1901. Author of a number of books, including “African Missions. Impressions of the South, East and Centre of the Dark Continent”, 1912, “Our Opportunity in the West Indies”, 1913, “The Method of the Study Circle” and “In the Hands of the Enemy”, his account of his capture and imprisonment in Germany, with illustrations by the author, 1915. He wrote an article for “The Boys’ Own” paper on 22nd June 1912 on “Gordon of Khartoum”.
25 Dec 1918
346948 - CWGC Website
Chaplain 2Nd Class
  • MD MD Mentioned in Despatches
  • DSO DSO Distinguished Service Order
Joined the army 1st August 1901. Served in South Africa (Queens’ Medal and 4 clasps)Chaplain to the Forces, second class, then Senior Chaplain to the Forces, Devon and Cornwall, Assistant Chaplain General British Expeditionary Force. With British Forces in the Boer War, 1901, joined the BEF, August 1914 and captured during the retreat from Mons at Landrecies on 25th August 1914. Prisoner of War in Germany for 10 months before being repatriated and returning to France with 33rd Division as senior chaplain. Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO. Died in Falmouth Military Hospital on 25th December 1918 from pneumonia.
Article published 13th February 1915 in the Nottingham Daily Express :- “FROM A GERMAN PRISON HOUSE. “Army Chaplain's Newsy Letters to His Brother in Nottingham. “A NOVEL CHAPEL. “Congregations that Bring Their Own Chairs. “Few descriptions of life in a German prisoners' camp have been allowed to reach this country, and for this reason Nottingham people will read with especial interest the series of letters which we are enabled to print through the courtesy of Dr. O’Rorke, a partner in the well-known local firm of solicitors, Messrs. Rorke and Jackson. They are written by his brother, the Rev. Benjamin Garniss O'Rorke, M.A. The latter is at present confined at Burg, near Magdeburg, at a prison for officers of the Allied nations captured in both the Eastern and the Western battlefields. The Rev. B. G. O’Rorke, an. Army chaplain accompanying one of the Regiments, was long ago as the battle of Mons, and for several months afterwards, it was not known with any certainty what had happened to him. Then it transpired that he was imprisoned at Torgau, where during his incarceration he fitted up a little chapel, St. Luke’s, and ministered to his fellow prisoners. He was then transferred to Magdeburg, where, it appears, he has made friends with the censor of prisoners’ letters, and although he is only allowed to write one letter a week, yet it will be seen that he has been allowed considerable freedom of expression. The Rev. B. G. O’Rorke served throughout the South African campaign, for which he has a medal and four clasps. For some time after the war he was at Aldershot, and later served at Bloemfontein and Pretoria, returning to England about 1909. He has since been at Borden, Hants. Mr. O'Rorke is in the S.P.G. Army organising secretary. “Hearty Singing. “His letters, four in number, as are follow: “Kriegsgefangenen Lager, “Burg bei Magdeburg. “We left Torgau for this place after being there for exactly three months. We marched to the station with our bundles on our shoulders, entrained, passing on the way Wittenburg Magdeburg, and reached here about 9.30 p.m. I am in a large room with 10 Russian and 15 British officers. We like our Russian AIlies very much, very friendly and quite smart in appearance. This camp is not so large as Torgau, but we shall soon make ourselves at home. On Sunday we had our first service, at 9, in a large dormitory as yet unoccupied. The French used it at 10 and the Russians at 11, and we had our choir as usual, but not the organ. They sing so well in parts that they do quite well without the harmonium. We have our meals served in our rooms at five little tables, five at us at each. A medical officer, a Highlander, an Irish officer, and an English are at mine. We can get any extras at excellent canteens on restaurant principles. They sell dry goods and clothing. The Germans provide good meals for us. There are French and Russian priests here. I attended the Russian service: the singing was wonderful. The Russian priest attends our services also. We hold evensong at five. The congregation bring their own chairs. “A Touch of Piccadilly. “Burg bei Magdeburg. “December 7th. “Your parcel, socks, shirt, &c., have arrived, also a magnificent and costly set of church linen from Rev. W. P. Swayne. Thank him warmly. His son has been one of my right hand supporters in the church work here. I saw him off another to another “lager” with 100 officers this morning. He is fit and full of buck. “We hear the Bible Society are sending us Bibles. The officers when they heard it suggested we should give the society a collection. It amounted to £6 6s. Tell Raynes the British officers set a value on the possession of a Bible, We get a touch of Piccadilly here. We have a nice promenade 186 yards by 27. On either side are the sheds we occupy. Some Belgians arrived to-day. They seem very nice fellows, as are also the Russians. There is not a room here for a chapel to ourselves, but I fit up one of the dormitories on a Saturday and we do very well. We have evensong on Fridays at five, choir practices on Thursday and Saturday at five. On Sunday we use the “church” at 7.30, 10.30, and 5. The French and Russians at other hours. We had a meeting yesterday to decide the fate of our communion vessels, brass cross, &c., which we think will have historic value. Some were for presenting them to St. Paul's or to some garrison church, but in the end they were presented to me, as a memento, for use in whatever church I may happen to serve. Thank the Chaplain-General for [the] parcel of hymn books and Bibles. We drew lots for them! Great disappointment amongst the unsuccessful. We are grateful to the authorities for pushing our letters through so quickly. Glad the prisoners in England are well treated. Keep them warm with coals of fire this wintry weather. “Sleeping Room as Church. “Burg bei Magdeburg. “Last week I had my first walk outside. One of our officers had an operation in the Town Hospital, and I was allowed to visit him in company with our very kind friend the censor of this letter. Read “Peace and Happiness” by Lord Avebury. It has given me a topic for many a sermon. We have fixed up a room as church (a sleeping room with beds still in it), the R.C. altar at one end, and ours at the other. According to the arrangements we have been mixed up a la melange). Russians, Belgians, and French and British in each room. We like this as it gives us scope for knowing each other and learning each other's lingoes. The beds are allotted so as to alternate, no two officers of one nationality sleeping side by side. There seems no possibility of exchange or return before the war ends. I have made application. Please inform the Chaplain-General, whose laconic p.c. “return if possible” I received last week. Thank him in the name of all the officers for Bibles, hymn books, and psalters. They make all the difference to our services, which are the heartiest imaginable now. “Burg bei Magdeburg. “Get yourself “St. Francois de Sale’s Introduction” from me. The French chaplain, R.C., and I are reading it together. It is good. I am most grateful for all the remembrances. I cannot tell you much about our surroundings. We don't get outside the gates. The British are mingled together in my room, which is splendid for learning French. My British companions are a gunner major and a Highlander. We have our meals together at a little table and make common store of foodstuffs sent out from home. The major still has some tea, but it is running short. Our chapel is a great novelty; at one end is the R.C. altar, at the other ours. On the third side Russian and the fourth is piled up with unused beds and bedding. We are getting a harmonium to-day. The Hon. Rupert Keppell is the organist (a very fine one); our choirmaster a gunner officer, and the choir numbers 14. Every day last week and this we have had choir practices for Christmas. S.P.G. altar frontal, &c., not yet arrived, but I have the Torgau fittings. We are accommodated in four large sheds, upstairs and downstairs. Our meals are brought to us, and we can buy coffee, bread and jam, and chops and chips at two small canteens, where soft goods can be obtained, but not tobacco now. My room is the upstairs one over the chapel. Our allies like sleeping with closed windows, but one manages to be open before daylight, thanks to me. Monday is bath day for the English. A red letter day. I keep wonderfully fit and to make the days pass quickly, walking round and round, the court, reading, and playing draughts.” Above article is courtesy of Jim Grundy and his facebook pages Small Town Great War Hucknall 1914-1918.
Remembered on


  • Photos on this page are courtesy of Simon Williams
    Benjamin Garniss O' Rorke - Photos on this page are courtesy of Simon Williams
  • FC O'Rorke -
  • WWI grave/headstone for Reverend Bejamin O'Rorke located in Falmouth. Photos courtesy of Charlotte Morgan
    Rev O'Rorke - Falmouth - WWI grave/headstone for Reverend Bejamin O'Rorke located in Falmouth. Photos courtesy of Charlotte Morgan
  • WWI grave/headstone for Reverend Bejamin O'Rorke located in Falmouth. Photos courtesy of Charlotte Morgan
    Rev O'Rorke - Falmouth - WWI grave/headstone for Reverend Bejamin O'Rorke located in Falmouth. Photos courtesy of Charlotte Morgan