Frederick 'Sep' ‘Cleg’ Kelly

Frederick 'Sep' ‘Cleg’ Kelly, the Olympic gold medal rower, pianist and officer in the Royal Naval Division who was killed on 13 November 1916 on the opening day of the Battle of the Ancre.

The seventh child (and this his name) of a wealthy wool magnate from Australia, 'Sep' along with five of his brothers was sent to England to be educated at Eton. Frederick then went up to Balliol College, Oxford to read history … and row. 

Although his passion was music and composition, he was dissuaded from following a career in music by his father. He hardly focused on his academic studies though was he barely scraped through with a degree - his life being spent on the river. On his father’s death in 1901 and that of his mother in 1902 ‘Sep’ or ‘Cleg’, as he was known, was then able to concentrate on his joint passions of rowing - going on to win gold at the Olympics in London in 1908 and music performance and composition. 

On the outbreak of war in 1914 Sep immediately enlisted in the newly formed Royal Naval Division. He went on to serve in Gallipoli where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for actions during the evacuation. Promoted to Lieutenant-Commander he then went on to serve on the Somme. It was here, on 13 November 1915, while leading an an attack on a German machine gun emplacement at Beaucourt-sur-ancre that he was killed. He was 35 years old. 

Of the eight who rowed to gold at the 1908 London Olympics, six served, three were killed in action, a seventh would appear to have remained with the shipbuilding company on Tyneside he had joined a decade earlier and the eight, a doctor, had died having contracted gangrene while undertaking an operation on a patient.

Over the years the late Stand To! editor Jon Cooksey co-write and produced several documentaries for the BBC in collaboration with BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist and Sports Editor Graham McKechnie.

This broadcast tells the story Lieutenant-Commander Frederick 'Sep' Kelly 

The other seven rowers: 

  • Gilchrist Maclagan. > Eton, then Magdalen College, Oxford. During the First World War  he was a lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was killed in action in Pilckem Ridge, at the Second Battle of Ypres  and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.
  • Ronald Sanderson > Harrow, and Trinity College, Cambridge. Leander Club and Olympics. Having already served in the Boer War he served once more in the Royal Field Artillery during the First World War he rose to rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was killed in action near Ypres in April 1918. 
  • Albert Gladstone > grandson of the former British prime minister, Eton, Christ Church, Oxford.  He served in the First World in  Mesopotamia and Gallipoli, was promoted to Captain in the 2nd/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), in the Indian Army Reserve, and in 1919 appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire. 
  • Banner Johnstone > Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge then the Leander Club. Enlisting in 1901 he was a second lieutenant in the 3rd (Militia) battalion of the Black Watch in 1901. At the starr of the First World  War he was in the Transport Corps in East Africa, but went to France in 1917 with the 1st Black Watch and 1st Infantry Brigade.
  • Guy Nickalls > One of 12 children, the son of a successful stockbroker, he went to Eton, Magdallen College, Oxford. In 1914 he tried to enlisted but he was turned down on account of his age (47). In 1917 he was accommodated and sent to France as a Captain in the 23rd Lancashire Fusiliers in charge of physical and bayonet training.
  • Charles Burnell > Eton, Magdalen College, Oxford. During the First World War he served as a Lt Colonel in the London Rifle Brigade.
  • Raymond Etherington-Smith > The captain of the eight than won gold at the 1908 London Olympics and nicknamed ‘Ethel’, Educated at Repton, Trinity College, Cambridge he was a member of London Rowing Club. A surgeon He died from blood poisoning contracted while operating on a gangrenous patient. 
  • Henry Bucknall  > Eton then Merton College, Oxford then the Leander Club before the Olympics. He joined a Shipbuilding Firm on Tyneside where he appears to have spent his war. 

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