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Hugh Sheardown Staveley, Lieutenant, East Yorkshire Regiment

​Hugh Sheardown Staveley, came up to Jesus College in October 1907. He graduated in Law in 1910.

Born: North Dalton, East Yorkshire, 2 September 1888

Fell in action: 3 May 1917

Staveley came up in 1907, which was the year that the Roosters debating society was founded by some of that year’s intake, including J. H. Allen, B.W. Vann and K. E. Maclean, the first President of the Society. Maclean wrote in a letter to the Society 20 years later that they “allowed no one senior to join us but later decided to allow those who came after us to keep it going”. (Roosters Minutes, Volume 1, CLU/4/1/1)

Staveley is recorded as a member in the Minutes book, speaking and proposing a motion in his second year but seems to have not taken an active part after that. In November 1908 he spoke in favour for the motion “That in the opinion of this House Democracy is a failure”. The “Ayes” won 9 votes to the “Noes” 8.

A month later at a general meeting of the society he proposed that “This house condemns and utterly abominates new boots, new clothes, new potatoes, new women and the new theology”. The motion lost by 6 votes to 8. This motion was one of several motions debated at this meeting with most of them being of a humorous nature.

However, the first motion of the session was: “That this house would welcome the establishment of a lethal chamber for undesirables”. Carried by 13 votes to 4. (Roosters Minutes, Volume 1, CLU/4/1/1). In Edwardian and late Victorian Britain many believed that the human race could be “improved” by segregating, sterilising or killing those thought to carry some weakness in their genes, in other words the mentally ill and the disabled. A much better summary of these ideas than we have space for here may be found at  http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/12/british-eugenics-disabled Unfortunately some Jesus students seem to have been in this respect typical of their time. We do not know how Staveley voted on this debate.

The Jesus College Cambridge Society Annual Report 1919 records that he was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1915 and was killed in action in May 1917. The Head Porter’s record of Jesuans who died in the war shows that he was recorded as wounded and missing in May 1917. It was not until November 1917 that he was officially reported as being killed in action in May.

You can email us on ww1-project@jesus.cam.ac.uk, go to our First World War homepage, or find us on Lives of the First World War

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