Frederick (or Fred) Havelock Lattimer was born in Sunderland on16 June 1892. His father, John Havelock Lattimer was a grocer and his mother Margaret Dorothy helped in the business. Frederick attended Bede School, Sunderland and in the 1911 census he is recorded as being a “pupil teacher”, this was at Diamond Hall Boys School. He continued his teacher training when he entered Bede College in Durham in 1911 and was awarded his teaching certificate in 1913. At the college he played in the cricket and football teams.
Lattimer enlisted into the 18th (Pals) Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry when it was first raised at Durham in September 1914. The new Battalion was sent to a camp set up at Cocken Hall, just outside Durham City where they were kitted out and began training. Further training manoeuvres were carried out at nearby Fencehouses and further afield at Cramlington. In May 1915 the 18th D.L.I. were sent to Ripon to begin training at company level and joined the 93rd Brigade in the 31st Division. This Division was made up of both Yorkshire and Lancashire ‘Pals’ battalions including the four ‘Hull’s Pals’, the ‘Leed’s Pals’, ‘Bradford Pals, and the ‘Accrington Pals’. This training involved a county-wide manoeuvre which assumed the enemy had landed on the Yorkshire coast. A particular emphasis was placed on training for trench warfare throughout July. In late November, the Battalion moved to Fovant, near Salisbury where specialists and officers were ordered to return to their platoons and complete “Part III of their range course”. However, the battalion were yet to be fully equipped with their Mark III Lee Enfield rifles and “borrowed” 100 such rifles from another regiment to enable these orders to be carried out.
With training completed and weapons issued the 18th were expecting a 48-hour pass before embarking for France but on 5 December all leave was cancelled, officers were recalled, and the Battalion was transported to Liverpool where they boarded the liner R.M.S. “Empress of Britain” and on 6 December they set sail bound for Egypt. Having passed the straits of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean the liner was involved in a collision with a French transport vessel. Just after midnight on 13 December the two ships collided and the French ship was “cut in two”. Of the 64 souls on board, 62 were picked up by the British vessel, an engineer had been crushed by machinery and a seaman drowned. The liner put in to Valetta, Malta the next day and a quick inspection of the damage to her bows resulted in two days of repairs. Setting off again on 16 December they ran a gauntlet of U-boats, being attacked with torpedoes on two occasions but without any hits. The liner entered Alexandria harbour on 19 December. Orders stated that the troops were to be delivered to Port Said and so no shore leave was allowed. The soldiers then asked if ‘The Forgotten Brigade’ was to spend the whole war on a boat! Two days later on 21 December 1915 they docked in Port Said.
Expecting a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal, the 18th were soon at work helping to build a massive three-line defensive position. After some nine weeks in the desert around Kantara the battalion received orders on 28 February to return to Port Said where, having boarded H.M.T. “Ivernia”, they were about to set sail with a convoy when her engines broke down and the Convoy left without her. After repairs she set sail alone at 05.00 on 6 March. After a less traumatic voyage they entered Marseilles harbour on 11 March and much to the amusement of the troops on board they collided with a destroyer moored next to their allotted berth. They entrained at the docks, 30 men and their equipment to each cattle truck and two days’ travel through France saw them arrive in the Serre Region of the Western Front. There they were involved in preparations for the “Big Push” of that summer, which began on 1 July with what became known as the first Battle of the Somme.
Frederick’s record of service is chronicled in the Rolls of Honour which are published in The Bede magazine during the war. He first appears in the March 1915 edition where his enlistment into the 18th D.L.I. is recorded. An entry in the March 1916 edition entitled “Bede in the Mediterranean” lists him as a company stretcher bearer. Subsequent editions of December 1916, April 1917, and December 1917, all confirm his service as a stretcher bearer. The April 1918 edition reports that Frederick Lattimer returned to England at the end of 1917 to pursue a commission. The article laments the dwindling number of ‘Bedeites’ remaining with the 18th and suggests that “no one remains who can continue the reports”. However, Frederick Lattimer himself then takes up their story and provides an account of the battalion’s record from July to December 1917. Further information could not be provided as Frederick left the battalion on 15 December and returned to England to gain his commission at the cadet school at Cambridge, and which was recorded in the London Gazette on 27 August 1918. Sometime later Frederick was transferred to the newly formed R.A.F. (the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated on 1 April 1918 to become the Royal Air Force). Lattimer was demobilised from the R.A.F. in January 1919 and returned home to Sunderland. He died from tuberculosis on 4 November 1919. The Sunderland Echo contained the following obituary.
"The death of Mr. Fred H. Lattimer occurred this morning at the early age of 27. After leaving Barnes School he went to Bede Collegiate School, and was for two years a student teacher at Diamond Hall Boys, after which he finished his training at Bede College, Durham. He joined the Durham Pals Battalion in Sept. 1914 and served as a private in that battalion in Egypt and afterwards in France, where he went through many battles. He came back to England in December 1917 and went to cadet school in Cambridge where he took his commission and joined the Durhams at Guisborough. He was transferred to the RAF School at Reading and was demobilised in January 1919. Always a keen sportsman he was a regular player for Willington Association team before the war and possessed Northern League and Durham Senior Cup Medals. This season he played in several matches for Hendon Cricket Club."
Sunderland Echo, 4 November 1919 (p.6 col. C)
Frederick Havelock Lattimer is buried in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, Sunderland. He is commemorated on the cross at Bede College (but not the plaque and rolls of honour), on the roll of honour in St Gabriel’s Church, Sunderland, and in the National Union of Teachers War Record 1914-1919 (1920).