Ronald Mutimer was born at Middridge on 29 April 1888 and baptised a month later at Shildon on 24 May. His father Edward Holley Mutimer was a certificated schoolmaster from a Suffolk family, though born in London, and his mother Margaret came from Northumberland. His elder brother Edward Robert Mutimer died in Rothbury in 1899 at the age of 15. Douglas Mutimer, his younger brother, was a clerk at an architect’s office in Darlington in 1901, and later a fitter, and who enlisted in the 5th Durham Light Infantry in 1912 but was discharged on fitness grounds. He enlisted again in September 1914 and was again discharged. He had Pott’s disease (tuberculosis of the spine) and died in Sherburn Hospital in 1931. Gladys Eliza Mutimer, born eight years after Douglas, completed the family.
Ronald Mutimer went to St John’s Church of England School in Darlington, and then Barnard Castle School. He matriculated at Durham University in Michaelmas term 1905, and came to Hatfield Hall where he was admitted as an Arts student. In 1907 he was awarded a Theological exhibition. He participated enthusiastically in many college sports and in the university’s social life.
Mutimer was awarded his colours in March 1906 by the Durham Colleges A.F.C., and a Palatinate by the University A.F.C. for which he played in goal in the 1906/07 season. In his second year he was the secretary of football and fives and represented these sports in Hatfield Hall Senior Common Room. His boat won the 1907 mixed fours Inter-Collegiate Rowing, and he played inter-collegiate cricket and rugby for Durham Colleges. He and his partner Edmund Turner were among the Hatfield Fives players that won the Inter-Colleges Cup in March of that year.
In 1906 the Durham University Journal reported that Hatfield Hall Debating Society debated the motion “That the recreations of the British Public are to be deplored”:
R. Mutimer seconded the opposition. He pointed out that a large proportion of the crowds who watch matches consists of boys and young men who go in order to learn how to play. Gambling he did not regard as a recreation at all. His remarks were concise and to the point.
Durham University Journal (vol. XVII, no. 8, 24 November 1906)
The Journal records that two days later at a Hatfield Hall Choral Society concert “Mortimer gave an excellent rendering of ‘Three for Jack’ which song is eminently suited to his powerful voice” (Durham University Journal, volume XVII, no.9, 1906).
Ronald Mutimer satisfied the examiners in his final examinations for a B.A. in Classical and General Literature in the Easter term 1907, and then went to the University of Grenoble for six months. From January to December 1908 he taught at Sandwich Grammar School, and then in 1909 became a teacher of French at Darlington Grammar School alongside his college friend Edmund Turner.
He enlisted as Private no. 2970 in the Royal Fusiliers (City of London) regiment in September 1914 upon the outbreak of war. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 26 August 1915, then Corporal on 5 January 1916, and went to France with the 21st Battalion (4th Public Schools) in November 1915. During the winter and spring of 1916 the battalion served as part of the 98th Brigade of the 33rd Division near Albert during the preparations for fighting on the Somme. On 15 March 1916 he was transferred to England to join the 6th Officer Battalion at Balliol College Oxford as a cadet where he was again promoted to Corporal. A supplement to the London Gazette, published on 25 July 1915 recorded that Ronald Mutimer was commissioned as a Temporary Second Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Regiment on 7 July 1916.
The following day he married Florence Proud at Darlington Parish Church. He joined his regiment on 14 July. On 13 October a notice was published in the London Gazette that Ronald Mutimer had been dismissed from the service after a court martial for drunkenness. The death in action of his friend E.S. Turner on 21 August could have been a factor.
Mutimer’s service record records (WO 339/60170 and WO 363) that he was re-called for service almost immediately and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery (R.G.A.) as a gunner. His service was reckoned from 4 October 1916. In December he attended a course at Catterick Bridge on ‘Plotting and observation of fire’. He was promoted to Acting Corporal and returned to France on 5 April 1917.
Siege Batteries of the R.G.A. were equipped with heavy howitzers that sent large calibre high explosive shells in high trajectories to drop into the enemy’s defences.
On 22 or 23 July 1917 (Commonwealth War Graves Commission records provide both dates) during the massive artillery build-up to the Battle of Passchendaele Corporal Ronald Mutimer, then with the 297th Siege Battery, was killed in action. Four days later a notice in the London Gazette recorded that he had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.
He was buried in Dickebusch Military Cemetery Extension and his identity disc returned to his wife Florence in Darlington. She was awarded a gratuity of £21.0.6 and did not marry again. She died in Darlington in 1962.
There are memorials to Ronald Mutimer on his family grave in Darlington West Cemetery, at St John’s Church of England School in Darlington, at Barnard Castle School (stained glass windows and roll of honour), Darlington Grammar School, Darlington Library, and at Hatfield College.