James Edward Hutton Freeman. An impression.
Many Radleians must have heard with a very peculiar sense of loss of the flying accident in Flanders which proved fatal to Jim Freeman. Only a short time before, when starting to fly from England to France with some despatches, he had been almost miraculously saved. Something went wrong with the engine of his machine, and he had to make a very rapid descent from an immense height and a forced landing. The machine was broken to pieces, but the boy was quite uninjured; and I have before me, as I write, a photograph taken just after by one of his greatest friends. There he stands, with the pleasant trustful smile on his face that many of us knew so well. One might have thought that he was meant to be spared. Dis aliter visum. His commanding officer writes with enthusiasm of his qualities and his promise and the great loss he will be to his squadron. For myself it is a labour of love to put on record in the Radleian the impression he has left with me. Possibly he impressed many others in the same way. To begin with he brought here with him the unmistakable mark of a simple happy and well-ordered home. He never lost that mark, and our hearts go out to that simple home of which he was the light. He loved his home; and he loved his School with a devotion that so many old Radleians show and which is such a delight to us older members of the College. While he was here he threw all his energies
into what he undertook. He gained distinction on the river, was a strenuous member of the Corps, and devoted to the carpenter’s shop. Thrust away in a corner by the stables one may still see – causam lacrymis – that wonderful motor-car which he constructed with such delight. It is true that he was never able to realize his ambition of driving home in it; but there it remains, a monument of his energy and ingenuity. And then the Boy himself – always happy, always courteous, always kindly, always cheery. I never heard master or boy say a disparaging word of him, and I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone else. Somewhat nervous by nature he was brave in the truest sense of the word, and was one of those “That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine.”
He kept with him to the end a wonderful and most natural simplicity – that sort of fresh and open simplicity which is the charm of childhood and of which Our Lord speaks so often and so lovingly. The heart was as the heart of a little child, and this was the great secret of his charm. He had no great opinion of himself, laid claim to no moral, physical, or intellectual excellence of any kind, made no pretentions of piety, but – unassuming and humble minded, generous, unselfish and kind, a lover of peace and mercy, instinctively pure in heart, doubtless (though he knew it not) he saw God more clearly than most of us. Such is my impression of Jim Freeman. And those who knew him best and think with me may well envy him in their sorrow. Well may they say, as I do, with a burning sense of shame and unworthiness and a sigh for chances lost for ever – blessed are such as he, for of such – and such only – is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ F. J. Barmby, Tutor of C Social, whose own son was to be killed in WW2.
The friendship between Freeman and Whittet was recorded in the obituary for the latter by the Warden:
‘Gilbert Whittet. There is a place in the hearts of many of us for the quiet courteous unselfish boy who was killed in action on July 13th. When he left us, so short a time ago, he had risen to a position of authority in the School and had gained the affection of many, the respect of all. While speaking of him in Chapel at the time of his death the Warden made special allusion to the very true and very remarkable friendship which existed between him and Hutton Freeman, whom he followed so closely into the Land of Shadows. There are few of us, who knew them, who were not impressed by the lasting and unbroken sympathy between the two. Whittet and Freeman – it seems impossible to mention one name without thinking of the other. If they had done nothing else, they would have done something to show us what that most beautiful thing ‘a School-boy Friendship’ can mean in its best and truest sense. A real and true note was struck when the preacher quoted the beautiful words of the Bible, “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided.” The Radleian 28 October 1916