July 29th 1915

 

In addition to the 8 killed, we will be listing in the next edition of our magazine, the names of 26 Old Dragons who have been wounded in action.

One of these is Captain Douglas Rose (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry), who has sent us the following description:

DM Rose

Capt. DM Rose

“The new C.O. is coming up at 5.30 to see what sort of sniping post we can get out in front of the edge of the wood, a good place for using the new telescopic sights he has brought out from home; I must decide what places I will suggest…

Working my way along the line, I point out various things to be cleared up and attended to. I come to the first place I want another look at… seems about the best bit of ground just forward. The trees and undergrowth are thick enough to screen me from the German lines, about 120 yds. in front, and it will be quite all right if I do not go right to the edge. Anyhow, I must get a more definite idea as to what sort of field of fire and cover there is.

I go forward a few paces, then a few more; some bullets about, stray ones I suppose – anyhow nothing unusual… I crouch down with eyes close to ground to get the lie, then have another look, bending fairly low.

‘Great Scott!’ I suddenly collapse into a sort of sitting posture. Slowly and with amazement I realize that I have been hit. I am reclining now on my right side, a burning feeling in my left thigh, my hand which instinctively feels for the damage comes back all over blood; I am really shot then! Enemy’s sniper away to the left must have spotted me and got me sideways. Better get help as I may ‘go off.’

Calls to the breastwork bring four or five to my assistance. I warn them off, don’t want any more casualties, rotten as it is. Second Captain comes up. He is in command now.

‘Get these fellows back,’ I say, ‘and tell the stretcher bearers to be careful. Pretty certain the fellow who got me knows I am lying here.’

Stretcher bearers creep up and give me some very warm water to drink; I feel all right, rather excited and getting stiff and numb in the lower parts of the body. Corporal says he must cut my breeches, but will try to keep to seam.

I ask if bullet is out. No, he says, it is not.

Iodine makes things smart. They begin to open stretcher.

No, I cannot get on the thing and you cannot carry me without exposing yourselves.

All right, I think I can crawl on my elbows, anyhow let’s try. Yes! I can get to the breastwork; you crawl behind and push my legs along.

I am a trifle tired when I get to safety.

Would I like to wait there a bit? I can feel my breeches very wet, seem full of blood so think best go on. Rather a job getting on the stretcher, find lying on my stomach best.”

From there Douglas was conveyed to safety.

* * * * * * *

Over 20 Old Dragons are serving with the OBLI and we are aware of the following promotions:

Lieut. CWH Bailie (2nd Bat) – from 2nd Lieut; 2nd Lieut. MC Cooper (4th Reserve) – from Private; 2nd Lieut. JCB Gamlen (3rd/4th Bat); Lieut. CSW Marcon (4th Bat) – from 2nd Lieut; Capt. GK Rose (1st/4th Bat) – from Lieut; 2nd Lieut. HEF Smyth (4th Bat) – from RMC Sandhurst; 2nd Lieut. RF Symonds (Bucks Bat); 2nd Lieut. WJL Wallace (3rd/4th Bat).

July 24th 1915

 July 23rd 1915 – End of the Summer Term.

The members of the school have sent in the course of the term £13 7s 3d (last year £13 2s 0d) to the Fresh Air Fund, after being asked to decide among themselves whether they would support the Fund again or devote their contribution to some War Fund. They have also sent £5 1s 0d to the Base Hospital Tobacco Fund, and £1 to the Red Cross Fund.

£2 of this represented what would have been spent on ices on the Fathers’ Match Day, but the boys asked to give up their ices.

* * * * * * *

So comes to an end the most traumatic school year I have ever experienced in my 30 years as Headmaster of the OPS. At the final service of term, last Sunday, I spoke to the school as follows:

“We seem to have been living in a dark shadow all this year. Just a year ago we were all looking forward to bright and cheerful holidays. I was off on the ‘Blue Dragon’ to Norway over the foam and you were off to the sea side or the country and none of us had any thought of the dread horror that has befallen the world…

The question we who have to stay at home all have to ask ourselves is what have we done, what are we doing, what shall we do to help – and it is very difficult for you and me to say that we are really helping as much as we possibly can, to those who are enduring so much for us and for our country and for the cause of right. It is a question that each of us must answer for him or herself – personally, I find it very hard to get out of the ordinary way of living and thinking and I really don’t know whether it is right or wrong to enjoy oneself in ordinary ways – ought one, for instance, to refuse to eat meat, salmon, new potatoes? Ought one to give up driving a car because it is a pleasure to do so, ought one to give up the pleasure of giving tips or presents and buy war vouchers instead? Ought you boys not to spend any money on grub, on presents, on holiday excursions? It is very difficult to answer. I believe the young can answer these questions better than the old…

Try then, my dear boys and girls, to help and be good to others, to work hard and do your very best to help your parents, to be brave in refusing when other people try to make you do wrong by “daring” you or jeering at you, or by threatening to lick you if you don’t. You little boys and girls try to be specially good to your parents and brothers and sisters and to make the holidays happy ones…”

* * * * * * *

PARENTS – please note:

As is well known, the expense of ‘keeping school’ has gone up very considerably – at least 33%. The Preparatory Schools Association suggested two courses, (1) to give a week extra holiday three times a year, (2) to increase the fees.

I do not think either of these proposals is to be commended, but I would ask parents to remember the circumstance, and not to ask for reductions for epidemic absence or lost time! Of course we do our share in taking sons of fallen officers and of Belgian refugees free or at nominal terms – but this is only possible if parents will remember that the schoolmaster suffers quite as much financially by the War as anyone else.

* * * * * * *

Next term begins on September 22nd 1915.

 

July 20th 1915

2nd Lieut. Robert Gibson (3rd South Staffords), has been attached to the 2nd Bedfords. His recent letter is addressed to all of us and Dragons should note in particular how he wishes he had taken his French lessons more seriously!

Lt Robert Gibson

Lt. Robert Gibson

“How I wish I had paid more attention to Mr. Fairbrother (‘4ft. 3 ins.’ as we used to call him) or the charming French lady who taught the top French form for a short time…

As it is, when the rather managing  woman who keeps my farm bursts out at me, whether with civilities or complaints, I murmur hastily, ‘Oui Madame,’ or ‘Mais, c’est la guerre’ and seek refuge in my room…

Let’s hope this infernal war will be over long before current Dragons are old enough to cross the water. By the way, I should be awfully grateful for ‘Draconians’ (old or new) out here. We are very hard up for literature and being miles away from anywhere, cannot replenish our supply.

It is sad to see Dragons and more Dragons on the Roll of Honour and I know what schoolmasters must feel at such a time as this. It is hopeless to try and offer consolation for losses. You have to come back to the trite old saying, ‘sed miles, sed pro patria,’ but I know it’s hopelessly inadequate.

Bed-time now. Goodnight all and love to all Dragons.”

July 14th 1915

What a great day of celebration yesterday was!

Jack Smyth, having been invested with the Victoria Cross by His Majesty, travelled straight to Oxford and his old school.

JS in School photo 1915

Young Cyril Harvey, who made the short speech referred to below, has written up the events of the day for the magazine:

At nine o’clock on Tuesday 13th July, the school photograph was taken, and Jack Smyth was photographed with us. When the business was over we went into the Hall and sang a hymn. It was then the embarrassing duty of one of the boys to make a short (extremely short) speech, and he felt much more comfortable after it was finished.

Jack Smyth was then requested to tell us exactly how he won the VC. He climbed on to the platform to the accompaniment of thunderous cheers, and drew a map and explained all about it. In conclusion he said, “Needless to say, this is the first and last time I am ever going to say anything about this, and I would not have done so today unless I had been bullied into it by G.C.” *   At this we nearly took the roof off with shouting.

Jack Smyth got down from his perch, and standing between the parallel bars produced his Victoria Cross, while the whole school filed by, one by one, to examine it. 

JS VC

Jack Smyth’s VC, dated 18 May 1915

He wound up by asking the Skipper for a whole holiday. After more cheering, Jack Smyth stepped boldly from the school buildings to face an enormous body of photographers. This latter ordeal ended the morning’s proceedings. In the afternoon we played a most exciting cricket match against Jack Smyth’s team.  

Dragon Cricket Club Innings:

C. Owen b. HM Smyth                          19

H. Gaskell b. Mrs Wallace                      7

C. Harvey lbw b. Mrs Wallace              57

R. Potts c. Childe b. Skipper                   7

J. Lynam c. JG Smyth b. Childe            14

F. Hudson b. HM Smyth                         8

B. Mallalieu b. Mrs Wallace                    0

H. Hall run out                                         7

A. Owen not out                                      2

Extras                                               21

                                                               147

 Jack Smyth XII’s Innings:

Lt. FG Drew lbw b. Harvey                    30

Capt. C. Childe st. Lynam b. Potts         0

Skipper b. H. Hall                                    8

Hum b. Potts                                           1

2nd Lt. G Rowell b. Harvey                    0

HM Smyth b. Harvey                            54

Mrs. Wallace run out                             0

Miss Fisher not out                                1

Dick Wallace c. Prichard b. Harvey       0

Maj. Proudfoot b. Owen                      11

G. Nugent run out                                  0

Lt. JG Smyth VC retired                        51

Extras                                               7

                                                      126

It is doubtful which was the most enjoyed, his innings, or winning the match, or the subsequent bathe with him (his first since he swam the stream with his bombs) and several members of his eleven.”

It should be noted that seven of Jack’s team are Old Dragons: my brother Hum, Greville Drew, Charlie Childe, G Rowell, Harry Smyth, Mrs Wallace and of course Jack himself). * “G.C” is of course my colleague and editor of the ‘Draconian,’ Mr G.C. Vassall, known to all as ‘Cheese.’

July 10th 1915

The next edition of ‘The Draconian’ is due to be published in August and we are grateful for news from Old Dragons at their Public Schools. Our Oundle School correspondent has contributed a good piece on the war work they have been doing this term:

“It is an ideal school for Dragons, as it is run on very much the same lines as the OPS, namely liberty and open air life. This term we have been doing very strenuous work, as we have taken advantage of the fact that we have the best school workshops in England, and we have been making munitions of war.

A firm in Peterborough is supplying us with the rough castings, which we finish and return to them to be tested. We started by doing various brass pieces of aeroplane engines and also mine-heads; these required turning on the lathes, drilling, planning and plenty of filing which needs some patience! Of course everything has to be done very accurately, the usual standard being that they should be correct to 1/2000th of an inch, and after the parts have been worked they are tested by the more experienced boys by means of micrometer screw gauges.

The firm was very pleased with the first lot of work which we returned and have now sent still more as the demand is so great at the moment, and they have also promised us more difficult and varied work in the future. It is possible to have 30 boys working in the workshops at the same time, and the work has been organised by forms, each form spending one whole day (7-8 hrs) at it each week…

Owing to the enormous demand we have now started working in double shifts of six hours each, so that the shops are being used for 12 hours each day, and the work is to be continued during the first month of the holidays by about 60 boys who have volunteered to stay, and are to be under military control…

I have written all this thinking that you might be interested to know how we at Oundle (and some other Public Schools which have now, I believe, followed our example), are doing some little active work, small as it may seem in comparison to the needs, for the Country.”

* * * * * * *

We have received news from 2nd Lieutenant Robert Rawlinson, 2nd Border Regt., 20th Brigade, 7th Division, BEF, dated June 30th 1915.

Robert Rawlinson

2nd Lieut. Robert Rawlinson

“We came into the trenches on Sunday afternoon and all was quiet till breakfast time on Monday morning, when they dropped a few High Explosive (H. Ex.) Shells into our front line…

About 1.30 p.m. they started again and got the range perfectly. One officer and three men were blown to nothing; the shell pitched in the dug-out and all we found was the officer’s head and one shoulder; nothing at all of the others. Another officer lost his nerve and a third was wounded…

Tuesday was fairly peaceful till the early afternoon, when they shelled the next regiment on our right for a time; then all was quiet again till 5.45 p.m. when a fiendish rifle and machine-gun fire was opened on our right. We had sent up a couple of mines and had caught the Germans bolting. In less than half a minute the air was full of shells, shrapnel and rifle-fire. They shelled our lines too. I’ve never heard such a row in all my life; the H. Ex. Shells are most frightfully demoralising. One pitched with a deafening crash 15 yards to the right of my dug-out. Two hailstorms of shrapnel bullets splattered all round me when I was going along a communications trench and a bit of H. Ex. Shell missed my head by a foot. The old hands said that it was really bad shelling.

We didn’t lose many, but I saw two ghastly sights in it all. It gets on my nerves! I didn’t mind the sniping and shrapnel, but I can’t stand the H. Ex. shells. You don’t stand a chance with them…

The gunners think that the Huns are running short of shells; it has been very noticeable in the last ten days, so they say, and for every shell they send over they get about four back from us or the French.”

 

July 5th 1915

Sports Day & Prize-giving – July 1915

For the first time in the history of the school these were amalgamated. We had War weather on the Sports Day proper and could only finish off the High Jump in the shelter of the tent. Then we boldly announced that the rest of the events would be decided next morning at 9.00 a.m. before Prize-giving – and they were!

A gathering like this and our Sports and Prize-giving seem out of place in this terrible war year. I am not going to apologise for holding them as usual – and yet not as usual – for nothing is the same…

Mr Harvey, father of Cyril, was due to given away the prizes, but was unfortunately detained in London owing to the War. Had Mr Harvey been able to be present he would have spoken on the following lines. We very much hope that all the boys and girls (and shall we say grown-ups too?) will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what he intended to say.

“It is a very great treat for me to be here…

I went to school in the big provincial town where I was born. I hated it. I was a scholarship boy, or what was called a ‘free bug.’ I was also a day bug, a chapel bug and every other kind of bug. The 6th kept the lower school in order by licking them with a long strip of rhinoceros hide and by roasting them on the stove of the big school room. We had half holidays on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays… That was the part of school I enjoyed. I used to go messing about on the river, fishing and sailing and falling overboard, or I used to fool about on a farm.

I played cricket once and had my teeth knocked out. I played football once or twice and got my nose broken.

About the age you boys are going to leave here and go to a Public School, I left school altogether. It was a rotten school. It was rotten because I had a rotten time there. What the boys think about their school is right. If you have a good time at school, that means you are at a good school. My boys enjoy their holidays, but they were always glad to get back here, and they were right. Cyril has told his mother that he is going to send his children to the OPS…

There is one thing that all us grown-ups have to think about these times besides our kids, and that is this great war… Although your lives are not directly altered, I expect you sometimes wonder whether there is anything you can do to help your country. You make contributions for the wounded, you make things to help the soldiers and sailors who are fighting for you and I do not think you are too young to understand how you can help in another way…

There is now a tremendous waste going on. Waste that cannot be avoided. Every soldier in the fighting line has to have six or seven rifles provided for him. The powerful cordite in the cartridges makes such heat that the bolts seize after 30 or 40 rounds of rapid fire. A little mud will spoil a rifle and rifles get lost and broken. The guns wear out very quickly with the heavy firing and one shell costs sometimes £100 and sometimes £1,000. The waste of cartridges is enormous…

And this is only some of the waste; there has got to be lots more and this waste will ruin us, unless we can save as much some other way. Here is where you come in. Don’t let your people buy anything for you that you can do without. Don’t help to give employment to anybody who is not making something that helps in this war…

When we were at peace, we wanted wool and silk for new clothes and socks and neckties. We wanted to be a nut. Now we want everything that goes to make guns and shells, rifles and cartridges…

There is a definite limit to the amount of things we can buy from abroad. And that limit is the amount of gold or other things that we have to give in exchange. We have £55,000,000 gold in the Bank of England and the war costs £3,000,000 a day. If we give our gold and other things for spotted socks, we get much less ammunition. And we have got to knock off lots of things besides spotted socks. We have got to knock off tea and coffee and cocoa and sugar and lots of everything that comes from abroad…

When you boys get back for the holidays, you will see that your people are trying to save and what you have got to say is ‘Right Oh!’”

July 1st 1915

Last week Lindsay Wallace, know to us all, adults and children alike, as ‘Pug’, became the sixth member of the OPS staff to join the war effort – as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.

We have received this letter from him, addressed to us all.

6 Park Town, Oxford.

June 27th 1915.

Dear Fellow Dragons,

I am writing to thank you all very much indeed for the present, or should I say presents, which were thrust into my hands about ten days ago. Whenever I use them, and, as soon as I leave Oxford, that will be very frequently, I shall be reminded of the OPS and all of you and of the many happy days spent there both out of doors and indoors.

I first came to the OPS in January 1885, as a boy, and left in July 1890. I remember crying hard when my last summer term was finished. During the next ten years or so when I was at Winchester and Balliol, I was always to be found at the OPS if I had a chance. In fact at the time I came too often and was a nuisance. In my Varsity days I used to cadge a tea as often as I could from Hum or Maurice Church, in order to stay for the whole afternoon. In 1901 I returned as a master, and I’ve been there ever since.

I have stated this in detail to try and make clear to you how heart-broken I felt when I spent my last day with you as a genuine member of staff. I want to make it plain that I didn’t want to go, I don’t want to go, and I shall always want to be back.

I am going to play a new game, and I mean to play it for all I am worth, but, when that game is over, I shall change and come home as quick as I can. I don’t know whether I have made myself clear; thank you again very much for your present. Don’t forget

     ‘Pug’ 

Pug Wallace