September 30th 1915

Captain Charlie Childe (Gloucester Regiment) reports that trench warfare in some sectors has become less than chivalrous with regards the treatment of prisoners:

Charlie Childe

Captain CM Childe

21/9/15. “Here is a pleasant tit-bit, which ought to be framed in gold. The French Staff report that at Souchez (about 8 miles north of Arras) last week they captured 2000 of the breed, pumped them dry of information, disarmed them and then packed them off down a communication trench. A Zouave or two were waiting round a traverse and, as each Deutsche filed past, he was gracefully and neatly dispatched; cf. Agag of old. The French don’t want prisoners – all they want is scalps, and you would feel the same after a long weekend in the Glory Hole Orchard.”

Charlie mentioned the “Glory Hole” in his journal last month:

“My four guns covered a frontage which included a bit called the ‘Glory Hole.’ The average distance across to ‘Germany’ is 450 yards, but 40 yards at the ‘Glory Hole’ jutting out into a sharp salient…

A salient is always a cheerful spot. You get potted from all directions, sides, back and front, and in the same way flares go up all night too. Also you come within range of a variety of attractions, such as bombs, rifle-grenades, unpleasantly near snipers, pip-squeaks, whizz-bangs, and all the other devices of the people opposite, and lastly and best of all, their horrible minenwurfer.

This throws a bomb of very high explosive, 3 feet long by 12 inches diameter. The bomb goes vertically up to a great height and then curves over and falls with a soft, heavy ‘wop’ and then, just as you put yourself on the back and say ‘it isn’t going off this time,’ you hear a roar like absolutely nothing on earth and it shakes the ground for two or three acres or more. The effect though is extraordinarily local, just a hole varying from 15 feet by 6 feet to 10 feet by 5 feet.”

 

September 24th 1915

CHRISTMAS TERM 1915

It has been a very sad beginning of term, having to tell the boys that their dearly loved masters, Mr Eastwood and Mr Higginson, have both given their lives for their country.

They were the greatest of friends, although contrasting personalities. Eastwood was the practical, determined, go-ahead character, whilst Higgie was the idealist, the dreamer, the artist, musician and poet.

Leslie Eastwood had been with us since 1907 and had become a first-rate schoolmaster. His form was noted for its ‘thoroughness.’ Strict without being severe, he won the respect and love of his boys and they would at any time do anything for him. It was very seldom indeed that he had to ‘send’ a boy ‘in’ to me and yet he had his form always under control. At games, he was most keen and successful in his coaching and showed a manly and loyal spirit that was most stimulating. As a comrade to me on the Blue Dragon he was splendid.

‘Higgie’ was different in some ways. He was more of the idealist, more intellectual perhaps, a writer and thinker, a musician and artist; but he also endeared himself to us and his special work in inspiring enthusiasm for painting and singing was quite unique. The way in which he conquered the difficulties of the introduction of musical comedy at the OPS (H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance) at once stamped him as a genius in organization and initiative.

Well, we are all proud of the part they have taken in our country’s hour of need and oh, so sorry that we shall no more have them amongst us.

We will all miss them very much.

September 22nd 1915

Higgy

Capt. Thomas Higginson (Shropshire Light Infantry).

Our most recent grief has been compounded by the news that on the day after the death of Leslie Eastwood, his friend and colleague on the OPS staff,  ‘Higgie,’ was killed in a most tragic accident.

The Commanding Officer’s letter to his parents explains the circumstances of his death:

“He was sitting in a dug-out with another officer about 1.30 a.m. yesterday morning, the 20th September, when the roof collapsed. He had spent most of the day before altering it and adding more bricks and earth to make it proof against shell fire. He must have put on more than the beams could stand, as it gave way.”

Higgie was educated at Ludlow Grammar School and won an Exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford. Here he helped his parents keep him at College by journalism, and made quite a large sum by his contributions to the ‘Westminster’ and ‘Pall Mall’ magazines, amongst others.

In the holidays, with congenial friends, he used to pose as a tramp. They hired a barrel-organ and would sing (in harmony) as they moved around the country, seeing life from a different standpoint to the ordinary one.

He leaves behind Winifred, his wife of only 4 months.

September 21st 1915

Eastwood 2

2nd Lieut. Leslie Eastwood (King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment).

We have just received the most shocking news that, far from recovering, Leslie Eastwood has succumbed to the dysentery of which he spoke in his letter of August 20th.

The sister in charge of the Officers’ Division of the 17th General Hospital at Alexandria has written to inform his parents of his death on September 19th saying,

“I am afraid he delayed too long before he gave in. One of his brother officers told me he suffered from dysentery since the first few days he came out here, but would never give in and report sick and probably, had he not been wounded, would not have given in when he did.

You may rest assured everything that was possible was done for him.”

We are all very shocked by this news and, as one of my colleagues has put it,

“He leaves a gap which we shall find it very hard to fill, as he knew what was wanted and what to expect from a boy. He was no respecter of persons and consequently his advice was generally sought by those who knew him; and he was respected by a still wider circle.”

The boys return to school tomorrow, no doubt full of their usual good cheer and optimism for the coming term, and I must dent their youthful enthusiasm with the most upsetting news of the death of one of their most popular masters.

This is a most cruel blow.

 

 

September 15th

Basil Playne

Surgeon Basil Playne (RN, Royal Naval Division).

The London Gazette of September 13th lists Basil as having been awarded the DSO:

“For gallantry and good service during operations near Gaba Tepe from April 28th to May 1st, 1915. On several occasions he rushed across the open (the communication trench being incomplete) into the fire trenches and attended the seriously wounded, regardless of the severity of the enemy’s fire; on one occasion he carried a wounded officer on his back from the fire trench to the communication trench under heavy fire.

His conspicuous bravery not only inspired the stretcher bearers to perform fine work, but gave confidence and spirit to all ranks. He was again several times brought to notice for gallant deeds when attending the wounded on May 3rd and 4th.”

September 12th 1915

There are a number of our Old Boys serving in the French Army, including Sous Lieut. Noel Sergent (French Artillery), who was also involved in the fighting in Gallipoli last month.

August. “Do you want to know my exact address? Well, I am in the ****** battery of the ****** regiment d’artillerie in the ****** French Army somewhere in Turkey. So like that you are ‘fixed,’ as the Americans say. So am I. In a devilish tight fix between the Devil (surnamed Achi Baba) and the deep sea, alias the Hellespont – most appropriately named.

We have two 9½ inch coast guns, and we had a job hauling them up in three parts each, the piece itself causing the greatest difficulty owing to its weight (16 tons). We put 100 men on either side and hauled away; then, when we got them up, 25 of us had to put them in place. We were at work for four nights from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., with just a cup of caffeine at eleven.

Our guns were ready for firing yesterday, so we started today. We topped our drive, put our second shot over the green, on the green in 3…

On August 6th we assisted at an attack. It was a tremendous business and the best way I can describe it is by comparing it to a terrific thunderstorm when the thunder and lightning came before the rain, and directly the rain comes the thunder and lightning stop. The thunder and lightning are the flash and bang of multitudinous guns, and the patter of the rain is the rifle and machine gun fire. What a fearful noise they make once they are started! I believe we took two trenches – hardly seemed worth the ammunition.”

N Sergent + gun

Noel Sergent with his gun crew.

Noel is the youngest of the three Sergent brothers, all of whom attended the OPS. They have an English mother and a French father who did not like the Napoleonic nature of the French education system.

In 1911, the Sergent brothers, then all living in France, made considerable names for themselves as Association Football players. Victor (full-back and captain), Dick (inside-left) and Noel (right-half) were joined by their Old Dragon friend and brother-in-law ‘Pug’ Wallace (centre-half) playing for Stad Raphaelois, and they won the French Championship.

Whilst his older brothers have joined the British Army, Noel elected to join the French Army.

September 8th 1915

 

Philip Chapman

Private Philip Chapman (Hampshire Regiment)

A letter received from his parents informs us of the very sad news of Philip’s death.

He was wounded in Gallipoli in an attack made on 21-24th August. The attack was nearly over and he had been ordered with another man to bring up a munitions box. They were pausing for a moment to rest when a shell came over a rise and exploded near them, shattering Philip’s right fore-arm and giving him a great wound in the back, where the muscle was exposed and lacerated. The wounds were dressed at once, as the advance was over and the arm was amputated just below the elbow.

He was taken to Malta, which he reached on Sunday night, August 29th and was admitted to the care of his godfather, Mr Charles Symonds, of Guy’s Hospital, who is one of the surgeons in charge of the hospitals there.

On September 5th Mr Symonds wrote to Philip’s parents:-

“All our efforts failed, and the dear boy passed away last night at 10 o’clock…

Yesterday it was obvious that he could not live long and I was with him in the morning and again in the afternoon and later on till he died. He asked for me and seemed so relieved when I was near. Then I left a little before six to operate on an urgent case some distance away, and got back about 8.45.

He welcomed me again and asked if he would ‘pull through’ and again ‘would he be here tomorrow?’

I said a few words, and later ‘Goodbye,’ and he, as bravely as anyone could do, replied ‘Goodbye.’

I said, ‘You must give me a kiss that I may give it to your mother,’ and he did so.

I said we should meet again, and he said ‘Yes, we shall,’ and then he fell on a little sleep.

Waking, perhaps from the oxygen we were giving to relieve his breathing, he said, ‘I was quite prepared to die, and does not this bring it all over again?’

When I said it was to ease is breathing, he said ‘All right’ in that quiet, satisfied and resigned way that I had so much learned to appreciate.

I gave a little morphia, which relieved his back pains. Never did he wander for a moment or utter one unclear word; he was fully conscious and knew his end was near.

Then most wonderful of all, he fixed his eyes looking outward, as he lay on his side and said slowly and with halting breath – each word separated, and some syllables also – ‘This is the most be-a-utiful moment of my life… Oh! What a su-p-erb mo-ment.’

Then he smiled so sweetly and with so satisfied an expression that we knew he had seen a vision…

I shall ever be grateful to a kind Providence who guided our wounded boy to my care, and that I was able to help him in his last moments.”

We remember Philip at the OPS as a quiet, serious, affectionate boy with a devotion to music; he was always to be found at the piano in his free time. On leaving Clifton College, he studied music with the aim of becoming a College organist.

He tried to join the ‘Artists’ when the war broke out. He was rejected on account of his short sight, but he got glasses and became an efficient marksman. He then joined the 8th Battalion Hampshire Regiment.