October 29th 1915

It is good to learn that Major Charles Mayhew (RMLI) – whose father is the chaplain here at Wadham College – has received his copy of the school magazine safely, even though he is so far away in the Dardanelles:

Suvla Bay 5/10/15. “I have been reading with great interest the experiences of various ODs in the Great War, as set forth in the last copy of the Draconian and I feel I must congratulate the Skipper and say how great an honour I feel it is to have once been a member of the School that supplied the hero of quite one of the bravest deeds in the whole war. I refer of course to Jack Smyth…

I thought it might interest you to hear something of the Naval side of the Dardanelles campaign, as far as is possible…

The chief work of the Navy lies in making all arrangements for and superintending the landing of troops detailed for the operation and in covering the landing with their guns… After the landing has been effected, the next duty is to supervise the landing of various stores…

A secondary duty is to keep down the fire, as far as possible, of the Turkish guns whenever they start shelling the beaches or the transports and store-ships in the Bay. This in theory sounds fairly simple, as the ships’ guns easily outrange all the guns that can be brought against us, but their guns are all in such well concealed positions behind hills or other natural features, that it is only by the aid of observation officers in aeroplanes fitted with wireless, that we can be spotted on to them.

We usually get up a game of hockey on the quarterdeck in the evenings, which makes up in vigour what it lacks in science and observance of the rules, and causes more casualties among officers than all the shelling…

The other evening, just after dark, a tremendous bombardment started all round our lines and the sight of the shrapnel and star-shells bursting, with the noise of the continuous rattle of maxims and rifle firing, was most awe-inspiring and we thought that the Turks must be making a most determined night attack, but the real explanation was that our men in the trenches had just heard the good news from the Western Front, and a Scotch regiment started playing the bagpipes and cheering lustily, which so alarmed the Turks that they started all down the line, loosing off anything that came to hand.”

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The last letter we received from Jack Smyth was at the end of September. He is now in Egypt and is enjoying a rather safer existence:

“The climate here is perfect and there is very good tennis and boating and bathing in the salt lakes, so that we have almost forgotten about the war…”

He tells us that is hoping to return to more active service before too long in France, or possibly in the Dardanelles.

 

October 23rd 1915

Captain Charlie Childe (Gloucestershire Regiment) has also been in the vicinity of Loos and reports further on the treatment of prisoners – this time by the Germans.

Charlie Childe

Capt. CM Childe

9/10/15. “It is impossible to realise what a war of extermination this is until you get here. In that last advance there was apparently mighty little quarter asked or given. We know that the Welsh and Royal Welch Fusiliers who attacked (with us behind them waiting our turn) had a taste of it.

The attack was held up and the Germans called in the wounded: ‘Come in Tommy, we won’t hurt you,’ and so on.

They then put them into a traverse and bombed them to death with hand-bombs, and the same thing was done to the Black Watch.

Certainly, our people are frightfully sick and think they would bayonet every German on sight…”

16/10/15.  …this ought to cheer you up. It appeared in ‘Intelligence’ the other night, that an officer of the German General Staff had been found dead near the Hohenzollern Redoubt by Loos, and his diary quoted the following as being partly the words of a certain General and partly his own opinion.

The General said, ‘…We have failed to defeat the Russian Army, which has withdrawn from our grasp and retired to a destination unknown. If the Russians cannot be discouraged, a time will come when we Germans will have to treat for a peace, the terms of which will be dictated by our enemies. It will not rest on this generation, but on our grandsons to gain the world power for which we strive and for which our soldier heroes are sacrificing themselves on the limitless fields of Russia.'”

That our children and indeed our children’s children might be still be engaged in settling this conflict is unthinkable.

October 20th 1915

Tom Whittingham

Lieut. Thomas Whittingham (Leicestershire Regiment)

It transpires that, only four days after writing to console us on the deaths of Leslie Eastwood & Tom Higginson, Tom Whittingham was himself killed, along with Alasdair Macdonell on October 13th at Loos.

He was killed in the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The 4th Leicesters had the honour of leading the attack and Tom’s platoon was in the first line.

He sent a message, which was passed down the line, of best wishes to the men in their effort, while they stood waiting for him to lead them over the parapet.

When the time came, having first mounted the parapet, with a walking-stick in one hand and revolver in the other, he led the advance at a slow double over the 150 yards that separated them from the enemy, through machine-gun and rifle bullets, till they reached the limit of the hand-grenade range of the Germans, where they received a momentary check while our bombers replied.

Then Tom called on them to advance, and they were within a few yards of the enemy’s trenches when a German officer threw a bomb, which hit the ground and exploded right in front of him – killing, it is said, five and wounding others.    

Tom is the third Old Dragon to die in the fighting around Loos, content we hope in that it is (as he said himself in his letter) “the noblest death a man can die.”

 

From the OPS, Tom gained an exhibition to go to Felsted School, where he joined the OTC. From there he went to L’Ecole de Commerce in Lausanne and then spent six months in Germany in the Hartz Mountains.  Returning home in 1913 he was articled to a firm of accountants and at the same time gained a commission in the Leicestershire Territorials.

We heard that, as Scout Officer, he took personal interest in the men under him; he also applied himself to know and help the young fellows in an artisan quarter of a large town parish, taking part in their games and working up a Bible class, and getting to know them in their home life. In a short time he won a considerable influence.

As a boy at the OPS, his influence on others was always for the very best, and his steady, quiet determination to get the right thing done in the right way, gave promise of a good, useful life.

Tom was wounded in April and he came to visit us all last term, well on  the road to recovery. He returned to the Front on July 12th.

He was one of our most loyal old boys and we shall miss him sorely. It seems only yesterday that he and Alasdair Macdonell were with us. Their deaths touch us most profoundly.

 

                  

October 16th 1915

Alasdair Macdonell

2nd Lieut. Alasdair Macdonell (Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders)

News of Alasdair’s death has come as the greatest of shocks to our community. Living next door – at 6 Chadlington Road – Professor & Mrs Macdonell are well known to us all. Alasdair we have known all his life. He was at the Front for a mere ten days before he was killed, in the renewal of the offensive at Loos three days ago.

The family have received this account of his death from the Colonel of his Regiment:

“We only know that he was acting most gallantly with an advanced party of bombers down a trench leading into the German line. The actual portion of the trench where he was, was unfortunately regained by the Germans, and is still in their hands; hence nobody can say what actually happened to him…”

The Adjutant has provided some further detail:

“He was seen to fall wounded and a great many bombs, both ours and German, afterwards landed in the trench close to where your son fell, and we fear that he must have been killed by one of these.”

Another officer adds:

“We were unable to recover his body, as we had to build obstacles after he fell to prevent the enemy getting into our trenches.”

 

Alasdair, as a boy at the OPS, displayed many talents, performing in three of our Shakespeare plays, for example – but he was too shy and reserved to come into the front rank of our actors.

I think of Alasdair as one of the finest performers (if not the finest) in athletic sports we have had at the school. His record long jump of 17 ft 1 in marked him out as an athlete of promise. Indeed, when up at Balliol College, he won his Blue (and he was also captain of the Oxford ice-hockey team that played against Cambridge).

Yet another Old Dragon for whom one would have hoped for great things in life…

 

 

 

October 13th 1915

Lieut. Tom Whittingham (Leicester Regiment) has most kindly written offering his condolences on the death of the two members of our staff, Leslie Eastwood and Tom Higginson:

Tom Whittingham

Lt. T Whittingham

9/10/15. “I must write to sympathise on the loss of two of the staff. But it is by far the noblest death a man can die, and it does one no good to sorrow about these things. Out here, unfortunately, one rarely seems to be able to realise a casualty fully when it occurs; death seems to come as a matter of course. It is only when a death occurs amongst the men one is always with, and knows best, that one can grasp the full meaning of what has happened.”

* * * * * * *

We were delighted to see Surgeon Basil Playne (RN, RND) arriving with his DSO decoration to show to the boys and demanding an extra ‘half’ as a reward for his endeavours. He was motoring through Oxford on his way home with his wife.

Jim MacLean

Capt. J MacLean

Lieut. Jim MacLean (Royal Engineers) – with his Military Cross –  was also with us for the weekend and gained ‘no prep’ by telling the boys one evening all about life in the trenches with bombs, grenades etc. He startled us by saying that the soldiers spent all their time carrying up provisions and building material to the front trenches, as there wasn’t any ‘fighting,’ and explained how bridges and pontoons are built over rivers and canals under fire.

He was awarded the MC “for conspicuous gallantry and determination during the nights of August 25th – 31st 1915, when he skilfully erected a bridge over the Yser Canal near Boesinghe under heavy rifle fire. Although he lost several of his men, he carried the work through satisfactorily.”

If we get any more visits from Old Dragons demanding extra ‘halves’ and ‘no prep,’ we shall get no work done at all!

 

      

October 8th 1915

Robert Rawlinson 3

2nd Lieut. Robert Rawlinson (Border Regiment)

Yesterday’s edition of the Times bears the news that on 25th September, the first day of the battle at Loos, Robert Rawlinson lost his life.

A brother officer has written to Rob’s mother:

“I can’t help feeling you would like to know exactly how poor Rob met his death. The regiment was ordered to support the 8th Devons, who were to lead the attack and Rob was detailed to go with them to keep up communications between them and ourselves. It was a difficult job to do and he was chosen by the Colonel because of his ‘coolness and bravery’ under fire. He went off very cheerfully, delighted at being selected. The attack started at 6.30 a.m. on the 25th and poor Rob was killed just before getting to the first German line trench.

His death was a great blow to us all, for he was one of the most popular officers in the Regiment…”

* * * * * * *

Also of interest in yesterday’s paper (although with no connection to the OPS) was the notification that Rudyard Kipling’s son John Kipling was wounded at Loos and is declared missing in action.

October 4th 1915

We can now reveal that Noel Sergent is part of the 51e Batterie, 10e Artillerie, E.N.E. Secteur 194, Armee d’Orient and not far from where Pat Duff is stationed. Recently Noel was inspected by Sir Ian Hamilton, the Commander in Chief of our forces in Gallipoli:

Noel Sergent

Sous-Lieut JNB Sergent

“Sir Ian Hamilton came round the guns and spoke to me and said he had played golf at Valescure (Saint-Raphael, in France) and that the links were very bad, and then, just as he was going off, he turned round and asked me how long I thought the war was going to last. I wasn’t going to make an idiot of myself by making a wild guess, so I said we have had so many surprises that I couldn’t possibly tell. So he told me that in his opinion the war would last about another year, and that the Germans weren’t counting on having to go through another winter campaign, and that next spring something decisive would happen, and that decisive something would come from this side.

Pat Duff came and saw me the other day; he is very thin owing to a touch of dysentery, so I gave him the pomegranate skin which had just reached me. He brought me over papers – Sphere, Tatler etc and I was delighted to see him.

27/9/15. Yesterday I had the pleasantest morning I have had yet. I returned Pat Duff’s visit and, after about half-hour’s tramp, I came to a farm where I found some of my R.E. friends, who had been here but had moved up. I gave them some lemons I had brought in my pocket and then went Duff-wards.

I went up this ravine (from Gully Beach) for about ten minutes and came to a notice-board: 460 Battery Winter Quarters. I asked for Duff and was shown to the top of Gurkha Bluff. There I found him in his dug-out. He is so situated as to be able to see Imbros and Samothrace and the sea through the ravine; lucky devil! … The gun is a quite nice 4.2. I photoed it with Duff and friend standing by.”