January 31st 1916

It has been brought to our notice that The London Gazette earlier this month listed two more of our Old Boys who have been awarded the DSO: Major George Stack (RE) and Major Frederick St J Tyrwhitt (1st Worcs).

George was mentioned in despatches on January 1st 1916 and has now been awarded the DSO “for consistently good work in the front line during the past six months. This officer has proved himself quite above the average in his powers of organising work and seeing it pushed through. He has been indefatigable in his exertions and never spares himself. All day and every day and most nights he is at work in and behind the front line. He is absolutely fearless. He gets all work entrusted to him done with the minimum of friction to all concerned.”

We were delighted to get a letter from George last month:

GH Stack

Major George Stack

“I never forget that I am an OD… I’m afraid I don’t shine as a scribe and a magazine article would be quite beyond my powers.”

George was only at the OPS for a year, during which time he gained a Scholarship to Westminster School, chiefly for his Mathematics.  Even if an article is beyond him (which I doubt) there is nothing wrong with his letter-writing!

He is now heading for the East:

“We are now about to be transferred to another sphere of activity, though I don’t know for certain which. Everyone here is full of beans and confidence – the nearer you are to the front line trenches, the more cheerful you find everybody.”

We do not as yet know the circumstances in which Major Frederick Tyrwhitt* won his DSO, but we can at least record it as the fifth won thus far, in addition to Jack Smyth‘s VC.

(* brother of Major Nathaniel Tyrwhitt, whose death we reported in December, and a cousin of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt)

January 27th 1916

I wonder if you have worked out where Capt. Maurice Jacks was when he wrote:

“Being more or less conscientious I cannot tell you exactly where ‘here’ is, but if you remember where Polonius was stabbed, you will be within reasonable distance of the spot.”

Polonius stabbed

Polonius was hiding behind a rich tapestry (typically hung to make a screen) when stabbed by Hamlet. Such a tapestry was called an arras.

So, our man is somewhere near the town of Arras, to the north of Albert in the region of the Somme.

W Front map

 

Two marks if you got it right, one if you got it wrong!

 

 

 

January 25th 1916

Tempest E1916

 

We are now settled into the Easter Term and our school production of ‘The Tempest’ was very well received. We are grateful to Hugh Sidgwick for his review, which gives star billing to Barbara Hilliard’s portrayal of Ariel:

Ariel E1916

Barbara Hilliard as Ariel

“And then, hovering over and around these two and all the rest of the play, leading them at will, beguiling, enchanting, invisible and omni-present, we had the lovely vision of Ariel. It (I use the word advisedly, for this came nearer than any Ariel before to the ideal, sexless spirit of air and fire), it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen on the stage; presence, gesture, motion and voice alike were exquisite.

Ariel intoxicated our senses so completely that I fear we hardly did justice to her acting; but apart from everything else it was a masterly reading of the character and of the play. Ariel made all the points with clearness and certainty, grasped exactly and revealed to us what was going on and interposed her presence among the deluded mortals always at the right moment and in the right way.

It is difficult to say how much the success of the play owed to her, and in particular to her most delicate and airy singing of the beautiful music of Purcell and Arne (Englishmen both, thank heaven, and much better at Shakespeare than Schubert and Mendelssohn).

* * * * * * *

I believe that an acting knowledge of at least one of Shakespeare’s plays is an important and useful part of an OPS education.

Shakespeare has indeed aided and abetted 2nd Lieut. Maurice Jacks (KRRC), in giving us Maurice’s location in France without falling foul of the censor:

“Being more or less conscientious I cannot tell you exactly where ‘here’ is, but if you remember where Polonius was stabbed, you will be within reasonable distance of the spot.”

Young Dragons will surely work this out – but can you?

January 19th 1916

On January 6th, the London Gazette published Sir Ian Hamilton’s final despatch as Commander in Chief of the Gallipoli expedition before he was replaced by Lieut. General Sir Charles Munro, who in consultation with Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, agreed to the evacuation.

In this report he refers to the 1/5th Norfolks and the events of August 12th 1915:

“… In the course of the fight, creditable in all respects to the 163rd Brigade, there happened a very mysterious thing. The 1/5th Norfolks were on the right of the line and found themselves for a moment less strongly opposed than the rest of the Brigade. Against the yielding forces of the enemy Colonel Sir H Beauchamp, a bold, self-confident officer, eagerly pressed forward, followed by the best part of the Battalion.

The fighting grew hotter and the ground became more wooded and broken. At this stage many men were wounded or grew exhausted with thirst. These found their way back to camp during the night. But the Colonel with 10 officers and 250 men kept pushing on, driving the enemy before him.

Amongst these ardent souls was part of a fine company enlisted from the King’s Sandringham estates. Nothing more was ever seen or heard of any of them. They charged into the forest and were lost to sight and sound. Not one of them ever came back.”                                            

Captain Edmund Gay (Norfolk Regiment) was one of this ‘Lost Legion.’ 

Edmund Gay

Capt. Edmund Gay

Private information has supplied the fact that Edmund was last seen getting over a fence or wall into a farm with a sergeant and another man. The man who last saw him was wounded and lay all night beside the body of another 1/5th Norfolk soldier and managed to crawl into our lines next day.

Until we hear anything certain, however, we must continue to hope that he is in captivity and did not perish in that attack.

The final evacuation of our troops from Gallipoli was completed with the withdrawal from Cape Helles on January 9th. During the campaign, of the 20 old boys of OPS and one member of our staff who served, we know of three who have been killed and two wounded.

It now seems highly likely that all the other Old Dragons are safely off the peninsula, as we understand from the Illustrated London News – hopefully correctly – that the operation was completed with astonishingly few casualties.

January 13th 1916

2nd Lieut. Leslie de Selincourt has written to say that he has been transferred from the Hampshire Regiment in India to the 1st Battalion of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.

The Battalion itself is currently besieged at Kut and he is to join a provisional battalion at Ali Garbi to be part of a relief force.

Leslie is about to set off from Basra for Amara and he is currently doing battle with jackals and flies:

de Selincourt L5/1/16  “We are plagued by jackals who howl in the most dismal fashion round the tent at night. One came in last night and swallowed this morning’s breakfast while we all slept…

We are driven crazy here by flies. In spite of the cold – frost at night – they are as thick as… as…well, as flies. We have an admirable plan for catching them. Just a drop of methylated spirit in a glass which you hold under the fly as he sits on the roof of the tent; fuddled by the fumes, he immediately drops in. I caught 250 in 14 minutes.”

 

January 10th 1916

Over the past weeks we have been anxiously awaiting news from those of our old boys involved in the Gallipoli campaign.  We  can at least account for Capt. Geoffrey Smyth (6th Loyal North Lancs. Regiment), who wrote from on board the ‘Hunts Green’ (a captured German ship being used to evacuate his men) following the evacuation from the Anzac and Suvla bridgeheads, which took place on 18th/19th December.

GM Smyth

Capt. GM Smyth

22/12/15. “I suppose by the time you get this the evacuation of Suvla will be old news. I really believe we did deceive the enemy this time – anyway, about five divisions got away without leaving anyone behind; and in our brigade there wasn’t a casualty.

For two weeks before, all the spare equipment and baggage was sent away and also the postal service, hence the reason why no letter for a fortnight. I marched the last party but two of our battalion to the beach, starting at 8 p.m., the last party leaving the trenches at 1.30 a.m.

They say everything was normal up till the last. The night before, half the troops were evacuated, and all the last day the line was pretty thinly held. Everything was excellently planned and worked without a hitch…”

* * * * * * *

Sub-Lieut. Dick Sergent (RNVR) has also made a successful escape from Gallipoli and has written to provide further information as to how this was achieved with so few casualties:

2/1/16. “We are now in Imbros again after having left Anzac, the whole bunch of us. This is to let you know something of the way we did it… We got some wind of it about a week, or perhaps more, before the evacuation (we were instructed only to speak of it as ‘embarkation’).

Our men set some automatic rifles when they left, and some mines and barbed wire in the trenches. The rifles were managed by way of billy-cans on the triggers with water dripping into them so they went off when the cans were heavy enough; they were set to go off raggedly, as if we were firing normally, for about 1½ hours after our men had gone.

We were to have boarded the Colne, but she was not to be found, so we picked up the first destroyer we came across, the Basilisk.. I went up into the W/T cabin and put on a pair of phones to hear the stations at Suvla and Anzac give their ‘dismantling’ signals. We heard the two at Suvla do so, but not our own.

Finally we got a bunting signal that all stragglers etc had been picked up, including the last field hospital which was to have stayed on to look after the wounded in case we had to fight for it…

We had the supreme pleasure of seeing John Turk shelling our first line trenches at 6.30 a.m. at Suvla and Anzac, and the beach at Anzac also.”

 

January 7th 1916

 

NB Tyrwhitt

Major Nathaniel Tyrwhitt (Queen’s Westminster Rifles)

The Times yesterday listed Nathaniel Tyrwhitt as having died in action.

He was at the OPS during the time of my predecessor, Mr. Clark, and we don’t have any records of his life and doings as a Dragon.

After the OPS, he completed his education at the Gymnasium Zum Heiligen Kreuz at Dresden. Then, for 23 years he was in the Army, seeing service in the South African War.

He has been in Flanders since November 1914 with the 16th (County of London) Battalion. He went through a gas attack in December of that year and took part in the battle at Hooge in July 1915.

He was making a round with the Brigade Commander on the 28th December at Ypres, when a large shell came through the entrance of the dug-out they were in and killed them both instantaneously.

He was second cousin to Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt, who is currently in charge of the Harwich Force.