March 29th 1916

Lieut. Jack Haldane (Black Watch) has recovered from the wounds he suffered last May and since August has been training soldiers in the use of hand and rifle grenades. It is not surprising to learn that some of his methods have been, shall we say, unorthodox.

JBS Haldane“Among the things which we occasionally did as demonstrations was to catch lighted bombs and throw them back, or more accurately, sideways, out of the trench.

I had a one-eyed and rarely quite sober corporal who used to do this, but I sometimes did it myself. I admit that we used to lengthen the time fuse beforehand. Provided you are a good judge of time, it is no more dangerous than crossing the road among motor traffic, but it is more impressive to onlookers.

Some idiot asked questions about it in Parliament and got an army order issued forbidding the practice.”

* * * * * * *

In the next edition of the Draconian we will be publishing this poem, which Jack has kindly sent us for publication:

An Intense Bombardment.
The earth is burning; through her smoke there looms
The wreckage of the immemorial years;
The fruit of all that labour, all those tears
Now in an hour collapses and consumes.
Those monstrous masses of black oily fumes
Are so much vaster than the men, whose cheers
In this apocalyptic din none hears,
They seem like angels who fulfil God's dooms.
The breastwork there, that with its long brown wave
Threatened the cities that we die to save
Boils as a cauldron, its defenders hurled
To darkness and confusion and the grave,
And overhead great black clouds densely curled
Hide from the sea the anguish of the world.
                               "Safety-catch."

 Jack was nick-named “Safety-catch” by his men, as he was always saying “Remember your safety-catch” when with the Black Watch in the trenches last year.

 

March 25th 1916

Charlie Childe 2

Capt. Charles Childe (8th Gloucestershire Regiment)

The news of  the death of one of our old boys is always painful and even more so when the family are neighbours. Mrs Childe lives at 7 Chadlington Road, next door to the Macdonells, whose son Alasdair was killed in October.

We have received these details from Capt. WD Chamberlain of the RAMC, who attended him:

“Poor Childe was hit at 10.45 p.m. The bullet went into his head above the ear and came out over his forehead, as near as I can make out, though I did not see the helmet. I saw him about 11.15 p.m. He was completely unconscious and at no time recovered any degree of consciousness while in my hands. He died, I believe, about 3.30 or 4 a.m. (on March 21st) in Merville.”

Another officer, who was with Charlie shortly after he was hit, thinks it was an unaimed bullet, coming from some distance, diagonally across their trench.

 

Charlie’s letters to us have given much pleasure, as have his visits – every term since the war began – and now we must face the realisation we shall see him no more.

Last September he sent a five-leaved clover he found near his billet, which he hoped would bring luck…

March 22nd 1916.

My daughter Kit is proving a good correspondent and writes most interestingly from her YMCA hut near Havre:

“Do you remember me telling you about the literary miner? He is in ‘Blighty’, having been badly wounded in the head. He has sent me out Ibsen’s ‘The Warriors of Helgeland’; he writes that he has just discovered Oscar Wilde and is devouring his plays…

Kit Lynam 1912The others all tease me about young Davie Curry; the poor boy has had almost everything the matter with him; he has been blown up and is now lame, but he still has a delicious twinkle in his eyes, dimples, sticking out ears and a brogue of the very finest. He was eighteen the other day, having joined when he was ‘saxteen past’; he has got no parents and used to work in the Belfast shipyards…

I heard that he had lost his pay-book and could not get any pay, so I asked him as nicely as I could if I could help him in any way, and immediately he flared up, ‘Who’s after tellin’ you I had lost it? Shure it’s no matter at all, I have got plenty money.’ Though, of course, I knew he had not got any…

Next morning I asked him if he would help me clean Betsy (the car) as she was so dirty, and he polished her well, but was quite reluctant to take the ‘bulls’ eyes’ I offered him.

Since then, he has taken Betsy under his especial care and ‘shure he forgits’ everything I tell him, but I could never be cross with him, his smile is much too captivating.

He and some other Irish boys found a young boy wandering about and brought him in to their Sergeant. This young kiddy of ten said his father and two brothers had been killed in the Belgian Army and his mother in the explosion at Harfleur. The Sergeant took him to the C.O. and asked permission to adopt him – it was granted and he became the mascot.

He was called Jimmy Ulster and we all bought him clothes; the tailor made him a khaki suit, he marched at the head of the Band and we all spoilt him thoroughly. He was most vivacious and sang French songs, soon learnt English ones and he used to entertain us immensely; and help us too, with opening match boxes, peeling potatoes etc.

Then the end came, his father was discovered in the worst slum in Havre, no-one knew of his mother and all his tales were absolutely and entirely untrue!

He was taken home, but returned to camp immediately. He was put into the guardroom under arrest and finally was marched off between two burly Sergeants as an escort!”

March 18th 1916

Nigel Madan

Lieut. Nigel Madan (8th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment)

We had heard that Nigel Madan was missing and we are distressed to see his death announced in today’s edition of The Times.

It is understood that Nigel’s regiment was involved in diversionary attacks around the Ypres Salient.  The Germans had captured strategically important high ground called the ‘Bluff’ last month and the aim was to re-take this to deny the Germans the opportunity to observe our lines.

The artillery bombardment began on 1st March and the attack went in early on the morning of 2nd March. It caught the Germans by surprise and was successful. Nigel Madam, however, was declared missing at the end of the day and today’s announcement confirms that he did indeed die in this attack.

Nigel’s father is Mr Falconer Madan, Bodley’s Librarian, and Nigel attended the OPS in 1897/98.

All who knew him mourn a gallant gentleman, who fell in the flower of his early manhood, fighting for his country and in defence of a cause of which no higher can be found.

March 16th 1916

It is marvellous how some of our old boys correspond with us, despite the many distractions provided by the war and the need to keep in touch with their families.

This is the eighth time Capt. Charlie Childe has appeared on these pages.  He has been out of the front line, but expects to return to the action very shortly. This period of ‘rest’ has given him and his colleagues time to enjoy Frank Sidgwick‘s Narrative Macaronic Verse:

Charlie Childe9/3/16. “Thanks very much for the books of poems. I have lent them to two or three fellows and they liked them, especially Sidgwick’s collection in the small blue book…”

Charlie has been in reserve, but stationed near to a gun battery, which was very inconsiderately shelled:

“One old fellow was rather shaken and got behind a wall; he might just as well put up an umbrella.

From then onwards they put over 70 shells at 3-minute intervals – big 8-inch howitzers. Practically every shot got into the battery position – a farm and garden about the size of the School House grounds. That is wonderful shooting at a range of at least six miles, when you consider that all the German gunners could see was their own gun and probably a hedge in front.

They did not hit any of the guns as it happened, only filled the place with big holes and knocked a piece off the house. There was a sausage-balloon up behind their lines, so there must have been an enthusiastic Fritz up there spotting for his battery.”

Despite this, Charlie seems to have enjoyed this period of ‘rest.’

“This is quite a good place on the whole. We can get a good dinner and baths, and there are plenty of shops where we can get anything we want. I don’t think it will last much longer though, as it is about our turn to be in the line again.”

March 12th 1916

Whilst so many Old Dragons are wielding the sword, there are some who have not entirely forsaken the pen and endeavour to keep our spirits up in these troubled times.

Some Verse – F.S

(Available for 2/6 from Sidgwick & Jackson)

Frank Sidgwick, the author of many of the verses in the various Logs of the Blue Dragon has in this little volume given us a collection of poems, a few of which have appeared in the Cornhill and other magazines.

One of them has given rise to considerable and learned discussion in the Times Literary Supplement – viz. Narrative Macaronic Verses. The VIth form learned this witty and amusing essai by heart and quote it constantly with enjoyment.

Narrative Macaronic Verses                                      

Charmer virumque I sing, Jack plumigeramque Arabellam.
Costermonger erat Jack Jones, asinumque agitabat;
In Covent Garden holus, sprouts vendidit asparagumque.
Vendidit in Circo to the toffs Arabella the donah,
Qua Piccadilly propinquat to Shaftesbury Avenue, flores.

Jam Whitmonday adest; ex Newington Causeway the costers
Erumpunt multi celebrare their annual beano;
Quisque suum billycock habuere, et donah ferentes,
Impositique rotis, popularia carmina singing,
Happy with ale omnes – exceptis excipiendis.
Gloomily drives Jack Jones, inconsolabilis heros;
No companion habet, solus sine virgine coster.
Per Boro’, per Fleet Street, per Strand, sic itur ad “Empire”;
Illinc Coventry Street peragunt in a merry procession,
Qua Piccadilly propinquat to Shaftesbury Avenue tandem
Gloomily Jack vehitur. Sed amet qui never amavit!

En! Subito fugiunt dark thoughts; Arabella videtur.
Quum subit illius pulcherrima bloomin’ imago,
Corde juvat Jack Jones; exclamat loudly “What oh, there!”
Maiden ait “Deus, ecce deus!” floresque relinquit.
Post asinum sedet illa; petunt Welsh Harp prope Hendon.

O fons Brent Reservoir! Recubans sub tegmine brolli,
Brachia complexus (yum yum!) Jack kissed Arabella;
“Garn” ait illa rubens, et “Garn” reboatur ab Echo;
Prositique tenax Jack “Swelp me lummy, I loves yer.”
Hinc illae lacrimae; “Jest one!” et “Saucy, give over.”

Tempora jam mutantur, et hats; caligine cinctus
Oscula Jones iterat, mokoque immittit habenas.
Concertina manu sixteen discordia vocum
Obloquitur; cantant (ne saevi, magne policeman)
Noctem in Old Kent Road. Sic transit gloria Monday.

March 9th 1916

Whilst Lt. Col. Fluff Taylor is busy defending the Suez Canal from our enemies on the ground, Lieut. Jack Slessor (RFC) is doing the same from the air. He is with C Flight, 17th Squadron Base, MEF, in Egypt.

Jack Slessor...

Lieut. Jack Slessor

“… We have been having a most exciting time of it since we arrived here (Suez)…

The enclosed is a sort of picture of an incident that happened to me when I was on a patrol job in the desert, with an observer.

We came upon quite a large reconnoitring patrol of the enemy’s cavalry, come down from the hills to have a look round. We had a machine gun with us and promptly came down to four or five hundred feet to make sure of them. They behaved in the most idiotic manner and seemed to lose their heads, for instead of scattering they most of them dismounted and gathered in a bunch, offering an ideal target; so we circled round and attacked them with the machine gun from about 4-500 feet.

It really was the funniest thing to watch, for as soon as I opened fire the horses took fright and bolted full speed to the mountains, leaving those who had dismounted running about in the sand and the whole scene was the most perfect chaos.

I evidently got in some lucky shots, as one or two fellows, who lay still, testified…”

Slessor attacks

J.C. Slessor v. the Turks

Incidentally, Jack is claiming to have been the first pilot ever to intercept an enemy aircraft over England, when he came up against a German Zeppelin on October 13th last year.