April 28th 1917

The holidays are a time to enjoy some light reading and I am delighted to say that Sidgwick & Jackson have just published a collection of songs and poems from the previously published ‘Logs of the Blue Dragon.’ It is now on sale for the princely sum of one shilling!

Both Frank and Hugh Sidgwick have contributed to this volume and here, by way of example, is one of Hugh’s contributions:

Nimium ne Crede Experto                               

“This narrow strait,” (the Sailing Directions said)
   “Is full of rocks and difficult to enter;
Whirlpools are common here at every tide;
There are uncharted reefs on every side
   And currents (twenty knots) along the centre.”
“Come,” said the Skipper, “we will go in there.”
            (We went in there.)

“There is no sand” (the Sailing Directions said),
   “The anchorage is thoroughly unsafe.
There is no shelter from the frequent squalls,
Save on the west, among the overfalls.
   Boats should go on to Loch MacInchmaquaif.”
“Come,” said the Skipper, “We will anchor here.”
            (We anchored here.)

                                  Hugh Sidgwick

In my humble opinion, this rather overrates my nautical abilities!

Mr SPB Mais, who came to teach at the OPS for the Summer Term of 1909 (on the recommendation of his tutor at Christ Church, our own Charles Fisher), has written enthusiastically about our new book. He is now at Sherborne School and he describes the arrival of the book there through the post as giving rise to high excitement in the Mais household:

“I forgot my bath, my shaving water, even my breakfast. I was late for chapel and nearly turned my lecture on Range-Finding into a reading on Voyages of a five and a twelve ton yawl. I managed to restrain myself until the English hour for Army candidates. Then for three-quarters of an hour I gave myself up to delirious pleasure…

It is enough to say that no past or present Dragon will feel satisfied until he has learnt by heart all the cheerful, witty, honest poetry which is here presented all for his delight.”

 

 

 

 

April 21st 1917

Lieut. John Pratt (Yorkshire Regiment)

Announced in The Times yesterday was the death, on April 11th at St. Martin sur Caquel, of Jack Pratt, the second Old Dragon to die in the battle at Arras.

His regiment was involved in an attack on the Hindenburg Line. The artillery having failed to destroy the barbed wire defences, John went ahead with a machine gun to find a gap in the wire entanglement through which he might take his Company.  He was picked off by a sniper.

His Commanding Officer has commended him for his gallantry and devotion to duty.

During his time at the OPS Jack was a promising athlete and a merry youngster around the school, with plenty of pluck and nerve. He distinguished himself at Blundell’s School, which he entered in 1908, by getting his cricket and rugger colours whilst still aged 15.

April 19th 1917

2nd Lieut. Rafe Griffith (Royal West Kents) only left us five years ago, in August 1912 (with an Exhibition to St. Bees College, where Harold and William Leefe Robinson also went).

We presume that this description is of the Battle of Arras, which has featured in our newspapers of late and opened up on the morning of April 9th:

14/4/17. “Here we are absolutely untouched. We ‘went over’ at 5.30 a.m., and of course it was raining. Never shall I forget ‘zero.’ There are two outstanding things, barrage and the company going over. Every gun massed at A______ went off together, as though worked by a spring, in one great crash.

The company went over as though starting a 100 yard race, never a man late. The whole way through I can’t say enough for the men. They were magnificent throughout, laughing and joking all the time. There aren’t any duds in the British Army; they are all as plucky as anything and full of the fighting spirit.

We took old Fritz by surprise, entirely; we were over his first lines before he had realised anything. Some of them were in bed with their boots off. I had two lucky escapes. Before we reached our front line, my haversack was shot away; we were finally held up by a strong party of Germans at the end of a communication trench. Three bombing raids were led against them, but their snipers were too hot for us. Then a bullet went through my steel helmet. We finally rushed them over the open and bagged the lot. We then went on to our objective and found Fritz had cleared off.

We stayed there that night and the next day had to go on to the furthest point our troops reached. It snowed hard all the time, and we were all soaked to the skin and a bitter wind was blowing.

On arriving at our destination, we found the Boche on three sides of us and had quite a nasty time from his shelling…

The line nowadays is a very funny place. Both sides sit in shell holes and little bits of trenches a few feet deep, with gaps here and there in the line, so when we take over a bit of the front, we don’t know whether we are hanging by a thread, so to speak, or strongly supported on the flanks. Fritz doesn’t give us much opportunity to find out either, as his snipers are always on the watch and it is more than one’s life is worth to show oneself…

The general feeling out here now is that the war may be over by the Autumn, but that we shall have to fight very hard.”

This is encouraging to hear.

April 16th 1917

clunet-jean

Dr. Jean Clunet

News has reached us that Jean succumbed to the typhus fever on April 3rd.

He joined the French Army as a surgeon at the beginning of the war and had many escapades, which we reported last April.

Following an eventful time in France and Gallipoli, Jean was part of the French military mission sent to Romania to provide assistance. There he was chief doctor of the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Bucharest.

In December, Jean set up a field hospital in the village of Bucium to care for typhus sufferers and this has not only cost him his life, but the lives of several of his staff.

Jean was one of the ten French Old Dragons serving with the French Army.

April 13th 1917

The Times and the Daily Telegraph have announced that our VC winner, Capt. William Leefe Robinson (RFC) is “missing.” Yesterday’s Telegraph added that “he was believed to have been killed.”

He is the second Old Dragon airman to have suffered this fate since the start of the month.  News has reached us that 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren (RFC) is also missing. He has been at the Front barely a month.

Peter was up at Magdalen in 1914 (where his uncle, Sir Herbert Warren, is President) and being only 17 yrs old was not then eligible for service, although he did join the University OTC.

He received his commission last July and trained as an Observer with 57 Squadron. He transferred to 34 Squadron in November to train as a pilot, graduating in early February. At the end of the month he was sent to the front to join 43 Squadron.

The Warrens have close connections with the OPS. Peter’s grandmother, Mrs Morrell, lives at Black Hall (No 21, St Giles) doors away from where the OPS started.

Peter’s uncle is Philip Morrell, who was a Dragon under Mr Clarke from 1878 until 1880, when the school consisted of a few rooms at No 26 St Giles. He now lives at Garsington Manor with his wife, Lady Ottoline, and is the Liberal MP for Burnley.

 

Both the Leefe Robinson and Warren families and friends will be enduring a period of great strain until further news is received about their loved ones. Certainly it is perfectly possible that, if they came down over enemy held territory, they are prisoners of war. We will live in hope that this is the case.

April 4th 1917

The holidays are here and we have every reason to be thankful, that during a term in which there has been a great deal of illness at many Preparatory or Public Schools, we have had nothing worse than an epidemic of mild mumps. Otherwise we have been delightfully free even from colds and coughs. Several boys have suffered from bad chilblains.

* * * * * * * *

We will remember this term particularly for the ice-skating. In the end, we had glorious skating for three weeks (Jan 27th – Feb 18th) on the University Skating Club flooded meadow. The authorities were good enough to admit us at half fees (3d a time) and, even so, got about £15 from the School!

Mr Haynes produced about 30 pairs of primeval skates that had been stowed away in the dim past, but before the skating was over many new ones had been purchased.

The morning was quite the best time to go and we took off one of the morning hours of work. Often the Caravan-Ambulance made three or four journeys with small boys and provisions for picnic lunch on the ice (once, when changing a wheel for a puncture, she went down gracefully on to her axle and was derelict for some hours).

ice-skating-6

Many boys learnt to skate quite well – Dennis Buck (who, given the opportunity, will rival his brother Geoffrey some day) and Fred Huggins could cut all forward threes and do outside edge backwards. This is G.C’s description of their performances – G.C (Mr Vassall) also gave them handsome skating prizes as rewards for their efforts.

* * * * * * * *

Miss Field’s collection of eggs for the wounded soldiers has been greatly appreciated at the hospitals. During this term 1,738 have been delivered, making a total of 3,531 since the start at Mr Fletcher’s instigation in October last.

 

Next term begins on Wednesday 2nd May.

 

Postscript. We have had word that Jack Haldane, who had recovered from his previous wound and gone out to Mesopotamia, to his intense chagrin, was wounded again the day before the fall of Kut. He was injured whilst trying to put out a fire in his camp, when a bomb exploded and wounded him in the leg.