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.

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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.

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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.

October 23rd 1916

Lieut. Geoff Buck (RFC) has completed his training and has now been let loose on the Boche!

Amongst the danger and excitement of war, these latest entries from his journal show an interesting range of emotions – who would have thought war could be a laughing matter?

Buck, Geoff27/9/16. “I took a machine and eight bombs and went off with 16 other machines to raid Bocheland. Flying close together with 16 others is ‘anellofajob’. But anyhow we all came back, and it was quite pleasant – no Hun machines and very few ‘Archies’. You can’t think how queer a big battle looks from upstairs – frightfully interesting, but I simply hate to think of the poor blighters on the ground..”

2/10/16. “Flying high in formation we got slightly ‘Archied’ over the lines (I disliked this because a little bit of iron on one of my eight bombs means that I go simply to swell the Roll of Honour). We dropped our bombs, and they all fell on their objective, and probably strafed some French peasants, mice and woodpeckers. But I hope we killed more Boches.

Then the fun began, pop-pop, bang, fizz-whizz, hiss, pop, bang, little black puffs all around us, and each explosion shook our little machines as if they had been kicked. This was most dangerous and unpleasant (so I thought), and after waving to my nearest fellow-sufferer to keep clear, I performed a memorable series of switchback vertical turns at an average speed of 150 mph. This upset Archibald’s calculations some, I guess, and anyhow I lost control and was much too frightened trying to get control of the machine again to be frightened about Archie.

It really is a sporting kind of life, and I laughed till I could hardly see the instruments.”

 

As a young Dragon, Geoff always enjoyed a good scrap. I recall a bike expedition to North Cerney in the summer of 1910.  Having gone by train to Fairford we bicycled to North Cerney. There followed a cricket match against a local team of boy scouts. The match was conveniently tied before the real fun started. Paddy Burton’s brother Phil wrote up the events that followed:

“…someone bagged one of the Boy Scouts’ caps, and this lead to a battle; after about ten minutes ragging they collected their troops and sounded the charge. They were much older than we were for the most part, and they outnumbered us, but we were not going to be beaten. Keyworth had a tremendous fight with the ‘Samsonian Beefer’ (aged 19) and everyone did his best to sit on the scout he had got hold of. Geoff Buck held down a writhing mass of three scouts, and Flea Carr White and Henry Way wrought frightful havoc.

When we were told to go to bed, the lawn (of the Rectory) was covered with Dragons sitting on scouts, and I may quite fairly say that we absolutely licked them. Then we cheered them and trooped off to bed.”

The next morning we started for home, stopping to lunch in Burford. Clearly it was a good one, as Billy Smyth recorded in the hotel’s visitors’ book:

Four cyclists arrived at the Inn of the Bull;
They came very empty and went away full;
Their names were the Skipper and Billy and Flea,
And Geoffrey; a hungrier four ne’er did you see.

The fare was roast beef with potatoes and peas,
And raspberry tart, and some excellent cheese;
A fair maiden served us with all of the best;
But who wrote this poem will never be guessed.

With so much to depress us in today’s world, it is good to have these memories of happier days to buck us up!

 

 

September 14th 1916

Yesterday Oxford was honoured by a visit from His Majesty the King.

Having driven up from Windsor, the King proceeded to the Parks where he inspected a battalion of Cadets.  Captain Jack Haldane (Black Watch) also got in on the act, as he was at the time giving bombing instruction there. (Such is his fascination with bombs that in certain military circles he is known as ‘Bombo.’)

After departing the Parks, the King went on to the High St. to visit the 3rd Southern General Hospital and the RFC School of Instruction.

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With Port Meadow becoming a military aerodrome for the training of pilots, maybe we can look forward to seeing some more of our Old Dragon aviators in the future.

Lieut. Geoff Buck (London Regiment and now RFC), who wired us back in July to say that he had returned home to train as a RFC pilot, has been keeping a record of his training (at Retford):

Buck, Geoff2/8/16. “We fly from 5-8 a.m., work in workshops and fly if possible 9.00 a.m – 12.30 p.m., and fly from 5.00 p.m. to dark. They give us three to four hours’ dual, and then we do about eight hours’ solo (including one cross-country). , and then (i.e after about a month, it depends on weather and machine) we go off to another station for higher instruction. Personally I have only had one flight of 35 minutes in a B.E. – but all in good time. Altogether it’s topping fun, but there is a lot of waiting about.”

5/8/16. “This is absolutely the life. I have done one hour’s dual control and can fly the bus by myself, but have never been up alone yet; they won’t send us up alone till we have done three hours dual. I simply love it! Better than skating, rugger, or even ski-ing. I want to be in the air the whole day long, but of course we have to do a lot of technical work too. Engines, motors, signalling, construction, theory, photography – and all is most interesting.”

16/8/16. “I did my first solo tonight in rather bad weather, made a perfect landing, and went to 700 ft. It was too perfect for words.”

On August 23rd Geoff moved to Narborough for further instruction.

23/8/16. I took my ticket thumbs up on the 19th. I flew to Norwich on Sunday, stopped the night, and flew back on Monday. Two machines crashed under me as I was starting to land (it was awfully windy and bumpy), and one pilot was killed, but I landed perfectly. Some game.”

We look forward to hearing more of Geoff’s exploits.