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.”

 

 

 

 

March 25th 1917

Last heard of, Lieut. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA) was in a dug-out in France, writing the Prologue for our production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’

Since then, he has been summoned back to England by the Board of Education to assist the minister, Mr HAL Fisher, with a new Education Act. Important work no doubt and, in fact, more worthy of Hugh’s extraordinary intellectual capabilities than the RGA.

Here, in a welcome contribution to the next edition of the ‘Draconian,’ he depicts himself as a “shirker” in a “funk-hole” in London.

From a Funk-hole.
                    1.
This is the song of a shirker in a funk-hole.
He has alternated, and will continue to alternate, between
      being a shirker in a funk-hole, and an over-fed hero
      intrepidly sitting at a telephone in France.
But for the time being he is a shirker in a funk-hole again.
                    2.
The men in funk-holes are acute, over-worked, and tired.
They get no leave and no potatoes.
They are insulted in the press.
They are assisted temporarily in their labours by dons,
      women, and business men.
But they stick it.
                    3.
The warmth and cleanliness of the funk-holes are pleasant 
      after France.
The shirker is glad to have interesting work to do again
Until it comes to doing it.
In France the work is not so hard.
                    4.
London is a good place compared with France.
But it involves being taken to revues.
Revues are better than violent shelling,
But moderate shelling is better than revues.
                    5.
Of course there is the moral aspect.
But moral aspects don't worry the shirkers much.
                    6.
If you consider who are really enduring the hardships of war,
There are eleven classes in order of endurance.
The first six all consist of people who go into the
      front line and get shelled, or who go about in ships, or fly.
The seventh consists of people in this country who work.
The eighth consists of Staffs, Base Censors and others,
      who sit behind the line
And have a high old time.
The ninth consists of a Railway Transport Officer, whom I know.
The tenth consists of journalists.
The eleventh consists of people who appear in the Sketch
      in full evening dress as interested in War Work.
                    7.
The shirker has belonged to Classes Four, Seven and Eight.
So he knows.
At the moment he belongs to Class Ten
If you consider the 'Draconian' a journal.
                    8.
Having concluded his song the shirker returns to his funk-hole
In the hope of persuading someone else to do the work.
Unfortunately there are no N.C.O's there.

                                            17th March 1917

Class Ten? Needless to say, Hugh was never in anything but the top forms in his time at the OPS!

January 25th 1917

mnd-cast

Midsummer Night’s Dream

As is our custom, the term started last week with our annual Shakespeare play. We gave four performances of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first was to an audience of teachers, boys and girls, from some of the Oxford Elementary Schools – an audience of about 350. Letters subsequently received showed that it was greatly appreciated and that Puck was specially popular.

The second performance was enjoyed by about 120 wounded soldiers, who were afterwards entertained to tea. On Saturday there were the usual afternoon and evening performances for parents and friends.

“It was indeed a welcome boon that the Dragons gave us this year,” wrote one of our reviewers, “to transport us for three hours’ space away from the sorrows and difficulties of this unintelligible war to the flowers and forest glades of Shakespeare’s Warwickshire…

While we were waiting for the play to begin, it was sad to notice the absence of ODs among the audience, and sadder still to reflect how many of them had consummated the great sacrifice for their country. Indeed Dragons, if any, will fully understand the meaning of the line –

‘We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spake.’

Many of the ODs now in the trenches were doubtless present with us in spirit that night and not only the writer of the noble prologue, which touched eloquently on the thought we all were feeling…”

The writer of “noble prologue” was Lieut. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA), whilst in a dug-out in France, and his words were delivered by Oberon:

Prologue
Think it not strange that at this hour, in a world of waste and wrath,
I come to lead your thoughts away by a wandering woodland path,
Far from the scarred terrain of war and the perilous haunted seas,
To the moonlight on the forest and the glimmer between the trees –
To light your steps in the murk and gloom by fancy’s fitful gleam,
From the dark, substantial winter day to a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Not strange – they would not think it, our brother Dragons who stand
In the line in France or Flanders, on the deck or the desert sand.
They would not grudge our revels, or wonder that today
We come to enact before you the loveliest English play.
For all the cause they fight for, the things they hold most dear,
England, and Home, and Beauty – will you not find them here?

Hugh’s brother, Frank Sidgwick, also contributed a review to the ‘Draconian.’

“I needn’t tell ODs that everybody was word perfect. I think Theseus twice said: ‘For aye to be in a shady cloister mewed,’ and Lysander gobbed a difficult line in the afternoon, but got it right at night; the accents on ‘persever,’ ‘revenue,’ ‘edict,’ etc., were correctly given; and I think I heard ‘prehaps’ instead of ‘perhaps’ once or twice…”

One or two other faults were also noticed:

“Some of the actors were too fond of nodding and smiling at their friends in the audience. One of the characters, supposed to be lying asleep, actually clapped his hands in applause of a song by Puck!”

Ah well, we do not pretend to be prefect.

 

 

December 15th 1916

In the course of the last four months a number of our gallant Old Boys have been honoured and, as the end of another term approaches, they should be recorded on these pages:

Victoria Cross (VC)

Capt. William Leefe Robinson (RFC), “for conspicuous bravery. He attacked an enemy airship under circumstances of great difficulty and danger, and sent it crashing to the ground as a flaming wreck. He had been in the air for more than two hours and had previously attacked another airship during his flight.”

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

Capt. Harry Maule (North Lancs) has been awarded the DSO “for conspicuous gallantry when leading his company during operations. During several days’ fighting he set a fine example of cheerfulness and cool courage to those around him. He was three times knocked down by the blast of shells.” (Edinburgh Gazette, Sept. 28th 1916)

Major Ernest Knox (Sikhs) in Mesopotamia.

Major James Romanes (Royal Scots). “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his battalion with the greatest courage and initiative. He set a splendid example throughout the operations.” (London Gazette, Nov. 25th 1916)

Military Cross (MC)

2nd Lieut. Stopford Jacks (RFA). “He, assisted by a sergeant, organised a party to extinguish a fire in a bomb store. Although burnt in several places, he continued at the work until the fire was extinguished.” (Edinburgh Gazette, Dec. 13th 1916)

2nd Lieut. Budge Pellatt (Royal Irish). “When a Platoon was required from his company to replace casualties in the front line, he at once volunteered and led his men forward with the greatest determination, though suffering heavy casualties.”

2nd Lieut. Northcote Spicer (RFA). “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in registering all batteries of the artillery brigade from the advanced lines prior to attack. He was severely wounded, chiefly from having to signal by flag, which was observed by the enemy.” (London Gazette, Oct. 20th 1916)

French Honours

‘The Times’ (Sept 16th) noted that Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt had been made Grand Officier of the Legion of Honour.

2nd Lieut. Trevor Hoey (OBLI) has been awarded the Croix de Guerre decoration by the French Commander on the Salonika front for distinguished conduct, referred to in the Army Orders as follows:

“When all the other officers were placed hors de combat, he took command and led the final charge against the Bulgarian position, which was brilliantly carried at the point of the bayonet.”

Mentioned in Despatches

2nd Lieut. FRG Duckworth (RFA) in Salonika, Capt. WW Fisher (RN) & Cdr GH Freyberg (RN) at Jutland, Maj. EF Knox (36th Sikhs) – for the second time, Capt. RJK Mott (Staff) in Salonika, Lieut. JC Slessor (RFC) in Egypt, and Maj. RD Whigham (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) – for the second time.

It is difficult to express just how proud we are when our Old Boys distinguish themselves so.

November 12th 1916

It is always a pleasure to welcome back our old boys and this week we were delighted to receive a visit from Lieut. Henry Tyndale (KRRC). He was on excellent form, although still lame from the wound he received last year in Flanders.

Harry has given us an account of how this came about for publication in this term’s ‘Draconian.’

tyndale“Away to our right, on high ground rising in the middle of a large wood, was a strong German redoubt, apparently untouched by our guns. From this redoubt machine-guns were keeping the edge of the wood under fire so that those parties who emerged soon lost their leaders and many of their men. My own men were held up by those in front, who could not move, and while finding out the exact situation, I was hit.  

Very fortunately I fell down into a shallow shell-crater. One of my men, who was beside me, straightened out my broken leg and bound up my wound, placing the broken part in a rough splint by tying it against a spade-handle. Once this was done I had very little pain, provided that I kept quite still,  and when the attempted counter-attack was over and the men had reformed in the original support trench, I was alone with one other wounded man.

As we were so near the open ground and probably under view of the enemy, I knew that there would be no prospect of a stretcher until dusk. I sent back a reassuring message to my Company Commander, who would know where I was lying. The afternoon was beautifully warm and I could watch the sun gradually getting lower in the heavens. There was little firing.

Towards dusk a party of volunteer stretcher-bearers came across me, but they had no means for carrying me in. I waited a long time for their return with the necessary stretcher, but night fell and flares went up along the line and I began to wonder whether they had forgotten me.

An hour after sunset I heard men moving in the undergrowth near me. It was with considerable difficulty that I could guide them to my shell-hole, so thick was the wood. They had no stretcher, but someone produced an overcoat, and with rifles run up the sleeves, this provided a fair stretcher. With difficulty they got me under way, but soon I was behind a small barrier of sandbags on a track through the wood, and a wide floor board proved an excellent substitute for a stretcher.

At the dressing station I met my Company Commander, who had been searching for me in vain and was greatly relieved to see me in safe hands; before dawn I was under chloroform, having my leg set, and in the early sunlight the ambulance took me to the train.”

Harry is a Winchester man through and through. Having won a scholarship there in 1900 and subsequently another one to New College (where he got a First in Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores) he returned to teach at Winchester.

Being unfit for active service, Harry is now working in the Intelligence Department at the War Office.

November 6th 1916

Although France is currently the centre of attention in this war, the North-West Frontier continues to require policing, in order to thwart German efforts to threaten British power in India.

north-west-frontier

Lieut. Jack Smyth VC (15th Sikhs), who wrote to us in June about the signalling course he was sent on, has written to say that he is back on active service there:

Jack Smyth28/10/16 “Here we are on the frontier, once more on active service and I am writing this in the Mess tent, well dug down below ground to escape stray bullets…

I arrived at Peshawar to find the regiment had marched out the day before and orders awaiting me to command the Depot.

A newly joined subaltern came up and reported that he had been left as Adjutant and handed over piles of correspondence, which we had to get down to at once…

We had two or three very strenuous days with the usual notes from everyone who had gone out with the regiment asking for various things they had left behind. This sort of thing:

‘Please get the keys of my bungalow from my gardener and on the bunch you will find a brass key, which opens the third drawer of my writing table. At the back of the drawer you will find my despatch case and in it my cheque book. Please send this out by the milk lorry tomorrow. Awfully sorry to bother you, as I know how busy you must be,’  but this is part of the Depot commander’s job…

Three days ago I was relieved and sent out to join the regiment. The Mohmands with whom we are fighting, or supposed to be fighting, have so far left us severely alone, but come down at night and snipe and hurl abuse at us…

We can’t attack them because they would only retire to their hills and we should need a large force and a long line of communication to follow them, and they won’t attack us because they think barbed wire and mountain guns an unfair advantage.”

Before this, Jack had been on leave in Kashmir, where he reports that he met up with fellow Old Dragon, 2nd Lieut. Edward Sheepshanks (Indian Army) at a dinner party,

“…and thereupon had an OD dinner on our own and drank to the Skipper and the OPS, which astonished the rest of the party…”

Knowing how lively an affair an OD dinner can be, I am not surprised they were astonished!

(At least there were no Wykehamists present to sing a joyous chorus in praise of the present subjunctive – and they did not have to suffer my recitation of the Banjo Song!)

* * * * * * *

Roderick HaighToday is the second anniversary of the death of Lieut. Roderick Haigh (Queen’s Royal West Surreys). Thanks to his bequest, which paid for our shooting range, the boys will be competing for the Roderick Haigh Cup at the end of this term.

He was a noble man, who saw it as a privilege to die for his country.

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!