July 22nd 1917

The Summer Term has finally come to an end with a number of special events. We had a beautiful afternoon for our Sports Day. Notable performers were John Tew with 32 ft. in the Hop, Step and Jump and George Naish with 4 ft 4 ins in the Under 13 High Jump. These are new records.

Our friends from Somerville muscled in on the Tug of War competition, until they managed to break the rope! One of the most exciting races of the afternoon was the 100 yards race for officers – a pair of crutches won by inches from a bath chair, and the prize-winners received a stirring reception at yesterday’s prize-giving.

The prize-giving included a Challenge Cup inscribed “From the Officers now in Somerville. July 1917” which was presented to the School, to be awarded each year by the vote of the whole school to the boy who ‘has the most gentlemanly bearing and best influence on other boys.’ Our first winner is Tony Disney.

Just how much the young have helped reinvigorate our battle-scarred soldiers can be seen in an appreciation received from one the Somerville officers:

“To us it has been unalloyed pleasure and no words could express our gratitude in being privileged to enjoy so many happy afternoons among the boys… The golden days of youth came back to us this summer, those glorious days when enthusiasms are fresh and alive, when one never sickens of effort and when the game we play is everything to us…

You have given us many happy days and have helped us once again to re-discover the springs of youthful joyousness and love of life. May the memory of those happy days, spent with you on the banks of the Cher, ever live with us, go with us when we return to duty.”




July 18th 1917


Capt. Reginald Tyrwhitt, CB, DSO, RN (Commodore, First Class).

The Times today has the joyous news of the award of a Dragon KCB:

“Captain Tyrwhitt has been concerned in some of the most brilliant naval exploits of the war, and the honour conferred on him by the King is well deserved. He commanded the destroyer flotillas in the famous action with a German squadron in Heligoland Bight on August 28th 1914. Concerning this action, which resulted in the destruction of the cruisers Mainz, Ariadne and Koln, the official despatch stated ‘his attack was delivered with great skill and gallantry.’ On the same date he was made CB…

He led the destroyer flotillas in the Dogger Bank action of January 24th 1915 and was in command of the Arethusa when she struck a mine and was wrecked off the east coast in February 1916.

Captain Tyrwhitt was awarded the DSO in June 1916, ‘in recognition of services rendered in the prosecution of the war,’ and was decorated Commander of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic in September 1916.

A scouting force of light cruisers and destroyers under Captain Tyrwhitt, on May 10th of the present year, chased 11 German destroyers for 80 minutes and engaged them at long range until they took refuge under the batteries of Zeebrugge. Only the precipitate flight of the enemy’s ships saved them from disaster.

A few weeks later, on June 5th, a force of light cruisers and destroyers under his command engaged six German destroyers at long range, and in a running fight one of the enemy’s ships, S20, was sunk and another was severely damaged.”


In addition, the London Gazette lists Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks) as having been awarded the DSO:

“For conspicuous gallantry when in command of the right of an infantry attack. The attacking troops having been compelled to fall back, he collected the remnants of his battalion and about 100 men of other units, and, regardless of a heavy fire, he organised these in defence of a position, and by his fine example of courage and skill he successfully resisted three counter-attacks, and thus saved a critical situation.”

Fluff will no doubt be demanding another half-holiday for the boys on the back of this when he next visits!


To these awards, we should also note these honours which have been acquired in the course of this term:


Lieut.- Col AR Haig Brown (Middlesex Regiment) and Major S Low (RGA) have both been awarded the DSO.

Capt. GK Rose MC (OBLI) now has Bar to his Military Cross. The citation reads:

“When in command of a raid on the enemy’s trenches, he displayed the greatest skill and energy. He organized an effective resistance to the enemy counter attack, and conducted a masterly withdrawal under heavy machine gun and rifle fire.”

The Croix de Guerre has been awarded to Capt. JD Denniston (RNR) and 2nd Lieut. CM Hughes-Games (Gloucs), has the MC:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed great coolness and initiative when in command of a daylight patrol, obtaining valuable information. He has at all times displayed great gallantry under fire.”



July 16th 1917

The end of the school year approaches and, as is my habit, I spoke to the boys at the last Sunday service of the term. I wished to add my thoughts to those of Mr Fletcher a few weeks ago:

“I do not know whether it is right, but I have tried all through to let the war make as little difference as possible to the lives of you, my boys. We older people feel it intensely; it has turned our world upside down. We have lost some of our best and dearest, and we are always full of anxiety. But we try to keep our anxiety and suffering from you and to save you from all this as far as we can.

You have done your work and played your games and eaten and slept as far from the strain and stress of this terrible struggle as has been possible. You who have relations and friends in danger on sea or land must be always in dread that the news of wounds or death may come, but it is the nature of the young to hope for the best, and I do not wish you to think too much of the dread possibilities that are always present to your elders.

But I want you to feel that the war is very largely being carried on for your sakes. It is in the hope and belief that the world will be better for the generation that is growing up and for future generations – for us, it can bring little but sorrow and loss, however victorious we may be in the end.

But for you we hope for a brighter and happier and better world – a world where you will prepare for peace rather than for war, where love, not hate, shall be the motto of the nations, where helping others, not beating others will be the ideal and aim of life. And for this future do try to make yourselves ready…

Make the holidays happier for others and without knowing it or meaning it you will find you are much happier yourselves.”

I finished with two quotations, the first by Charles Kingsley and the second by Charles Swain:

‘Do the thing that’s nearest though it’s dull at whiles,

Helping, when you meet them, lame dogs over stiles.’


‘Be kind to each other ; the night cometh on

When friend and when brother perchance may be gone.’


July 11th 1917

With mild mumps and some German measles prevalent, it has not been possible to arrange cricket matches against other schools this term.

The situation has been saved by our old friend Nurse, now Sister Wilkinson, who left us in 1914 to work in the Base Hospital and is now working at Somerville College. (The college, being next door to the Radcliffe Infirmary was taken over by the military in 1915 to provide accommodation for wounded officers).

We were visited a couple of years ago by groups of wounded soldiers, who bowled and batted in the nets and now, thanks to Sister Wilkinson, teams of wounded officers from Somerville have been regular visitors.

As Chris Jacques (who is leaving us at the end of this term to go to Repton) has recorded:

“An experimental match was played against ‘Sister Wilkinson’s XI,’ who was in charge of Dragon boarders before the war. Some of the visiting batsmen needed a runner, some of their bowlers had to dispense with a run-up, and they were suitably handicapped in the field – and the game was so much enjoyed by both sides that it was repeated each week for the rest of the term, with the visitors bringing, wheeling and even carrying more and more supporters with them each time.

In the evening bathe that followed each match, we were joined by those of our opponents who had Sister Wilkinson’s permission, and by one or two more who had arranged for her attention to be distracted.”

As popular as the cricket matches were, the teas were perhaps even more enjoyed – particularly by me and the macaws:

Bath-chair cases were very grateful to Mrs Vassall and her lady helpers. Instead of being wheeled along dusty streets, obtaining in the process parched throats and having to swallow mouthfuls of ‘petrofine,’ several have been able to sit in comfortable surroundings, watch the cricket and enjoy themselves thoroughly.

I think that the matches have been at least as good for the boys, and in many ways more enjoyable, than the usual matches with other schools.


Hum Lynam (top right) with young Dragons and old soldiers…

July 4th 1917

Mr Barker, having led the Fathers to an ignominious defeat at cricket, was the speaker at our Sunday service. In it he made an interesting reference, under the theme of “seeking the truth,” to the teaching of Latin:

“Many of you here are seeking the truth in the medium of the Latin language; and some of you may sometimes wonder why you are set to seek the truth on so barren and uncongenial a ground. Because – I should answer – Latin is the practising ground; and unless you get into the habit of gripping hard and remembering accurately the true construction and interpretation of your Latin, you will be far less likely, when you come to the battle-ground of actual life, to have the instinct and the method of going straight for the essential truth you have to find there.

Latin is like the drill you do on parade. It may seem pointless drudgery; but it is giving you, all the same, a habit of mind and behaviour for which you will one day feel profoundly grateful…”

This is as maybe, but as far as I can judge by comparison with other Preparatory Schools, we do not give anything like so many hours to classics as others do. We do more mathematics, and considerably more English history and literature. Our top 30 boys all get up very thoroughly a whole play by Shakespeare every year, besides learning a great deal of Tennyson, Milton and miscellaneous poetry. Also every boy in the School is taught drawing.

I am bound to confess that for these things we sacrifice a certain amount of grammatical and syntactical drill, which would improve our classical work.

Of one thing I am convinced, viz., that boys have quite long enough hours of work – no boy under 14 can really profit by more than 30 hours per week including preparation.


June 29th 1917

A typical cricket pavilion moment – checking the scores!

It has been some time since events at school received a mention on these pages. What of the Summer Term, you may ask? For the boys – particularly when the weather is good – time is spent on the river and cricket field.

No cricket match is more keenly anticipated than:

Dragons XI  v  The Fathers

The fathers did battle with their sons this year in the time honoured fashion: competitively.

Mr Barker, who captained the fathers, has provided a match report:

“There was a new and subtle invention this year… According to this invention fathers might bat with a cricket bat or a broom-stick. If they selected the pusillanimous safety of the bat, they might make a maximum of 15. If they chose the glorious risks of a broom-stick, they might make a total of 25.

Mark the dilemma: consider the cogitations provoked. x + 15 = y + 25: find the relative values of x and y, assuming x is discreditable…”

Fortune did not favour the brave and the fathers managed only 37 runs, 15 of which were from the bat of Lieut. Wylie. Mr Barker is slightly less than generous in his remark concerning his top scorer:

“Wylie, murmuring the incredible excuse that he had never handled a bat for the last thirty years, chose the bat and made his inglorious maximum.”

The boys made a considerably larger score than their fathers. Modesty almost prevents me from saying it – they scored 177.

I should mention Mr Barker’s personal contribution – or rather let him explain himself:

“Veni, non vidi, victus sum. I came to the match: I did not see any of the three balls delivered to me; and I was beaten by the first straight one…”

In my opinion, he thinketh too much and playeth too little.




June 24th 1917

Lieut. Cedric Davidson (MGC) has sent us some pictures from Macedonia, where he is with the Salonika Army. They are taken with his own camera (before it became hors de combat due to a shell splinter).

7/6/17 “This shows a rather picturesque corner with what is known to Thomas Atkins as ‘a bandstand house.’ These structures are, I believe, drying sheds for tobacco which is grown here in great quantities.  Some of these buildings were found to contain hundreds of strings of tobacco leaves hung up to cure.

The one in the picture was afterwards destroyed by shell fire.”

“This photograph is typical not only of the inhabitants, but of their manners. Their poor little donkeys are always overloaded and the driver invariably perches himself on top of the load. I have seen a good natured, smiling fat old Turk riding in this way towards me and have been disgusted to find when he passed that he was continually prodding his small mount with a long bladed hunting knife to increase its exertions, until blood ran freely from the wound.

On several occasions Thomas Atkins has taken drastic steps to deal with such men, who have doubtless found it more convenient to stand than sit for some considerable time afterwards.”

We are an animal-loving nation – being the first country to have a society for the welfare of animals in 1824, with Queen Victoria giving her patronage in 1840, making it the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

With regards to protection, Cedric and our troops are in need of it too:

“Our worst enemy here is the mosquito and the malaria of which he is the carrier. They have not yet arrived in full force this year, but in a month or so, when the shade temperature at noon will be over 110° and 80° an average temperature at midnight, with hoards of blood-sucking flies preying upon us by day and clouds of mosquitoes at night, life in Macedonia promises to be none too sweet.”