August 11th 1918

After a considerable period of time, we have heard from Capt. Jack Smyth (Sikhs, Indian Army) with his news:

21.7.18 “I’ve been travelling about a good deal lately; I left my regiment last Christmas up in Pershawar and went down to the Central Provinces to the Staff School, where I remained for three months. It was most awfully hard work, but all very interesting, and we had long days riding all over the country doing schemes…

Shortly after the course was over, I was appointed Brigade Major, Bombay, which was about the best job I could have got, and I went there in April.

I was then transferred as Brigade Major, 43rd Brigade, Lahore. Of course this place, being in the Punjab, is fiendishly hot in the hot weather (it has been 118° in the shade by day and 97° in a room with electric fans by night), but the work is interesting and there are heaps of troops here.

One thing I did love about Bombay was the sea; the yachting season was just over, but I did a good deal of bathing.

In the Yacht Club all men bowed down to me on account of my being one of the crew of the ‘Blue Dragon.’ You have no idea how the fame of the ‘Blue Dragon’ has spread in Bombay. I was always introduced as ‘Capt. Smyth, one of the crew of the ‘Blue Dragon’ you know,’ whereupon I was looked upon with awe, the choicest wines were produced, I was asked innumerable questions by people who knew the Log off by heart, my opinion was asked on different rigs which I knew nothing about, and I received numerous offers to go as ‘crew’ on some of the best yachts for next season.

So, if ever Skipper chances to go to the Yacht Club, Bombay, they will receive him with open arms…”

What an enticing thought, but I suspect Jack was diverting attention away from talk of his VC exploits.

August 5th 1918

We have two more Military Crosses to celebrate – both listed in the London Gazette of July 26th.

Capt. PB Frere (KRRC): “He covered 1000 yards of open ground under extremely heavy fire to inform the battalion on the left that we were about to withdraw. Again, next day he personally, under heavy machine-gun fire at close range, took orders for withdrawals to two companies, and was largely responsible for the successful withdrawal of his battalion. He exhibited great courage and cheerfulness under most trying conditions.” 

Although Philip did not mention this incident specifically, it seems likely to fit in with the events of March 24th which he described in his last letter.

Lieut. PJ Campbell (RFA): “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He directed the fire of his battery from a most exposed position, inflicting heavy casualties on the advancing enemy. During the whole retirement he occupied most forward positions, exposing himself to great danger, and supplied much valuable information throughout.” 

Pat too was doing his best to hold back the advancing Germans on March 24th.

July 30th 1918

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Eric Leggett, who was struck down by the scarlet fever whilst on active service in France.

I have the fondest of memories of Eric, who was the first young Dragon to fulfil the role of cabin boy (KB) on my boat the ‘Blue Dragon’ in 1892. He wrote the Log of 1894, when he sailed with us from Portree on Skye to Eigg, Tobermoray, Oban, Fort William, round Mull to Iona and Staffa, and on to Plockton.

Eric joined the Royal Artillery in 1899, after which his military career took him to foreign parts, which explains the references to India and Mandalay in the poem below. It was written by Frank Sidgwick, when ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon’ was published in 1907.

To E.L.

Will you read this little rhyme,
Our K.B. of olden time,
There in India's sunny clime?
                   (Exiled, alas)
Still we sail the old B.D.,
Still we bend the old burgee,
Though we ship a new K.B.
                   (Who is an ass.)
While the hathi's piling teak,
While the dreary punkahs creak,
Can you hear your shipmates speak?
                   (Isn't this rot?)
Can you hear your shipmates say,
"Come you back from Mandalay,
Come you back to Oban Bay"?
                   (Probably not.)

 

 

(A ‘burgee’ is a flag bearing the colours or emblem of a sailing club, typically triangular;  ‘hathi’ – an elephant in Hindi; ‘punkah – a large cloth fan on a frame suspended from the ceiling, moved backwards and forwards by pulling on a cord by a ‘punkah-wallah.’)

 

July 24th 1918

On the last day of term, during the sports events, there was one curious incident worthy of mention.

We were all rather startled during the High Jump to see an aeroplane circling lower and lower over our heads, only to discover later in the day that it was Capt. Jim MacLean (RE/RAF), who had flown from Chester to look us up. It was a treat to see him again at Prize-giving (having landed on Port Meadow).

We were able to congratulate him on his recent award of a Bar to the Military Cross:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While leading a patrol he attacked and drove down an enemy two-seater machine and destroyed an enemy scout. He showed the greatest determination in leading patrols and splendid coolness and courage, most of his work being done under very difficult weather conditions.”

Jim joined up as a Royal Engineer and won the MC in 1915. He then trained as a pilot, and since June 1917 he has been with 41st Squadron. He has, we understand, been accredited with five aerial victories, which qualifies him as a ‘flying ace.’

July 20th 1918

The Summer Term has ended in pell-mell fashion, with four days telescoped into one. This did not make it easy for Hum and his School House boarders:

“A ‘soaker’ for the whole afternoon of Sports Day; followed by a very showery carrying out of the programme, a few hours before the departure of the boys’ luggage, increased enormously the difficulties of packing, which are not mitigated by the habit of leaving boots and macintoshes, sun hats etc., in the field, pavilions, and even hedges, in spite of many exhortations to bring such things up in good time.”

Cecil Salkeld on the banks of the Cher.

As a result of the ‘soaker,’ our final day of term started with the Sports Day programme. In between the showers we completed all events except the Obstacle Race and, in spite of the bad conditions, Cecil Salkeld beat the school record with his Hop, Step and Jump, which was measured at 32 ft. 7 ins.

From Sports we moved on to Prize-giving. Numerous cups and prizes were presented and speeches made – including one of my own, which I will come back to another time.

Then it was time for the Concert, featuring a violin trio by Mendelsohn, a Beethoven piano solo, ‘And did those Feet‘ for solo and chorus (a new piece written by Parry) and numerous other musical items and recitations. It was all rounded off with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the singing of the School Song, which rather took our critic by surprise:

“Little boys can make a noise, a master knows it well; but never have I heard such a cry as that roof-raising yell!”

He went on to note that there is only one thing that you should expect at the OPS, and that is the unexpected.

“And so ends the Concert, which, on top of Sports and Prize-giving, you might think enough for one day. But is a Dragon tired or lacks he voice for more? Feed him with supper and he is ready for the House Smoker [‘Sing Song’].  Now beware the Skipper’s eye. The sword of Damocles hangs over you and sooner or later it will fall: for he has got you on the list and you will none of you be missed. Visitors, the ladies, servants, les fiancés, ‘salvete, ‘valete,’ all are called upon and none may refuse the summons.”

An important change to arrangements had to be made for the evening. In amongst all this excitement, around midday, six boys collapsed with the ‘flu’ (we had five cases about a fortnight ago).  Hum is to be credited with this successful move:

“A successful innovation in connection with the house supper was the adjournment to the School Hall (necessitated on this occasion by illness in the sickroom, above the Dining Hall) for the ‘Sing Song’ after supper. There was more air, more freedom, and certainly more talent displayed than on previous occasions.”

A full final day indeed, but what are the holidays for if not for some rest?

 

CHRISTMAS TERM will start on SEPTEMBER 20TH 1918

 

July 14th 1918

As we embark on the final week of the Summer Term (which ends on July 19th) and another school year draws to a close, there is much to record for the August edition of the ‘Draconian.’

The second half of the Summer Term, after the Scholarship Examinations are over, is very useful for work on English Literature and Composition. A good deal of poetry has been learnt – ‘The Lost Leader,’ part of ‘Locksley Hall,’ ‘On his blindness‘ and ‘The Massacre of Piedmont‘ by Milton, ‘If,’ ‘Amor Mundi,’ some passages and songs from Shakespeare, ‘Macaronics,’ etc., and we have done a good deal of English verse composition. Some of the ballads and sonnets and verses in various metres show promise and interest.

We will include some of them in the ‘Draconian,’ and to whet your appetite, here are two of them. Bobby Alford (one of our Winchester scholars) took the war as his theme:

FOUR YEARS OF WAR

"This is the fifth year of this blinkin' war,
And it will probably go on ten more,
  But I think all this country's simply daft.
  What is the use of goin' and gettin' strafed?

What does it help just to go out to France?
In those darned trenches you don't get a chance
  Of doin' anything, but like as not,
  Before you're out there a month, you're shot."

"Young Tommy you're a very foolish lad,
You needn't think that all this world's gone mad.
  Those fools of Germans have, I will allow,
  But that's the reason that you're fighting now.

Think what would happen if this murderous band
O'erran the earth and conquered every land!"
  "I never thought of it like that before,
  There must be some point then, in this darned war."

Cecil Salkeld (recently awarded a scholarship at Oundle), on the other hand, has constructed a capital sonnet, full of imagery:

SUMMER

Come! Come! Rejoice 'tis summer-time once more!
Once more, the burning sun doth parch the earth,
And nourisheth the flowers fresh from birth.
The alien swallow seeks his native shore:
Wise migrant! Learnéd in his bird-like lore.
Now is the hour of pleasure and of mirth:
Of juicy grape the vineyard hath no dearth:
The sunburnt land is better than before.
And Thou, who rulest all, alone, divine,
And sowest all Thy bounties here below,
Liken us now to this, Thy summer-time,
That we both fresh and fair in soul may grow,
And having lived our span, in perfect rhyme
From all our earthly woes may early go.

Below the VIth form, the boys have been learning Longfellow, and the recitations of Form II were exceedingly good.

The art of teaching boys to recite with directness and feeling is perhaps the most difficult and certainly one of the most important that the teacher has to aim at. Monotony, emphasis on wrong words, sing-song, indistinct utterance, slurring over syllables and connecting words, all these are common faults that a teacher must cure; then come the valuable additions of change of voice, variation in speed, signs of real feeling and (what one rarely gets) appropriate gesture.

July 9th 1918

Lieut. Raymond Burch (RAF)

We are very sorry to hear that Raymond Burch was killed on June 28th – the  third of our airmen to die this year.

His Colonel has written a detailed letter to his parents:

“He went off on Friday morning (June 28th) early to assist the infantry in the attack they were making. About 6.30 a.m. we had a report to the effect that his machine had been hit by a shell and had crashed to the ground a total wreck, and that both pilot and observer were killed. 

Later on, we heard that the infantry, near which the machine fell, had taken the bodies to the cemetery at Borre, a village near Hazebrouck, and that their padre had buried them there.

Apparently the shell burst directly on the machine, and they must have been killed instantly, so I hope and pray that they felt nothing and were spared the agony of falling out of control…”

Raymond graduated as a pilot in May 1917 and was deployed to 4 Squadron in France in April this year. He had been flying the Royal Aircraft Factory  RE 8, which is used for reconnaissance and as a light bomber.

RE 8 aircraft.

His Colonel also writes warmly of Raymond, both as a pilot and a person.

“He was an excellent pilot, very conscientious and painstaking, and perfectly forgetful of self in the execution of his duty. The Squadron has lost one of her best sons and his death leaves a gap which it will be hard to fill.”

 

Raymond was a rather delicate, quiet, self-dependent boy. Though his bent was always scientific, he was not without literary and artistic taste and capacity.

He was married in 1916 and leaves his wife with a son, who was born last year.