January 13th 1919

Another of our brethren has returned to the fold. 2nd Lieut. Adrian Raleigh (Leics), who was captured in the German Spring Offensive earlier this year has been repatriated, or rather, has repatriated himself!

Adrian tells us that after the armistice the prison guards at Mainz either went on strike or evaporated, allowing him and his fellow prisoners to wander the streets:

We spent several enjoyable days among the inhabitants, who appeared to be quite friendly and who were never tired of expressing their satisfaction at the downfall of the Kaiser.

Eventually, becoming tired of waiting for ‘immediate repatriation,’ 200 of us chartered a river steamer, at 20 marks per head, and started down the Rhine. The voyage lasted six days. We stopped at almost every town and village to load and unload cargo.

Our first landing place was Bingen, which we reached at 10 o’clock at night; here we went into the only café in the place and nearly lifted the roof with rag-times.

We stayed two nights at Cologne, which was strewn with flags and placards bearing the inscription ‘Welcome to our brave troops, beaten by no foe’…

Finally, we crossed the Dutch frontier and landed at Nymegen, where the Dutch greeted us with ‘England Uber Alles.’ Here we were met by the British RTO and entrained for Rotterdam, and so home after a rather varied tour of Germany.”

 

 

January 9th 1919

Whilst boarders at the OPS come from all over the country, the dayboys of course live close by the school. An exception to this was Seyyid Ali, whose death (on December 20th) has been announced and whose family background was totally unlike that of any other of our old boys.

Seyyid Ali bin Hamud Al-Busaid (to give him his full name) was the son of the 7th Sultan of Zanzibar. In 1898-99 he came to Oxford to be tutored by Mr Farnell, Vice-Rector of Exeter College. During this time, as Seyyid Ali, he attended the OPS with the particular purpose that he should learn something of our Games. His contemporaries will remember his dashing runs as wing three-quarter for the School XV.

On leaving Oxford, he spent three years at Harrow School.

The Sultan of Zanzibar (c.1907)

He became the 8th Sultan in 1902, but there was a regency until he came of age in 1905. His reign was a short one; ill health forced him to abdicate in 1911 and it is with sadness that we now hear of his death.

* * * * * *

Zanzibar became a British Protectorate in 1890 (by the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty that gave the Germans Heligoland, which allowed them control of the Kiel Canal).

Zanzibar’s history thereafter has been strange to say the least. In 1896 the 5th Sultan died and a cousin of his seized the throne. Three days later, in a “war” that lasted some 38-45 minutes (surely the shortest war in history!) he was overthrown by the British and Seyyid Ali’s father was installed as the 7th Sultan.

The 7th Sultan was responsible for the abolition of slavery in Zanzibar, for which he was knighted by Queen Victoria, and this was the background to Seyyid Ali coming to England for his education.

January 4th 1919

Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC

His funeral, which was held yesterday, was the occasion of an impressive display of respect and made the front page of the ‘Daily Sketch‘ and was also featured in the ‘Times’:

“Shortly before the procession left Lavender Cottage, the residence of Major Clifton – in which Capt. Robinson was staying as a guest when he died – a large wreath of laurel leaves, a tribute from the General Officer Commanding and the other officers of the 6th Brigade of the RAF, was dropped in front of the dwelling from an aeroplane. A flight of aeroplanes circled above the house and over the heads of the crowd who lined the roadway along which the coffin, covered by the Union Jack, was borne upon a RAF aeroplane trolley drawn by a RAF motor-van to the place of interment, a distance of nearly a mile…

The procession was headed by the Band of the RAF playing a funeral march, and detachments of the Force followed and formed a guard of honour within the churchyard…

Two of Capt. Robinson’s favourite hymns, ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and ‘For All the Saints who from their Labours Rest’ were sung and the Psalm, ‘God is our Refuge’ was chanted by the choir…”

This is the second war-related death in the Robinson family, William’s brother, 2nd Lieut. Harold Leefe Robinson (Indian Army), having been killed near Kut in 1916.

* * * * * *

19 Old Dragons laid down their lives for their country in 1918. The full Roll of Honour now stands at 77 (with Edmund Gay and John Dowson still unaccounted for). We continue to raise money for a War Memorial in their honour.

January 1st 1919

Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC (RAF)

Having heard only a couple of weeks ago that he had returned in good health, it is a shock to read of the death of William Leefe Robinson, which occurred yesterday.

It is clear now that the information was wrong – he was in a weakened state as a result of the treatment he received at the hands of the Germans whilst in captivity (which included time in solitary confinement following his attempts to escape).

The cause of his death, however, was influenza, which we learn he had been battling for over a week at the home of friends in Stanmore near Harrow.

* * * * * *

Also in today’s newspaper is news of the safe return from captivity of Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RAF) and Lieut. Peter Warren (RAF).

December 27th 1918

Jones’s Wedding and Other Poems

by Hugh Sidgwick

(Edward Arnold, priced 3/6)

It is just over a year since the death of Hugh Sidgwick, and it is a pleasure to note the publication of this tale in rhymed prose, which he began before the War. He worked on it in those grim times that followed, finally finishing it during the period when he was recalled from active service to work on Mr HAL Fisher’s Education Act during the early months of 1917 (during which time he also wrote ‘From a Funk-hole.’)

This review was in the ‘Oxford Magazine’:

“This tale, so playfully, so delicately told, is like an epitaph, at once grave and gay, on an Oxford friendship, or a group of Oxford friends, and young Oxford before the War lives again in these pages. The humours of the Commemoration Ball, the agony and joy of the Eights, have never been more happily translated than in ‘Eileen’ and in ‘Janet,’ but ‘Dorothy’ gains an added poetic virtue from her setting in the mountains and the lakes. Jones ‘goes over the top’ into matrimony; the author, the ‘I’ of the narrative, alas, will never come back to us from France, to determine in a sequel the fates of Robinson, Brown and Smith, and delight us with fresh sallies of his wit and satire, never malicious and never beside the mark, his merry irony, with sometimes almost a sob in its voice.

The versification owes its lift to Browning, but the Education Office must have made Sidgwick something of a cockney, for the letter ‘r’ hardly exists for him, and ‘cards’ as a rhyme to ‘Promenades’ is almost more than we can bear, while ‘Neitsche’ and ‘feature’ as a jingle set our teeth on edge; but could he reply to us, it would be with a smile and a fresh atrocity. And this poem is dated to last year; so far was he ‘au-dessus de la melee’!”

The range of Hugh’s literary interests was evident in the library of books that was returned to the family on his death, along with his kit: a complete Jane Austen, the Oxford India-paper Vergil and Horace, a Tacitus, Mackail’s Greek Anthology, as well as volumes of Stevenson, Belloc and Kipling.

However, the writing of such verse as this must surely have been Hugh’s way of amusing himself and distracting his thoughts from more disturbing images of war.

Hugh’s description of the differences between Oxford and Cambridge men cannot fail but to raise a smile in this festive season:

Brown once wrote a didactic poem,
"The Oxford Man and How to Know Him,"
In which he said the distinctive mark
Was a fatal readiness to embark
(Disregarding the obvious dangers)
On abstract topics with total strangers - 
Art, the Future, the Kingdom of Ends - 
While he reserved for his real friends,
In soul-communion knit together,
His views on clothes and food and the weather.
Per contra, with Cambridge men he found
The order was the other way round.
Brown's statement, of course, is much too sweeping,
But some of the facts do seem in keeping.

December 21st 1918

Capt. Fergus Ling (1st King Edward’s Horse)

Fergus was always so full of life and energy that his death comes as a very great shock to all who knew him, coming, as it does, after the fighting has ceased.

He saw much severe fighting in France and was mentioned in despatches. He came home on leave in October and never returned. His final weeks were spent in the care of his sister and her husband, Dr. Daniel Rambaut – the uncle of Lieut. Hugh Rambaut (Bedfordshire Yeomanry & Irish Hussars), who was at the OPS (1904-8). The cause of death on December 16th was pulmonary tuberculosis, the first signs of which date back to the early months of this year.

Fergus was the outstanding all-round athlete of his time at the OPS, excelling in cricket, football and athletics. On leaving Bradfield he worked in the corn trade in Liverpool.

He died at Priory Cottage, St. Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton and has been buried next to his parents in Wetheral Cemetery, near Carlisle.

December 19th 1918

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE

Due to disruptions caused by the ‘flu’, the play this term, which was Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance,’ had to be delayed until the very last day of term.

Our reviewer was most generous in his remarks:

“Beginning with diffidence, they gathered confidence as they progressed and ended with ‘brio’ on a note of almost boisterous hilarity.”

A number were singled out for their performances, including Ruth (J. Betjemann):

“A pleasing buxom wench was Ruth, who scored a great success in the part of ‘Maid of all work.’ Always perfectly self-possessed, she enunciated her lines with a clearness which even in that company was remarkable.”

* * * * * *

The holidays ahead – the first ones in which we can all enjoy peacetime pleasures since the summer of 1914 – we hope will be healthy ones too.

As Hum Lynam, writing in ‘House Notes’ for the ‘Draconian’ points out, we have been very lucky this term:

“The Armistice Term was also the ‘Flu’ Term and will be remembered as the first occasion on which the boarders have been sent home during term time. It was a preventative measure, which was fully justified by results, and we were heartily thankful that we were spared the anxieties and prolonged interruption of work, which were the lot of many schools. Except for a few mild cases of ‘flu’ just before we dispersed, we have been entirely free from illness.”