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.

July 4th 1918

M E M O R I A L   S E R V I C E

June 30th 1918

On Sunday we had a most inspiring Memorial Service for the Old Dragons who have been killed in the War. The Archbishop of York, who as Rev. Cosmo Lang of Magdalen College, taught Divinity at the OPS (1890-96), preached a splendid sermon.

I am grateful to David Webb (Form VIa) for writing this account from memory of what the Archbishop said.

“He began with a reminiscence of the time when he used to teach the Catechism to the VI form here.

‘Twenty-five years’ ago, I used to teach the VI Form their Divinity and I hope they got as much enjoyment, as well as instruction out of it, as I did. Many names of those whom I taught in those days have been read in the list of the 64 whom we commemorate today.

Especially do I remember Eric Leggett, the Cabin Boy; the two Fletchers to whom I was attached by family friendship, the Moberlys and Geoff Clarke. Of another also I have heard much, from officers in the Navy who all respected him, Martin Collier, a splendid type of Christian manhood. Ronald Poulton too, a Prince on the football field and, what is more, a Prince under the banner of Christ. But perhaps the one I remember best is Hugh Sidgwick – so full of promise, with the fun and eagerness of life shining out of his bright eyes. And now, as I look around on your faces, I seem to see theirs again.

That was twenty-five years ago: and how little did I think what great things were to come to them, what a great call. And when the great call came, how they rose without fuss or talking about it, saw their duty clearly, and did it!

When you grow older you will not be able to look upon each day as it comes with the certainty with which you can now. There will be puzzling and doubts; and I think that between twenty and thirty years old is the most puzzling time of all, (at least, so I found it), and it was at this time in their lives that the call came. Then it was, I think, that they were just realizing the true keen joy of life; I could tell by the look in their eyes. And so, how much greater the sacrifice of giving up their newly discovered existence, as it were, when they had just begun to realize its delight…

But to those 64 Old Boys their country had given much – the education of their Schools and the Universities – this Oxford, never so full of glory as in its present emptiness. But sometimes I think that perhaps even greater praise is due to those to whom their country had given practically nothing – a corner perhaps in a slum: and who rose as one man at the call – the boys of the Elementary Schools. It is with these that you will have to grow up, my boys, in the times that are coming, and I pray to God you may equip yourselves to be their leaders.

When I was in France, on the battlefield of the Somme, I came upon hundreds of little graves together, but the one that touched me most was a solitary grave with a little cross inscribed ‘To an unknown soldier, who died for his country.’

Let us remember these today, and let us strive to place our ideals in one man, and live up to him if we can. The man in whom I have always placed my ideals is Jesus Christ…'”

The Archbishop concluded his talk with Abraham Lincoln’s famous words:

Let us remember these great men, and let us now highly resolve that this great sacrifice shall not be in vain.’

June 25th 1918

The Italian Campaign has dominated our newspapers’ coverage of the War these past ten days, and today’s announcement that the Austrian attack on our Italian allies has ended in total defeat is most satisfactory.

The Austrian offensive started on June 15th with attacks on the Asiago Plateau and the Battle of Piave River. Amongst the English troops involved in the battles were the 1/4th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

Lieut. Jack Gamlen (OBLI), appointed as an Aide-de-Camp at the Headquarters of 48th Division (of which the Ox & Bucks are part) at the beginning of this month, witnessed this unfolding drama. We are most grateful to him for his account of events.

“An Austrian attack was fully expected on that date, but it was not known for certain that the British front would be attacked. However, every preparation was made to receive it.

An intense bombardment started at 3 am on the 15th, and rolled along miles of the front, from our own sector eastwards…

Under cover of a thick morning mist, the enemy had penetrated our front line at more than one point; had captured one Battalion HQ and had probably captured another…  

I never saw anything so interesting as the left Battalion Sector of our Divisional front, where the fighting had been hardest. I got there with my General soon after the situation had been completely restored, and it was possible to reconstruct the whole attack. The enemy had got to within less than a hundred yards of Battalion HQ. He came on twice, and was twice repulsed by this battalion alone without any help.

The foremost of the enemy were lying just where they had dug themselves in with their entrenching tools, with their bombs and ammunition beside them. And never, in my life, shall I have so profoundly impressive an experience as that of going among our dead, (it was my own Battalion), and recognising my own friends lying just as they had fallen upon the field.

One of the finest deaths that day was that of an Orderly Room Clerk, who died literally defending his office. He had never had to fight for over three years, and when the sudden emergency came, faced it as if he had been in action all his days…

A cook, engaged in frying bacon at the Battalion HQ which was captured, suddenly saw an Austrian in his kitchen doorway. In an instant, he ran him through with a rusty old bayonet used for poking the fire.”

 

 

June 17th 1918

The first few months of this year have seen considerable activity on the Western Front, with a series of attacks made on our positions by the Germans. Three Old Dragons have lost their lives in these battles, together with two more members of the newly formed RAF.

Thankfully, as a school we have had no more losses in May, or indeed so far this month. Nor have we heard much news of our Old Dragons there. This may be due to the fact that, with the considerable movement of the front line and greater confusion (as testified by the extraordinarily long lists of those declared ‘Missing’) there has been less time for our scribes to record the events (Philip Frere being an honourable exception).

* * * * * * *

In the meanwhile, warfare of a different nature has been taking place here: the annual Fathers v Sons cricket match. I am grateful to Capt. Fyle for this account:

“I have a distinct recollection that the Fathers won, which in retrospect is unaccountable. It was mainly due, I think, to the staff work and sound cricket of Skipper Mallalieu, and to the steady offensive of a bearded bowler, who was in action continuously without relief. Also the side included more cricketers than was quite fair. One of them wore a cricket cap and batting gloves.

Then there was Mr Wallace*. True the appearance of Richard Wallace justified his inclusion in the side, but I hardly think it was the proper place for the author of the remark that ‘Parents are the sort of people who ought never to have children.’

Also the side included an obvious golfer, who, if I remember rightly, hit six successive full shots for six apiece and nearly caused enough casualties among the spectators to strike a war correspondent dumb…

Nor must I omit to record the stand made by Col. Stenning and Capt. Wylie, which according to the expert commentator would have produced considerably more than three runs, had not the latter been brilliantly caught off a shot which looked like a late cut to square leg, while the former encountered that unconscionable anomaly, a straight long-hop.

But the dissolution of this partnership was probably due to the guile of Skipper, who seeing them getting their eyes a little less out, tripped on the field with a telegram containing news of three Winchester scholarships.

Of the school’s innings, I do not feel qualified to speak. It seemed to me that they all played brilliantly and would certainly have beaten any but a quite first-class team. They were not well supported by their umpires, one of whom gave ‘run out’ against a boy who would certainly have reached the crease in another two or three minutes. Umpires ought to remember which side they are on.”

For the record the Fathers totalled 115 and the boys were bowled out for 102. More important were the three scholarships won by F Huggins (3rd), R Alford (12th), E Slater (15th). Well done boys!

Daily Telegraph, June 17th 1918

 

*This, of course, is our returned soldier cum OPS schoolmaster,’Pug‘ – a sportsman of some note.

June 13th 1918

We are delighted to hear from Capt. Maurice Campbell (RAMC), who has written up his nine day journey (without maps) along the Bagdad – Persian Road (March 23rd – 31st.) for publication in the ‘Draconian.’

“This 200 miles through the hills still remains after thousands of years one of the worst and most difficult main roads in the world.

27/3/18. “We had only come 20 miles of our 120 (not counting of course the 80 I had done by car). Except for army mules for the Lewis guns and ammunition, our transport was entirely Persian mules, which are larger animals, supposed to carry 300 lbs…

The mules were looked after by a weird crew, dressed rather like the pirates in Peter Pan – especially the head man, who wore a bright blue coat and bright yellow trousers and looked the biggest villain I have ever seen…”

To prove the point, the following day, this ‘head man’ demonstrated his capacity for villainy on his own men:

“…it seemed as though they would never get loaded but finally the head man went up to various mules he thought underloaded, beat the driver over the head and tipped the whole load on the ground. The man then loaded again with another 100 lbs.”

Once underway,  even these hardy animals found the going tough:

“We started about six down a narrow lane, which got rougher and rougher. Even the mules could hardly stand and one was overbalanced by its load into a stream at the side. Several loads came off…”

Their resilience, however, is remarkable:

“Their saddles were kept on day and night and during the day even when we stopped for an hour their loads were never touched. But in spite of this they were ready to go on all day, grazing as they went. The one trouble was their speed – about two miles an hour, which made the day’s march a long one, although they never halted when we did.”

Of all the difficulties Maurice encountered on his journey, this is perhaps the strangest:

30/3/18 “In the morning we were greeted by the news that one of the mules had been eaten by a lion. On enquiry, it turned out to be a wretched creature which had been too lame to carry a load at all, so we suspected this was only the first stage in the manufacture of some circumstantial evidence so they might claim compensation.”

The following day, although still not at his final destination, Maurice was at least over the worst of it:

31/3/18. “This was the end of our journey on the Bagdad –  Persian road. From here to the Caspian it is good military road built by the Russians. From Bagdad to Qizil Roht, where I was camped, it passes over absolutely flat plains.”

Meanwhile, Maurice’s youngest brother 2nd Lieut. Pat Campbell (RFA) is serving in France.

We still remember the pain of awaiting news of the middle brother, 2nd Lieut. Percy Campbell, who was the second of our Old Boys to be killed, in October 1914.

The Roll now stands at sixty-six Old Boys, who have given their lives in this struggle against German aggression.