December 21st 1914

A number of Old Dragons are serving in the Royal Navy. Earlier this month an action was fought in the Falkland Islands by a British fleet under Vice Admiral Sturdee, who had been dispatched to intercept Admiral Spee’s East Asiatic squadron. The action that ensued is here recounted by an Old Dragon, Lieut. Desmond Stride, who was on HMS Cornwall.

HMS Cornwall

HMS Cornwall

“A flag-lieutenant in his pyjamas hurried off to tell Admiral Sturdee that they had sighted the enemy and he found the Admiral shaving. ‘You had better get into our clothes, and I will finish what I am doing,’ was the calm comment, ‘then we will have breakfast.’”

Thus fortified, the British ships, having now been observed by the German fleet, gave chase. The speed of the British Battle Cruisers proved too much and the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau turned to give battle. Both were sunk. Stride’s ship was responsible for the sinking of the Leipzig and “all the German ships were badly on fire before the end, and according to survivors, the Germans assisted – when all their ammunition was expended – in the sinking of their ships, by opening torpedo tubes etc.”

Stride was in charge of a 6” gun and was in action for about four hours. It was indeed a clear victory. Only one German ship escaped and whilst over 2,000 Germans were killed, there were only ten British casualties. Although HMS Cornwall sustained a number of hits, damage was slight.

“There was only one serious casualty on my ship. When the fight was over I asked my servant how things had gone. The man looked very grave. ‘Well, what is it?’ I asked. ‘It’s my poor canary; he’d dead. All the feathers were blown off, and the cage, for which I paid 2s 9d at Plymouth, is smashed to pieces. It was a beautiful cage, sir.’”

I sympathise with this loss. Desmond no doubt remembers my study, where two parrots, 27 small birds and 5 canaries enliven the atmosphere. A few of the small birds live loose, whilst Joey and Polly fly about the room – and occasionally devour or otherwise destroy papers of value, such as the boys’ poems or exam papers; they also nibble bits with great discrimination out of my best books.

 *  *  *  *  *  *

We have received another extract from the diary of Treffry Thompson (RAMC), who is still attached to the Royal Horse Artillery near Ypres. It is good to hear that he has been enjoying a period of rest and recreation too.

Treffry Thompson

Treffry Thompson

30/11/14. “Resting… A typical day is as follows. I wake lazily at 7.30 when my servant brings me coffee and hot water. Down and walk sedately up to Mess for comfortable breakfast. Smoke a pipe and look at papers. Start off at 9.15 on horseback to do morning rounds. Trot along canal through woods for 1½ miles. Woods very pleasant and many pheasants about. See the sick of C Battery, then go on to K down the road. Chat with officers and then go off for a short gallop across country to Ammunition Column… Trot back to lunch.

After lunch either the General or some of the Staff come and we go off to the woods with two borrowed 12-bores. We then spend the afternoon waking up pheasants in the more open parts of the woods and get, say, six brace. Back to a cosy tea and much chatting. Change, read papers, and write letters. At 7.30 an excellent dinner of pheasant, venison etc. Pipes and more reading and off to bed at 10. And this is War!”

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Next term we will be putting on ‘Hamlet.’ During November, the two top forms read though the play in lessons. There was a certain amount of acting, the parts spread amongst the children and they have all been asked to learn passages for prep. Some of the more difficult passages I have explained to them, but the boys soon got the drift of the thing and gradually grasped the various scenes for themselves. I always prefer that they should form their own ideas, even if not quite accurate ones, than I should give them mine. ‘Clarendon Press’ notes, all philological and critical comments are rigidly avoided. I prefer the haphazard to ordered method.

All the parts were allocated before the holidays and by the start of term the boys are expected to know them absolutely pat. There will be three days for rehearsals and the play will be performed on January 16th in the Hall.

4 thoughts on “December 21st 1914

  1. Paul Baker says:

    Just reading a book about Ypres during WW1 so interesting to get the news of an OD at start of blog. Thank you for these blogs and I look forward to my Sunday read of them . Happy Christmas.
    Paul Baker


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