February 22nd 1915

Only ten years ago, Jack Smyth, aged 12, was recovering from a serious illness. For two years he had blown up like a balloon, whilst getting weaker and weaker. His recovery was almost as sudden as its onset. His nurse, thinking he was dying, decided to offer him whatever he would like to eat and for some reason he chose a steak. Although this surely cannot have been the only reason, it proved a turning point and by the Easter Term 1905 he was able to return to school.

After Repton and Sandhurst, Jack, who did not have the private means to consider a British regiment, joined the Indian Army. The bill for his kit, when he spent a year with the Green Howards in 1912, was beyond what he and his mother could afford, so I and a number of others stepped in to help.

Now he is with the 15th Sikhs, involved in the continuing trench warfare. We received two letters from him last week, dated the 11th and 15th February:

Jack Smyth

Lieut. Jack Smyth

15.2.15. “I am writing this in a German trench and am too filthy and muddy and disreputable for words. As I expect you saw in the papers the Indian Corps captured a German position the other day, and here we are holding on to it for all we are worth. It is more interesting here in a place where the Germans have been for about four months; the place is quite dry, a captured pump tells us the reason why; they did themselves pretty well as all the dug-outs are littered with old bottles of champagne etc., and photos of the Kaiser, and letters and food, etc. Our men rather fancy the German boots and I have one of their haversacks.

There are about 100 of their dead lying just outside my trench where they were discovered creeping up to try and recapture the place and were promptly laid out by a machine gun. 

I haven’t taken off my boots for five days and am a sight for the gods.”

Clearly, his kit is still a matter of concern for Jack!

His earlier letter tells a remarkable tale of good luck enjoyed by a friend of his.

“About five years ago, an old mullah in India gave him a silver charm, which he said would bring him luck and also save his life. He went home on leave the other day and was promptly married (I suppose that was the luck) and yesterday, from a good position behind a big tree, he was having a good look  at the German trenches, when a bullet came through the tree (not bullet proof) and hit the bottom button of his coat, smashing it to bits and winding him, but never penetrated his body. The charm, which he always wore and which was underneath his shirt, was squashed flat, but beyond a very sore tummy, he is none the worse and is now fairly convinced that he will see this show through all right.” 


February 15th 1915


Roderick Haigh

Roderick Haigh

Roderick Haigh’s Will.

The will of Roderick Haigh, who was killed at Ypres in November (see October 12th, 29th and November 16th posts) has just been published. We are immensely grateful to Roderick for remembering us, as no doubt will be all who are benefitting from his generosity:

£2300 to the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, to found a scholarship or annual prize in memory of Arthur Elam Haigh (his father, a Fellow of the College).

£1000 to the Governing Body of Leeds Grammar School to found a scholarship or annual prize in memory of Arthur Elam Haigh.

£500 to the Headmaster of Winchester College for some purpose as he may determine to assist the Winchester College Mission.

£500 to the Headmaster of the Oxford Preparatory School to supplement the Exhibition Fund, or for any other purpose he may determine.

£30 to the Oxford Women’s Church of England Temperance Society and £20 to the Oxford Surgical Aid Society.

£500 to the officer commanding 2nd Battalion Royal West Surrey Regt., for investment as he may determine and to apply the income in the purchase of instruments, music etc for the drum & fife band, or for any other purposes he may determine.

Roderick also left a number of bequests varying from £50-£10 to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of his regiment ‘as a token of gratitude’ In the event of their being no longer alive, the gifts will go to their next-of-kin.

Part of Roderick Haigh’s bequest to the OPS has been used to pay for the miniature rifle range and the Roderick Haigh Cup will be shot for annually, and will be won by the best individual marksman in a competition between Day-boys and Boarders.

The range has also been very useful to the 4th Territorial Battalion of the OBLI (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry) and to the Oxford Volunteer TC. Officers home on leave from the front and others in training have also used the range for revolver practice. In fact it has been a great success.

The rest of the money may be used to help the sons of Oxford dons attending the School, who, on account of the war, or for other reasons, may need it.

* * * * * * *

Mr Haynes has contributed a handsome addition to the Boarders’ Library in the shape of the following books, which were chosen by a plebiscite of the VIth Form:

W. H. Ainsworth: 	Old St. Paul's 
		 	Windsor Castle
		 	Tower of London
F. Anstey: 		Vice Versa
R. M. Ballantyre: 	Coral Island
Rolf Boldrewood: 	Robbery Under Arms
A. Conan Doyle: 	White Company 
			Rodney Stone
                	Exploits of the Brigadier Gerrard
Quiller Couch: 		Dead Man's Rock
Fitchie: 		Deeds that Won the Empire
W. S. Gilbert: 		The "Bab" Ballads
Rider Haggard: 		King Solomon's Mines 
	       		People of the Mist
J. K. Jerome: 		Three Men in a Boat
R. Kipling: 		Just So Stories
	    		Jungle Book 
	    		Second Jungle Book
Lamb's 			Tales from Shakespeare
Capt. Marryat: 		Midshipman Easy
Anna Sewell: 		Black Beauty
Seton Thompson: 	Wild Animals I have known 
			Lives of Hunted
Jules Verne: 		From Earth to Moon 
	     		20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Stanley  Weyman: 	Gentleman of France
P. G. Woodhouse: 	Mike 
	         	Psmith in the City

February 8th 1915

Some of the earliest Old Dragons will remember Regie Tyrwhitt, whose father was vicar of St Mary Magdalen’s here in Oxford. Regie joined the Navy straight from the OPS in 1882, by way of the training ship HMS Britannia. He is now a Commodore in charge of the Harwich Forceon HMS Aruthusa.

HMS Arethusa

Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt’s ship, HMS Arethusa.

Reginald Tyrwhitt

Last month he was involved in an action off Dogger Bank, about which we have received the following account (from an unknown source) of the sinking of the German battleship ‘Blucher’.

“The ‘Lion’ led the British line and began to pour upon the ‘Blucher’ the deluge of shells which crippled her, but by the time the ‘Blucher’ had ceased steaming, the ‘Lion’ herself had been hit by a chance shot and her speed reduced. At this moment the ‘Arethusa’ was at hand. In spite of the aircraft, submarines and the fire of the big guns she went at full speed towards the damaged ‘Blucher’. When close in, the ‘Arethusa’ swung round. She was greeted with a salvo from the ‘Blucher’ at short range, but every shot went wide. They were the last the ‘Blucher’ fired. Before the smoke had cleared the ‘Arethusa’ discharged two torpedoes and both got home.”


The demise of the German battleship ‘Blucher’.

A member of the Arethusa’s crew described the scene on the deck of the ‘Blucher’.

“They drew themselves up on the deck in lines when they knew all was over and then, taking off their caps, gave three cheers.

We steamed in as close as we could and shouted to them to jump, which lots of them did just before she heeled over. We had boats out in no time and picked up 197 altogether. They were mostly black and blue with cold – but all they wanted was some fags.”

Another account noted that “each of the German sailors had been provided with special life-saving apparatus – a cork belt and an inflatable apparatus fastened about the shoulders. The latter was made of rubber and is about 24 ins. long by 10 ins. wide; it can be blown up by the wearer in a moment and is so made that when in use the air-feed pipe comes opposite the mouth. The Germans declared that any sailor who loses this article is liable to a fine of 11 shillings.

As the Germans were helped into the boats a strange scene took place. They took every article of value they were wearing, such as rings, purses and watches and implored our men to accept them as tokens of their gratitude. ‘On land,’ said one, ‘we can beat you, but here, no.’”

February 1st 1915

Percy Campbell

2nd Lieut. Percy Campbell (Wiltshire Reg) 

Last term we were unwilling to mention, as there was still some hope that he might be a prisoner, the death of Percy Campbell in action; but from what has been gathered from eye-witnesses, there seems to be now no doubt that he was killed in the trenches in the neighbourhood of Armentieres in October. His loss is a great grief to us.

He was reported missing about the middle of November, soon after the virtual annihilation of his battalion on October 21-24 had become known through letters from the front. A slowly fading hope that he might be a prisoner in Germany was finally ended by the story of his death, told by a Pte Laws, who was in his platoon.

It appears that, after his battalion had been shelled out of their trenches, Percy Campbell was almost the only officer left unwounded and uncaptured. With a few of his men, he made his way to a place of safety in the rear and then went to report to Headquarters. There is some confusion in the accounts of what followed, but one thing seems clear, viz, that Percy himself, though urged not to, did actually return to seek some wounded of whom he had just heard. It was when on this errand that he was killed.  Pte Laws found Percy’s body – he had been struck in the chest by a shell – and assisted in his burial in the garden of a nearby house.

Though by all his instincts Percy was one who hated war, he had volunteered for the Special Reserve as soon as the war broke out. Gazetted to the Wiltshire Regiment, he went to the front at the beginning of October and was the second of my Old Boys to fall, near Ypres, on 24th October 1914, at the age of 20.

His parents have recently received this communication from the War Office: Campbell telegramTo JE Campbell, Hertford College, Oxford.    O.C Battalion now reports 2nd Lieut. WP Campbell Wiltshire Regiment as missing believed to have been killed 24th Oct   Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.