May 10th 1915

RWPP Oxford3

Ronnie Poulton

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, a service was held at Rugby School in memory of the lives of two of their old boys, Ronnie Poulton and Rupert Brooke (who died on April 23rd on his way to Gallipoli).

Rupert Brooke played alongside Ronnie in the Rugby School 1st XV in  1905, when Ronnie was aged sixteen.

Of Ronnie the Headmaster said, “We have given of our best. If we were asked to describe what highest kind of manhood Rugby helps to make, I think we should have him in mind as we spoke of it.

God had endowed him with a rare combination of graces and given him an influence among men such as very few in one generation can possess. What had we not hoped would come of it!”

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Rupert Brooke’s poem ‘The Soldier,’ which was quoted in the Times Literary Supplement in March and also used in the Easter Day service at St Paul’s, is due to be published shortly by our own Frank Sidgwick, under the title of ‘1914 and Other Poems.’

In 1911 Brooke wrote to Frank, who had four years previously set up his company Sidgwick & Jackson, asking him to publish his first volume, ‘Poems of 1911’, which he duly did. The agreement was signed at Brooke’s home, The Old Vicarage at Granchester, witnessed by a guest, Virginia Stephen.

Frank’s good taste and judgement regarding authors are not to be doubted, given that he has also published ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon II in Orkney & Shetland’ (1909-1910) and more recently, ‘To Norway & The North Cape in Blue Dragon II’ for me.

I remember these cruises with great affection, and all the more so at present as many of my old boys now corresponding with me from the various fronts of the war, joined ‘The Blue Dragon’ as crew on these great adventures.

Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon

 

May 8th 1915

 

Ronnie Poulton

Lieut. Ronald Poulton Palmer (Royal Berks Regiment)

We have received further details from Jack Conybeare of dear Ronnie’s death, which occurred on the night of May 4th/5th.

5/5/15. “I have just heard that poor Ronald is dead. He was shot through the heart, in the early hours of this morning, and was killed instantaneously. This is the first real shock I have had since we have been out here. There always are a certain number of bullets flying about, but they never seem to hit anyone one knows, and in consequence, I, at any rate, had half forgotten that a friend might at any moment be killed. This is rather a rude awakening.

I last saw Ronald about ten days ago, when he came to see me in the trenches, as his company were taking over from us. It seems, indeed, hard lines, that a stray bullet should light on one who had both the power and the inclination to do so much good in the world…

I was talking to one of the Berks’ officers this morning. He told me that Ronald was far and away the most popular officer in the battalion, both among officers and men.

Apparently he was standing on top of the parapet last night, directing a working party, when he was hit. Of course, by day, anyone who shows his head above the parapet is courting disaster; in fact if one is caught doing so one is threatened with court-martial. At night, on the other hand, we perpetually have working parties of one kind or another out, either wiring, repairing the parapet, or doing something which involves coming from under cover, and one simply takes the risk of stray bullets.”

Captain Jack Conybeare (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry) was at both the OPS and Rugby with Ronnie.

May 4th 1915

A number of Old Dragons are involved in the battle that has been going on in the Ypres area since April 22nd. Donald Innes enlisted immediately at the start of the war as a despatch rider in the Motor Cycle Corps:

Donald Innes

Sgt. D. Innes

May 1st 1915. “On one of my rides I came across Treffry Thompson OD at Hazebrouk; he seemed very fit. Since Ypres is at present the centre of interest, perhaps a short account of it would not be amiss… 

One’s first view of the Cathedral reminds one of Magdalen tower; and the cloisters attached are very like those there also. The town has been smashed up more or less in zones, just short of and just beyond the Cathedral: where the shells fell short or overshot it. I was there the night before the attack on Hill 60, and then the Cloth Hall did not seem so very badly damaged, but of course I don’t know what this other bombardment has done.

The inhabitants seem to take things very philosophically, and one got a limited but quite excellent dinner there in a more or less patched up café. Where the shops are absolutely smashed, the owners sell their goods in the street outside.

With regard to the actual fighting, one sees very little of it and it is just a matter of chance if one happens to be there at the time, the trenches acting as a kind of touch-line inside which we play; so I will leave the description of that to ODs who are in the thick of it. 

I saw a little of Neuve Chapelle, and for an infantry man a modern attack can only be described as ‘Hell let loose.’ I thanked God I was a Despatch Rider. Our troubles are rather neatly put by one of the D.Rs in what he called the D.R’s prayer:-

From holes, shells, and motor ‘bus

Good Lord deliver us.”

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Donald Innes was one of the five Old Dragons to win Oxford hockey blues in 1911. All five of them are now in the Army.

1911 Hockey Blues

Standing: Donald Innes (Sgt. Motor Cycle Corps) and Patrick Duff (2nd Lieut. RFA in Gallipoli)

Sitting: John Brooks (2nd Lieut. Indian Army), Sholto Marcon (2nd Lieut. OBLI), Ronnie Poulton (Lieut. Royal Berks).