October 18th 1917

A second letter has been received from Lieut. Gus Hume-Gore (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders), who is with the King’s African Rifles and the British East Africa Expeditionary Force.

In addition to the extreme heat he complained about last time, he now catalogues a number of other difficulties the British soldier faces:

11/10/17 “Tinned rations that are mostly full of sand before you have finished eating them (aided by the worst kind of flies), the water in your bottle a bit more than lukewarm, and not the best of water very often at that; bottles have been filled from a stream and then dead bodies have been discovered roosting against a rock up-stream; sun that burns the eyes out of you; sun that makes you sick, that goes clean through your backbone and out the other side; sun that makes everything made of metal red-hot, so hot that it will blister your fingers if you give it a chance – and miles and miles of the ‘road’ that never seems to grow less and is harder and harder the farther you get.

When the rains come in about three weeks and then slack off for a bit, I gather that everything I have tried to picture may be multiplied by about ten.”

October 15th 1917

2nd Lieut. Walter Moberly (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry), has felt moved to contribute a piece in memory of Hugh Sidgwick, his contemporary at the OPS:

2nd Lt. W Moberly

“When my generation entered VIa in September 1894, we found him, though a year younger than the rest of us, already there, the only survivor of the previous year, amongst whom he had been the first…

With Hum (Lynam) to teach us and Sidgwick to set us a standard we had a most stimulating time; and I remember nothing to compare with it until I reached Senior Sixth Book at Winchester under Dr. Fearon…

I have never known any other case of a boy being so completely on a pinnacle by himself, though I have been told that ten years later Jack Haldane approached something of the same position…

In those days, Mr Lang of Magdalen, now Archbishop of York, used to teach us Divinity. I remember his describing to us one day the characteristics of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees respectively, and his asking us each in turn which we thought we should have been. Sidgwick, who was of course at the top, led off with proclaiming himself a Sadducee. The future Archbishop told him he had judged rightly, and so he certainly had…”

Walter further recalls Hugh speaking at an Old Dragon Dinner:

“He (Hugh) went on to ask what the distinctive character of the School and its training is. He found it in the Skipper’s refusal to force his boys into one or other of two or three conventional moulds, in his positive encouragement of originality, in the opportunity given to boys to discover their own peculiar interests and gifts; so that, if you were to collect a number of Old Boys in after-life and to ask what was the common stamp that the School had set on them, you would be able to point to no single machine-made quality, but you might observe that every one was very much himself.”

I have never believed that our boys are clay to be shaped as potters will, all much in the same way, and our way. To have tried to mould a Hugh Sidgwick was unthinkable. What if the chisel had slipped, what irretrievable damage might have been done?

Finally, few concerned with the School would disagree with Walter’s conclusion:

“If I were asked to illustrate the contribution of the OPS to English life, and now to England’s sacrifice, I should be content to couple his name to that of Ronald Poulton and let the OPS be judged by them.”

Capt. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA)

 

October 11th 1917

Lieut. Gus Hume-Gore (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) was seconded to the King’s African Rifles with the British East Africa Expeditionary Force last December. Whereas many an Old Dragon is complaining of the mud so prevalent on the Western Front, Gus has very different but equally trying conditions with which to contend:

4/10/17 “I have just had my first wash and shave for seven days and feel quite respectable again.

We have just done a great push and advanced about 8 miles with some heavy fighing. The positions the Germans take up are terrible. They get well dug-in and then stick trees and spikes etc well round them, so that attacking over the open with a lot of machine guns firing at you is a nasty job.

The heat is overwhelming and makes even breathing difficult. My arms and knees are the colour of bronze…

We are simply eaten alive with mosquitoes, bugs etc., as we can’t put up a net when we are on the move. There is a lot of swampy ground around here.

I am trying to improve my German by reading German letters and books which are lying about all over the place.” 

One can forget that this war is being fought across the world, so we are grateful to Gus for reminding us of this.

 

October 6th 1917

The ‘Oxford Magazine’ has published an appreciation of the life of Capt. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA), who died of his wounds on September 17th:

“Another of the veriest sons of Oxford, and of the Morning, gone! And one of the brightest and best… he had such obvious qualities for true friendship – intelligence far above the average, wit and humour and a capacity for deep affection, and endless interests in many directions, the open road, or even more the open hills, music, mathematics, history, scholarship, education, social service and what not.

After a brilliant course at Winchester and Balliol – his was a case of double First Class Honours in Mathematics and Classics, something of a rarity nowadays with rising and specialist standards…

During his life he returned to the College the greater proportion of his stipend as Fellow to be applied to the support of necessitous students, and by his will he directed that the whole balance should be repaid to the Master and Fellows, leaving them free to allocate it in the same way, or in any manner they may approve…

Hugh has also left the OPS £100 in his will, which will aid our Leaving Exhibition Fund. This fund has, since 1908, been allowing me to give leaving exhibitions to help boys whose parents are not very well off to go to a good public school. (The first such award I gave to a young Jack Smyth, later to win the VC).