October 29th 1918

Daily Telegraph, 18.10.18

Many will have read with excitement and pride of the British troops entering Lille on October 17th, as was reported in the Daily Telegraph the following day. What we did not know then was that Capt. Leslie Grundy (MGC) was involved. Indeed he is claiming his men were the first British into Lille on that day:

20/10/18 “To our surprise, we found we were the first British troops to enter… The ovation we got was terrific… The men were covered with flowers and flags. The civilians were off their heads for joy and several ladies were so overcome that they kissed me on both cheeks with tears in their eyes. They must have had an awful time here with the Germans. No butter, cheese, meat or eggs for four years. Many of the women have been in prison – one case, a sentence of 15 days imprisonment for giving a cup of coffee to an English prisoner…

When I asked at the Mairie for ‘billets de lodgement’ they went off their heads for joy, and before I could look round they had put my men into billets – everyone got a bed. I had a splendid room with real linen sheets (hidden while the Boche was in possession) and we messed in a large dining room, beautifully furnished. The people insisted on doing all the cooking and our servants had the time of their lives.

My host was a leading brewer in the town, a M. Agache, and he was the most hospitable man I have come across for long time. Mme Agache has been a hostage in Germany for a long time and had suffered simply horribly – thank Heaven our women have not been in a similar position. One of the minor indignities to which they were submitted was to go to their baths stark naked, escorted by soldiers…”

October 25th 1918

Capt. Kenneth Rudd (West Yorks)

The advances of the past month, including the breaching of the Hindenburg Line,  suggests that (dare I say it?) an end to war is in sight. However, progress has once again been at considerable cost and we have lost a fourth dear friend in this last month.

Kenneth Rudd was killed by shell-fire near Inchy (not far from Le Cateau) on October 10th, the day before the death of Fluff Taylor in Flanders.

To receive the news of the death of a loved one in war is to suffer pain beyond description.  The significance of a letter from someone who witnessed the event and takes the trouble to write a letter of condolence is considerable for grieving family and friends. A fine example of this is the letter received from one of Kenneth’s men, a Corporal Field:

“No words of mine can express the admiration we all had for him. We mourn for him as a brother and hasten to convey the deep sense of sympathy we have with you in your irreparable loss. It was my privilege to look upon him in death, he looked beautiful.

He lies in a grave where a Briton has laid him with reverent hands, and a nice cross marks the last resting place of one ‘who never turned his back, but marched breast forward, never doubting that right would triumph.'”

Whilst he was with us Kenneth was just as keen, devoted and lovable as he proved to be afterwards.

 

 

October 23rd 1918

The country is now in the grips of the influenza. The majority of the Elementary Schools in Oxford are now closed. Following a few mild cases here at school, as we could not possibly cope with a major outbreak amongst our boarders, I have taken the decision that they should go home to their families.

We will continue to look after about a dozen for whom this is not possible, and we will have the day boys in when we can.

This advice is from the Daily Telegraph (22.10.1918):

 

October 20th 1918

Daily Telegraph 17/10/18

The death of Fluff Taylor strikes at the heart of the OPS family and both my brother Hum and I would like to record our thoughts and appreciation of his life as a pupil, colleague and friend.

Fluff Taylor attended the OPS from 1882-86, coinciding with my arrival at the school (then at 17 Crick Road, Oxford) in 1882.

Fluff, as a Dragon

I can see Fluff now with his reddish curly rough hair and his honest freckled face and bright dancing eyes, dressed in a sailor suit. I used to put him up on a desk in the old school at Crick Road and he sang ‘Kitty Wells’ and recited the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus’ most pathetically.

Then later he was our swimming instructor and started the tradition of fearless diving which has been maintained ever since. In those days the Lodge was a merry place and Fluff was the life of it. Then we heard of his exploits in the Himalayas when fighting fierce tribesmen; the Boer War (which claimed the life of his brother, Rex), Graspan and Magersfontein, then colonial work in Nigeria.

When the Great War came he rejoined the Army, was wounded, went back again and after winning many decorations was hit by shrapnel under his helmet on October 1st.

During all those years he constantly came back to his old school, always the same old Fluff. He chummed with different generations of boys, he got them countless ‘halves’ and ‘no preps’; he told them grand yarns, he pillow-fought in the dorms…  There was always a thrill of delight when GC (Mr Vassall) told us that Fluff was coming.

And always he took me with him to the beautiful cemetery at Holywell and laid wreaths of flowers on the graves of his father and brother; and then he would talk to me of higher things, of the mysteries of life here and hereafter – and lately he always came back in our talks to the absolutely magnificent behaviour of his men – their humour, their readiness to make the best of things and such awful things, their refusal to give in to hunger and sleeplessness and awful sounds and sights; he told me how anxious they were about his welfare and that of other officers.

‘Tommy,’ like the boys and myself, never had a dearer or truer or warmer-hearted friend. His resting place is at La Kreule, but his spirit is ever with us to inspire and to cheer and to love.

My brother, Hum Lynam has written:

“In Bedford and Sandhurst days his buoyant spirit, supported by a high reputation as a footballer, won him great influence in School and College. But he was no mere jolly athlete. He won a Scholarship at Bedford and the School Prize for Latin Verse. He quoted Latin in letters from India, with just enough degree of error to prove the genuineness of his knowledge. His descriptions of the antiquities of Crete, his poems, his plea for the serious study of French, showed clearly the instinct of a scholar…

He once wrote a letter to the Draconian to protest that ‘none of the boys (as shown in a photo of the School XI which he had recently received) appears to possess a brush and comb.’ The protest is characteristic. As a soldier he knew and taught the importance of attention to detail: and in one of the best sermons we ever heard – which Fluff preached on March 4th 1917 – he elaborated this point to the complete conviction of right roughest-haired Dragon in the room.”

As our friend, Archer Vassall, has observed,

“There is no Dragon out of the whole number serving who was more intimately bound to the School.”

 

 

 

October 17th 1918

Brigadier-General Stuart Taylor (West Yorks)

Just as we read of German overtures for peace, we hear of the loss of one of our oldest and staunchest of friends – Fluff Taylor.

Fluff was coming on leave at the beginning of term, but he cabled us to say he could not come. This was followed by a letter saying “a special Hun-killing programme was arranged. On the day I should have come I was watching my lads kill Huns and take others prisoners, and they got a splendid haul.” 

Fluff was wounded in May 1916, just before the Battle of the Somme when his Leeds Pals were hit so badly, and he won the DSO last year. More recently he has been involved in the many attacks raining down on the Boche on the Western Front.

On October 1st, Fluff was touring the front line trenches near Ploegstreet, south of Ypres, when a shell exploded nearby. The Brigade Major was killed and Fluff was hit by shrapnel under the helmet and down his left side. We hear that he died of these wounds ten days later, on October 11th.

Like a bright star he burnt, and is suddenly extinguished; to his friends the world is darker. How he would have loved the glory and splendour of the final triumph for which he worked and fought so hard; but he has attained the still more splendid, though more sorrowful glory of a little white cross above his grave on the Western Front.

 

October 14th 1918

2nd Lieut. Stuart Ricketts (RFA)

Stuart Ricketts has finally succumbed to wounds he suffered on August 29th, when his battery were supporting an attack east of Albert and came under enemy artillery fire.

His wounds, caused by shrapnel, were very serious, affecting his lower abdomen as well as breaking his left shoulder, upper arm and hip. He was sent to Rouen, where he suffered for 5 weeks; three operations were performed on him, but they were to no avail and he died of peritonitis on October 5th.

Amongst many heroes, Stuart was more of a hero in his life of the last six years than many. A bad attack of sciatica at Oundle left him with curvature of the spine and a short leg. In spite of much suffering he took the Woolwich exam, choosing to join the RE. This was not to be.

He spent the next five years trying to regain his physical fitness, and after many operations and the weariness of a plaster jacket he, by his great will power, became restored to health and strength. While he was ill, he studied for matriculation and the first medical, and then became a student at King’s, spending his vacation as dresser there.

After passing into the Flying Corps he was medically examined and turned down because of his heart; this was a great disappointment; however, he did not despair, and eventually was passed for the RFA. He went to France in June and was very happy over there, saying it was a grand life, but primitive.

Stuart visited us only last term and we were all pleased with his fitness and cheeriness. It is most disconcerting to find that, having suffered so much in his life already, his final months were ones of yet more pain and suffering.

 

October 10th 1918

We have had a most unexpected letter from Potter Baldwin, who with his brother Charles was at the OPS between 1898-1902, when his family came over from New York to spend some time in Oxford.

3/10/18. Company B., 345th Infantry, American Expeditionary Force, France.

“I have been in the service of Uncle Sam since July 8th, when I enlisted in the Army in New York.

I have been on this side about a month. Of course, our plans are unsettled, and we do not know our next move. In Liverpool station we were served hot coffee and biscuits by the Red Cross.

I noticed a fellow wearing the old familiar cap, with the Dragon on it; he was helping his mother. I spoke to him and his mother, who told me of you and the school. It certainly makes the world seem very small, especially after one has travelled nearly 4,000 miles by boat.” 

This must have coincided with the start of term, when the boarders were returning to school.

OPS boarders come from far and wide – the three Liverpool boys are part of a significant northern contingent, consisting of 9 from Lancashire, 9 from Yorkshire and 1 from each of Cumberland, Cheshire and Northumberland. From even further afield we have 2 from Dublin, 3 from Scotland and 1 from each of Jersey, France and India.

The greatest number do of course come from London/Middlesex (21), whilst we have representatives from 16 other counties: Buckinghamshire (1), Cornwall (3), Derbyshire (1), Devon (4), Essex (1), Gloucestershire (2), Hampshire (5), Hertfordshire (4), Norfolk (1), Northamptonshire (1), Rutland (2), Somerset (4), Staffordshire (1), Surrey (2), Warwickshire (1) and Wiltshire (1).