December 27th 1918

Jones’s Wedding and Other Poems

by Hugh Sidgwick

(Edward Arnold, priced 3/6)

It is just over a year since the death of Hugh Sidgwick, and it is a pleasure to note the publication of this tale in rhymed prose, which he began before the War. He worked on it in those grim times that followed, finally finishing it during the period when he was recalled from active service to work on Mr HAL Fisher’s Education Act during the early months of 1917 (during which time he also wrote ‘From a Funk-hole.’)

This review was in the ‘Oxford Magazine’:

“This tale, so playfully, so delicately told, is like an epitaph, at once grave and gay, on an Oxford friendship, or a group of Oxford friends, and young Oxford before the War lives again in these pages. The humours of the Commemoration Ball, the agony and joy of the Eights, have never been more happily translated than in ‘Eileen’ and in ‘Janet,’ but ‘Dorothy’ gains an added poetic virtue from her setting in the mountains and the lakes. Jones ‘goes over the top’ into matrimony; the author, the ‘I’ of the narrative, alas, will never come back to us from France, to determine in a sequel the fates of Robinson, Brown and Smith, and delight us with fresh sallies of his wit and satire, never malicious and never beside the mark, his merry irony, with sometimes almost a sob in its voice.

The versification owes its lift to Browning, but the Education Office must have made Sidgwick something of a cockney, for the letter ‘r’ hardly exists for him, and ‘cards’ as a rhyme to ‘Promenades’ is almost more than we can bear, while ‘Neitsche’ and ‘feature’ as a jingle set our teeth on edge; but could he reply to us, it would be with a smile and a fresh atrocity. And this poem is dated to last year; so far was he ‘au-dessus de la melee’!”

The range of Hugh’s literary interests was evident in the library of books that was returned to the family on his death, along with his kit: a complete Jane Austen, the Oxford India-paper Vergil and Horace, a Tacitus, Mackail’s Greek Anthology, as well as volumes of Stevenson, Belloc and Kipling.

However, the writing of such verse as this must surely have been Hugh’s way of amusing himself and distracting his thoughts from more disturbing images of war.

Hugh’s description of the differences between Oxford and Cambridge men cannot fail but to raise a smile in this festive season:

Brown once wrote a didactic poem,
"The Oxford Man and How to Know Him,"
In which he said the distinctive mark
Was a fatal readiness to embark
(Disregarding the obvious dangers)
On abstract topics with total strangers - 
Art, the Future, the Kingdom of Ends - 
While he reserved for his real friends,
In soul-communion knit together,
His views on clothes and food and the weather.
Per contra, with Cambridge men he found
The order was the other way round.
Brown's statement, of course, is much too sweeping,
But some of the facts do seem in keeping.

December 21st 1918

Capt. Fergus Ling (1st King Edward’s Horse)

Fergus was always so full of life and energy that his death comes as a very great shock to all who knew him, coming, as it does, after the fighting has ceased.

He saw much severe fighting in France and was mentioned in despatches. He came home on leave in October and never returned. His final weeks were spent in the care of his sister and her husband, Dr. Daniel Rambaut – the uncle of Lieut. Hugh Rambaut (Bedfordshire Yeomanry & Irish Hussars), who was at the OPS (1904-8). The cause of death on December 16th was pulmonary tuberculosis, the first signs of which date back to the early months of this year.

Fergus was the outstanding all-round athlete of his time at the OPS, excelling in cricket, football and athletics. On leaving Bradfield he worked in the corn trade in Liverpool.

He died at Priory Cottage, St. Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton and has been buried next to his parents in Wetheral Cemetery, near Carlisle.

December 19th 1918

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE

Due to disruptions caused by the ‘flu’, the play this term, which was Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance,’ had to be delayed until the very last day of term.

Our reviewer was most generous in his remarks:

“Beginning with diffidence, they gathered confidence as they progressed and ended with ‘brio’ on a note of almost boisterous hilarity.”

A number were singled out for their performances, including Ruth (J. Betjemann):

“A pleasing buxom wench was Ruth, who scored a great success in the part of ‘Maid of all work.’ Always perfectly self-possessed, she enunciated her lines with a clearness which even in that company was remarkable.”

* * * * * *

The holidays ahead – the first ones in which we can all enjoy peacetime pleasures since the summer of 1914 – we hope will be healthy ones too.

As Hum Lynam, writing in ‘House Notes’ for the ‘Draconian’ points out, we have been very lucky this term:

“The Armistice Term was also the ‘Flu’ Term and will be remembered as the first occasion on which the boarders have been sent home during term time. It was a preventative measure, which was fully justified by results, and we were heartily thankful that we were spared the anxieties and prolonged interruption of work, which were the lot of many schools. Except for a few mild cases of ‘flu’ just before we dispersed, we have been entirely free from illness.”

December 16th 1918

Daily Telegraph, 16/12/1918

Today’s paper brings the good news that Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC (RAF) has been repatriated and is in good health.

2nd Lieut. William Dyson (Devon) and 2nd Lieut. Adrian Raleigh (Leics), who both were captured in the German Spring Offensive earlier this year, were reported to have returned on December 8th.

Lieut. Blake Budden (Middlesex), who was interned in Holland, has also now returned.

We await news of two other Old Dragon fliers who have been in captivity, Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RAF) and 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren (RAF).

 

 

December 12th 1918

Lieut. Jack Gamlen (OBLI) is, we know, a francophile – he wrote last year of his pleasure at working with the French on the Western Front.

Following the account of his experiences in the Battle of the Piave in June, here is his latest, and perhaps last, missive from Italy.

With the French in Italy.

30/11/18. “By great good fortune, I spent the last three months of the war with the French on the Asiago Plateau, acting as a liaison officer between them and my own Division…

The policy on both Divisional fronts was a constant raiding activity. The French are, as everyone knows, quite uncannily clever at raids. They have always taken more prisoners and had fewer casualties than the English, on every front. I could never learn the secret of their success, and they professed not to know it themselves. Each Division used to do a big raid every ten days…

[The French Division]… had a great success early in August. It captured nearly 150 prisoners at the cost of one man killed and six wounded… The prisoners were a sorry lot, as usual. Among them was a Regimental Commander (a Colonel). The [French] General did a thing which no English General, under any conceivable circumstances would do. He picked the captured Colonel up, put him in his car, and took him straight back to Divisional HQ, where he gave him breakfast in his mess.

After breakfast, the French General launched out into a magnificent tirade against Austria and all its works, and while he whipped the unhappy Colonel with his words, the latter sat, with his head in his hands, the picture of decadence, defeat and despair.

I was afterwards left alone with him under my charge and we had an interesting talk. He was a typical Austrian, weak, agreeable, strongly anti-Boche. He shrugged his shoulders over the whole business, and when I asked him what would happen to the Dual Monarchy after the War, he answered, ‘My dear fellow, so long as you leave me Paris to live in, and English clothes to wear, I don’t care!’

Daily Telegraph, 31/10/1918

After a crescendo of raids on the plateau, the Piave offensive was launched, and went well from the start. In four or five days, the enemy showed signs of a withdrawal on our front, and, at the given moment, the French and my own Division sprang upon his rearguards, kicked them off the plateau, and began the great pursuit…

I am writing in a great hurry, and have no time to tell you half the things that I should like to tell about the French. They are wonderful soldiers. British troops are just as brave, but I believe it is just to say that where we show great talent for war, the French show genius… 

They admire and love us because, as they say, we are a people ‘qui sait si bien se faire casser les dents.’ How true this is of France and England our casualty lists show, and we shall not forget it.

I hope that this is the last war letter I shall ever send to the ‘Draconian’!”

December 9th 1918

2nd Lieut. Vincent Alford (RGA) only left the OPS in 1913. In January 1918, having just left Winchester, Lally (as he was universally called) came to our rescue, playing the part of Touchstone in ‘As You Like It,’ when his younger brother Robert fell ill.

In May this year he was gazetted as 2nd Lieut. and now writes from 328 Siege Battery:

“I’m a colossal fraud, as I only saw about a few weeks of the war. The Boche ran so fast towards the end that it was next to impossible for our guns to keep up with him.

A week ago we came back to a large, straggling village called Beauval, just south of Doullens. It hasn’t seen the war except for an occasional shell last March, and it’s blessed to live in houses with a roof.

I had a capital whole-day tip to Mons, a large Belgian town in mining country, with shops and civilians and Boche money and prices (!!) that would knock spots off the Food Controller’s most fantastic efforts.”

Mons? This takes us back to the beginning of the war, when Lieut. Victor Cowley (Royal Irish Rifles) and Lieut. Rupert Lee (Worcs) first wrote with news of the retreat from Mons in September 1914.

How much have we endured since then.

December 5th 1918

Daily Telegraph, 4/12/1918

We are sorry to hear of the death of a former OPS parent and indeed the trustee who, along with Rev JR King and W Esson Esq approved the terms and conditions under which I was able to acquire the OPS in January 1887.

Dr John Percival was the first Headmaster of Clifton College when it opened in 1862, before becoming President of Trinity College Oxford in 1878. Then in 1887 he succeeded Dr Jex-Blake as Headmaster of Rugby. His obituary celebrates his considerable contribution to education:

Dr Percival has been described as one of the greatest headmasters of the latter half of the last century. He undoubtedly exercised a strong influence over the boys, to whom to always inculcated the highest ideals of manliness and virtue…

He was one of the originators of University College Bristol, and was an active worker in the cause for women’s education. He was the first President of the Council of Somerville College, Oxford.”

Dr Percival was made Bishop of Hereford in 1895. He retired to Oxford last year.

He was the father of Arthur Percival (Lieut.- Col., Northumberland Fusiliers) who together with his brother Launcelot joined the OPS in 1879. Arthur was one of three of our Old Boys who was killed on October 31st 1914.

Launcelot Percival is currently Rector of St Mary’s, Bryanston Square in London, having distinguished himself before the war as an English rugger international and as one of the first invited to join the Barbarians Club.