July 29th 1920

Captain George Thuillier (Devon Regiment)

It is over two years since George Thuillier, along with Henry Addis and Alan Haig-Brown, met his death in the German Spring Offensive of 1918. Like so many, his body was not recovered and it was out of the blue that his father received this letter from the authorities, dated July 23rd 1920:

“With reference to previous correspondence, I beg to inform you that in the process of exhumation for the purposes of the concentration of isolated graves into cemeteries, the grave of Lieutenant Acting Captain GF Thuillier, MC, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, was located at a point just south of Villers-Carbonnel.

I am to inform you that in accordance with the agreement with the French and Belgian Governments to remove all scattered graves and small cemeteries containing less than forty graves, also certain other cemeteries which were situated in places unsuitable for permanent retention, it has been found necessary to exhume the bodies buried in certain areas. The body of Lieutenant Acting Captain GF Thuillier, MC, has therefore been removed and re-buried in Assevillers Military Cemetery, South West of Peronne.

I am to add that the necessity for the removal is much regretted, but was unavoidable for the reasons given above. You may rest assured that the work of re-burial has been carried out carefully and reverently, special arrangements having been made for the appropriate religious service to be held.”

George’s father, Major General Henry Thuillier, was General Officer Commanding 23rd Division in Italy in 1918 when George was killed, and his mother had to suffer the shock of her son’s death on her own, whilst also worrying about her husband’s safety.

 

 

July 25th 1920

Jack Smyth has rounded off a remarkable week with his marriage to Miss Margaret Dundas on Thursday (July 22nd). We sent off Hum and Mrs Hum, resplendent in wedding garments and looking ‘buxom, blithe and debonair‘ to represent us. One observer commented “Hum’s topper recalled the delicious blends of thirty years ago and his smile overflowed the taxi.”

What a pity to find in the newspaper that Mr & Mrs Hum (and their daughter Audrey) Lynam has been misspelt as Lyman!

July 23rd 1920

July 21st 1920 – Prize-giving Day.

The Prize-giving this year was decidedly the best we have ever had; and it was a great joy to me to be present among the audience (for the reason, see below). If I had realised that Hum was such an orator he would have been turned on on many previous occasions!

We were also delighted to welcome back Jack Smyth, fresh from Buckingham Palace (again) to give away the prizes. He was kept on his feet some time as there were some 182 of them!

The final presentation was that of the Somerville Officers’ Cup. As required, it was awarded to the boy who ‘has the most gentlemanly bearing and best influence on other boys’ as decided on by the vote of the whole school. This year’s winner is Francis Wylie, who sadly leaves us now to go to Rugby.

Jack Smyth and Hum Lynam with Francis Wylie

Our guest then proceeded to make his speech and Old Jack’s soldier-like “few words” were exactly all that was wanted to complete the success of the day, including, as it did, this touching tribute to the school and those we have lost:

I needn’t tell you how much we ODs who are stranded out in India look forward to coming back to the OPS. There is something quite different about the OPS from any other preparatory school I have ever heard of. Someone said at the Old Boys’ Dinner that the remarkable thing about the OPS was that ODs have almost as much affection for it as they have for their public schools. Well, I should like to go one better and say that, as far as my experience goes, ODs have more affection for the OPS than they have for their public school. And to say that is to say a great deal, because I have never known a preparatory school where that has occurred before.

Before I left India I met one or two people who had just returned from leave in England and they gave one rather a depressing account of things at home. They said that the old spirit of unselfishness and cheerfulness which had burnt so brightly during the war, had rather died out, that our sacrifices in the war had been forgotten, and that there was generally rather a spirit of Bolshevism abroad. Now, I’m glad to say I haven’t found that at all. We as a nation are not given to talking sentiment and weeping for sorrows that are past, but I think that the sacrifices England made in the great war have been in no way forgotten because we don’t talk about them, and I know at any rate that the wonderful example set us by that gallant band of ODs who so gladly and ungrudgingly laid down their lives for their country in the great war will be an ever existing memory at the OPS.”

They will indeed not be forgotten. A brass, prepared by Messrs. Mowbray, is already fixed in the School Hall. It gives the names of our lost ones in the order in which they fell.  Hopefully our Memorial Cross will be ready for its installation on the banks of the Cherwell before the end of the year.

Lastly, why was I in the audience this year?

At the age of 62 and after 40 years schoolmastering in Oxford I feel that the School should be run by younger men, so I have got Hum to be Joint Headmaster, and am leaving the greater part of the management of the School to him. He with the stalwarts, GC Vassall and Lindsay Wallace, with the help of Mr Haynes and the younger men (not forgetting the ladies) will, I am certain, maintain the traditions and carry on the success of the School.

I still hope to spend some happy years in the position of (shall I say?) Warden of the School – and do some teaching and supervision and to keep up intimate connection with Old Boys and Girls – but I do not want to interview or correspond with new people; I cannot pretend to know intimately all the boys as I have always done in the past, and I do not mean to interfere with details or with general management. I once heard a splendid little girl of 9 say, when it was suggested that she should carve a ham, “All right, give me plenty of elbow room and NO ADVICE!” meaning of course, “no interfering and unasked-for advice,” and there is much justice in the demand!

 

 

July 21st 1920

Yesterday was a special day for the Smyth brothers, Jack and Billy:

Captain JG Smyth VC, 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, 43rd Infantry Brigade and Lieutenant (Acting Captain) HEF Smyth, 1st Battalion, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry were summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive decorations won in action in Waziristan and Russia (where the 1st Ox and Bucks were part of the Allied force that intervened in the Russian Civil War to assist the ‘White Russians’ in their fight against the Bolsheviks) respectively.

We understand that it was the first occasion on which two brothers had been decorated with the same decoration at the same investiture, and they marched up together to receive Military Crosses from the Duke of York, who was deputising for the first time for the King (who was unwell).

I gather both brothers were rather nervous – as was His Royal Highness, and the citations were never read out. We can at least rectify this here in Jack’s case:

“At Khajuri (Tohei Valley) on October 22nd, 1919, this officer’s gallantry and initiative under fire contributed largely towards the saving of a valuable convoy which was attacked by the enemy. Sent forward from Idak with reinforcements to clear up the situation he most ably appreciated a very critical situation which, but for his so doing, must have resulted in serious disaster. He displayed staff ability of a high order in co-ordination and reporting the situation, rallying personnel who were in a state of apathy, due to the casualties amongst their officers. He was subjected throughout this period to heavy and accurate enemy fire, which in no way deterred him from moving from place to place. His courage was an example to all, and resulted in the convoy being brought safely to Idak.”

Jack Smyth pictured after the ceremony with his fiancée, Miss Dundas.

Today we bring the Summer Term to an end with sports, a concert and prize-giving, and Jack’s busy week continues as he is with us to make the presentations.

July 13th 1920

In the recent General Paper set by Mr Vassall, the boys were invited to write a rhymed epitaph on their form-master or mistress. It  produced a number of amusing efforts.

One, by S. Keen, was dedicated to Hon. Captain WJL Wallace, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry:

Here lies a mighty man
Who talked of bombs all day;
He fell out of a window once,
But couldn't die that way.

Another, on Mr & Mrs Hum, entitled ‘In Memoriam, AEL, MAL is by J Betjemann:

Hum and May went out one day
On a motor-bike painted vermillion; 
Hum was the nut of the latest cut
And May was the girl on the pillion.

In the same General Paper, question 9 required candidates to “Explain fully and illustrate by drawings how you would rescue and revive a drowning man.”

This splendid effort was the work of J. Betjemann:

John Betjemann leaves at the end of this term to go to Marlborough College. Although he was not successful in winning a scholarship there, he acquitted himself well enough to be excused taking the entrance examination.

He has again excelled in English and has a number of pieces of work in the next edition of the ‘Draconian’, of which this is one:

A STAINED-GLASS WINDOW. 
The sun was sinking in an almost cloudless sky, as the old man, 
with his head reverently bowed, passed up the sombre nave of 
the lofty cathedral. Before him in all its magnificence stood 
the high altar, the candles already lit for evening service. He 
turned and faced the west window, through which the parting 
rays of the sun were shining. Seen from the choir, the colours 
melted into one another like clouds gathering in the sky. Among 
beautiful foliage and soft green grass sprinkled with daisies, 
stood the figure of Saint Francis with his cowl of poverty. 
There was Saint George with uplifted sword aiming a great blow 
at the dragon, which writhed at his feet spitting fire and 
clouds of inky smoke. Above these two panels were emblazoned 
the coats of arms of rich benefactors, in gold and red, with 
Latin inscriptions and strange proverbs. In the centre, on a 
lonely hill with the turrets of Jerusalem in the distance, the 
Crucifixion... The sun disappeared behind the house-tops and 
the pictures faded. The bells echoed down the aisles, and the 
old man took his accustomed seat. 
                                       J. Betjemann, age 13.6

Meanwhile, we await the results of the English Literature Paper set by Frank Sidgwick, which we hope to publish shortly.

July 1st 1920

It is at this time of year that we invite Old Dragons to set examination papers for us. The General Papers will be provided by Jack Haldane and his sister Naomi MItchison, together with Mr Vassall.

The English Literature paper for the top forms has been set by Frank Sidgwick and you are now invited to see how you would do!

English Literature Paper, July 1920.

1. Who wrote:
   (a) Westward Ho!
   (b) The Riddle of the Sands
   (c) Puck of Pook's Hill
   (d) In Memoriam
   (e) Old Mortality
   (f) Dombey and Son
   (g) a poem about a tiger
   (h) a long poem about fox-hunting
   (i) who translated Omar Khayyam into English verse
   (j) who translated Homer into English verse

2. In what work, by what author, do the following characters 
   appear?
   (a) Sam Weller
   (b) David Balfour
   (c) Captain Hook
   (d) General Stanley
   (e) Minnehaha

3. Write not more than one page on either 
   (a) the difference between prose and verse, or 
   (b) the difference between poetry and verse.

4. What are the first six questions you would ask William 
   Shakespeare if you met him in the Elysian Fields?

5. Write a short essay on the Choruses in Henry V. Why do you 
   think Shakespeare put them in? Why were they called Choruses? 
   Mention any parallels you can think of.

6. Continue for not more than three lines, giving author and work:
   (a) Should auld acquaintance be forgot...
   (b) He prayeth best, who loveth best...
   (c) The tumult and the shouting dies...
   (d) A wandering minstrel I...

When Frank Sidgwick has marked the papers and submitted his report, you shall know the answers and can see if you did better than our young Dragons!