November 12th 1918

P E A C E   A T   L A S T !

Daily Telegraph, 12/11/1918

After four years of sacrifice, yesterday’s news of the Armistice is more than a little tinged with sadness at the thought of so many who have not lived to see this day.

As in London, the news of the Armistice was received with some enthusiasm in Oxford.

The first indication for many of us was the tolling of ‘Great Tom‘ in Wren’s Tom Tower at Christ Church (which, like Big Ben, has been silenced for the duration).

At 6pm the Mayor read out the terms of the Armistice in the city centre and the day concluded with fireworks and a bonfire (with the effigy of the Kaiser being consumed by the fire) outside St. John’s College in St. Giles, a stone’s throw from where the OPS started in 1877.

When the boarders return, we will have our own celebration.

Those noble sorts who have followed the King’s example – including Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt –  in giving up alcohol till the war ended, can now enjoy their first drink since 1915!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 10th 1918

Although the newspapers give us hope of an end to our agonies very shortly, we still have digest the news of those who will not live to see the fruits of their endeavours.

Capt. Kenneth Rudd was killed exactly a month ago and now we have further information on the circumstances surrounding Kenneth’s death from his commanding officer and friend:

Kenneth Rudd

“Capt. Rudd was with me when he was killed. The Battalion had just reached our final objective in our advance on the morning of October 10th. We were talking to each other when an enemy shell burst just behind us. Capt. Rudd fell and I bent down to him to ask him where he was hit. He replied ‘All over the back, sir.’ He then caught hold of my hand and I could see he was going. I knelt down and kissed him for I loved your boy and in a moment he was dead.

Today I have been out to see his grave. It is in a little British cemetery (near Audencourt, east of Cambrai), with officers and men who were killed in August 1914. A wooden cross with his name and Regiment etc has been put up and I have arranged for some flowers to be planted on his grave…

A short time ago I recommended him for the MC. I do wish he had lived to receive the decoration he earned so well. I am afraid a posthumous award of the MC is very rare.

To me he was always ‘Ruddy’ and I shall always remember him as a most perfect gentleman and one of the best officers I have ever known. We were close friends and I was more attached to him than to any officer I have ever known.

Capt. Rudd died as he would wish to have died. In the face of the enemy, the end of the war in sight and his last fight won.”

 

 

November 6th 1918

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Just two months after his death, the London Gazette of November 2nd has confirmed Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF) has been awarded the DFC for a mission into Germany he undertook in his Handley-Page bomber.

“Capt. Buck, with 2nd Lieut. Barter as Observer, was Pilot of one of two machines detailed to bomb an important railway junction. Owing to most unfavourable weather conditions the other machine returned, but Capt. Buck persevered, reached the objective, and made a most successful attack in face of intense anti-aircraft fire with numerous searchlights. On the return journey they were were much hampered by a severe thunderstorm, which lasted for three-quarters of an hour, the machine being out of control owing to the lightning. In this critical situation Capt. Buck remained cool and collected, and, displaying marked skill and judgement, succeeded in landing his machine safely. The success of this raid was largely due to the skill and efficiency displayed by 2nd Lieut. Barter, who most ably co-operated with Capt. Buck. During the past month these officers have carried out sixteen night bombing raids in a manner reflecting the greatest credit on them both.”

Within a week of these heroic deeds, Geoff Buck was killed, when returning home from another night raid into Germany on September 3rd. He is the first of our airmen to win this new award, the DFC.

 

In addition to the above news, Mr Bell, Geoff’s Winchester housemaster, has most kindly favoured us with a most perceptive appreciation of Geoff’s time there:

“He stood out as something very different from the ordinary boy. In the first place he always knew his mind; he knew where he was moving to and what he wanted. Whether by reading in books, thinking for himself, or talking with his friends, he had formed an idea of what life should mean for him and how he should train himself for it.

He never accepted conventional standards or ideas because they were conventional; yet, unlike many who have tastes and interests of their own, he never shirked the ordinary routine of work or neglected his Latin and Greek for excursions into other fields… None who knew him could be blind to the strong stamp of his individuality…”

I would like to think that his years at the OPS played their part too.

 

 

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.”