March 24th 1918

Sous-Lieut. Noel Sergent (French Artillery) has been enjoying an interesting job as an ‘officier d’antenne’, receiving messages from aeroplanes and then transmitting them on to his Battery for action. He has written to tell of us of his first experience of flying:

13.3.18.  6th Groupe, Secteur 21. “While they were preparing, a young observer came up and offered me his warm things, which are a kind of combinagger which you put over your boots and bags and coat and everything, and button up down the front. It is fur-lined and is guaranteed to keep you warm at any temperature. Then he gave me his gloves and a fur-lined foot-bag, which I declined as it wasn’t cold, and a woolly cap, then an aviator’s helmet over the top and goggles. I felt like a diver with all that on, and climbing in was a bit of a job.

The young hero [the pilot] got in first in front between between two hefty great motors, and I climbed in behind and sat on a kind of piano stool which slides backwards and forwards…

Then he set the motor working and we manoeuvred into position with a mechanic hanging on to each wing, taking gigantic hops like a couple of fleas. Once in position, we stopped dead and the pilot told me to strap myself in and put on my goggles… He then set the two motors going full split and we got going fast (about 90 or 100 miles an hour) and before I knew where I was, I looked down and there was a map underneath.

I had told the fellow I wanted to fly over the 6th Groupe so he did and came right down over the groupe and they all came out and waved their hands at me, and I dropped a message of good will saying that I was tired of war on earth and was migrating to the moon!

Then we made for the lines and went up to about 600 metres and I observed our batteries until we got over the Yser, which is no man’s land – or rather water… We flew up and down the Yser for a bit and then my friend suddenly swooped down to 300 metres. The Germans didn’t like this, but we got away before their machine-guns got going properly… 

My word, you should have seen the houses of La Panne flying past. After that, as soon as we crossed the French frontier we went up again, then down to the Kennel. It was all great fun and the pilot was a very clever fellow…

But the end of the story is that his Squadron Commander was at La Panne and saw us playing monkey tricks, so my friend got 18 days ‘arrêt de riguer.'”

From what Noel says, it appears that he is stationed near the French/Belgian border  – La Penne being on the coast not far from Dunkirk. The letter was written before the Germans launched their offensive on March 21st, and things may be less relaxed now, even if the main area of fighting is further south.

The newspapers suggest that the German attacks are being resisted successfully. Sir Douglas Haig’s communiqué of Friday 22nd is reassuring of that:

March 20th 1918

Flight Sub-Lieut. Cyril Emmett (RNAS)

Although there has been a lull in the fighting on the ground, the war in the air goes on unabated. It is with considerable regret that I have to inform you of the death of Cyril Emmett – the first of our Old Boys to have become a flying casualty.

Having left Repton School, he joined the RNAS in May 1917 and proceeded with training to be a pilot.  He was posted on January 17th to 12 Squadron at Dunkirk, where, we are told, he proved himself to be a very capable officer and a good pilot.

The Squadron Commander has informed the family that Cyril did not die in aerial combat, but rather that it was a flying accident of the sort we too often read about. Last Friday (March 15th), he was taking off from the aerodrome when he experienced difficulties.

“He appears to have choked his engine. He tried to regain the aerodrome, but crashed to the ground from a height of about 200 feet. On examination, the surgeon states skull fractured, that death must have been instantaneous.”

He was buried the following day at the Town Cemetery in Dunkirk, the length of his service having been barely two months. His C.O wrote:

18/3/18 “I, in company with officers and men of his Squadron attended his funeral, which took place last Saturday afternoon, and as an appreciation of his sterling qualities this Squadron sent a large wreath.”

Cyril was always so full of life and pluck that it was a joy to be with him. He was a merry and popular Dragon.


March 15th 1918

There has been much written on the Battle of Cambrai – a battle that started so well, yet ended in disappointment. It has certainly enhanced the reputation of the Indian troops, amongst whom is Capt. Regie Carr-White (Indian Army). He sent us a capital account of his experiences at Cambrai with Hodson’s Horse, including these remarks on the achievements of other Indian troops who fought there:

“Later, we heard what the other cavalry regiments had done, and nothing beats what the 2nd Lancers (Indian Army) did. They charged German trenches mounted, and got into them with the lance, and some of their troops had to jump the wire. I admit the wire was low and the Germans hadn’t had time to rig up much, but in full marching order it was some feat…

These Lancers had the heaviest casualties, and their casualties amongst the horses were enormous. I believe for days afterwards there were droves of horses wandering about grazing between the German and British lines. One feels sorrier for the horses than for the men, and a badly wounded horse is a beastly sight.

The Guards’ Colonel, I believe, wrote to the Colonel of the other Indian cavalry regiment in our brigade and said ‘The Guards will be proud to fight alongside the Indian cavalry any old day’…”

Some well-deserved recognition has now been recorded in the House of Lords (as reported yesterday in the ‘Daily Telegraph’):

Regie’s admiration for the Indian troops knows no bounds:

“Nobody takes into account the fact that they had just come from the Indian hot weather (120 degrees in the shade in some places) into cold which was unbearable to them. They had no real warm clothing, they had to put up with gas and shells and bombing such as they had never conceived, and every form of beastliness. After all, the majority when they join are very, very simple peasants, some have hardly ever been in a train…

The men that went with Jack Smyth on his VC show, probably the bravest in this war, never flinched or turned back. The more I think of those first Indian Divisions that came to France, the more I am amazed at what they put up with and did.

The Indian cavalry here in France haven’t had any leave for three years, and there is no doubt they are now very home-sick and longing to get back, but still they are as cheery as ever.”

March 11th 1918

Progress is being made on the matter of a War Memorial and the statement below will appear in the April edition of the ‘Draconian.’

A meeting was held on Thursday March 7th.

Present were: Capt. WW Fisher CB MVO RN, Lieut.-Col W Collier RMAC, Capt. WT Collier MC RAMC, Lieut. SSG Leeson RNVR, Rev. LJ Percival, GC Vassall, AE Lynam, CC Lynam.

The other members of the Committee, viz Lieut.-Col SC Taylor DSO, CRL Fletcher, EB Poulton, Capt. GC Drinkwater, Lieut. JCB Gamlen, F Sidgwick, Capt. TO Thompson RAMC and A Beresford Horsley could not attend.

In choosing the Committee an endeavour was made to cover the years since the School came into existence. Mr Horsley, the father of four boys at present in the School, represents ‘the present time.’

Certain definite lines were discussed and approved.

  1. The objects of the War Memorial should be to inform and inspire present and future Dragons.
  2. The proposal of a building, whether Chapel or Hall, is open to objections: (a) it would require a larger sum of money than we could expect to receive, remembering that our boys are not drawn from the wealthy classes, (b) a building, except at enormous expense, could not be put up for several years after the war is ended, (c) though it might be a useful adjunct to the School, it would not fulfil the objects as stated above: it would be taken, in after times, as a natural part of the School buildings.
  3. There should be no possibility of the idea that the fund raised was for the pecuniary benefit of the School as a property – and this consideration rules out bursaries or exhibitions to be held by boys at the School.
  4. The Committee unanimously approved of the proposal that a sculptured Cross should be erected in a prominent place in the School grounds, with a pedestal on which the names of Old Boys and Masters who have given their lives in the cause of duty should be inscribed; and that books and albums should be provided which should give further information about them and their deeds.
  5. Any balance that remained might well go to aid the very useful Leaving Exhibition* fund, but this will be discussed again at a future meeting.
  6. It was hoped that all Old Boys or their parents would subscribe, rather than that a few should give large sums.
  7. As a result of subsequent conversations and correspondence, it was decided that some annual commemoration, in the way of an Encenia** should be held.

It maybe added that Mr C Lynam FRIBA, FSA, the father of the present Headmaster, and the author of many works on Archaeology and an expert student of Old Crosses, has promised to give a design and description of a sculptured Cross. The drawings will be sent to the Old Boys and will appear in the ‘Draconian’. This does not, of course, imply that the particular design will necessarily be accepted.

Any money received is invested in War Bonds, so as to be at the disposal of the Country. The fund currently stands at a sum of  £263.  


* (The Leavers’ Exhibitions date back to 1908, when on being asked what I would like to mark my 50th birthday, I said I would much appreciate subscriptions to a Leavers’ Fund to enable me to give leaving exhibitions to help boys whose parents are not very well off to go to good public schools. The first such award was made to the future V.C. winner, Jack Smyth).

** (For those whose Greek is a little rusty, an Encenia is a festival of renewal).

March 7th 1918

There has been a most welcome lull in the fighting in France, although we are led to believe that the Germans are planning a major offensive for the Spring. However, we have received the news that on January 20th 2nd Lieut. Edmund Fisher (RFA)  was taken ill and was sent to No.8 General Hospital in Rouen. His letter is remarkably cheery, in the circumstances:

“Here I am. Well, to begin with, my old friend indigestion on the march. The American doctor we have, tried valiantly, but eventually had to despatch me in a little ambulance. It was a job to get one that would do anything else but send one on. Eventually, after bumping about most of the day, a Central Clearing Station took me in.

Next day, I was sent to the base and a journey of 12 hours in the train. Fairly crowded beds on the floors and then bang! I was dropped by exhausted bearers on this ward floor. Here all is well. I have been given the cosiest corner. The VADs and sisters are of the best and the other officers a good sample.

No fever now.

Tout va bien

Je suis bien content.”

Although Edmund considered himself “bien content”, the news the family received from the CCS dated January 21st was that he was seriously ill with appendicitis.

Subsequently, Edmund has been transferred to the Lady Inchcapers Military Hospital, 7 Seamore Place in London on February 11th. (It is a small hospital with only 10 beds and is affiliated to Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital in Millbank).

We hope that he can now make a good recovery.

March 4th 1918

Lieut. Blake Budden (Middlesex), now interned in Holland, has written to us with an account of his time in captivity in Germany.

He was, by chance, in Germany in July 1914 and on trying to leave, was refused a train ticket.

“On the Wednesday before the War, i.e July 29th, I was refused a ticket at the station (Marburg) except to Cologne, and as I considered myself safer from arrest in a quiet little non-military town, I decided to stay where I was. I did this the more as I was sure that we should get the regulation 48 hours to leave the country.

When I was arrested on the Wednesday, I was taken to a punishment cell in the barracks and personally, as you might say, I was well treated except by the Commandant, who told me that I was not fit to be on the pavement, but that the gutter was the proper place for me.  

They gave me a bed in my cell, but when I tried to go to sleep I was kept awake by a peculiar itching which I thought was gnats, but which on striking a match turned out to be bug bites. I had 52 of them, as I counted next morning.

I complained and was removed to a civil prison, where I remained nearly a week, i.e until 11th August 1914. I think that I was then removed to Magdeburg, where I was placed in the civil prison where, with the slight exception that I did not have to work or clean my cell, I was treated exactly like a criminal, no smoking, no books, no company etc., three-quarters of an hour walk a day; up at 5.45 and bed at 7.30. During the day, my bed was folded against the wall and locked so that I could not use it.

After five days of that, I was removed to the fortress and given a room with a Frenchman, who was taken away two days later and then I was kept in solitary confinement until Sept. 4th. 

By this time, my shoes were in holes and my linen in a pitiful state. I had the Bible and four German books, a Dictionary and a pocket Stevenson, and three hours’ walk a day in a small garden surrounded by high walls.

The other prisoners, who were Belgians, were allowed to be together, but I was kept severely apart from them.

This lasted until September 4th, when I went to Torgau, where I met almost all the British Officers who had not been seriously wounded, of whom I now find a very large number here.

In Torgau I was not so hungry but in Magdeburg I was desperately so, and they gave me nothing but beer to drink, which made me ill. 

From Torgau I was sent to Halle, but before I went I had three rumours given me for being sent. Firstly that I was going to be shot, secondly that that I was going to be tried, and thirdly that I was going home. None of them was true.

In Halle the conditions were appalling, especially the dirt and bad sanitary arrangements.

On Oct. 14th we left for Celle and arrived at 8 pm on the 15th after an adventurous journey, in the course of which we got into a wrong camp and were nearly handled as ‘franc-tireurs‘. That would have been pretty ghastly too, I can tell you.

As you know, I remained there until I got to Holland, with the exception of a few days spent at Ruhleben, where we were taken by mistake in Nov. 1915.”


News of other Old Dragons in captivity is scant. Cyril King is also at Ruhleben, we think.

It is believed that both Capt. William Leefe-Robinson (RFC) and Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RFC) are in the Holzminden Camp and 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren (RFC) is at Karlesruhe.


February 28th 1918

Lieut. Blake Budden (Middlesex), who has been in captivity since the beginning of the war, is now in Holland. It was announced in the newspapers early last month that he was one of the second batch of British prisoners of war to be transferred. He was given quite a reception!

Daily Telegraph 7/1/1918

Blake was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1910, after serving in the Officer Training Corps whilst he was at Repton School. At the outbreak of war, he was on an extended stay in Frankfurt and was taken prisoner there in August 1914.

Soon after his capture, his father wrote to the War Office to enquire whether there was any possibility of Blake being included in an exchange of British nationals, suggesting that his knowledge of languages would make him a useful officer if only he could be released. This was to no effect.

In June 1917 however, following talks at The Hague, it was agreed any officers who had spent 2½ years in captivity could spend the remainder of the war in neutral territory.

Blake’s new address is British Interned Prisoner of War, Hotel Royal, Scheveningen, Holland. We have had a letter from him, the contents of which I will share shortly.