November 20th 1918

Mr Bye was one of four members of staff who left us to join up on the outbreak of war in 1914, and now the gallant editor of the ‘Draconian’ has persuaded him to contribute an article about the modern wonder that is the Tank, together with an excellent sketch.  As Capt. WRG Bye MC DSO (Royal West Surrey Regiment), he has had ample opportunity to acquaint himself with them.

Mark V one star Tank as drawn by Mr. Bye

“The latest Tank – Mark V one star – besides being much superior to the older type in speed, power, armament etc., is also so constructed as to render the crews immune from ‘splashing.’ In the older Tank many serious casualties were caused to the crews by sprays of molten lead which flew into the interior through the crevices etc., in the plate, when the Tank was under rifle fire and machine gun fire.

My first Tank ride was… 1½ miles in a Mark V one star over rather variegated country comprising many trenches and fear-inspiring ditches.

Prior to this, I had always felt a certain amount of pity for a Tank crew and thanked my stars I was not compelled – like them – to live a good part of my life being shaken to bits inside one of these crawling ironclads. However, as a result of this ride, my views have changed somewhat, as the trip was accomplished with much less pain than I had anticipated…

After a short time we began to imagine ourselves in danger of being melted alive and so the side doors and top apertures were opened, which relieved our distress somewhat. And yet a trained crew are capable of sticking that stifling oily atmosphere for eight hours.

In some of the operations of 1918, platoons of infantry were carried into action in Mark V one star Tanks, but the great drawback was that after some distance the men were absolutely done in and had to be rested before they could go on.”

Despite Mr. Bye’s words, as someone happiest on the open sea, I am not sure I could endure the conditions suffered by those brave soldiers who manned these Tanks.

It is rather appropriate to produce this article today, as it is a year ago to the day that the Battle of Cambrai, famously involving over 400 tanks, started.

November 17th 1918

Lieut. Jack Pogson-Smith (OBLI) arrived back from the Macedonian Front on November 4th and a few days later made the mistake of visiting the ‘Draconian’ editor. Mr Vassall has duly extracted from him this account of armistice night in Salonika at the end of September:

Daily Telegraph, 1/10/18

“Really there was nothing at all exciting about it, as it was more or less expected, because for some days Bulgar officers had been passing blindfolded in cars through our lines, presumably to discuss terms.

If anything, I think there was a curious feeling of flatness. Possibly, though, this was merely due to the fact that we felt we could not celebrate the occasion as it deserved, as we had long ago run out of the wherewithal to celebrate anything, and the nearest EFC was a good thirty or forty miles away.

However, in the evening we did our best to make merry. Every unit sent up all the ‘Very’ lights it could lay hands on, and for a bit the Strumnica plain was quite gaily illuminated. But of course we soon ran out of ‘Very’ lights, so we lit a big bonfire in a river bed. This, however, was not a complete success, as we were promptly told to put it out, as we were interrupting visual signal communication with Battalion HQ. 

Fancy not being allowed the luxury of cutting yourself off from your HQ for a few blessed hours on armistice night!! 

But such is the Army.”

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.