May 19th 1920

Capt. JG Smyth VC

Capt. W Leefe Robinson VC

 

 

 

 

 

V  C    D  A  Y

We are proud to honour two Old Dragons, Jack Smyth and William Leefe Robinson,  who were awarded the Victoria Cross in the War. May 18th was the day on which Jack won his VC in 1915 and we mark it at the school as our VC Day with a school holiday.

The weather was not kind to us, as Hum reports:

“A party of 135 took boats at Port Meadow and struggled against a violent gale and a high-running stream to the old spot at the foot of Wytham Wood, near Swinford Bridge. Here we were joined by Mrs (Harry) Smyth and the maids, who came by caravan, which had previously brought a mighty lunch and tea. Rain and wind did its futile best to depress the merry party; some got soaked, no one wanted to bathe.

It was with a sense of relief that we found all were safely home, with only one boat seriously damaged and sundry minor casualties.”

This was preceded by VC Sunday (May 16th) which was marked by a special service in commemoration of Old Dragons killed in the War. This will, we hope, be an annual observance. Mr CRL Fletcher, father of Regie and George Fletcher, both of whom laid down their lives in the War, gave the address.

Whilst recalling the exploits of our two VCs and mentioning the 20 DSOs and 48 MCs won by our Old Boys, he quoted Mr EW Hornung‘s famous words:

The brightest gems of valour in the Army's diadem
Are the VC and the DSO, MC and DCM,
But those who live to wear them will tell you they are dross
Beside the Final Honour of a simple wooden cross.

The text he took was from Thucydides: ‘To you who are the sons and brothers of the departed I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an arduous one’ and he ended his address observing,

“However great your own valour and virtue may grow to be, the world will hardly ever think you capable of equalling them, or even of approaching them. But, courage! and do, each one of you, your best to come as near as you can to them.”

This is the second address Mr Fletcher has given to the boys – the first was back in June 1917.

May 15th 1920

Sydney Carline and his brother Richard have moved on since their last letter from Cairo in May 1919, and this one is from Mesopotamia:

“Mespot, 12th July 1919.

I am sorry I have not written a proper letter, but it is very difficult to find time for writing in this country. The early morning is sacred for work, as the afternoon is silent and universally given up to sleep. One complies with this not from indulgence, but because one’s eyes will not keep open. After tea one can again work and by dinner one is quite exhausted, and by reason of our getting up at sunrise, I, like a boy after the jam in the cupboard, slink off early to bed on the roof-top.

Everyone sleeps on the roof-top in order to get the cool breeze. Towards dusk there is quite a chatter, as all the many wives of each household are busy putting the beds out on their roofs, which are of course flat, and in the better class houses have low walls separating them from the neighbours…

Occasionally the silence of the night is perturbed by a wife who has still some household work to perform for her lord and master, who is probably reclining and smoking on his wooden bed…

It is now 7 and breakfast time. I must get to work on my picture of dropping bread on Kut, after which I have only one more to do to finish my work here.”

 

 

May 3rd 1920

The Carlines have moved on into Egypt on their journey and it is the turn of Richard Carline to write, this time from the Hotel Continental in Cairo on May 20th 1919.

“A day was spent in riding along the edge of the desert on camels, from the Gizah Great Pyramids to the old Step Pyramids and the necropolis of Sakkara about ten miles south, and from there on to the site of Memphis, where we saw the colossal statue of Rameses. But all the journeys were so long and took so much time that not much was left for seeing the most interesting things of all, namely, the tombs of Sakkara.  We ended by doing much of the ride in the dark…

We were accompanied by our dragoman, and two small Arab boys ran the whole way with sticks to drive the camels, in order to keep a good speed up and in order to take care of them while we are enjoying ourselves; neither of these boys could have been more than twelve, and we did more than thirty-two miles during the whole of the day – running all the way. I remember my young days, when I walked to Windermere once, a matter of about eighteen miles in all, and I was practically dead at the end of it.”

Richard also includes this delightful little sketch (and explanation):

Picture by Sydney giving an impression as he saw it of our journey to Sakkara. In the distance to left is the Step Pyramid, and all about under the sand are the tombs. The further figure is the dragoman; the nearer is myself.

 

 

April 23rd 1920

This is the third of the letters from the Carline brothers on their travels last year and appropriate for today, which is St George’s Day.

Arriving in the Middle East in January 1919, the brothers followed the suggestion of General Salmond (General in Command) to travel round Palestine and Syria by train or car before making flights over the areas of interest. Thus Sydney had made preliminary sketches in February before he wrote this letter from Damascus, dated April 24th 1919.

“Dick has mentioned the picture he is painting of the town from the air, and I am painting another of my aeroplane pictures, depicting the attack on the Turkish Army trying to escape along the pass between the mountains leading from the town along which the famous and beautiful Baroda flows. I have got to take another flight tomorrow if the weather is good in order to finish it…

The only news one ever gets here is of the troubles in Egypt, expecting massacres of Jews in Palestine on account of the Zionist movement, and odd bits about the Peace Conference, so that we are really quite ignorant as to the state of affairs at home or in Europe.

Tomorrow is St. George‘s Day. Curiously he is supposed to be buried at Ludd near Ramleh, where there is a church to him. The story of Perseus and Andromeda is also supposed to have been enacted at Jaffa, in the same neighbourhood, and the rocks out to sea from Jaffa (which I have painted) are supposed to be the dragon turned into stone…

St. George and the dragon was, I believe, a local story that the crusaders brought back with them.”

 

April 16th 1920

This letter is the second from a series of letters from the Carline brothers on their journeys as war artists working for the Imperial War Museum. This one is from Richard Carline, dated April 22nd 1919.

“We are back at Damascus once more, to fly over the places we are painting in this district. I came by train on Good Friday and Sydney flew over on Easter Sunday…

We have now practically finished our work on this front. I have taken my two flights over Damascus, and Sydney has done a sketch of the Sea of Galilee with the Turkish boats being attacked by our aeroplanes, and is in the midst of his sketches of attacking the Turkish army in the pass of the River Baroda, just outside Damascus…

Damascus makes a very good subject as is to be expected with such a beautiful place situated in such beautiful scenery. I am painting it from rather high. It is in the midst of its green fertile oasis of gardens and orchards, and behind it are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains rising up, and behind them snow-capped Mount Samnin.

I think it about time we left the country and the Headquarters are getting very impatient for us to go…

First we have to go to Cairo and I hope that we shall not be murdered by the natives, as the trouble in Egypt appears to be just as bad as ever… Life in these parts is more like the Cowboy West than anything, it being usual for a man to go about on horseback, with his revolver and ammunition pouch on his belt and his servant riding behind him…”

April 10th 1920

 The Goupil Gallery

The paintings and drawings of Sydney and Richard Carline of Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India have been exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in London throughout February and March.

The brothers wrote a series of letters back from their travels, which stretched from January until October 1919, whilst in the employment of the Imperial War Museum as official war artists, and they have kindly allowed us to print them in this term’s edition of the ‘Draconian.’

Their first letter from “near Malta” was written on January 11th, describing their journey from Havre to Marseilles on a troop train. Letters followed form Port Said and Ramleh and then, on February 9th 1919, Sydney wrote from Jerusalem:

“Dick started a water colour here of the Mosque of Omar, the great mosque on the site of Solomon’s temple.

This is a sketch of his picture of the mosque. It is in blue and yellow tiles, making the sides of it a beautiful colour, and having a black dome. Around it is a white marble court, surrounded by grass and paths, and surrounding that again in the distance are the walls of Jerusalem going sheer down for 50 ft.

The space around the mosque is most impressive, especially as the city wall that encloses it here is built on the edge of a ravine some 200 feet deep, on the other side of which are the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, and the village of Bethany. In this ravine are thousands of tombs covering it on either side, as the Jews believe that the Resurrection will take place in this spot and like to be close handy.”

 

April 2nd 1920

St Andrew’s Church (built in 1907), Northmoor Road.

On the last Sunday of Term we had a special service in St. Andrew’s Church. The vicar (Rev. P. de Labilliere) conducted the service and gave a short sermon.

A number of parents and friends were present, and the church was nearly filled.

The vicar writes; “It was quite the nicest service we have had since I have been here. It was most refreshing to see the church filled with young faces, and to hear them sing.”

We hope this may become a regular fixture once a term.

We are very grateful to all those who have come to address the boys at our services this term, amongst whom were two very distinguished men, Captain Woolley and the Rev Studdert Kennedy.

Captain Harold Woolley VC MC served with the London Regiment in the War. He returned last year to his old Oxford college, Queen’s, to take a Diploma in Theology and hopes to be ordained in due course. The story of the winning of his VC is a stirring one.

Rev. GA Studdert Kennedy MC served as an army chaplain from 1915-18, winning the MC at Messines, when he ran out into no-man’s-land to look after the wounded during an attack on enemy lines.

He built up a tremendous reputation amongst the troops for being in the thick of things and always ready with the cigarettes, earning himself the nickname ‘Woodbine Willie.’

He has compiled a very successful book of his poems about his experiences, titled ‘Rough Rhymes of a Padre.’ All profit will go to the worthy cause of St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers.

This is one of his poems:

The Secret

You were askin’ ‘ow we sticks it,
Sticks this blarsted rain and mud,
‘Ow it is we keeps on smilin’
When the place runs red wi’ blood.

Since you’re askin’ I can tell ye,
And I thinks I tells ye true,
But it ain’t official, mind ye,
It’s a tip twixt me and you.

For the General thinks it’s tactics,
And the bloomin’ plans ‘e makes.
And the C.O. thinks it’s trainin’,
And the trouble as he takes.

Sergeant-Major says it’s drillin’,
And ‘is straffin’ on parade,
Doctor swears it’s sanitation,
And some patent stinks ‘e’s made.

Padre tells us its religion,
And the Spirit of the Lord;
But I ain’t got much religion,
And I sticks it still, by Gawd.

Quarters kids us it’s the rations,
And the dinners as we gets.
But I knows what keeps us smilin’
It’s the Woodbine Cigarettes.

For the daytime seems more dreary,
And the night-time seems to drag
To eternity of darkness,
When ye ave’nt got a fag.

Then the rain seems some’ow wetter,
And the cold cuts twice as keen,
And ye keeps on seein’ Boches,
What the Sargint ‘asn’t seen.

If ole Fritz ‘as been and got ye,
And ye ‘ave to stick the pain,
If ye ‘aven’t got a fag on,
Why it ‘urts as bad again.

When there ain’t no fags to pull at,
Then there’s terror in the ranks.
That’s the secret – (yes, I’ll ‘ave one)
Just a fag – and many Tanks.

March 23rd 1920

Poems for the Easter Term edition of the ‘Draconian’ have now been selected. Two boys have the distinction of having two poems selected – George Harwood and John Betjemann.

Both of them wrote on the subject of ‘Dawn’. First, here is George Harwood’s poem:

DAWN

Now rejoice, all ye men, for the earth is untwined
   From the talons of night, dank and dread,
Aurora and Zephyr, the gentle Sun-wind,
   Are warming the East with soft red.

The dewdrops appear, brilliant gems on the ground;
   Or, encircling the Hyacinth fair,
They rest on the herbage, and all things around
   Are bright in the fresh morning air.

Quiet through the undergrowth hid from our sight
   Hurries cottontail cheerful and gay,
And in the blue heavens with heart pure and white
   Chants the skylark, blithe herald of day.

                              G. Harwood (age 11)

John Betjemann’s poem is in a different style:

DAWN

Ever ting-a-linging my bedroom clock is ringing,
     Ringing, ringing,
As the sun breaks in the east;
     And, stretching with a yawn,
     I curse the lovely dawn,
And wait in moody silence till the bedroom clock has ceased.

I've read the poet's rhymes about early morning chimes
     At awful times;
And the sun through window panes;
     The little birds twitting
     And the big ones flitting.
But poets never write about the dawning when it rains.
                       
                              J. Betjemann (age 13)

Poems were also submitted on the themes of ‘Babies’ and ‘Pets’. We had an “Ode to a Cat’, ‘A Baby Bunny’ and this, in the style of a nursery rhyme, from Betjemann:

ODE TO A PUPPY
(By His Mistress)

Oh! puppy dear, I sadly fear
   Your waistcoat's at the wash,
Your cutlet, too, is soaked right through
   With all your lemon squash.

'Now who did this?' Give me a kiss,
   Don't sulk, dear, or look haughty;
I know my pet will not forget
   To say that he was naughty.
Your little nose that sniffs and blows!
   Your little mouth that yawns!
That pretty howl! and Daddy's scowl
   When you tread on his corns!

Those dinky legs like little pegs
   That spoil the drawing-room floors!
That dainty mat whereon you pat
   Your ducky muddy paws!

Now with this praise my pet will gaze
   With truth in both his eyes,
And mummy's mind is always kind
   In case her doggy dies

                         J. Betjemann (age 13)

 

 

 

March 13th 1920

Our neighbours, Summer Fields School, founded in 1864, pre-date us by some 13 years. However, we have been many years ahead of them in terms of rugger!

Mr Wallace has written up these momentous events for this term’s edition of the ‘Draconian’:

“We renewed our rugger at Summer Fields on Monday March 8th, when 15 Dragons and 15 Summer Fieldians had a pick-up game which I am sure everyone enjoyed. On the 10th we took up a team to play them. It was our 1st XV as near as possible, and except for three minutes in the first half and fifteen in the second, our opponents put up a very good show.”

This followed on from events earlier this term when we challenged them to a game of soccer.

“To our great delight we heard also that Summer Fields had made a start at rugger. The result was that we agreed to visit them on February 11th to play them at soccer, and on February 14th to introduce them to the rugger game.

On the first occasion our team was beaten by a goal to nothing on one of those impossible days when the ball and ground are dry but the wind is so strong that good football is almost impossible…

On the 14th we took a rugger side up to Summer Fields to give them a trial game; we knew that after six games of rugger it was no good talking of a match. At any rate it was an enjoyable day and everyone, both sides and partisans of both sides, seemed thoroughly pleased with the game.”

Hopefully rugger will really catch on and we can enjoy many more matches in the years to come.

March 7th 1920

It has been an entertaining week.

On March 1st, I had the great pleasure of entertaining Captain Harry Thuillier (brother of the late Capt. George Thuillier) on his return after four years’ service in Mesopotamia and the East, together with his contemporaries at the OPS who happened to be in Oxford and able to attend a dinner at the Clarendon.

The Clarendon Hotel on Cornmarket Street.

Many old incidents of school life were recounted, and many yarns of the War.

The following were present: Charles Pittar, Hugh and Geoffrey Brown, Peter Warren, Mark van Oss, Stopford Jacks, Pat Campbell, Oliver de Selincourt, Dick Alford, Jack Richards, Cedric Horton, Felix Keyworth, Bill Bailie, Lindsay Wallace, GC, Hum, and possibly one or two more.

*  *  *  *  *  *

This was followed, on March 4th, by a trip to Cambridge to meet up with Old Dragons there. I am grateful for an (anonymous) account of the evening from one of our kind hosts:

“We had a very pleasant dinner on March 4th, and were delighted to see the Skipper, Hum, G.C., and Lindsay Wallace. Their sporting effort was much appreciated, because their Ford broke its heart – or big-end, or something – between the two universities, being so disgusted at being driven from one to the other, and they had to leave it in the ditch, and commandeer a more neutral one. However they arrived, and we are told that they were in nine o’clock school next morning. Well done!

On the evening the following appeared: AC Kermode (Clare), KS Dodd, R Butler (Trinity), FP Burch (Caius), SP Dobbs, TL Thomas (St. John’s), MC Church (Selwyn), J Merrett (Emmanuel), RS Nettlewell (King’s) and the Rev. RGD Laffan (Queen’s).

AC Kermode was in the chair, with the Skipper next to him. The Navy surrounded L Wallace and made him drink Bubbly. GC was encompassed by correspondents, and we thought we saw one of the present Headmasters sitting next to a Bolshevik.

The Chairman proposed the health of the School, and expressed the very great pleasure all the ODs at Cambridge felt at seeing the four representatives of the School amongst them.

The Skipper replied, thanking ODs for inviting them, and saying how much they liked visiting Cambridge. Having seen the beauty of King’s College Chapel by moonlight, he would not call it a rival, but rather a sister university.

The Rev RGD Laffan, unfortunately, had to go off early to see one of his theological students boxing in the Varsity contest, which had stupidly been arranged for the same evening.  Also Maurice the sailor (who last boxed to the detriment of his handsome countenance and general feeling of steadiness on, or off, the Norwegian coast), went to witness the administration of black eyes.”