August 30th 1917

2nd. Lieut. Hamilton Jefferson (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry)

Hampy Jefferson – only 19 years of age – joins the Roll of Honour of those dear boys who have laid down their lives.

The exact circumstances of his death are unknown, but it is clear that he was killed leading his troops forward in the attack on Langemarck on August 16th – the same day Tom Cam was killed.

The German concrete strongpoints caused particular difficulties, and their advance of some 500 yards was made at the cost of 65 killed and 105 wounded. Of the officers, all bar two were casualties.

He was always the cheeriest of boys at school, full of the joy of living and loving the rough and tumble of rugger. He returned from France injured last November, not with a battle wound, but a badly twisted knee following a football game with his men!

He was constantly visiting us and a regular attender of our Old Boys’ dinners before the War.

August 24th 1917

2nd Lieut. Alan Cam (Royal Engineers)

The current battle in Flanders has claimed a second victim from our ranks. Alan Cam – or rather Tom, as he has always been known to us – has been killed in the battle for Langemarck.

Tom has been in the thick of the fighting in recent months, being attached to the 36th (Ulster) Division. He went through the battle of Messines, being wounded for the first time just before the attack, but refused to report lest he should miss it.

He was wounded a second time on August 14th before being killed two days later. The notice of his death in today’s edition of The Times quotes Tom’s CO as saying Tom was killed “by machine-gun fire whilst leading his section to the site of the work they were to do. The fire was very heavy indeed there and by getting up to lead and encourage the men he met his death.”

His corporal kindly recovered Tom’s revolver and wrist watch and returned them to his father accompanied by a letter. A previous CO, Major Boyle wrote that Tom was “so full of life and fun and always wanted to do the daring jobs… It is always boys like this that are caught.”

Fortune does not always favour the brave.

 

August 13th 1917

With the casualty lists growing to proportions not seen since the Somme battle last year, the news of the death of Alan Jenks is quickly followed by news that 2nd Lieut. William Wells-Cole (Lincolnshires) is missing.

Willie’s regiment were involved in the opening day’s attack on July 31st near Wytschaete. He and his company were not seen again after putting in their attack.

As a boy, Willie always refused to give in or to own himself beaten and it is difficult to imagine him having being taken prisoner.

 

 

August 9th 1917

Major Alan Jenks (Royal Engineers)

Over a week has gone by since the new battle at Ypres started and it is only now that news of casualties sustained on that first day are coming through. Sadly one of them, as reported in The Times yesterday is Major Alan Jenks, killed by a sniper on July 31st.

His CO was good enough to write to his family the following day:

“It happened yesterday afternoon. An attack had been made in the morning, and during the afternoon he went out to reconnoitre the ground gained. He insisted on doing this, though the Brigadier for whom he was working did his best to dissuade him. He had not gone far beyond our first line before he was hit by a sniper and fell.”

This was Alan’s way, winning the MC in 1915 “for conspicuous gallantry and ability… He made a valuable reconnaissance of the enemy’s trenches and in the ensuing fight displayed great personal dash, initiative and resource.” He was twice mentioned in dispatches.

Alan wrote us a most amusing letter at the end of last year, recalling his school days and complaining that water in France fails to flow downhill.

 

August 6th 1917

Fluff Taylor has written in reply to Hugh Sidgwick on the subject of a Memorial Chapel being built at the OPS after the War. He says that he is very much in favour of the school services continuing as they are, with the boys playing an active part, and hopes this would be possible in a consecrated chapel.

Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor

The hybrid building, which is one day a theatre, the next a ball-room or even a garage, and on the third a chapel, does not appeal to my old-fashioned mind, and brings before me the picture of Jesus Christ driving the money changers from the Temple. However the opinion of the majority must decide, and whatever that is, will, I am sure, be for the best, and my subscription as stated in my former letter is at your service.”

We have now opened a subscription list and are grateful to the following for their contributions:

Lieut.-Col SC Taylor DSO – £50; CRL Fletcher – £200; Lieut. AH Sidgwick – £20; GC Vassall – £30; The Hon. AI Mayhew – £10. Total: £310.

After further discussion, a Committee will be appointed to settle what form our War Memorial shall take.

* * * * * *

With a new battle now raging around Ypres, one can only imagine that a number of our Old Boys are currently fighting for their lives. The days that follow are going to be ones of even greater worry for their families and friends, and we all hope and pray that they come through it safe and sound.

 

August 1st 1917

Term time is always eventful and at the end of it there are always a number of small items of interest that are worth recording.

We had a record number of boarders (75) this term. However, I have heard it suggested that the number of boarders is too large – let me say that it is only by having a large number that I have been able to hang on without raising the fees and without in any way cutting down the food of the boarders and day boarders.

We have had potatoes regularly, no meatless days and plenty of bread – the only rationing has been in sugar and each boy has had first his eight and latterly his six ounces per week besides cooking sugar, also golden syrup and always jam.

One result of our boarding numbers was that six of the older boarders have been sleeping out, some of them occasionally in a tent and they were good enough voluntarily to surrender the pleasures of dormitory life.

Early morning bathers with boarders’ tent in background.

* * * * * * *

Earlier in the term, the School came to the rescue of one Lieut. DH Clynes, who interrupted a drawing lesson “on the banks of the Cher” by falling into the river out of a punt. He was rescued, dried, re-clad and refreshed, and to mark his gratitude he presented a Swimming Cup. The competitors swam in their clothes and the race was won by Max Adamson.

* * * * * * *

It was not only soldiers this term who were in the wars. Little Laurie Salkeld, whilst winding up the caravan engine, got a backfire and broke his wrist. Francis Wylie, too, got run over by the roller when rolling the pitch, but most fortunately escaped severe injury and is now all right again and so is Laurie.

* * * * * * *

Mr Archer Vassall (GC’s brother) has written to us from Harrow on behalf of the Food (War) Committee of the Royal Society. He has asked that in the autumn the boys collect horse chestnuts (the nuts, not the husks) and take them to the Station Master at the nearest Railway Station, who will forward them free of charge to the correct destination.

Horse chestnuts will set free grain for food, as they can be used for a process in which grain has now to be employed.

 

 

 

 

 

July 28th 1917

We return today, inevitably, to the War and news of three of our Old Dragons.

On July 21st, the papers reported a number of officers of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as missing in action. One of them is 2nd Lieut. William Sheepshanks (KRRC).

His mother received a telegram to this effect on the 19th, informing her that Bill has been unaccounted for since July 10th, but that he may still be alive. We must resign ourselves, once again, to a period of painful uncertainty.

The regiment was stationed right on the coastline near Nieuport – at the end of the trench system which stretches from there to Switzerland, and was under severe bombardment. In an account in the Daily Telegraph giving the German view, it was stated by their authorities that they had taken 1,250 prisoners, 27 of whom were officers. That gives us hope.

Bill has been such a close friend of the OPS and he never missed any Old Boys’ dinner or cricket match if he could help it.

* * * * * * *

We were startled and sorry to hear that Lieut. Lindsay Wallace (OBLI) has suffered considerable injury in France, due to unusual causes.  Whilst on a training course behind the front, Pug sleep walked out of an upper floor window. He had a nasty time for a day or two, but is now safely back in Oxford at Somerville College, having been escorted from France by his Engineer-Lieutenant brother Moray Wallace. He will not be short of visitors – if we can get past Sister Wilkinson!

* * * * * * *

We can end with one piece of good news, which has been a fearfully long time coming. It has been confirmed that Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RFC), having been “missing” since he was shot down on May 28th, is in fact a Prisoner of War. He joins his fellow OD aviators, Captain William Leefe Robinson VC and Lieut. Peter Warren in captivity.