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.”

 

March 1st 1920

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

123456789 – 101112131415 – Part 16

Cyril King‘s journal finally comes to an end with this entry, dated November 25th 1918 when, after four years in captivity he finally returned to his native shores.

“We left the camp on the morning of the 23rd (I think) – after hours of lining up and waiting about – all those over 26 having left the day before. The train moved very slowly and took 20 hours to cover the 150 miles to Sassnitz over the never-ending ugly North German plain, and it was very cold and uncomfortable.

From Sassnitz we crossed to Copenhagen on a big Danish steamer and at Copenhagen we were transferred to two smaller cargo steamers in which we had to take the place of butter in the ‘holds’ – but it has been very calm and they have been extraordinarily kind to us and have fed us deliciously on as much bread, butter, eggs and apples as we have been able to eat.

Now, after 36 hours on board, we are lying off Leith, waiting to land as soon as it is morning.

‘Tomorrow to fresh fields and pastures new.'”

And land they did, the following morning, at Leith, welcomed by the pipers of the Gordon Highlanders.

Cyril is now happily ensconced in King’s College Cambridge, where he is reading Economics, and I hope to see him at our Cambridge dinner later this week.

February 24th 1920

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

123456789 – 1011121314Part 15

Berlin, in the week after the Armistice was signed on November 11th, appears to have been an extraordinary place – not what one would have expected in the aftermath of national defeat and humiliation. Cyril King and his fellow prisoners in Ruhleben were free to roam at will and rather enjoy themselves:

20/11/18. “I think that’s the date, but I am not quite sure, as we have lost all count of time. What a week it has been! I have been out to Berlin several times and have slept three nights there in a clean and comfortable hotel where a friend of R’s got us a room.

The first time we made elaborate plans for escape, but now I just wait at the gate until it is opened to let a soldier in or out, and then slip boldly through. A tram stops practically at our doors and runs all the way into Berlin…

I got some cash by selling an old German frock-coat and trousers, which I had bought in Baden-Baden for 100 marks, but it is all gone already, as money runs away like anything, and one has to pay 15 marks for a two course dinner of soup and potatoes and vegetables!..

I have seen ‘Measure for Measure’ twice, and ‘Twelfth Night’ at Reinhardt’s Theatre once and could have seen ‘Hamlet’ or ‘The Merchant of Venice’ if I had had time – as they are all on in Berlin now! ‘Measure for Measure’ was too wonderfully done for words and I have never seen anything like it. Both times the house was packed and it was a tremendous success – whilst all the time the town is starving – for it is indeed, and I haven’t seen a single cheek that wasn’t deadly pale.

They talk about nothing but the revolution and seem to have forgotten all about the war. ‘Now we are free like you,’ someone said to me in a restaurant. Everyone is very polite but not cringing as I had expected…

I have heard some speeches by Socialists and have seen the marks of machine-gun shots in the walls of the Palace and War Office, and the four-mile long funeral procession of the ’80 heroes’ of the revolution – most of the sights in fact. It is all very depressing.

The camp is a horrible place now – full of soldiers, searching the dustbins and trying to buy old clothes and food and haggling… about prices. The ground is everywhere covered with paper and rags and wood.

We may go at any time now, and it is unsafe to keep away from the camp too long. We have placed our books and most valuable possessions in wooden boxes, which we have stacked in the YMCA hall, in the hope that the Dutch Embassy will forward them later.”

Berlin was indeed a strange place at this time.

February 15th 1920

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

123456789 – 10111213Part 14

The staleness of which Cyril King wrote in October 1917 probably explains why he did not write much until the end of the war was in sight.

Towards the end of October 1918, when the German naval commanders ordered the Imperial fleet to sail out to engage the forces of the Royal Navy, the German sailors mutinied and this triggered a general state of revolution in Germany, leading to the Kaiser’s abdication on November 9th 1918.

News of this soon reached Ruhleben:

10/11/18. “They have had a revolution and are mightily pleased with it. Everyone here is wildly excited. A soldiers’ council has been formed among the garrison and representatives have just left for Berlin in the officers’ dog-cart flying a red flag. The officers have changed into mufti and most of them have gone home; but one, we hear, is to be courtmartialed.

A red flag has been hoisted on the flagstaff in the square where so many black and white eagles have flown during the last four years, for innumerable victories and royal birthdays! 

We heard firing last night and expect to be attacked by a mob at any minute – especially as several people have escaped, carrying food with them – and a bodyguard has been formed to patrol the camp and keep people from entering or leaving the camp.

They are absolutely certain to sign the armistice now.

How right Cyril was; at 11 o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, after four long years, the war was brought to an end.

11/11/18. They have signed all right. Powell has gone to the soldiers’ council at the War Office and asked about release. They say they will probably let us go as soon as they can get a train, but they don’t know whether we are to be counted as ‘prisoners of war.’

I am off to Berlin tomorrow to look round and see ‘Measure for Measure,’ which I hear is on at the ‘Volse’s Bûhné.”

Who would have believed that amongst such chaos, theatres continued to operate? Cyril’s adventures in the week that followed are the subject of the next instalment.

February 4th 1920

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

123456789 – 101112 – Part 13

The story of Cyril King‘s incarceration in Ruhleben for the duration of the war must be completed. This is the final part of his journal dated October 28th 1917, and conjures up an air of staleness. The novelty has worn off.

“Everything has seen its best days and is carried on rather mechanically and professionally. The old enthusiasm has died. ‘Family’ life has become rather a strain. We sit over our meals vacantly and in silence – every topic of conversation having been exhausted…

The camp is littered with dead and broken friendships and no one has a scrap of energy left.”

There were of course many attempts at escape, some of which were successful. But the thought of being transferred to a worse camp if caught deterred many, including King.

“There have been many attempts at escapes, and one or two successes. Last year in fact everyone was talking of trying, but the authorities decreed that failure would be punished by a fortnight’s dark cells, followed by a removal to Havelberg, which is a much worse camp, where one would have to begin life all over again – so that it doesn’t seem worthwhile, unless one had very good plans.

In order to lessen the chances of success still further, they have instituted two ‘Appels’ (roll-calls) a day – one at 8 am and the other at 7 pm when we have to line up and march on to the racecourse to be slowly and carefully counted. It is tiresome having to get up so early, but we have reduced it to a fine art so that we don’t jump out of bed till half a minute before the barrack moves off.

The camp is much emptier now, as most of the people over 45 have been released to England and about 200 invalids have been moved to Holland.”

January 28th 1920

The Easter Term has got off to its usual start – with our annual Shakespeare production, this time of ‘Henry V.’ We put on three performances: one on Friday evening for 330 boys, girls and teachers from various local elementary and secondary schools, and two on Saturday for OPS parents and friends.

We were delighted to welcome back Jack Gamlen, late of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry,  to his old job of writing a review. It may be remembered that back in 1917, when he was unable to attend our production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ he sent a most witty poem to the cast.

Whilst the ‘Oxford Times’ was impressed (The whole performance was of a very high standard), Jack was far harder to please:

“Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed the play very much indeed, and that it was a rich reward for the actors themselves for hours of honest work. This reward to the actors is far more important than anything that concerns the audience, but, even so, my recollection of twenty earlier school plays forbids me to put this latest one among the very best.

There was never a Class III at the OPS, and if this ‘Henry V’ comes into Class II it is only because there was, by chance, not quite enough first-rate material to lift it higher. I judge by a fearfully high standard: how can I do otherwise?”

Jack was critical of a number of performances, including that of John Betjemann, whom the Oxford Times described as “the cleverest actor of all… he played the mad old King of France in such a way that, instead of being completely minor, it became one of the most impressive parts in the whole play. There was remarkable genius in this performance.” John played two minor roles, the other being that of the Duke of Cambridge.

Jack’s assessment of this role was more critical:

“Betjemann was the best of the conspirators… but he over-acted… I am sorry to find fault, because Betjemann showed a good deal of promise which will come out, another time, if he allows himself to be natural.”  

The truth about young Betjemann is, Jack should understand, to him, being “natural” is to over-act!

 

January 23rd 1920

This week, the University magazine ‘Isis’ has featured our colleague and esteemed editor of the ‘Draconian‘ magazine, GC (‘Cheese’) Vassall, who has been helping get sport going again in the undergraduate world with the same verve and enthusiasm with which he conducts himself at the OPS.

Mr Gilbert Vassall

I S I S   I D O L  N o. 4 9 5

MR GILBERT CLAUDE VASSALL

(Hon. Treasurer, Oxford University's Athletics Club, 
 Rugby Union Football Club and Association Football Club; 
 Hon. Sec. of the Blues Committee)

As some people in Oxford may still be unfamiliar with his 
appearance, perhaps I had better describe him: it would be a 
pity if he were not recognised, for he is playing a big part 
now in the re-ordering of the undergraduate life of Oxford.

He is a well-set-up fellow, aged about 43. He is clean-shaved, 
has lightish hair and nice pink cheeks. He has an expansive 
smile and does not smoke. He often wears an 'Authentic' tie, 
but, in other respects, he is careless about his dress. I am 
not even sure that he has a tailor; he certainly has no hatter. 
So, if you see a man in the Parks, or on the running track, or 
on the Iffley Road Football ground, looking like this, you will 
know that it is 'V.'

He won countless athletic trophies. He appeared many times for 
the Old Carthusians and was 'capped' for England, but preferred 
to captain Oxford against Cambridge on the day of the match. He 
played football in France, Canada and America, and in such 
forlorn and dangerous places as Liepsic, Prague, Vienna and 
Buda-Pesth.

For many years before the War he acted as judge in the inter-
Varsity sports. As a cricketer he was never in the running for 
a Blue, but he was thought good enough, after he went down, to 
appear for Somerset..

Of his characteristics as a football player I cannot speak, for 
the finer points of the Association game are a mystery to me, 
but I know he has broken a cross-bar and a goal-post. On the 
field I only met him once, and he struck me as being a 
particularly brutal player...

He understands how things should be done, and he will give his 
opinion with a directness which may be disconcerting, but which 
will certainly command respect. For his opinion will be based 
upon principles which do not admit of pettiness or brag or 
insincerity. He will help Oxford to take her rightful place again 
as leader in all that is best and most untainted by false ideals.