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.

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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!

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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.

 

June 8th 1917

Another of our valiant airmen has been listed as missing – the third since the beginning of April.  Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RFC) went down on May 28th 1917.

According to information received,  he was on a photographic reconnaissance in his FE2d aircraft with three others near Douai (where there is a German aerodrome).  They were attacked by German planes and Aubrey was shot down.

The FE2d aircraft

The FE2d is a strange aircraft, where the pilot has the observer/gunner in front of him and the propeller behind him. It is said to be rather slow when compared with the German aeroplanes.

There is as yet no information to say that Aubrey survived his crash, but with both Capt. William Leefe Robinson and 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren in captivity, we can hope that Aubrey may have joined them in a prisoner of war camp.

When war broke out Aubrey, along with many of his contemporaries, joined the army. He served with the North Staffs Regiment in Gallipoli, where he contracted jaundice and had to return home. Once fit again, he asked to transfer to the RFC and trained as a pilot. He joined 25 Squadron in France in April 1917.

Aubrey is the younger brother of 2nd Lieut. Leslie de Selincourt (OBLI), who was badly wounded helping to relieve Kut last year.

November 30th 1914

The ‘Globe’ Newspaper recently noted a number of “interesting names” of Old Dragons serving. They included the England Rugby Captain, Lieut. Ronald Poulton Palmer; the Oxford stroke, 2nd Lieut. Bob Bourne; a Services Boxing champion, Lieut. Martin Collier; an Oxford Cricket Blue and Fellow & Senior Censor of Christ Church, Charles Fisher; an Oxford Hockey Blue & International, 2nd Lieut. Sholto Marcon; an Oxford Athletics Blue, 2nd Lieut. Aubrey de Selincourt; an Oxford Hockey Blue & International, and tutor to the Prince of Wales, Lieut. Lionel Smith. The list also includes the captain of the Oxford Athletics, a rowing blue who had a picture in last year’s Royal Academy, three first-class men in Greats at Oxford, all this year, many scholars of colleges and 2nd Lieut. CJ ffoulkes, RNVR, who is keeper of the Tower Armouries.

Only three years ago the OPS could indeed claim, amongst the 35 Old Dragons then up at the university, the captains of Rugby (Ronald Poulton Palmer), Hockey (Sholto Marcon) and Rowing (Bob Bourne). Most notable was the University Hockey XI, which that year contained no fewer than five Old Dragons in the team. They are all now members of His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

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Draconian 79.

With the next edition of the ‘Draconian’ not due until after the end of term, we are issuing a special edition listing all those ODs who have answered the call to arms. It shows some 225 Old Dragons and staff already in uniform and a further 10 at Sandhurst, Keyham or Osborne. (Let it be remembered that when they were at the OPS, we only numbered 90-100 in the school).

We also include a poem by Frank Sidgwick, ‘The People’s Gift,’ which appeared recently in the ‘Saturday Review.’ This is the final verse:

Take the lesson, then, young Englishmen, when the war-cloud lowers black,

Let no man shift his burden of gift on to the next man’s back;

Answer today what part you will play, when your country gives the sign –

What gift will you bring to your country and King – is your blood water or wine?

* * * * * *

Frank’s brother, Hugh Sidgwick has been acting as private secretary to Sir Lewis Selby-Bigge, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education. His work is deemed too important to allow him to join up. Instead he is doing duty as a Special Constable.

Special Constables – by one

Hugh Sidgwick SC

Hugh Sidgwick

“The Editor has asked for an article on Special Constables, and the motto of the force being obedience I can only comply. But one thing must be made clear at the outset. This nation at present consists of (a) the armed forces of the Crown; and (b) the rest. Special constabling is one of the forms of consolation for (b), who are small beer, and don’t matter much; it stands on a level with knitting socks, and putting on a light green uniform and gesticulating in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoons. It is miles away from the activities of (a), and must not be spoken of in the same breath. Therefore, if this article gets printed, let it be in the smallest of small print, in a corner far away from the ‘res gestae’ of soldiers and sailors. If that is quite clear, I can begin.

Special constables are amateurs who in their spare time assist the police in their lighter duties. They are sworn in for the period of the war – to carry out their duties without favour or affection, malice or ill-will, to preserve the King’s peace and guard the persons and property of his subjects, and so forth. They are provided with an armlet and a truncheon and a note-book and a warrant and a whistle and a badge; (I am going to make a song some day with this refrain). They may also provide themselves with a uniform. In our detachment it is a long blue overcoat and a yachting cap, in which we look like well-intentioned tram-conductors: but I am told that elsewhere there are variations in head-gear. Thus equipped, the special constable goes forth upon his duty.

So far the terror of our name has kept the malefactors away, and we have arrested only a bronze statue and a cat. But the moral effect has been enormous. The criminal classes and the foreign agents stand appalled at the reserves which the Executive has brought into play; they argue, ‘a fortiori’, that if respectable elderly gentlemen take such a lot of trouble about a little thing like that, what will happen if matters get really lively? Further, the ascendancy of the male sex is now re-established. I know of at least one dinner invitation which has been refused on the ground of constabulary duty. The dinner was on Tuesday and the duty on Thursday: but who could know that?”