August 31st 1917

2nd Lieut. George Falkiner (Royal Dublin Fusiliers)

In the Times yesterday was the announcement of George’s death – the third Old Dragon to have been killed on August 16th (along with Alan Cam and Hampy Jefferson).

The family have been advised that George, who had been declared missing has in fact been killed and his CO has informed them that “the enemy put down a very heavy artillery and machine-gun barrage, and he was killed while leading his platoon up to support the troops in front.”

George and the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers were supporting the Royal Irish Rifles and the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the attack at Frezenberg and all have suffered heavy casualties.

In May 1917 George was commended for his gallantry in a raid when he had a narrow escape. He performed a heroic action in carrying a wounded man for 300 yards over No Man’s Land. For this he received the honour of a ‘parchment’ – a thing peculiar to the Irish Brigade.

George was only with us for a year (1911-12), but his cheery nature and merry smile that was never missing from his handsome face, won the affection of all of us.

When George first tried to enlist last year, he was declared unfit for service due to “defective vision.” He successfully appealed against this decision, this process costing his mother a princely 4 guineas.

In just one cruel week, Mrs Falkiner has now lost two sons: in addition to the loss of George, her older son Frederick (who did not come to the OPS), was killed in action with the RFC five days later, on August 21st.

 

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.

 

April 21st 1917

Lieut. John Pratt (Yorkshire Regiment)

Announced in The Times yesterday was the death, on April 11th at St. Martin sur Caquel, of Jack Pratt, the second Old Dragon to die in the battle at Arras.

His regiment was involved in an attack on the Hindenburg Line. The artillery having failed to destroy the barbed wire defences, John went ahead with a machine gun to find a gap in the wire entanglement through which he might take his Company.  He was picked off by a sniper.

His Commanding Officer has commended him for his gallantry and devotion to duty.

During his time at the OPS Jack was a promising athlete and a merry youngster around the school, with plenty of pluck and nerve. He distinguished himself at Blundell’s School, which he entered in 1908, by getting his cricket and rugger colours whilst still aged 15.

January 5th 1917

Not all our correspondents focus entirely on the War. Some, such as Lieut. Alan Jenks (RE), like to recall their schooldays  –  and playground warfare:

jenks-arc24.12.16 “I remember Martin Collier quite distinctly, also Jack Haldane. When engaged in tactical skirmishes with the latter, my motto used to be ‘he who fights and runs away will live,’ a motto which I have faithfully pursued (so far) through life. If I am caught, it will be through not running away fast enough…”

(I think Leslie Grundy with his water-pistol was equally guilty of getting the vast but clumsy Jack into such a state that he uprooted a sapling to attack his tormentor with wild swipes of trunk and root.)

“As for France and Flanders, which is where I am (Censor Volens, or words to that effect) – well, one’s chief impression is mud and water. I learnt at Lynam’s or elsewhere that water flowed downhill. France is the exception. No well-behaved water does it here. It just stays.

As for work, generally one digs a trench or ditch in peace-time in order to drain a field. Here one has to try to drain the trench into the field. That is what sappers are endeavouring to do here. Action and reaction being equal and opposite, result nil. The only feasible method is to use language so warm that the water boils and so evaporates. This is only a temporary expedient however.

Very best wishes for the School and Staff.” 

December 15th 1916

In the course of the last four months a number of our gallant Old Boys have been honoured and, as the end of another term approaches, they should be recorded on these pages:

Victoria Cross (VC)

Capt. William Leefe Robinson (RFC), “for conspicuous bravery. He attacked an enemy airship under circumstances of great difficulty and danger, and sent it crashing to the ground as a flaming wreck. He had been in the air for more than two hours and had previously attacked another airship during his flight.”

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

Capt. Harry Maule (North Lancs) has been awarded the DSO “for conspicuous gallantry when leading his company during operations. During several days’ fighting he set a fine example of cheerfulness and cool courage to those around him. He was three times knocked down by the blast of shells.” (Edinburgh Gazette, Sept. 28th 1916)

Major Ernest Knox (Sikhs) in Mesopotamia.

Major James Romanes (Royal Scots). “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his battalion with the greatest courage and initiative. He set a splendid example throughout the operations.” (London Gazette, Nov. 25th 1916)

Military Cross (MC)

2nd Lieut. Stopford Jacks (RFA). “He, assisted by a sergeant, organised a party to extinguish a fire in a bomb store. Although burnt in several places, he continued at the work until the fire was extinguished.” (Edinburgh Gazette, Dec. 13th 1916)

2nd Lieut. Budge Pellatt (Royal Irish). “When a Platoon was required from his company to replace casualties in the front line, he at once volunteered and led his men forward with the greatest determination, though suffering heavy casualties.”

2nd Lieut. Northcote Spicer (RFA). “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in registering all batteries of the artillery brigade from the advanced lines prior to attack. He was severely wounded, chiefly from having to signal by flag, which was observed by the enemy.” (London Gazette, Oct. 20th 1916)

French Honours

‘The Times’ (Sept 16th) noted that Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt had been made Grand Officier of the Legion of Honour.

2nd Lieut. Trevor Hoey (OBLI) has been awarded the Croix de Guerre decoration by the French Commander on the Salonika front for distinguished conduct, referred to in the Army Orders as follows:

“When all the other officers were placed hors de combat, he took command and led the final charge against the Bulgarian position, which was brilliantly carried at the point of the bayonet.”

Mentioned in Despatches

2nd Lieut. FRG Duckworth (RFA) in Salonika, Capt. WW Fisher (RN) & Cdr GH Freyberg (RN) at Jutland, Maj. EF Knox (36th Sikhs) – for the second time, Capt. RJK Mott (Staff) in Salonika, Lieut. JC Slessor (RFC) in Egypt, and Maj. RD Whigham (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) – for the second time.

It is difficult to express just how proud we are when our Old Boys distinguish themselves so.

March 1st 1916

It has been delightful to receive a visit from Lieut. Patrick Duff (RFA) on his safe return from the Gallipoli campaign. He is kindly allowing us to publish extracts from the diary he kept at the time.

The entries below cover the events from December 30th until January 9th, when he was evacuated.

Any starred space has been censored to meet the requirements of paragraph 453, King’s Regulations.

CP Duff

Lieut. Pat Duff

30/12/15. “I think there is very little doubt that we are going. I write this in the middle of a large expenditure of ammunition on what seems a useless target, just, I take it, to get rid of the stuff…

It is quite exciting and I have no sentimental objection to leaving Gallipoli, as the show is obviously a failure, and we shall see another war in a new country…

31/12/15. Ordered to remove two guns today; spent busy morning packing heavier kit and arranging about despatch of my two guns…

At W Beach delivered two guns, two G.S. wagons and four gharries with men’s kit and some of my own on lighters, and saw them safely off. Rather tired and sleepy as we are having pretty hard days and nights. Write this at 3 a.m. smoking a cigar instead of going to bed, feel absolutely dead tired in the mornings, but the coldness of the night keeps one going for the night work.

1/1/16. We rode into W Beach to learn how to blow up guns in case we had to abandon them..

W_Beach_Helles_Gallipoli 2

Preparation for evacuation. W Beach – January 1916

Thank God we don’t evacuate every day of our lives; it is tiring, as one pulls about guns and heavy stuff in addition to getting no sleep.

General ******* sent us a wire this morning wishing us a ‘Happy and victorious New Year.’ A farcical epithet at a moment when we are in the act of sneaking away from a place we’ve held for eight months and in a deadly funk every minute that the Turk will spot it and jump on us. Took teams out at 11 p.m. and got to Clapham Junction in Krithia nullah about 12.30, having had to wait on Artillery Road owing to block of traffic. Was at W Beach at about 2 a.m., where I soon got rid of the guns. Back to bed about 3.30.

2/1/16. Am staying up for the purpose of seeing wagons loaded with oats, hay and our kit (We are all packed up, leaving out only shaving things and flea bags).

The ravine presents already the appearance of the abomination of evacuation standing where it ought not. All dug-outs have been left as they stood, but it is perceptible that the Peninsula is emptying.

3/1/16. We have now one gun, 58 men and all the horses. Probably I shall leave tomorrow night with our last gun…

4/1/16. 9.45 p.m. The wind is rising. We have got one gun and about 50 rounds of ammunition; if the wind continues we can’t get away. It is beginning to howl like the devil outside. I wonder –

5/1/16. The beach is in a state of disorder; I noticed that last night they had embarked nothing as there was a long train of 18 pounders waiting to go off…. All the ordnance tents were turned inside out, piles of stuff lying about in confusion… There was every kind of thing there if one could only have carried it away. Rather pathetic. Everything is going to be piled up on the edge of the cliff and to be blown to blazes by the Navy the morning after we leave….

Tonight the wind has gone, so that we may be able to get away. The storms here generally last at least three days, so it is nothing short of providential.

6/1/16. Rode out on my little horse with the gun about 8, and thought how I should follow the dim roads of Gallipoli by night no more. Some of the more recent arrivals hail the departure with delight; but we who have been here since the very beginning find it hard to leave the place. One knows it more intimately than any spot on earth, having moved about on it at all hours of the night, and dug ourselves into it in every direction.

Frightful crush on the beach. I managed to get a move on and presently brought my gun to the pier. Shells were dropping on the other side of the beach, but nothing close to us. The horses were unhooked and sent away; my saddle was taken off my little horse and put on the limber and off he went in the dark…. Got out to a ship and had the gun and limber on it by about 5 a.m., and so now I write this sitting on the floor of a cabin, feeling the wiggle of the screw and beginning to realise that, for the time being, I have saved my soul alive.

7/1/16. I have left nothing in Helles, only my little horse, which will be shot. I told ***** to take off a shoe for me.

Started back to Helles about 5… I worked in the hold until about 4 a.m. getting stuff on board; but got some sleep in the night. Yesterday I felt quite sick with sleepiness. Still calm, perhaps we shall be able to get some horses off yet.

8/1/16. Everyone thinks this is ‘Z’ night, when everyone comes off. Wish I were on shore.

About 4 a.m. the Chief woke me and said, ‘the bonfires are lit.’ I went on deck; on W beach about eight great fires were burning and the blaze lighted up the whole place. *********

****** suddenly a terrific explosion came ******* throwing up the earth in the shape of a huge fan about 100 feet into the air. Shortly after came another awful burst, hiding the whole beach behind the falling debris and smoke. Flaming splinters seemed to be flying about everywhere, some falling in the sea.

There was another fire on V beach, and I could see the huge wall of the castle of Sedd-ul-bahr in the glare (reminded me rather of Virgil’s description of the fall of Troy when the forms of the malignant gods loomed out above the smoking walls). Just around the corner from W beach another heap ************* was ablaze, and there was a fire on Gully beach. For an hour or more I stood watching the flames; the Turks were at first firing shrapnel into the middle of the beach, thinking they had set fire to something and that they would catch those who were putting it out. About 5 a.m. they seemed to realise we were gone, as they started shelling out to sea among the ships.

About 5.30 we began to move slowly away and the fires grew smaller in the distance. So we left W beach, looking likes the gates of hell, as it was when we first came there….

This is the end of the Expedition which was to have opened the Dardanelles, filled up Russia with supplies, and as we fondly hoped, advanced in rear of the Austro-Germans along the Danube. How far the frightful waste of men and materials will affect England’s fortunes one can’t tell, and just now it is hard to take a dispassionate view; but, results apart, I cannot think there is any enterprise comparable to this, except the Athenian Expedition to Sicily, which started with the same high hopes and ended…****************”

 Gallipoli beaches

February 25th 1916

French close-up

Captain Robert French (Royal Welch Fusiliers)

The death of Robert French, which occurred on February 19th in the Empire Hospital for Officers in London, was announced in the Times yesterday.

We had news of his situation last month (January 5th) and understood that he had been hopeful of recovery and was quite expecting to go to a convalescent home in Roehampton up to, at any rate, a week or two before his death. And now, nearly five months after he was wounded, he has succumbed to infection.

Robert won a scholarship to Blundell’s School from the OPS and was part of the Officer Training Corps there, rising to the rank of Sergeant. In 1911 he was commissioned in to the 3rd Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers as a probationary second Lieutenant.  According to his father, he spent the whole of a legacy (practically all he had) on his training and outfit. This was in addition to the Government grant, which was found to be totally inadequate for the purpose.

At the outbreak of war, Robert joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers (the same unit as Capt. George Fletcher, who was killed on March 20th 1915). He took part in the retreat from Mons and the battles of the Marne and Aisne and was promoted to the rank of Captain in February 1915.