January 28th 1917

The 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were deployed to France towards the end of May last year and with it a number of Old Dragons.

2nd Lieut. Walter Moberly was an early casualty, wounded on a reconnaissance up to the German wire (in daylight). Only with great difficulty was he able to make it back to our lines.

Capt. Douglas Rose, who returned home wounded in July, kindly wrote to us shortly afterwards with a full description of how he was hit. Happily his brother, Capt Geoffrey Rose is still going strong.

We are delighted to hear from Lieut. Sholto Marcon, who performed on some pretty muddy hockey pitches in his time (Oxford XI 1910-13 and English International), but nothing compared to what he is currently experiencing:

marcon-csw16.1.17. “For the last two months we have been in mudland and about that spot north and south of which you can see in the daily paper, there is generally shelling going on…

Dec. 25th found us in (the trenches) less than a week. No fraternising of course took place, though a Hun, bored to distraction with the war in general, came to see us at HQ that day. A fine fellow, and, considering all things, most astoundingly clean!

One experience I suffered: I had to be dug out of the mud one night, and not till one has suffered this experience can one realise that it is possible for people to get drowned in the mud. We had gone out to lay a line, and about 20 yards from HQ I stepped into a mud patch, and there I had to stay till a duckboard and a spade were brought, and my leg was dug up, as you would dig up a plant.

The men stick the mud and weather conditions generally in splendid style, and are real bricks in all they do.

They had their Christmas Dinner on Jan. 4th, as they were well ‘back’ by then and with the help of the eatables kindly sent out by a Committee in Oxford, and supplemented by purchases from Canteens out here, everything was ‘tra bon.’

In the evening the Sergeants had a dinner on their own and seemed very cheery when we looked in half way through the proceedings.”

 

 

August 23rd 1916

Rats are constant and entirely unwelcome guests everywhere where there is human flesh on which to feast. British soldiers fight as continuous a battle with them as they do with the Germans, and it is splendid that there should now be an Officer Commanding Rats!

Capt. Douglas Rose (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry) writes of attempts at a scientific approach to their extermination:

DM Rose“It was at the Field Ambulance that I met O.C. Rats. I had come in that afternoon, not wounded this time but with a silly leg and foot which I hardly possessed it seemed, a result of sciatica. The medical officer for the day was looking round for the night and brought a companion with him whom he introduced at O.C. Rats.

I had been keenly interested in this appointment ever since we received the order in the front Line to look out for any Rats that appeared to have died from natural causes and to send any such, duly labelled, to Brigade Headquarters for examination by a Bacteriologist.

“Well,” I said, “how’s business?”

“Nothing doing,” he replied. “I have only had two carcasses to examine, one of these had most of its ribs broken and the other appeared to have died of senile decay.”

‘B,’ in the next bed, said he had fired 72 rounds with his revolver at the beasts, and generally had a shoot at night, but had never seen a naturally deceased rat. I related my experiences with a cane and how I had once made the mistake of moving my foot too soon when I trod on one in mistake on the duckboards.

O.C. Rats said we must let some of them die naturally, otherwise how could he judge the effect of the serum which had been given to the rats by a thoughtful Government with views to exterminating them entirely.

I explained to him that when a Platoon Sergeant lost his upper denture completely, rats having taken it off from the shelf in his dug-out whilst he slept, and the Company Sergeant-Major had all the vulcanite bitten off his lower denture when having a siesta, one could hardly expect a truce between the men and the rats, so that the serum could work out to a scientific conclusion.

We all promised to secure some remarkably fine specimens for the Rat Commander and I fancy he will find some lively corpses when he opens the bag I intend to send him. Curiously enough, I have just heard from the Quarter-Master Sergeant that the dirge which the infants sing about fifteen times day in the schools adjoining is Fontaine’s Fable “The Lion and the Rat.”

Ragging the OC Rats is entirely in character with a young Douglas in his schooldays!

 

July 29th 1915

 

In addition to the 8 killed, we will be listing in the next edition of our magazine, the names of 26 Old Dragons who have been wounded in action.

One of these is Captain Douglas Rose (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry), who has sent us the following description:

DM Rose

Capt. DM Rose

“The new C.O. is coming up at 5.30 to see what sort of sniping post we can get out in front of the edge of the wood, a good place for using the new telescopic sights he has brought out from home; I must decide what places I will suggest…

Working my way along the line, I point out various things to be cleared up and attended to. I come to the first place I want another look at… seems about the best bit of ground just forward. The trees and undergrowth are thick enough to screen me from the German lines, about 120 yds. in front, and it will be quite all right if I do not go right to the edge. Anyhow, I must get a more definite idea as to what sort of field of fire and cover there is.

I go forward a few paces, then a few more; some bullets about, stray ones I suppose – anyhow nothing unusual… I crouch down with eyes close to ground to get the lie, then have another look, bending fairly low.

‘Great Scott!’ I suddenly collapse into a sort of sitting posture. Slowly and with amazement I realize that I have been hit. I am reclining now on my right side, a burning feeling in my left thigh, my hand which instinctively feels for the damage comes back all over blood; I am really shot then! Enemy’s sniper away to the left must have spotted me and got me sideways. Better get help as I may ‘go off.’

Calls to the breastwork bring four or five to my assistance. I warn them off, don’t want any more casualties, rotten as it is. Second Captain comes up. He is in command now.

‘Get these fellows back,’ I say, ‘and tell the stretcher bearers to be careful. Pretty certain the fellow who got me knows I am lying here.’

Stretcher bearers creep up and give me some very warm water to drink; I feel all right, rather excited and getting stiff and numb in the lower parts of the body. Corporal says he must cut my breeches, but will try to keep to seam.

I ask if bullet is out. No, he says, it is not.

Iodine makes things smart. They begin to open stretcher.

No, I cannot get on the thing and you cannot carry me without exposing yourselves.

All right, I think I can crawl on my elbows, anyhow let’s try. Yes! I can get to the breastwork; you crawl behind and push my legs along.

I am a trifle tired when I get to safety.

Would I like to wait there a bit? I can feel my breeches very wet, seem full of blood so think best go on. Rather a job getting on the stretcher, find lying on my stomach best.”

From there Douglas was conveyed to safety.

* * * * * * *

Over 20 Old Dragons are serving with the OBLI and we are aware of the following promotions:

Lieut. CWH Bailie (2nd Bat) – from 2nd Lieut; 2nd Lieut. MC Cooper (4th Reserve) – from Private; 2nd Lieut. JCB Gamlen (3rd/4th Bat); Lieut. CSW Marcon (4th Bat) – from 2nd Lieut; Capt. GK Rose (1st/4th Bat) – from Lieut; 2nd Lieut. HEF Smyth (4th Bat) – from RMC Sandhurst; 2nd Lieut. RF Symonds (Bucks Bat); 2nd Lieut. WJL Wallace (3rd/4th Bat).