September 15th

Basil Playne

Surgeon Basil Playne (RN, Royal Naval Division).

The London Gazette of September 13th lists Basil as having been awarded the DSO:

“For gallantry and good service during operations near Gaba Tepe from April 28th to May 1st, 1915. On several occasions he rushed across the open (the communication trench being incomplete) into the fire trenches and attended the seriously wounded, regardless of the severity of the enemy’s fire; on one occasion he carried a wounded officer on his back from the fire trench to the communication trench under heavy fire.

His conspicuous bravery not only inspired the stretcher bearers to perform fine work, but gave confidence and spirit to all ranks. He was again several times brought to notice for gallant deeds when attending the wounded on May 3rd and 4th.”

September 12th 1915

There are a number of our Old Boys serving in the French Army, including Sous Lieut. Noel Sergent (French Artillery), who was also involved in the fighting in Gallipoli last month.

August. “Do you want to know my exact address? Well, I am in the ****** battery of the ****** regiment d’artillerie in the ****** French Army somewhere in Turkey. So like that you are ‘fixed,’ as the Americans say. So am I. In a devilish tight fix between the Devil (surnamed Achi Baba) and the deep sea, alias the Hellespont – most appropriately named.

We have two 9½ inch coast guns, and we had a job hauling them up in three parts each, the piece itself causing the greatest difficulty owing to its weight (16 tons). We put 100 men on either side and hauled away; then, when we got them up, 25 of us had to put them in place. We were at work for four nights from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., with just a cup of caffeine at eleven.

Our guns were ready for firing yesterday, so we started today. We topped our drive, put our second shot over the green, on the green in 3…

On August 6th we assisted at an attack. It was a tremendous business and the best way I can describe it is by comparing it to a terrific thunderstorm when the thunder and lightning came before the rain, and directly the rain comes the thunder and lightning stop. The thunder and lightning are the flash and bang of multitudinous guns, and the patter of the rain is the rifle and machine gun fire. What a fearful noise they make once they are started! I believe we took two trenches – hardly seemed worth the ammunition.”

N Sergent + gun

Noel Sergent with his gun crew.

Noel is the youngest of the three Sergent brothers, all of whom attended the OPS. They have an English mother and a French father who did not like the Napoleonic nature of the French education system.

In 1911, the Sergent brothers, then all living in France, made considerable names for themselves as Association Football players. Victor (full-back and captain), Dick (inside-left) and Noel (right-half) were joined by their Old Dragon friend and brother-in-law ‘Pug’ Wallace (centre-half) playing for Stad Raphaelois, and they won the French Championship.

Whilst his older brothers have joined the British Army, Noel elected to join the French Army.

September 8th 1915

 

Philip Chapman

Private Philip Chapman (Hampshire Regiment)

A letter received from his parents informs us of the very sad news of Philip’s death.

He was wounded in Gallipoli in an attack made on 21-24th August. The attack was nearly over and he had been ordered with another man to bring up a munitions box. They were pausing for a moment to rest when a shell came over a rise and exploded near them, shattering Philip’s right fore-arm and giving him a great wound in the back, where the muscle was exposed and lacerated. The wounds were dressed at once, as the advance was over and the arm was amputated just below the elbow.

He was taken to Malta, which he reached on Sunday night, August 29th and was admitted to the care of his godfather, Mr Charles Symonds, of Guy’s Hospital, who is one of the surgeons in charge of the hospitals there.

On September 5th Mr Symonds wrote to Philip’s parents:-

“All our efforts failed, and the dear boy passed away last night at 10 o’clock…

Yesterday it was obvious that he could not live long and I was with him in the morning and again in the afternoon and later on till he died. He asked for me and seemed so relieved when I was near. Then I left a little before six to operate on an urgent case some distance away, and got back about 8.45.

He welcomed me again and asked if he would ‘pull through’ and again ‘would he be here tomorrow?’

I said a few words, and later ‘Goodbye,’ and he, as bravely as anyone could do, replied ‘Goodbye.’

I said, ‘You must give me a kiss that I may give it to your mother,’ and he did so.

I said we should meet again, and he said ‘Yes, we shall,’ and then he fell on a little sleep.

Waking, perhaps from the oxygen we were giving to relieve his breathing, he said, ‘I was quite prepared to die, and does not this bring it all over again?’

When I said it was to ease is breathing, he said ‘All right’ in that quiet, satisfied and resigned way that I had so much learned to appreciate.

I gave a little morphia, which relieved his back pains. Never did he wander for a moment or utter one unclear word; he was fully conscious and knew his end was near.

Then most wonderful of all, he fixed his eyes looking outward, as he lay on his side and said slowly and with halting breath – each word separated, and some syllables also – ‘This is the most be-a-utiful moment of my life… Oh! What a su-p-erb mo-ment.’

Then he smiled so sweetly and with so satisfied an expression that we knew he had seen a vision…

I shall ever be grateful to a kind Providence who guided our wounded boy to my care, and that I was able to help him in his last moments.”

We remember Philip at the OPS as a quiet, serious, affectionate boy with a devotion to music; he was always to be found at the piano in his free time. On leaving Clifton College, he studied music with the aim of becoming a College organist.

He tried to join the ‘Artists’ when the war broke out. He was rejected on account of his short sight, but he got glasses and became an efficient marksman. He then joined the 8th Battalion Hampshire Regiment.

 

September 2nd 1915

Edmund Gay

In yesterday’s edition of The Times, under the heading “Missing” is the name of Lieut. Edmund Gay (5th Norfolk Regiment).

He has been serving in Gallipoli and was involved in a battle for Tekke Tepe on August 12th. Edmund is one of some 250 men involved in this attack who are unaccounted for as at present.

This is a most worrying situation for his family and it must remain our hope that he has in fact been captured.

His wife Margaret is the sister of Major William Esson, also an Old Boy of the OPS, who is currently serving with the RMLI on HMS Russell.

 

August 29th 1915

We had hoped to hear better news of our friend and colleague, Leslie Eastwood. He is still in the 17th General Hospital in Alexandria and he is now suffering from dysentery.

His family have kindly passed on to us his most recent letter to them:

Leslie Eastwood

2nd Lieut. L Eastwood, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Reg’t

“The 20th of the month and I am still lying in bed; what a waste of time it seems to be lying here, day after day! I was wounded on the 28th July, so I have been in bed 24 whole days; what a time it does seem. This dysentery which I have got takes a lot of getting rid of, but there is no doubt I am getting better gradually.

I think you would hardly recognise me now if you saw me. I have gone so thin, but it will all come right again when I once more get on my legs. My wounds have been quite all right and are healing well.

We get all sorts of visitors to the hospital: young ladies come with flowers and chocolates, cigarettes and tobacco, older ladies come with testaments and good advice and comforting words, and men come round with what news they can get from the Peninsula, which amounts to nothing.

I am in a nice airy ward with two other officers, one slightly wounded but also suffering from dysentery like myself, the other sent back from the Peninsula sick; I don’t know what is the matter with him.

Outside on the balcony is a poor Australian boy of 22, who has had one of his hands blown off by a bomb and is blinded in both eyes; he is just beginning to learn the Braille system of reading; it is very sad and I have seen many cases like his, or little better…”

It is typical of the man that he should be thinking of those worse off than himself. However, we would all be most relieved to hear that he is out of hospital before long. Let us hope that by the time the boys return for the Christmas Term, we will have news for them of the full recovery of one of their most loved and respected masters.

There are currently five OPS assistant masters, who left us over the last year, in the Army. Along with Leslie Eastwood, we continue to keep Blair Watson, Tom Higginson, Pug Wallace and Mr Bye very much in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

August 25th 1915

We have further news of the recent developments on the Gallipoli Front, where some twenty Old Boys of the OPS are currently serving.

Unfortunately, it seems that the troops who landed at Suvla Bay have not advanced very far inland and there has been a fierce counter-attack by the Turk. Major Geoffrey Mott (South Lancs Regiment) was in the Anzac sector at the time of the Suvla Bay landings and here describes part of the battle and the Turkish counter-attack at Chunuk Bair on August 10th.

Maj. GR Mott

Major GR Mott

“I will tell you of the great Turk counter-attack of the 10th August which dashed itself against us for nigh on six hours, or, at least I should say, of that sector of it which came within my vision.

On my right, and below me, was a trench full of little Gurkhas huddled together, their bayonets gleaming in the sunlight; down on my left, across the gully and some 80 yards away was the trench we had withdrawn to the day previous. Immediately on my left, but in the scrub, lay a sentry – a volunteer for this perilous duty – keeping vigil on the gully below and connecting us with the trench beyond it. A great lad this, but, alas, to him of as to many of his spleen, came a soldier’s death ere the action closed.

Like waves advancing on the sea shore, great lines of Turks with shouts of ‘Allah!’ surged continuously over the crest, only to be cut down by shrapnel from the battleships and the fire of machine-guns sweeping up the gullies from well-concealed positions on ragged little knolls to our rear. To see these brave men, ay and fair fighters too, being literally cut down like corn before the reaper, was a sight indeed. Never have I seen greater pluck than that displayed by the Turk, particularly on this day.

Besides these masses advancing, I observed men running down singly from various directions and collecting behind bushes, which must have been concealed from the view of our machine-guns and other trenches, for no fire appeared to be directed at them. Partly on these, therefore, and also on individuals taking up sniper posts, I directed my aim, and how many rounds I fired during all those hours I should be sorry to count. By my side lay a man who passed me ammunition and my field glasses as required – fresh rifles were handed on to me as each one got too hot to hold, and another man kept record of my score.

The strike of the bullet was easily visible on that sandy soil, and the range thus quickly found in each instance. Perhaps the most interesting and important target taken on was a machine-gun detachment getting their gun into a cleverly concealed position, yet visible enough from my post. The range was but 150 yards, and the officer in charge clearly a German; I picked him off with my second shot, and shortly after, two of his gunners, and then opened rapid fire on the remainder, which must have dispersed them as that gun never came into action, at least not from that position or anywhere near it.

With regard to the bushes, I let a dozen Turks or so bunch together behind them before pouring in the contents of my magazine, or sometimes two; this had the effect of making a few men bolt in all directions to get clear of such false cover, but how many I hit in this way it would be impossible to say, and not one could be fairly included in the ‘bag.’

At the end of the six hours this had amounted to 47, not including the German officer – a fair day’s work, though very trifling, of course, in comparison with the wholesale slaughter effected by our guns and machine-guns whose handiwork would beggar description, for the Turkish dead must have amounted to thousands.”

 

August 20th 1915

Basil Parker 2

 Captain Basil Parker (Hampshire Regiment)

We have received the following account of events surrounding the death of Basil Parker at Krithia:

“Exactly at 4 p.m. Captain Parker, who was in command, called out, ‘Time’s up, my lads,’ and those in the first trench immediately leapt out, those in the second at once taking their places and leaping out a minute later, and those in the third line doing the same. All were well up in a good deal less than 5 minutes, and with a cheer they rushed forward.

It was a glorious charge and everyone showed splendid courage. The Turks were startled, and took a minute or two – not much more – to get their machine guns (of which they had one for about every 5 yards, and which during the bombardment they had hidden in the trenches) into position, so that our men got some way across the open space. Apparently, however, none reached the Turkish trench. All were mown down.

Of the second line, a few got across. Of the third line which had fewer men, more than half got through, and those who were left of the battalion held the trench until they were relieved by the Royal Scots and Royal Fusiliers. A private said positively that the Turks were driven from their front trench which remained in our hands, as perhaps did some others.

The open ground was so heavily swept by gun fire that it was impossible to bring in the wounded or the dead, even at night. Some may have crawled in, but the severely wounded must have died. As none could be recovered and identified, they were posted as missing.

In the evening of the 6th only 250 out of 900 of the Hants answered to their names.”

The 2nd Hants SurvivorsWhat was left of the 2nd Hants  being congratulated by the G.O.C. Division.