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.

 

August 6th 1917

Fluff Taylor has written in reply to Hugh Sidgwick on the subject of a Memorial Chapel being built at the OPS after the War. He says that he is very much in favour of the school services continuing as they are, with the boys playing an active part, and hopes this would be possible in a consecrated chapel.

Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor

The hybrid building, which is one day a theatre, the next a ball-room or even a garage, and on the third a chapel, does not appeal to my old-fashioned mind, and brings before me the picture of Jesus Christ driving the money changers from the Temple. However the opinion of the majority must decide, and whatever that is, will, I am sure, be for the best, and my subscription as stated in my former letter is at your service.”

We have now opened a subscription list and are grateful to the following for their contributions:

Lieut.-Col SC Taylor DSO – £50; CRL Fletcher – £200; Lieut. AH Sidgwick – £20; GC Vassall – £30; The Hon. AI Mayhew – £10. Total: £310.

After further discussion, a Committee will be appointed to settle what form our War Memorial shall take.

* * * * * *

With a new battle now raging around Ypres, one can only imagine that a number of our Old Boys are currently fighting for their lives. The days that follow are going to be ones of even greater worry for their families and friends, and we all hope and pray that they come through it safe and sound.

 

May 9th 1917

No-one went off to war with a heavier heart than our own Pug – Lieut. Lindsay Wallace (OBLI) – being a Dragon, man and boy.

Since he left our Staff he has managed a number of visits, much to the delight of the boys. Last term he talked to them on the subject “With the troops in training” and they were intrigued by his description of the workings of the Mills bomb.

Pug has now returned to active service and even if, dare I say it, the OPS is not always the tidiest of places, the contrast between home and the Front is a stark one.

28/4/17 “We started off yesterday from the base and were told we would take about two days to reach our division.

Three of us had a first-class compartment to ourselves. We managed to get some tea and cake before leaving the station and then started on our journey very slowly indeed at about 4 p.m.

I have never seen such a sight as the sides of the line, in some places they are layers deep in tins of all descriptions thrown out of the carriages. This doesn’t apply to one particular spot but all along the line: without exaggeration there must have been millions of tins.

Also all along the line were kids who kept shouting ‘bisceet,’ and they generally got one. In many places there were German prisoners, who got cigarettes thrown to them…

After quite a good meal, which was helped on very much by heating up a meat tin over my cooker, we all settled down to sleep and I was very glad to have quite a good night.

Then all of a sudden we were woken up, about 5.30, and all told to get out. We got up and packed our various belongings and turned out, and there we were, right in it: almost every house is blown to bits, some have the walls standing and a few have the roof left in places.

It was a bit of a shock getting out of the train into a sort of shattered world.”

 

I have picked out this picture to remind us all of happier times.

It was taken by our VC hero, Jack Smyth outside The Lodge a few years before the war, and shows three stalwarts of my Staff: my brother Hum (AE Lynam), Pug (WJL Wallace) and Cheese (GC Vassall).

It seems a long time ago and from a different world now.

 

April 4th 1917

The holidays are here and we have every reason to be thankful, that during a term in which there has been a great deal of illness at many Preparatory or Public Schools, we have had nothing worse than an epidemic of mild mumps. Otherwise we have been delightfully free even from colds and coughs. Several boys have suffered from bad chilblains.

* * * * * * * *

We will remember this term particularly for the ice-skating. In the end, we had glorious skating for three weeks (Jan 27th – Feb 18th) on the University Skating Club flooded meadow. The authorities were good enough to admit us at half fees (3d a time) and, even so, got about £15 from the School!

Mr Haynes produced about 30 pairs of primeval skates that had been stowed away in the dim past, but before the skating was over many new ones had been purchased.

The morning was quite the best time to go and we took off one of the morning hours of work. Often the Caravan-Ambulance made three or four journeys with small boys and provisions for picnic lunch on the ice (once, when changing a wheel for a puncture, she went down gracefully on to her axle and was derelict for some hours).

ice-skating-6

Many boys learnt to skate quite well – Dennis Buck (who, given the opportunity, will rival his brother Geoffrey some day) and Fred Huggins could cut all forward threes and do outside edge backwards. This is G.C’s description of their performances – G.C (Mr Vassall) also gave them handsome skating prizes as rewards for their efforts.

* * * * * * * *

Miss Field’s collection of eggs for the wounded soldiers has been greatly appreciated at the hospitals. During this term 1,738 have been delivered, making a total of 3,531 since the start at Mr Fletcher’s instigation in October last.

 

Next term begins on Wednesday 2nd May.

 

Postscript. We have had word that Jack Haldane, who had recovered from his previous wound and gone out to Mesopotamia, to his intense chagrin, was wounded again the day before the fall of Kut. He was injured whilst trying to put out a fire in his camp, when a bomb exploded and wounded him in the leg.