June 18th 1920

O.D. Dinner – June 12th 1920.

The Old Dragons have had their say on our reunion, now it is my turn!

It was the greatest pleasure to meet 115 of my Old Boys and the staff at dinner in the School Hall on Saturday. I am rather proud of having only in one case made a mistake in identification. If I failed to have a yarn with each individual it was for lack of time and not for lack of will. It was strange and delightful to feel that I am the one link between them all – that in the whole wide world there is no-one else who has known them all personally from their boyhood.

Walter Moberly (left) was one of our most distinguished Old Boys in the War, being twice mentioned in dispatches and winning the D.S.O in an action that sadly cost the lives of two other Old Dragons, Will Scott and Gifford Turrell. He has now returned to Lincoln College, where he is a Fellow, lecturing in philosophy.  Frank Sidgwick (right) continues to prosper with his publishing company Sidgwick & Jackson, having had particular success with the works of the war poet, Rupert Brooke.

Geoffrey Freyberg (left), having survived the battle at Jutland and witnessed the surrender of the German High Seas fleet in November 1918 on HMS Valiant, is now the King’s Harbour Master at Plymouth.  Geoffrey Rose (right) is in the process of writing up the history of the 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the War, to be published later this year. Having been called to the Bar in 1912, he is returning to a legal career.

Philip Frere (left) provided the ‘Draconian’ with an account of the retreat enforced by the Germans’ Spring Offensive of March 1918 and Nevil Norway (right) having as a 17-year-old witnessed the events in Dublin of Easter 1917, served the final months of the War as a private soldier in the Suffolk Regiment.  He is now up at Balliol College, reading Engineering Science.

Maurice Campbell (left)  ended the war with typhus and malaria and was invalided home. Last year he was awarded the OBE for his services with a field ambulance and has now returned to Guy’s Hospital as a medical registrar. Pat Campbell (right) having gone straight into the Army from Winchester in 1917, has now returned to Oxford to study for a degree at Brasenose College.

Roger Mott, it may be recalled wrote to us back in 1915 of his “Balkan Find” – a memorial tablet from the time of the Emperor Hadrian, and I understand that it is now the proud possession of the new Imperial War Museum, officially opened on June 9th by King George V at the Crystal Palace.

Geoffrey Carpenter spent the War with the Uganda Medical Service and wrote to us following the Battle of Tanga, known as the Battle of the Bees. He has now returned to Oxford and is working as a Specialist Officer for the control of sleeping sickness in Uganda. He is bringing out a book later this year, ‘A Naturalist on Lake Victoria, with an account of Sleeping Sickness and the Tse-Tse Fly’, about his time there (1911-14), the introduction written by his friend an mentor Prof. EB Poulton (father of Ronnie Poulton).

Sydney Carline, whose experience of being shot down over the Somme in 1916 was reported to us by his brother George,  enjoyed the final months of the conflict as a war artist. Having returned from his tour of the Middle East for the Imperial War Museum with his brother Richard last year, they have both enjoyed a successful exhibition of their work in the Goupil Gallery in March.

Jack Gamlen was one of the most prolific of our ‘war correspondents.’ A regular guest critic of our school plays before the War, he was particularly missed here when we were putting on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in 1915 and he sent the boys a most witty verse.  We were delighted to have him back to review last term’s production of ‘Henry V’, even if his judgments were not always generous!

Noel Sergent, who sent us many descriptions of his time on the Gallipoli peninsula, together with a graphic account as to how he managed to escape drowning when his ship was torpedoed, we are delighted now to have on our staff, teaching French (of course) and mathematics. He is also a great asset on the river where he has been coaching diving.

Jack Smyth – whose array of medals impressed us all – was a regular correspondent in the War years. Who will ever forget the day to returned to the School with his VC? He has a busy time ahead – he is due to receive the MC on July 20th and be married on July 22nd,  but has kindly agreed to attend our Prizegiving on the 21st to give away the prizes!

There were many who were under Mr Clarke, my predecessor, and who had suffered from my mistakes and inexperience as a young teacher; and perhaps that meeting with an early generation of Dragons was of the greatest interest to me. They have had time to distinguish themselves, and many have done so…

And then, alas! there are so many whom we shall not see again at these gatherings, those who have so nobly given their lives for us.

(Of those mentioned above, a number had lost an Old Dragon brother in the War: Frank Sidgwick (Hugh), Geoffrey Freyberg (Lance), Maurice & Pat Campbell (Percy), for whom the day must have brought on very mixed emotions).

 

May 13th 1918

Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) writes from the Victoria Falls Hotel in Southern Rhodesia, where he is on leave, having been up country in Singida district of Tanganyika dealing with an outbreak of the plague.

16/4/18. “The inhabitants of this district, known as Wanyaturu, were having rather a poor time, for beside the plague there was smallpox in the country, and they had no grain, all their reserves having been used, and the crops not yet having come on, so they were living on grass seeds, meat and the blood of their cattle, which they obtain and drink after the custom of their northern neighbours, the Masai. 

The jugular vein of an ox is made to stand out prominently by pressure, and then a little arrow is shot into it from a few yards away. This is the time honoured procedure – but one wonders why such a round-about method is used instead of the knife! The warm blood is drunk fresh; though I am a medicine man myself, I could never bring myself to face this procedure, though my curiosity longed to be satisfied!

I am taking advantage of this leave to see one of the world’s wonders… viz., the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, near Livingstone… 

Firstly, get it into your heads that the renowned Niagara falls are not in it with the Zambezi falls! The latter are twice as broad and two and a half times as high as the Niagara, but perhaps the word deep describes it better than high, seeing that the water drops into an immense chasm, for the level of the country is the same above as below the falls. The river, a mile and a quarter broad, suddenly falls over into a fissure deep set at right angles to its course, and very narrow, in some places less than 400 feet across…

The spray produced by the terrific impact of water at the bottom of the chasm rises high into the air above the surrounding country for some hundreds of feet, forming a white column which is visible from 25 miles away…

I also send one of the railway’s printed maps and a set of picture cards which I should like to be put up on the walls of the Museum, so that the falls may be somewhat more than an empty name on the map.”

January 25th 1918

Further to previous correspondence on the matter, Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) has written on the subject of a War Memorial:

“…but why only for those ‘who have given their lives for their country in this Great War’? Surely this war is not the first occasion on which Dragons have died for their country or for others? Nor will it be the last. Peace hath her victories no less than war.

I remember at the beginning of my first term the Skipper announcing the death in a boating accident of a boy who had only left at the end of the preceding term, and was drowned while trying to save others. Would this occasion, when we are all trying to do our bit, be a most suitable one for collecting funds for a memorial for all time, past, present and future, of our friends who have died, are dying, and will die for others long after we have gone?”

Claude Burton (‘Touchstone‘), father of Capt. Paddy Burton (Beds), who was killed on the Somme, has written:

“A mere affair of masonry and medallions – the ordinary type of war memorial – falls a long way short of my own aspirations in the matter…

It seems to me that since Old Boys have fought and died for those who are to follow them, the memorial most fitting them would be one which would benefit directly the future boys of the School, and I would therefore suggest that the bulk of the money subscribed should be employed in founding scholarships which should give a better chance in life to those who need it…

Of course this is only an individual opinion – one amongst many, but I feel that if my eldest son were still with us he would have inclined to some such solution of the problem.”

In view of the opinions expressed on the subject, I would not at present commit myself to any particular scheme. Subscribers may be sure that no definite conclusion will be adopted until all those who are interested have had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, and then a Committee of Old Boys and parents of past and present boys will have finally to decide on what shall be done.

 

December 31st 1915

Christmas for our gallant old boys, stationed in numerous theatres of war, has varied considerably.

Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) is currently somewhere in the vicinity of Kabale in Uganda:

“Xmas Day passed without any excitement and our mess managed to put up quite a decent dinner. Tinned tomato soup, herrings and jugged hare, a guinea-fowl (shot with a rifle) to take turkey’s place – they are as good eating as any bird I know.”

Capt. Charlie Childe (Gloucestershire Regiment), in a billet near Richebourg St. Vaast, on the other hand, has had no relief from the day-to-day realities of the war:

Charlie Childe“From 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve till 5 p.m. on Christmas Day all our batteries had more or less carte blanche and all started blazing away at midnight.

I went in on Christmas Day after tea and there was a great deal of whizz-banging and salvoes of shrapnel all night. I was quite pleased when I got back to my dug-out, as it was rather a poor game wandering about over the open in the pitch dark, and wet, with all this hatred breaking out from time to time.”

Lieut. Jack Smyth (15th Ludhiana Sikhs) is now in Egypt, defending Alexandria from attack by the German-supported Sennussi tribe. No Christmas spirit to be found there either:

Jack Smyth“I spent the most exciting Christmas Day and the coldest Christmas night I have ever spent in my life; the whole day was spent in an attack on the Sennussi position. I was doing Adjutant duties and as I had only a few days before come out of hospital in Alexandria, I was almost dead, not counting the additional ‘almosts’ from bullets…

I should love to have been able to get back to Oxford for Xmas, but must not think of such things till the war is over…”

2nd Lieut. Maurice Jacks (King’s Royal Rifle Corps), whose location is given simply as “this dreary corner of North France” has ascertained that the Boche may be suffering somewhat worse than our troops:

“A deserter came in the other day and to his amazement the men gave him cigarettes and tea, and Headquarters a dinner; he was feted all round, but we could not let him off without displaying a little ‘frightfulness’ and the whole battalion having just had a Xmas dinner of goose and plum pudding, we asked him, ‘I suppose you had goose and plum pudding on Xmas Day. We all did!’

He threw up his hands in amazement and was green with envy; he apparently had not even had a sausage!”

Lastly, my daughter, Kit Marshall (St. Leonard’s School YMCA hut, Camp 18, Harfleur Valley, near Havre) has been helping entertain those Tommies behind the lines, who were able to celebrate in some style:

KIt Lynam portrait“This morning we were all taken to the Irishmen’s and RFA dining halls to see their Christmas dinner and the decorations. They had turkey, geese, plum puddings, some given by the Ulster women, and beer.

Then at 3 p.m. we went to their concert. The men from both dining halls crammed into one… and they all joined in the choruses – ‘The little Grey Home’, ‘The Sunshine of Your Smile’, ‘Ragtime Cowboy Joe’ etc.

The pianist was splendid, played anything in any key; the voices were somewhat husky, the result of a huge dinner and a very smoky atmosphere. They had been given churchwarden pipes, too, by the Ulster women and the scene was most picturesque – all these men standing and sitting under the elaborate wreaths of different coloured paper and evergreens, all singing lustily.

Now I am sitting in the pay-box, having a slack time, as most of the men are down dancing in the lower Hut. All those under 5 ft. 6 ins. are decorated with ribbons, which shows that they are ladies…”

For these men, Kit’s old school (after the OPS of course!), St Leonard’s, provided Christmas presents:

…The men came up to the platform, each in turn, and dipped into a huge bran-pie for a present… 1,465 presents were given away and still some did not get any. They were awfully pleased with the things they got: wallets, handkerchiefs, socks, pocket-books, knives, pipes, purses, cigarette cases, cases for matchboxes etc etc. The School and Seniors gave the money, about £68, and Miss Grant chose and sent all the presents.”

 

 

January 11th 1915

Old Dragons are also involved in fighting the war in other parts of the world. Geoffrey Carpenter (Capt. Uganda Medical Service) is in charge of a field ambulance in British East Africa and has written to tell us of the Battle of Tanga, which took place in early November.

“You will have seen in the papers that there had been some stiff fighting in BEA, mostly on the coast, where an attack on a fortified town (where our men had been told there would be no opposition) was repulsed with considerable slaughter. The Germans had a very large number of maxims, in trees, or firing through holes cut in enormous tree trunks, each one covered by another behind, and with all the ranges carefully marked off. They had also enlisted the services of large numbers of bees – ferociously stinging – which set upon our men and of course considerably aided the rout. Indeed one or two men died of bee stings…B.E.A

We do not have enough troops to do more than maintain a defensive position and have made our line of defence along the north bank of the river Kagera, which flows into the lake at about the middle of its west coast… As it is impassable in most places, owing to dense belts of papyrus along its banks, it makes a most excellent line of defence. The actual political frontier is some miles to the north of the river, so that we hold a strip of territory really part of GEA. I think I may claim to be (at least one of) the first Old Dragons to invade German territory.

I am now (with one other white man) in a fort which we have taken over from the Germans, who retired when we advanced. They had simply erected four walls enclosing a square space. Since we have been here (2½ months) we have taken it in hand and have made no end of a place of it – bomb-proof houses to live in, underground magazine, underground passage leading to an outlying maxim pit, and other dodges so that it seems a very strong place now.

We are about four miles north of the river on a hill top, overlooking a flat plain, with other hills to the east and west. Curiously enough the other white man, who is in charge of the fort and of a section of the line of defence, is Captain Bertram Garratt of the Indian Army, Old Dragon and who was a little senior to me. We both hope the squareheads will attack so that we can have some fun.”

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, we gather Frank Sidgwick is finding training difficult – particularly on the Parade Ground.

“Form Fours”

A Volunteer’s Nightmare.

If you’re a Volunteer Artist or Athlete, or if you defend the Home,

You sacrifice “Ease” for “Attention,” and march like a metronome;

But of all elementary movements you learn in your Volunteer Corps

The one that is really perplexing is known as the Forming of Fours.

 

Imagine us numbered off from the right: the Sergeant faces the squad,

And says that only the odd files move – I always seem to be odd!

And then his instructions run like this (very simple in black and white) –

“A pace to the rear with the left foot, and one to the right with the right.”

 

Of course if you don’t think deeply, you do it without a hitch;

You have only to know your right and left, and remember which is which;

But as soon as you try to be careful, you get in the deuce of a plight,

With “a pace to the right with your left foot, and one to the rear with the right!”

 

Besides, when you’re thoroughly muddled the Sergeant doubles your doubts

By saying that rules reverse themselves as soon as you’re “turned about;”

So round you go on your right heel, and practise until you are deft

At “a pace to the front with the right foot, and one to the left with the left.”

 

In my dreams the Sergeant, the Kaiser, and Kipling mix my feet,

Saying “East is left, and Right is Might, and never the twain shall meet!”

In my nightmare squad all files are odd, and their Fours are horribly queer,

With “a pace to the left with the front foot, and one to the right with the rear!”

 

No.5 Balham A.V.F., A Company. Platoon 1 = F.Sidgwick.