November 22nd 1917

Earlier this month we entertained about 100 wounded soldiers to a performance of  “HMS Pinafore” and judging from their remarks it gave them real pleasure. At the request of Sister Wilkinson we put on a special performance at Somerville College for those who were unable to attend.

We are delighted to have received these kind words of appreciation:

“The crew of the saucy ship dropped anchor at Somerville Hospital on Thursday evening, Nov. 15th, 1917, at 5pm. It was with feelings of curious anticipation that we wended our way to listen to the delightful strains of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Pinafore.’

The performance was an undoubted success, the audience was in the happiest of moods and many of the numbers were received with well merited applause. The juvenile buoyancy of the crew together with the nautical stage settings were worthy of the very best ‘official’ recognition. The boys worked in true Jack Tar spirit, combined with a breezy cheerfulness, and all contributed in full measure to the evening’s enjoyment…

The performance was greatly appreciated and did quite a lot to brighten and cheer the wounded who are back in Oxford from the great adventure overseas.”

June 28th 1916

A report on the Summer Term at the OPS is long overdue.

A mumps scare put us into quarantine for the first month, but since then all has been well and we have been able to play cricket matches against other schools. The weather was lovely at the beginning, even if it is execrable at present. Some people call cold and rain healthy. It may be so, but it is not pleasant.

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We have had two grand whole holidays. About 50 boys and girls went in a char-à-banc to Stokenchurch Woods on May 18th – V.C. Day, marking Jack Smyth‘s deeds of valour – and a more delightful day could not have been spent. Others went to Frilford and enjoyed golf with Mr Vassall.

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I discovered that the school car could be put to a better use and as a result the Ford was sent to Rochdale at the beginning of June and a ‘Scott’ Ambulance body was built on the Ford chassis.

Since then it has been in constant use in taking wounded soldiers to and from the station and various hospitals, and in taking the men for country drives. It accommodates two stretcher cases very comfortably and often has carried six or seven sitting patients.  These patients were refreshed on their short journeys by bunches of grapes, kindly provided by money raised by the boys and their families.

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We invited over a hundred wounded soldiers to attend our production of ‘The Gondoliers.’ They came limping in, some on sticks, some on crutches. Some in chairs and some on stretchers, but one and all meant to have a good time, and the Dragons in charge saw to it that they had it. What the doctors said the next day about the effects of too many cigarettes and too many other good things does not concern us here.

One thing that confused the soldiers was the fact that the female parts were also being played by boys. In short, nothing would persuade Tommy that black was white, and when he saw 3 or 4 girls, and very pretty ones too, girls they were – and he did not believe for one moment they were boys.

The actors themselves got a little mixed sometimes, and once one of them earnestly assured us that he would make a “dutiful husband, I mean wife.”

This made Tommy think a little, and one of the staff had the great idea of getting the ‘boy-girls’ amongst the wounded, and parting the golden and raven locks to show the unbelievers the unmistakable hairy heads of Dragons beneath.

On the way from the green room, one of the damsels tripped, and what he (she) said, made one soldier remark, “Well, that one’s a boy anyhow!”

November 16th 1915

Mikado 10.1915

The school’s  recent performances of Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’, could not go by without noting the pain we still feel at the loss of the two members of staff who have died in the War, Leslie Eastwood and Tom Higginson. Higgy it was who first brought G & S to the OPS stage.

How appropriate that we were joined in the audience by a number of wounded soldiers, who were most appreciative. As one of our reviewers said,

“How can one care to do anything so much as for these dear men who have gone out, simply, with a sort of bright eagerness and cheeriness, to lay down their lives and who, having nearly lost them, having seen death and hell and having suffered every torment and hardness, return with the same brightness and cheeriness in this dark world of loss and anxiety?”

The Friday audiences were cheered by many young soldiers, all longing to be out of the OTC and at the Front, and the mother of the School’s own VC, just home from seeing him in Egypt, and by some Dragons home from the Front in France, Russia and the Dardanelles.

2nd Lieut. Jack Gamlen (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry) attended the one of these performances.

“It was delightful to find this performance awaiting one as a treat after a cold and wet October in camp. We, too, when under canvas, had tried to warm ourselves by singing songs from the G & S operas.

Our greatest success was to rouse our Colonel in his pyjamas at 11 pm, by beating the big drum as an accompaniment to the Duke of Plaza-Toro’s  first song, and to be sent to bed. There were five of us, including a College Dean, two solicitors and a real wounded warrior from the Indian Army…”

When Jack came down from Balliol (to which he had won an exhibition from Rugby School) he trained as a solicitor and was practising here in Oxford in the firm of Morrell, Peel & Gamlen, when the war broke out. Much of his military training has been done locally and he likely to be sent to the Front before long.