January 9th 1920

Jack Haldane, having been Junior Librarian of the Union on return from the War, is now to be an Oxford Don – strangely, to lecture for Science Schools, which he himself has never taken!

The University magazine, ‘Isis,’ has recently featured Jack as their ‘Idol’ for the week, and his time at the OPS is mentioned:

“Like many other little boys, he went to a preparatory school, in his case to Mr Lynam’s in Oxford, whence he proceeded to Eton with a scholarship. Whilst still a ‘Dragon,’ the Gods, Frankenstein-like, became frightened of the monster they had created, for they tried to translate him to other spheres of action, by causing him to undergo a compound fracture of the base of the skull. In direct contradiction of all the ordinary laws, our Idol survived, a magnificent example of the Darwinian theory, which he used to discuss with his nurse – the survival of the fittest…”

Also recalled are some of Jack’s wartime experiences (which he claims to have enjoyed):

“At the beginning of the War our Idol received a commission in the 3rd Battalion of the Black Watch, served in France and in Mesopotamia with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of that Regiment, and was twice wounded. Whilst he was in France, he was one of the first persons on whom they experimented with Chlorine Gas in the funny crude old gas-mask devices, a piece of unshowy and cold-blooded gallantry which commands everyone’s admiration.”

There is one story that particularly raises an eyebrow…

“In Simla, one night, at the Club, he is reported to have mixed (internally) every cocktail in the place, and to have run all the way home at a perfectly incredible speed; during that run he is supposed to have experienced and understood for the first and only time what the Fourth Dimension really is.”

The article ends with a fitting tribute:

“There are some who considered our pre-war Haldane to have been a little farouche; whether that be so or not, our present Idol is a wonderfully kind and tolerant friend to many. We have hope we have said enough to make it quite clear that he is a great, great man, in whom there is not once trace of intellectual snobbery which characterises so many of the little great men.

Should our readers wish to know anything further about him, to conclude let us say that he takes a hat size seven and five-eighths, and has had mumps three times.”

 

 

November 13th 1919

DINNER FOR OXFORD OLD DRAGONS

November 8th 1919

A delightful evening was spent at the School House, when Oxford ODs came to dinner. We were even invaded by two naval stalwarts from Cambridge, and by one representative of the Army of Occupation.

Amongst those present were: CA Pittar, O Sturt, ALF Smith, JBS Haldane, SBL Jacks, CP Duff, WT Collier, NS Norway, ML Jacks, PJ Campbell, V Alford.

* * * * * *

After abeyance during the War, the mid-term holiday has been revived; and Admiral Tyrwhitt’s whole holiday, in celebration of the surrender of the German Fleet, was added to it.

Hum Lynam has provided the following account:

“Boarders who went home, or to stay with friends or other boys, left on Friday 7th November and returned on the evening of Monday Nov. 10th, in time for fireworks.

This revival seemed generally popular with boys and parents, though there were one or two protests. The increased cost of travelling, and some increase in the possibilities of incurring infection, as well as the considerable trouble of getting so many boys away and back again, incline us to the view that a trip to the country would be the better way for most, while some would have parents down to see them.

Those who did not go away had a trip by charabanc on the Saturday, and after a walk by the river at Henley, we ate our lunch in the headquarters of the Ancient Order of Oddfellows, amid strange appurtenances, which were put to stranger use. Then up the steep side of the Chilterns to Peppard Common, where we were royally entertained by Mr & Dr Carling at the Sanatorium. We just caught the last of the glories of autumn colouring, which seemed to surpass themselves this year, and are surely nowhere more striking than among those Berkshire beeches.

We got back to Oxford in time for ‘progressive games’ organised by Miss Field.

A bicycle and caravan expedition on the Sunday was marred by rain.”

 

October 15th 1917

2nd Lieut. Walter Moberly (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry), has felt moved to contribute a piece in memory of Hugh Sidgwick, his contemporary at the OPS:

2nd Lt. W Moberly

“When my generation entered VIa in September 1894, we found him, though a year younger than the rest of us, already there, the only survivor of the previous year, amongst whom he had been the first…

With Hum (Lynam) to teach us and Sidgwick to set us a standard we had a most stimulating time; and I remember nothing to compare with it until I reached Senior Sixth Book at Winchester under Dr. Fearon…

I have never known any other case of a boy being so completely on a pinnacle by himself, though I have been told that ten years later Jack Haldane approached something of the same position…

In those days, Mr Lang of Magdalen, now Archbishop of York, used to teach us Divinity. I remember his describing to us one day the characteristics of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees respectively, and his asking us each in turn which we thought we should have been. Sidgwick, who was of course at the top, led off with proclaiming himself a Sadducee. The future Archbishop told him he had judged rightly, and so he certainly had…”

Walter further recalls Hugh speaking at an Old Dragon Dinner:

“He (Hugh) went on to ask what the distinctive character of the School and its training is. He found it in the Skipper’s refusal to force his boys into one or other of two or three conventional moulds, in his positive encouragement of originality, in the opportunity given to boys to discover their own peculiar interests and gifts; so that, if you were to collect a number of Old Boys in after-life and to ask what was the common stamp that the School had set on them, you would be able to point to no single machine-made quality, but you might observe that every one was very much himself.”

I have never believed that our boys are clay to be shaped as potters will, all much in the same way, and our way. To have tried to mould a Hugh Sidgwick was unthinkable. What if the chisel had slipped, what irretrievable damage might have been done?

Finally, few concerned with the School would disagree with Walter’s conclusion:

“If I were asked to illustrate the contribution of the OPS to English life, and now to England’s sacrifice, I should be content to couple his name to that of Ronald Poulton and let the OPS be judged by them.”

Capt. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA)

 

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.

January 5th 1917

Not all our correspondents focus entirely on the War. Some, such as Lieut. Alan Jenks (RE), like to recall their schooldays  –  and playground warfare:

jenks-arc24.12.16 “I remember Martin Collier quite distinctly, also Jack Haldane. When engaged in tactical skirmishes with the latter, my motto used to be ‘he who fights and runs away will live,’ a motto which I have faithfully pursued (so far) through life. If I am caught, it will be through not running away fast enough…”

(I think Leslie Grundy with his water-pistol was equally guilty of getting the vast but clumsy Jack into such a state that he uprooted a sapling to attack his tormentor with wild swipes of trunk and root.)

“As for France and Flanders, which is where I am (Censor Volens, or words to that effect) – well, one’s chief impression is mud and water. I learnt at Lynam’s or elsewhere that water flowed downhill. France is the exception. No well-behaved water does it here. It just stays.

As for work, generally one digs a trench or ditch in peace-time in order to drain a field. Here one has to try to drain the trench into the field. That is what sappers are endeavouring to do here. Action and reaction being equal and opposite, result nil. The only feasible method is to use language so warm that the water boils and so evaporates. This is only a temporary expedient however.

Very best wishes for the School and Staff.” 

September 14th 1916

Yesterday Oxford was honoured by a visit from His Majesty the King.

Having driven up from Windsor, the King proceeded to the Parks where he inspected a battalion of Cadets.  Captain Jack Haldane (Black Watch) also got in on the act, as he was at the time giving bombing instruction there. (Such is his fascination with bombs that in certain military circles he is known as ‘Bombo.’)

After departing the Parks, the King went on to the High St. to visit the 3rd Southern General Hospital and the RFC School of Instruction.

* * * * * * *

With Port Meadow becoming a military aerodrome for the training of pilots, maybe we can look forward to seeing some more of our Old Dragon aviators in the future.

Lieut. Geoff Buck (London Regiment and now RFC), who wired us back in July to say that he had returned home to train as a RFC pilot, has been keeping a record of his training (at Retford):

Buck, Geoff2/8/16. “We fly from 5-8 a.m., work in workshops and fly if possible 9.00 a.m – 12.30 p.m., and fly from 5.00 p.m. to dark. They give us three to four hours’ dual, and then we do about eight hours’ solo (including one cross-country). , and then (i.e after about a month, it depends on weather and machine) we go off to another station for higher instruction. Personally I have only had one flight of 35 minutes in a B.E. – but all in good time. Altogether it’s topping fun, but there is a lot of waiting about.”

5/8/16. “This is absolutely the life. I have done one hour’s dual control and can fly the bus by myself, but have never been up alone yet; they won’t send us up alone till we have done three hours dual. I simply love it! Better than skating, rugger, or even ski-ing. I want to be in the air the whole day long, but of course we have to do a lot of technical work too. Engines, motors, signalling, construction, theory, photography – and all is most interesting.”

16/8/16. “I did my first solo tonight in rather bad weather, made a perfect landing, and went to 700 ft. It was too perfect for words.”

On August 23rd Geoff moved to Narborough for further instruction.

23/8/16. I took my ticket thumbs up on the 19th. I flew to Norwich on Sunday, stopped the night, and flew back on Monday. Two machines crashed under me as I was starting to land (it was awfully windy and bumpy), and one pilot was killed, but I landed perfectly. Some game.”

We look forward to hearing more of Geoff’s exploits.

March 29th 1916

Lieut. Jack Haldane (Black Watch) has recovered from the wounds he suffered last May and since August has been training soldiers in the use of hand and rifle grenades. It is not surprising to learn that some of his methods have been, shall we say, unorthodox.

JBS Haldane“Among the things which we occasionally did as demonstrations was to catch lighted bombs and throw them back, or more accurately, sideways, out of the trench.

I had a one-eyed and rarely quite sober corporal who used to do this, but I sometimes did it myself. I admit that we used to lengthen the time fuse beforehand. Provided you are a good judge of time, it is no more dangerous than crossing the road among motor traffic, but it is more impressive to onlookers.

Some idiot asked questions about it in Parliament and got an army order issued forbidding the practice.”

* * * * * * *

In the next edition of the Draconian we will be publishing this poem, which Jack has kindly sent us for publication:

An Intense Bombardment.
The earth is burning; through her smoke there looms
The wreckage of the immemorial years;
The fruit of all that labour, all those tears
Now in an hour collapses and consumes.
Those monstrous masses of black oily fumes
Are so much vaster than the men, whose cheers
In this apocalyptic din none hears,
They seem like angels who fulfil God's dooms.
The breastwork there, that with its long brown wave
Threatened the cities that we die to save
Boils as a cauldron, its defenders hurled
To darkness and confusion and the grave,
And overhead great black clouds densely curled
Hide from the sea the anguish of the world.
                               "Safety-catch."

 Jack was nick-named “Safety-catch” by his men, as he was always saying “Remember your safety-catch” when with the Black Watch in the trenches last year.