March 23rd 1920

Poems for the Easter Term edition of the ‘Draconian’ have now been selected. Two boys have the distinction of having two poems selected – George Harwood and John Betjemann.

Both of them wrote on the subject of ‘Dawn’. First, here is George Harwood’s poem:

DAWN

Now rejoice, all ye men, for the earth is untwined
   From the talons of night, dank and dread,
Aurora and Zephyr, the gentle Sun-wind,
   Are warming the East with soft red.

The dewdrops appear, brilliant gems on the ground;
   Or, encircling the Hyacinth fair,
They rest on the herbage, and all things around
   Are bright in the fresh morning air.

Quiet through the undergrowth hid from our sight
   Hurries cottontail cheerful and gay,
And in the blue heavens with heart pure and white
   Chants the skylark, blithe herald of day.

                              G. Harwood (age 11)

John Betjemann’s poem is in a different style:

DAWN

Ever ting-a-linging my bedroom clock is ringing,
     Ringing, ringing,
As the sun breaks in the east;
     And, stretching with a yawn,
     I curse the lovely dawn,
And wait in moody silence till the bedroom clock has ceased.

I've read the poet's rhymes about early morning chimes
     At awful times;
And the sun through window panes;
     The little birds twitting
     And the big ones flitting.
But poets never write about the dawning when it rains.
                       
                              J. Betjemann (age 13)

Poems were also submitted on the themes of ‘Babies’ and ‘Pets’. We had an “Ode to a Cat’, ‘A Baby Bunny’ and this, in the style of a nursery rhyme, from Betjemann:

ODE TO A PUPPY
(By His Mistress)

Oh! puppy dear, I sadly fear
   Your waistcoat's at the wash,
Your cutlet, too, is soaked right through
   With all your lemon squash.

'Now who did this?' Give me a kiss,
   Don't sulk, dear, or look haughty;
I know my pet will not forget
   To say that he was naughty.
Your little nose that sniffs and blows!
   Your little mouth that yawns!
That pretty howl! and Daddy's scowl
   When you tread on his corns!

Those dinky legs like little pegs
   That spoil the drawing-room floors!
That dainty mat whereon you pat
   Your ducky muddy paws!

Now with this praise my pet will gaze
   With truth in both his eyes,
And mummy's mind is always kind
   In case her doggy dies

                         J. Betjemann (age 13)

 

 

 

January 28th 1920

The Easter Term has got off to its usual start – with our annual Shakespeare production, this time of ‘Henry V.’ We put on three performances: one on Friday evening for 330 boys, girls and teachers from various local elementary and secondary schools, and two on Saturday for OPS parents and friends.

We were delighted to welcome back Jack Gamlen, late of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry,  to his old job of writing a review. It may be remembered that back in 1917, when he was unable to attend our production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ he sent a most witty poem to the cast.

Whilst the ‘Oxford Times’ was impressed (The whole performance was of a very high standard), Jack was far harder to please:

“Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed the play very much indeed, and that it was a rich reward for the actors themselves for hours of honest work. This reward to the actors is far more important than anything that concerns the audience, but, even so, my recollection of twenty earlier school plays forbids me to put this latest one among the very best.

There was never a Class III at the OPS, and if this ‘Henry V’ comes into Class II it is only because there was, by chance, not quite enough first-rate material to lift it higher. I judge by a fearfully high standard: how can I do otherwise?”

Jack was critical of a number of performances, including that of John Betjemann, whom the Oxford Times described as “the cleverest actor of all… he played the mad old King of France in such a way that, instead of being completely minor, it became one of the most impressive parts in the whole play. There was remarkable genius in this performance.” John played two minor roles, the other being that of the Duke of Cambridge.

Jack’s assessment of this role was more critical:

“Betjemann was the best of the conspirators… but he over-acted… I am sorry to find fault, because Betjemann showed a good deal of promise which will come out, another time, if he allows himself to be natural.”  

The truth about young Betjemann is, Jack should understand, to him, being “natural” is to over-act!

 

December 22nd 1919

Notes for the Term

With the term now over, the next edition of the ‘Draconian’ magazine is being prepared.  Under this heading are included a number of points of interest that have emerged during the term:

I have received from West Coker Rectory a number of essays written by the children attending the Church School. They show that essay writing is carefully taught; and though in originality of treatment and in expression they naturally fall short of our boys and girls of the same age, I must say that, in writing and spelling, on the average they beat us. I am much pleased to see how good they are.

* * * * * *

The competitors for Mr. Fitch’s Speech Prize were A Carling, P Mallalieu, Betjemann, Chadwick, B Burton. Carling received 10 votes and Mallalieu and Betjemann 2 each.

* * * * * *

The boys subscribed £20 to help the Barnado Home and £5 for the crippled children’s ward at the Headington Orthopaedic Hospital.

* * * * * *

Garner (Lynam)’s valuable 15 inch brass cartridge case from the Hohenzollern Redoubt has been hung up as a school gong. It awaits an inscription.

* * * * * *

During the past term, Dr FG Hobson, working under Professor G Dreyer of the Department of Pathology, has made observations upon a number of boys in the school. These observations have consisted of measurement of standing height, sitting height and chest circumference, and in addition the weight and lung capacity of each boy has been taken.

The observations were taken at the beginning and end of term and it is hoped to follow the same boys through succeeding terms.

The work is being done under the auspices of the Medical Research Committee and forms part of a general investigation, which is now proceeding, upon the questions of Standards of Physique and Physical Fitness. When sufficiently extensive observations have been made, a report will be sent in giving the results of the enquiry as far as it may be of interest and value to the school.

* * * * * *

As Hum (Lynam) reports below, we have had a reasonably healthy term, and have taken measures to combat any influenza:

“Acting on the advice of the local doctors, we had all but half a dozen of the boarders inoculated (by two injections at an interval of a week) against Influenza. There was no case of indisposition resulting from the inoculation, and we hope it may be as successful here as at a friendly rival establishment where, they assure us, they have never had a cold since it was done, eight months ago.

During the last three weeks of term we had a few cases of ‘impetigo contagiosa’ – better known as scrum-pox; and also of chicken pox. The latter seems hardly worthy of the name of disease, and is usually much less serious than a severe cold.”

* * * * * *

Next term starts on Tuesday 20th January 1920.

December 19th 1918

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE

Due to disruptions caused by the ‘flu’, the play this term, which was Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance,’ had to be delayed until the very last day of term.

Our reviewer was most generous in his remarks:

“Beginning with diffidence, they gathered confidence as they progressed and ended with ‘brio’ on a note of almost boisterous hilarity.”

A number were singled out for their performances, including Ruth (J. Betjemann):

“A pleasing buxom wench was Ruth, who scored a great success in the part of ‘Maid of all work.’ Always perfectly self-possessed, she enunciated her lines with a clearness which even in that company was remarkable.”

* * * * * *

The holidays ahead – the first ones in which we can all enjoy peacetime pleasures since the summer of 1914 – we hope will be healthy ones too.

As Hum Lynam, writing in ‘House Notes’ for the ‘Draconian’ points out, we have been very lucky this term:

“The Armistice Term was also the ‘Flu’ Term and will be remembered as the first occasion on which the boarders have been sent home during term time. It was a preventative measure, which was fully justified by results, and we were heartily thankful that we were spared the anxieties and prolonged interruption of work, which were the lot of many schools. Except for a few mild cases of ‘flu’ just before we dispersed, we have been entirely free from illness.”

May 5th 1917

The battle at Arras continues unabated. Indeed, a couple of nights ago (around 1 a.m) many in Oxford were awoken by the sounds of the artillery bombardment – or so it was believed to be. I did not hear it myself.

* * * * * * *

We now have more encouraging news of William Leefe Robinson. His sister has been told that a captured German airman has revealed that William is alive and is now a prisoner of war.

We still do not know the fate of Peter Warren, who has been missing since April 2nd.

The casualties suffered by our airman last month must be a matter of great concern to our leaders. The Daily Telegraph of April 27th reported a significant increase in our losses (killed, wounded and missing):  January – 56, February – 119, March – 152, April –  319.

Of the twenty or so Old Dragons serving with the RFC, William and Peter are the first to have been declared “missing” and the news of William renews our hope that Peter is also a prisoner.

* * * * * * *

It is good to have the boys back and on the very first day of term our cricket team enjoyed a match against a team of young Old Dragons who are still on holiday. We scored a creditable 63 to the ODs’ 93.

The new boys are settling in well, although there have been some tears. Indeed, I found young Betjemann crying outside the Lodge. We walked up and down the road whilst I tried to comfort him.  He does know Ralph Adams from their holidays in Cornwall, so we have put them both in Form II. Let’s hope Ralph can help buck him up.

My brother Hum got to know the Betjemanns on holiday in Trebetherick a few years ago, and hearing that John was not having a good time of it at Highgate School (where his German-sounding name led to some unpleasantness), suggested he came to board here at the OPS.

 

May 2nd 1917

Summer Term 1917

Today we open the gates to a new term and we welcome 18 new boys into the school: G Naish (aged 12.9), E Webb (11.1), D Seebohm (10.3), G Page (11.10), C de Bunsen (11.6), T Anson (13.3), J Betjemann (10.8), M Garrett (7.11), C Neep (9.0), C John (8.10), W Haselfoot (9.0), Joan Gibson (9.4), B Gibson (8.1), Marguerite Leplae (9.7), M Edginton (9.2), A Onions (9.1), Joan Stenning (8.8), B Thomas (9.8).

A special mention should also be made of young Stephen Field, who joined us midway through last term. He is the son of the late Captain Stephen Field, who died so heroically whilst tending his fellow prisoners at the Wittenberg Camp.

Stephen has received a War Exhibition at Wellington College and has passed the necessary examination. He is only ten years old and will, I hope, be with us for two or three years before going to Wellington.