March 18th 1919

Commander John Bywater-Ward (RN)

Yesterday’s edition of the Times brought news of the death of Jack Bywater-Ward, at his home at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, on March 14th.

During the War he served in the North Sea, where he contracted consumption. Continued ill health forced him into retirement last July.

Jack trained for the navy on HMS Britannia, becoming a Midshipman in 1898, aged 16. He subsequently served on HMS Canopus (1907-9) and was on the staff of HMS Excellent (Portsmouth Gunnery School) as Senior Staff Lieut.  From 1912-17 he served on HMS Ajax, and was awarded the Russian Order of St. Anne, 3rd class, “with swords” for distinguished service during the Battle of Jutland.

HMS Ajax’s forward guns.

In 1917 he was back at HMS Excellent as a Commander, instructing on the Long Gunnery Course Gunnery on Whale Island, Portsmouth, where he was also credited with four inventions that were accepted by the Admiralty.

Jack’s father died in 1898, but he is survived by his mother (who lives here in Oxford), his wife and eight-year-old daughter.

He will be buried on the Isle, at St Helen’s Churchyard, St Helens.

March 12th 1919

Sub-Lieut. Percy Trevelyan (RN)

It is now four months since the Armistice was signed and we assumed that those who had served their country so faithfully were to be spared. However, the influenza and associated illnesses are proving just as deadly.

Percy Trevelyan, who had been assigned to HMS Sable in December, died of bronchial pneumonia at his home on Marston Ferry Road in Oxford on March 10th, aged just 19.

He only spent a year at the OPS (1909-10), being ordered by his doctor to go to a school with a different climate, but we all grew very fond of him and his bright, happy disposition during the short time he was with us.

He entered the Navy by way of the Royal Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth.

At Jutland, Percy (then a 16 year old midshipman) was in the thick of the fighting, being on the battleship HMS Malaya, which sustained more casualties than any other battleship that day.

He then served in the Dover Patrol for about nine months on the patrol boat HMS P 50, when it was commanded by another Old Dragon, Lieut. Desmond Stride (RN).

Percy lost his mother in 1903 and his older brother Wilfred, who served with the Rifle Brigade, died at Ypres in May 1915 after barely a month at the Front.

His body is to be interred in the family plot alongside his mother at Wolvercote Cemetery.

 

December 21st 1916

queens-hallOn Tuesday 12th December, a concert was given by the Bach Choir in Queen’s Hall (the home of Sir Henry Wood’s Promenade concerts since 1895).  It was described in the newspaper as being “of very considerable and exceptional interest.”

The Daily Telegraph continued by saying that the novelty of the evening was “Sir Hubert Parry’s setting for five part chorus and orchestra of the Poet Laureate’s fine naval ode, The Chivalry of the Sea.’   

parry

Sir Hubert Parry

A work of no soaring ambition this; yet one characteristic of its composer in its dignity and the suggestion of depth underlying its reticent emotional appeal. There are contrasts in the musical mood in keeping with those embodied in the text, and from the sombre opening phrases, illustrating the line, ‘Over the warring waters, beneath the wandering skies,’ to the last, the spirit of the ode, dedicated to the memory of a young lieutenant of the RNVR, is faithfully reflected.”

The young lieutenant referred to, I am proud to say, is our own Charles Fisher, who went down on HMS Invincible at the Battle of Jutland, aged 38. (His brother is Dr HAL Fisher).

Robert Bridges begins his ode with the words, ‘Dedicated to the memory of Charles Fisher, late student of Christ Church, Oxford.’

 

 

 

 

August 16th 1916

CDF at sea croppedYou may have seen the Poet Laureate, Mr Robert Bridges has published a piece entitled ‘The Chivalry of the Sea‘ and the more observant amongst you may have noticed that this is dedicated to our own Charles Fisher, who went down with HMS Invincible at Jutland.

The well-known composer, Sir Hubert Parry, is setting the piece to music.

A friend of Charles Fisher’s, Mr George Lyttelton, has written a capital piece in Charles’ memory. Apparently Charles told him that all he wished to do after the war was to go to bed for five years, only getting up for meals – before adding that this was not to be considered incompatible with an earlier wish to end his days in a Worcestershire vicarage, having helped to settle the date of Deuteronomy.

How I do miss Charles.

June 13th 1916

We have certainly had a very high opinion of our naval supremacy over recent years and some may be wondering why it was that the German High Seas Fleet was not obliterated at Jutland in the true Nelsonic style of the past. Commander Geoffrey Freyberg (HMS Valiant) suggests that maybe we have under-estimated the abilities of our enemy:

9/6/16. “Their shooting was marvellously accurate at the long ranges and their rapid fire astounding both by day and night. People at home talk of the High Canal Fleet covered with barnacles. My aunt! I should have liked to have had a few armchair critics by the side of the Captain and myself in the conning-tower that afternoon in May. They are foes worthy of our steel, but Von Sheer made one grave error.

Instead of breaking off the action when he had sunk the ‘Indefatigable,’  ‘Queen Mary’ and two new destroyers, he evidently thought he was going to smash the whole of Beatty’s Squadron and became intoxicated with success. He even finished off the ‘Defence’, ‘Black Prince’,  ‘Warrior’ and ‘Invincible’… only to find himself a few minutes later fairly landed in the arms of the great Sir John and the Grand Fleet, who gave him simple hell till 7.30, when the Huns turned and fled.”

It has been most interesting hearing Geoffrey’s account of the battle and no doubt it was of great service to the official account as submitted by the Captain of the ship.

History will decide the importance of the events of these past days. For us, whilst we mourn the loss of Charles Fisher, we are relieved that amongst the long list of those killed and wounded, there are no other Dragon names.

June 11th 1916

Commander Geoffrey Freyberg (HMS Valiant) continues his account of the battle, revealing how he has been able to recall the events so well:

7/6/16. “It is just a week today since our little picnic at the Little Fisher Bank took place, and there has been a tremendous amount of work since. We, so the Captain tells me, were almost the only ship to keep any real record of the show at the time, as I dictated notes throughout to a Midshipman with a note-book squatting down at my feet…

There were some weird happenings: we picked up a W.T. signal from one of our destroyers from the Sub-Lieut., worded as follows:- ‘My Captain is dying, the 1st Lieut., Surgeon and gunners are all dead, my bridge has been shot away so I do not know my position as I am isolated. Request instructions.’

That boy got his ship back safely as I saw her here two days later, and if any boy deserves a D.S.C., he does.”

I think this must be HMS Onslaught, about which we read in the Daily Telegraph on June 7th.

June 10th 1916

Commander Geoffrey Freyberg (HMS Valiant) continues in his correspondence to fill in further detail of the events of the battle off Jutland, including a story of British pluck in an unlikely quarter:

6/6/16. “The Admiral addressed us on deck this morning and said this ship was worthy of her name throughout the long day of May 31st

One can only liken it all to some of the pictures of Hell by Gustav Doré. No artist could ever reproduce the scene on canvas, and no pen except that of a master of prose could help people to realise what it was like. I was not afraid (nobody was), but at the same time I confess quite candidly I did not enjoy all these little night picnics off the Danish coast…

The Germans claim today that at 7.30 p.m. they made (it was launched to cover their retreat) a successful destroyer attack (in daylight of course). Well, I saw it – eight huge modern boats – and a fiasco it was. We hit and stopped two; some other ship knocked out a third; two more were cut off by our light cruisers and presumably sunk; the remaining three bolted. Successful? I don’t think.

Our living crest, a very fine cock, was walking round our decks throughout the action quite unconcerned, and he went to inspect his nest towards the end of the party only to find it blown to blazes, and to get his tail feathers blown off at the same time by the discharge of our own guns. But he is quite happy now and very much alive.”