April 10th 1918

Lieut.-Col. Alan Haig-Brown DSO (Middlesex)

Many families have been more than a little concerned for their young men following the German offensive that started in March 21st. News of their fate has been slow in coming through. Mrs. Haig-Brown had not heard from her husband for two weeks and contacted the War Office for news on April 4th. That same day she received a telegram informing her that Alan had been killed during the retreat, on March 25th.

Alan taught at Lancing College before the war and played a key role in the development of the OTC; he aided in the training of numerous battalions before going out to become the Commanding Officer of the 23rd Service Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment – known as the 2nd Football Battalion.

Alan was well known both for his writing and footballing skills.

The Assistant Chaplain-General has written to say, “From what I hear, he gave his life in seeing that others got clean away, and died, as he had lived, for the men he commanded.”

This notice appeared in yesterday’s ‘Daily Telegraph’:

I have fond memories of Alan as a boy. His love of animals showed itself at a very early age; he was the originator of ‘pets’ at the School, and a goat which trotted about with him was the forerunner of many and various kinds of two, four and even no-legged successors: ducks, hens, kittens, snakes, tortoises, rats, mice, parrots, macaws, cardinals, cut-throats, budgerigars et hoc genus omne, may all claim to owe their appearance among us to Alan.

Some of us may remember his introduction of a huge snake into the drawing-room of 28 Norham Road, and the ensuing hysterics of a parent.

 

 

December 30th 1917

Capt. GK Rose – Capt. WH Moberly – Capt. CSW Marcon

Three Old Dragons of the 2/4th Ox & Bucks have kindly sent their picture, just in time to be included in the December edition of our magazine.

Capt. Geoffrey Rose tells us that the 2/4th Ox & Bucks near Arras were involved in a raid to draw the attention of the Germans away from Cambrai, just before the attack was launched there on November 20th. Capt. Walter Moberly and his company were chosen to carry out this diversionary attack, which was made on November 19th.

The attack was preceded by a gas attack using a mixture of lethal and non-lethal gas, which were “intermingled both by the Germans and ourselves with high explosive shells; the effect of each assisted the effect of the other. If one began to sneeze from the effect of non-lethal gas, one could not wear a gas helmet to resist the lethal; the high explosive shells disguised both types…

It was planned to fire lethal gas against the enemy for several nights. On the night of the raid and during it, non-lethal only would be used. The two gases smelt alike and the presumption was that on the night of the raid the enemy would wear gas-helmets…

B Company, though they missed the gap through the enemy’s wire, entered the trenches without opposition and captured a machine-gun which was pointing directly at their approach but never fired…

As often, there was difficulty in finding the way back to our lines; in fact, Moberly… after some wandering in No-Man’s-Land, entered the trenches of a Scotch division upon our right. His appearance and comparative inability to speak their language made him a suspicious visitor to our kilted neighbours. Moberly rejoined his countrymen under escort.”

Much has been written of the great attack made at Cambrai on November 20th, involving over 400 tanks.

Drawing by Geoffrey Rose

 

July 18th 1917

KCB FOR CAPTAIN TYRWHITT

Capt. Reginald Tyrwhitt, CB, DSO, RN (Commodore, First Class).

The Times today has the joyous news of the award of a Dragon KCB:

“Captain Tyrwhitt has been concerned in some of the most brilliant naval exploits of the war, and the honour conferred on him by the King is well deserved. He commanded the destroyer flotillas in the famous action with a German squadron in Heligoland Bight on August 28th 1914. Concerning this action, which resulted in the destruction of the cruisers Mainz, Ariadne and Koln, the official despatch stated ‘his attack was delivered with great skill and gallantry.’ On the same date he was made CB…

He led the destroyer flotillas in the Dogger Bank action of January 24th 1915 and was in command of the Arethusa when she struck a mine and was wrecked off the east coast in February 1916.

Captain Tyrwhitt was awarded the DSO in June 1916, ‘in recognition of services rendered in the prosecution of the war,’ and was decorated Commander of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic in September 1916.

A scouting force of light cruisers and destroyers under Captain Tyrwhitt, on May 10th of the present year, chased 11 German destroyers for 80 minutes and engaged them at long range until they took refuge under the batteries of Zeebrugge. Only the precipitate flight of the enemy’s ships saved them from disaster.

A few weeks later, on June 5th, a force of light cruisers and destroyers under his command engaged six German destroyers at long range, and in a running fight one of the enemy’s ships, S20, was sunk and another was severely damaged.”

 

In addition, the London Gazette lists Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks) as having been awarded the DSO:

“For conspicuous gallantry when in command of the right of an infantry attack. The attacking troops having been compelled to fall back, he collected the remnants of his battalion and about 100 men of other units, and, regardless of a heavy fire, he organised these in defence of a position, and by his fine example of courage and skill he successfully resisted three counter-attacks, and thus saved a critical situation.”

Fluff will no doubt be demanding another half-holiday for the boys on the back of this when he next visits!

 

To these awards, we should also note these honours which have been acquired in the course of this term:

 

Lieut.- Col AR Haig Brown (Middlesex Regiment) and Major S Low (RGA) have both been awarded the DSO.

Capt. GK Rose MC (OBLI) now has a Bar to his Military Cross. The citation reads:

“When in command of a raid on the enemy’s trenches, he displayed the greatest skill and energy. He organized an effective resistance to the enemy counter attack, and conducted a masterly withdrawal under heavy machine gun and rifle fire.”

The Croix de Guerre has been awarded to Capt. JD Denniston (RNR) and 2nd Lieut. CM Hughes-Games (Gloucs), has the MC:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed great coolness and initiative when in command of a daylight patrol, obtaining valuable information. He has at all times displayed great gallantry under fire.”

 

 

January 28th 1917

The 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were deployed to France towards the end of May last year and with it a number of Old Dragons.

2nd Lieut. Walter Moberly was an early casualty, wounded on a reconnaissance up to the German wire (in daylight). Only with great difficulty was he able to make it back to our lines.

Capt. Douglas Rose, who returned home wounded in July, kindly wrote to us shortly afterwards with a full description of how he was hit. Happily his brother, Capt Geoffrey Rose is still going strong.

We are delighted to hear from Lieut. Sholto Marcon, who performed on some pretty muddy hockey pitches in his time (Oxford XI 1910-13 and English International), but nothing compared to what he is currently experiencing:

marcon-csw16.1.17. “For the last two months we have been in mudland and about that spot north and south of which you can see in the daily paper, there is generally shelling going on…

Dec. 25th found us in (the trenches) less than a week. No fraternising of course took place, though a Hun, bored to distraction with the war in general, came to see us at HQ that day. A fine fellow, and, considering all things, most astoundingly clean!

One experience I suffered: I had to be dug out of the mud one night, and not till one has suffered this experience can one realise that it is possible for people to get drowned in the mud. We had gone out to lay a line, and about 20 yards from HQ I stepped into a mud patch, and there I had to stay till a duckboard and a spade were brought, and my leg was dug up, as you would dig up a plant.

The men stick the mud and weather conditions generally in splendid style, and are real bricks in all they do.

They had their Christmas Dinner on Jan. 4th, as they were well ‘back’ by then and with the help of the eatables kindly sent out by a Committee in Oxford, and supplemented by purchases from Canteens out here, everything was ‘tra bon.’

In the evening the Sergeants had a dinner on their own and seemed very cheery when we looked in half way through the proceedings.”

 

 

August 30th 1916

CH Counsell

Further information has been received on the death of  Lieut. Christopher Counsell on July 6th.

A fellow officer in the Hants Regiment, 2nd Lieut. Churcher, has confirmed that Chris was providing a covering party for a working party when he was hit in the head, and possibly in both hands, by machine gun fire. He never regained consciousness and died in transit from 89 Field Ambulance to 29 Casualty Clearing Station.

Oxford has converted a number of buildings to receive and treat the wounded and by chance a wounded sergeant in Chris’s company was brought to the Oxford Hospital at the new Schools. He said that Chris was always ready and eager to go out at night on any wild entertainment towards the Hun lines, and he was evidently greatly impressed with his Lieutenant’s daring.

Christopher’s father, Dr H.E. Counsell (whose practice is at 37 Broad Street) is in charge of Surgical 5 in the North School.

* * * * * * *

The Esson family have suffered another bereavement: Mr William Esson passed away in Abingdon aged 78 on August 25th. (Mrs Esson predeceased him, having died in 1893).

His poor daughter Margaret lost her brother Capt. William Esson on April 27th 1916 on HMS Russell; her husband, Capt. Edmund Gay has been missing in action since August 12th 1915 and now her father has died, all in the space of just over a year.

July 15th 1916

CH Counsell

Lieut. Christopher Counsell (Hampshire Regiment)

The Counsell family have suffered a week of grief, mixed with hope and despair. First they received a telegram informing them that Chris had been wounded in the “Push”:

Counsell wounded

Three days later has come the news that Chris is dead.

Counsell killed

His battalion had received their orders too late on July 1st to launch a further attack on Beaumont Hamel that day and thus they remained in the original British Front line.

Chris was providing cover for a working party on July 6th, whilst they placed some advanced outposts. A machine gun opened fire and Chris was severely wounded.

It transpires that he died on the way to the Casualty Clearing Station.

 

April 12th 1916

We have another book written by an Old Boy to review for the Draconian:

The O.T.C and the Great War – Capt. Alan Haig-Brown

(Priced 7/6 from ‘Country Life’)

This book is a history of the Volunteer movement at the Universities and Public Schools under the title of the Officers’ Training Corps. The Corps was once described as the “spoilt child of the War Office.” Since August 1914, however, it has supplied over 20,500 officers to the army.

Alan was at the OPS as a boy from 1888-90. He won a scholarship to Charterhouse, where his father was headmaster, and thereafter he became the first of our old boys to attend Cambridge University (Pembroke College).

Alan became a schoolmaster and in 1906 took command of the Lancing School Corps. In that role he attended a meeting at the War Office, where Sir Edward Ward, with Lord Haldane in attendance, presented his suggestions for change. Rather than the University and School Corps be attached to the local Volunteer Battalions, they would now become the senior and junior divisions respectively, of a new Officers’ Training Corps under the direct control of the War Office.

Haig-Brown h&s

Maj. A. Haig-Brown

“The whole matter had been carefully thought out; the actual details were waiting for us – there was really nothing to discuss,” Alan opines in this book. “But where many schoolmasters are present, lack of discussion is improbable, and if there are headmasters amongst them, as in the case, impossible.”

The structure was easily agreed, particularly as it addressed the question of how to attract volunteers to join the Corps. Up to recent times, the prospect of ever needing to repel an invasion seemed a very remote possibility. Alan amusingly notes that “as for examinations, so for war, it is a British custom to prepare overnight or early next morning.”

An Officers’ Training Corps was much easier to promote, “that there really was a need for officers, and that every member was to be trained to fit himself as a leader of men and as an important and desired servant of the Empire.”

At Lancing, one way or another, Alan Haig-Brown persuaded every boy to volunteer for the OTC, making them, it is said, the only school with 100% participation.

Clearly, without these important changes, which were made in 1908, we would not have been able to combat Germany’s aggression in 1914 so swiftly.

* * * * * * *

Although Alan is referred to above as Captain Haig-Brown, the London Gazette confirmed last week the rank of temporary Major. He is to be the second in Command of the 23rd (Service) Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment (2nd Footballers).

Alan is well qualified for this regiment, having won a footballing Blue at Cambridge in 1898 and 1899 and played seven games as an amateur for the Southern League side, Tottenham Hotspur in 1901-3.