January 13th 1919

Another of our brethren has returned to the fold. 2nd Lieut. Adrian Raleigh (Leics), who was captured in the German Spring Offensive earlier this year has been repatriated, or rather, has repatriated himself!

Adrian tells us that after the armistice the prison guards at Mainz either went on strike or evaporated, allowing him and his fellow prisoners to wander the streets:

We spent several enjoyable days among the inhabitants, who appeared to be quite friendly and who were never tired of expressing their satisfaction at the downfall of the Kaiser.

Eventually, becoming tired of waiting for ‘immediate repatriation,’ 200 of us chartered a river steamer, at 20 marks per head, and started down the Rhine. The voyage lasted six days. We stopped at almost every town and village to load and unload cargo.

Our first landing place was Bingen, which we reached at 10 o’clock at night; here we went into the only café in the place and nearly lifted the roof with rag-times.

We stayed two nights at Cologne, which was strewn with flags and placards bearing the inscription ‘Welcome to our brave troops, beaten by no foe’…

Finally, we crossed the Dutch frontier and landed at Nymegen, where the Dutch greeted us with ‘England Uber Alles.’ Here we were met by the British RTO and entrained for Rotterdam, and so home after a rather varied tour of Germany.”

 

 

December 16th 1918

Daily Telegraph, 16/12/1918

Today’s paper brings the good news that Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC (RAF) has been repatriated and is in good health.

2nd Lieut. William Dyson (Devon) and 2nd Lieut. Adrian Raleigh (Leics), who both were captured in the German Spring Offensive earlier this year, were reported to have returned on December 8th.

Lieut. Blake Budden (Middlesex), who was interned in Holland, has also now returned.

We await news of two other Old Dragon fliers who have been in captivity, Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RAF) and 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren (RAF).

 

 

July 29th 1916

 

DW Brown

Capt. David Westcott Brown (Leicestershire Regiment)

It has now been confirmed that David was killed in the fighting for Bazentin le Petit on July 14th. Although his body has not been found, a Sergeant reported seeing it.

Like many, David realised in the spring that the summer months ahead would see the launching of a new offensive. Foreseeing the high number of casualties amongst officers, he felt the need to prepare himself – and his family. He wrote to his cousin Lillian in May:

“…. I am writing like this because summer is here, and I don’t think our present peacefulness can go on much longer. People at home are beginning to wonder what they pay us for; and I think Death must come to many of us, if not to most (I am talking of officers now) before very long: and, if it does come to me, I don’t want you to feel it as a shock, and I don’t want you or anyone to grieve.

You know it is rather an honour to die now, to die for all that we hold precious, for our country, to die that we may live, and to die with so many better men.

I don’t want to die. I want to live and tell how I was in the War, how I was a fighter in it, not merely a server; but, if I do get killed, I want you and everyone to know that I knew of the possibility, that I was ready for it, and facing it, and not shirking and dodging the thought of it. It seems to me that for a man who is, if not ready or willing to die, at least aware of the presence of death, and looking it in the face not caring or wondering what lies beyond, Death has lost its power. When you cease to fear Death you have conquered it, and Death has become only a gate, no harder to pass through than the door of a room.

Am I just being morbid? I hope not; because I feel somewhat that should the worst happen it may help Mother and Dad to know that I was not caught by surprise, not realising what I was in for…”

David also wrote a poem around this time, when still behind the lines:

Two Voices
“The roads are all torn” ; “but the sun’s in the sky,”
“The houses are waste” ; “but the day is all fair,”
“There’s death in the air” ; “and the larks are on high,”
“Though we die – ” ; “it is spring-time, what do we care?”
“The gardens are rank” ; “but the grass is still green,”
“The orchards are shot-torn” ; “there’s a bloom on the trees,”
“There’s war all around” ; “yet is nature serene,”
“There’s danger” ; “we’ll bear it, fanned by the breeze.”
“Some are wounded” ; “they rest, and their glory is known,”
“Some are killed” ; “there’s peace for them under the sod,”
“Men’s homes are in peril” ; “their souls are their own,”
“The bullets are near us” ; “not nearer than God.”

David was a cousin of Percy Campbell (one of the first OPS casualties) and the godfather of a current young Dragon, Per Mallalieu.

He won a scholarship to Marlborough and then went to Balliol to read ‘Greats’, when war broke out and he joined up.

July 20th 1916

DW Brown 2The length of the lists of those who have become casualties in the newspaper this morning is truly horrifying, and now we have heard that Capt. David Brown (Leics Regiment) has been reported as “wounded and missing” since July 14th.

His father understands that David went out with a sergeant to reconnoitre prior to an attack. The sergeant was subsequently found dead but there was no sign of David.

Further information is awaited.

* * * * * * *

One of the hardest hit regiments on July 1st was the Leeds Pals Battalion (West Yorks). Their commanding officer, Lieut. Col. Stuart Taylor, was not with them as he is recovering from wounds he received in an earlier encounter with the enemy in May.

He has written from the Queen Alexandra’s Hospital in London to the Yorkshire Evening Post:

Stuart Taylor 2“I mourn the loss of tried comrades and dear friends with whom I have been closely associated day and night, in sunshine and storm, for the past fourteen months. But with my sorrow is mingled an immense pride, a great gladness, as I hear from all sources of the magnificent bearing and heroic conduct of our dear lads, who have cheerfully given their lives for their King and country.

The tidings of their gallant conduct and courageous deeds causes me no surprise, as I well knew how splendidly they would stand the test when the supreme call was made upon them.

To those who are left behind to mourn their loss, may God grant consolation in the sure knowledge of their dear ones’ valiant deaths. For the wounded I pray earnestly for a speedy return to health and strength.

For myself, my only wish is that I had been able to be with the battalion in their great and glorious attack.”

On July 1st, 233 of his men lost their lives. In addition, 15 of his 24 officers were killed (and the rest were wounded).

October 20th 1915

Tom Whittingham

Lieut. Thomas Whittingham (Leicestershire Regiment)

It transpires that, only four days after writing to console us on the deaths of Leslie Eastwood & Tom Higginson, Tom Whittingham was himself killed, along with Alasdair Macdonell on October 13th at Loos.

He was killed in the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The 4th Leicesters had the honour of leading the attack and Tom’s platoon was in the first line.

He sent a message, which was passed down the line, of best wishes to the men in their effort, while they stood waiting for him to lead them over the parapet.

When the time came, having first mounted the parapet, with a walking-stick in one hand and revolver in the other, he led the advance at a slow double over the 150 yards that separated them from the enemy, through machine-gun and rifle bullets, till they reached the limit of the hand-grenade range of the Germans, where they received a momentary check while our bombers replied.

Then Tom called on them to advance, and they were within a few yards of the enemy’s trenches when a German officer threw a bomb, which hit the ground and exploded right in front of him – killing, it is said, five and wounding others.    

Tom is the third Old Dragon to die in the fighting around Loos, content we hope in that it is (as he said himself in his letter) “the noblest death a man can die.”

 

From the OPS, Tom gained an exhibition to go to Felsted School, where he joined the OTC. From there he went to L’Ecole de Commerce in Lausanne and then spent six months in Germany in the Hartz Mountains.  Returning home in 1913 he was articled to a firm of accountants and at the same time gained a commission in the Leicestershire Territorials.

We heard that, as Scout Officer, he took personal interest in the men under him; he also applied himself to know and help the young fellows in an artisan quarter of a large town parish, taking part in their games and working up a Bible class, and getting to know them in their home life. In a short time he won a considerable influence.

As a boy at the OPS, his influence on others was always for the very best, and his steady, quiet determination to get the right thing done in the right way, gave promise of a good, useful life.

Tom was wounded in April and he came to visit us all last term, well on  the road to recovery. He returned to the Front on July 12th.

He was one of our most loyal old boys and we shall miss him sorely. It seems only yesterday that he and Alasdair Macdonell were with us. Their deaths touch us most profoundly.

 

                  

October 13th 1915

Lieut. Tom Whittingham (Leicester Regiment) has most kindly written offering his condolences on the death of the two members of our staff, Leslie Eastwood and Tom Higginson:

Tom Whittingham

Lt. T Whittingham

9/10/15. “I must write to sympathise on the loss of two of the staff. But it is by far the noblest death a man can die, and it does one no good to sorrow about these things. Out here, unfortunately, one rarely seems to be able to realise a casualty fully when it occurs; death seems to come as a matter of course. It is only when a death occurs amongst the men one is always with, and knows best, that one can grasp the full meaning of what has happened.”

* * * * * * *

We were delighted to see Surgeon Basil Playne (RN, RND) arriving with his DSO decoration to show to the boys and demanding an extra ‘half’ as a reward for his endeavours. He was motoring through Oxford on his way home with his wife.

Jim MacLean

Capt. J MacLean

Lieut. Jim MacLean (Royal Engineers) – with his Military Cross –  was also with us for the weekend and gained ‘no prep’ by telling the boys one evening all about life in the trenches with bombs, grenades etc. He startled us by saying that the soldiers spent all their time carrying up provisions and building material to the front trenches, as there wasn’t any ‘fighting,’ and explained how bridges and pontoons are built over rivers and canals under fire.

He was awarded the MC “for conspicuous gallantry and determination during the nights of August 25th – 31st 1915, when he skilfully erected a bridge over the Yser Canal near Boesinghe under heavy rifle fire. Although he lost several of his men, he carried the work through satisfactorily.”

If we get any more visits from Old Dragons demanding extra ‘halves’ and ‘no prep,’ we shall get no work done at all!