July 28th 1917

We return today, inevitably, to the War and news of three of our Old Dragons.

On July 21st, the papers reported a number of officers of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as missing in action. One of them is 2nd Lieut. William Sheepshanks (KRRC).

His mother received a telegram to this effect on the 19th, informing her that Bill has been unaccounted for since July 10th, but that he may still be alive. We must resign ourselves, once again, to a period of painful uncertainty.

The regiment was stationed right on the coastline near Nieuport – at the end of the trench system which stretches from there to Switzerland, and was under severe bombardment. In an account in the Daily Telegraph giving the German view, it was stated by their authorities that they had taken 1,250 prisoners, 27 of whom were officers. That gives us hope.

Bill has been such a close friend of the OPS and he never missed any Old Boys’ dinner or cricket match if he could help it.

* * * * * * *

We were startled and sorry to hear that Lieut. Lindsay Wallace (OBLI) has suffered considerable injury in France, due to unusual causes.  Whilst on a training course behind the front, Pug sleep walked out of an upper floor window. He had a nasty time for a day or two, but is now safely back in Oxford at Somerville College, having been escorted from France by his Engineer-Lieutenant brother Moray Wallace. He will not be short of visitors – if we can get past Sister Wilkinson!

* * * * * * *

We can end with one piece of good news, which has been a fearfully long time coming. It has been confirmed that Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RFC), having been “missing” since he was shot down on May 28th, is in fact a Prisoner of War. He joins his fellow OD aviators, Captain William Leefe Robinson VC and Lieut. Peter Warren in captivity.

 

May 9th 1917

No-one went off to war with a heavier heart than our own Pug – Lieut. Lindsay Wallace (OBLI) – being a Dragon, man and boy.

Since he left our Staff he has managed a number of visits, much to the delight of the boys. Last term he talked to them on the subject “With the troops in training” and they were intrigued by his description of the workings of the Mills bomb.

Pug has now returned to active service and even if , dare I say it, the OPS is not always the tidiest of places, the contrast between home and the Front is a stark one.

28/4/17 “We started off yesterday from the base and were told we would take about two days to reach our division.

Three of us had a first-class compartment to ourselves. We managed to get some tea and cake before leaving the station and then started on our journey very slowly indeed at about 4 p.m.

I have never seen such a sight as the sides of the line, in some places they are layers deep in tins of all descriptions thrown out of the carriages. This doesn’t apply to one particular spot but all along the line: without exaggeration there must have been millions of tins.

Also all along the line were kids who kept shouting ‘bisceet,’ and they generally got one. In many places there were German prisoners, who got cigarettes thrown to them…

After quite a good meal, which was helped on very much by heating up a meat tin over my cooker, we all settled down to sleep and I was very glad to have quite a good night.

Then all of a sudden we were woken up, about 5.30, and all told to get out. We got up and packed our various belongings and turned out, and there we were, right in it: almost every house is blown to bits, some have the walls standing and a few have the roof left in places.

It was a bit of a shock getting out of the train into a sort of shattered world.”

 

I have picked out this picture to remind us all of happier times.

It was taken by our VC hero, Jack Smyth outside The Lodge a few years before the war, and shows three stalwarts of my Staff: my brother Hum (AE Lynam), Pug (WJL Wallace) and Cheese (GC Vassall).

It seems a long time ago and from a different world now.

 

December 9th 1915

Pug Wallace

‘Pug’ Wallace

Lieut. Lindsay (Pug) Wallace has come home several times this term on ‘home-sick’ leave from his regiment in Bicester and is now quartered in Oxford. We were lucky to be able to secure his services as referee in the first few rugger matches (and he had a most enthusiastic and interested audience at the School House one Saturday evening whilst he explained the mysteries of his Machine Gun.)

Away matches have proved difficult, particularly if returning after dark, under black-out regulations (in case of attracting the attention of German zeppelins). The trip back from Eagle House in Sandhurst involved a brief halt in Reading to lay in a supply of provisions for the journey home; some narrow escapes for passers-by, lamp-posts and animals; various compulsory halts for interviews with special constables; an uninterrupted bump along the Iffley Road till finally arriving back at the School House.

1915 Rugger Team

Sadly our rugger season has come to a disappointing and unexpected end. We have been attacked and smitten, hip and thigh, by a devastating kind of influenza cold. We are glad to think that at least two of the unplayed games can be played next term.

Meanwhile, if (a) Pentreath can convince himself that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; (b) Mallalieu will forget himself and realise that the man with the ball in his hands is the most likely person to score a try, on whichever side he is playing; (c) Gunther will remember that the haphazard pass in his own “25” is likely to lead to disaster (otherwise he is excellent); (d) Adamson will practise until he finds out that it is possible to be tackled without the ball being hurled in any direction and to any player of either side who happens to be on the look-out (his own tackling is v.g. indeed); Potts will find out that it is fatal to change your mind when attempting either to fall on the ball or to pick it up… we may confidently meet any of the teams who were opposed to us this term.

 

 

September 12th 1915

There are a number of our Old Boys serving in the French Army, including Sous Lieut. Noel Sergent (French Artillery), who was also involved in the fighting in Gallipoli last month.

August. “Do you want to know my exact address? Well, I am in the ****** battery of the ****** regiment d’artillerie in the ****** French Army somewhere in Turkey. So like that you are ‘fixed,’ as the Americans say. So am I. In a devilish tight fix between the Devil (surnamed Achi Baba) and the deep sea, alias the Hellespont – most appropriately named.

We have two 9½ inch coast guns, and we had a job hauling them up in three parts each, the piece itself causing the greatest difficulty owing to its weight (16 tons). We put 100 men on either side and hauled away; then, when we got them up, 25 of us had to put them in place. We were at work for four nights from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., with just a cup of caffeine at eleven.

Our guns were ready for firing yesterday, so we started today. We topped our drive, put our second shot over the green, on the green in 3…

On August 6th we assisted at an attack. It was a tremendous business and the best way I can describe it is by comparing it to a terrific thunderstorm when the thunder and lightning came before the rain, and directly the rain comes the thunder and lightning stop. The thunder and lightning are the flash and bang of multitudinous guns, and the patter of the rain is the rifle and machine gun fire. What a fearful noise they make once they are started! I believe we took two trenches – hardly seemed worth the ammunition.”

N Sergent + gun

Noel Sergent with his gun crew.

Noel is the youngest of the three Sergent brothers, all of whom attended the OPS. They have an English mother and a French father who did not like the Napoleonic nature of the French education system.

In 1911, the Sergent brothers, then all living in France, made considerable names for themselves as Association Football players. Victor (full-back and captain), Dick (inside-left) and Noel (right-half) were joined by their Old Dragon friend and brother-in-law ‘Pug’ Wallace (centre-half) playing for Stad Raphaelois, and they won the French Championship.

Whilst his older brothers have joined the British Army, Noel elected to join the French Army.

July 1st 1915

Last week Lindsay Wallace, know to us all, adults and children alike, as ‘Pug’, became the sixth member of the OPS staff to join the war effort – as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.

We have received this letter from him, addressed to us all.

6 Park Town, Oxford.

June 27th 1915.

Dear Fellow Dragons,

I am writing to thank you all very much indeed for the present, or should I say presents, which were thrust into my hands about ten days ago. Whenever I use them, and, as soon as I leave Oxford, that will be very frequently, I shall be reminded of the OPS and all of you and of the many happy days spent there both out of doors and indoors.

I first came to the OPS in January 1885, as a boy, and left in July 1890. I remember crying hard when my last summer term was finished. During the next ten years or so when I was at Winchester and Balliol, I was always to be found at the OPS if I had a chance. In fact at the time I came too often and was a nuisance. In my Varsity days I used to cadge a tea as often as I could from Hum or Maurice Church, in order to stay for the whole afternoon. In 1901 I returned as a master, and I’ve been there ever since.

I have stated this in detail to try and make clear to you how heart-broken I felt when I spent my last day with you as a genuine member of staff. I want to make it plain that I didn’t want to go, I don’t want to go, and I shall always want to be back.

I am going to play a new game, and I mean to play it for all I am worth, but, when that game is over, I shall change and come home as quick as I can. I don’t know whether I have made myself clear; thank you again very much for your present. Don’t forget

     ‘Pug’ 

Pug Wallace