March 13th 1920

Our neighbours, Summer Fields School, founded in 1864, pre-date us by some 13 years. However, we have been many years ahead of them in terms of rugger!

Mr Wallace has written up these momentous events for this term’s edition of the ‘Draconian’:

“We renewed our rugger at Summer Fields on Monday March 8th, when 15 Dragons and 15 Summer Fieldians had a pick-up game which I am sure everyone enjoyed. On the 10th we took up a team to play them. It was our 1st XV as near as possible, and except for three minutes in the first half and fifteen in the second, our opponents put up a very good show.”

This followed on from events earlier this term when we challenged them to a game of soccer.

“To our great delight we heard also that Summer Fields had made a start at rugger. The result was that we agreed to visit them on February 11th to play them at soccer, and on February 14th to introduce them to the rugger game.

On the first occasion our team was beaten by a goal to nothing on one of those impossible days when the ball and ground are dry but the wind is so strong that good football is almost impossible…

On the 14th we took a rugger side up to Summer Fields to give them a trial game; we knew that after six games of rugger it was no good talking of a match. At any rate it was an enjoyable day and everyone, both sides and partisans of both sides, seemed thoroughly pleased with the game.”

Hopefully rugger will really catch on and we can enjoy many more matches in the years to come.

March 7th 1920

It has been an entertaining week.

On March 1st, I had the great pleasure of entertaining Captain Harry Thuillier (brother of the late Capt. George Thuillier) on his return after four years’ service in Mesopotamia and the East, together with his contemporaries at the OPS who happened to be in Oxford and able to attend a dinner at the Clarendon.

The Clarendon Hotel on Cornmarket Street.

Many old incidents of school life were recounted, and many yarns of the War.

The following were present: Charles Pittar, Hugh and Geoffrey Brown, Peter Warren, Mark van Oss, Stopford Jacks, Pat Campbell, Oliver de Selincourt, Dick Alford, Jack Richards, Cedric Horton, Felix Keyworth, Bill Bailie, Lindsay Wallace, GC, Hum, and possibly one or two more.

*  *  *  *  *  *

This was followed, on March 4th, by a trip to Cambridge to meet up with Old Dragons there. I am grateful for an (anonymous) account of the evening from one of our kind hosts:

“We had a very pleasant dinner on March 4th, and were delighted to see the Skipper, Hum, G.C., and Lindsay Wallace. Their sporting effort was much appreciated, because their Ford broke its heart – or big-end, or something – between the two universities, being so disgusted at being driven from one to the other, and they had to leave it in the ditch, and commandeer a more neutral one. However they arrived, and we are told that they were in nine o’clock school next morning. Well done!

On the evening the following appeared: AC Kermode (Clare), KS Dodd, R Butler (Trinity), FP Burch (Caius), SP Dobbs, TL Thomas (St. John’s), MC Church (Selwyn), J Merrett (Emmanuel), RS Nettlewell (King’s) and the Rev. RGD Laffan (Queen’s).

AC Kermode was in the chair, with the Skipper next to him. The Navy surrounded L Wallace and made him drink Bubbly. GC was encompassed by correspondents, and we thought we saw one of the present Headmasters sitting next to a Bolshevik.

The Chairman proposed the health of the School, and expressed the very great pleasure all the ODs at Cambridge felt at seeing the four representatives of the School amongst them.

The Skipper replied, thanking ODs for inviting them, and saying how much they liked visiting Cambridge. Having seen the beauty of King’s College Chapel by moonlight, he would not call it a rival, but rather a sister university.

The Rev RGD Laffan, unfortunately, had to go off early to see one of his theological students boxing in the Varsity contest, which had stupidly been arranged for the same evening.  Also Maurice the sailor (who last boxed to the detriment of his handsome countenance and general feeling of steadiness on, or off, the Norwegian coast), went to witness the administration of black eyes.”

 

June 17th 1918

The first few months of this year have seen considerable activity on the Western Front, with a series of attacks made on our positions by the Germans. Three Old Dragons have lost their lives in these battles, together with two more members of the newly formed RAF.

Thankfully, as a school we have had no more losses in May, or indeed so far this month. Nor have we heard much news of our Old Dragons there. This may be due to the fact that, with the considerable movement of the front line and greater confusion (as testified by the extraordinarily long lists of those declared ‘Missing’) there has been less time for our scribes to record the events (Philip Frere being an honourable exception).

* * * * * * *

In the meanwhile, warfare of a different nature has been taking place here: the annual Fathers v Sons cricket match. I am grateful to Capt. Fyle for this account:

“I have a distinct recollection that the Fathers won, which in retrospect is unaccountable. It was mainly due, I think, to the staff work and sound cricket of Skipper Mallalieu, and to the steady offensive of a bearded bowler, who was in action continuously without relief. Also the side included more cricketers than was quite fair. One of them wore a cricket cap and batting gloves.

Then there was Mr Wallace*. True the appearance of Richard Wallace justified his inclusion in the side, but I hardly think it was the proper place for the author of the remark that ‘Parents are the sort of people who ought never to have children.’

Also the side included an obvious golfer, who, if I remember rightly, hit six successive full shots for six apiece and nearly caused enough casualties among the spectators to strike a war correspondent dumb…

Nor must I omit to record the stand made by Col. Stenning and Capt. Wylie, which according to the expert commentator would have produced considerably more than three runs, had not the latter been brilliantly caught off a shot which looked like a late cut to square leg, while the former encountered that unconscionable anomaly, a straight long-hop.

But the dissolution of this partnership was probably due to the guile of Skipper, who seeing them getting their eyes a little less out, tripped on the field with a telegram containing news of three Winchester scholarships.

Of the school’s innings, I do not feel qualified to speak. It seemed to me that they all played brilliantly and would certainly have beaten any but a quite first-class team. They were not well supported by their umpires, one of whom gave ‘run out’ against a boy who would certainly have reached the crease in another two or three minutes. Umpires ought to remember which side they are on.”

For the record the Fathers totalled 115 and the boys were bowled out for 102. More important were the three scholarships won by F Huggins (3rd), R Alford (12th), E Slater (15th). Well done boys!

Daily Telegraph, June 17th 1918

 

*This, of course, is our returned soldier cum OPS schoolmaster,’Pug‘ – a sportsman of some note.

February 3rd 1918

I am grateful to Lieut. Spencer Leeson (RNVR) for this appreciation of the life of Martin Collier, who has become the 58th of our old boys to have laid down his life for the country:

“Memories of Martin must be vivid and clear-cut in the minds of all his friends. He was one of those men who, as it were, hit you straight between the eyes the first minute you saw him. You were conscious at once of a personality, and at the mention of his name afterwards many scenes came crowding into memory with the figure of Martin in high relief, saying or doing some characteristic thing.

Many will remember even how he used to arrive at school in the morning – hands in pockets, a battered old cap a little to the back of his head, passing jauntily through the gate leading to the asphalt, and on frosty mornings, rushing to the top of the slide to take his place in the queue.

On the rugger ground, of course, he was in his glory…

Martin Collier outside School House

The ordinary school matches never roused in him the stern ardour with which he entered upon a Dayboy and Boarder match… He always played a great game on these days, as I have particular reason to know, for he generally marked me out of touch. He would speak of these games with great enthusiasm when he was well on the way to his International Cap, and of all the matches he played, I do not believe he enjoyed any more than those at the School for the OD side.

One game particularly will be remembered – surely the greatest the ODs ever played – when GC (Mr Vassall) collected an OD side which Lindsay Wallace took down in December 1913 to meet the Osborne officers and staff. Martin led the pack in tremendous style, and our victory was largely due to his and Lindsay’s play.

Whenever I met him afterwards, Martin would speak rapturously of that game, and declare that when the OD scrum got well together, no side on earth could beat them.”

We did so hope that Martin would have lived to fulfil his ambition to play for England, and his last letters to the school – one on some rather robust rugger tactics and the other in support of a War Memorial, will be treasured.

There was more to Martin than sporting prowess, however, and Spencer is right to remember this:

“He carried his taste for literature with him into the service, and would relate afterwards how hard he found it to get time for reading, and how his Philistine colleagues used to enquire what earthly good there was in Tennyson or Browning.

In one of the last letters I had from him, he told me how he was enjoying a volume of Plutarch, which he could read, he said, in his submarine, during his off-time, ‘not a hundred miles from the coast of Germany.’

His memory will be enshrined among us, as long as any are alive who knew him.”

 

December 16th 1917

Christmas Term 1917

As another term draws to a close, there are always a number of matters to which I wish I had drawn attention. Thus, below are a collection of such things, of varying importance, but I hope worthy of being recorded here.

 

Our numbers this term totalled 143. Of these, 82 were boarders and 50 day boys and we had 11 day girls. The day boys were fewer than usual because many Oxford parents had left for work in Town or elsewhere, owing to the war; and in several cases their boys have been received into the Boarding House.

* * * * * * * *

We were delighted that Lieut. Lindsay Wallace – Pug – was able to rejoin the Staff this term. He was a boy at the OPS (1885-90) and a master (1901-15) before he joined the Army and was severely injured this summer.

He and his wife Deta are now looking after four young boarders in their house (which is known as the Ritz!)

* * * * * * * *

Miss Bagguley has taught the OPS for about 30 years, and, in the nature of things, will only remain with us a short time longer; Miss Williams has been here for 17 years, and now owing to her brother’s blindness (caused by a wound received in action) she has to leave us and live at home in London.

It is proposed to raise a joint subscription for a testimonial to them from their old pupils and friends. Will any who wish to contribute send their contributions to Lieut. Lindsay Wallace, 6 Park Town, Oxford.

* * * * * * * *

The Ford Ambulance caravan has been greatly in demand for convoy purposes. Since its equipment with an ambulance body it has met upwards of 60 convoys and has conveyed some 300 officers and soldiers to the hospitals in Oxford.

As a caravan it gave Kit, Joyce and myself a delightful summer holiday, with some adventurous incidents. It has now been fitted with a gas-bag, which however leaks at the seams and is not in use at present.

* * * * * * * *

We introduced morning drill this term. Swedish exercise took place from 8.50 – 9.00 in the Covered Playground. Hum tells me that the boys have become reconciled to missing 10 minutes of cramming up Prep before school, and have seemed fresher and better in school for the preliminary breathing and exercise in the open.

* * * * * * * *

The football team was so good and the selection so difficult that 17 colours were given. Four matches were won and we were only just beaten by a much heavier team of Radley boys under 15.

* * * * * * * *

May I thank those parents who, in response to the bursarial appeal accompanying the last School accounts, have added various sums to those accounts? I am afraid I must add that these additions, which amount in all to about £100 for the term, were far from enough to meet the vastly increased expenditure.

It is inevitable that all the salaries of masters, mistresses and other workers have had to be raised considerably, in addition to the great increase in housekeeping expenses. I only ask those, whose means enable them to do so, to increase their payments for their sons.

Many schools have raised their fees all round, but I know that would hit some of the parents of my boys very hard, and I will not do it.

 

Next term begins on Wednesday 16th January.

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.