November 13th 1919

DINNER FOR OXFORD OLD DRAGONS

November 8th 1919

A delightful evening was spent at the School House, when Oxford ODs came to dinner. We were even invaded by two naval stalwarts from Cambridge, and by one representative of the Army of Occupation.

Amongst those present were: CA Pittar, O Sturt, ALF Smith, JBS Haldane, SBL Jacks, CP Duff, WT Collier, NS Norway, ML Jacks, PJ Campbell, V Alford.

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After abeyance during the War, the mid-term holiday has been revived; and Admiral Tyrwhitt’s whole holiday, in celebration of the surrender of the German Fleet, was added to it.

Hum Lynam has provided the following account:

“Boarders who went home, or to stay with friends or other boys, left on Friday 7th November and returned on the evening of Monday Nov. 10th, in time for fireworks.

This revival seemed generally popular with boys and parents, though there were one or two protests. The increased cost of travelling, and some increase in the possibilities of incurring infection, as well as the considerable trouble of getting so many boys away and back again, incline us to the view that a trip to the country would be the better way for most, while some would have parents down to see them.

Those who did not go away had a trip by charabanc on the Saturday, and after a walk by the river at Henley, we ate our lunch in the headquarters of the Ancient Order of Oddfellows, amid strange appurtenances, which were put to stranger use. Then up the steep side of the Chilterns to Peppard Common, where we were royally entertained by Mr & Dr Carling at the Sanatorium. We just caught the last of the glories of autumn colouring, which seemed to surpass themselves this year, and are surely nowhere more striking than among those Berkshire beeches.

We got back to Oxford in time for ‘progressive games’ organised by Miss Field.

A bicycle and caravan expedition on the Sunday was marred by rain.”

 

May 1st 1916

Although today’s papers have more detailed news of recent events in Dublin and indicate an improvement in the situation, we are none the wiser as to the fate of the Norway family. There has been no mail and the country is under Martial Law.

We do know that the Norways have been living in the Royal Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street, off St. Stephen’s Green. As the rebels have been in possession of the Green and that there are reports of numerous snipers in the area, one can only assume that they have been in some considerable danger.

The GPO, where Mr Arthur Hamilton Norway has his office, has been all but destroyed but, being a Bank Holiday, the hope is that he would not have been present when the rebels attacked.

His son, Nevil Norway was a day-boy here at the OPS from 1910-13, residing with the Sturt family close by in Park Town. The Norway family met the Sturts on holiday in Cornwall and they became friends.

We hope that Mr & Mrs Sturt, who are in touch with Mrs Norway’s sister, will receive some news shortly.

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Also in today’s newspaper is an announcement that Mr Arthur Lionel Smith, the father of Lionel Smith (who was at the OPS  1890-94) has been elected the new Master of Balliol College, Oxford.

By my estimation, there are about twenty Old Dragons who later attended Balliol now fighting in this war. Of those 21 Old Dragons who have been killed, Regie Fletcher, George Fletcher, Ronald Poulton, Alasdair Macdonell together with Tom Higginson are all Balliol men.

 

December 21st 1915

A number of minor items of interest, concerning the term that has just ended, failed to make these pages. These are now included here, together with some information pertaining to the start of next term:

The first half of term we had practically no illness at all. Later on we had some coughs and colds. Two boarders were rather seriously ill with pleurisy, but it was taken in time and both have quite recovered. One little fellow had to have the operation for appendicitis, but has made a capital recovery (he is the first boarder on record to undergo it).

* * * * * *

The boys have done some excellent knitting. Sock knitting was supposed to be too difficult, but many excellent pairs of socks were produced. Also a large supply of toys and other products of the carpenter’s shop were forwarded to the Albert Hall Exhibition.

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Young Lance Mallalieu’s Marionette Shows have given much amusement on winter evenings.

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It has been most delightful to welcome so many Old Dragons back this term to tell us something of their experiences and hopes. Besides giving the greatest pleasure to us who knew them as ‘kiddies,’ it is a fine thing for the boys to see and hear those who have taken part in the great war. It does us all good to have them amongst us.

* * * * * *

The Ford has taken parties of wounded soldiers to Woostock, Frilford and Stanton Harcourt; more interesting companions than these men ‘home from the war’ it would be hard to find.

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Spurling H

Rev. Spurling

We are sadly losing the Rev. Henry Spurling from our staff. The Hampshire Regiment, which he has joined as Chaplain and interpreter and possibly fighter (he actually starts as a Tommy!) with the hearty approval of the Bishop of Winchester, has for its Colonel Bobby Johnson (OD), for its adjutant Stephen Low (OD), one of its captains Lionel Smith (OD) and a subaltern Wilfred Johnson (OD). The regiment is bound for East Africa.

Henry, together with Bobby Johnson, started our magazine, The Draconian, when they had moved on to Winchester College, their aim being to keep in touch with other Old Dragons and “to tighten the bond of union between friendships that would otherwise be severed…”

* * * * * *

Next term we will perform ‘Hamlet.’ The various parts have been assigned. The words are to be known pat and I shall be grateful if parents and friends will hear them in the holidays. N.B. No books will be allowed on stage at all when we begin the rehearsals on Wednesday Jan. 12th. I hope to have a performance for the Elementary School children on Thursday (13th), one for wounded soldiers on Friday (14th) and the usual two performances for friends on the Saturday (15th).

 

Next term begins on Wednesday 12th January 1916.

 

June 15th 1915

JBS Haldane

Lieut. JBS Haldane (Black Watch)

If anyone could be said to be enjoying the war, it is Jack Haldane. For him, life in the trenches is apparently “an enjoyable experience.”

Having joined the Black Watch, he has discovered the joys of bomb-throwing. His detachment have been allowed to roam along the line, firing off trench mortars and experimental devices at will. Such visits are not always popular with those around them at the time, as Charlie Childe, now a lieutenant in the Gloucestershire Regiment, told me.

“These trench mortar people are a little tribe of pariahs, who stalk up and down other people’s trenches, drink their whiskey, and make themselves quite pleasant. Meanwhile their satellites stealthily fire the beastly things, knock in some Hun dug-outs, put out a few of their cook-houses (you can see the smoke coming out of their trenches here and there), and thoroughly annoy the Hun over his lunch – a most ungentlemanly thing to do. Fritz then urgently telephones to his gunners, and the creators of all the fuss have meanwhile gone away somewhere else.”

Jack’s previous experiences helping his father, John Scott Haldane, understand the dangers of gases in mines, have turned out to be of particular help to our war effort.

When on April 22nd 1915, the Germans released a gas attack allied troops at Ypres, it was not surprising that Lord Kitchener should turn to the good Dr. for advice. JS Haldane went straight over to France to investigate the situation personally, returning with the lung of one of the dead to investigate in the laboratory at his home, ‘Cherwell’. It was imperative to confirm the exact nature of the gas and develop an effective respirator as soon as possible. Here, aided by a long-standing family friend, Aldous Huxley, taking notes for him, he carried out numerous tests on the effects of chlorine gas on himself and other volunteers.

Last month JS Haldane was back in France, where he set up a laboratory in St Omer. Jack was summoned from his bombing duties to assist him. The Professor could think of no-one better than his son to have in his gas chamber, reporting on the effects of the gas he was inhaling.

“We had to compare the effects on ourselves of various quantities, with and without respirators. It stung the eyes and produced a tendency to gasp and cough when breathed. For this reason trained physiologists had to be employed.”

But why did it have to be him in the gas chamber? Jack continued:

“An ordinary soldier would probably restrain his tendency to gasp, cough and throw himself about if he were working a machine-gun in battle, but could not do so in a laboratory experiment with nothing to take his mind off his own feelings. An experienced physiologist has more self-control.

It was also necessary to see if one could run or work hard in the respirators, so we had a wheel of some kind to turn by hand in the gas chamber, not to mention doing 50 yard sprints in respirators outside. As each of us got sufficiently affected by gas to render his lungs duly irritable, another would take his place. None of us was much the worse for the gas, or in any real danger, as we knew where to stop, but some had to go to bed for a few days, and I was very short of breath and incapable of running for a month or so.”

Jack, on learning that his troops were about to go into an attack, returned to the trenches. Here he suffered wounds from shell fire and found himself being given a lift by the Prince of Wales to the Casualty Clearing Station. “Oh, it’s you.” The Prince is reputed to have said. They had met in Oxford before the war, where one of the Prince’s tutors was another OPS Old Boy– Lionel Smith.

Jack’s wounds were “blighty” ones and he is now back here in Oxford at ‘Cherwell’, recovering from an operation to remove a shell splinter.

The sounds of our old colleague Blair Watson, firing off blanks from his revolver on the school fields for the boys benefit, were resoundingly defeated by Jack exploding German bombs along the road at Cherwell.  He is clearly on the mend!

Indeed, together with his sister (Naomi) he is now going to set this term’s General Paper, to be undertaken shortly by our 5th and 6th forms.

November 30th 1914

The ‘Globe’ Newspaper recently noted a number of “interesting names” of Old Dragons serving. They included the England Rugby Captain, Lieut. Ronald Poulton Palmer; the Oxford stroke, 2nd Lieut. Bob Bourne; a Services Boxing champion, Lieut. Martin Collier; an Oxford Cricket Blue and Fellow & Senior Censor of Christ Church, Charles Fisher; an Oxford Hockey Blue & International, 2nd Lieut. Sholto Marcon; an Oxford Athletics Blue, 2nd Lieut. Aubrey de Selincourt; an Oxford Hockey Blue & International, and tutor to the Prince of Wales, Lieut. Lionel Smith. The list also includes the captain of the Oxford Athletics, a rowing blue who had a picture in last year’s Royal Academy, three first-class men in Greats at Oxford, all this year, many scholars of colleges and 2nd Lieut. CJ ffoulkes, RNVR, who is keeper of the Tower Armouries.

Only three years ago the OPS could indeed claim, amongst the 35 Old Dragons then up at the university, the captains of Rugby (Ronald Poulton Palmer), Hockey (Sholto Marcon) and Rowing (Bob Bourne). Most notable was the University Hockey XI, which that year contained no fewer than five Old Dragons in the team. They are all now members of His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

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Draconian 79.

With the next edition of the ‘Draconian’ not due until after the end of term, we are issuing a special edition listing all those ODs who have answered the call to arms. It shows some 225 Old Dragons and staff already in uniform and a further 10 at Sandhurst, Keyham or Osborne. (Let it be remembered that when they were at the OPS, we only numbered 90-100 in the school).

We also include a poem by Frank Sidgwick, ‘The People’s Gift,’ which appeared recently in the ‘Saturday Review.’ This is the final verse:

Take the lesson, then, young Englishmen, when the war-cloud lowers black,

Let no man shift his burden of gift on to the next man’s back;

Answer today what part you will play, when your country gives the sign –

What gift will you bring to your country and King – is your blood water or wine?

* * * * * *

Frank’s brother, Hugh Sidgwick has been acting as private secretary to Sir Lewis Selby-Bigge, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education. His work is deemed too important to allow him to join up. Instead he is doing duty as a Special Constable.

Special Constables – by one

Hugh Sidgwick SC

Hugh Sidgwick

“The Editor has asked for an article on Special Constables, and the motto of the force being obedience I can only comply. But one thing must be made clear at the outset. This nation at present consists of (a) the armed forces of the Crown; and (b) the rest. Special constabling is one of the forms of consolation for (b), who are small beer, and don’t matter much; it stands on a level with knitting socks, and putting on a light green uniform and gesticulating in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoons. It is miles away from the activities of (a), and must not be spoken of in the same breath. Therefore, if this article gets printed, let it be in the smallest of small print, in a corner far away from the ‘res gestae’ of soldiers and sailors. If that is quite clear, I can begin.

Special constables are amateurs who in their spare time assist the police in their lighter duties. They are sworn in for the period of the war – to carry out their duties without favour or affection, malice or ill-will, to preserve the King’s peace and guard the persons and property of his subjects, and so forth. They are provided with an armlet and a truncheon and a note-book and a warrant and a whistle and a badge; (I am going to make a song some day with this refrain). They may also provide themselves with a uniform. In our detachment it is a long blue overcoat and a yachting cap, in which we look like well-intentioned tram-conductors: but I am told that elsewhere there are variations in head-gear. Thus equipped, the special constable goes forth upon his duty.

So far the terror of our name has kept the malefactors away, and we have arrested only a bronze statue and a cat. But the moral effect has been enormous. The criminal classes and the foreign agents stand appalled at the reserves which the Executive has brought into play; they argue, ‘a fortiori’, that if respectable elderly gentlemen take such a lot of trouble about a little thing like that, what will happen if matters get really lively? Further, the ascendancy of the male sex is now re-established. I know of at least one dinner invitation which has been refused on the ground of constabulary duty. The dinner was on Tuesday and the duty on Thursday: but who could know that?”