January 28th 1920

The Easter Term has got off to its usual start – with our annual Shakespeare production, this time of ‘Henry V.’ We put on three performances: one on Friday evening for 330 boys, girls and teachers from various local elementary and secondary schools, and two on Saturday for OPS parents and friends.

We were delighted to welcome back Jack Gamlen, late of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry,  to his old job of writing a review. It may be remembered that back in 1917, when he was unable to attend our production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ he sent a most witty poem to the cast.

Whilst the ‘Oxford Times’ was impressed (The whole performance was of a very high standard), Jack was far harder to please:

“Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed the play very much indeed, and that it was a rich reward for the actors themselves for hours of honest work. This reward to the actors is far more important than anything that concerns the audience, but, even so, my recollection of twenty earlier school plays forbids me to put this latest one among the very best.

There was never a Class III at the OPS, and if this ‘Henry V’ comes into Class II it is only because there was, by chance, not quite enough first-rate material to lift it higher. I judge by a fearfully high standard: how can I do otherwise?”

Jack was critical of a number of performances, including that of John Betjemann, whom the Oxford Times described as “the cleverest actor of all… he played the mad old King of France in such a way that, instead of being completely minor, it became one of the most impressive parts in the whole play. There was remarkable genius in this performance.” John played two minor roles, the other being that of the Duke of Cambridge.

Jack’s assessment of this role was more critical:

“Betjemann was the best of the conspirators… but he over-acted… I am sorry to find fault, because Betjemann showed a good deal of promise which will come out, another time, if he allows himself to be natural.”  

The truth about young Betjemann is, Jack should understand, to him, being “natural” is to over-act!

 

October 29th 1918

Daily Telegraph, 18.10.18

Many will have read with excitement and pride of the British troops entering Lille on October 17th, as was reported in the Daily Telegraph the following day. What we did not know then was that Capt. Leslie Grundy (MGC) was involved. Indeed he is claiming his men were the first British into Lille on that day:

20/10/18 “To our surprise, we found we were the first British troops to enter… The ovation we got was terrific… The men were covered with flowers and flags. The civilians were off their heads for joy and several ladies were so overcome that they kissed me on both cheeks with tears in their eyes. They must have had an awful time here with the Germans. No butter, cheese, meat or eggs for four years. Many of the women have been in prison – one case, a sentence of 15 days imprisonment for giving a cup of coffee to an English prisoner…

When I asked at the Mairie for ‘billets de lodgement’ they went off their heads for joy, and before I could look round they had put my men into billets – everyone got a bed. I had a splendid room with real linen sheets (hidden while the Boche was in possession) and we messed in a large dining room, beautifully furnished. The people insisted on doing all the cooking and our servants had the time of their lives.

My host was a leading brewer in the town, a M. Agache, and he was the most hospitable man I have come across for long time. Mme Agache has been a hostage in Germany for a long time and had suffered simply horribly – thank Heaven our women have not been in a similar position. One of the minor indignities to which they were submitted was to go to their baths stark naked, escorted by soldiers…”

December 6th 1917

Lieut. Locke Kendall (Norfolks & MGC)

The Kendall family have written to inform us that Locke has been killed on active service in Palestine. As might be expected, news takes a little longer to reach us from the more distant theatres of war and the details too are few.

He went out to Palestine in February this year, and was serving with the 21st Cavalry Machine Gun Squadron, 8th Mounted Brigade, Yeomanry Division.

As to the manner of his death, all we are able to ascertain is that he was wounded in an engagement on November 21st and died the following day of his wounds, at a place called Tartah.

Looking back at the Daily Telegraph of November 26th, it seems likely that Locke lost his life storming the Nebi Sanwil Ridge.

At the OPS we shall always remember his cheery optimism and willingness to tackle any unpleasant or difficult job that had to be dealt with.

Locke will also be remembered for his great ability at hockey. He represented Suffolk in 1908 and played with his brother Jack for Norfolk the following year. He was awarded his Blue when up at Cambridge in 1913 and won an international cap against France in April 1914 –  a resounding 6-0 victory.

November 1st 1917

Lieut. Gustavus Hume-Gore (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders)

News from German East Africa takes time to reach our shores and only recently have we heard of the death of Lieut. Gus Hume-Gore, who since December has been attached to the King’s African Rifles.

The bare facts are that he was killed in a battle fought at Nakadi River, 28 miles from Lindi on October 17th.

He was involved in an attack on German troops, driving them back over what was a dry river bed. However, the exact manner in which Gus met his death is unknown.

We were most grateful to have received his descriptions of the conditions faced by our troops in East Africa, written within a week of his death. Illness was rife, but it was noted that in his time with the Battalion he had never been taken sick, and was one of only three in the Battalion not to require hospital treatment.

October 18th 1917

A second letter has been received from Lieut. Gus Hume-Gore (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders), who is with the King’s African Rifles and the British East Africa Expeditionary Force.

In addition to the extreme heat he complained about last time, he now catalogues a number of other difficulties the British soldier faces:

11/10/17 “Tinned rations that are mostly full of sand before you have finished eating them (aided by the worst kind of flies), the water in your bottle a bit more than lukewarm, and not the best of water very often at that; bottles have been filled from a stream and then dead bodies have been discovered roosting against a rock up-stream; sun that burns the eyes out of you; sun that makes you sick, that goes clean through your backbone and out the other side; sun that makes everything made of metal red-hot, so hot that it will blister your fingers if you give it a chance – and miles and miles of the ‘road’ that never seems to grow less and is harder and harder the farther you get.

When the rains come in about three weeks and then slack off for a bit, I gather that everything I have tried to picture may be multiplied by about ten.”

October 11th 1917

Lieut. Gus Hume-Gore (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) was seconded to the King’s African Rifles with the British East Africa Expeditionary Force last December. Whereas many an Old Dragon is complaining of the mud so prevalent on the Western Front, Gus has very different but equally trying conditions with which to contend:

4/10/17 “I have just had my first wash and shave for seven days and feel quite respectable again.

We have just done a great push and advanced about 8 miles with some heavy fighting. The positions the Germans take up are terrible. They get well dug-in and then stick trees and spikes etc well round them, so that attacking over the open with a lot of machine guns firing at you is a nasty job.

The heat is overwhelming and makes even breathing difficult. My arms and knees are the colour of bronze…

We are simply eaten alive with mosquitoes, bugs etc., as we can’t put up a net when we are on the move. There is a lot of swampy ground around here.

I am trying to improve my German by reading German letters and books which are lying about all over the place.” 

One can forget that this war is being fought across the world, so we are grateful to Gus for reminding us of this.

 

February 23rd 1917

west-n-2

Capt. Nevile West (Royal Berkshire Regiment)

Another Old Dragon has joined our Roll of Honour. Nevile West has been killed. He had already had one lucky excape. You may recall that he sent us an account of his experiences in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.  He described how his camera was hit by a bullet that would otherwise have killed him.

Nevile’s bravery was recognised in the award of the MC ‘for conspicuous bravery‘ when he was twice wounded in an attack not long after the above incident.

It is understood that Nevile met his death on the night of January 16th when, in preparation for an attack, he and his company moved into position, where they experienced severe shelling. This bombardment claimed the lives of Nevile and one of his men, whilst five others were wounded.

Letters from fellow officers are always appreciated by family and friends alike, and it is inspiring to hear when one of our Old Boys is given such respect as Nevile was:

“His disposition was always bright and cheery, in fact he was the life of the mess, a good musician and a very fair artist, and up to the time of his death appeared to have led an almost charmed life, for he knew no fear or hesitation where duty called him and his one thought was the comfort and safety of his men.”

Nevile was somewhat reserved and diffident as a boy, as I recall, but had plenty of energy and ‘go’ and was much beloved by all who knew him at all intimately.