November 16th 1917

I was looking for some relief from this never-ending war, and my thoughts turned to rugger.

Martin Collier

Lieut. Martin Collier (RN) is an Old Dragon player of note, having represented the Navy (1910-14), United Services (1910-14) and The South (1913-14). In normal times we would do well to listen any advice he cared to offer on the playing of the game, but the notes he has sent us, written, he says “after a recent match on the East Coast,describe, perhaps, a wartime version of the game that is certainly not cricket!

“Somewhere within the precincts of Rugby School may be seen a stone bearing an inscription to the memory of a boy who, during a game of soccer ‘with a fine disregard for the rules of the game, picked up the ball and ran with it.’ This commemorates the birth of the Royal and Ancient game of Rugger.

So far as we know, there is as yet no memorial to the man who ‘with a fine disregard for the rules of the game’ (a delicious phrase) first plugged his immediate opponent in the eye; thus developing the game into its present fine, manly and vigorous form so popular in Great Yarmouth this year.

For the benefit of those of our readers as yet unversed, we propose to outline a few of the more elementary points and moves in this splendid sport; with the hope that they will practise them in solitude, and presently confute our opponents by displaying their prowess on the field of play.

  1. THE HAND-OFF. An absurd rule forbids this to be administered – as Nature obviously intended it – with the clenched fist. Only a few old-fashioned referees however, still object to it in this form; and, as so useful a weapon can hardly be dispensed with, it should be used, as Nature intended, whenever possible. The user may be sure of our sympathy should an obsolete but keen-sighted referee ‘order him off.’
  2. THE SCRAG. The ‘modus operandi’ of this delightful ‘tour-de-force’ is as follows. The scragger seizes his intended victim round the neck with the right arm, at the same time binding his arms to his sides with the left. Throwing his weight back he then jerks the scraggee off his balance and, while falling, slews half round, so that he – the scragger – will fall on top. At the same time, the right arm is shifted a few inches so that the wrist or knuckles, when the prone position is finally obtained, will lie between the victim’s face and mother earth. Then placing all his weight on the back of the scraggee’s head, the right wrist or knuckles are worked to and fro. The referee blows his whistle for ‘cease firing,’ and one or both participants in the ‘tête-à-tête’ then rejoin their fellow players. Some half-hearted players have a foolish prejudice, sometimes even amounting to a rooted objection, to playing the part of the scraggee unless they are in possession of the ball. But this is quite a minor point.
  3. THE SUPER-SCRAG. This is a refinement or improved variation on the above, and should be employed when it is desired that any particular player should take no further part in the game. The selected opponent is grasped round the neck with both hands from the front, as though about to be fondled. The head is then pulled forward and down as briskly as possible, the operator at the same time lifting his knee forward and up in a similar brisk manner. If correctly timed, and if the opponent has a certain amount of forward momentum at the critical moment, the operator’s knee and the victim’s chin will meet at a point with a very considerable force of impact. Stretcher-bearers then remove the body so that it will not interfere with play.”

I think that is quite enough for now – there is more dubious advice on ‘holding the ball in the scrum,’ which can be divulged at some point in the future.

May 28th 1917

Lieut. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA) has replied to Fluff Taylor’s proposal that the School should have a War Memorial for Old Dragons who lay down their lives in this war.

He accepts that the building of a chapel might be the “normal” thing for a school to do…

15/5/17 “But we are not an ordinary school, and our tradition has always been cast in the opposite extreme. Routine, orthodoxy, ritual, unreasoning compliance with comme il faut – all these we have deliberately avoided. Some would say we have gone too far and undoubtedly our tradition, like the others, has its dangers. But freedom and sincerity and spontaneity and genuineness, and the mistrust of the second-rate and the second-hand, are things worth a good deal of risk to obtain and it is my firm belief that the best part of our school tradition is marked with just these characteristics.”

Hugh fears that a chapel would have to be under diocesan supervision and that school services on our present lines (with the staff and boys running them) would be impossible.

“If so, I can only say that the prospect fills me with fear. I fear… the apathy of routine: I fear the wrong kind of parent coming and saying ‘how nice and proper’ : I fear the right kind of parent coming and saying ‘After all, there’s not much in it between this and other schools’…

I am not thinking merely of those whose parents and upbringing are of some other specific creed: and I leave out of account the French and other non-British boys who have been such a strength to the School. I am thinking rather of the numbers in whom religious sensibility develops late, or takes some other form than participation in a uniform code of outward worship. Cannot we find some way of commemorating our common sacrifice which does not leave them out in the cold, and which does really link together all Dragons, past, present and to come?

My own feeling is that the War Memorial should be a building habitually and freely used by all Dragons, where the whole school meets occasionally for certain purposes and where at other times any boy can go at any hour of the day to read or write or reflect, with the names and records and memorials of the honoured dead visibly before him.”

In short, Hugh would rather we thought in terms of “a library, assembly hall, reading room, museum, concert hall or any mixture of these.”

 

Lieut. Martin Collier (RN) has also written. He supports the idea of a chapel:

“Provided, of course, that the School services remain exactly as they are at present, conducted by the boys themselves…”

 

I hope others will contribute their views to this debate and I look forward to hearing them.

 

 

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.

* * * * * *

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?”