July 4th 1918

M E M O R I A L   S E R V I C E

June 30th 1918

On Sunday we had a most inspiring Memorial Service for the Old Dragons who have been killed in the War. The Archbishop of York, who as Rev. Cosmo Lang of Magdalen College, taught Divinity at the OPS (1890-96), preached a splendid sermon.

I am grateful to David Webb (Form VIa) for writing this account from memory of what the Archbishop said.

“He began with a reminiscence of the time when he used to teach the Catechism to the VI form here.

‘Twenty-five years’ ago, I used to teach the VI Form their Divinity and I hope they got as much enjoyment, as well as instruction out of it, as I did. Many names of those whom I taught in those days have been read in the list of the 64 whom we commemorate today.

Especially do I remember Eric Leggett, the Cabin Boy; the two Fletchers to whom I was attached by family friendship, the Moberlys and Geoff Clarke. Of another also I have heard much, from officers in the Navy who all respected him, Martin Collier, a splendid type of Christian manhood. Ronald Poulton too, a Prince on the football field and, what is more, a Prince under the banner of Christ. But perhaps the one I remember best is Hugh Sidgwick – so full of promise, with the fun and eagerness of life shining out of his bright eyes. And now, as I look around on your faces, I seem to see theirs again.

That was twenty-five years ago: and how little did I think what great things were to come to them, what a great call. And when the great call came, how they rose without fuss or talking about it, saw their duty clearly, and did it!

When you grow older you will not be able to look upon each day as it comes with the certainty with which you can now. There will be puzzling and doubts; and I think that between twenty and thirty years old is the most puzzling time of all, (at least, so I found it), and it was at this time in their lives that the call came. Then it was, I think, that they were just realizing the true keen joy of life; I could tell by the look in their eyes. And so, how much greater the sacrifice of giving up their newly discovered existence, as it were, when they had just begun to realize its delight…

But to those 64 Old Boys their country had given much – the education of their Schools and the Universities – this Oxford, never so full of glory as in its present emptiness. But sometimes I think that perhaps even greater praise is due to those to whom their country had given practically nothing – a corner perhaps in a slum: and who rose as one man at the call – the boys of the Elementary Schools. It is with these that you will have to grow up, my boys, in the times that are coming, and I pray to God you may equip yourselves to be their leaders.

When I was in France, on the battlefield of the Somme, I came upon hundreds of little graves together, but the one that touched me most was a solitary grave with a little cross inscribed ‘To an unknown soldier, who died for his country.’

Let us remember these today, and let us strive to place our ideals in one man, and live up to him if we can. The man in whom I have always placed my ideals is Jesus Christ…'”

The Archbishop concluded his talk with Abraham Lincoln’s famous words:

Let us remember these great men, and let us now highly resolve that this great sacrifice shall not be in vain.’

February 19th 1918

Martin Collier‘s death has weighed on my mind these past days and my thoughts go back to memories I have of him as an OPS schoolboy in the early years of this new and none too happy century.

Martin was to be prepared, not for the usual entrance examination to Public Schools, but for the requirements of the recently founded Royal Naval College at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. (Martin was the first Dragon to enter the Royal Navy by this route).

Despite my dislike for ‘cramming,’ I realised that Martin would need help if he was to be successful.

Martin, when a Dragon

When the time was approaching for Martin to compete for a Royal Naval Cadetship at Osborne, we were much exercised by the prospect of the newly established ‘Interview.’ There were all sorts of stories about it, but the great thing seemed to be to give the interviewers a ‘lead’. So, in the Easter holidays, I took Martin with two other boys, Jack Brooks and Ernest Filleul, for a cruise in a small yacht on the south coast…

At the beginning of term I said to Martin, “Draw me a picture of the ‘Enchantress.’” He drew the most remarkable picture, a triangular jib at each end, the mast nearer to the stern than to the bows. I made him copy a picture of the yacht, taught him how to draw it, taught him the rig and the names of the halliards etc. Then I asked him where we had been. He had only the vaguest notion of the map, so he had to spend hours over copying the chart from the Wight to Dartmouth, with the lights, ports, five-fathom line etc.

After the interview he came dashing up to me with a splendid grin, “The Admiral said, ‘I hear you have been doing some yachting. What was the yacht like? How rigged? Her tonnage?’ and then told me to sit down and draw a map of our cruise. I was rather a long time over it, and he came and looked at it and carried it off and showed it to the other interviewers – I was just putting in the five-fathom line – and they seemed very pleased with it!”

Of course, to a boy a cruise is just a holiday with plenty of fun and amusement, but he does not naturally get into his head much about the rig of boats or the intricacies of a chart, and what a terrible loss it would have been if Martin had not been ‘passed’ by the interviewers!

I have no repentance for that bit of ‘cram.’

(Before moving on to Dartmouth, Martin was in the XV, won the middle-weight boxing and was a cadet captain).

 

 

February 8th 1918

Lieut. Martin Collier (RN)

We now have further news regarding the death of Martin Collier. He received orders to take his submarine, H 10, with a crew of 26, on dangerous secret service. He sailed from Harwich into the North Sea, never to return. It is thought that perhaps the submarine hit a mine.  Martin had left a noble letter to be delivered to his family in case he did not return.

Further tributes have been forthcoming, this from Sidney Herbert, a fellow officer:

“Martin Collier was captain of one of those of our submarines which go out and are no more heard of, and had I any official knowledge of how they were lost I might not reveal it.”

Sidney remembers stories of Martin when they were at RNC Osborne, roaming the island “sometimes within bounds, sometimes with long chases that brought him in contact with authorities in a way which made the less daring among us hold our breath.”

From Osborne Martin went on to Dartmouth, where his sport flourished. Martin was a talented rugby player. He played for the United Services and he was described as “the hardest working forward in perhaps the best club pack in England.”

In 1913/14 he played for the South and could well have gone on to make the England team.  He was also a boxer of note, winning the Navy & Marines’ middle-weight boxing championship of 1910.

I am most grateful to Martin’s father, Lieut.-Col. Collier, for forwarding me the letter he received from the chaplain of HMS Alecto, written immediately after H 10 had failed to return:

“… I knew your son very well indeed and without any hesitation I can say that he was one of the very finest characters it has ever been my privilege to meet. He was a real, clean, upright Christian gentleman. I personally shall miss him more than I can say.

He was a great help to me here, and the example he set of simple manly religion greatly impressed the officers and men, not only of his own crew, but of the whole depot. He always read the lesson at our parade services when he was in harbour, and was a very regular communicant…

He was most sympathetic and understanding and we all loved him. His crew, whom I knew well, were devoted to him. I saw his coxswain’s wife yesterday, and she told me that she tried to persuade her husband to report sick and miss this last trip, as he had a bad cold. But the coxswain said he couldn’t think of letting Mr Collier go without him.

This spirit animated the whole crew, and proves what we who knew him always recognised, that your son was a born leader of men – but he was more than that, he was a very perfect and courageous gentleman…

He has fought the good fight, he has finished his course, he has kept the faith…”

Coincidentally, today’s ‘Roll of Honour’ in the Daily Telegraph not only recorded Martin’s death, but also listed 2nd Lieut. William Sheepshanks (KRRC) as “Previously reported missing, now reported killed.”

We posted as much on December 27th (Bill having been “missing” since July 10th 1917). It has taken until now for the authorities finally to make this official.

 

 

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.”

 

January 30th 1918

Lieut. Martin Collier (RN)

The war continues to take its toll of our very best and best-loved Old Boys. Just as it seemed we would go through January without loss, we read with the heaviest of hearts today that Martin Collier has been lost at sea.

He was in command of submarine H10, which went out on a mission and has not returned. The obituary in The Times today gives the date of his death as being January 19th and gave these details of his life:

 “He distinguished himself as an athlete. Both at Osborne and Dartmouth he won a reputation in boxing and at Rugby football. Later he played for the Navy, the United Services and the South.

In the spring of 1914, in the last Army and Navy Boxing Championship Meeting at Portsmouth, he won the championship in the officers’ light heavies.

One who knew him well writes: ‘He was a real, clean, Christian gentleman… and the example he set of simple, manly religion greatly impressed the officers and men not only of his own crew, but of the whole depot.’”

He is another of whom I can say that he loved the School as the School loved him. A chasm has swallowed him up leaving us, his friends of a life-time, bereft. There is so much more to be said about Martin, and I am sure that once we have composed ourselves, we will address this.

 

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.