September 28th 1914

Our Old Dragon correspondent at Winchester has reported that Cyril King, who was due to be a House Prefect this term “is at present unavoidably detained in Germany.”

Cyril King

At the end of July 1914 Cyril was at Schluchsee in the Black Forest with his mother, four sisters and a tutor from New College, Coote. Although there were rumours of war, they were confident that if anything came of it, they would be able to return to England. Instead on August 7th they were arrested. We await further news.

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We have received news from Rupert Lee, a Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment.  In good OPS tradition, he is keeping a diary, although rather different in content to the usual Dragon offerings at the end of the summer holidays.

“This diary must be read and criticised very leniently, being rather a disjointed sort of narrative. Pieces of it were written in strange postures and places, in varying frames of mind, sometimes left for weeks without an entry and then written up to date… It does not profess to be a connected narrative but merely a conglomeration of statements of happenings as they appeared to me at the moment…”

He writes of a very narrow escape he had during the retreat from Mons:

“Just as I got about twenty yards away from a wood a shell came crashing through the tops of the trees and burst quite close to me. My horse got it badly in the stomach. I got off and shot him to put him out of his agony… I then stood up and looking round saw, just at the end of the ride, two Germans. I bolted for the wood and as it happened it was extraordinarily fortunate that I did so. For they both dismounted and came down the ride  looking into the other side to that on which I was hidden. Just as they got opposite me the leading man put his gun up sharply. I shot him and bolted, as did his companion in the opposite direction.

I went about twenty yards and lay down behind a bush. Nothing happened, so after about twenty minutes I went back very quietly, took his shoulder strap off him and walked away.”

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JBBrooks

Capt. W.T. Brooks

Tyrrell Brooks (recently promoted to Captain in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and ADC to General Morland) writes:

September 14th.

“We are having a VERY hard time and now the weather has changed to rain it is cold and greatly adds to the discomforts which we are undergoing. Our Infantry has been brilliant and have more than kept up their high traditions, their marching having been really good and their fighting power at the end of the trek has been unimpaired.

We have now started a great forward movement which, though costing many lives, will undoubtedly test our enemy to the utmost and they are, I think, in rather a tight hole from which it will take them all their skill to extricate themselves. However, they are splendid tacticians, but I doubt if they have the material which is worthy of their well planned tactics.

How long this war will last I know not, but one thing is certain and that is it will leave all concerned crippled with regard to fighting material and armaments. Our casualties have been large but the German ones must have been larger.”

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Readers of the “Illustrated London News” may have noticed the photograph below, probably taken during the retreat from Mons, which shows our old boy, Arthur Percival, with a number of notable figures. Arthur, a veteran of the Boer War and the first Old Dragon to have won a DSO, is serving as a General Staff Officer to Major-General Monro.

Percival & Generals

(Left to Right): Gen. Sir Douglas Haig, Maj-Gen Monro, Lt Col AJB Percival DSO and another.

 

 

September 14th 1914

Since the outbreak of war on August 4th, a number of Old Dragons have been in action as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) deployed to assist our allies against the German onslaught. We have received this account of the events of last month from Lieut. Victor Cowley, who is serving with the Royal Irish Rifles.          

V Cowley

Victor Cowley

At 1.30 a.m. that night (August 22nd – 23rd) we were sleeping comfortably in billets at Cipley when we got the order to prepare to move in the direction of Bavay. After marching and counter-marching we eventually started to entrench a position in a beetroot field. Hardly had we dug down a foot into the ground when the first shell burst over us, a fragment of it hitting one of the machine-guns and breaking off a piece which struck the sergeant on the head, doing no material damage.

The ground was soft and the earth flew as we burrowed like rabbits to get cover. It was the first time we had been under fire and we were all anxious to know what it felt like. The relief was wonderful when we found that though the air seemed thick with shells, we were still alive. The men began jeering at the shooting and singing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’; however they were quietened down a little when two shells burst in the trench, one in the parapet and the other knocking the gun back into the trench and nearly taking off the head of No.1, who was working it.

From the first shot being fired till late in the evening it was one incessant bombardment, but of my section of eight they only killed one and wounded another. Several times we were almost buried alive by shells bursting in or near the parapet of the trench. It was most anxious work later in the darkness waiting for them to attack us, but when they did they were met by a fire which cannot have left many unhit. We could not wait till daylight to see the results of our work as we received the order to retire about midnight, and I must own that we were all quite relieved.

We heard that the French on our right hand had retired and that the Germans had started a very powerful enveloping movement round our left flank N.W of Mons, and it was touch and go whether or not they surrounded us.

We had to march night and day fighting a series of rear-guard actions the whole time, but the weight of the pursuit was relieved by the cavalry.

The men suffered terribly from sore feet and want of sleep; so much so that after a temporary halt two miles outside Le Cateau it was found impossible to wake some of the men when the regiment moved on again…  

Between 23rd and 29th August we marched 140 miles and fought two big battles (Mons and Le Cateau). This does not sound as trying as it was, but lack of food and sleep made it a perfect nightmare. The worst was marching at night as it was impossible to keep awake; I used to arrange with someone to lead me while I went to sleep, and in turn led them. It was no use riding my horse as when I went to sleep I used to fall off which woke me up too suddenly…

At every place one halted, excursions were made for eggs, bread and chickens, but one never knew if you would have time to cook them. I became an excellent cook, my forte being ‘aeroplane duck.’ The recipe for this was after having caught, killed and plucked your duck, to truss it with sticks like a man on the rack, then hang it from a tripod over a wood fire, turning it over when the underneath was cooked. The basting was done by filling its inside with bacon fat which melted and oozed through, giving it a delicious flavour…”