January 17th 1918

E A S T E R   T E R M   1 9 1 8

Yesterday saw the start of a new term. The School Roll numbers 141, of which 84 are boarders. Our Junior Department has a further 26 – the majority being 7 and 8 yr. olds.

Let us hope for a healthy term, free of illness. It will no doubt become even more difficult to keep everyone well fed. Yesterday’s announcement in the newspapers of compulsory rationing of butter and margarine (with other items undoubtedly to follow), allows us only 4 oz per person per week. Meat continues to be in short supply, although the importation of Argentinian beef is helping make up the difference.

* * * * * * *

It was a great pleasure to be able to share with our returning pupils the news of honours recently won in the war – particularly that of the DSO by one of their former teachers.

One of the more prestigious orders of chivalry is the Order of the Bath – founded by King George I in 1725. In the honours list announced in the New Year, Captain. WW Fisher (RN) and Temp. Brigadier-Gen. BG Price (Royal Fusiliers) were made Companions (CB).

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) has been awarded to Temp. Major LD Luard (ASC), Acting Maj. JAA Pickard (RE, Special Reserve) and, although not an Old Dragon but a much admired member of the Dragon staff before the war, Temp. Capt. WRG Bye (Royal West Surreys & General List).

No fewer than six have been awarded the Military Cross (MC): Acting Capt. FS Low (RFA), Acting Major VLS Cowley (Irish Rifles, attached to MGC), Temp. Captain WT Collier (RAMC), Capt. EH Evans (RWF), Temp. Lieut. GH Moberly (MGC), Captain. GF Thuillier (Devons).

* * * * * * *

Readers of The Times of 14/1/18 may have noticed this article on Capt. William Fisher (RN). For those who read other newspapers, here it is:

Director of Anti-Submarine Division

“Capt. WW Fisher commanded a battleship at Jutland, and was commended for his services in that action. He has received a CB. He had held several Staff appointments before the war, having served as flag commander to the Commander-in-Chief  of the Home Fleet at Devonport, while in the summer of 1912 he was selected to act as Assistant Umpire for the Grand Naval Manoeuvres.

He is a gunnery specialist and a French interpreter, and was commander of the ‘Indomitable‘ when that vessel made her record run across the Atlantic with King George, then Prince of Wales, on board in 1908.

He has been for some months the Director of the anti-Submarine Division of the Naval Staff.”

September 25th 1916

Hugh has finally escaped the clutches of bureaucracy, where he has been the Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education. He is now Lieut. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA).

He was commissioned into the Special Reserve of the Royal Garrison Artillery in January and is currently with a siege battery in France.  Having hoped that at the Front he would be free of modern communication systems that demand continual attention and instant reaction, he has been disappointed:

sidgwick-ah-2“The most distressing thing to me personally is the omnipotence and omnipresence of the telephone. It was my curse in civil life and I hated it bitterly and profoundly.

I did think that in military life I should escape it. But no; it is more important than ever; you range the country at the end of a telephone wire, and if it breaks you are an exile and outlaw at once; you come back and sit in your battery surrounded by telephones, all talkative and all meaning work.

The call to arms is a message dictated over the telephone and taken down on a pink form; the call to rest is the mystic word CI… I suppose when peace is declared the message will go round – Pip, Emma, Ack, C, E.

Of what is happening in the war we have not the slightest idea; a five day old Times is generally our latest news. We hear extraordinary rumours – that Roumania has come in, that a German Division has surrendered, that a Great Personage while addressing the Guards said that within 90 hours (now elapsed) something quite remarkable was going to happen. I believe these rumours are made up by Railway Transport Officers, to beguile the tedium of their existence.”

Hugh must have had to learn a lot in his new job rather quickly, but then scholars of Winchester & Balliol Colleges are quick learners. He makes it out to be easy enough:

“… the mathematics of siege gunnery are nothing alarming and many of the beautiful calculations we learnt in England go by the board. One has to know the difference between + and – , right and left, and to be able to add and work a slide rule, and read a map and take bearings, but that is about all.

I would volunteer to make quite an easy and profitable course of instruction in siege gunnery for VIa, and if they would give us a gun and let us practise on North Oxford from Shotover, so much the better for the cause of architecture.

If one of the Old Dragon airmen would come and observe, we could have a charming afternoon.”

I am not convinced as to the wisdom of arming the current VIa, and there might be mild concern amongst the residents of North Oxford as to whether their particular houses pass muster, or would be included in Hugh’s architectural cull.

July 1st 1915

Last week Lindsay Wallace, know to us all, adults and children alike, as ‘Pug’, became the sixth member of the OPS staff to join the war effort – as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.

We have received this letter from him, addressed to us all.

6 Park Town, Oxford.

June 27th 1915.

Dear Fellow Dragons,

I am writing to thank you all very much indeed for the present, or should I say presents, which were thrust into my hands about ten days ago. Whenever I use them, and, as soon as I leave Oxford, that will be very frequently, I shall be reminded of the OPS and all of you and of the many happy days spent there both out of doors and indoors.

I first came to the OPS in January 1885, as a boy, and left in July 1890. I remember crying hard when my last summer term was finished. During the next ten years or so when I was at Winchester and Balliol, I was always to be found at the OPS if I had a chance. In fact at the time I came too often and was a nuisance. In my Varsity days I used to cadge a tea as often as I could from Hum or Maurice Church, in order to stay for the whole afternoon. In 1901 I returned as a master, and I’ve been there ever since.

I have stated this in detail to try and make clear to you how heart-broken I felt when I spent my last day with you as a genuine member of staff. I want to make it plain that I didn’t want to go, I don’t want to go, and I shall always want to be back.

I am going to play a new game, and I mean to play it for all I am worth, but, when that game is over, I shall change and come home as quick as I can. I don’t know whether I have made myself clear; thank you again very much for your present. Don’t forget

     ‘Pug’ 

Pug Wallace

             

June 20th 1915

There has been so much distressing news from the various fronts of the war during these past months that it is pleasure to dwell this time on the life of the OPS and the Summer Term.

So much good cricket has been played and it is a great pity that an outbreak of measles has meant we have been unable to play matches against other schools.

The Fathers’ match, however, went ahead as normal. This contest was ‘fought out’ on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th.

One hundred years from the great fight near Brussels – 
And now another of the biggest tussles.
The bright green field, the cloudless sunny heaven
Between them hold the OPS eleven
And the old fellows who the boys begat
To settle which lot is the better bat.

So wrote Mr Harvey of this annual encounter. Unfortunately he and the other ‘old fellows’ could only amass 144 runs to the boys’ 147.

* * * * * * *

Mention must be made of two visits of parties of wounded soldiers from the Base Hospital and Somerville. On the first occasion, the soldiers played cricket in the nets, and in spite of bandages and crutches, bowled and batted with much skill. VIa were their hosts and bowled at them till tea-time; after tea, hosts and visitors mutually entertained each other with songs and recitations: one professional comedian, just home from the trenches, seems to have been well enough to stand on his head and sing until he was ‘as-you-wered’ by a companion, who was afraid the strawberries and cream wouldn’t stand the inverted position any longer.

A match was to have been played on the second occasion, but it was so wet that a sing-song was held in the School Hall instead.

We look forward to entertaining a team from the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry in a couple of weeks’ time.

May 30th 1915

A Memorial Service for the life of Ronnie Poulton was held in St Giles’ Church, Oxford, yesterday, which I attended with some of the OPS staff and boys.

Rev. William Temple gave an excellent address in which he emphasised the role Ronnie might have played at Huntley & Palmer (which he had inherited in 1913) and in a wider field of industrial relations after the war.

“Many of us believed that with his ready sympathy, his utter freedom from selfishness, and his courage to follow what he saw to be right, he would grasp the causes of our labour unrest and class friction, and by removing them from the great industry in whose control a large part was to be his, set an example which would prove a great force in our social regeneration… What he hated most in our usual manner of life was the artificial barriers that hold people apart, and the suspiciousness of one class towards another…”

Commenting on Ronnie’s ready sympathy, his utter freedom from selfishness and his courage to follow what he saw to be right, he added,

“There are many of us who, if asked to point to a life without blemish, would have pointed to Ronald Poulton.”

* * * * * * *

We are grateful to Lieut. G.M. Gathorne-Hardy, who recently sent this picture of Ronnie’s grave to his parents.

RWPP grave

April 24th 1915

Ronnie Poulton has completed his recent spell in the front line and we can share another entry from his journal.

During this past tour of duty Ronnie was in charge of all repairs and improvements to the section of trenches for which his company was responsible. Platoon Commanders had to report to him by 3 p.m. daily with their suggestions. His day was then spent planning the next night’s work.

RWPP profileWednesday 21st April: “The work is the most important thing, as I am in charge of it, and my time is filled up with it – by day getting the work organised for the night. This has got better and better, and now I have a good system. Of course it is nearly all done at night. It is curious, at ‘stand to’, at about 8 p.m. to hear the sniping dying down, and then suddenly the ‘tap tap’ of the German party starting. Then we know we are safe, as there is a kind of mutual agreement not to fire on each other’s working and ration parties. So out we go and hardly a shot is fired.

The men betray the usual good humour at it all and are in perfect spirits, only betraying annoyance at the absence of biscuits, and the presence of biscuits (not Huntley and Palmers’!)

They have grown quite callous and you hear them whistling and shouting while working on the parapet, in the full moonlight. We did a good deal of work in our four days. My plan was to superintend till 12.00 or 12.30, then at times I was on duty at 4.00 a.m. or 8.00 a.m., so sleep was a bit short at the end. The sniper was active and we haven’t got him yet…”

There is a continual risk of being hit by a sniper’s bullet and much time and effort goes into trying to locate the position of German snipers.

“Sniping is all that goes on and in this at present they have an absolute superiority. We have constructed steel-plate loopholes but cannot find the brutes. When we do, we shall have them, as we have some wonderful shots. They got one of our men in the throat last night, but it is not a bad wound. The trouble is to locate the snipers. We reconnoitred to where we thought he was last night, but he wasn’t there…”

We trust that Ronnie will keep his head down.

April 12th 1915

Training completed, but with still no real experience of being under fire, Ronnie Poulton’s company paraded on Saturday 10th April to take their turn in the trenches, intermingled, we understand, with companies of the Dublin Fusiliers. In his latest post Ronnie describes his first venture into ‘no-man’s-land’.

RWPP profileSaturday 10th April. “I carried a rifle and 15 rounds. We climbed through the wire and went a few yards forward and lay down, in the formation – Corporal and Officer together, and two men in rear, interval ten yards, distance from Officer about ten yards. They watched the rear and flank. I was lying for a quarter of an hour by a very decomposing cow! After listening hard we moved forward and again lay doggo. This went on for about an hour, during which time we were perhaps 100 to 150 yards out. Then we returned, each pair covering the other two.”   

Sunday 11th April. Trenches. “We all stood to arms at dawn, and the Germans started a tremendous fusillade, as is their custom. But soon after, all was quiet and you could see the smoke rising from the fires all down our line, and the German line.

About 11 a.m. our field guns put twelve shells on to the German trenches in front of us. Immediately the German guns opened on us, putting ten high explosive 6 in. shells and ‘White Hope’ shrapnel – their back-blast shrapnel. The result was 8 ft. of parapet blown down, another bit shaken down, one man with a dislocated shoulder of ours, and five men of the Dublins wounded, one seriously. As they were all within three yards of me, I was lucky. The brass head of a shell shot through the parapet, missed a man by an inch and went into a dug-out, where we obtained it.

The shelling is very frightening – the report, the nearing whistle and the burst and then you wonder if you are alive. Crouching under the parapet is all right for the high explosive, but for shrapnel it is no good, so that is why they mix them up. The men – the Dublins – were quite as frightened as we were as a rule, but some didn’t care a damn. Some were praying, some eating breakfast, one was counting his rosary and another next door was smoking a cigarette and cheering up our fellows. After a prolonged pause, we rose from our constrained position, and went on with our occupations; but it unnerved me for a bit.”