September 19th 1917

Capt. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA)

Today I should have been concentrating on the start of a new school year, but the most calamitous news came to me from Mrs Sidgwick. Hugh has been killed.

At this time, I feel able only to share with you my response to his mother:

My dear Mrs Sidgwick,

No words can express my sorrow and feeling of personal loss – it is too too cruel a fate – such a glorious intellect & so noble a character, with so splendid a future before him.

There must be some future reunion with these noble souls – or we all are in the hands of a fiendish force which drives us & jibes at our hopes – I have just told the boys of the severest loss we have yet suffered. With the exception of Frank (& that possibly because I have seen more of him) Hugh was of all my old boys the best beloved and most proudly looked upon by me – and this does not express

my very deep feeling of sympathy with you & Frank & his sisters. His father is I hope spared the full knowledge of the loss he has suffered, but I do mourn with you all and sympathise most deeply.

Yours ever,

His old Skipper

 

 

 

Hugh’s father’s illness renders it unlikely that the family will share this news with him.

 

September 3rd 1917

Lieut. William Scott (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry)

This has been a distressing few weeks – these pages in quick succession have had to record the deaths of five Old Dragons, with Willie Wells-Cole also missing in action – all in the Flanders offensive around Ypres.

Will is now the sixth and, as with many of these brave young men, he was leading his men forward when he was killed in an attack on August 22nd.

His colonel has written consoling words to the family: “Your brave boy died leading his men to victory, and it was by his example that the victory was gained, as he was hit twice, once severely, but still refused to quit, and it was at the head of his company that he was hit for the third time, but still thinking of duty before himself he continued to give orders up to the last.”

His Company Commander Capt. Geoffrey Rose, also an Old Dragon, wrote most warmly to Will’s parents:

“No mere words of mine could suffice to describe the pride and grief which is felt in the Battalion and most especially in this Company at his death. Your son is famous for acts of the greatest bravery and devotion to duty that are unequalled in the records of this Battalion…”

Will was twice wounded last year as well as suffering from trench fever.

From Rugby School, Will went to McGill University in Montreal in 1910. Thereafter Will embarked on a promising career, engaged by the Canadian Government to determine latitudes and longitudes in the Rocky Mountains.

When the war came, failing to gain admission to a Canadian contingent due to his short sightedness, he returned to England to join the OBLI. As the Times obituary noted, in this he was following family tradition, “his grandfather and his great-grandfather had both served in that regiment, the former at Waterloo.”

 

 

 

 

August 31st 1917

2nd Lieut. George Falkiner (Royal Dublin Fusiliers)

In the Times yesterday was the announcement of George’s death – the third Old Dragon to have been killed on August 16th (along with Alan Cam and Hampy Jefferson).

The family have been advised that George, who had been declared missing has in fact been killed and his CO has informed them that “the enemy put down a very heavy artillery and machine-gun barrage, and he was killed while leading his platoon up to support the troops in front.”

George and the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers were supporting the Royal Irish Rifles and the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the attack at Frezenberg and all have suffered heavy casualties.

In May 1917 George was commended for his gallantry in a raid when he had a narrow escape. He performed a heroic action in carrying a wounded man for 300 yards over No Man’s Land. For this he received the honour of a ‘parchment’ – a thing peculiar to the Irish Brigade.

George was only with us for a year (1911-12), but his cheery nature and merry smile that was never missing from his handsome face, won the affection of all of us.

When George first tried to enlist last year, he was declared unfit for service due to “defective vision.” He successfully appealed against this decision, this process costing his mother a princely 4 guineas.

In just one cruel week, Mrs Falkiner has now lost two sons: in addition to the loss of George, her older son Frederick (who did not come to the OPS), was killed in action with the RFC five days later, on August 21st.

 

August 30th 1917

2nd. Lieut. Hamilton Jefferson (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry)

Hampy Jefferson – only 19 years of age – joins the Roll of Honour of those dear boys who have laid down their lives.

The exact circumstances of his death are unknown, but it is clear that he was killed leading his troops forward in the attack on Langemarck on August 16th – the same day Tom Cam was killed.

The German concrete strongpoints caused particular difficulties, and their advance of some 500 yards was made at the cost of 65 killed and 105 wounded. Of the officers, all bar two were casualties.

He was always the cheeriest of boys at school, full of the joy of living and loving the rough and tumble of rugger. He returned from France injured last November, not with a battle wound, but a badly twisted knee following a football game with his men!

He was constantly visiting us and a regular attender of our Old Boys’ dinners before the War.

August 24th 1917

2nd Lieut. Alan Cam (Royal Engineers)

The current battle in Flanders has claimed a second victim from our ranks. Alan Cam – or rather Tom, as he has always been known to us – has been killed in the battle for Langemarck.

Tom has been in the thick of the fighting in recent months, being attached to the 36th (Ulster) Division. He went through the battle of Messines, being wounded for the first time just before the attack, but refused to report lest he should miss it.

He was wounded a second time on August 14th before being killed two days later. The notice of his death in today’s edition of The Times quotes Tom’s CO as saying Tom was killed “by machine-gun fire whilst leading his section to the site of the work they were to do. The fire was very heavy indeed there and by getting up to lead and encourage the men he met his death.”

His corporal kindly recovered Tom’s revolver and wrist watch and returned them to his father accompanied by a letter. A previous CO, Major Boyle wrote that Tom was “so full of life and fun and always wanted to do the daring jobs… It is always boys like this that are caught.”

Fortune does not always favour the brave.

 

August 13th 1917

With the casualty lists growing to proportions not seen since the Somme battle last year, the news of the death of Alan Jenks is quickly followed by news that 2nd Lieut. William Wells-Cole (Lincolnshires) is missing.

Willie’s regiment were involved in the opening day’s attack on July 31st near Wytschaete. He and his company were not seen again after putting in their attack.

As a boy, Willie always refused to give in or to own himself beaten and it is difficult to imagine him having being taken prisoner.

 

 

August 9th 1917

Major Alan Jenks (Royal Engineers)

Over a week has gone by since the new battle at Ypres started and it is only now that news of casualties sustained on that first day are coming through. Sadly one of them, as reported in The Times yesterday is Major Alan Jenks, killed by a sniper on July 31st.

His CO was good enough to write to his family the following day:

“It happened yesterday afternoon. An attack had been made in the morning, and during the afternoon he went out to reconnoitre the ground gained. He insisted on doing this, though the Brigadier for whom he was working did his best to dissuade him. He had not gone far beyond our first line before he was hit by a sniper and fell.”

This was Alan’s way, winning the MC in 1915 “for conspicuous gallantry and ability… He made a valuable reconnaissance of the enemy’s trenches and in the ensuing fight displayed great personal dash, initiative and resource.” He was twice mentioned in dispatches.

Alan wrote us a most amusing letter at the end of last year, recalling his school days and complaining that water in France fails to flow downhill.