July 29th 1916

 

DW Brown

Capt. David Westcott Brown (Leicestershire Regiment)

It has now been confirmed that David was killed in the fighting for Bazentin le Petit on July 14th. Although his body has not been found, a Sergeant reported seeing it.

Like many, David realised in the spring that the summer months ahead would see the launching of a new offensive. Foreseeing the high number of casualties amongst officers, he felt the need to prepare himself – and his family. He wrote to his cousin Lillian in May:

“…. I am writing like this because summer is here, and I don’t think our present peacefulness can go on much longer. People at home are beginning to wonder what they pay us for; and I think Death must come to many of us, if not to most (I am talking of officers now) before very long: and, if it does come to me, I don’t want you to feel it as a shock, and I don’t want you or anyone to grieve.

You know it is rather an honour to die now, to die for all that we hold precious, for our country, to die that we may live, and to die with so many better men.

I don’t want to die. I want to live and tell how I was in the War, how I was a fighter in it, not merely a server; but, if I do get killed, I want you and everyone to know that I knew of the possibility, that I was ready for it, and facing it, and not shirking and dodging the thought of it. It seems to me that for a man who is, if not ready or willing to die, at least aware of the presence of death, and looking it in the face not caring or wondering what lies beyond, Death has lost its power. When you cease to fear Death you have conquered it, and Death has become only a gate, no harder to pass through than the door of a room.

Am I just being morbid? I hope not; because I feel somewhat that should the worst happen it may help Mother and Dad to know that I was not caught by surprise, not realising what I was in for…”

David also wrote a poem around this time, when still behind the lines:

Two Voices
“The roads are all torn” ; “but the sun’s in the sky,”
“The houses are waste” ; “but the day is all fair,”
“There’s death in the air” ; “and the larks are on high,”
“Though we die – ” ; “it is spring-time, what do we care?”
“The gardens are rank” ; “but the grass is still green,”
“The orchards are shot-torn” ; “there’s a bloom on the trees,”
“There’s war all around” ; “yet is nature serene,”
“There’s danger” ; “we’ll bear it, fanned by the breeze.”
“Some are wounded” ; “they rest, and their glory is known,”
“Some are killed” ; “there’s peace for them under the sod,”
“Men’s homes are in peril” ; “their souls are their own,”
“The bullets are near us” ; “not nearer than God.”

David was a cousin of Percy Campbell (one of the first OPS casualties) and the godfather of a current young Dragon, Per Mallalieu.

He won a scholarship to Marlborough and then went to Balliol to read ‘Greats’, when war broke out and he joined up.

March 29th 1916

Lieut. Jack Haldane (Black Watch) has recovered from the wounds he suffered last May and since August has been training soldiers in the use of hand and rifle grenades. It is not surprising to learn that some of his methods have been, shall we say, unorthodox.

JBS Haldane“Among the things which we occasionally did as demonstrations was to catch lighted bombs and throw them back, or more accurately, sideways, out of the trench.

I had a one-eyed and rarely quite sober corporal who used to do this, but I sometimes did it myself. I admit that we used to lengthen the time fuse beforehand. Provided you are a good judge of time, it is no more dangerous than crossing the road among motor traffic, but it is more impressive to onlookers.

Some idiot asked questions about it in Parliament and got an army order issued forbidding the practice.”

* * * * * * *

In the next edition of the Draconian we will be publishing this poem, which Jack has kindly sent us for publication:

An Intense Bombardment.
The earth is burning; through her smoke there looms
The wreckage of the immemorial years;
The fruit of all that labour, all those tears
Now in an hour collapses and consumes.
Those monstrous masses of black oily fumes
Are so much vaster than the men, whose cheers
In this apocalyptic din none hears,
They seem like angels who fulfil God's dooms.
The breastwork there, that with its long brown wave
Threatened the cities that we die to save
Boils as a cauldron, its defenders hurled
To darkness and confusion and the grave,
And overhead great black clouds densely curled
Hide from the sea the anguish of the world.
                               "Safety-catch."

 Jack was nick-named “Safety-catch” by his men, as he was always saying “Remember your safety-catch” when with the Black Watch in the trenches last year.

 

March 12th 1916

Whilst so many Old Dragons are wielding the sword, there are some who have not entirely forsaken the pen and endeavour to keep our spirits up in these troubled times.

Some Verse – F.S

(Available for 2/6 from Sidgwick & Jackson)

Frank Sidgwick, the author of many of the verses in the various Logs of the Blue Dragon has in this little volume given us a collection of poems, a few of which have appeared in the Cornhill and other magazines.

One of them has given rise to considerable and learned discussion in the Times Literary Supplement – viz. Narrative Macaronic Verses. The VIth form learned this witty and amusing essai by heart and quote it constantly with enjoyment.

Narrative Macaronic Verses                                      

Charmer virumque I sing, Jack plumigeramque Arabellam.
Costermonger erat Jack Jones, asinumque agitabat;
In Covent Garden holus, sprouts vendidit asparagumque.
Vendidit in Circo to the toffs Arabella the donah,
Qua Piccadilly propinquat to Shaftesbury Avenue, flores.

Jam Whitmonday adest; ex Newington Causeway the costers
Erumpunt multi celebrare their annual beano;
Quisque suum billycock habuere, et donah ferentes,
Impositique rotis, popularia carmina singing,
Happy with ale omnes – exceptis excipiendis.
Gloomily drives Jack Jones, inconsolabilis heros;
No companion habet, solus sine virgine coster.
Per Boro’, per Fleet Street, per Strand, sic itur ad “Empire”;
Illinc Coventry Street peragunt in a merry procession,
Qua Piccadilly propinquat to Shaftesbury Avenue tandem
Gloomily Jack vehitur. Sed amet qui never amavit!

En! Subito fugiunt dark thoughts; Arabella videtur.
Quum subit illius pulcherrima bloomin’ imago,
Corde juvat Jack Jones; exclamat loudly “What oh, there!”
Maiden ait “Deus, ecce deus!” floresque relinquit.
Post asinum sedet illa; petunt Welsh Harp prope Hendon.

O fons Brent Reservoir! Recubans sub tegmine brolli,
Brachia complexus (yum yum!) Jack kissed Arabella;
“Garn” ait illa rubens, et “Garn” reboatur ab Echo;
Prositique tenax Jack “Swelp me lummy, I loves yer.”
Hinc illae lacrimae; “Jest one!” et “Saucy, give over.”

Tempora jam mutantur, et hats; caligine cinctus
Oscula Jones iterat, mokoque immittit habenas.
Concertina manu sixteen discordia vocum
Obloquitur; cantant (ne saevi, magne policeman)
Noctem in Old Kent Road. Sic transit gloria Monday.

November 20th 1915

It is some time since I last mentioned my own daughter Kit on these pages. The story following the most happy event of her wedding (see March 1st) has been too painful to tell until now.

Her marriage to Lieut. Marshall lasted less than three months. He contracted meningitis and died in hospital in Portsmouth on May 12th 1915. During his illness and following his death, Kit showed great fortitude. May I leave it at that?

Only five months later and she is, I am proud to say, in France, driving a car and working in connection with St. Leonard’s School YMCA hut, Camp 18, Harfleur Valley,  near Havre.  Albeit behind the lines, she has been seeing a lot of the Tommies and it is most interesting to hear about them in her letters.

KIt Lynam portrait

Kit Marshall

27/10/15. “Lots of our men went up to the Line tonight; it is rotten saying goodbye to them… I wonder if we shall ever see them again? I picked up and took three men down to Havre who were going to ‘Blighty’ this morning. One man had been blown up by a trench-mortar and had had one side of his head dislodged. Another man had had cholera and enteric on August 21st in hospital at ‘Eatables,’ came down here for a rest, and had been doing fatigue for three weeks, though his nerves are gone.”

Kit has also noted that Tommies doing fatigue get a shilling a day, whereas the local navvies get three times as much. She comments,

“No wonder our men get fed up. A lot of things want straightening out.”

29/10/15. “The King visited the camp yesterday, and he looked ill and worn. Only a few of the soldiers around saw him, as they had been on fatigue the day before in a downpour of rain, and of course were soaked to the skin. They have no change of clothes and consequently could not appear properly dressed, so had to stay in their tents till he had gone.”

It must have been soon after this that the King was himself injured.

As with our young subalterns, Kit is meeting the sort of people she could not have got to know in normal life. She has been asked to help write their letters and deal with tales of domestic woe.

“One man came and told us a most pathetic story yesterday. He had been home on leave and when he got to his house, he found it was shut up and his wife and ten months old daughter had gone off with a Belgian refugee…”

The Tommy who has surprised her most is a strongly built north country miner, who was able to quote Shelley and Keats to her and wanted her to teach him Latin (“I have got a Latin grammar in my tent,” he told her).

How did he come to be so educated?

(7/11/15) “You see, I like my books better than women, and they call me a woman-hater – It is funny I should be telling you that, isn’t it? But I have been living in lodgings, and I have never met a woman who liked poetry.”

Having had 23 teeth out recently, he could not return to the line until a new set of false teeth arrived, so Kit got to know him even better and has found that he has the most extraordinary knowledge of poetry.

“…he floors me completely in all save Swinburne and Kipling, which two he does not know. But what surprises me is that things we have been educated up to, such as Milton’s sonnets, Dante, Spenser and the like, he has discovered and read for his own enjoyment.  He has never discussed poetry and his opinions are entirely his own. Ever since he was ten he has lived in lodgings, thirty-five of them, and he is now twenty-five…  Browning he quoted freely, Tennyson, Longfellow etc, but Shelley and Keats he knows to perfection and just glories in them.

One day he said, ‘Have you read Kubla Khan?’ I told him it was one of my favourite poems. He said he thought it was the one inspiration Coleridge ever had and was most interested to hear it was a dream…”

May 10th 1915

RWPP Oxford3

Ronnie Poulton

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, a service was held at Rugby School in memory of the lives of two of their old boys, Ronnie Poulton and Rupert Brooke (who died on April 23rd on his way to Gallipoli).

Rupert Brooke played alongside Ronnie in the Rugby School 1st XV in  1905, when Ronnie was aged sixteen.

Of Ronnie the Headmaster said, “We have given of our best. If we were asked to describe what highest kind of manhood Rugby helps to make, I think we should have him in mind as we spoke of it.

God had endowed him with a rare combination of graces and given him an influence among men such as very few in one generation can possess. What had we not hoped would come of it!”

* * * * * * *

Rupert Brooke’s poem ‘The Soldier,’ which was quoted in the Times Literary Supplement in March and also used in the Easter Day service at St Paul’s, is due to be published shortly by our own Frank Sidgwick, under the title of ‘1914 and Other Poems.’

In 1911 Brooke wrote to Frank, who had four years previously set up his company Sidgwick & Jackson, asking him to publish his first volume, ‘Poems of 1911’, which he duly did. The agreement was signed at Brooke’s home, The Old Vicarage at Granchester, witnessed by a guest, Virginia Stephen.

Frank’s good taste and judgement regarding authors are not to be doubted, given that he has also published ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon II in Orkney & Shetland’ (1909-1910) and more recently, ‘To Norway & The North Cape in Blue Dragon II’ for me.

I remember these cruises with great affection, and all the more so at present as many of my old boys now corresponding with me from the various fronts of the war, joined ‘The Blue Dragon’ as crew on these great adventures.

Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon

 

March 1st 1915

My daughter Kit on ‘Blue Dragon’ in 1912

Amongst all the depressing war news, there has been at least one cause for celebration. My daughter Kit is married. On February 27th we had a whole holiday in honour of her wedding. All who know him agree that Lieut. Marshall, the bridegroom, has only one fault – and that is that he is not an Old Dragon. A wedding under the auspices of about a hundred schoolboys, mostly armed with confetti and old shoes, is an ordeal severe enough in all conscience. But the bride and bridegroom took it all smilingly.

We are not quite sure how they actually took the incident on the first tee of the golf course at Frilford when their golf club bags discharged pounds of confetti in a strong wind, but can well believe that the bridegroom, at all events, was imperturbable. The boys subscribed for a very nice wedding present in the shape of a serviceable suitcase.

* * * * * *

Kit was the first of a number of girls I have admitted to the OPS since 1898.

I have sometimes been, shall I say, criticised for admitting a few very select girls to the School. Personally I have no doubt whatever of the good effects it has on the boys, nor of the benefit that the girls themselves obtain. It is absurd to say that it makes the boys girlish or the girls boyish. The prejudice against the presence of girls at a preparatory school is merely a silly conventional attitude.

By the bye, I have never heard any objections to co-educating!

* * * * * *

We have also noted with great pleasure the announcement of the engagement of Naomi Haldane, rising seventeen, to one of her brother Jack’s best friends, Dick Mitchison. They are not to marry until next year. In the meanwhile Lieut. Mitchison is at the Front.

Naomi, who has been such a prolific contributor to the pages of ‘The Draconian’ over the years,  has submitted a most touching poem for our next edition.

In the grey evening after I come home
I draw the curtains to shut in the light
– One never knows what cruel things may roam
Through the wet cloud-banks in the hostile night –
And when the fire’s lit, and throwing wide
Streamers of flame light, dancing as I look,
And I am reading at the fire-side,
Now and again I glance across the book
To think if you were sitting in that chair
Your eyes and mouth, your forehead, oh my dear,
And the red glow reflected in your hair…
Only you’re out in Flanders, and I am here.

 

Naomi & Kit 1906

Naomi Haldane & Kit Lynam in ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in 1906.

 

 

 

January 11th 1915

Old Dragons are also involved in fighting the war in other parts of the world. Geoffrey Carpenter (Capt. Uganda Medical Service) is in charge of a field ambulance in British East Africa and has written to tell us of the Battle of Tanga, which took place in early November.

“You will have seen in the papers that there had been some stiff fighting in BEA, mostly on the coast, where an attack on a fortified town (where our men had been told there would be no opposition) was repulsed with considerable slaughter. The Germans had a very large number of maxims, in trees, or firing through holes cut in enormous tree trunks, each one covered by another behind, and with all the ranges carefully marked off. They had also enlisted the services of large numbers of bees – ferociously stinging – which set upon our men and of course considerably aided the rout. Indeed one or two men died of bee stings…B.E.A

We do not have enough troops to do more than maintain a defensive position and have made our line of defence along the north bank of the river Kagera, which flows into the lake at about the middle of its west coast… As it is impassable in most places, owing to dense belts of papyrus along its banks, it makes a most excellent line of defence. The actual political frontier is some miles to the north of the river, so that we hold a strip of territory really part of GEA. I think I may claim to be (at least one of) the first Old Dragons to invade German territory.

I am now (with one other white man) in a fort which we have taken over from the Germans, who retired when we advanced. They had simply erected four walls enclosing a square space. Since we have been here (2½ months) we have taken it in hand and have made no end of a place of it – bomb-proof houses to live in, underground magazine, underground passage leading to an outlying maxim pit, and other dodges so that it seems a very strong place now.

We are about four miles north of the river on a hill top, overlooking a flat plain, with other hills to the east and west. Curiously enough the other white man, who is in charge of the fort and of a section of the line of defence, is Captain Bertram Garratt of the Indian Army, Old Dragon and who was a little senior to me. We both hope the squareheads will attack so that we can have some fun.”

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, we gather Frank Sidgwick is finding training difficult – particularly on the Parade Ground.

“Form Fours”

A Volunteer’s Nightmare.

If you’re a Volunteer Artist or Athlete, or if you defend the Home,

You sacrifice “Ease” for “Attention,” and march like a metronome;

But of all elementary movements you learn in your Volunteer Corps

The one that is really perplexing is known as the Forming of Fours.

 

Imagine us numbered off from the right: the Sergeant faces the squad,

And says that only the odd files move – I always seem to be odd!

And then his instructions run like this (very simple in black and white) –

“A pace to the rear with the left foot, and one to the right with the right.”

 

Of course if you don’t think deeply, you do it without a hitch;

You have only to know your right and left, and remember which is which;

But as soon as you try to be careful, you get in the deuce of a plight,

With “a pace to the right with your left foot, and one to the rear with the right!”

 

Besides, when you’re thoroughly muddled the Sergeant doubles your doubts

By saying that rules reverse themselves as soon as you’re “turned about;”

So round you go on your right heel, and practise until you are deft

At “a pace to the front with the right foot, and one to the left with the left.”

 

In my dreams the Sergeant, the Kaiser, and Kipling mix my feet,

Saying “East is left, and Right is Might, and never the twain shall meet!”

In my nightmare squad all files are odd, and their Fours are horribly queer,

With “a pace to the left with the front foot, and one to the right with the rear!”

 

No.5 Balham A.V.F., A Company . Platoon 1 = F.Sidgwick.