November 30th 1914

The ‘Globe’ Newspaper recently noted a number of “interesting names” of Old Dragons serving. They included the England Rugby Captain, Lieut. Ronald Poulton Palmer; the Oxford stroke, 2nd Lieut. Bob Bourne; a Services Boxing champion, Lieut. Martin Collier; an Oxford Cricket Blue and Fellow & Senior Censor of Christ Church, Charles Fisher; an Oxford Hockey Blue & International, 2nd Lieut. Sholto Marcon; an Oxford Athletics Blue, 2nd Lieut. Aubrey de Selincourt; an Oxford Hockey Blue & International, and tutor to the Prince of Wales, Lieut. Lionel Smith. The list also includes the captain of the Oxford Athletics, a rowing blue who had a picture in last year’s Royal Academy, three first-class men in Greats at Oxford, all this year, many scholars of colleges and 2nd Lieut. CJ ffoulkes, RNVR, who is keeper of the Tower Armouries.

Only three years ago the OPS could indeed claim, amongst the 35 Old Dragons then up at the university, the captains of Rugby (Ronald Poulton Palmer), Hockey (Sholto Marcon) and Rowing (Bob Bourne). Most notable was the University Hockey XI, which that year contained no fewer than five Old Dragons in the team. They are all now members of His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

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Draconian 79.

With the next edition of the ‘Draconian’ not due until after the end of term, we are issuing a special edition listing all those ODs who have answered the call to arms. It shows some 225 Old Dragons and staff already in uniform and a further 10 at Sandhurst, Keyham or Osborne. (Let it be remembered that when they were at the OPS, we only numbered 90-100 in the school).

We also include a poem by Frank Sidgwick, ‘The People’s Gift,’ which appeared recently in the ‘Saturday Review.’ This is the final verse:

Take the lesson, then, young Englishmen, when the war-cloud lowers black,

Let no man shift his burden of gift on to the next man’s back;

Answer today what part you will play, when your country gives the sign –

What gift will you bring to your country and King – is your blood water or wine?

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Frank’s brother, Hugh Sidgwick has been acting as private secretary to Sir Lewis Selby-Bigge, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education. His work is deemed too important to allow him to join up. Instead he is doing duty as a Special Constable.

Special Constables – by one

Hugh Sidgwick SC

Hugh Sidgwick

“The Editor has asked for an article on Special Constables, and the motto of the force being obedience I can only comply. But one thing must be made clear at the outset. This nation at present consists of (a) the armed forces of the Crown; and (b) the rest. Special constabling is one of the forms of consolation for (b), who are small beer, and don’t matter much; it stands on a level with knitting socks, and putting on a light green uniform and gesticulating in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoons. It is miles away from the activities of (a), and must not be spoken of in the same breath. Therefore, if this article gets printed, let it be in the smallest of small print, in a corner far away from the ‘res gestae’ of soldiers and sailors. If that is quite clear, I can begin.

Special constables are amateurs who in their spare time assist the police in their lighter duties. They are sworn in for the period of the war – to carry out their duties without favour or affection, malice or ill-will, to preserve the King’s peace and guard the persons and property of his subjects, and so forth. They are provided with an armlet and a truncheon and a note-book and a warrant and a whistle and a badge; (I am going to make a song some day with this refrain). They may also provide themselves with a uniform. In our detachment it is a long blue overcoat and a yachting cap, in which we look like well-intentioned tram-conductors: but I am told that elsewhere there are variations in head-gear. Thus equipped, the special constable goes forth upon his duty.

So far the terror of our name has kept the malefactors away, and we have arrested only a bronze statue and a cat. But the moral effect has been enormous. The criminal classes and the foreign agents stand appalled at the reserves which the Executive has brought into play; they argue, ‘a fortiori’, that if respectable elderly gentlemen take such a lot of trouble about a little thing like that, what will happen if matters get really lively? Further, the ascendancy of the male sex is now re-established. I know of at least one dinner invitation which has been refused on the ground of constabulary duty. The dinner was on Tuesday and the duty on Thursday: but who could know that?”

October 12th 1914

Roderick Haigh’s sister has kindly shared with us a letter she has received from him. Roderick’s father is a Fellow and Tutor of Corpus Christi College Oxford and Roderick won an Exhibition to Winchester from the OPS before going up to his father’s college. He took up a commission in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1911 and is now serving with the BEF.

Roderick Haigh  “I am extremely fit, and thoroughly enjoying myself. We are all inspired with the justice of our cause, and by the fact that we are fighting for the cause of honour and liberty throughout the world. The question at stake is whether liberty and justice or military despotism and tyranny are to prevail. It is a great privilege to fight in such a struggle.

I look forward to seeing you all again one day in England. But if I do not return, remember that it is the highest honour to which a man can attain – an honour which is open to officers and men alike, a higher honour than all the honour that can be showered on those who survive – to die for one’s country.”

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Under Mr. Wallace’s superintendence a really good rifle range has been made with 12 feet high butts, and firing sheds at 25 and 50 yards. It is parallel with the Cherwell at the east end of the field. Colonel Henry has most kindly taken batches of boys to the Oxford Rifle Range whilst ours was being made and had taught them the beginnings of shooting. Some of them are very promising and we hope to have regular competitions next term. We have six BSA miniature rifles with .22 ‘long’ cartridges and the Staff and visiting Old Boys have lively competitions.

The field is being used considerably by Oxford recruits as a drilling ground. The recruits have been drilled by Sholto Marcon, Billy Smyth, Alasdair Macdonell and other Old Boys. I shall be very glad to let the range be used for practice under responsible officers during the holidays.

Cyril Pouncey, in my top form, has written a capital poem, which we shall put in the next edition of ‘The Draconian’.

Oh! Kaiser William, I today
Do condescend to write to you
And ask you, if indeed I may,
If what men say is really true?

Some people say you are the cause
Of all this grief and useless strife,
Of breaking treaties, starting wars,
And cutting short the Belgian life.

They say you slaughter many a child,
And pound with shells each ancient town;
And use as shields the women mild,
And turn cathedrals upside down.

They say your soldiers, at your will,
Do rob and plunder just for you;
And often poor civilians kill.
Oh! Kaiser, is this really true?