November 20th 1918

Mr Bye was one of four members of staff who left us to join up on the outbreak of war in 1914, and now the gallant editor of the ‘Draconian’ has persuaded him to contribute an article about the modern wonder that is the Tank, together with an excellent sketch.  As Capt. WRG Bye MC DSO (Royal West Surrey Regiment), he has had ample opportunity to acquaint himself with them.

Mark V one star Tank as drawn by Mr. Bye

“The latest Tank – Mark V one star – besides being much superior to the older type in speed, power, armament etc., is also so constructed as to render the crews immune from ‘splashing.’ In the older Tank many serious casualties were caused to the crews by sprays of molten lead which flew into the interior through the crevices etc., in the plate, when the Tank was under rifle fire and machine gun fire.

My first Tank ride was… 1½ miles in a Mark V one star over rather variegated country comprising many trenches and fear-inspiring ditches.

Prior to this, I had always felt a certain amount of pity for a Tank crew and thanked my stars I was not compelled – like them – to live a good part of my life being shaken to bits inside one of these crawling ironclads. However, as a result of this ride, my views have changed somewhat, as the trip was accomplished with much less pain than I had anticipated…

After a short time we began to imagine ourselves in danger of being melted alive and so the side doors and top apertures were opened, which relieved our distress somewhat. And yet a trained crew are capable of sticking that stifling oily atmosphere for eight hours.

In some of the operations of 1918, platoons of infantry were carried into action in Mark V one star Tanks, but the great drawback was that after some distance the men were absolutely done in and had to be rested before they could go on.”

Despite Mr. Bye’s words, as someone happiest on the open sea, I am not sure I could endure the conditions suffered by those brave soldiers who manned these Tanks.

It is rather appropriate to produce this article today, as it is a year ago to the day that the Battle of Cambrai, famously involving over 400 tanks, started.

February 15th 1915


Roderick Haigh

Roderick Haigh

Roderick Haigh’s Will.

The will of Roderick Haigh, who was killed at Ypres in November (see October 12th, 29th and November 16th posts) has just been published. We are immensely grateful to Roderick for remembering us, as no doubt will be all who are benefitting from his generosity:

£2300 to the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, to found a scholarship or annual prize in memory of Arthur Elam Haigh (his father, a Fellow of the College).

£1000 to the Governing Body of Leeds Grammar School to found a scholarship or annual prize in memory of Arthur Elam Haigh.

£500 to the Headmaster of Winchester College for some purpose as he may determine to assist the Winchester College Mission.

£500 to the Headmaster of the Oxford Preparatory School to supplement the Exhibition Fund, or for any other purpose he may determine.

£30 to the Oxford Women’s Church of England Temperance Society and £20 to the Oxford Surgical Aid Society.

£500 to the officer commanding 2nd Battalion Royal West Surrey Regt., for investment as he may determine and to apply the income in the purchase of instruments, music etc for the drum & fife band, or for any other purposes he may determine.

Roderick also left a number of bequests varying from £50-£10 to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of his regiment ‘as a token of gratitude’ In the event of their being no longer alive, the gifts will go to their next-of-kin.

Part of Roderick Haigh’s bequest to the OPS has been used to pay for the miniature rifle range and the Roderick Haigh Cup will be shot for annually, and will be won by the best individual marksman in a competition between Day-boys and Boarders.

The range has also been very useful to the 4th Territorial Battalion of the OBLI (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry) and to the Oxford Volunteer TC. Officers home on leave from the front and others in training have also used the range for revolver practice. In fact it has been a great success.

The rest of the money may be used to help the sons of Oxford dons attending the School, who, on account of the war, or for other reasons, may need it.

* * * * * * *

Mr Haynes has contributed a handsome addition to the Boarders’ Library in the shape of the following books, which were chosen by a plebiscite of the VIth Form:

W. H. Ainsworth: 	Old St. Paul's 
		 	Windsor Castle
		 	Tower of London
F. Anstey: 		Vice Versa
R. M. Ballantyre: 	Coral Island
Rolf Boldrewood: 	Robbery Under Arms
A. Conan Doyle: 	White Company 
			Rodney Stone
                	Exploits of the Brigadier Gerrard
Quiller Couch: 		Dead Man's Rock
Fitchie: 		Deeds that Won the Empire
W. S. Gilbert: 		The "Bab" Ballads
Rider Haggard: 		King Solomon's Mines 
	       		People of the Mist
J. K. Jerome: 		Three Men in a Boat
R. Kipling: 		Just So Stories
	    		Jungle Book 
	    		Second Jungle Book
Lamb's 			Tales from Shakespeare
Capt. Marryat: 		Midshipman Easy
Anna Sewell: 		Black Beauty
Seton Thompson: 	Wild Animals I have known 
			Lives of Hunted
Jules Verne: 		From Earth to Moon 
	     		20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Stanley  Weyman: 	Gentleman of France
P. G. Woodhouse: 	Mike 
	         	Psmith in the City

November 16th 1914

We have been notified of the death of another very dear Old Dragon.

 Roderick Haigh 2

Lieut. Roderick Haigh (Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment)

Roderick has been killed; his crusade has come to an end. He was in the last charge of the 22nd Battalion at Klein Zillebeke (also known as Hill 60) near Ypres on the night of the 6th– 7th November, when the Brigade, only 700 strong, attacked and carried the German trenches, capturing three machine guns.

A private in his Regiment witnessed his death:

“We had the order to attack some trenches at dawn. I saw our Adjutant (Lieut. Haigh) cheering the men. We had only advanced a few yards when the enemy saw us and fired ‘Rapid Fire’ at us, and then we charged through a terrible hail of bullets, and got the first line of trenches.

Then Mr Haigh gave the order to advance, which we did, quick; and we took another trench, and then were told to get ready again, and we took the last trench; but when we got into it we found it was a running stream. The Adjutant with myself and 14 others got into this ditch only to find that the Germans were only 10 to 15 yards away, strongly entrenched.

We were firing point-blank range at each other, and all the time the Adjutant was standing up in the trench, head and shoulders showing. I actually stopped firing to look at him and admire him. He was using his revolver with great effect, and kept saying to encourage us, ‘That’s another one I hit.’ Oh, he was a cool man.

The Lance-Corporal went back for reinforcements, but couldn’t return. We kept firing for half-an-hour afterwards; then the brave Adjutant was shot through the temple. He died a noble death. I found myself alone, the only one of the fifteen alive, and I made a dash for it, and never got hit, though I had three bullets in my pack close to my neck.”

One of his tutors when at Corpus Christi writes:

“When the war broke out, he was recalled with his battalion from South Africa, and ordered to the front.  I know that he went fully realising the possibility that lay before him, but counting it the highest honour which can befall a soldier, to be allowed to give his life for his country and his king.  For him, therefore, we must not grieve.  Almost ever since I heard of his death, Shakespeare’s glorious words have been beating in my brain:

    ‘Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt.’…
    ‘Had he his hurts before?’
    ‘Ay, on the front.’
    ‘Why then, God’s soldier he be!
    Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
    I would not wish them to a fairer death.’

May his memory and example long continue to inspire those who knew him.”

Roderick’s sister was notified of his death on November 11th by way of a telegram from the War Office:

Haigh telegram 2

Lieut CR Haigh Queens Reg’t was killed in action 7 November  no further details – Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Teffrey ThompsonTreffry Thompson is not only an Old Dragon but a sailing companion. Some of you may have read of our voyages together in the ‘Log of the Blue Dragon.’ He is kindly sending us extracts from the diary he is keeping.

Having been a casualty house surgeon at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, he joined the RAMC. At present he is attached to the headquarters of XV Brigade with the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). He writes of the battle which has been going on at Ypres since mid October.

“It might interest you to know what sort of things the Germans fling into Ypres. One of the RAMC men was walking outside a large house on the outskirts of the town, which had been taken over for a hospital, when a large shell burst some distance away, and the flat base only of the shell came back and hit him on the foot. This flat base was 16 inches in diameter and weighed 93 lbs., so that the whole shell probably weighed about 800-900 lbs.

These evidently come from large howitzers a very long distance off, as one never hears the bang of the gun, but suddenly a rushing noise, just like that of a train in a tunnel, ending in a mighty crash, which even 3-400 yards away shakes the ground and trees, and when they fall only 50 yards away, as a couple did this morning, they make the whole house rock.

One great advantage here at present is that the ground is very soft; so that the shell buries itself about 12 feet  (down) before it explodes, so that most of the force is spent hurling large sods and chunks of shell into the air; one can be quite close comparatively without real danger. It is anywhere from 100-150 yards away that one may get hit by the fragments.

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.”

 *  *  *  *  *  *

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?



September 19th 1914

In the ‘Times’ today we note the death in action of one of our Old Boys.

R Pringle

Lieut. Robert Pringle (Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment).

We regret to announce the death of Robert Pringle. He had been in the Army since 1907 and was one of the first Old Dragons into battle, seeing action at Mons. We understand that he died of wounds suffered in the battle going on near the River Aisne on September 15th.

Robert was a boarder with us for just one year (1895-96) and went on to Winchester via St. Cuthbert’s, Malvern. He was married in April 1913 and leaves a wife and daughter, to whom we send our condolences.