February 11th 1919

 

Yesterday’s edition of the Times listed numerous flying honours being conferred by the King. From this we have learnt that the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) has been awarded to Lieut. Donald Hardman (RAF).

Donald joined 19th Squadron at Baillieu, flying a Sopwith Dolphin, just in time for the German Spring Offensive of last year. In the final eight months of the war, Donald shot down nine enemy aircraft, which makes him the second OPS flying ‘ace’ – the other being Capt. Jim MacLean (RAF).

Two of Donald’s total were achieved on the flight for which he was cited for the DFC:

“A bold and courageous officer who has shown most praiseworthy devotion to duty, both in the March retreat and during the more recent operations. On 30th October, while escorting a bombing raid, he, with his flight, encountered some 40 enemy machines. In the combat that ensued he shot down two, and it was mainly due to his cool judgment and skill in leading that the flight inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, destroying five machines and driving down another out of control. In all, this officer has seven hostile aircraft to his credit – destroyed or driven down out of control.”

Donald left the OPS in 1913 to attend Malvern College, at which he spent only three years before leaving to join the Artists’ Rifles in 1916. He transferred to the RFC in early 1917, but his young age prevented him being posted to France until the following year.

At the time of the Armistice, Donald was taken ill with flying sickness and was admitted into hospital in Boulogne before being transferred to a London hospital to complete his recovery.

We hope to see him back at the School before too long, fit and well.

 

January 4th 1919

Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC

His funeral, which was held yesterday, was the occasion of an impressive display of respect and made the front page of the ‘Daily Sketch‘ and was also featured in the ‘Times’:

“Shortly before the procession left Lavender Cottage, the residence of Major Clifton – in which Capt. Robinson was staying as a guest when he died – a large wreath of laurel leaves, a tribute from the General Officer Commanding and the other officers of the 6th Brigade of the RAF, was dropped in front of the dwelling from an aeroplane. A flight of aeroplanes circled above the house and over the heads of the crowd who lined the roadway along which the coffin, covered by the Union Jack, was borne upon a RAF aeroplane trolley drawn by a RAF motor-van to the place of interment, a distance of nearly a mile…

The procession was headed by the Band of the RAF playing a funeral march, and detachments of the Force followed and formed a guard of honour within the churchyard…

Two of Capt. Robinson’s favourite hymns, ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and ‘For All the Saints who from their Labours Rest’ were sung and the Psalm, ‘God is our Refuge’ was chanted by the choir…”

This is the second war-related death in the Robinson family, William’s brother, 2nd Lieut. Harold Leefe Robinson (Indian Army), having been killed near Kut in 1916.

* * * * * *

19 Old Dragons laid down their lives for their country in 1918. The full Roll of Honour now stands at 77 (with Edmund Gay and John Dowson still unaccounted for). We continue to raise money for a War Memorial in their honour.

January 1st 1919

Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC (RAF)

Having heard only a couple of weeks ago that he had returned in good health, it is a shock to read of the death of William Leefe Robinson, which occurred yesterday.

It is clear now that the information was wrong – he was in a weakened state as a result of the treatment he received at the hands of the Germans whilst in captivity (which included time in solitary confinement following his attempts to escape).

The cause of his death, however, was influenza, which we learn he had been battling for over a week at the home of friends in Stanmore near Harrow.

* * * * * *

Also in today’s newspaper is news of the safe return from captivity of Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RAF) and Lieut. Peter Warren (RAF).

December 16th 1918

Daily Telegraph, 16/12/1918

Today’s paper brings the good news that Capt. William Leefe Robinson VC (RAF) has been repatriated and is in good health.

2nd Lieut. William Dyson (Devon) and 2nd Lieut. Adrian Raleigh (Leics), who both were captured in the German Spring Offensive earlier this year, were reported to have returned on December 8th.

Lieut. Blake Budden (Middlesex), who was interned in Holland, has also now returned.

We await news of two other Old Dragon fliers who have been in captivity, Capt. Aubrey de Selincourt (RAF) and 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren (RAF).

 

 

November 6th 1918

 

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Just two months after his death, the London Gazette of November 2nd has confirmed Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF) has been awarded the DFC for a mission into Germany he undertook in his Handley-Page bomber.

“Capt. Buck, with 2nd Lieut. Barter as Observer, was Pilot of one of two machines detailed to bomb an important railway junction. Owing to most unfavourable weather conditions the other machine returned, but Capt. Buck persevered, reached the objective, and made a most successful attack in face of intense anti-aircraft fire with numerous searchlights. On the return journey they were were much hampered by a severe thunderstorm, which lasted for three-quarters of an hour, the machine being out of control owing to the lightning. In this critical situation Capt. Buck remained cool and collected, and, displaying marked skill and judgement, succeeded in landing his machine safely. The success of this raid was largely due to the skill and efficiency displayed by 2nd Lieut. Barter, who most ably co-operated with Capt. Buck. During the past month these officers have carried out sixteen night bombing raids in a manner reflecting the greatest credit on them both.”

Within a week of these heroic deeds, Geoff Buck was killed, when returning home from another night raid into Germany on September 3rd. He is the first of our airmen to win this new award, the DFC.

 

In addition to the above news, Mr Bell, Geoff’s Winchester housemaster, has most kindly favoured us with a most perceptive appreciation of Geoff’s time there:

“He stood out as something very different from the ordinary boy. In the first place he always knew his mind; he knew where he was moving to and what he wanted. Whether by reading in books, thinking for himself, or talking with his friends, he had formed an idea of what life should mean for him and how he should train himself for it.

He never accepted conventional standards or ideas because they were conventional; yet, unlike many who have tastes and interests of their own, he never shirked the ordinary routine of work or neglected his Latin and Greek for excursions into other fields… None who knew him could be blind to the strong stamp of his individuality…”

I would like to think that his years at the OPS played their part too.

 

 

September 12th 1918

Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF)

Geoff Buck has been killed returning from a night raid on September 3rd. He was with No. 215 Squadron, flying Handley-Page bombers capable of long flights into Germany. As Flight Commandant he was responsible for five aircraft and crew.

He crashed his plane into a high petrol tank building in the black darkness, and that was the end. He once said that very few people knew how hard it was to keep every nerve strained and the brain working its utmost for five hours on end.

In August 1917 Geoff was awarded a richly deserved Military Cross:

“He has taken part in many offensive patrols and had led seventeen, frequently attacking hostile troops on the ground. He has also successfully attacked and destroyed hostile aircraft on several occasions, setting a fine example of dash and determination.” (London Gazette, August 1917).

He has recently been awarded the DFC, although the citation has yet to be published.

Geoff Buck had joined the Royal Fusiliers in 1914, aged 17, and served in the trenches. In 1916 he transferred to the RFC, writing us some interesting letters about his training and early experiences as a pilot.

He had no fear of death; he wrote from France earlier this year saying that “Life has been so topping that I don’t mind how short life is.”

 

Geoff was a great reader, mostly of philosophy, psychology, history and good novels (both modern and standard), and had keen artistic perception. In fact, there was no good thing that he came across in his short life which he did not appreciate and enjoy.

 

 

 

July 24th 1918

On the last day of term, during the sports events, there was one curious incident worthy of mention.

We were all rather startled during the High Jump to see an aeroplane circling lower and lower over our heads, only to discover later in the day that it was Capt. Jim MacLean (RE/RAF), who had flown from Chester to look us up. It was a treat to see him again at Prize-giving (having landed on Port Meadow).

We were able to congratulate him on his recent award of a Bar to the Military Cross:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While leading a patrol he attacked and drove down an enemy two-seater machine and destroyed an enemy scout. He showed the greatest determination in leading patrols and splendid coolness and courage, most of his work being done under very difficult weather conditions.”

Jim joined up as a Royal Engineer and won the MC in 1915. He then trained as a pilot, and since June 1917 he has been with 41st Squadron. He has, we understand, been accredited with five aerial victories, which qualifies him as a ‘flying ace.’