December 2nd 1918

Daily Telegraph 28/11/1918

Following the news of the surrender of more German U-boats, we were honoured to receive a letter from Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt KCB DSO RN. It gave me great pleasure this morning to read it to the boys:

HMS Curacoa  

28.11.18

Dear Mr Lynam,

It will, I feel sure, be of interest to the School to know that the 5th Group of German submarines arrived yesterday, making the total number surrendered 114. There are a few more to follow.

I think that I, being an Old Boy, have the right to demand a whole holiday honour of the occasion. It would give me great pleasure if you could see your way to granting the school this favour and hope it will give them some pleasure too.

Yours sincerely,

Reginald Tyrwhitt

In reply, I have suggested that we should supplement our annual whole holiday on VC Day by an annual Navy Day on the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, May 31st 1916 – a victory which shut up the German fleet useless in harbours for the rest of the war.

HMS Curacoa

The Admiral has also sent us his account of the surrender of the first group of U-boats on November 20th:

“It was a most impressive sight to me, this long line of over five miles of German submarines steaming peacefully along, and one could scarcely realise that a short week ago, the slightest rumour of one such craft being in the neighbourhood was enough to bring our destroyers tearing up from all sides to hunt him to death…

The German captains were required to sign a paper on which certain conditions were laid down; the drift of these being that their boats were in good running order and ready for sea in all respects, also that no ‘booby traps’ or other such pleasant devices were arranged on board for our reception. Each boat now ran up the White Ensign, and with our prize crew in charge and the Germans fallen in on the foc’sle, proceeded into Harwich Harbour.

There was a certain amount of trouble over this latter condition; the German crews had been heavily bribed to induce them to come and had apparently not been told that they would be taken into a British port under our War Flag, as they call it.  It is a most interesting fact that the majority immediately concluded that they were about to be paraded through the streets of Harwich at the mercy of the inhabitants, after the manner of a sort of ancient Roman triumph.

One can easily imagine what would have been our fate if the conditions had been reversed.”

November 23rd 1918

Daily Telegraph 21/11/18

Sub-Lieut. Francis Studdy (RN), on HMS Danae, witnessed the surrender of the first group of German U-boats on November 20th – to an Old Dragon, Rear-Admiral Reginald Tyrwhitt (RN), “of Arethusa fame,” (as the Daily Telegraph described him.)

It was a coincidence (surely?) that the ship detailed to lead in the U-boats was HMS Dragon!

20/11/18 “All ships sounded off ‘Action Stations’ at once. The light cruiser HMS Dragon (our sister ship) was detailed to lead them in, and took up her station ahead of the two merchant ships, who were to act as transports to take the German crews back. We carried on to the end of the line, the eighteen destroyers ranging themselves on each side along the line of submarines…

At 10.30 we reached the place where the Dragon and the two transports were anchored off Felixstowe, and anchored ourselves. As each U-boat came up a motor boat went alongside and put a prize crew on board…

The manner in which the Germans surrendered their boats differed greatly. In some cases they seemed only too pleased to hand over; in others they were stoically indifferent. In one submarine the captain crashed his binoculars to the deck and wept passionately, several of the crew ‘following their senior officer’s motions.’…

As they moored up, the German crews were put on board destroyers and taken out to the transports waiting for them. The officers have no control over their men at all, and both men and submarines are in a filthy condition, but at the same time they look healthy and appear to be well fed. One destroyer officer who took one batch out said that they smelt something awful and that it took him several days to get rid of the stench.

In one submarine the crew took a dislike to their captain, so they just ditched him and put someone else in his uniform. They were quite candid about the whole thing, because the officer taking over the boat commented on the youthful appearance of the captain and asked him how long he had been in command. He replied a few hours and then volunteered the above information…

When all the U-boat crews were embarked in the two transports, the Dragon escorted them off the premises.”

 

 

November 12th 1918

P E A C E   A T   L A S T !

Daily Telegraph, 12/11/1918

After four years of sacrifice, yesterday’s news of the Armistice is more than a little tinged with sadness at the thought of so many who have not lived to see this day.

As in London, the news of the Armistice was received with some enthusiasm in Oxford.

The first indication for many of us was the tolling of ‘Great Tom‘ in Wren’s Tom Tower at Christ Church (which, like Big Ben, has been silenced for the duration).

At 6pm the Mayor read out the terms of the Armistice in the city centre and the day concluded with fireworks and a bonfire (with the effigy of the Kaiser being consumed by the fire) outside St. John’s College in St. Giles, a stone’s throw from where the OPS started in 1877.

When the boarders return, we will have our own celebration.

Those noble sorts who have followed the King’s example – including Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt –  in giving up alcohol till the war ended, can now enjoy their first drink since 1915!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 19th 1918

Our Old Dragons are doing us proud at present. The Times yesterday had a whole article on this well-earned promotion:

Flag Rank for Sir RY Tyrwhitt

“It has been announced at the Admiralty that Commodore Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt KCB DSO ADC has been appointed an Acting Rear-Admiral, to date from January 8th.

The announcement that Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt has been given the acting rank of Rear-Admiral will be received throughout the country with great satisfaction…

From the beginning of the War Sir Reginald has played a brilliant part in many of the notable exploits of the cruisers and destroyers of the Harwich Division which he has commanded…

At the beginning of the war Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt was serving as a Commodore of the Second Class in command of the destroyers of the First Fleet, with his broad pennant in the ‘Amethyst.’

He had previously come into public notice when, as a lieutenant, in March 1894, he had landed with a detachment of seamen and Marines from the ‘Cleopatra’ to protect the inhabitants of Bluefields, Nicaragua, during a revolution. The British landing party saved the town from pillage, and the lives of many of the civil population who were in danger. He was promoted to Captain in December 1913, when he was 43.

In the action in the Heligoland Bight on August 28th 1914, Sir Reginald commanded the Destroyer Flotilla, with his broad pennant in the ‘Arethusa,’ a newly-built ship which had not been 48 hours out of the dockyard before she was engaged with the enemy. The gallantry of the Commodore, with his skilful handling of the ship and the force under his command, were referred to in the despatches of the Rear-Admiral commanding the light cruisers and destroyers.

The ‘Arethusa’ had at one time all her guns, with the exception of a 6 in., temporarily disabled, and fire broke out on board. She was however, again brought into action, fought gloriously, and was of material assistance in the destruction of the German cruisers.

On many occasions since, Commodore Tyrwhitt has commanded a force of light cruisers and destroyers in action, including the air attack on Christmas Day 1914, the Dogger Bank Battle on January 24th 1915, and the engagements on May 10th and June 5th with German destroyers last year. In February 1916 the ‘Arethusa’ struck a mine and was wrecked on the East Coast.

During the four years he has been in command of the light forces based on Harwich, many Admiralty announcements have shown that he has continually exhibited dash, foresight and persistency as well as skilful seamanship and other qualities fitting him for high and independent command.”

 

 

July 18th 1917

KCB FOR CAPTAIN TYRWHITT

Capt. Reginald Tyrwhitt, CB, DSO, RN (Commodore, First Class).

The Times today has the joyous news of the award of a Dragon KCB:

“Captain Tyrwhitt has been concerned in some of the most brilliant naval exploits of the war, and the honour conferred on him by the King is well deserved. He commanded the destroyer flotillas in the famous action with a German squadron in Heligoland Bight on August 28th 1914. Concerning this action, which resulted in the destruction of the cruisers Mainz, Ariadne and Koln, the official despatch stated ‘his attack was delivered with great skill and gallantry.’ On the same date he was made CB…

He led the destroyer flotillas in the Dogger Bank action of January 24th 1915 and was in command of the Arethusa when she struck a mine and was wrecked off the east coast in February 1916.

Captain Tyrwhitt was awarded the DSO in June 1916, ‘in recognition of services rendered in the prosecution of the war,’ and was decorated Commander of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic in September 1916.

A scouting force of light cruisers and destroyers under Captain Tyrwhitt, on May 10th of the present year, chased 11 German destroyers for 80 minutes and engaged them at long range until they took refuge under the batteries of Zeebrugge. Only the precipitate flight of the enemy’s ships saved them from disaster.

A few weeks later, on June 5th, a force of light cruisers and destroyers under his command engaged six German destroyers at long range, and in a running fight one of the enemy’s ships, S20, was sunk and another was severely damaged.”

 

In addition, the London Gazette lists Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks) as having been awarded the DSO:

“For conspicuous gallantry when in command of the right of an infantry attack. The attacking troops having been compelled to fall back, he collected the remnants of his battalion and about 100 men of other units, and, regardless of a heavy fire, he organised these in defence of a position, and by his fine example of courage and skill he successfully resisted three counter-attacks, and thus saved a critical situation.”

Fluff will no doubt be demanding another half-holiday for the boys on the back of this when he next visits!

 

To these awards, we should also note these honours which have been acquired in the course of this term:

 

Lieut.- Col AR Haig Brown (Middlesex Regiment) and Major S Low (RGA) have both been awarded the DSO.

Capt. GK Rose MC (OBLI) now has a Bar to his Military Cross. The citation reads:

“When in command of a raid on the enemy’s trenches, he displayed the greatest skill and energy. He organized an effective resistance to the enemy counter attack, and conducted a masterly withdrawal under heavy machine gun and rifle fire.”

The Croix de Guerre has been awarded to Capt. JD Denniston (RNR) and 2nd Lieut. CM Hughes-Games (Gloucs), has the MC:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed great coolness and initiative when in command of a daylight patrol, obtaining valuable information. He has at all times displayed great gallantry under fire.”

 

 

December 15th 1916

In the course of the last four months a number of our gallant Old Boys have been honoured and, as the end of another term approaches, they should be recorded on these pages:

Victoria Cross (VC)

Capt. William Leefe Robinson (RFC), “for conspicuous bravery. He attacked an enemy airship under circumstances of great difficulty and danger, and sent it crashing to the ground as a flaming wreck. He had been in the air for more than two hours and had previously attacked another airship during his flight.”

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

Capt. Harry Maule (North Lancs) has been awarded the DSO “for conspicuous gallantry when leading his company during operations. During several days’ fighting he set a fine example of cheerfulness and cool courage to those around him. He was three times knocked down by the blast of shells.” (Edinburgh Gazette, Sept. 28th 1916)

Major Ernest Knox (Sikhs) in Mesopotamia.

Major James Romanes (Royal Scots). “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his battalion with the greatest courage and initiative. He set a splendid example throughout the operations.” (London Gazette, Nov. 25th 1916)

Military Cross (MC)

2nd Lieut. Stopford Jacks (RFA). “He, assisted by a sergeant, organised a party to extinguish a fire in a bomb store. Although burnt in several places, he continued at the work until the fire was extinguished.” (Edinburgh Gazette, Dec. 13th 1916)

2nd Lieut. Budge Pellatt (Royal Irish). “When a Platoon was required from his company to replace casualties in the front line, he at once volunteered and led his men forward with the greatest determination, though suffering heavy casualties.”

2nd Lieut. Northcote Spicer (RFA). “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in registering all batteries of the artillery brigade from the advanced lines prior to attack. He was severely wounded, chiefly from having to signal by flag, which was observed by the enemy.” (London Gazette, Oct. 20th 1916)

French Honours

‘The Times’ (Sept 16th) noted that Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt had been made Grand Officier of the Legion of Honour.

2nd Lieut. Trevor Hoey (OBLI) has been awarded the Croix de Guerre decoration by the French Commander on the Salonika front for distinguished conduct, referred to in the Army Orders as follows:

“When all the other officers were placed hors de combat, he took command and led the final charge against the Bulgarian position, which was brilliantly carried at the point of the bayonet.”

Mentioned in Despatches

2nd Lieut. FRG Duckworth (RFA) in Salonika, Capt. WW Fisher (RN) & Cdr GH Freyberg (RN) at Jutland, Maj. EF Knox (36th Sikhs) – for the second time, Capt. RJK Mott (Staff) in Salonika, Lieut. JC Slessor (RFC) in Egypt, and Maj. RD Whigham (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) – for the second time.

It is difficult to express just how proud we are when our Old Boys distinguish themselves so.

June 7th 1916

As far as one can tell, there have been no other casualties amongst the naval Old Dragons at Jutland – for which we are all most thankful.

Charles Fisher’s brother Captain William Fisher (HMS St Vincent) was also involved in this action, and was lucky enough just prior to the battle to be able to spend some time with Charles.

WW Fisher

William Fisher

“Charles and I were on shore together having the greatest fun when recalled, as we have been recalled dozens of times before.”

Then, by another extraordinary coincidence, he found himself at the scene of his brother’s death very shortly after the event:

“Exactly twenty-four hours later the ‘St. Vincent’ steamed past the wreck of a ship which we took to be a German. We were, with other ships near us in the line, engaging four German Dreadnaughts at the time, but I looked to see if there was anyone in the water near this ship and saw nothing – not even floating wreckage. All round was still calm water.

The wreck might have been there for weeks – and yet we know now she went down only about a quarter of an hour before our arrival. Her bow was high in the air and so was her stern, the centre having been split in two and apparently resting on the bottom.”

Invincible sunk

The wreck of HMS Invincible

It was not long before someone spotted on the starboard side at the stern, the name: HMS Invincible, and William realised that he had lost his brother.

William writes of Charles:

“I am comforted by the knowledge that he who had seen so much carnage will have steadied everyone near him.

How proud I have been to walk about as Charles’s brother, and prouder, if possible, than ever now…”

These are sentiments we can all share.

* * * * * * * *

TyrwhittIt is good to read some good news at this time. In today’s Court Circular column it is recorded that Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt was yesterday invested by the King at Buckingham Palace with the insignia of a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.