March 28th 1919

February 4th 1919 – Admiral Tyrwhitt joins us in a school photograph.

As we come to the end of term, we can look back on the pleasure of meeting up again in peacetime with many of our Old Boys. We were particularly honoured by the visit of Rear-Admiral Reginald Tyrwhitt (who took the surrender of the German submarines).

It has been an especial pleasure to receive visits from those Old Dragons who contributed letters and articles to the Draconian during the war years. What a rich tapestry they have woven for us:

Roger Mott (writing of his archeological find),  Robin Laffan (on the difficulty of being understood by the Serbs), Walter Moberly (who wrote so movingly on the death of Hugh Sidgwick), Leslie Grundy (one of the first British soldiers to enter Lille last year), Maurice Jacks (who used Shakespeare to defeat the censor), Treffry Thompson (dealing with shirkers on a medical board at Cowley), Jack Gamlen (critic at our Shakespeare plays), Donald Hardman (recent winner of the DFC), Pat Campbell (on his experiences at Ypres), Donald Innes (who gave us the Despatch Riders’ Prayer), Pat Duff (who wrote about the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula), Tyrrell Brooks (who was so supportive of ‘Thomas Atkins’), and Geoffrey Rose (who recorded the battle in which Walter Moberly won his DSO).

How glad we were to see them all back at their old school after such years!

Many have told me that their deepest impression is the revelation of the supreme worth of a British Tommy. This seems to have formed a bond between classes which must in the end wipe out many class distinctions.

February 6th 1919

The occasion of the investiture of Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt on Monday with the Freedom of Oxford was quite splendid, amidst much cheering and singing of ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’ The parchment he received was in a silver casket with the Oxford and the Tyrwhitt family coats of arms on it. It was most impressive!

Accepting his honour in the name of the Harwich force which he led so ably throughout the war, he recalled his early days on the upper river and when he rowed in a race from Godstow to Binsey in 1880, aged 10. Many was the time when he came to grief on the river and he was dried out outwardly and inwardly refreshed at the nearby Trout Inn.

The only note of sadness was that his father, who was vicar of St Mary Magdalen’s (1858-72) and died at 62 Banbury Rd in 1895, was not able to share the moment with him.

Our young scribe, John Brunyate (aged 12), concludes his account of the three days of the Admiral’s stay in Oxford:

“On Tuesday, to our delight, he came up and was photographed with the whole school. He brought with him two of the original members of the school, his brother Beauchamp Tyrwhitt and Dr. FC Ford, and, after he had satisfied the many autograph hunters, he claimed a repetition of the extra half.

In the afternoon, Mr Vassall represented the school at the Sheldonian, and found himself supported by Walter Moberly, Jack Gamlen and other ODs.”

This event was staged to confer on the Admiral a Doctorate in Civil Law (DCL) and the Public Orator, Dr AD Godley, made the presentation address. As it was long – and in Latin – we shall not include it here. Suffice it to say, in essence it said exactly the same thing as the song that was sung at his investiture with the Freedom!

Rear-Admiral Sir RY Tyrwhitt KCB DSO RN as DCL

 

 

 

February 3rd 1919

Daily Telegraph, December 5th 1918

This much heralded event is upon us today, but in advance of it we were delighted to have Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt to address the boys at the School Service yesterday.

It is good for a boy to be asked to record events on important occasions such as this (as with the visits of Jack Smyth VC and Archbishop Cosmo Lang) and this time it is John Brunyate who is responsible for what follows, starting with the Admiral’s excellent address of which this was part:

“I remember I was generally somewhere near the bottom of my form, but I did learn how to make up my own mind. Now it may seem a hard thing for you to prepare for the future, but it is not really difficult if you keep a straight course all along. Do not wander to this side or that, either through temptation or outside influence, and, above all, do not rely too much on others. Make up your own minds. The advice of others is very useful occasionally, but when one gets too used to outside advice one cannot help oneself, and when the emergency comes one cannot get on alone.”

Sir Reginald went on to tell of the raid on Cuxhaven (December 1914), when he was in charge of the light cruisers and destroyers accompanying the transports which were carrying a number of seaplanes that were to carry out the raid. However, they were spotted by the enemy and he had to make the decision as to whether to carry on or call the mission off. The manner in which he reached his conclusion was remarkable.

Opting not to ask for another opinion, which would only make him more undecided, he noticed a ball of light in the sky in the Cuxhaven direction.

“I was then joined by an officer who said, ‘Do you know what day it is, sir? It is Christmas Day.’

‘So it is,’ I replied, ‘I had forgotten. Then that’s the Star in the East and I’m going on.’  My mind was made up, and from that moment I had not the slightest doubt about the success of our enterprise. 

The light in the sky proved eventually to be the planet Jupiter and it remained visible for quite a long time after the sun rose.”

Today the boys are enjoying an “extra half” and a number of the staff will be at the Oxford Town Hall to see the Admiral receive the Freedom of the City.

 

 

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.”