May 11th 1919

Six Captains of the Fleet Row Admiral Tyrwhitt Ashore in his Galley at Harwich

“A signal honour was paid to Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt KCB DSO when he hauled down his flag as Admiral of the Harwich Fleet, for six captains rowed him ashore in his galley, while all hands lined the deck of the flagship and cheered again and again as the galley put off down a lane formed by gaily-decorated small craft. Admiral Tyrwhitt has been in command of the Harwich patrol since the early days of the war, and greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Heligoland Bight.”

The above picture and caption formed the front page of yesterday’s edition of ‘The Sphere.’ This follows an article in ‘The Times’ on Friday 2nd May, entitled “Admiral Tyrwhitt’s Farewell to Harwich.”

When Sir Reginald disembarked on the pier, buglers sounded a fanfare and the band of the Royal Marines played “Rule Britannia.”

The following farewell message from Sir Reginald was signalled to the Fleet:

“On hauling down my flag as Rear-Admiral in command of the Harwich Force, I wish to express to captains, officers, and ships’ companies my deep appreciation of their services rendered during the war. I am deeply sensible of the arduous work they have performed, and am grateful for their loyalty and assistance on every occasion.”

Sir Reginald is now due six weeks well-deserved leave before setting off for his new appointment as the Senior Naval Officer at Gibraltar.

May 6th 1919

Commander Geoffrey Freyberg (RN), who reported on the surrender of the German U-boats in November, has returned from a week of celebrations in Paris and Cherbourg at the invitation of a grateful French nation. He and his ship, HMS Valiant, have now returned to Scapa Flow, from where he has written to us.

The French government had wished to honour the work of the Royal Navy in the War and on April 23rd (St George’s Day) held a review of our naval troops in the Court of Honour of the Hotel des Invalides, conducted by the Governor of Paris. It was attended by both Rear-Admiral Reginald Tyrwhitt and Admiral Sir David Beatty, their staffs and various ships’ companies.

On April 26th Geoffrey and his fellow officers were taken to see Reims and something of the war-torn countryside:

“From Château Thierry and Épernay we passed through the devastated area. Every town and every village was in ruins. Famous Châteaux with their roofs battered in, with broken beds gaping out of holes in the walls, and Churches with perhaps only half the Chancel or the Choir still standing, made one realize for perhaps the first time the feelings of intense hatred of the French towards the Boche, and one now understands why it is the Frenchmen are still burning to revenge themselves…

Reims had 100,000 inhabitants before the war, but only 10% now remain. Sixteen houses only are undamaged in the City. Little or no repair has been undertaken in the devastated area owing to lack of building material.”

Reims Cathedral is in a particularly bad condition.

“Outside its western front we were met by Cardinal Luçon (aged 83) and conducted round the ruins of what was once the most glorious Church in France. The building is no longer open to the public as it is in a state of dangerous collapse, the roof lies on the floor, the High Altar has vanished and the Northern Tower looks very shaky.”

Reims Cathedral nave.

“We now motored out in the rain to Fort la Pompelle, the N.E. corner of the Reims defences and the scene of desperate fighting. All the trenches are filled in, but shells, grenades, human bones and an occasional dead horse with miles of wire lie everywhere. Two grenades went off without hurting anyone, and of course most fellows carried back trophies in the shape of broken rifles or fragments of shell.

La Pompelle Fort

A French Colonel of Infantry at one place said, ‘Gentlemen, this is holy ground, as you stand on the bodies of all my officers and most of my men. I ask you to salute them.'”

When they had all returned to Paris that evening, at the end of a very full day, they looked for some lighter entertainment:

“Although feeling rather tired, we again sallied forth to visit the magnificent Allied Officers’ Club next to the British Embassy. Finding this rather dull we moved on to Maxims, which has just been reopened after the recent brawl there, which resulted in four American and French officers being killed or wounded because an American kissed a French lady…”

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.”