June 8th 1919

On the second anniversary of the death of Humphrey Arden (June 6th 1917) a Calvary has been dedicated in his memory in Yoxall Churchyard in Staffordshire. The Bishop of Stratford carried out the dedication in the presence of many relatives and friends, amongst whom were Hum and me.

The Calvary was erected by Messrs Bridgeman of Lichfield (who are to erect the OPS Memorial Cross). It stands 23 feet high and dominates the village street.

The inscription reads: “In thanksgiving to Almighty God for the beautiful life and glorious death of Humphrey Warwick Arden, BA Cantab. Killed at Messines, June 6th, 1917, aged 25. Laid to rest at Bailleul, France. Sed miles, sed pro patria. RIP.”

The following tribute to Humphrey is from the ‘Church Times’:

“He was one of those whose lives gave promise of a brilliant future. A Cambridge Honours man, a great athlete, a musician of no mean promise, one who exercised extraordinary influence on his fellow men, a lover of all the arts and of everything beautiful, great things were expected of him had he been spared.

A week before his death his fellow officers unanimously decided to recommend him for the MC which had been offered to the battery.

The Calvary was erected by his parents in Yoxall, where his grandfather, Dr Lowe, was rector for many years, and where twelve  generations of Ardens lie buried under the high altar.”

December 27th 1918

Jones’s Wedding and Other Poems

by Hugh Sidgwick

(Edward Arnold, priced 3/6)

It is just over a year since the death of Hugh Sidgwick, and it is a pleasure to note the publication of this tale in rhymed prose, which he began before the War. He worked on it in those grim times that followed, finally finishing it during the period when he was recalled from active service to work on Mr HAL Fisher’s Education Act during the early months of 1917 (during which time he also wrote ‘From a Funk-hole.’)

This review was in the ‘Oxford Magazine’:

“This tale, so playfully, so delicately told, is like an epitaph, at once grave and gay, on an Oxford friendship, or a group of Oxford friends, and young Oxford before the War lives again in these pages. The humours of the Commemoration Ball, the agony and joy of the Eights, have never been more happily translated than in ‘Eileen’ and in ‘Janet,’ but ‘Dorothy’ gains an added poetic virtue from her setting in the mountains and the lakes. Jones ‘goes over the top’ into matrimony; the author, the ‘I’ of the narrative, alas, will never come back to us from France, to determine in a sequel the fates of Robinson, Brown and Smith, and delight us with fresh sallies of his wit and satire, never malicious and never beside the mark, his merry irony, with sometimes almost a sob in its voice.

The versification owes its lift to Browning, but the Education Office must have made Sidgwick something of a cockney, for the letter ‘r’ hardly exists for him, and ‘cards’ as a rhyme to ‘Promenades’ is almost more than we can bear, while ‘Neitsche’ and ‘feature’ as a jingle set our teeth on edge; but could he reply to us, it would be with a smile and a fresh atrocity. And this poem is dated to last year; so far was he ‘au-dessus de la melee’!”

The range of Hugh’s literary interests was evident in the library of books that was returned to the family on his death, along with his kit: a complete Jane Austen, the Oxford India-paper Vergil and Horace, a Tacitus, Mackail’s Greek Anthology, as well as volumes of Stevenson, Belloc and Kipling.

However, the writing of such verse as this must surely have been Hugh’s way of amusing himself and distracting his thoughts from more disturbing images of war.

Hugh’s description of the differences between Oxford and Cambridge men cannot fail but to raise a smile in this festive season:

Brown once wrote a didactic poem,
"The Oxford Man and How to Know Him,"
In which he said the distinctive mark
Was a fatal readiness to embark
(Disregarding the obvious dangers)
On abstract topics with total strangers - 
Art, the Future, the Kingdom of Ends - 
While he reserved for his real friends,
In soul-communion knit together,
His views on clothes and food and the weather.
Per contra, with Cambridge men he found
The order was the other way round.
Brown's statement, of course, is much too sweeping,
But some of the facts do seem in keeping.

December 9th 1918

2nd Lieut. Vincent Alford (RGA) only left the OPS in 1913. In January 1918, having just left Winchester, Lally (as he was universally called) came to our rescue, playing the part of Touchstone in ‘As You Like It,’ when his younger brother Robert fell ill.

In May this year he was gazetted as 2nd Lieut. and now writes from 328 Siege Battery:

“I’m a colossal fraud, as I only saw about a few weeks of the war. The Boche ran so fast towards the end that it was next to impossible for our guns to keep up with him.

A week ago we came back to a large, straggling village called Beauval, just south of Doullens. It hasn’t seen the war except for an occasional shell last March, and it’s blessed to live in houses with a roof.

I had a capital whole-day tip to Mons, a large Belgian town in mining country, with shops and civilians and Boche money and prices (!!) that would knock spots off the Food Controller’s most fantastic efforts.”

Mons? This takes us back to the beginning of the war, when Lieut. Victor Cowley (Royal Irish Rifles) and Lieut. Rupert Lee (Worcs) first wrote with news of the retreat from Mons in September 1914.

How much have we endured since then.

January 12th 1918

Lieut. Arthur Huson (RGA) has sent in this heart-felt appreciation of his, and our great friend, Bill Sheepshanks, whose death was confirmed recently.

2nd Lieut. William Sheepshanks (KRRC)

“Well, Sheepers, they have given me a difficult job this time, old thing, to try to do justice to your memory, but I should be a poor sort of pal if I did not make the attempt.

I remember you first when I arrived at the School House, very small and very frightened,  long time ago now, and you helped to make an easy path for me, a new boy in a new world.

It did not take long to grow to like you, and not long for that liking to develop into something deeper, for there have been few things in your short life that we have not done together…

It was always you that led the way and I never knew you chuck your hand in over any single thing you tried, and you wouldn’t let me do it either. The very thought of giving in never seemed to occur to you…

Do you remember the joys of the Varsity rugger, or the Eights, or lunch in a punt on the Cher on Sundays? We tried and shared them all. And how we crept out of our beds and waited together to get seats for the Mikado, for how we blessed Josias Conybeare and his car for taking us to an ‘International’ in Town?

And how faithful you were to the Skipper and his School. Not that it was a hard job, but ask GC (Mr GC Vassall, esteemed editor of the ‘Draconian‘) how many dinners or cricket matches you missed at the OPS. How we looked forward to those games. They were the only ones you were allowed to keep wicket or I to bowl, and with what joy we encompassed the fall of Pug Wallace – when we did.

Well those days are over, Sheepers, except in memory, and I don’t think I realised it properly until that Winchester meeting at Amiens the other day when you were not sitting next to me to talk about old times, as you surely would have been.

But your end was true to your life, old thing, and you have left behind you a memory as clean and happy as the life that bred it. Here’s luck to you on the other side, Sheepers. God knows you need no wishes of mine, but you shall have them nonetheless, for a cleaner, straighter, truer pal man never had.”

January 1st 1918

As we move into a New Year, I look back with a mixture of pride and extreme sadness at the achievements and sacrifice made by so many in 1917.

Since July, 13 Old Boys have been wounded, one has received the DSO, three the Military Cross, one a special promotion, one a Croix de Guerre, one an Egyptian distinction, one a Belgian, one an Italian and one a Royal Red Cross award. There have been 13 ‘Mentions in Despatches’ (Bat Price for the 5th, Tyrrell Brooks the 4th and Jocelyn Pickard the 3rd time).

The Roll of Old Boys that have fallen includes some of my best, and best-loved, friends. Their lives cannot and must not have been given in vain: and the thought that has come down the ages, that the souls of the brave and righteous still live on, cannot lie.

None do we mourn more greatly than Hugh Sidgwick. His family has passed to me this tribute from his old employer, Sir Amherst Selby-Bigge, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education, reflecting on Hugh’s abilities:

“He was not only a perfect Private Secretary, but a very dear friend who could be trusted with anything. His loyalty, sincerity and candour were perfect and I never found in him the slightest touch of vanity or self-seeking…

His mind was singularly cool and well balanced and his exposition of intricate problems admirably clear and logical. His knowledge of Mathematics and power of handling figures were invaluable…

He had the gift of writing straight ahead in good proportion and with clear expression and articulation of argument, almost as quickly as another man could dictate…

When he was in doubt about coherence and lucidity of an important paper for publication he used to test it by turning it into Greek, and I have in my possession an admirable Greek version of a letter addressed by the President of the Board (HAL Fisher) to teachers, concerning their duties in regard to military service…”

Hugh was one of 18 Old Dragons to perish in 1917, 9 of whom were involved with the third and grimmest of struggles at Ypres. The fates of Edmund Gay,  John Dowson and Hunter Herbertson remain unknown.

          Capt. E Gay            Capt. OJ Dowson     Lieut. H Herbertson

Is it too much to expect, or even suggest, that 1918 might see the end of this terrible conflict?

 

October 15th 1917

2nd Lieut. Walter Moberly (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry), has felt moved to contribute a piece in memory of Hugh Sidgwick, his contemporary at the OPS:

2nd Lt. W Moberly

“When my generation entered VIa in September 1894, we found him, though a year younger than the rest of us, already there, the only survivor of the previous year, amongst whom he had been the first…

With Hum (Lynam) to teach us and Sidgwick to set us a standard we had a most stimulating time; and I remember nothing to compare with it until I reached Senior Sixth Book at Winchester under Dr. Fearon…

I have never known any other case of a boy being so completely on a pinnacle by himself, though I have been told that ten years later Jack Haldane approached something of the same position…

In those days, Mr Lang of Magdalen, now Archbishop of York, used to teach us Divinity. I remember his describing to us one day the characteristics of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees respectively, and his asking us each in turn which we thought we should have been. Sidgwick, who was of course at the top, led off with proclaiming himself a Sadducee. The future Archbishop told him he had judged rightly, and so he certainly had…”

Walter further recalls Hugh speaking at an Old Dragon Dinner:

“He (Hugh) went on to ask what the distinctive character of the School and its training is. He found it in the Skipper’s refusal to force his boys into one or other of two or three conventional moulds, in his positive encouragement of originality, in the opportunity given to boys to discover their own peculiar interests and gifts; so that, if you were to collect a number of Old Boys in after-life and to ask what was the common stamp that the School had set on them, you would be able to point to no single machine-made quality, but you might observe that every one was very much himself.”

I have never believed that our boys are clay to be shaped as potters will, all much in the same way, and our way. To have tried to mould a Hugh Sidgwick was unthinkable. What if the chisel had slipped, what irretrievable damage might have been done?

Finally, few concerned with the School would disagree with Walter’s conclusion:

“If I were asked to illustrate the contribution of the OPS to English life, and now to England’s sacrifice, I should be content to couple his name to that of Ronald Poulton and let the OPS be judged by them.”

Capt. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA)

 

October 6th 1917

The ‘Oxford Magazine’ has published an appreciation of the life of Capt. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA), who died of his wounds on September 17th:

“Another of the veriest sons of Oxford, and of the Morning, gone! And one of the brightest and best… he had such obvious qualities for true friendship – intelligence far above the average, wit and humour and a capacity for deep affection, and endless interests in many directions, the open road, or even more the open hills, music, mathematics, history, scholarship, education, social service and what not.

After a brilliant course at Winchester and Balliol – his was a case of double First Class Honours in Mathematics and Classics, something of a rarity nowadays with rising and specialist standards…

During his life he returned to the College the greater proportion of his stipend as Fellow to be applied to the support of necessitous students, and by his will he directed that the whole balance should be repaid to the Master and Fellows, leaving them free to allocate it in the same way, or in any manner they may approve…

Hugh has also left the OPS £100 in his will, which will aid our Leaving Exhibition Fund. This fund has, since 1908, been allowing me to give leaving exhibitions to help boys whose parents are not very well off to go to a good public school. (The first such award I gave to a young Jack Smyth, later to win the VC).