March 7th 1920

It has been an entertaining week.

On March 1st, I had the great pleasure of entertaining Captain Harry Thuillier (brother of the late Capt. George Thuillier) on his return after four years’ service in Mesopotamia and the East, together with his contemporaries at the OPS who happened to be in Oxford and able to attend a dinner at the Clarendon.

The Clarendon Hotel on Cornmarket Street.

Many old incidents of school life were recounted, and many yarns of the War.

The following were present: Charles Pittar, Hugh and Geoffrey Brown, Peter Warren, Mark van Oss, Stopford Jacks, Pat Campbell, Oliver de Selincourt, Dick Alford, Jack Richards, Cedric Horton, Felix Keyworth, Bill Bailie, Lindsay Wallace, GC, Hum, and possibly one or two more.

*  *  *  *  *  *

This was followed, on March 4th, by a trip to Cambridge to meet up with Old Dragons there. I am grateful for an (anonymous) account of the evening from one of our kind hosts:

“We had a very pleasant dinner on March 4th, and were delighted to see the Skipper, Hum, G.C., and Lindsay Wallace. Their sporting effort was much appreciated, because their Ford broke its heart – or big-end, or something – between the two universities, being so disgusted at being driven from one to the other, and they had to leave it in the ditch, and commandeer a more neutral one. However they arrived, and we are told that they were in nine o’clock school next morning. Well done!

On the evening the following appeared: AC Kermode (Clare), KS Dodd, R Butler (Trinity), FP Burch (Caius), SP Dobbs, TL Thomas (St. John’s), MC Church (Selwyn), J Merrett (Emmanuel), RS Nettlewell (King’s) and the Rev. RGD Laffan (Queen’s).

AC Kermode was in the chair, with the Skipper next to him. The Navy surrounded L Wallace and made him drink Bubbly. GC was encompassed by correspondents, and we thought we saw one of the present Headmasters sitting next to a Bolshevik.

The Chairman proposed the health of the School, and expressed the very great pleasure all the ODs at Cambridge felt at seeing the four representatives of the School amongst them.

The Skipper replied, thanking ODs for inviting them, and saying how much they liked visiting Cambridge. Having seen the beauty of King’s College Chapel by moonlight, he would not call it a rival, but rather a sister university.

The Rev RGD Laffan, unfortunately, had to go off early to see one of his theological students boxing in the Varsity contest, which had stupidly been arranged for the same evening.  Also Maurice the sailor (who last boxed to the detriment of his handsome countenance and general feeling of steadiness on, or off, the Norwegian coast), went to witness the administration of black eyes.”

 

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 28th 1917

Rev. Robin Laffan, who was elected a Fellow and Chaplain of Queen’s College Cambridge in 1912, has been appointed as padre to the Mechanical Transport Companies, who are supplying the Serbs in the mountains of Western Macedonia, from where he writes:

9/2/17 “A short time ago there arrived a most fascinating number of the ‘Draconian’ (which, I may say, moved everyone’s admiration out here, when I said it was the magazine of a Preparatory School). So I felt that, although I hate letter-writing, it is my part to send a letter for the ‘Draconian,’ if it be thought worthy…

The language difficulty is a nuisance. It prevents our knowing the Serbs as we would like and occasionally gives rise to disasters.

For instance, a doctor in one of our hospitals for Serbs, thinking that he was beginning to get on well with the language, went round his ward asking each patient ‘Imate li jenu?’ (which means, though he was after something quite different: ‘Have you a wife?’) Those who replied ‘yes’ were left in peace. When any patient replied ‘no,’ the doctor told the nurse to give him a dose of castor oil.

The next day all the patients asserted they were married. As they did so again the third day, the doctor asked a further question. ‘Koliko imate jene?’ (How many wives have you?) At this they thought he was being insulting and an unpleasant situation was only saved by calling in an interpreter, who explained that the ‘gospodin doktor’ was really inquiring after bowel movements, not families.”

March 26th 1915

 

 WG Fletcher - full

2nd Lieut. WG Fletcher (Royal Welch Fusiliers)

A seventh Old Dragon has perished in this war. George Fletcher was hit in the head by a sniper’s bullet on March 20th as he looked over the parapet of his trench.

Robin Laffan, who knew George all through the OPS, Eton and Balliol has written a heart-felt appreciation of his and our dear friend.

“The war has taken its cruel toll from a family universally beloved by all who know them. In August last, the three sons of Mr. CRL Fletcher flew to arms as a matter of course. Today Leslie, on board HMS Colossus, is the only one still with us. In November the tale of Regie’s splendid death (see November 2nd); and now the blow is renewed with the tidings of George’s similar end.

His letters from the trenches abound in the fun which kept himself and his men cheery in the midst of their hardships. Knowing his enemies, he had an intense admiration and even affection for them. Like a true patriot, he delighted in the different culture of foreign nations. Six months at Tilly’s and six months as a schoolmaster in Schwerin gave George a considerable knowledge of Germany and the Germans. He used to relieve the tedium of the trenches with friendly sarcasm shouted at the opposite lines. ‘It ain’t ‘arf a joke being in Lieut. Fletcher’s trench,’ said his men, ‘E talks to the b*****s in their own b****y language.’

Of George’s courage it is superfluous to say much. Readers of The Times will have seen how an officer described him as ‘the bravest man I ever saw.’ He was mentioned in despatches on Feb 18th and he was again recommended for distinction after his reckless feat of crawling through the German lines and recovering from a tree a captured French flag. By such deeds of daring he restored the jaded spirits of his men. But those who were lucky enough to see him in February, when at last he got his leave after six and a half months at the front, realised that the strain had told heavily on him. His light-hearted gallantry was not the result of mere animal vigour, but the triumph of spirit over bodily and mental exhaustion.”

He wrote and spoke of this desire, when in the trenches, to receive the Blessed Sacrament, of which he was able to partake at Christmas. Thinking of him as he leaves us, we feel the solid truth of the words:                                               

‘The men who drink the blood of God

Go gaily in the dark.’

RIP.”

News of George’s death was announced on page 4 of yesterday’s edition of the Times under the title of ‘An Eton Master’s Death’. Since his departure for the Front, his father, CRL Fletcher, a Fellow of Magdalen College, has been at Eton teaching his classes in his stead.

(George wrote most interesting letters which were published here on November 9th and November 23rd and he is mentioned on December 28th.)