July 4th 1918

M E M O R I A L   S E R V I C E

June 30th 1918

On Sunday we had a most inspiring Memorial Service for the Old Dragons who have been killed in the War. The Archbishop of York, who as Rev. Cosmo Lang of Magdalen College, taught Divinity at the OPS (1890-96), preached a splendid sermon.

I am grateful to David Webb (Form VIa) for writing this account from memory of what the Archbishop said.

“He began with a reminiscence of the time when he used to teach the Catechism to the VI form here.

‘Twenty-five years’ ago, I used to teach the VI Form their Divinity and I hope they got as much enjoyment, as well as instruction out of it, as I did. Many names of those whom I taught in those days have been read in the list of the 64 whom we commemorate today.

Especially do I remember Eric Leggett, the Cabin Boy; the two Fletchers to whom I was attached by family friendship, the Moberlys and Geoff Clarke. Of another also I have heard much, from officers in the Navy who all respected him, Martin Collier, a splendid type of Christian manhood. Ronald Poulton too, a Prince on the football field and, what is more, a Prince under the banner of Christ. But perhaps the one I remember best is Hugh Sidgwick – so full of promise, with the fun and eagerness of life shining out of his bright eyes. And now, as I look around on your faces, I seem to see theirs again.

That was twenty-five years ago: and how little did I think what great things were to come to them, what a great call. And when the great call came, how they rose without fuss or talking about it, saw their duty clearly, and did it!

When you grow older you will not be able to look upon each day as it comes with the certainty with which you can now. There will be puzzling and doubts; and I think that between twenty and thirty years old is the most puzzling time of all, (at least, so I found it), and it was at this time in their lives that the call came. Then it was, I think, that they were just realizing the true keen joy of life; I could tell by the look in their eyes. And so, how much greater the sacrifice of giving up their newly discovered existence, as it were, when they had just begun to realize its delight…

But to those 64 Old Boys their country had given much – the education of their Schools and the Universities – this Oxford, never so full of glory as in its present emptiness. But sometimes I think that perhaps even greater praise is due to those to whom their country had given practically nothing – a corner perhaps in a slum: and who rose as one man at the call – the boys of the Elementary Schools. It is with these that you will have to grow up, my boys, in the times that are coming, and I pray to God you may equip yourselves to be their leaders.

When I was in France, on the battlefield of the Somme, I came upon hundreds of little graves together, but the one that touched me most was a solitary grave with a little cross inscribed ‘To an unknown soldier, who died for his country.’

Let us remember these today, and let us strive to place our ideals in one man, and live up to him if we can. The man in whom I have always placed my ideals is Jesus Christ…'”

The Archbishop concluded his talk with Abraham Lincoln’s famous words:

Let us remember these great men, and let us now highly resolve that this great sacrifice shall not be in vain.’

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)

 

May 18th 1916

2nd Lieut. George Wright (Somerset Light Infantry) wrote to us last month – he went out to the Western Front in July 1915.

Wright EGE16/4/16 “How is the school going along? Oxford must be very different in war time. The school must be the least changed thing there.

We are not having a very jolly time here, as we are in the wrong place for amusement as the musical accompaniment is too pronounced for my aesthetic ear.

The weather is simply topping here now, blazing sun and not a cloud in the sky.

Yesterday I had some splendid sport: we fished with bombs – that is to say  we chucked bombs into the canal and then waited till the fish floated down to the next bridge. I’m afraid we should be ostracised for such an illegitimate type of sport in England, but perhaps we may be excused out here.

You know, I rather envy the fellows out in the East in spite of their hardships. They do get a chance of some real open fighting instead of going into the same old trenches time after time.

I’m afraid you will think this is a very ‘grousy’ letter. As a matter of fact, I am as cheery as anything. This old war has been absolutely the chance of a lifetime to most of us, and will be the making of such of us as come out intact. I think most people out here realise that they will never have another chance to make good like this. And there are extraordinarily few failures out here – and most of them are excusable.

But, all the same, we won’t be sorry when we can all come back again and think it all over quietly, and see all the old places again. One will get much more enjoyment out of life after the war than one did before.”

* * * * * * *

George’s comment as to how things must have changed in Oxford draws my attention to the fact that the deeds of our local parents have gone largely unrecorded thus far. In fact, a number of them are doing their bit for the war effort locally:

Mrs Grundy (mother of  Leslie Grundy) has been instrumental in the organisation of the food for the 3rd South General Hospital, catering for several hundred patients.

Mrs Poulton (mother of the late Ronald Poulton Palmer) is involved with the Union Jack Club, which provides time and place for mothers and wives of serving soldiers to meet and comfort each other.

Lady Osler (whose son Revere Osler is with the RFA) has been organising a group making bandages and other medical necessities.

Mrs Gamlen (mother of Jack Gamlen) started a branch of the Needlework Guild devoted to war work.

Mrs Kingerlee (mother of Cyril & John Kingerlee) started the idea of having Flag days to raise money in Oxford to finance the war.

Mrs Vinogradoff, whose son Igor has only just left the OPS (and is only the second Russian boy we have had in the school), is raising money for Russian POWs.

Sir Walter Raleigh (father of Adrian Raleigh) who, apart from being Oxford’s Professor of English Literature, is prominent in the Oxford Volunteer Corps (sometimes referred to as ‘Godley’s Own’). Here is a delightful picture of him with Igor Vinodradoff’s mother. The picture is taken by Lady Ottoline Morrell, the wife of Philip Morrell, who was at the OPS (1878-80) and currently is the Liberal MP for Burnley.

Raleigh & Vinagradoff

As for other changes, George might like to know that street lighting is almost non-existent and ‘Great Tom’ at Christ Church has been silenced for the duration.

 

May 30th 1915

A Memorial Service for the life of Ronnie Poulton was held in St Giles’ Church, Oxford, yesterday, which I attended with some of the OPS staff and boys.

Rev. William Temple gave an excellent address in which he emphasised the role Ronnie might have played at Huntley & Palmer (which he had inherited in 1913) and in a wider field of industrial relations after the war.

“Many of us believed that with his ready sympathy, his utter freedom from selfishness, and his courage to follow what he saw to be right, he would grasp the causes of our labour unrest and class friction, and by removing them from the great industry in whose control a large part was to be his, set an example which would prove a great force in our social regeneration… What he hated most in our usual manner of life was the artificial barriers that hold people apart, and the suspiciousness of one class towards another…”

Commenting on Ronnie’s ready sympathy, his utter freedom from selfishness and his courage to follow what he saw to be right, he added,

“There are many of us who, if asked to point to a life without blemish, would have pointed to Ronald Poulton.”

* * * * * * *

We are grateful to Lieut. G.M. Gathorne-Hardy, who recently sent this picture of Ronnie’s grave to his parents.

RWPP grave

May 10th 1915

RWPP Oxford3

Ronnie Poulton

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, a service was held at Rugby School in memory of the lives of two of their old boys, Ronnie Poulton and Rupert Brooke (who died on April 23rd on his way to Gallipoli).

Rupert Brooke played alongside Ronnie in the Rugby School 1st XV in  1905, when Ronnie was aged sixteen.

Of Ronnie the Headmaster said, “We have given of our best. If we were asked to describe what highest kind of manhood Rugby helps to make, I think we should have him in mind as we spoke of it.

God had endowed him with a rare combination of graces and given him an influence among men such as very few in one generation can possess. What had we not hoped would come of it!”

* * * * * * *

Rupert Brooke’s poem ‘The Soldier,’ which was quoted in the Times Literary Supplement in March and also used in the Easter Day service at St Paul’s, is due to be published shortly by our own Frank Sidgwick, under the title of ‘1914 and Other Poems.’

In 1911 Brooke wrote to Frank, who had four years previously set up his company Sidgwick & Jackson, asking him to publish his first volume, ‘Poems of 1911’, which he duly did. The agreement was signed at Brooke’s home, The Old Vicarage at Granchester, witnessed by a guest, Virginia Stephen.

Frank’s good taste and judgement regarding authors are not to be doubted, given that he has also published ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon II in Orkney & Shetland’ (1909-1910) and more recently, ‘To Norway & The North Cape in Blue Dragon II’ for me.

I remember these cruises with great affection, and all the more so at present as many of my old boys now corresponding with me from the various fronts of the war, joined ‘The Blue Dragon’ as crew on these great adventures.

Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon

 

May 8th 1915

 

Ronnie Poulton

Lieut. Ronald Poulton Palmer (Royal Berks Regiment)

We have received further details from Jack Conybeare of dear Ronnie’s death, which occurred on the night of May 4th/5th.

5/5/15. “I have just heard that poor Ronald is dead. He was shot through the heart, in the early hours of this morning, and was killed instantaneously. This is the first real shock I have had since we have been out here. There always are a certain number of bullets flying about, but they never seem to hit anyone one knows, and in consequence, I, at any rate, had half forgotten that a friend might at any moment be killed. This is rather a rude awakening.

I last saw Ronald about ten days ago, when he came to see me in the trenches, as his company were taking over from us. It seems, indeed, hard lines, that a stray bullet should light on one who had both the power and the inclination to do so much good in the world…

I was talking to one of the Berks’ officers this morning. He told me that Ronald was far and away the most popular officer in the battalion, both among officers and men.

Apparently he was standing on top of the parapet last night, directing a working party, when he was hit. Of course, by day, anyone who shows his head above the parapet is courting disaster; in fact if one is caught doing so one is threatened with court-martial. At night, on the other hand, we perpetually have working parties of one kind or another out, either wiring, repairing the parapet, or doing something which involves coming from under cover, and one simply takes the risk of stray bullets.”

Captain Jack Conybeare (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry) was at both the OPS and Rugby with Ronnie.