July 30th 1918

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Eric Leggett, who was struck down by the scarlet fever whilst on active service in France.

I have the fondest of memories of Eric, who was the first young Dragon to fulfil the role of cabin boy (KB) on my boat the ‘Blue Dragon’ in 1892. He wrote the Log of 1894, when he sailed with us from Portree on Skye to Eigg, Tobermoray, Oban, Fort William, round Mull to Iona and Staffa, and on to Plockton.

Eric joined the Royal Artillery in 1899, after which his military career took him to foreign parts, which explains the references to India and Mandalay in the poem below. It was written by Frank Sidgwick, when ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon’ was published in 1907.

To E.L.

Will you read this little rhyme,
Our K.B. of olden time,
There in India's sunny clime?
                   (Exiled, alas)
Still we sail the old B.D.,
Still we bend the old burgee,
Though we ship a new K.B.
                   (Who is an ass.)
While the hathi's piling teak,
While the dreary punkahs creak,
Can you hear your shipmates speak?
                   (Isn't this rot?)
Can you hear your shipmates say,
"Come you back from Mandalay,
Come you back to Oban Bay"?
                   (Probably not.)

 

 

(A ‘burgee’ is a flag bearing the colours or emblem of a sailing club, typically triangular;  ‘hathi’ – an elephant in Hindi; ‘punkah – a large cloth fan on a frame suspended from the ceiling, moved backwards and forwards by pulling on a cord by a ‘punkah-wallah.’)

 

August 3rd 1916

 

Leggett, Eric

Major Eric Leggett (Royal Artillery)

A third Leggett brother has died – barely two weeks after his older brother, Wilfred. Eric perished not in action, but of scarlet fever, whilst serving at the front. He had been taken to the hospital in St. Omer, where he died.

No loss has been such a shock to me. Eric was my cabin boy on the ‘Blue Dragon’ on many an adventurous cruise. After he left the OPS, I visited him when he was at Wellington and Woolwich. It was delightful to be taken round by him. Whilst full of fun, there was always a serious and romantic side to his character.

Eric married in 1911 and his son, Hector, born the following year, is down to join the OPS in September 1921.

Of the four Leggett brothers, only Lieut. Hugh Leggett survives.

December 13th 1915

Lieut. Arthur Egerton, late of 3rd West Yorks and 11th Hussars, is now with the Royal Artillery and is in charge of a trench mortar battery in France, where the winter conditions are as much the enemy as the Boche:

4/12/15.  “Nearly all our dug-outs are swimming in water and we have to pump hard every day to get the water out by big hand pumps and also dig pits for it to drain off, but these fill in no time…

Some of our guns were nearly under water and our bomb stores, so we must dig new emplacements and ammunition recesses. There is very little trench fighting now, it is nearly all artillery (situated a mile or more back) – as you can barely walk about in the thick slimy clay and infantry can’t move at all. Under half a mile an hour (a bit slow for a charge!), but there is a good deal of mining going on, on both sides. Several have been exploded and the thing is to occupy the empty craters (if they are between the lines) as soon as possible, before the enemy can get there first.

Several deserters told us of mines that were to explode on our front on particular days and we were able to take the necessary steps in time. We get a good deal of information from prisoners and deserters, especially about the state of internal affairs in Germany. These are circulated to the officers in intelligence reports marked ‘confidential.’

Our snipers account for a good many of the German ones each day; we have those hyposcope rifles by which you can aim in safety without showing your head in the fire trenches.”

In more recent correspondence Arthur added:

“The water is now four or five inches deep and above my ankles on the floor of my dug-out, but I can sit with my feet on a shelf and it hasn’t reached the level of my bed yet! We are having to abandon several of our dug-outs and places, but it is the same everywhere, let us hope with the Boches too.”