August 16th 1918

Lieut. Brian Bickmore (RN)

Brian Bickmore has been the victim of an tragic accident. His ship, the destroyer HMS Comet, was escorting SS Gordonia from Taranto to Malta when they collided on August 4th.

The Captain of HMS Comet, despite it being a very difficult time for him (as you will read below), has been able to furnish the family with the following details concerning Brian’s death:

“He was in his cabin at the time, and it was completely destroyed by the ship which ran into us. He must have been killed instantly. Nothing was ever seen of him afterwards, although a thorough search was made.”

Brian had served for nearly three years in the Mediterranean and was expected home on leave when the accident happened.

At the OPS he was a keen, determined boy with a merry twinkle in his eye, loyal and affectionate. He was full of life, and took the keenest interest in his work.

HMS Comet

Two days afterwards (on August 6th), HMS Comet, having lost a significant part of her stern as a result of the collision, was herself under tow when an explosion occurred, which sank the ship.

This short article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ must surely refer to HMS Comet’s demise:

Daily Telegraph, 14/8/1918

 

 

 

February 19th 1918

Martin Collier‘s death has weighed on my mind these past days and my thoughts go back to memories I have of him as an OPS schoolboy in the early years of this new and none too happy century.

Martin was to be prepared, not for the usual entrance examination to Public Schools, but for the requirements of the recently founded Royal Naval College at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. (Martin was the first Dragon to enter the Royal Navy by this route).

Despite my dislike for ‘cramming,’ I realised that Martin would need help if he was to be successful.

Martin, when a Dragon

When the time was approaching for Martin to compete for a Royal Naval Cadetship at Osborne, we were much exercised by the prospect of the newly established ‘Interview.’ There were all sorts of stories about it, but the great thing seemed to be to give the interviewers a ‘lead’. So, in the Easter holidays, I took Martin with two other boys, Jack Brooks and Ernest Filleul, for a cruise in a small yacht on the south coast…

At the beginning of term I said to Martin, “Draw me a picture of the ‘Enchantress.’” He drew the most remarkable picture, a triangular jib at each end, the mast nearer to the stern than to the bows. I made him copy a picture of the yacht, taught him how to draw it, taught him the rig and the names of the halliards etc. Then I asked him where we had been. He had only the vaguest notion of the map, so he had to spend hours over copying the chart from the Wight to Dartmouth, with the lights, ports, five-fathom line etc.

After the interview he came dashing up to me with a splendid grin, “The Admiral said, ‘I hear you have been doing some yachting. What was the yacht like? How rigged? Her tonnage?’ and then told me to sit down and draw a map of our cruise. I was rather a long time over it, and he came and looked at it and carried it off and showed it to the other interviewers – I was just putting in the five-fathom line – and they seemed very pleased with it!”

Of course, to a boy a cruise is just a holiday with plenty of fun and amusement, but he does not naturally get into his head much about the rig of boats or the intricacies of a chart, and what a terrible loss it would have been if Martin had not been ‘passed’ by the interviewers!

I have no repentance for that bit of ‘cram.’

(Before moving on to Dartmouth, Martin was in the XV, won the middle-weight boxing and was a cadet captain).

 

 

July 11th 1916

AG Clarke

2nd Lieut. Geoffrey Clarke (Rifle Brigade)

It is with particular sadness that I have to give you the news of the death of Geoff Clarke. His brother, Capt. “Bim” Clarke (10th Gurkhas) received the telegram on July 7th and the notice of Geoff’s death is in the Times this morning.

Geoff, who was first thought to have been killed on July 2nd, was in fact a casualty of the initial attacks on July 1st. The Redan Ridge, north of Beaumont Hamel, was the objective of the 4th Division, which included Geoff Clarke’s Rifle Brigade. Although it must have been hoped that the bombardment of which we have read in the newspapers had obliterated the German defences, this does not appear to have been the case in this instance. When their time came to advance, The Rifle Brigade was repulsed with heavy losses.

Geoff was one of the few to reach the second line of German trenches, though twice wounded on the way. A fellow officer has kindly written to the family to explain the circumstances of his death:

“He led his bombers well on to his objective under a heavy fire before he fell, wounded, into a shell hole. One of our bombers dressed his wounds and Geoffrey continued to throw bombs into the enemy trench till he was killed by a Boche bomb.”

Geoff was the son of my predecessor, Rev AE Clarke, the first headmaster of the OPS. Geoff was only aged 3 when his father died and I have known him all his life. He boarded at the OPS, in the house run by his mother. He won scholarships to Winchester and then New College, Oxford.

He spent five years as an assistant master at the Royal Naval College at Osborne and then two years in Bethnal Green, helping to found Boys’ Clubs and studying the social and economic conditions. ‘A Text Book of National Economy’ resulted, for use in schools.

In 1914 he had attempted to enlist, but was rejected on medical grounds. He therefore undertook a course of physical training, first for Home Service and shortly after for General Service in the Royal Fusiliers (Public School Brigade). He obtained promotion to non-commission rank, and later received a commission in the Special Reserve 5th Rifle Brigade.

The last time I saw Geoff was at Tonbridge in 1915. He ‘spotted’ me in the Ford, and we had a pleasant lunch together and a long talk about old times and about the war.