January 17th 1918

E A S T E R   T E R M   1 9 1 8

Yesterday saw the start of a new term. The School Roll numbers 141, of which 84 are boarders. Our Junior Department has a further 26 – the majority being 7 and 8 yr. olds.

Let us hope for a healthy term, free of illness. It will no doubt become even more difficult to keep everyone well fed. Yesterday’s announcement in the newspapers of compulsory rationing of butter and margarine (with other items undoubtedly to follow), allows us only 4 oz per person per week. Meat continues to be in short supply, although the importation of Argentinian beef is helping make up the difference.

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It was a great pleasure to be able to share with our returning pupils the news of honours recently won in the war – particularly that of the DSO by one of their former teachers.

One of the more prestigious orders of chivalry is the Order of the Bath – founded by King George I in 1725. In the honours list announced in the New Year, Captain. WW Fisher (RN) and Temp. Brigadier-Gen. BG Price (Royal Fusiliers) were made Companions (CB).

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) has been awarded to Temp. Major LD Luard (ASC), Acting Maj. JAA Pickard (RE, Special Reserve) and, although not an Old Dragon but a much admired member of the Dragon staff before the war, Temp. Capt. WRG Bye (Royal West Surreys & General List).

No fewer than six have been awarded the Military Cross (MC): Acting Capt. FS Low (RFA), Acting Major VLS Cowley (Irish Rifles, attached to MGC), Temp. Captain WT Collier (RAMC), Capt. EH Evans (RWF), Temp. Lieut. GH Moberly (MGC), Captain. GF Thuillier (Devons).

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Readers of The Times of 14/1/18 may have noticed this article on Capt. William Fisher (RN). For those who read other newspapers, here it is:

Director of Anti-Submarine Division

“Capt. WW Fisher commanded a battleship at Jutland, and was commended for his services in that action. He has received a CB. He had held several Staff appointments before the war, having served as flag commander to the Commander-in-Chief  of the Home Fleet at Devonport, while in the summer of 1912 he was selected to act as Assistant Umpire for the Grand Naval Manoeuvres.

He is a gunnery specialist and a French interpreter, and was commander of the ‘Indomitable‘ when that vessel made her record run across the Atlantic with King George, then Prince of Wales, on board in 1908.

He has been for some months the Director of the anti-Submarine Division of the Naval Staff.”

February 25th 1916


Captain Robert French (Royal Welch Fusiliers)

The death of Robert French, which occurred on February 19th in the Empire Hospital for Officers in London, was announced in the Times yesterday.

We had news of his situation last month (January 5th) and understood that he had been hopeful of recovery and was quite expecting to go to a convalescent home in Roehampton up to, at any rate, a week or two before his death. And now, nearly five months after he was wounded, he has succumbed to infection.

Robert won a scholarship to Blundell’s School from the OPS and was part of the Officer Training Corps there, rising to the rank of Sergeant. In 1911 he was commissioned in to the 3rd Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers as a probationary second Lieutenant.  According to his father, he spent the whole of a legacy (practically all he had) on his training and outfit. This was in addition to the Government grant, which was found to be totally inadequate for the purpose.

At the outbreak of war, Robert joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers (the same unit as Capt. George Fletcher, who was killed on March 20th 1915). He took part in the retreat from Mons and the battles of the Marne and Aisne and was promoted to the rank of Captain in February 1915.



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.’


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.)

December 28th 1914

We hear that George Fletcher (Royal Welch Fusiliers) is making a name for himself on both sides of the front line. Apparently he taunts the Germans with any news that comes his way of Allied successes, which he chalks up on a board. The Saxons opposite then take pot shots at it, which the Tommy likes to score as if he was on the ranges at Bisley!

George was trying to persuade the Germans to join in a beer, sausage and plum pudding evening on Christmas Day but his C.O was not impressed. Nonetheless, the Germans did provide two barrels of beer and there was general fraternization and exchanging of food and cigarettes.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Greville Drew (Capt. R.E.) was able to enjoy a more relaxed time well behind the front line.

Greville DrewXmas Day.  “We are very glad to be out for Xmas and a few days’ rest. We are in an extremely comfortable billet with a dining room, sitting room, kitchen, and two bedrooms for the four of us that there are now – three officers and an interpreter – or interrupter as the Indians all insist on calling them.

We have decided to have a real day off today and are leaving the men to their own devices for the first time since we have been in the country. Tomorrow we shall start getting them really straightened out. All the same, we are not to be caught napping today. We have orders to stand by in case the enemy should consider Xmas Day a suitable opportunity for a little devilry, so we are all ready to move at a moment’s notice.

The King’s Xmas cards to all ranks have just arrived.

I am glad to see from the ‘Daily Mail’ that they are at last publishing in the papers the fact that all the troops are amply provided with clothing and comforts. Really since we got a mention in despatches, the things sent to us have become a positive nuisance. For instance someone sent us 300 cardigan jackets (for about 150 men we have left in the Company). We don’t know what to do with them, and we have been fully occupied with more important duties than sorting out what we do want and what we don’t, and sending them back again. What is wanted is a central depot in London for each corps, or division, and then when a unit wants something it can write and ask for it.”

November 23rd 1914

The arrival of winter weather has put an end, at least for the time being, to the fighting at Ypres. Both sides have suffered most horribly and there have been times when British troops have risked their lives to help the enemy wounded. George Fletcher (Royal Welch Fusiliers) describes an incident in which he was involved.

George Fletcher

“We were fortunate in being able to rescue one wretched man. He was one of the advanced party in the charge, and had seven bullets in him. He stopped for a day in front of us shouting, but we were getting such a peppering from snipers all that day that we were not allowed to fetch him. At night I got two volunteers to come and fetch him, and just as we were getting out such a hail of bullets came that we nipped back.

I kept up a conversation (shouted) with him next day – he told me the Germans had been practically up to him in the night, but had refused to help him. I told him to hang on till night, and we would try and rescue him again. So at dusk I got two volunteers again, and we pulled him in successfully, and doctors say he will live in spite of his seven wounds. Funny thing, war.”

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Whilst the war takes up the thoughts of us adults, it is important that life at the OPS continues as smoothly as possible for our young Dragons.


The beautiful weather which held for the first month of term made rugger impossible. In the first match, against Eagle House on November 4th, considering all things, although the team lost 0-22, they made a good show and look as they might develop into a good side.

I am not convinced of the desirability of keeping each boy to play in a particular place practically always. To know the game properly, a boy ought to be prepared to play half or forward or three-quarters as he may happen to be asked.

There seems to me nowadays a sort of prevalent fear of doing the wrong thing, and not enough initiative, not enough determination to get through and to score against the opponents…

I must say I think criticism of an individual’s play, sometimes very emphatic and loud-tongued, should be entirely abolished during the progress of the game; and nothing but encouragement allowed. Personally I know what the effect on myself would be if I were yelled at as a slacker or funk in the middle of a match!

Why, oh why do not Winchester, Charterhouse, Repton and Shrewsbury play rugby instead of the disgraced ‘soccer’? Malvern, Radley and Rossall have abandoned the professional game and joined the Rugger ranks…

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The boys have sent stamps to the Base Hospital, and indeed have made a very large money collection considering their small incomes! The ‘Blue Dragon’ gramophone with its lovely old records and many new ones has delighted the inmates of Medical Ward V, where it is guarded jealously from the raids of other wards.

Hum Lynam

Hum Lynam

‘Hum’ has been almoner-in-chief and has installed and looked after Belgian refugees at the Lodge and elsewhere. He has also collected and forwarded sweaters, pipes, pencils and writing books, subscribed for by the boys, to various quarters, including HMS Colossus, HMS St. Vincent and HMS Russell.


We have had the following replies:

H.M.S. St Vincent

First Battle Squadron

November 20th 1914.

My Dear Dragons,

Pipes very much appreciated – now smoked by His Majesty’s Jollies.

Pipe 1
Who owned?                         



And the other one that might have been made by Krupp?

Pipe 2


It was a kind thought and entailing some sacrifice I’ve no doubt – parting with old friends – Censor allows no news.

William Fisher (Capt. R.N.)

H.M.S Russell


Dear Dragons,

A line to thank you all for sending us that generous supply of briar pipes. The men are no end pleased, and wish me to thank you for your kind thought for them. I only wish I could come and thank you all personally for them! But I shan’t be able to do that until they become Pipes of Peace.

 Lance Freyberg (Lieut-Commander R.N)

November 9th 1914

One of the first Old Dragons to volunteer was George Fletcher, an older brother of Regie, whose death we recently reported.  He is known to some young Old Dragons as a ‘beak’ at Eton. He was summoned to join the Intelligence Corps, as he is a fluent German-speaker. He was last seen departing London for Southampton on a motorbike! He has somehow now found his way into the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

This letter was written by George Fletcher to colleagues on the staff at Eton and has been passed on to us. It describes life in the trenches and his experiences in the battle still being waged at Ypres:

2/11/14. “The rule of existence in trenches is, on the whole, this: – 5.30 a.m., daybreak – nothing much visible in front – except certain groups of grey-clad figures and a few spades appearing and re-appearing above the earth 300 yards away. When the grey figures are moving about I am at a loophole in the trench with field-glasses.

‘No. 15 section! Three hundred yards! At the Germans moving three fingers right of sloping apple tree! Five rounds! Fire!’

Then a shindy, and the grey figures either squat or fall down.

‘Now, you silly asses, don’t waste ammunition when you can’t see them!’ – and so on.

Probably now for the rest of the morning the Germans do not appear again, but they dig and dig, sticking out snipers and Maxim guns in houses or on haystacks, so that they sweep the trenches and plough the brain of anyone who puts his head above the trench  the whole day.

About 7 I go off down the trench to a little hole where the Captain is, and eat anything there is. There is probably some bread and jam or sardines, and very likely some rum. The rations are procured at dusk, when sniping has ceased and the attack is not going on.

Then are seen figures flitting to our rear with great biscuit tins on their backs, or mackintosh sheets full of water bottles. Sometimes, however, these loads never get into the lines, for the store where they are kept has been shelled and the rations wiped out – once, anyhow, for forty-eight hours the men had to exist on what they carried in their pockets. The ration party also bring back our letters, and the reception of letters in the trench was the one thing that kept us alive…

Sniping till evening, then there is a hush; then just after dusk a Maxim rings out and a great fusillade starts from the enemy’s side. There are attacks every night, but there was one particularly big one when, as a wounded German told me, they hoped to take the trenches but failed.

There began on this occasion, soon after dark, a terrible musketry outburst on our right. It rolled along, and soon the enemy began firing from in front of us. There was a continual rattle of pellets on our parapet, and on looking out, or rather, bobbing the head up for a moment, one could see the flashes from their rifles. Then we got the order to answer it, and we did so. All through the night this went on, fiercer and fiercer, and the artillery took it up from both sides, the flash after the exploding shrapnel lighting up the battlefield at intervals. Not only that, but the enemy, who had hidden some bold spirits in rifle pits thirty yards ahead of us, with wire cutters, began by means of these to throw up bright green flashlights to illuminate our trenches – also illuminating themselves for our benefit. All this time I was crawling about among the men and saying, “Don’t fire in the air, you ass. Fire occasionally. Rapid fire. Slow fire,” etc., etc.

At about 2 a.m., the fire slackened, and there were rustlings in the turnips ahead, and callings, and rallyings among the Deutschers.

‘The rally for the charge,’ said I to myself. And it was.

There were hoarse captains crying,

‘Erste Compagnie, hierber! Wurst! Schweinhund! Einhundertzweiundzwanzigstes Regiment!’ and so on.

Then a pause again, and suddenly, ‘Alle Fertig! Vorwarrts! – Los!!’ and they came on. They got as far as the open ground and near our wire, thirty yards away, and then fell face-forward on the ground with heads to the enemy like the good men they are. Of course, it is a terrible thing to attack a strong entrenchment full of thoroughly armed defenders, and they never got nearer than thirty yards.

One poor devil did, however, and I pointed him out to my next man, who shot him. Unfortunately the poor devil had wanted to give himself up – being sick of the war (of course he deserved to be shot for this). We took him into the trench, and he lay till 4 p.m. next day in my dug-out, when he died. Only yesterday did I wipe his blood off my hands – which were a crust of this and of mud!

Well, this attack waned again at dawn, and ‘in the morning they were all dead corpses,’ like Sennacherib. We saw 200 in front of our Company. Add to those the number of dead in the turnips which we did not see, perhaps 200 more = 400. Add to these the number of wounded which must have been removed (six wounded to one dead) = 2,400 + 400 dead = nearly 3,000 out of action in front of our Company, if such calculations are worth anything…

Imagine the conditions: trench just wide enough for two men to squeeze by: parapet just high enough to fire over comfortably, and so necessitates continual crouching while walking along. Perfect quagmire whenever rain falls, as it did in torrents for several hours one or two nights, drenching wet clothes, of course, and covering you with a perfect plaster layer of yellow mud, especially about the hands. Squashed frogs underfoot, and all around stinks. Let me enumerate the (printable) stinks.


(a) of cows which were killed in an early morning attack the first day I got there. They came browsing within thirty yards of us, and the Germans fired at them on purpose, as I believe, to leave them there and stink us out.

(b) Of men; after every attack more dead men, some within thirty yards of the trench, and some of these, by now, a week or more old. Of course, whenever we attempt to remove them they fire on the parties, even those bearing the Red Cross, so I believe it is also part of their object to stink us out with the dead bodies of their own brothers and comrades.

(c) Of sheep; same case as the cows.

(d) Tins of old beef, sardines etc.”