August 30th 1917

2nd. Lieut. Hamilton Jefferson (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry)

Hampy Jefferson – only 19 years of age – joins the Roll of Honour of those dear boys who have laid down their lives.

The exact circumstances of his death are unknown, but it is clear that he was killed leading his troops forward in the attack on Langemarck on August 16th – the same day Tom Cam was killed.

The German concrete strongpoints caused particular difficulties, and their advance of some 500 yards was made at the cost of 65 killed and 105 wounded. Of the officers, all bar two were casualties.

He was always the cheeriest of boys at school, full of the joy of living and loving the rough and tumble of rugger. He returned from France injured last November, not with a battle wound, but a badly twisted knee following a football game with his men!

He was constantly visiting us and a regular attender of our Old Boys’ dinners before the War.

April 19th 1917

2nd Lieut. Rafe Griffith (Royal West Kents) only left us five years ago, in August 1912 (with an Exhibition to St. Bees College, where Harold and William Leefe Robinson also went).

We presume that this description is of the Battle of Arras, which has featured in our newspapers of late and opened up on the morning of April 9th:

14/4/17. “Here we are absolutely untouched. We ‘went over’ at 5.30 a.m., and of course it was raining. Never shall I forget ‘zero.’ There are two outstanding things, barrage and the company going over. Every gun massed at A______ went off together, as though worked by a spring, in one great crash.

The company went over as though starting a 100 yard race, never a man late. The whole way through I can’t say enough for the men. They were magnificent throughout, laughing and joking all the time. There aren’t any duds in the British Army; they are all as plucky as anything and full of the fighting spirit.

We took old Fritz by surprise, entirely; we were over his first lines before he had realised anything. Some of them were in bed with their boots off. I had two lucky escapes. Before we reached our front line, my haversack was shot away; we were finally held up by a strong party of Germans at the end of a communication trench. Three bombing raids were led against them, but their snipers were too hot for us. Then a bullet went through my steel helmet. We finally rushed them over the open and bagged the lot. We then went on to our objective and found Fritz had cleared off.

We stayed there that night and the next day had to go on to the furthest point our troops reached. It snowed hard all the time, and we were all soaked to the skin and a bitter wind was blowing.

On arriving at our destination, we found the Boche on three sides of us and had quite a nasty time from his shelling…

The line nowadays is a very funny place. Both sides sit in shell holes and little bits of trenches a few feet deep, with gaps here and there in the line, so when we take over a bit of the front, we don’t know whether we are hanging by a thread, so to speak, or strongly supported on the flanks. Fritz doesn’t give us much opportunity to find out either, as his snipers are always on the watch and it is more than one’s life is worth to show oneself…

The general feeling out here now is that the war may be over by the Autumn, but that we shall have to fight very hard.”

This is encouraging to hear.

April 13th 1917

The Times and the Daily Telegraph have announced that our VC winner, Capt. William Leefe Robinson (RFC) is “missing.” Yesterday’s Telegraph added that “he was believed to have been killed.”

He is the second Old Dragon airman to have suffered this fate since the start of the month.  News has reached us that 2nd Lieut. Peter Warren (RFC) is also missing. He has been at the Front barely a month.

Peter was up at Magdalen in 1914 (where his uncle, Sir Herbert Warren, is President) and being only 17 yrs old was not then eligible for service, although he did join the University OTC.

He received his commission last July and trained as an Observer with 57 Squadron. He transferred to 34 Squadron in November to train as a pilot, graduating in early February. At the end of the month he was sent to the front to join 43 Squadron.

The Warrens have close connections with the OPS. Peter’s grandmother, Mrs Morrell, lives at Black Hall (No 21, St Giles) doors away from where the OPS started.

Peter’s uncle is Philip Morrell, who was a Dragon under Mr Clarke from 1878 until 1880, when the school consisted of a few rooms at No 26 St Giles. He now lives at Garsington Manor with his wife, Lady Ottoline, and is the Liberal MP for Burnley.

 

Both the Leefe Robinson and Warren families and friends will be enduring a period of great strain until further news is received about their loved ones. Certainly it is perfectly possible that, if they came down over enemy held territory, they are prisoners of war. We will live in hope that this is the case.