May 15th 1920

Sydney Carline and his brother Richard have moved on since their last letter from Cairo in May 1919, and this one is from Mesopotamia:

“Mespot, 12th July 1919.

I am sorry I have not written a proper letter, but it is very difficult to find time for writing in this country. The early morning is sacred for work, as the afternoon is silent and universally given up to sleep. One complies with this not from indulgence, but because one’s eyes will not keep open. After tea one can again work and by dinner one is quite exhausted, and by reason of our getting up at sunrise, I, like a boy after the jam in the cupboard, slink off early to bed on the roof-top.

Everyone sleeps on the roof-top in order to get the cool breeze. Towards dusk there is quite a chatter, as all the many wives of each household are busy putting the beds out on their roofs, which are of course flat, and in the better class houses have low walls separating them from the neighbours…

Occasionally the silence of the night is perturbed by a wife who has still some household work to perform for her lord and master, who is probably reclining and smoking on his wooden bed…

It is now 7 and breakfast time. I must get to work on my picture of dropping bread on Kut, after which I have only one more to do to finish my work here.”

 

 

May 3rd 1920

The Carlines have moved on into Egypt on their journey and it is the turn of Richard Carline to write, this time from the Hotel Continental in Cairo on May 20th 1919.

“A day was spent in riding along the edge of the desert on camels, from the Gizah Great Pyramids to the old Step Pyramids and the necropolis of Sakkara about ten miles south, and from there on to the site of Memphis, where we saw the colossal statue of Rameses. But all the journeys were so long and took so much time that not much was left for seeing the most interesting things of all, namely, the tombs of Sakkara.  We ended by doing much of the ride in the dark…

We were accompanied by our dragoman, and two small Arab boys ran the whole way with sticks to drive the camels, in order to keep a good speed up and in order to take care of them while we are enjoying ourselves; neither of these boys could have been more than twelve, and we did more than thirty-two miles during the whole of the day – running all the way. I remember my young days, when I walked to Windermere once, a matter of about eighteen miles in all, and I was practically dead at the end of it.”

Richard also includes this delightful little sketch (and explanation):

Picture by Sydney giving an impression as he saw it of our journey to Sakkara. In the distance to left is the Step Pyramid, and all about under the sand are the tombs. The further figure is the dragoman; the nearer is myself.

 

 

April 23rd 1920

This is the third of the letters from the Carline brothers on their travels last year and appropriate for today, which is St George’s Day.

Arriving in the Middle East in January 1919, the brothers followed the suggestion of General Salmond (General in Command) to travel round Palestine and Syria by train or car before making flights over the areas of interest. Thus Sydney had made preliminary sketches in February before he wrote this letter from Damascus, dated April 24th 1919.

“Dick has mentioned the picture he is painting of the town from the air, and I am painting another of my aeroplane pictures, depicting the attack on the Turkish Army trying to escape along the pass between the mountains leading from the town along which the famous and beautiful Baroda flows. I have got to take another flight tomorrow if the weather is good in order to finish it…

The only news one ever gets here is of the troubles in Egypt, expecting massacres of Jews in Palestine on account of the Zionist movement, and odd bits about the Peace Conference, so that we are really quite ignorant as to the state of affairs at home or in Europe.

Tomorrow is St. George‘s Day. Curiously he is supposed to be buried at Ludd near Ramleh, where there is a church to him. The story of Perseus and Andromeda is also supposed to have been enacted at Jaffa, in the same neighbourhood, and the rocks out to sea from Jaffa (which I have painted) are supposed to be the dragon turned into stone…

St. George and the dragon was, I believe, a local story that the crusaders brought back with them.”

 

April 16th 1920

This letter is the second from a series of letters from the Carline brothers on their journeys as war artists working for the Imperial War Museum. This one is from Richard Carline, dated April 22nd 1919.

“We are back at Damascus once more, to fly over the places we are painting in this district. I came by train on Good Friday and Sydney flew over on Easter Sunday…

We have now practically finished our work on this front. I have taken my two flights over Damascus, and Sydney has done a sketch of the Sea of Galilee with the Turkish boats being attacked by our aeroplanes, and is in the midst of his sketches of attacking the Turkish army in the pass of the River Baroda, just outside Damascus…

Damascus makes a very good subject as is to be expected with such a beautiful place situated in such beautiful scenery. I am painting it from rather high. It is in the midst of its green fertile oasis of gardens and orchards, and behind it are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains rising up, and behind them snow-capped Mount Samnin.

I think it about time we left the country and the Headquarters are getting very impatient for us to go…

First we have to go to Cairo and I hope that we shall not be murdered by the natives, as the trouble in Egypt appears to be just as bad as ever… Life in these parts is more like the Cowboy West than anything, it being usual for a man to go about on horseback, with his revolver and ammunition pouch on his belt and his servant riding behind him…”

April 10th 1920

 The Goupil Gallery

The paintings and drawings of Sydney and Richard Carline of Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India have been exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in London throughout February and March.

The brothers wrote a series of letters back from their travels, which stretched from January until October 1919, whilst in the employment of the Imperial War Museum as official war artists, and they have kindly allowed us to print them in this term’s edition of the ‘Draconian.’

Their first letter from “near Malta” was written on January 11th, describing their journey from Havre to Marseilles on a troop train. Letters followed form Port Said and Ramleh and then, on February 9th 1919, Sydney wrote from Jerusalem:

“Dick started a water colour here of the Mosque of Omar, the great mosque on the site of Solomon’s temple.

This is a sketch of his picture of the mosque. It is in blue and yellow tiles, making the sides of it a beautiful colour, and having a black dome. Around it is a white marble court, surrounded by grass and paths, and surrounding that again in the distance are the walls of Jerusalem going sheer down for 50 ft.

The space around the mosque is most impressive, especially as the city wall that encloses it here is built on the edge of a ravine some 200 feet deep, on the other side of which are the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, and the village of Bethany. In this ravine are thousands of tombs covering it on either side, as the Jews believe that the Resurrection will take place in this spot and like to be close handy.”

 

September 19th 1918

I mentioned on last term’s Prize Day that two of our staff had fallen victims to one another’s charms and on September 17th, as reported in the papers, they were happily married!

* * * * * * *

Roland Sturt

This is not the only piece of good news. Roland Sturt, who left us last year to go to St. Edward’s School, gallantly saved a child from drowning in the summer holidays and has been presented with the Royal Humane Society’s Certificate.

We are proud of him, as no doubt his parents are. I would like to take this opportunity also to recognise the considerable contribution his mother has made to the life of the school. I think we have been more than fortunate in having such an enthusiastic and able teacher of drawing and painting as Mrs Sturt. Some people think that unless a boy has a special talent for drawing it is of no use for him to learn. I don’t agree. Drawing is a school subject here and I believe a most useful one. There are very few boys who under proper training can get no pleasure or use from drawing lessons.

May 13th 1917

Lieut. Morice Thompson (Shropshire Light Infantry & MGC)

I am sorry to report that a second Old Dragon has been killed at Arras.

We have learnt from the Thompsons that Morice was killed by machine gun fire in the Scarpe Valley, whilst leading his section over the top in the big attack on May 3rd. At the time he was hit, it is reported, he was attending to a man in his section who was severely wounded.

Circumstances did not allow for the recovery of Morice’s body for burial.

The battle at Arras, which started on April 9th, has cost many lives.  The length of the lists in the newspapers seems almost as long as those from the Somme battle last year, when we lost nine of our Old Boys.

I remember Morice as a rather silent and reserved boy, but, as such boys often are, exceedingly popular and beloved by all who knew him at all intimately.

He played in many Old Dragon football matches and was always a most loyal Dragon.

 

February 12th 1917

Capt. Rupert Lee (Worcesters) was a most welcome visitor and the boys much enjoyed the exhibition of conjuring he gave. He had learnt his tricks from a native in India.

Rupert gave us some excellent photographs, looted from the German Consulate (!) and has written an article for the next edition of our magazine on his time in Mesopotamia, of which this is a part:

“An extraordinary affair occurred in our Mess in Busra just before I left; we all had native servants and it was customary to put the most reliable in charge of the whole; this man incurred the lasting hatred of one of the other servants (of another religion) through accusing him of the theft of a tin of stewed fruit.

So one day, when the butler went out to the town to see some of his friends, this other man came to me and asked to be allowed out. On my giving him permission, he proceeded to steal a bottle of whisky: and fortified by it, took one of our revolvers and sallied forth intent on the slaughter of his enemy.

He explained to me afterwards that a natural delicacy forbade him carrying out this business in our quarters, where he could have met him any day.

We captured him after all his ammunition (about 20 rounds) was expended and he was locked up. His subsequent examination was really very amusing, if one could forget the tragic side; he explained the whole thing in detail, regretting that these men were killed, but of course that was their fault for getting in the way.

What he was really most sorry about was that he failed to kill the butler and made a petition that he might be allowed to do so before being hanged.

I tried to get a plea of insanity brought forward, but the man himself would not hear of it and from his behaviour after the event it would never have gone through.

Things like this brought before us very vividly the fact that we were living on the edge of a precipice.”

The Minaret at Busra

 

January 13th 1917

1917-easter-p-2075-pilkington-a-h

Arthur Pilkington (OPS master & bursar 1890-1906)

Yesterday, I attended the burial of my old friend Pilk in the St. Cross, Holywell cemetery.

Pilk was a month younger than me and we have known each other man and boy for forty-four years. We entered King William’s College on the Isle of Man at the same time and what scrapes we got into and out of! (Perhaps it is as well to draw a veil!)

I was delighted when I was able to persuade him to join the OPS staff from St. Edward’s School in 1890. As a schoolmaster, he was first-rate both as a teacher of the classics and as a sportsman.

However, it was his offer to take over the running of the financial side that importantly ensured a successful move was made from Crick Road to our current location on the Bardwell Road. His work ensured that the £4,000 required for the new hall, classrooms and ‘The Lodge’ was raised.

I was much relieved not to have to deal with school bills. I am being always reminded of the occasion when I took them and the school reports off at the end of a Summer Term to complete whilst on my boat, ‘The Blue Dragon’. Unfortunately they all got washed overboard in a storm. My solution was to send the parents a letter saying, “Your boy is doing splendidly. Please pay what you think you owe.”

There may also have been some truth in the story that I occasionally borrowed off one member of staff to pay another. Anyhow, Pilk’s more conventional methods proved much more satisfactory all round.

In 1906 Pilk left the OPS, seeing the prospect of doing even better. He set up a first-rate coaching business further up Bardwell Road. He had Germans, Frenchmen and Poles, all of the best class, who were going in for various Oxford exams. (It is a curious fact that in this war one of his French pupils took prisoner one of his German pupils).

Around this time the younger of his two daughters (Madge) – the apple of his eye – died after a long illness and this was a terrible blow to his affectionate heart.

Just before the war broke out, his foreigners all left – they were chiefly German then – and he was offered and accepted a classical mastership at Cheltenham College where he was, as usual, successful and popular, until, at the middle of last term, he broke down. Then came the tragic and mysterious end.

He was last seen on 1st December. His body was found on 3rd January; he had drowned in the sea that washes the shores of his old school on the Isle of Man.

He was a splendid specimen of the best Irish type, boyish, mercurial, a capital raconteur, humorous and most lovable.

One and all are most grieved that our old friend has ‘gone west.’

 

October 15th 1916

blencowe-oc

2nd Lieut. Oswald Blencowe (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry)

An eighth Old Dragon has laid down his life in the battle that has been raging on the Somme since July 1st. Oswald was killed on 7th October 1916 when temporarily attached to the Rifle Brigade.

It was the Brigade’s task to capture Rainbow and Cloudy Trenches, near Guedecourt. As soon as our barrage lifted the Riflemen (some of whom had been lying down in the open awaiting this moment) rose bravely to make the attack.  On reaching the crest of a hill about twenty yards from the German line they met with heavy machine-gun fire. All five officers of the two leading companies went down – four (including Oswald) were killed and a fifth severely wounded.

guedecourt-map

It is of some small consolation that the reserve troops coming up behind them were able to take Rainbow Trench.

A brother officer recalls Oswald most fondly:

“In the line he was of immense value to us, and in the most trying hours, when things were as bad as shells and foul weather could make them, he showed that rare kind of cheerfulness which does not offend nor depress by its artificiality. He set a high value on music and poetry. He sang well, and was strongly heard in a dug-out – carols, songs, and choruses, old English songs, and Gilbert and Sullivan. One day he pulled out the books he always carried with him – Omar Khayyam, and two volumes of the hundred best poems and three of us lay awake reading aloud to one another…

He was hit by a shell in the head in front of his men about ten yards from the enemy’s line, but such details are needless and unsatisfying; we know what he was when alive and in what manner and with what spirit he must have died. The circumstantial details are useless trappings.” 

We are thankful for information from the Colonel, confirming Oswald was given a proper burial:

“He had been temporarily attached to this battalion and had only been with us three days. He went into action alongside his battalion and was killed during a successful attack in which he was with the leading company.

He was buried by our Chaplain near the place where he fell, between our and the old German line.”

The news of Oswald’s death did not reach his parents until October 13th, six days after the event.

blencowe-telegram