October 20th 1918

Daily Telegraph 17/10/18

The death of Fluff Taylor strikes at the heart of the OPS family and both my brother Hum and I would like to record our thoughts and appreciation of his life as a pupil, colleague and friend.

Fluff Taylor attended the OPS from 1882-86, coinciding with my arrival at the school (then at 17 Crick Road, Oxford) in 1882.

Fluff, as a Dragon

I can see Fluff now with his reddish curly rough hair and his honest freckled face and bright dancing eyes, dressed in a sailor suit. I used to put him up on a desk in the old school at Crick Road and he sang ‘Kitty Wells’ and recited the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus’ most pathetically.

Then later he was our swimming instructor and started the tradition of fearless diving which has been maintained ever since. In those days the Lodge was a merry place and Fluff was the life of it. Then we heard of his exploits in the Himalayas when fighting fierce tribesmen; the Boer War (which claimed the life of his brother, Rex), Graspan and Magersfontein, then colonial work in Nigeria.

When the Great War came he rejoined the Army, was wounded, went back again and after winning many decorations was hit by shrapnel under his helmet on October 1st.

During all those years he constantly came back to his old school, always the same old Fluff. He chummed with different generations of boys, he got them countless ‘halves’ and ‘no preps’; he told them grand yarns, he pillow-fought in the dorms…  There was always a thrill of delight when GC (Mr Vassall) told us that Fluff was coming.

And always he took me with him to the beautiful cemetery at Holywell and laid wreaths of flowers on the graves of his father and brother; and then he would talk to me of higher things, of the mysteries of life here and hereafter – and lately he always came back in our talks to the absolutely magnificent behaviour of his men – their humour, their readiness to make the best of things and such awful things, their refusal to give in to hunger and sleeplessness and awful sounds and sights; he told me how anxious they were about his welfare and that of other officers.

‘Tommy,’ like the boys and myself, never had a dearer or truer or warmer-hearted friend. His resting place is at La Kreule, but his spirit is ever with us to inspire and to cheer and to love.

My brother, Hum Lynam has written:

“In Bedford and Sandhurst days his buoyant spirit, supported by a high reputation as a footballer, won him great influence in School and College. But he was no mere jolly athlete. He won a Scholarship at Bedford and the School Prize for Latin Verse. He quoted Latin in letters from India, with just enough degree of error to prove the genuineness of his knowledge. His descriptions of the antiquities of Crete, his poems, his plea for the serious study of French, showed clearly the instinct of a scholar…

He once wrote a letter to the Draconian to protest that ‘none of the boys (as shown in a photo of the School XI which he had recently received) appears to possess a brush and comb.’ The protest is characteristic. As a soldier he knew and taught the importance of attention to detail: and in one of the best sermons we ever heard – which Fluff preached on March 4th 1917 – he elaborated this point to the complete conviction of right roughest-haired Dragon in the room.”

As our friend, Archer Vassall, has observed,

“There is no Dragon out of the whole number serving who was more intimately bound to the School.”

 

 

 

October 17th 1918

Brigadier-General Stuart Taylor (West Yorks)

Just as we read of German overtures for peace, we hear of the loss of one of our oldest and staunchest of friends – Fluff Taylor.

Fluff was coming on leave at the beginning of term, but he cabled us to say he could not come. This was followed by a letter saying “a special Hun-killing programme was arranged. On the day I should have come I was watching my lads kill Huns and take others prisoners, and they got a splendid haul.” 

Fluff was wounded in May 1916, just before the Battle of the Somme when his Leeds Pals were hit so badly, and he won the DSO last year. More recently he has been involved in the many attacks raining down on the Boche on the Western Front.

On October 1st, Fluff was touring the front line trenches near Ploegstreet, south of Ypres, when a shell exploded nearby. The Brigade Major was killed and Fluff was hit by shrapnel under the helmet and down his left side. We hear that he died of these wounds ten days later, on October 11th.

Like a bright star he burnt, and is suddenly extinguished; to his friends the world is darker. How he would have loved the glory and splendour of the final triumph for which he worked and fought so hard; but he has attained the still more splendid, though more sorrowful glory of a little white cross above his grave on the Western Front.

 

September 21st 1918

C H R I S T M A S   T E R M   1 9 1 8

Yesterday we started the new school year with numbers standing at 170, including 15 girls. Hopefully everyone has returned as refreshed as I am from a break with school life.

Having failed to include them on these pages before, I would like to draw attention to some things I said on Prize Day in July:

“I have long looked forward to having Hum as a recognised partner in the Headmastership of the School, and that I am pressing for a scheme to carry this out; there are difficulties, chiefly the fact that the School is not exactly my own financially! But I expect there is a way out.

I have enjoyed taking a larger share in the teaching than I have done for a good many years, but I was 60 a few weeks ago, and alas as the years glide by one cannot expect to maintain the vigour and resources of even middle age and one is happily not not yet senile enough to imagine oneself as efficient as one should be in running a great school like this.

Parents have been uniformly kind and helpful both to Hum and myself in the changes we have made. The changes have been all to the good and all the good traditions of the Boarders have been maintained. Self-reliance, freedom, absence of unmeaning convention, originality of character, all these have been fostered, the almost unique (in Preparatory Schools) encouragement of parents to see as much of their children as possible during term time and so to keep the home tie strong, this tradition of our school has been carried on – hospitality to Old Boys and parents, another traditional feature, has been maintained as far as and even further than rations will allow.”

In particular, we look forward to welcoming our Old Boys back – indeed a visit is expected shortly from Fluff Taylor – now a Brigadier-General in charge of 93rd Brigade – no doubt ordering me to grant the boys an extra ‘half-day’!

 

 

 

August 6th 1917

Fluff Taylor has written in reply to Hugh Sidgwick on the subject of a Memorial Chapel being built at the OPS after the War. He says that he is very much in favour of the school services continuing as they are, with the boys playing an active part, and hopes this would be possible in a consecrated chapel.

Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor

The hybrid building, which is one day a theatre, the next a ball-room or even a garage, and on the third a chapel, does not appeal to my old-fashioned mind, and brings before me the picture of Jesus Christ driving the money changers from the Temple. However the opinion of the majority must decide, and whatever that is, will, I am sure, be for the best, and my subscription as stated in my former letter is at your service.”

We have now opened a subscription list and are grateful to the following for their contributions:

Lieut.-Col SC Taylor DSO – £50; CRL Fletcher – £200; Lieut. AH Sidgwick – £20; GC Vassall – £30; The Hon. AI Mayhew – £10. Total: £310.

After further discussion, a Committee will be appointed to settle what form our War Memorial shall take.

* * * * * *

With a new battle now raging around Ypres, one can only imagine that a number of our Old Boys are currently fighting for their lives. The days that follow are going to be ones of even greater worry for their families and friends, and we all hope and pray that they come through it safe and sound.

 

July 18th 1917

KCB FOR CAPTAIN TYRWHITT

Capt. Reginald Tyrwhitt, CB, DSO, RN (Commodore, First Class).

The Times today has the joyous news of the award of a Dragon KCB:

“Captain Tyrwhitt has been concerned in some of the most brilliant naval exploits of the war, and the honour conferred on him by the King is well deserved. He commanded the destroyer flotillas in the famous action with a German squadron in Heligoland Bight on August 28th 1914. Concerning this action, which resulted in the destruction of the cruisers Mainz, Ariadne and Koln, the official despatch stated ‘his attack was delivered with great skill and gallantry.’ On the same date he was made CB…

He led the destroyer flotillas in the Dogger Bank action of January 24th 1915 and was in command of the Arethusa when she struck a mine and was wrecked off the east coast in February 1916.

Captain Tyrwhitt was awarded the DSO in June 1916, ‘in recognition of services rendered in the prosecution of the war,’ and was decorated Commander of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic in September 1916.

A scouting force of light cruisers and destroyers under Captain Tyrwhitt, on May 10th of the present year, chased 11 German destroyers for 80 minutes and engaged them at long range until they took refuge under the batteries of Zeebrugge. Only the precipitate flight of the enemy’s ships saved them from disaster.

A few weeks later, on June 5th, a force of light cruisers and destroyers under his command engaged six German destroyers at long range, and in a running fight one of the enemy’s ships, S20, was sunk and another was severely damaged.”

 

In addition, the London Gazette lists Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks) as having been awarded the DSO:

“For conspicuous gallantry when in command of the right of an infantry attack. The attacking troops having been compelled to fall back, he collected the remnants of his battalion and about 100 men of other units, and, regardless of a heavy fire, he organised these in defence of a position, and by his fine example of courage and skill he successfully resisted three counter-attacks, and thus saved a critical situation.”

Fluff will no doubt be demanding another half-holiday for the boys on the back of this when he next visits!

 

To these awards, we should also note these honours which have been acquired in the course of this term:

 

Lieut.- Col AR Haig Brown (Middlesex Regiment) and Major S Low (RGA) have both been awarded the DSO.

Capt. GK Rose MC (OBLI) now has a Bar to his Military Cross. The citation reads:

“When in command of a raid on the enemy’s trenches, he displayed the greatest skill and energy. He organized an effective resistance to the enemy counter attack, and conducted a masterly withdrawal under heavy machine gun and rifle fire.”

The Croix de Guerre has been awarded to Capt. JD Denniston (RNR) and 2nd Lieut. CM Hughes-Games (Gloucs), has the MC:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed great coolness and initiative when in command of a daylight patrol, obtaining valuable information. He has at all times displayed great gallantry under fire.”

 

 

March 21st 1917

Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks) has written to the Editor of our magazine formally to ask us to address the question of how we commemorate those Old Dragons who have laid down their lives.

Various Public Schools are already raising money for their Old Boys. Indeed last week we read that Eton has raised £101,000 for a Memorial, and in order to educate the sons of fallen Old Etonians at Eton. 750 of the 5,200 Etonians serving have been killed.

A letter in the Daily Telegraph yesterday (on page 9) invites Old Rugbeians to attend a meeting with the same aim in mind. Other Public Schools are sure to follow this example.

They are, of course, considerably larger schools with many parents of considerably greater means than ours.  Nonetheless, at present we have about 350 Old Dragons serving, of whom 39 have lost their lives and it is right that we now give consideration to this question.

Fluff Taylor’s letter is very timely.

 

A War Memorial

BEF, France.

March 14th 1917.

To the Editor of the Draconian,

11 Charlbury Road, Oxford.

Dear Sir,

I would like to suggest that the time has now arrived for the consideration of a memorial to the gallant Dragons who have given and who may be called upon to give their lives for their country in this great war.

The School is without a Chapel, and I can think of no more appropriate permanent memorial than a Chapel, which will be a lasting tribute to those who have died and a continual reminder of their heroic deaths to those who come after.

I will give £50 to start the fund for the building of the Chapel, and I am sure Old Boys and Parents will subscribe if the proposition is placed before them.

Yours,

Stuart C Taylor (OD), KOYLI (Lieut.-Col., 15th West Yorks R.)

 

We shall be glad to receive any correspondence on the matter.

 

March 6th 1917

We have a mumps epidemic and thus have been obliged to have our Sunday services at School. We have therefore had Old Boys on leave preaching – or rather talking (the word preaching, except in the case of a minister of religion, has an annoying meaning).

This week Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks), ‘Fluff,’ gave the boys a capital talk:

Stuart Taylor 2“You see, in the Parks, the Drill Sergeant drilling the soldiers. Perhaps you wonder why it is necessary to be so particular that the soldiers should turn their heads and eyes to the right on the words ‘eyes right,’ why they should spring smartly to attention at the word of command, or why they must stand absolutely still and steady in the ranks. Why is it?

Why shouldn’t 1,000,000 men each be given a rifle, taught how to fire it, and be sent out to kill Germans? Simply because they will have, in the course of their work, to face unusual situations, sudden dangers, where steadiness, coolness and level-headedness are necessary.

You cannot trust a man or boy’s instinct to prompt him to do the right thing. It will make him do the natural thing. The natural thing is to avoid danger, to run away from it. Instinct will prompt this. But habit, which is the child of discipline, will make a man or boy face the danger and act rightly in an emergency…

The soldier is taught to keep his buttons bright, his hair brushed and short, his clothes clean and smart, not because these things in themselves are of great importance, but because they all tend to make him punctual, clean, smart, cheerful and tidy in mind and body throughout his life.

A smart, well turned out, well-disciplined regiment always fights much better than a dirty, ill-disciplined one. There is no doubt whatever about that…

If a bomb dropped in the street and damaged some people, the natural inclination of a man or boy is to avoid the danger and ugliness of pain and suffering, but the habit of your training, to command yourself and your natural instinct, will teach you to go and succour those who are injured and prevent others coming into danger…

And the outward and visible sign of your habit, of your discipline, is the Dragon which you wear on your cap…

That Dragon represents to you and to all who know you and your famous badge, the desire and determination to live a helpful, kind, courageous and unselfish life; to be true not only to others, but to yourself’. There is nothing so sad as the man or boy who succeeds in deceiving himself. It is far worse than deceiving others, because before successfully deceiving one’s own self, all self-respect must have disappeared.

That Dragon of yours stands to you and me as a symbol of courage, truth, unselfishness and kindliness.

I have met men who wore that badge in all parts of the world, in the North West Frontier of India, Mauritius, South and West Africa, Malta, Crete, Egypt and during the present war, in France; and everyone who knows it, loves it and respects it.”