July 4th 1916

Somme map

The Anglo-French Offensive

The Push has indeed started, but we have little news as yet.

The report (as it appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph) was general in scope, but positive in tone. However, the German statement quoted on page 10 suggests that the Germans were well prepared for this and that we suffered “very heavy casualties.”

Today’s paper (page 9) does mention that the West Yorks Regiment were involved in an attack on Fricourt and that they “went across toppingly.” Whilst we know that its Commanding Officer, Lieut. Col. Stuart Taylor is not involved (he is recovering from wounds received earlier in May in Princess Alexandra’s Hospital for Officers in London), Capt. Jack Ruttledge is a West Yorks man and may well be in the thick of it.

Lieut. Robert Gibson, whose letter we received only a few days ago, may well now be in action, as the Bedfordshires are also mentioned as taking part in this offensive.

We most earnestly hope that our dear Old Boys all come though unscathed, but meanwhile their parents are condemned to live in continual fear of the post boy with a telegram for the duration of this great battle.

We must all be brave.





March 4th 1916

Lt. Col. Stuart Taylor (West Yorks) is currently with 93rd Brigade, 31st Division in Egypt. He is of course known to us all at the OPS as ‘Fluff’ and is the most loyal of Old Boys. He has contributed on numerous occasions to the pages of the Draconian on his time in the South African War, on horseback in Crete and in Northern Nigeria.

On leave in 1897, Fluff acted briefly as our swimming instructor and clearly his interest in matters aquatic continues unabated!

Stuart Taylor 2“We saved 1000 gallons of water in the last week out of our water allowance and yesterday, Sunday, we celebrated the close kinship of cleanliness to godliness by letting every man indulge in a bath! They made nice oval holes in the sand, spread their mackintosh sheets over the holes and pressed well down into them; and then poured in their hard-saved water – and then, the joy of it! It reminded me of days when I watched seals at the Zoo revelling in their plunges in and out of their various water ponds. Soap, sunshine, splash and singing, it made up a wonderful picture and how they all enjoyed it.

These men of mine are passionately fond of soap and water and the absence of these things worries them more than short rations or sleepless nights…”

Fluff has paid us two visits since this war started. On the first occasion, last April, he was – for reasons unexplained – escorting a Turkish prisoner along Charlbury Road and dropped in. Last term, before he went out to Egypt, he came and demanded of me two ‘extra halves’ and two ‘no preps’ – the biggest yet – and this of course was met with great enthusiasm by the boys, so that I could hardly refuse.