March 11th 1918

Progress is being made on the matter of a War Memorial and the statement below will appear in the April edition of the ‘Draconian.’

A meeting was held on Thursday March 7th.

Present were: Capt. WW Fisher CB MVO RN, Lieut.-Col W Collier RMAC, Capt. WT Collier MC RAMC, Lieut. SSG Leeson RNVR, Rev. LJ Percival, GC Vassall, AE Lynam, CC Lynam.

The other members of the Committee, viz Lieut.-Col SC Taylor DSO, CRL Fletcher, EB Poulton, Capt. GC Drinkwater, Lieut. JCB Gamlen, F Sidgwick, Capt. TO Thompson RAMC and A Beresford Horsley could not attend.

In choosing the Committee an endeavour was made to cover the years since the School came into existence. Mr Horsley, the father of four boys at present in the School, represents ‘the present time.’

Certain definite lines were discussed and approved.

  1. The objects of the War Memorial should be to inform and inspire present and future Dragons.
  2. The proposal of a building, whether Chapel or Hall, is open to objections: (a) it would require a larger sum of money than we could expect to receive, remembering that our boys are not drawn from the wealthy classes, (b) a building, except at enormous expense, could not be put up for several years after the war is ended, (c) though it might be a useful adjunct to the School, it would not fulfil the objects as stated above: it would be taken, in after times, as a natural part of the School buildings.
  3. There should be no possibility of the idea that the fund raised was for the pecuniary benefit of the School as a property – and this consideration rules out bursaries or exhibitions to be held by boys at the School.
  4. The Committee unanimously approved of the proposal that a sculptured Cross should be erected in a prominent place in the School grounds, with a pedestal on which the names of Old Boys and Masters who have given their lives in the cause of duty should be inscribed; and that books and albums should be provided which should give further information about them and their deeds.
  5. Any balance that remained might well go to aid the very useful Leaving Exhibition* fund, but this will be discussed again at a future meeting.
  6. It was hoped that all Old Boys or their parents would subscribe, rather than that a few should give large sums.
  7. As a result of subsequent conversations and correspondence, it was decided that some annual commemoration, in the way of an Encenia** should be held.

It maybe added that Mr C Lynam FRIBA, FSA, the father of the present Headmaster, and the author of many works on Archaeology and an expert student of Old Crosses, has promised to give a design and description of a sculptured Cross. The drawings will be sent to the Old Boys and will appear in the ‘Draconian’. This does not, of course, imply that the particular design will necessarily be accepted.

Any money received is invested in War Bonds, so as to be at the disposal of the Country. The fund currently stands at a sum of  £263.  

 

* (The Leavers’ Exhibitions date back to 1908, when on being asked what I would like to mark my 50th birthday, I said I would much appreciate subscriptions to a Leavers’ Fund to enable me to give leaving exhibitions to help boys whose parents are not very well off to go to good public schools. The first such award was made to the future V.C. winner, Jack Smyth).

** (For those whose Greek is a little rusty, an Encenia is a festival of renewal).

January 25th 1918

Further to previous correspondence on the matter, Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) has written on the subject of a War Memorial:

“…but why only for those ‘who have given their lives for their country in this Great War’? Surely this war is not the first occasion on which Dragons have died for their country or for others? Nor will it be the last. Peace hath her victories no less than war.

I remember at the beginning of my first term the Skipper announcing the death in a boating accident of a boy who had only left at the end of the preceding term, and was drowned while trying to save others. Would this occasion, when we are all trying to do our bit, be a most suitable one for collecting funds for a memorial for all time, past, present and future, of our friends who have died, are dying, and will die for others long after we have gone?”

Claude Burton (‘Touchstone‘), father of Capt. Paddy Burton (Beds), who was killed on the Somme, has written:

“A mere affair of masonry and medallions – the ordinary type of war memorial – falls a long way short of my own aspirations in the matter…

It seems to me that since Old Boys have fought and died for those who are to follow them, the memorial most fitting them would be one which would benefit directly the future boys of the School, and I would therefore suggest that the bulk of the money subscribed should be employed in founding scholarships which should give a better chance in life to those who need it…

Of course this is only an individual opinion – one amongst many, but I feel that if my eldest son were still with us he would have inclined to some such solution of the problem.”

In view of the opinions expressed on the subject, I would not at present commit myself to any particular scheme. Subscribers may be sure that no definite conclusion will be adopted until all those who are interested have had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, and then a Committee of Old Boys and parents of past and present boys will have finally to decide on what shall be done.

 

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.

 

May 28th 1917

Lieut. Hugh Sidgwick (RGA) has replied to Fluff Taylor’s proposal that the School should have a War Memorial for Old Dragons who lay down their lives in this war.

He accepts that the building of a chapel might be the “normal” thing for a school to do…

15/5/17 “But we are not an ordinary school, and our tradition has always been cast in the opposite extreme. Routine, orthodoxy, ritual, unreasoning compliance with comme il faut – all these we have deliberately avoided. Some would say we have gone too far and undoubtedly our tradition, like the others, has its dangers. But freedom and sincerity and spontaneity and genuineness, and the mistrust of the second-rate and the second-hand, are things worth a good deal of risk to obtain and it is my firm belief that the best part of our school tradition is marked with just these characteristics.”

Hugh fears that a chapel would have to be under diocesan supervision and that school services on our present lines (with the staff and boys running them) would be impossible.

“If so, I can only say that the prospect fills me with fear. I fear… the apathy of routine: I fear the wrong kind of parent coming and saying ‘how nice and proper’ : I fear the right kind of parent coming and saying ‘After all, there’s not much in it between this and other schools’…

I am not thinking merely of those whose parents and upbringing are of some other specific creed: and I leave out of account the French and other non-British boys who have been such a strength to the School. I am thinking rather of the numbers in whom religious sensibility develops late, or takes some other form than participation in a uniform code of outward worship. Cannot we find some way of commemorating our common sacrifice which does not leave them out in the cold, and which does really link together all Dragons, past, present and to come?

My own feeling is that the War Memorial should be a building habitually and freely used by all Dragons, where the whole school meets occasionally for certain purposes and where at other times any boy can go at any hour of the day to read or write or reflect, with the names and records and memorials of the honoured dead visibly before him.”

In short, Hugh would rather we thought in terms of “a library, assembly hall, reading room, museum, concert hall or any mixture of these.”

 

Lieut. Martin Collier (RN) has also written. He supports the idea of a chapel:

“Provided, of course, that the School services remain exactly as they are at present, conducted by the boys themselves…”

 

I hope others will contribute their views to this debate and I look forward to hearing them.

 

 

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.