February 1st 1915

Percy Campbell

2nd Lieut. Percy Campbell (Wiltshire Reg) 

Last term we were unwilling to mention, as there was still some hope that he might be a prisoner, the death of Percy Campbell in action; but from what has been gathered from eye-witnesses, there seems to be now no doubt that he was killed in the trenches in the neighbourhood of Armentieres in October. His loss is a great grief to us.

He was reported missing about the middle of November, soon after the virtual annihilation of his battalion on October 21-24 had become known through letters from the front. A slowly fading hope that he might be a prisoner in Germany was finally ended by the story of his death, told by a Pte Laws, who was in his platoon.

It appears that, after his battalion had been shelled out of their trenches, Percy Campbell was almost the only officer left unwounded and uncaptured. With a few of his men, he made his way to a place of safety in the rear and then went to report to Headquarters. There is some confusion in the accounts of what followed, but one thing seems clear, viz, that Percy himself, though urged not to, did actually return to seek some wounded of whom he had just heard. It was when on this errand that he was killed.  Pte Laws found Percy’s body – he had been struck in the chest by a shell – and assisted in his burial in the garden of a nearby house.

Though by all his instincts Percy was one who hated war, he had volunteered for the Special Reserve as soon as the war broke out. Gazetted to the Wiltshire Regiment, he went to the front at the beginning of October and was the second of my Old Boys to fall, near Ypres, on 24th October 1914, at the age of 20.

His parents have recently received this communication from the War Office: Campbell telegramTo JE Campbell, Hertford College, Oxford.    O.C Battalion now reports 2nd Lieut. WP Campbell Wiltshire Regiment as missing believed to have been killed 24th Oct   Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.                                            

December 14th 1914

It has been a long term and the holidays are upon us.

With all those staff of military age enlisting, we have taken on a number of new people this term. As it was obvious that my staff was no place for ‘fit’ young men, and I did not want unfit ones, I took steps to fill their places as far as possible with ladies. Miss Violet Field and Miss Dorothy Pinhey have come into the House, and very soon established themselves in the respect and affection of the boys, by entering into their lives in the most devoted way. I am sure this term will be remembered in the Boarding House for their delightful stories and readings on the dark evenings. Miss Pinhey has taken all the singing and piano teaching, Mrs Molyneux has taught the violin and Mrs Sturt has most kindly undertaken the drawing and painting, whilst Miss Field has started and taught knitting.

Dragons – I have some advice that I would like you boys to consider for the holidays:

Keep fit – don’t stop in bed late and don’t go to bed late. Take a cold bath every morning, don’t frowse over the fire, take a good walk or have a game out of doors every day.

Be kind and amiable to those at home, including servants. Remember the description of the boy (not a Dragon) who whines “I don’t know what to do!” who bags the best chairs, who won’t play with younger brothers and sisters, who is rude and says “I shan’t,” “I don’t want to,” who says “Oh bother” when asked to do anything, who ‘bags’ the best things for himself, who at a party gets excited and ‘barges’ about and plays the fool generally, often ending up by stodging to such an extent that he is ill in the night. For heaven’s sake, be all of you as far from and as different from this sort of ass as you possibly can. You can make the holidays very happy ones if you try your best to do so. And I hope you will all have very happy ones.

Next term begins on Wednesday 13th January 1915

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As the term draws to a close, I must freely recant certain views I have held, views held I believe by a great many Englishmen whose ideas of peace and brotherhood have been rudely shattered.

I believed that the peoples of the civilised world were too sensible to put their differences to the rude arbitrament of war, that the principles of Christianity, or at all events of moral ethics, were too strongly established to allow it. I was wrong. The enemy has thrown down the glove to challenge civilisation and freedom, and all that is dear to the peace lover, and perforce we had to take it up and to fight our best for civilisation, freedom and peace.

And it cannot be said that those connected with the OPS have failed to respond to the call. The lives of some of our best have been given freely; many others have spent untold hours of privation, anxiety, and brave determination; and all are animated by the feeling that no sacrifice is too great for our noble cause.

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No official news has yet been received of 2nd Lieut. Percy Campbell (2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regt., who was reported to be missing, but is believed to have lost his life in Flanders, on Saturday October 24th, while attempting to bring in a wounded brother-officer.

November 2nd 1914

We can consider ourselves most fortunate that thus far there has only been one OPS fatality in the frightful conflict in which we are engaged. However, our good fortune has now ended and it is with a heavy heart that I report the deaths of three Old Dragons, all who have given their lives and all on the same day:  Saturday 31st October.

The fighting in the Ypres salient has stretched our forces to the very limits and they have valiantly prevented the Germans from breaking through. Rupert Lee’s regiment, the Worcesters, played a vital role (Rupert was wounded on the 16th and did not take part). Their counter-attack in which they retook the village of Gheluvelt saved the day and may yet prove to be a turning point in the battle.

Regie Fletcher

2nd Lieut RG Fletcher (RFA)

It was at that very moment that Regie Fletcher, who is serving in the RFA, was hit by shellfire as he crossed open ground from his dug-out to his guns. Attempts to save him were to no avail and he died two hours later. His burial was supervised by one of his close friends from Eton, who was nearby.

From the OPS Regie had won a scholarship to Eton (in 1905) and had gone on to Balliol College, Oxford. He rowed in the 1914 Boat Race for Oxford.

He loved to sleep in the open air, and would sleep quite comfortably under several degrees of frost. As in face and colouring, so in his fierce independence of character, he seemed like some old Norse Rover; and it was this same independence that made one of his schoolmasters compare him to Achilles. He was extraordinarily well-read for a man of twenty-two, in the best modern literature. His highest delight was in Greek poetry; he knew enormous stretches of Homer and Aeschylus by heart, and would chant them, to the amazement of his crew, in the Balliol barge.

He was second in command of the Artillery section of the Oxford University OTC (1913-14) and obtained his commission on the day war was declared. He sailed for France on August 20th with the RFA and so only saw just over two months’ service.

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Whilst the Worcesters were saving the day, a number of the senior commanders were at nearby Hooge Chateau. General Munro and a number of other staff officers, including Arthur Percival, were conferring with the Divisional Commander, Major-General Lomax when a shell hit their office. Whilst Munro was only concussed, Arthur & six others were killed outright and General Lomax was very seriously wounded.

A Percival

Lt. Col Arthur J-B Percival (Northumberland Fusiliers).

Arthur Percival, the son of the Rt Rev John Percival, the late Bishop of Hereford (and previously Headmaster of Clifton College, President of Trinity College, Oxford and Headmaster of Rugby) arrived at the OPS in 1879, only two years after the school was started. He was a resolute and sturdy little fellow, who went his own way regardless of what others might think of him, not afraid to stand up to anyone who tried to bully him, however big his opponent.

From the OPS Arthur went to Marlborough College before transferring to Rugby, when his father became headmaster there.  After Sandhurst he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was present at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. He also fought in the Boer War and was the first Old Dragon to win a DSO in 1901.  During the first eleven weeks of the current war he was twice mentioned in Sir John French’s dispatches and was one of the first British officers to receive the Croix d’Officier of the Legion of Honour. He has been serving as General Staff Officer to Major-General Munro (2nd Division of the First Army Corps).

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 Alan Leggett

2nd Lieut. Alan Leggett (North Staffs Regiment)

South of Ypres, the North Staffs Regiment has been engaged in action near Armentières. Alan Leggett ‘s trench was hit by a shell. A fellow officer and friend, 2nd Lieut. Pope, has written to say “His death, I trust, was almost painless, for he was asleep when he was hit, and he became unconscious almost immediately.”

At the OPS he was always a chivalrous and gallant lad and, after Tonbridge and Sandhurst, Alan followed his father into the Army in 1912.

The day before he was killed, Alan’s name was forwarded hopefully to be mentioned in dispatches. Lieut. Pope’s words should provide some consolation to his parents in this time of grief:

“During our last engagement the Company, belonging to another Regiment which he had reinforced, withdrew, leaving him isolated on the Battalion’s right flank, but he absolutely refused to retire, because by so doing he feared he would expose our flank to the German attack, and so stayed there alone, and undoubtedly saved the part of his Company, if not the whole regiment.”

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Missing in Action

Percy Campbell, who has been serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment at Ypres, has been declared “missing.” On October 24th there was such an intensive attack by both artillery and infantry that his battalion was virtually wiped out. Only 170 are accounted for, but it is known that a large number of our troops were captured in the first surprise attack made by the Germans and we fervently hope that Percy is one of them.