August 19th 1919

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

Part 1 Part 2:

Cyril King and his family arrived in Baden-Baden on August 7th 1914 and were sent to the Hotel Drei Könige. Here, although they were allowed “complete freedom in the daytime within the precincts of the town,” they had to be indoors by 8pm every evening.

“24/8/14. I was walking with Coote this afternoon among the wooded hills on the outskirts of the town, when suddenly we heard the bells ringing and saw flags being posted everywhere.  We are tired of those beastly bells – they have been rung every other day since we came here and always for a greater victory. We are tired too of the innumerable German national anthems and the shouting and cheering. But this afternoon they are louder than ever. As usual ‘Extrablätter’ are being sold everywhere… and we see they have had their first victory over das Perfide Albion.

Soon the whole town will collect in the square below my window, and it will be midnight before they disperse. Every half-hour or so more extrablätter will be published as the number of prisoners rises, one national anthem after another will be sung over and over again, and every member of the royal family and almost every general in the German Army will be loudly cheered.”

They soon gathered that there was a good deal of bad feeling towards the English.

“They are most bitter against the English, particularly Sir Edward Grey, whom they accuse of not stopping the war when he could have done so quite easily, but are very contemptuous about our army of ‘mercenaries’ and laugh at the idea of trying to equip 500,000 soldiers out of nothing. The papers are full of Belgian and Russian atrocities and they say the use of dumdums is an outrage against civilisation…”

At this time the King family were clearly still hopeful of repatriation:

“We are assured that we shall be sent back as soon as the mobilisation of their troops is complete.”

 

August 12th 1919

Capt. Edmund Gay (Norfolks)

Edmund went missing in action during the Gallipoli campaign some four years ago and whilst there was the faintest hope that he might have survived in captivity, his name has appeared on our Roll of Honour as Missing.

Today however, the ‘Times’ has him listed as “Killed in Action,” stating that “it is now presumed that he was killed on or since August 12th 1915.”

We will therefore now add his name to those of our dear Old Boys who gave their lives in the War. This brings the number on our Roll of Honour to 83.

John Dowson is still unaccounted for.

 

 

August 8th 1919

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

The last we heard of Cyril King was in September 1914, when he failed to return to Winchester College for the new term. When war broke out, at the end of July 1914, he was on holiday in Germany with his family and was not allowed to return to this country. He remained in captivity there until the end of the war.

We are delighted to hear that he has now returned safe and sound and, despite missing his final year at Winchester, has been accepted at King’s College, Cambridge, to read Economics.

His journal of his time in captivity, which he has kindly provided for inclusion in the next edition of the ‘Draconian’ is of great interest and as it is extensive, will be published here in parts over the coming weeks.

Part 1.

“Schluchsee, Black Forest, Germany. 30/7/14.   Started from Winchester on the morning of the 25th and arrived here this afternoon. Undaunted by rumours of war! We are sure to be sent back to England if there is any trouble. Half-an-hour wait at Strasburg, but saw nothing unusual. Freiburg though was crowded and full of excitement. A troop train left the station while we were there amid tremendous enthusiasm – everyone was talking of war and the rumoured capture and execution of six French spies in the town this morning…

3/8/14. It is glorious here. We (my mother, four sisters and Coote from New College, who is to tutor me) are living in a cottage, six miles from the nearest station, among mountains, by the side of a very dark blue lake. All the hotel guests have already left.

‘Rumour’ is very busy and there are many tearful partings. Did a Greek prose this morning, but hardly a very good one. This afternoon we took out a boat and bathed in the lake…

Baden Baden 7/8/14. Yesterday morning early, three plain clothes detectives arrived at Schluchsee and told us to be ready to leave in half-an-hour. They put us and our luggage into two motors and we drove off. Every mile or so we were stopped by a rough barrier across the road and the detectives had to show papers, but we reached Freiburg Railway Station at midday. The town was so crowded that we could hardly move, and I felt very nervous when we had to make our way across the road to an hotel for lunch, but nothing exciting happened.

At half-past one we were taken back to the station yard, where we lined up with our luggage in a long queue for passes and tickets to here. The queue was composed chiefly of Russian invalids from a neighbouring health resort – a few men, but mostly women and children – and thick crowds stood gaping and talking on each side of it. By 3 o’clock we were in the train, but we didn’t reach our destination till midnight, as we stopped at every station to pick up more foreigners…”

December 27th 1918

Jones’s Wedding and Other Poems

by Hugh Sidgwick

(Edward Arnold, priced 3/6)

It is just over a year since the death of Hugh Sidgwick, and it is a pleasure to note the publication of this tale in rhymed prose, which he began before the War. He worked on it in those grim times that followed, finally finishing it during the period when he was recalled from active service to work on Mr HAL Fisher’s Education Act during the early months of 1917 (during which time he also wrote ‘From a Funk-hole.’)

This review was in the ‘Oxford Magazine’:

“This tale, so playfully, so delicately told, is like an epitaph, at once grave and gay, on an Oxford friendship, or a group of Oxford friends, and young Oxford before the War lives again in these pages. The humours of the Commemoration Ball, the agony and joy of the Eights, have never been more happily translated than in ‘Eileen’ and in ‘Janet,’ but ‘Dorothy’ gains an added poetic virtue from her setting in the mountains and the lakes. Jones ‘goes over the top’ into matrimony; the author, the ‘I’ of the narrative, alas, will never come back to us from France, to determine in a sequel the fates of Robinson, Brown and Smith, and delight us with fresh sallies of his wit and satire, never malicious and never beside the mark, his merry irony, with sometimes almost a sob in its voice.

The versification owes its lift to Browning, but the Education Office must have made Sidgwick something of a cockney, for the letter ‘r’ hardly exists for him, and ‘cards’ as a rhyme to ‘Promenades’ is almost more than we can bear, while ‘Neitsche’ and ‘feature’ as a jingle set our teeth on edge; but could he reply to us, it would be with a smile and a fresh atrocity. And this poem is dated to last year; so far was he ‘au-dessus de la melee’!”

The range of Hugh’s literary interests was evident in the library of books that was returned to the family on his death, along with his kit: a complete Jane Austen, the Oxford India-paper Vergil and Horace, a Tacitus, Mackail’s Greek Anthology, as well as volumes of Stevenson, Belloc and Kipling.

However, the writing of such verse as this must surely have been Hugh’s way of amusing himself and distracting his thoughts from more disturbing images of war.

Hugh’s description of the differences between Oxford and Cambridge men cannot fail but to raise a smile in this festive season:

Brown once wrote a didactic poem,
"The Oxford Man and How to Know Him,"
In which he said the distinctive mark
Was a fatal readiness to embark
(Disregarding the obvious dangers)
On abstract topics with total strangers - 
Art, the Future, the Kingdom of Ends - 
While he reserved for his real friends,
In soul-communion knit together,
His views on clothes and food and the weather.
Per contra, with Cambridge men he found
The order was the other way round.
Brown's statement, of course, is much too sweeping,
But some of the facts do seem in keeping.

December 9th 1918

2nd Lieut. Vincent Alford (RGA) only left the OPS in 1913. In January 1918, having just left Winchester, Lally (as he was universally called) came to our rescue, playing the part of Touchstone in ‘As You Like It,’ when his younger brother Robert fell ill.

In May this year he was gazetted as 2nd Lieut. and now writes from 328 Siege Battery:

“I’m a colossal fraud, as I only saw about a few weeks of the war. The Boche ran so fast towards the end that it was next to impossible for our guns to keep up with him.

A week ago we came back to a large, straggling village called Beauval, just south of Doullens. It hasn’t seen the war except for an occasional shell last March, and it’s blessed to live in houses with a roof.

I had a capital whole-day tip to Mons, a large Belgian town in mining country, with shops and civilians and Boche money and prices (!!) that would knock spots off the Food Controller’s most fantastic efforts.”

Mons? This takes us back to the beginning of the war, when Lieut. Victor Cowley (Royal Irish Rifles) and Lieut. Rupert Lee (Worcs) first wrote with news of the retreat from Mons in September 1914.

How much have we endured since then.

November 6th 1918

 

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Just two months after his death, the London Gazette of November 2nd has confirmed Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF) has been awarded the DFC for a mission into Germany he undertook in his Handley-Page bomber.

“Capt. Buck, with 2nd Lieut. Barter as Observer, was Pilot of one of two machines detailed to bomb an important railway junction. Owing to most unfavourable weather conditions the other machine returned, but Capt. Buck persevered, reached the objective, and made a most successful attack in face of intense anti-aircraft fire with numerous searchlights. On the return journey they were were much hampered by a severe thunderstorm, which lasted for three-quarters of an hour, the machine being out of control owing to the lightning. In this critical situation Capt. Buck remained cool and collected, and, displaying marked skill and judgement, succeeded in landing his machine safely. The success of this raid was largely due to the skill and efficiency displayed by 2nd Lieut. Barter, who most ably co-operated with Capt. Buck. During the past month these officers have carried out sixteen night bombing raids in a manner reflecting the greatest credit on them both.”

Within a week of these heroic deeds, Geoff Buck was killed, when returning home from another night raid into Germany on September 3rd. He is the first of our airmen to win this new award, the DFC.

 

In addition to the above news, Mr Bell, Geoff’s Winchester housemaster, has most kindly favoured us with a most perceptive appreciation of Geoff’s time there:

“He stood out as something very different from the ordinary boy. In the first place he always knew his mind; he knew where he was moving to and what he wanted. Whether by reading in books, thinking for himself, or talking with his friends, he had formed an idea of what life should mean for him and how he should train himself for it.

He never accepted conventional standards or ideas because they were conventional; yet, unlike many who have tastes and interests of their own, he never shirked the ordinary routine of work or neglected his Latin and Greek for excursions into other fields… None who knew him could be blind to the strong stamp of his individuality…”

I would like to think that his years at the OPS played their part too.

 

 

September 12th 1918

Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF)

Geoff Buck has been killed returning from a night raid on September 3rd. He was with No. 215 Squadron, flying Handley-Page bombers capable of long flights into Germany. As Flight Commandant he was responsible for five aircraft and crew.

He crashed his plane into a high petrol tank building in the black darkness, and that was the end. He once said that very few people knew how hard it was to keep every nerve strained and the brain working its utmost for five hours on end.

In August 1917 Geoff was awarded a richly deserved Military Cross:

“He has taken part in many offensive patrols and had led seventeen, frequently attacking hostile troops on the ground. He has also successfully attacked and destroyed hostile aircraft on several occasions, setting a fine example of dash and determination.” (London Gazette, August 1917).

He has recently been awarded the DFC, although the citation has yet to be published.

Geoff Buck had joined the Royal Fusiliers in 1914, aged 17, and served in the trenches. In 1916 he transferred to the RFC, writing us some interesting letters about his training and early experiences as a pilot.

He had no fear of death; he wrote from France earlier this year saying that “Life has been so topping that I don’t mind how short life is.”

 

Geoff was a great reader, mostly of philosophy, psychology, history and good novels (both modern and standard), and had keen artistic perception. In fact, there was no good thing that he came across in his short life which he did not appreciate and enjoy.