The Project Gutenberg EBook of War Letters of a Public-School Boy, by Henry Paul Mainwaring Jones This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: War Letters of a Public-School Boy Author: Henry Paul Mainwaring Jones Release Date: July 6, 2009 [EBook #29333] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WAR LETTERS OF A PUBLIC-SCHOOL BOY *** Produced by Geetu Melwani, Sigal Alon, Christine P. Travers and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net
Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected. Hyphenation and accentuation have been standardised, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.
Lieut. Paul Jones.
(From a Photograph by his Brother.)
Lieutenant of the Tank Corps
Scholar-Elect of Balliol College, Oxford: Head of the Modern Side and Captain of Football, Dulwich College, 1914
WITH A MEMOIR BY HIS FATHER
He was the very embodiment in himself of all that is best in the public-school spirit, the very incarnation of self-sacrifice and devotion.
A Dulwich Master.
WITH EIGHT PLATES
CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD
London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
PART I. MEMOIR
PART II. WAR LETTERS
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy ...
And those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.
In deciding to publish some of the letters written by the late Lieutenant H. P. M. Jones during his twenty-seven months' service with the British Army, accompanying them with a memoir, I was actuated by a desire, first, to enshrine the memory of a singularly noble and attractive personality; secondly, to describe a career which, though tragically cut short, was yet rich in honourable achievement; thirdly, to show the influence of the Great War on the mind of a public-school boy of high intellectual gifts and sensitive honour, who had shone with equal lustre as a scholar and as an athlete.
My choice of the title of this book was determined by the frequent allusions made by my son in his war letters to his old school. He spent six and a half years at Dulwich College. His career there was gloriously happy and very distinguished. On the scholastic side, it culminated in December, 1914, in the winning of a scholarship in History and Modern Languages at Balliol College, Oxford; on the athletic side, in his carrying off four silver cups at the Athletic Sports in (p. 002) March, 1915, and tieing for the "Victor Ludorum" shield.
As a merry, light-hearted boy in his early years at Dulwich, his love for the College was marked. It waxed with every term he spent within its walls. After he left it, that love became a passion, sustained, coloured and glorified by happy memories. Everybody and everything connected with it shared in his glowing affection. Its welfare and reputation were infinitely precious to him. Like a leitmotif in a musical composition, this love of Dulwich College recurs again and again in his war letters. Every honour won by a Dulwich boy on the battlefield, in scholarship or in athletics gave him exquisite pleasure. The very last letter he wrote is irradiated with love of the old school. When he joined the Tank Corps, stripping, as it were, for the deadly combat, he sent to the depôt at Boulogne all his impedimenta. But among the few cherished personal possessions that he took with him into the zone of death were two photographs—one of the College buildings, the other of the Playing Fields, this latter depicting the cricket matches on Founder's Day. In death as in life Dulwich was close to his heart.
Paul Jones was a young man of herculean strength—tall, muscular, deep-chested and broad-shouldered. But he had one grave physical defect. He was extremely short-sighted, had worn spectacles habitually from his sixth year and was almost helpless without them. In fact, his vision was not one-twelfth of normal. Much to his chagrin, his myopia excluded him from the Infantry which he tried to enter in the spring of 1915, and he had to put up with a Commission as a subaltern in the Army Service Corps. His first three months in the Army were spent at a home port, one of the chief depôts of supply for the British Army in the field. Eagerly embracing the first chance to go abroad, he left Southampton (p. 003) for Havre in the last week of July, 1915. A few days after his arrival in France, he was appointed requisitioning officer to the 9th Cavalry Brigade—a post for the duties of which he was specially qualified by his excellent knowledge of the French language. After 11 months in this employment, he was appointed to a Supply Column, and subsequently, during the protracted battles on the Somme, was in command of an ammunition working party. In October, 1916, he was again appointed requisitioning officer, this time to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade.
Though his duties were often laborious and exacting, his relative freedom from peril and hardship while other men were facing death every day in the trenches sorely troubled his conscience. Feeling that he was not pulling his weight in the war and seeing no prospect of the Cavalry going into action he resolved, at all hazards, to get into the fighting line. After two abortive efforts to transfer from the A.S.C., he succeeded on the third attempt, and was appointed Lieutenant in the Tank Corps, which he joined on 13th February, 1917. His elation at the change was unbounded, and thenceforth his letters home sang with joy. He took part as a Tank officer in the battle of Arras in April, and when the great offensive was planned in Flanders he was shifted to that sector. In the battle of 31st July, when advancing with his tank north-east of Ypres, he was killed by a sniper's bullet. He seemed to have had a premonition some days before that death might soon claim him. In a letter to his brother, a Dulwich school boy, dated 27th July, he wrote:
Have you ever reflected on the fact that, despite the horrors of the war, it is at least a big thing? I mean to say that in it one is brought face to face with realities. The follies, selfishness, luxury and general pettiness of the vile (p. 004) commercial sort of existence led by nine-tenths of the people of the world in peace time are replaced in war by a savagery that is at least more honest and outspoken. Look at it this way: in peace time one just lives one's own little life, engaged in trivialities, worrying about one's own comfort, about money matters, and all that sort of thing—just living for one's own self. What a sordid life it is! In war, on the other hand, even if you do get killed, you only anticipate the inevitable by a few years in any case, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have "pegged out" in the attempt to help your country. You have, in fact, realised an ideal, which, as far as I can see, you very rarely do in ordinary life. The reason is that ordinary life runs on a commercial and selfish basis; if you want to "get on," as the saying is, you can't keep your hands clean.
Personally, I often rejoice that the war has come my way. It has made me realise what a petty thing life is. I think that the war has given to everyone a chance to "get out of himself," as I might say. Of course, the other side of the picture is bound to occur to the imagination. But there! I have never been one to take the more melancholy point of view when there's a silver lining to the cloud.
The eagerness to subordinate self displayed in this letter was very characteristic of its author. He was by nature altruistic, and this propensity was intensified by his career at Dulwich and his experience of athletics, both influences tending to merge the individual in the whole and to subordinate self to the side. Death he had never feared, and he dreaded it less than ever after his experience of campaigning. His last letter shows with what serenity of mind he faced the ultimate realities. He greeted the Unseen with a cheer.
His Commanding Officer, in a letter to us after Paul's death, wrote:
"No officer of mine was more popular. He was efficient, very keen, and a most gallant gentleman. His crew loved him and would follow him anywhere. He did not know what fear was."
(p. 005) From the crew of his Tank we received a very sympathetic letter which among other things said:
"We all loved your son. He was the best officer in our company and never will be replaced by one like him."
A gunner who served in the same Tank company testified his love and admiration for our son and said that all the men would do anything for him; even the roughest came under his spell.
A brother officer who served with Paul in the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, in paying homage to his character, wrote: "He was a most interesting and lovable companion and friend. He never seemed to think of himself at all."
Among the many tributes that reached us were several from the masters, old boys, and present boys at Dulwich College. Several of the writers express the opinion that Paul Jones would, if he had lived, have done great things. Mr. Gilkes, late headmaster of Dulwich, in a touching letter, spoke of the nobility of his character and his high gifts; Mr. Smith, the present headmaster, testified to his intellectual power, energy and keenness; Mr. Joerg, master of the Modern Sixth, to his sense of justice, loyalty and truth; Mr. Hope, master of the Classical Sixth, to his high conception of duty, "his sterling qualities and great ability." From the young man who was captain of the school when Paul was head of the Modern Side came this testimony: "He was one of the finest characters of my time at school; in me he inspired all the highest feelings." One of his contemporaries in the Modern Sixth wrote: "I owe more than I can express to your son's influence over me. As long as I live I shall never forget him. His spirit is with me always; for it is to him that I owe my first real insight into life." A well-known Professor wrote: "I felt sure he was destined to do great things; (p. 006) but he has done greater things; he has done the greatest thing of all." Some of these letters are set forth in full in the Epilogue.
Appended is a list of events in this rich and strenuous, albeit brief life:
All that was mortal of Paul Jones is buried at a point west of Zonnebeke, north-east of Ypres.[Back to Contents]
Paul Jones as an Infant.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness.
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, Who is our home.
Wordsworth: "Intimations of Immortality."
Henry Paul Mainwaring Jones, born in London on May 18, 1896, was the first child of Henry and Emily Margaret Jones. His grandfather, the late Thomas Mainwaring, was in his day a leading figure in literary and political circles in Carmarthenshire. My own people have been associated with that county for centuries. For our son's christening a vessel containing water drawn from the Pool of Bethesda was sent to us by my old friend Sir John Foster Fraser, who in the spring of that year passed through Palestine on his journey by bicycle round the world.
At this time I was acting editor of The Weekly Sun, a journal then in high repute. Later, at Mr. T. P. O'Connor's request, I took charge of his evening newspaper, The Sun. After the purchase of The Sun by a Conservative proprietary I severed my connection with it, and in January, 1897, went to reside in Plymouth, having undertaken the managing editorship of the Western Daily Mercury.
We remained at Plymouth more than seven years. Paul received his early education at the Hoe Preparatory (p. 010) School in that town. He was a lively and vigorous child overflowing with health. When he was in his sixth year we discovered that he was shortsighted—a physical defect inherited from me. The discovery caused us acute distress. I knew from personal experience what a handicap and an embarrassment it is to be afflicted with myopia. Regularly thenceforward his eyes had to be examined by oculists. For several years, in fact until he was 16, the myopia increased in degree, but we were comforted by successive reports of different oculists that though myopic his eyes were very strong, and that there was not a trace of disease in them, the defect being solely one of structure which glasses would correct.
To Paul as a boy the habitual wearing of spectacles was at first very irksome, but in time he adapted himself to them. Even defects have their compensations. He was naturally rash and daring, and his short sight undoubtedly acted as a check on an impetuous temperament. He early gave signs of unusual intelligence. His activity of body was as remarkable as his quickness of mind. At play and at work, with his toys as with his books, he displayed the same intensity; he could do nothing by halves. There never was a merrier boy. His vivacity and energy and the gaiety of his spirit brightened everybody around him. When he bounded or raced into a room he seemed to bring with him a flood of sunshine.
From his childhood he gave evidences of an unselfish nature and a desire to avoid giving trouble. He had his share of childish ailments, but always made light of them and bore discomfort with a sunny cheerfulness; his invariable reply, if he were ill and one asked how he fared, was "Much better; I'm all right, thanks." Marked traits in him as a small boy were truthfulness, generosity and sensitiveness. In a varied experience of (p. 011) the world I have never met anyone in whom love of truth was more deeply ingrained. On one occasion in his twelfth year, when he was wrestling with an arithmetical problem—the only branch of learning that ever gave him trouble was mathematics—and I offered to help in its solution, he rejected my proffered aid with the indignant remark: "Dad, how could I hand this prep. in as my own if you had helped me to do it?" His generosity of spirit was displayed in his eagerness to share his toys and books with other children; his sensitiveness by his acute self-reproaches if he had been unkind to anyone or had caused pain to his mother or his nurse.
Plymouth is a fine old city, beautifully situated and steeped in historic memories. Our home was in Carlisle Avenue, just off the Hoe, and on that spacious front Paul spent many happy hours as a small boy. His young eyes gazed with fascination on the warships passing in and out of Plymouth Sound, on the great passenger steamers lying at anchor inside the Breakwater, or steaming up or down the Channel; on the fishing fleet, with its brown sails, setting out to reap the harvest of the sea; and when daylight faded in the short winter days he would watch the Eddystone light—that diamond set in the forehead of England—flashing its warning and greeting to "those who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters." Always from the Hoe there is something to captivate the eye—the wonder and beauty of the unresting ocean; on the Cornish side the wooded slopes and green sward of Mount Edgcumbe; on the Devon side Staddon Height, rising bold and sheer from the water; looking landward the picturesque mass of houses, towers, spires, turrets that is Plymouth, and far behind the outline of the Dartmoor Hills. On the Hoe itself one's historic memories are stirred by the Armada memorial and the (p. 012) Drake statue; close at hand is the Citadel, the snout of guns showing through its embrasures; and near by is Sutton Pool, whence the Pilgrim Fathers set forth in the little Mayflower, carrying the English language and the principles of civil and religious liberty across the stormy Atlantic.
All these sights and scenes and historical associations had their influence on a bright and ardent boy in these impressionable years. He soon got to be keenly interested in the Navy, amassed a surprising amount of information about the types, engine strength and gun-power of the principal warships, and found delight in making models of cruisers and torpedo-boats. The Army in those days made no appeal to him, though he was familiar with military sights and sounds—the ceremonious displays that take place from time to time in a garrison town, bugles blowing, the crunch of feet on the gravel in the barrack square, and the tramp, tramp of marching men. It was to the Navy that his heart went out. The natural set of his mind to the Navy was encouraged by the accident that his first school prize was Southey's "Life of Nelson"—a book that inspired him with hero-worship for the illustrious admiral.
Paul in his 6th Year.
On Saturday afternoons, whenever weather permitted, it was my custom to roam with Paul over the pleasant environs of Plymouth. We would visit Plympton or Plym Bridge, Roborough Down or Ivybridge, Tavistock or Princetown, for a tramp on Dartmoor. Or we would go by water to Newton, Yealmpton, Salcombe, or Calstock, or cross by the ferry to Mount Edgcumbe for Penlee Point, with its marvellous seaward view. He was an excellent walker and a most delightful little companion, keenly interested in all he saw, and absorbing eagerly the beauty of earth and sea and sky. No wonder he had happy memories of the West country and that his mind retained (p. 013) clear images of Plymouth, the sea, and gracious, beautiful Devon!
In the summer of 1904 I returned to London, having accepted an appointment on the editorial staff of the Daily Chronicle. Paul, who had left his first school with high commendation, was entered in September at Brightlands Preparatory School, Dulwich Common. There he remained four years, during which he made rapid strides in knowledge. His first report said: "Is very keen and has brains above the average; conduct and work excellent; extremely quick and a splendid worker. Doing very well in Classics, and making marvellous progress in French." From later reports the following expressions are taken: "Keen in the extreme, and a hard worker; a marvellously retentive memory." "His work has been superlatively good; conduct excellent; drawing poor; written work marred by blots and smudges." "Developing very much; thoroughly deserves his prizes; his work is neater; composition and geography excellent; and even in mathematics no boy has improved more; now plays very keenly in games." "He is making splendid progress with his Greek; gets flustered in Mathematics when difficulties appear." Paul won numerous prizes at Brightlands for Classics, English, French, General Knowledge, Reading, Athletics, and was almost invariably top of his form. He left the Preparatory School after the summer term, 1908.[Back to Contents]
Ah! happy years! once more who would not be a boy?
Byron: "Childe Harold."
Our son entered Dulwich College in September, 1908, when he was twelve years of age, and remained a member of it until March, 1915. These six and a half years had a powerful influence on the development of his character, which flowered beautifully in this congenial atmosphere. The most famous school in South London, Dulwich College has a notable history. It was founded through the munificence of Edward Alleyn, theatre-proprietor and actor, a contemporary, an acquaintance, and probably a friend of Shakespeare. At the inaugural dinner in September, 1619, to celebrate the foundation of Alleyn's "College of God's gift," an illustrious company was present, including the Lord Chancellor, Francis Bacon, "the greatest and the meanest of mankind," then at the summit of his fame but soon to fall in disgrace from his high eminence; Inigo Jones, the famous architect, who in that year was superintending the erection of the new Banqueting Hall in Whitehall; and other distinguished men.
Since its foundation the College has passed through many vicissitudes. With the development of building on the estate the income rapidly expanded in the nineteenth century. In 1857 the charity was reorganised and the trust varied by Act of Parliament. The present school buildings were opened in 1870. The old college—including the chapel (containing the pious founder's (p. 015) tomb), almshouses and the offices of the estate governors—remains in Dulwich Village, a very picturesque and well-preserved structure embowered in trees. At its rear is the celebrated Picture Gallery, the nucleus of which was a collection of pictures originally intended to grace the palace of Stanislaus, the last King of Poland. The new college buildings have a delightful situation. All around them are wide stretches of green fields; here and there pleasant hedgerows; on the slopes of Sydenham Hill charming woodlands, some of them a veritable sanctuary for bird-life. In the spring-time the whole neighbourhood is musical with the song of birds, and one is often thrilled by the rich haunting note of the cuckoo. On the fringes of the playing-fields and round about the boarding-houses are magnificent trees—chiefly elm, beech, birch and chestnut, more rarely oak. In short, the surroundings of the college have a thoroughly rural aspect. It is an ideal environment for the training of boys. There is nothing in this sylvan and pastoral beauty to suggest that we are in a great city.
Dulwich College is both a boarding school and a day school, the boarders numbering about 120 and the day-boys about 550. When Paul Jones entered the college as a day-boy in 1908 the Headmaster was Mr. A. H. Gilkes, who retired after the summer term of 1914. Our son, therefore, had the good fortune to come under the influence for six years of one of the greatest public-school masters of our generation. A former colleague of mine, Mr. Henry W. Nevinson, used to speak to me in glowing terms of Mr. Gilkes, who was a master at Shrewsbury School when he was a boy there, and I note that the Rev. Dr. Horton in his "Autobiography" alludes to him as "the master at Shrewsbury to whom I owed most." Undoubtedly Mr. Gilkes's best work was done as Headmaster of Dulwich. (p. 016) The College has never known a greater head. Under him the whole place was revivified. During his reign not only did a fine moral tone characterise the school, but there was equal enthusiasm for work and games. Thanks to a commanding personality, in which strength, dignity and graciousness were subtly mingled, the influence of Mr. Gilkes pervaded the whole school from the highest to the lowest forms. Paul quickly recognised the nobility of the "Old Man," as he was universally known to the boys. His affection for him amounted to veneration, and however brief the leave he had from the Army he always found time to pay his old headmaster a visit. On his part Mr. Gilkes had a great regard for our son, whom with sure perception he described as "fearless, strong and capable, with a heart as soft and kind as a heart can be."
A new boy's early days in a public school are often trying. He is in a strange world with its own laws and customs; and at the outset he has to endure the scrutiny of curious and often hostile eyes. Our son's marked idiosyncrasies, sturdy independence, fastidious refinement and passion for work, singled him out from his fellows as an original. As boys resent any deviation from the normal, he had a rough time until he found his feet, and the experience was repeated as he moved up to new forms. Not a word about all this escaped his lips at home; I have ascertained it from others. Stories reached me of personal combats from which he usually emerged the victor, and of one prolonged fight with an older boy that had at last to be drawn. In the end Paul won through; his pluck and strength compelled a respect that would have been refused to his intellectual gifts. His tormentors realised that he was not a mere "swot," that he had fists and knew how to use them. Animosity was also disarmed by his chivalric spirit. He began his career at Dulwich in the Classical Lower (p. 017) IV. In June, 1909, he won a Junior Scholarship, which freed him from school fees for three years, and in 1912 a Senior Scholarship of the same nature. When he was in the Classical Lower Fifth (1909), his form master, Mr. H. V. Doulton reported:
"He is a boy of great promise and will make an excellent scholar. He has marked aptitude for classical work, and success in the great public examinations may be predicted for him with absolute confidence." "Painstaking and anxious to do well, but rather slow," was the verdict of his mathematical teacher.
In the summer term, 1910, Paul changed over from the Classical to the Modern side of the school. I was averse to the change, and his Classical form-master dissuaded him against it. But once Paul's mind was made up nothing would break his resolution: he had a strong and tenacious will. His main desire in transferring to the Modern side was to study English literature and modern languages thoroughly. He never regretted the change. As he grew older the firmer became his conviction that Classics were overdone in the public schools. Even in a school responsive to the spirit of the age like Dulwich, which has Modern, Science, and Engineering sides, the primacy still belongs to Classics, and the captaincy of the school is rigidly confined to boys on the Classical side. My son believed that this bias for Classics was bad educationally. He thought the prestige given to Greek and Latin as compared with English Literature, Science, Modern Languages and History was simply the outcome of a pedantic scholastic tradition, which made for narrowness not for broad culture. With him it was not a case of making a virtue of necessity, as he had real aptitude for Greek and Latin. But he wanted the windows of our public schools to be cleared of mediæval cobwebs and flung wide open to the fresh breezes of the modern world.
(p. 018) In the report for the last term of 1910, when he was in the Modern Upper V, he was described as "a very capable boy with great abilities." The next report, when he was in the Remove, complained of his "frivolous attitude" in the Physics classes, but "otherwise he has worked well and made good progress." In June, 1911, he passed the Senior School Examination with honours, winning distinction in English, French and Latin—a remarkable achievement for a boy who had only just turned fifteen. Owing to his being under age, the London Matriculation certificate in respect of this examination was not forwarded until he had reached sixteen. "Considering that he is only fifteen," wrote Mr. J. A. Joerg, his form-master, "it should be deemed a great honour for him to have passed in the First Division; it does him much credit." Mr. Boon, who prepared him in mathematics, testified that Paul had "worked with interest and energy" at what was for him an uncongenial subject. He entered the Sixth Form in September, 1911, being then fifteen and a half years old; the form average was seventeen years. In 1912 his reports showed that he was making all-round progress, and was applying himself with zest to a new subject, Logic. In the summer term, 1913, he was first in form order—1st in English, 2nd in Latin, 3rd in French, 4th in German. Though specialising in History, he retained his position as head of the Modern side until he left school, with one interval in the summer term of 1914, when he had to take second place, recovering the headship next term. In order to have a clear road to Oxford University, he qualified in Greek at the London Matriculation Examination, January, 1914. During his Dulwich career he won many prizes, most of which took the form of historical works. As will appear later, he played as whole-heartedly in games as he worked at his books.
(p. 019) History was a subject to which he was instinctively drawn, and in 1913 he began preparing definitely for an Oxford University scholarship. He read thoroughly and covered a wide field. In addition to the systematic study of History, he touched the fringes of philosophy and political economy. He was helped in his studies by a very retentive memory. One of his schoolfellows said to me, "Paul has only to read a book once and it is for ever imprinted on his mind." Among the historical writers whom he read during his eighteen months' preparation were: Gibbon, Carlyle, Macaulay, Hallam, Guizot, Michelet, Thiers, Bluntschli, Maine, Froude, Bagehot, Seeley, Maitland, Stubbs, Gardiner, Acton, John Morley, Bryce, Dicey, Tout, Mahan, Holland Rose, G. M. Trevelyan, Hilaire Belloc and H. W. C. Davis. Two recent books that gave him special pleasure were Mr. G. P. Gooch's masterly "History of Historians" and Mr. F. S. Marvin's entrancing little work "The Living Past."
His hard reading was crowned in December, 1914, by a considerable achievement, for he won the coveted Brakenbury Scholarship in History and Modern Languages at Balliol College, Oxford. This scholarship, worth £80 per annum, is tenable for four years; to it subsequently Dulwich College added an exhibition of the annual value of £20. He was the first Balliol scholar in history from Dulwich. Not at all confident that he had won the Brakenbury, he went up to Oxford a second time, while the result of the Balliol examination was still unknown, to try for a less exacting scholarship. Happily there was no necessity for him to undergo this second test, as he found on his arrival at Oxford that his name had just been posted as a Brakenbury scholar.
When he went up, in the last week in November, 1914, for examination at Balliol College, it was his first (p. 020) visit to Oxford. Short as was his stay within its precincts, it was long enough for the glamour and beauty of the venerable university to steal into his soul; and the spell of it remained with him as a permanent possession. In spite of examination anxieties he had a pleasant time at Oxford, as the following letter shows:
The Old Parsonage,
December 1st, 1914.
Everything going as well as could be anticipated. But I don't expect to win the Brakenbury, so there can't be much of a disappointment. I have done one paper already, the essay—subject, "A Nation's character as expressed in its Art and Literature." I think I got on fairly well. The papers end by Thursday afternoon. I was round with all the Dulwich fellows in Wetenhall's rooms at Worcester College last night, and had a great time. Cartwright came across, and a lot of other O.A.'s. To-night I am dining with Gover, an old friend of mine, in hall at Balliol, and going on to his rooms afterwards. I am booked for brekker and dinner to-morrow. Dulwich is a magic name here; if you add "captain of football" all doors fly open to you. Altogether I don't feel I am up for a scholarship at all—a good thing, for it prevents my getting nervous.
Of the many congratulations on his success in winning a Balliol scholarship, none granted him more than a letter from an "Old Alleynian," who wrote:
My very best congratters on the fresh laurel with which you have adorned your crown of victory. A Balliol scholarship for four years, and this to have been secured by the captain of a public school 1st XV that has won four out of its five great school matches! My dear Paul, you have done splendidly. I don't remember during my time such a happy combination of work and play.
Mr. Llewelyn Williams, K.C., M.P., himself an Oxford history scholar, wrote: "Paul's brilliant success warmed even my old heart. Tell him from me I (p. 021) hope when he is a Don he will write the History of Wales."
Paul was appointed a prefect at Dulwich in 1912. He participated in every phase of school life and was devoted to athletics. In cricket he was quick and adroit as a fielder, but he had no skill either as a batsman—doubtless owing to his visual defect—or as a bowler. Very fond of swimming, he was a regular visitor to the college swimming bath. He had great endurance in the water, but lacked speed, and much to his disappointment failed to get his swimming colours. His love of swimming never waned, and in the sea he would swim long distances. Swimming brought him an ecstasy of physical and moral exhilaration. He could say with Byron:
I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward.
Lawn tennis is discouraged at Dulwich, but Paul became adept in this pastime, thanks to games on the lawn attached to our house. In the whole range of athletics nothing gave him so much pleasure and satisfaction as Rugby football. Too massive in build to be a swift runner, and unable owing to his defective vision to give or take "passes" with quick precision, he was not suited to the three-quarter line; but as a forward he made a reputation second to none of his contemporaries in public-school football. He played for the College 1st XV in three successive seasons, during which he was not once "crocked," nor did he miss a single match. His success in football was an illustration of how a resolute will can triumph over a hampering physical defect.
In the autumn of 1913 he was offered a house scholarship, which would have meant residence in one of the (p. 022) boarding-houses. Without hesitation he declined what was at once an honour and a privilege, preferring to remain a day-boy. He dearly loved his home, and his opinion was that the advantages of public-school training were much enhanced when combined with home life. His custom was to ride to the College on his bicycle in the morning, stay there for dinner and return home in the evening between 6 and 7 o'clock, the hours following afternoon school being devoted to games, the gymnasium, or some other form of physical training.
In 1914 he was elected Captain of the 1st XV. No distinction he ever won—and there were many—gratified him more. In a great public school the duties that devolve on a captain of football are laborious and responsible. They entail many hours of work weekly, the careful compilation of lists of players for the numerous school teams, a vigilant oversight of training and a watchful eye for budding talent. But Paul loved the work, and love lightens labour. He threw himself into the duties with all the enthusiasm of his nature. The amount of time he was devoting to football in September and October made me doubtful of his ability to carry off a Balliol scholarship in December. Accordingly I suggested that he might relinquish the captaincy temporarily, say for a month, so as to allow him freedom to concentrate on his history reading before the examination. He would not listen to the suggestion. He said he meant to fulfil the duties of captain to the uttermost. If this jeopardised his chances for a scholarship he would be sorry, but whatever the cost he was not going to fall short in his work as captain of football. In the result he brought off the double event, winning the scholarship and leading his team with shining success.
Winning the Mile, March 27, 1915.
His athletic career culminated at the school sports on March 27, 1915, when he won the mile flat race, the (p. 023) half-mile, and the steeplechase, and was awarded the silver cup for the best forward in the 1st XV. He tied for the "Victor Ludorum" shield with his friend S. J. Hannaford (a versatile athlete reported missing in France, September, 1917). These successes at the sports were a dazzling finish to Paul's school days. He bore them, like his scholastic triumphs, very modestly, but in his heart he was proud and happy. It was not his nature to plume himself on any achievement. Only once do I remember his betraying pride in what he had accomplished. It is the custom in Dulwich to inscribe on the walls of the great hall the names of boys who distinguish themselves on entering or leaving the Universities and the Army. In due time the ten Oxford scholars of 1914 were walled. During his first leave from the Army Paul revisited the old school, and I recollect his telling me that the names of those who had won scholarships at Oxford had been duly painted in hall. "My name is placed first," he said with a smile; adding with emphasis, "and so it ought to be."
It was his hope that his own success would give a stimulus to the study of history at Dulwich. In 1916, when he learnt that another Dulwich boy was thinking of preparing for a Balliol scholarship in history, he wrote to me from France, requesting that his notes, memoranda, essays and books should be placed at the student's disposal. He added in reference to a matter on which I had asked his opinion:
The education you get from a correspondence course is of a kind which, while useful for acquiring a knowledge of facts, is of very little value in the development of that culture which is the first and essential element in obtaining a 'Varsity—above all, a Balliol—scholarship. If a boy decides to go in for a history scholarship, the Dulwich authorities ought to provide him with adequate tutorship as part of his school training. Were the boy to go to an outside institution, the school would lose part of the (p. 024) honour gained by the winning of the scholarship. But remember that no one would have the ghost of a chance for an Oxford scholarship on the knowledge gained from a correspondence course taken by itself. Finally, any honour gained by a Dulwich boy ought to redound to the credit of Dulwich; the school alone should have the credit of the achievements of its members.
From masters and boys I learnt that my son's influence was specially marked in his last two years at the College. It was an influence that was always thrown on the side of what was lovely, pure and of good report. Frank, free-spirited, open-hearted, his buoyancy and his rich capacity for laughter diffused an atmosphere of cheerfulness; his unflagging enthusiasm stimulated interest in athletics; his love of learning and passion for work were contagious; his high ideals of conduct helped to set the tone in morals and manners. The qualities he most prized in boys were courage, purity, veracity. No one loved books more, but book-learning by itself he placed low on the list. To use his own words: "It is character and personality that tell." Purity in deed and thought was with him a constant aspiration. He reverenced the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. From the ordeal of the difficult years between 14 and 16 he emerged like refined gold. A boy he was
With rosy cheeks
Angelical, keen eye, courageous look,
And conscious step of purity and pride.
His serene and radiant air was witness to a soul at peace with itself. Things coarse and impure fled from his presence. It was the union in him of moral elevation with physical courage that explained the secret of his remarkable influence in school.
At Dulwich the school year is full and various. In addition to the acquisition of knowledge there is much (p. 025) else to engage a boy's interest—cricket, football, fives, swimming, the gymnasium, athletic competitions, the choir; and then those red-letter days—Founder's Day, with its Greek, French or German play, the Prize Distribution and the Concerts. Our son bore his share in every phase of this varied life. He had a warm corner in his heart for the College Mission, which maintains a home in Walworth for boys without friends or relatives and enables them to be trained as skilled artisans. The home has accommodation for twenty-one boys; a married couple look after the house work, and two old Alleynians are in residence. He never failed after he left the College to send an annual subscription anonymously to the Mission funds. An enthusiastic lover of music, he was for years in the College Choir, singing latterly with the basses.
At the 1913 Founder's Day celebration Paul took a subsidiary part, that of Fitzwater, in a scene from Shakespeare's Richard II, on which occasion the King was brilliantly impersonated by E. F. Clarke (killed in action, April, 1917). On the same occasion Paul was one of the voyageurs in the scenes from Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon, his amusing by-play in that modest rôle sending the junior school into roars of laughter. At the 1914 celebration of Founder's Day he took the part of Fluellen in a scene from Henry V, and sustained a very different rôle, that of Karl der Sieberite, in a scene from Schiller's Jungfrau von Orleans. Reviewing the performances, The Alleynian said of the former: "In this piece Jones was the comedian. He was clumsy and not quite at home on the boards, but his Welsh was delightful."
Of his performances as Charles VII in Schiller's play the critic wrote:
The scene chosen is one of the most powerful scenes in the play. It is that in which the King, sceptical of the (p. 026) divine inspiration of the Maid, determines to test her by substituting a courtier upon his throne.... When she is not only not deceived, but proceeds also to interpret many of the King's innermost thoughts, the surprise of the monarch, passing into hushed reverence, calls for a studied piece of careful acting. H. P. M. Jones sustained this part, and sustained it well. He gave it the dignity which it needed, and if his natural gift of physical stature helped him somewhat, so also did the smooth diction and easy repose which he had evidently been at pains to acquire.
Of the performance as a whole: "It says a very great deal for the German in the upper part of the school, that a scene can be enacted in which both accent and acting can reach so high a level."
The school year at Dulwich always closes with a concert at which the music, thanks to the competent leadership of Mr. H. V. Doulton, is of a high order. The solos of the two school songs on 19th December, 1914, were sung by H. P. M. Jones and H. Edkins, both of them Oxford scholars who have since been killed in action. Edkins, who had a rich baritone voice, sang the song in praise of Edward Alleyn, the pious founder. My son, as captain of football, sang the football song, the first and last verses of which are appended:
Rain and wind and hidden sun,
Wild November weather,
Muddy field and leafless tree
Bare of fur or feather.
Sweeps there be who scorn the game,
On them tons of soot fall!
All Alleynians here declare
Nought like Rugby football.
Broken heads and bleeding shins!
What's the cause for sorrow?
Shut your mouth and grin the more,
(p. 027) Young or old this shall remain
Still your favourite story:
Fifteen fellows fighting-full,
Out for death or glory.
After each stanza the choir and the whole school rolled in with the chorus, proclaiming in stentorian voices that "the Blue and Black" (these being the Dulwich football colours) shall win the day. My wife and I were present at this concert, and there is a vivid image before us of our son, a tall, powerful figure in evening dress, standing on the platform in front of the choir, his eager face now following the conductor's bâton, now glancing at the music-score, now looking in his forthright way at the audience. The reception that greeted him when he stepped on to the platform must have thrilled every fibre of his being; another rapturous outburst of cheers acclaimed him as he retired to his place in the choir. Those cheers, loud, shrill and clear, with that poignant note that there often is in boyish voices, still resound in our ears. We had heard that Paul was popular at Dulwich: we had ocular and audible testimony of it on this unforgettable night. Those had not exaggerated who told us that he was the hero of the school.[Back to Contents]
Play it long and play it hard
Till the game is ended.
Dulwich Football Song.
The earliest reference to Paul as a footballer appears in The Alleynian's report of a match, "Boarders v. School," played on September 25, 1912, when the School won by 32 points to 21. "Jones," says the reporter, "presented an awesome sight." His first appearance in the 1st XV was against London Hospitals "A" in October. Singling him out for honourable mention, the critic says: "Jones displayed any amount of go." He was awarded his 1st XV colours after the match against Bedford School at Bedford in November. In this hard-fought game Bedford led at half-time by 15 points to 5, and 25 minutes before the close of play the score was in Bedford's favour by 28 to 5. Then, by a wonderful rally, Dulwich scored 23 points in almost as many minutes, the match finally being drawn 28-28. In The Alleynian for February, 1913, Paul is thus described in the article, "First XV Characters":
A young, heavy and extremely energetic forward. Puts all he knows into his play, and is a great worker in the scrum. In the loose, however, a lot of his energy is somewhat misdirected, and he has an alarming tendency for getting off-side.
DULWICH COLLEGE 1st XV, 1914-15, OF WHICH PAUL JONES WAS CAPTAIN.
From left to right, top Row: H. C. Jensen, M. Z. Ariffin, E. A. F. Hawke, R. L. Paton, J. Paget, J. F. G. Schlund, J. M. Cat, G. H. Gilkes. Middle Row: A. H. H. Gilligan, L. W. Franklin, H. P. M. Jones, L. Minot, R. S. Hellier. On Ground: C. A. R. Hoggan, S. H. Killick.
In the 1913-14 season, a daily newspaper, describing the hard-fought Sherborne v. Dulwich match, said: "H. P. M. Jones worked like a Trojan for the losers, (p. 029) his Pillmanesque hair being seen in the thick of everything." That season Paul had charge of the Junior games. He had a way with small boys, and soon fired them with his own zeal. In an article in The Alleynian for December, 1913, giving counsel to the juniors, he wrote:
You must not gas so much on the field, but play the game as hard as it can be played. Except in rare circumstances, the only players who are to shout are the captain, the scrum-half, and the leader of the forwards. Forwards must learn to pack low and shove straight and hard. Three-quarters must remember not to run across too much, and never to pass the ball when standing still.
There are other useful hints. Looking upon the junior games as the seed-bed for future crops of 1st XV players, he devoted a great deal of time and patience to teaching the youngsters how to play. In addition to matches with other schools and clubs, a feature of the football season at Dulwich are the side-games. Paul played in three seasons for the Modern Sixth and Remove, and was captain of the victorious team in the side-contests, 1914-15. House matches of which he was only a spectator he often reported for The Alleynian.
It was at a meeting of the Field Sports Board on July 28, 1914, that Paul Jones was elected captain of the 1st XV, being proposed by A. W. Fischer and seconded by A. E. R. Gilligan. At the same meeting R. B. B. Jones was elected captain of the gymnasium. Fischer, Basil Jones and my son have been killed in the War. In a report of a meeting of the Field Sports Board held on September 29 appears the following: "H. P. M. Jones then submitted a code of rules to regulate the management of the school games. These were unanimously approved." In a survey of the prospects of the 1914-15 football season which appeared in the October Alleynian, Paul paid tribute to the magnificent (p. 030) work done for football in Dulwich by one of the masters, Mr. W. D. Gibbon, an old International, who joined the Army shortly after the outbreak of war and is now Lieutenant-Colonel. Paul wrote:
The loss of Mr. Gibbon is a staggering-blow. He it is who, more than anyone, has given us the very high place we hold among Rugby-playing schools. To lose his services is disastrous. Still, it would be shameful to grouse over his departure considering that he goes to serve his country. Rather let us congratulate him on his captaincy in the Worcestershires.
A reformer by temperament, my son was determined to improve the forward play during his captaincy, as he believed that not enough attention had been given to the forwards for several seasons at Dulwich. It was inevitable that the War would derange the football programme, but though there would be few club matches, the new captain thought that the "school games" might benefit from this very lack. Anyhow it was "a unique chance to build them up on a sound basis." He believed in doing everything to encourage in-school football, meaning by that the half-holiday games, the side-matches, cup matches, and such games as Prefects v. School, Boarders v. School, the House matches, etc. He realised that the first three XV's only include 45 boys, and that there were 600 others whose claims to consideration were equally great. Moreover, good in-school football would produce a succession of players for the first XV. Having all this in mind, in his article in The Alleynian he exhorted the game captains to instil "a general keenness" and to do their duty unselfishly and enthusiastically. His survey then proceeds:
Now as to the teams. In the first place, let it be said at once that the outsides are going to be fine this year. Franklin and A. H. H. Gilligan, the "star" wings of (p. 031) last year's team, and Minôt, undoubtedly the best of the centres, remain to us. Franklin is faster than of yore, and still goes down the right touch-line like a miniature thunderbolt, brushing aside the opposition like so many flies. If he is the thunderbolt, Gilligan, on the other wing, is undoubtedly the "greased lightning"; we have not seen so fast a school wing for years, and his newly acquired swerve makes him all the more dangerous. Minôt has quite mastered the art of passing; we have rarely seen "transfers" made so accurately and so artistically. He can cut through when required, and altogether should make Gilligan a splendid partner. All these three defend stoutly. We are also fortunate in retaining the services of Paton (2nd XV) for the other centre position; he only wants a little more judgment to be quite first-class.
At half, Evans and A. E. R. Gilligan have left a terrible gap. But again fortune is on our side, as we have in Killick (2nd XV) a worthy successor to the latter—very quick off the mark, and an excellent giver and taker of passes; while Jensen (2nd XV) shows promise of becoming a really "class" scrum worker. At present his chief fault is inaccuracy of direction, but that will soon vanish. Both these halves are excellent in defence. Again, Hooker (3rd XV) is a very useful scrum half, but slow in attack. For the full-back position we have that wily old veteran Ariffin (2nd XV), whose kicking has distinctly improved since last year. He tackles as well as ever. Sellick (3rd XV) is a useful back, but weak in defence.
So, gentlemen, outside the scrum all is well. But what of the scrum itself? This, we don't deny, is going to be a difficult problem. It is not that there isn't plenty of good stuff. Hellier and Gilkes (2nd XV), Hoggan, Schlund, Cat and Fischer (all 3rd XV)—here is the nucleus of a fine pack, not to mention a host of hefty and keen fellows as yet without colours. But the difficulty lies in the traditions of the past. Since 1912, our forwards have steadily deteriorated as our backs have got better and better. It was always the way last year that, if we had a ground wet to any degree, we were as good as beaten—look at the Easter term, for example. Also, the helplessness of the forwards threw a lot too much work on the outsides. This has got to be stopped. You can't always get weather to suit your team's outsides. We must learn how to play a forward game when it's necessary. We must (p. 032) learn to screw, to wheel, to shove and to rush. We repeat, the individuals are there, but they have to be trained into a combination. The outsides are so brilliant that they can be trusted faithfully to fulfil the work of passing and open-side attack.
Our chief efforts this year must be directed to the training of the forwards: (1) to play a truer forward game; (2) and not to forget how to attack and adopt open-side tactics when necessary. Once the teams have re-learnt these lessons, the games will automatically do so. In the days of Jordan, Mackinnon and Green we won as many matches by our forwards as by our outsides. It is fatuous to develop one division at the expense of the other. The outsides are going this season to receive all possible attention, but so are the forwards.
Paul carried out thoroughly the policy here foreshadowed. As a consequence forward play at Dulwich was absolutely transformed, and the impulse he gave to it survives to this day. Under his captaincy the 1st XV had a brilliantly successful season, winning four out of five of the great school matches, viz.:
With the exception of 1909-10, when Dulwich won all its school matches, this 1914-15 record during Paul's captaincy was the best for a dozen years. Of the football in the school generally the captain, writing in the December Alleynian, said: "Such a uniform standard of keenness has rarely been witnessed. For this I have to thank the Games Captains most sincerely. They have done their part most loyally and unselfishly. The next few years will prove the value of their work."
DULWICH MODERN SIDE XV, 1914-15, CAPTAINED BY PAUL JONES.
From left to right, Top Row: C. F. N. Ambrose, W. B. Jellett, B. A. J. Mills, G. Walker, C. R. Mountain. Second Row, J. C. Corrie, R. W. Mills, G. Roederwald, L. Paton, H. V. Morlock. Seated: R. L. Paton, A. H. H. Gilligan, H. P. M. Jones, C. A. R. Hoggan, J. F. G. Schlund. On Ground: L. A. Hotchkiss, R. A. Mayne.
In a review of the 1st XV characters in The Alleynian for February, 1915, appeared the following:
(p. 033) H. P. M. Jones (captain) (1912-13-14-15) (12 st. 6 lb.). Forward.—One of the keenest captains Dulwich has ever produced. An untiring and zealous worker both in the game and organisation, from which he has produced one of the finest packs Dulwich has seen in recent years. He uses every ounce of his weight to advantage, and his knowledge of the game is beyond reproach. He is sound in defence, and in the open wherever the ball is you will find him. We shall all greatly miss him, but will remember that his valuable work for the forwards will mean much to the school in the future. (Forward Challenge Cup.)
On February 6 he had the gratification of avenging the defeat by St. Paul's in the previous November, Dulwich this time being victorious over the Paulines by 39 to nil. With this victory he regarded his work as captain of football finished, though he played in the side-games until March. In spite of the difficulties caused by the war, the season had been a triumphant one. An old member of the 1st XV, Lieut. A. E. R. Gilligan, writing from his regiment, congratulated Paul on "the magnificent record of the team—a record which reflects the utmost credit on its captain. Without your keenness and energy the side would have been a poor one." Lieut. Gilligan added: "To have beaten St. Paul's was absolutely a crowning effort. All the 'O.A.'s' here are overjoyed at our victory. It is simply splendid, and makes up for the defeat of last term. Best congratulations to all the gallant team and to its victorious captain."
Paul's football enthusiasm inspired him on one occasion to attempt a metrical description of a match between Bedford and Dulwich. The nature of this poetical effusion may be gauged by the following quotations:
In November, month of drabness,
Month of mud and month of wetness,
Came the red-shirted Bedfordians,
Came the lusty Midland schoolmen,
(p. 034) Skilled in every wile of football,
Swift to run, adept to collar,
'Gainst the Blue-and-Blacks to battle.
Know ye that this famous contest
Has from age to age endured:
Thirty years and more it's lasted
'Twixt Bedfordians and Dulwich,
'Twixt the Midlanders and Southrons.
Behold the game now well in progress;
See the dashing Dulwich outsides,
Swift as leopards, brave as lions,
Down the field come running strongly—
See the fleet right-wing three-quarter
Darting through the ranks of Bedford,
Handing off his fierce opponents,
Scoring now 'mid deaf'ning uproar,
'Mid wild shouts of "Well played, Dulwich!"
'Mid the sweetest of confusion.
He followed with close attention the exploits of the chief Rugby clubs, especially those hailing from South Wales. His sympathies were with Wales in the international games. These international matches enthralled him, and he was a spectator whenever possible of those that were played in the vicinity of London. One of his ambitions was some day to don the scarlet jersey with the Prince of Wales's plume and play for Wales in international contests. To achieve that distinction and to win his football "blue" for Oxford—these were cherished ambitions which but for the War would doubtless have been realised.
In the spring of 1915, interviewed by a London football editor, he explained how Dulwich had built up its great football reputation. Much of the success he attributed to the system of training.
We do not divide the school into so many "houses," as they do elsewhere, but into "games." We have no fewer (p. 035) than eight senior games, which means eight groups of players, about thirty in each group; and these are selected so that boys of about the same age and weight will meet each other. When we have arranged our games, one of the Colours—1st XV men—is told off to coach. Sometimes we play as many as nine XV's in one day. With the first team we practise what are called "set-pieces." One day we will take the forwards, get the scrum properly formed, practise hooking, heeling and screwing. We have devoted a lot of attention to wheeling. We also practise hand-to-hand passing among the forwards.
My son held that brain as well as muscle was needed in athletics. "Rugby football," he wrote, "tends more and more to become an ideal combination of scientific actions. Haphazard, clumsy battering is useless. Your footballer has to be a thinking and a reasoning factor." He believed that games properly played are invaluable as a training in character. "They make," he wrote, "not only for courage and unselfishness, but also for clean living: a sportsman dare not indulge in excesses."
Nobody could have found greater happiness in a game of football than did Paul Jones. He revelled in a hard-fought match and seemed impervious to knocks and bruises. One of his merits as a captain was that he never lost heart; he would fight doggedly to the last, even against adverse conditions. He knew, too, how to adapt his tactics skilfully to varying conditions of play. It was an intoxicating moment after a victory, for the boys would sweep into the field of play and carry the captain in triumph shoulder-high from the arena. In public-school football no animosities are left, no matter how keenly contested the game. Victor and vanquished dine together after the match, the best of friends, and the home team escort their visitors to the railway station. How well I recollect Paul coming home on Saturday evenings about eight o'clock after a victorious match; his firm, quick step, and the eager joy that shone in his (p. 036) face! His mother and I often watched the games at Dulwich, and he would go over every phase of the play with us, inviting comments and contributing his own. He was always severe in his condemnation of anything in the shape of "gallery play," his constant maxim being that the player should subordinate himself entirely to the side. It was his conviction that unselfishness was stimulated by football. The amateur athlete, who forgot himself in the team of which he was a part, and who played and worked hard for the honour of the game, and without thought of personal advantage or reward, was the god of his idolatry. Fond as he was of sport, and highly as he appreciated it as a discipline for character, he held that the cult of athletics could be overdone, and that to make a business of what should only be a pastime was a grave blunder. In an essay which he wrote on "Sport," he characterises the professional athlete as a man who is engaged "in the vilest of trades." "Life," he wrote, "is made up of varied interests, and man has serious work to do in the world. Excess in sport—or in anything else—puts the notes of the great common chord of life out of harmony."[Back to Contents]
Your cricketer, right English to the core,
Still loves the man best he has licked before.
Tom Taylor in Punch.
Though, as has been said, Paul had no skill in cricket, he was jealous of the cricket reputation of the College. He knew the game thoroughly. His cricket "Bible," if I may use the expression, was Prince Ranjitsinhji's excellent "Jubilee Book of Cricket." He often accompanied the 1st XI for out-of-town matches, to act as scorer or reporter. His cricket reports in The Alleynian make racy reading. The following is taken from a picturesquely-written account of a victory over Brighton at Brighton in May, 1914:
When A. E. R. Gilligan appeared at the wicket things became more than merry. He was in fine fettle, and from the first made light of the bowling, hitting all round the wicket with immense vigour. The gem of the day was his treatment of D. S. Johnson's fifth over. We seem to recollect reading in our childhood a work of P. G. Wodehouse's, in which he remarks that "when a slow bowler begins to bowl fast, it is as well to be batting if you can manage it." Well, Johnson was—we think—originally a slow bowler, and he tried to bowl fast. The result was that traffic had to be suspended on the road running past the school. First Franklin—who had replaced Shirley, brilliantly caught at point—smote Johnson for a three. This brought Gilligan to the batting end, and a horse passing outside the ground nearly had its life cut short. The next ball just missed the railings, and the next almost smashed the fanlight in a house across the road. It was then that the police suspended the traffic. Gilligan finally (p. 038) played inside a good length ball, and was most unfortunately bowled when within two of his century. Hard luck! He had been missed twice—once, we admit, badly—but on the whole his smiting was admirably timed and placed. He hit three sixes and fifteen fours. Franklin had meanwhile been busy, and scored 22, with three fours. Finally, Brown and Wood put on some 30 runs, the former being not out for a useful 16, and the latter getting 13. Our score was 326 for eight when Gilligan declared.
Appended is a passage from his account of the match with Bedford on June 6 (in which Dulwich were victorious by 81 runs), describing a record achievement by A. H. H. Gilligan, one of three brothers who distinguished themselves in athletics in Dulwich:
A. H. H. Gilligan was now well over the 170 mark, and had therefore beaten the previous school record for the highest score. At 190, however, he just touched a short fast ball from Cameron, and put the ball into the hands of Dix at second slip: 283-9-190. The innings closed for 284 in the next over, Paton being run out. To score 190 out of 284 is an almost superhuman performance. For a man who was only playing his second match this season it was a positively marvellous achievement. Gilligan's innings was a masterpiece, and at no time did he seem to be in the slightest degree troubled by the bowlers, yet the latter were distinctly good, as they proved by the fact that they got nine men out for 94 runs or less. Gilligan's innings included a six and thirty-two fours. The previous best score—against a weak scratch side in 1911—was 171 by C. V. Arnold. Gilligan was at the wickets in all only two and a quarter hours or so.
The following is from his report of the Sherborne match, which Dulwich won handsomely:
Had not the last few wickets been able to put on a few more runs all earlier efforts might have been wasted, and certainly all would have been altered had it not been for the amazing bowling of Paton. His analysis was five for 6—a wonderful achievement. The wicket was, indeed, to a certain extent favourable to him, but he was (p. 039) able to make the ball swing with his arm and break back in a fashion that was quite astounding. A. E. R. Gilligan worked with his usual energy and bore the brunt of the bowling. While he did not have the success of Paton, he bowled extremely well, taking four for 30. All our team fielded so well that to specify individuals would be unnecessary. The Sherborne team brought off some excellent catches, though their ground-fielding was not quite so good. Wheeler bowled very well, and Westlake was in splendid form behind the wicket. After the match there were the usual handshakings and so forth, and we started back for London at five-thirty, getting to Waterloo at about eight o'clock. Our visit was quite delightful, and we send our very best thanks to our Sherborne friends for their kindness and hospitality.
Of the match with St. Paul's School in July, 1914, in which Dulwich were badly beaten, he wrote:
We would have given much to win this match, in particular, but at least there is the consolation that we lost to a really great side which could hardly have been beaten by any school in the country. The St. Paul's batting was so splendidly balanced that every man could be sure of a 10 or 20, while Skeet and Gibb were always certain of really good knocks; and in bowling the wizardry of Pearson was in itself enough to conjure any team out.
St. Paul's knocked up 188 in their first innings. Dulwich were disposed of for 67, largely owing to the bowling of Pearson.
The Pauline "demon" had now got all our men into a terrible "funk," and the result was that wickets began to fall at both ends like ninepins: 44-9-3. Then came the best batting of the game. Gilkes joined Brown, and quickly showed that he was not the man to hide his head before foes, however strong. After smiting Roberts to the leg boundary, he did the same to the off, and with Brown playing his usually steady game—being particularly smart in short runs—the 50 and 60 soon went up. But it could not go on, for at 67 Brown, avoiding Scylla, fell into the jaws of Charybdis—in other words, keeping (p. 040) Pearson out, was bowled by Skeet: 67-10-11. His 11 was a most valuable piece of batting. Gilkes, with 12 not out, was top scorer on our side—except for Mr. Extras. He had really done extremely well, and played with a straight bat at everything—therefore he did not get out. A most plucky and useful bit of work this.
But what of our innings as a whole? Let the heavens fall in confusion on us! We decline to discuss the matter. Pearson took five wickets for 17, Skeet three for 21, Roberts two for 13. St. Paul's fielded well, especially Skeet, Hayne and Gibb. It was Pearson's cakewalk-tango bowling that undid us. Note, however, that in a second innings we quite redeemed ourselves, Rowbotham (31 not out), Paton (29), and Brown (29 not out) playing really excellently. Why, oh, why! didn't we do it in the first innings?
His detailed and graphic reports were greatly appreciated by the members of the 1st XI, and read with relish by the whole school. Whenever opportunity offered Paul would visit the Oval for a great cricket match. Lord's not being so accessible, he seldom went to the M.C.C. ground. Though a poor cricketer himself, he loved the great summer game and admired those who excelled in it.[Back to Contents]
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance.
Pope: "Essay on Criticism."
To the school magazine, The Alleynian, which is published monthly, Paul began contributing in 1912. His success in essays having shown that he had facility in writing, he was asked by those in authority to report the lectures for the magazine and help to liven up its contents. His first contribution deals with a lantern lecture on the "Soudan," delivered before the Science and Photographic Society by Major Perceval on November 23, 1912. A summary of the lecture is enlivened by such observations as these:
A large and very distinguished audience was present. On the back benches in particular was a great array of Dulwich "knuts." The lecturer was, however, undaunted, though there can be no doubt that he felt much awe at the number of mighty men in his audience.
From the report of a lecture delivered on January 31, 1913, "The Land of the Maori," the following quotation is made because of its allusions to then topical events:
The lecturer said that in New Zealand the interests of labour were so well safeguarded that the country is called "the working-man's paradise" (loud cheers), while the women there had votes. At this an unparalleled uproar broke out. Cheers and hisses were commingled in one tremendous cataclysm of sound. Certainly we heard shouts of "Bravo" countered by shrieks of "Shame." The lecturer seemed dazed by the dreadful din.
(p. 042) A report of the "Servants' Concert" (28th July, 1913) is in rollicking vein:
Success was in the air from the very start. The crush at the doors was like Twickenham on the day of the England v. Scotland match—we had almost said the Crystal Palace on Cup Final Day. It is evident that there is a tremendous amount of talent for the stage and the music-halls in the school. To hear Gill give the tragic history of "Tommy's Little Tube of Seccotine," or the duet on the touching story of "Two Little Sausages," by Savage and Livock, would have brought tears to the eyes of a prison warder. Then there were F. W. Gilligan to relate his horticultural, and brother A. E. R. his zoological reminiscences—works of great value to scientists and others. To hear Killick dilate upon the dangers of the new disease, the "Epidemic Rag" (which seems to be quite as catching as the mumps), Gill upon the risks of the piscatorial art, or Savage upon an original Polynesian theme, "Zulu Lulu," was to feel like Keats's watcher of the skies, "when a new planet swims into his ken." For the admirer of Spanish customs there was A. E. J. Inglis (O.A.) to sing, as only he can, the Toreador's song; while for the Cockney there was Killick to give, in his own inimitable fashion, that really touching little ballad "My Old Dutch," Ould Oireland being well catered for by Livock in "A Little Irish Girl." The pianoforte solos by Nalder, Jacob and Shirley were all excellent and thoroughly well appreciated, as was our old friend, "Let's have a Peal," by the First XI.
And now for the "star" performance of the evening. Positively for one night only, the Dulwich College Dramatic Society were down to give us W. G. O. Gill's one-act farce, "The Lottery Ticket." This fairly brought down the house. It went "with a bang," as actors say, from the very start. The great point about it was that all the performers forgot that they were acting, and were so perfectly natural. There was not a hitch. Killick, as a withered old Shylock, gave a really masterly representation of ancient villainy. Evans was admirably suited with the rôle of a dashing young man-about-town. The way he took his gloves off was worth a fortune in itself. We felt that there must be many degrees of blue blood in his veins. His back-chat repartee was far better than that of Mr. F. E. Smith, K.C. If Gill and Waite are in the (p. 043) future ever in need of a berth they should, judging by their performances in this play, apply to Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree for parts as a dilapidated charwoman and unwashed office-boy respectively. The topical allusions in the play were all thoroughly well made and appreciated. We might suggest that it is not the custom "in polite circles" to open and read other people's telegrams, but for a hardened old reprobate like Mr. Grabbit we can feel no pity, while we can forgive anything to a Principal Boy like Mr. Knowall.
It is an open secret that the concert was organised by Killick. We take this opportunity of congratulating him heartily. From what rumour says, we take it that the Powers-that-be are very pleased with the concert. So are we. It was a complete success from start to finish. It is to be hoped that it will become a regular institution, especially considering the object it has in view—to give pleasure to those who have not often the chance of it.
In 1913 he was appointed secretary and treasurer of the magazine, and a few months later he became one of the editors. Throughout 1913 and 1914 he was the chief contributor to its pages. Reporting a lady's lecture on Tibet (October 17, 1913), he wrote:
But, at least, the Tibetans can teach us something—simplicity in ceremonies. For when Miss Kemp went to see the palace of the King all the decoration she saw there was a simple table and chair. A Tibetan kitchen was a very popular slide. In that country they apparently use a golf-bag to brew tea in, and cast-off bicycle wheels for plates. There prevails in Tibet some element of democracy, for Miss Kemp's cook was also a J.P., a Civil Servant, and held other such offices of fame. One of her assistants was a positive marvel—a human carpet-sweeper. If the floor was to be brushed he would simply roll over and over on it and clean it with his clothes! The Tibetans have no motor-bikes and no S. F. Edges, their fastest conveyance being a yâk, a species of ox, which moves at an average speed of two miles an hour (with the high gear in), and can slow down to an infinite extent. However, the nature of the country would make high speeds rather dangerous, as constantly you find yourself in danger (p. 044) of falling over precipices, down crevasses, or of being overwhelmed by falling boulders, for the mountain lands are covered with great glaciers. It was these mountain views that were especially magnificent. They were, for the most part, taken with tele-photographic lenses at a distance of fifty or sixty miles.
To the November Alleynian he contributed a racy and rattling parody of the modern sensational drama entitled Red Blood: a Western Drama in Two Acts, in which the dramatis personæ are an English cowboy (heir to a million dollars without knowing it), an Indian chief (his friend), a wicked uncle, a murderer, and a New York detective. His historical tastes peep out in his report of a lecture delivered 7th November, 1913, on the famous mediæval doctor, Pareil (1510-1590). From this report the following is extracted:
Much interest attaches to the historic associations of Pareil's life. As a famous surgeon he was in constant attendance on figures renowned in history, personages like Coligny (who was murdered by the mob of Paris while recovering from an amputation of Pareil's), Erasmus, Servetus, Leonardo da Vinci, and Catherine de Medici. Like Chaucer's doctour of physik, Pareil knew well the works of "Olde Ypocras," Galen, Avycen, etc., the famous physicians whose names have come down from history, but he was no pedantic scholar, preferring to do his own thinking. A stout Protestant, his last act was to beseech the Catholic Archbishop of Lyons, who was holding Paris against the assaults of Henry of Navarre (with the result that the population of the city was perishing by thousands), to open the gates and save the inhabitants, but he beseeched in vain.
Altogether a remarkable figure, this old Pareil. Looked at in perspective, and in his era, it is clear how great a man he was. For he, first of all men in medicine, freed the world from the influence of pedantic tradition, and paved the way for modern medical science. Then all honour to his name, for, as the Master put it in proposing the vote of thanks to Mr. Paget, the art of healing is the greatest boon which man can give to the world.
(p. 045) The last lecture he reported was delivered by Mr. F. M. Oldham, chief Science Master at the College, on "Primitive Man," on 3rd April, 1914. From this report the following extract is taken:
Our main knowledge of man in the earliest stages of his existence comes from the examination of river mud. Mr. Oldham showed how different strata are built up by the river on its bed, and how in the lowest of these strata there will be found the oldest relics of man. In this way we are able to declare that the difference between the earliest man and his immediate followers lay in the question of polishing his flint instruments. That is to say, the earliest or palæolithic man had his implements unpolished; his successors polished them, often to a beautifully smooth surface. This Mr. Oldham illustrated with a series of films—your pardon, slides—of the arrow-heads made by palæolithic and neolithic man. It was a natural step, once man had learned to polish his instruments, and when he was advanced enough to try to form conceptions of beauty for himself, that he should draw or scratch pictures on stone. Several of these Mr. Oldham showed on the screen; some of them are extraordinarily well executed and show real artistic feeling. We would particularly mention one such representation of a reindeer, and another of a man stalking a bison.
After the cave-dwellers' epoch comes that of huts, wood and bronze. Man in this stage is really but little different from what he is to-day. He has even the wit to construct himself lake-dwellings, consisting of huts placed on rafts and secured temporarily with large stones sunk in the lake-bed. Characteristic of this period are the great tolmens and monoliths found all over the world. Neolithic man had, indeed, sometimes constructed for himself a hut of stone, as Dartmoor will testify, but the tolmens are of quite different origin, and indicate a distinctly greater mental development, in that they are usually put up as monuments to great men or events. Of the same nature are the great mounds or "barrows" that abound in Ireland; inside there was a sort of crypt in which chiefs were buried. The monoliths were constructed, as doubtless the Pyramids also were, by rolling the great stones up an inclined bank of earth previously built up.
(p. 046) Throughout 1914 Paul was the mainstay of the magazine. The May number contains from his pen exhaustive reports of two house matches (football), a shrewd commentary on the Junior School Cup matches, and a long report of a lecture. For the July number he wrote ten pages of cricket reports, and an account of the swimming competition. He was also responsible for the finances of the magazine, continuing to act as secretary and treasurer. All this time he was preparing for his Oxford scholarship. If he owed much to Dulwich, the College also owed something to him. No boy ever worked harder for it, or consecrated himself with more entire devotion to its welfare.[Back to Contents]
Now all the youth of England are on fire.
Shakespeare: "Henry V."
To The Alleynian for October, 1914, Paul contributed an editorial article on the War that had then begun to rage in its destructive fury. Taking the view that "this war had to come sooner or later," he wrote:
When one nation has a world-wide Empire embracing a fifth of the globe, founded on principles of absolute liberty for all whom it contains, and when another, built up by the force of circumstances on a basis of military despotism, also aspires to a different sort of world-power, and challenges the first nation, whose principles it abhors as much as its own are abhorred—in these circumstances it is hopeless to talk of reconciliation till one or the other is down. Actually, Germany's monstrous conduct in violating the neutrality of a small, industrious and inoffensive Power—a neutrality to which, be it marked, Germany was as much a partner as England or France—has put her hopelessly in the wrong with the civilised world. But that does not alter the fact that the War is primarily one for political existence. Either the despotism of Potsdam or the constitutional government of Westminster must survive. We, more even than Russia or France, are fighting for our very existence.
Things are, indeed, very favourable to us and to our Allies. Through the brutal but clumsy blundering of Prussian diplomats, Europe has been long awaiting the conflagration; every move in the game has been brought out long ago. Besides, Germany undoubtedly counted on our domestic troubles and our pacific tendencies to keep us out of this conflict. They imagined France could easily be wiped out while Russia's vast bulk was slowly mobilising, (p. 048) and that the Russians would then be held up by the victorious legions pouring back from Paris. Then in, say, ten years they would turn on England and wipe her from the map. Our entrance into the War now has not only braced the whole moral fibre of France, Russia, Belgium and Serbia, but has strangled German commerce and held up her food supply by means of our command of the seas. Thus all the enemy plans have been thrown into confusion. We would be indeed foolish if we did not realise our position—what it means to ourselves, to Europe, and to the world. Having won the toss on a hard wicket, we are not going to put Germany in. We must fight to the death. The law is "Eat or be eaten."
In these circumstances we call on Dulwich College to realise its duties to the State. Nothing—not work nor games—must be allowed to stand before the Corps till the War is over. Special drills and parades, extra route marches, all these must be and ought to be looked forward to cheerfully and willingly. The splendid number of recruits shows that the school is not going to fail in its duty here. We are not going to indulge in theories and jingo-patriotism, but call on you with deadly seriousness—the British Empire, the British principles of liberty, all are at stake. If we go down now we go down for ever. Germany is said to have called up every male between the ages of fifteen and sixty. If they can do that, surely we ought to be able to reply. Let that voluntary system which is the glory of our armies and navies carry us through now! We call on every one in the School to join the Corps at once.
Nothing was finer in the first months of the War than the rally of the manhood of Great Britain to the call of the country in its time of need. All classes, rich and poor, patrician and peasant, employer and workman, were uplifted by the great occasion. Through the influence of patriotism, the recognition by all sorts and conditions of our people of the honourable obligation of fidelity to the pledged word of Britain, combined with a chivalric desire to champion the cause of weak, unoffending Belgium against the Teutonic bully—there was released in this country a flood of noble (p. 049) idealism and pure emotion, the memory of which those who lived during that spiritual awakening will never forget. No section of the community rose more finely to the height of the occasion than the athletes and scholars from our public schools and universities. Nobly did they respond to the call voiced by one of their number, R. E. Vernède (an old Pauline, now sleeping in a soldier's grave in France):
Lad, with the merry smile and the eyes
Quick as the hawk's and clear as the day;
You, who have counted the game the prize,
Here is the game of games to play.
Never a goal—the captains say—
Matches the one that's needed now;
Put the old blazer and cap away—
England's colours await your brow.
Man, with the square-set jaws and chin,
Always, it seems, you have moved to your end
Sure of yourself, intent to win
Fame and wealth and the power to bend.
All that you've made you're called to spend—
All that you've sought you're asked to miss—
What's ambition compared with this:
That a man lay down his life for his friend?
Exulting in the response of the athletes, Paul Jones found his faith in the value of games confirmed by this memorable rally to the Flag. His last contribution to The Alleynian was inspired by it. Shortly after he joined the Army he wrote to the magazine a letter (published anonymously in May, 1915) under the caption "Flannelled Fools and Muddied Oafs." In this contribution he sings a pæan in praise of the amateur athlete. After reminding his readers of pre-War denunciations of "the curse of athletics," he asks, "What of athletics now?"
At present, we see that the poor, despised athlete or sportsman—call him what you will—is coming to the front, (p. 050) practically and metaphorically, in a way which makes one wonder if, for the higher purposes of duty, athletics are not really the very best of all systems of training. When we look at the matter in the broadest light, the explanation shines forth clearly. All learning and all business are in the end simply and solely selfish. For example, you work hard for a scholarship at Oxford or Cambridge—why? So that you can obtain for yourself—(underline these words, Mr. Printer, please!)—the advantages of 'Varsity life and culture, and to the ultimate end that you may be better fitted to make your own way in life. Of course, this is necessary, but life is always very sordid in its details, and the more civilised we become, the more apparent is that sordidity. In fact, it is only on our amateur playing-fields that we become really unselfish. For here we play for a team or a side; and for the success of that side—which success, by the way, is in no sense material or selfish—we are prepared to take all sorts of pains, to scorn delights and live laborious days. It is the clearest manifestation of the simple, unsophisticated man coming to the front and tearing aside for a brief moment the cloud of materialism with which civilisation has been enveloping him.
Nothing but athletics has succeeded in doing this sort of work in England. Religion has failed, intellect has failed, art has failed, science has failed. It is clear why: because each of these has laid emphasis on man's selfish side; the saving of his own soul, the cultivation of his own mind, the pleasing of his own senses. But your sportsman joins the Colours because in his games he has felt the real spirit of unselfishness, and has become accustomed to give up all for a body to whose service he is sworn. Besides this, he has acquired the physical fitness necessary for a campaign. These facts explain the grand part played by sport in this War; they also explain why the amateur has done so enormously better than the professional.
"Let us therefore," is his injunction, "take off our hats to the amateur athlete, who is one of the brightest figures in England to-day. Let us indeed not forget that it is not in any sense only the athletes who have gone, but let us remember that in proportion no class of men has seen its duty so clearly, and done it so (p. 051) promptly, in the present crisis. We suggest that this War has shown the training of the playing-fields of the Public Schools and the 'Varsities to be quite as good as that of the class-rooms; nay, as good? Why, far better, if training for the path of Duty is the ideal end of education."
Here, as always, Paul distinguished between the amateur athlete and the professional athlete. For the latter his scorn was unmitigated, and he could not endure Association football with its paid players. He also loathed the betting element that defiled the Soccer game.
This letter was his last contribution to The Alleynian. Its strictures are far too sweeping; it has the dogmatism and the note of certitude to which youth is prone. But it is animated by a fine spirit. Very characteristic is the emphasis placed in it on the ideas of duty and unselfishness. The passion for sacrifice was in his blood.[Back to Contents]
Variety's the very spice of life.
Cowper: "The Task."
Many of our son's vacations were spent in Llanelly, South Wales, where his mother's and my own kindred dwell. Llanelly is not a beautiful town—industrial centres seldom are—but Paul loved every aspect of it—the busy works, the spacious bay with its great stretches of sandy beach, the green and hilly hinterland, dotted with snug farmhouses and cheerful-looking cottages. Accompanied by his cousin Tom, for whom he had an intense affection, and under the guidance of his uncle, Mr. Edwin Morgan, a consulting engineer of high repute, he visited in process of time every industrial establishment in the neighbourhood—steel works, foundries, engineering shops and tinplate works. His insatiable curiosity, his desire to know the reason for everything, his alert interest in all the processes of manufacture, were noted with smiling admiration by managers and workmen. His last visit to Llanelly was in the summer of 1914. We joined him there in the third week of August. Clear in recollection is an incident that took place during our stay there. One sunny afternoon we were out in Carmarthen Bay in a little tug-boat and hailed a large four-masted vessel that had dropped anchor and was awaiting a pilot. She had just arrived from Archangel with timber. Her crew, athirst for news about the War, were most grateful for a bundle of newspapers. Paul thrilled at this meeting at sea with a vessel that (p. 053) had come direct from Russia, and he followed with fascinated interest the conversation between the tugboatmen and the crew of the barque. Little did any of us think then that the War was destined to claim Paul's life!
Celtic on his mother's side and mine, he was proud of the fact that he sprang from an "old and haughty nation, proud in arms." On many of his school books he wrote in bold lettering: "Cymru am byth!" ("Wales for ever!") His instinctive love of Wales was strengthened by his visits to Llanelly and by holidays on the Welsh countryside, where, amid romantic surroundings and far from the fret and fever of modern life, he obtained an insight into rural ways and things. Welsh love of music and Welsh prowess in football also appealed powerfully to him.
Like most boys he went through the usual run of hobbies: silkworms, carpentry, stamp-collecting, photography, parlour railways. Thoroughness was his quality even in his hobbies. He had the note-taking habit in marked degree. Even as a small boy on a long railway journey he would carefully record in his notebook the name of every station through which the train passed, and then, on reaching his destination, would work out the distances by maps and books, and finally draw an outline showing the route with the principal stations and junctions marked. The same passion for classifying facts made him, as soon as he began to follow cricket closely, compile tables showing the batting and bowling averages of the leading players. Similarly with football. He was familiar with the record of the leading Rugby clubs and the characteristics of the principal players.
Machinery had for him the fascination of life in motion. He would gaze with rapture at the rhythmic movement of a flywheel and was thrilled by the (p. 054) harmonious movement of cogs and eccentrics, pistons and connecting-rods, all "singing like the morning stars for joy that they are made." As a child visiting a printing office he used to clap his hands with delight at the sight of "the wheels all turning." For engines of all sorts he had a passion. At Plymouth he loved to watch the great G.W.R. locomotives steaming into Millbay terminus, and would often engage the driver or stoker in conversation. After our removal to London he spent part of one vacation in an engineering shop. When he was fifteen we bought for him a small gas-engine which was fixed in an upper room. Clad in overalls he spent many a happy hour with this engine, generating electricity which he used sometimes for lighting, sometimes for driving the engine and train on his miniature railway. Here are extracts from one of his vacation diaries:
January 1.—Went with Mother to first night of Nightbirds at the Lyric. Workman and Constance Driver excellent; Farkoa also very good.
January 2-5.—Busy making switchboard at home. At the engineering workshop I am starting on a steel rod; cutting with hack saw, cutting 5/16 standard Whitworth thread; grooving it. All this on a Drummond 3-½-inch lathe.
January 6.—Heard of 4 v. 20 a.h. accumulator for 10s. 6d. I must buy it. Splendid acc. it is. Finished switchboard; all correct; polished up meters and instruments. [Here is diagram of connections.]
Evening.—At Tales of Hoffmann, Opera House, with Mother. Good performance. First and third acts excellent; second ("Barcarolle" act) poor. Orchestra superb. Felice Lyne, Pollock, Victoria Fer—artistes of great promise. Renaud a master.
January 7.—Wrote Economic Electric for new dynamo. Received letter from "Humber" recommending motor bike. I will probably buy one later on, or a "Triumph."
January 11.—Tried my acc. on the train, running through switchboard; a great success. Engine runs very well. All switchboard connections absolutely correct; the reading when running: volts 3.5 to 4.25, amps. 1 to 2.5.
January 12.—To Bassett Lowke's and bought wagon; yellow colour, red lettering; splendid model.
January 13.—At matinée Orpheus in the Underground, at His Majesty's. Exceedingly good show. Courtice Pounds, L. Mackinder and Lottie Venn—all first rate; good voices and not afraid to use them.
January 15.—To Hippodrome. The feature two amazingly clever Chimpanzees. Leo Fall's Eternal Waltz a pretty operetta.
January 16.—Final golf match between Dad and myself. Dad wins match and rubber by 1 up.
January 17.—Got back my P.O. bank book. Total now £6 3s. Discovered slight leakage at joint between the cylinder and combustion head of the gas engine, owing to wearing away of asbestos washer, so causing a very small but appreciable diminution of compression. Made a temporary stopping with vaseline.
Evening.—Dad and I to Tales of Hoffmann, at the Opera House. This time a magnificent performance.
January 19.—Dynamo arrived. A beautiful machine.
January 20.—Went with Dad to International football match, England v. Wales, at Twickenham. Score—England, 8 points; Wales, nil. A splendid game. Wales beaten chiefly owing to their very poor three-quarters. Little to choose between the packs.
January 31.—Having re-started music with a good teacher, a pupil of Professor Hambourg, I have practised very hard on the piano these last few days.
In his enthusiasm for engineering he devoured books like "Engineering Wonders of the World," "How it Works," "How it is Made," "Engineering of To-day," "Mechanical Inventions of To-day"; also books on wireless telegraphy and aviation. A great lover of books, he liked on off-days to visit London bookshops and rummage their shelves. Very proud he was of his (p. 056) purchases during these excursions. From time to time he would have a run round the museums and picture galleries of London or take a trip to Hampton Court—Wolsey's palace and William III's home—a spot dear to him for its links with history and for the beauty of its surroundings. He was always enthralled at the British Museum by the Rosetta Stone—that key by means of which Champollion unlocked for the modern world the long-hidden secret of Egypt's ancient civilisation.
A subject which he pursued keenly for a couple of years—from fifteen to seventeen—and which held him in fascinated wonder, was Astronomy, a branch of knowledge that happens to be strongly represented among my books. Often on starry nights he would be a watcher of the heavens.
Many a night from yonder ivied casement,
Ere he went to rest,
Did he look on great Orion, sloping
Slowly to the west.
Many a night he saw the Pleiads, rising
Thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies, tangled
In a silver braid.
It has been stated that most of Paul's vacations were spent in Wales, but in 1913 he went farther afield, accompanying his mother, his brother and myself on a tour in Germany. He was enraptured with this, his first visit to the Continent. On our outward journey we halted at Brussels, in those days a bright and happy city with nothing in its cheerful, prosperous air to suggest that in less than a year there would descend upon it the baleful shadow of the Great War. Much in the old Germany appealed powerfully to our son, and even of the new Germany, with its energy and its zeal for learning, he was something of an admirer. But he hated in modern Germany its brazen materialism and (p. 057) boastful arrogance. He attributed the change in the spirit of the German people to the hardness of their Prussian taskmasters, whose yoke was submissively borne because of the glamour of the military victories achieved since 1866, and the rapid growth in wealth that had followed the attainment of German unity. He read and spoke German and was familiar with the literature and history of the country. Two great Germans, Goethe and Wagner, he intensely admired. It so happened that we were at Frankfort on the centenary of Goethe's death. Paul visited the Goethe house and spent a couple of hours examining its souvenirs with loving interest. He liked to see the places and the houses associated with the names or lives of great men. On our homeward journey down the Rhine he left us at Bonn to visit the house where Beethoven was born, joining-us subsequently at Cologne.
This holiday in the Rhineland and the Black Forest brought deep enjoyment to him. His enthusiasm at his first sight of the Rhine was unrestrained, and the morning after our arrival he plunged into its waters for a swim. Professor Cramb, writing of the love of Germans for the Rhine, quotes a letter from Treitschke, in which that fire-eating historian said on the eve of his leaving Bonn: "To-morrow I shall see the Rhine for the last time. The memory of that noble river will keep my heart pure and save me from sad or evil thoughts throughout all the days of my life." Paul in a marginal note writes: "Wonderful attraction of the Rhine. I have felt it myself, though not a German."
He got on excellently with the German people. One Sunday afternoon, doing the famous walk from Triberg to Hornberg, he had a long and friendly talk with a German reservist in the latter's native tongue, about the relations of Germany and England. Both agreed that war between the two nations would be madness, (p. 058) and both dismissed it as to the last degree improbable, but the German said significantly that he feared the Crown Prince was a menace to peace.
In the spring of the following year (1914) Paul spent Easter week with me in Paris. Never had I seen the French capital more beautiful or happier-seeming than in that bright and joyous springtime. Who could have dreamt then that war was only three months distant? Paris was a revelation to Paul. He crowded a lot of sight-seeing into half a dozen busy days. All that was noble or beautiful in Art as in Nature appealed instinctively to him. I can see him now at the Louvre gazing rapt from various angles at that glorious piece of statuary the Venus of Milo. His knowledge of history made his visit to the glittering palace of Louis XIV at Versailles an undiluted pleasure. Fascinated by the genius of Napoleon, he spent a long time at the Invalides gazing down on the sarcophagus within which the conqueror of Europe sleeps his last sleep.
Later in the year he and two other Dulwich boys arranged to spend three weeks of the summer vacation in the house of a professor at Rouen. They were to have left London on the second week in August. This hopeful project was frustrated by the rude shock of war.[Back to Contents]
Music is a kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech, which leads us to the edge of the Infinite, and lets us for moments gaze into that.
Paul began the study of music at an early age. He had natural aptitude for it and an unerring ear. As a little boy he used to sing with much expression in a sweet, clear voice. He received great assistance from his mother in his musical studies. After he had turned fifteen, music became one of his main interests. Indeed, if we except football, it was his master passion, and, unlike football, it could be pursued throughout the year. Whenever his scholastic studies and his athletic activities permitted, he would spend his leisure at the piano. With characteristic thoroughness he studied the lives as well as the works of the great composers. During the Grand Opera season he was a frequent visitor to Covent Garden Theatre and the performances of the Nibelungen Ring were for him a fountain of pure delight. He was also a regular attendant with his mother at the Queen's Hall and Albert Hall concerts. Ballad singing did not appeal to him in the same degree as operatic and orchestral music. Thanks to instinctive gifts and assiduous practice he became a scholarly and an accomplished musician. A brilliant pianist, his playing was marked by power and passion, and the colour and glow of an intense and sensitive personality. He could memorise the most intricate composition, and would play for hours without a note. Music was almost a religion with him: he found in it solace, joy, inspiration.
(p. 060) Above all other musicians, he reverenced Beethoven and Wagner. For Beethoven's music, with its spiritualised emotion and divine harmonies, his admiration knew no bounds. Of the famous symphonies he assigned first place to that in C minor, No. 5, which he thought stood alone in the art of musical expression, peerless and unapproachable, a unique emanation from the soul and mind of man. "It holds us in its grasp," wrote Wagner of this composition, "as one of the rarer conceptions of the master, in which Passion, aroused by Pain as its original ground-tone, raises itself upward on the stepping-stone of conciliation and exaltation to an outburst of Joy conscious of Victory." Paul loved to play the Fifth Symphony as well as to hear it performed by an orchestral band. When playing it he seemed to lose touch with earth and to be transported to celestial heights. In his marginalia he compares the methods of expression of Shakespeare with those of Beethoven. That able critic, the late Professor Dowden, in some penetrating observations on Shakespeare's works, wrote:
In the earliest plays the idea is at times hardly sufficient to fill out the language; in the middle plays there seems a perfect balance and equality between the thought and its expression; in the latest plays this balance is disturbed by the preponderance, or excess, of ideas over the means of giving them utterance.
After underlining this passage Paul made the comment: "An extraordinary coincidence occurs to me in that the same thing happens with Beethoven, the greatest of the absolute musicians. Anyone must see that in the last symphony (No. 9 in D minor) he seems often at a loss how to put his feelings into shape (or sound), as though musical style up to his time could not express the intensity of his ideas. Hence in this symphony there is a distinct lack of balance—a defect which is (p. 061) absent from the works of his middle period (e.g., Symphony No. 5 or No. 7)."
Another Beethoven work that he loved was the Third Symphony in E Flat, with its epic opening; the mournful beauty of its funeral march, now sad, calm, solemn like a moonless, starless night, now shining with gleams of hope and faith; its crisp and lively scherzo; and the triumphant finale, a veritable ecstasy of divine joy. My son as an historical scholar found a peculiar attraction in this symphony by reason of its association with Napoleon Buonaparte, for it was inspired by Beethoven's belief—formed in those days when the soldier of the Revolution was regarded as the liberator of peoples and the enemy only of the old feudal order—that Napoleon was marked out by destiny to realise Plato's ideal of government. One recalls how the act of Napoleon in proclaiming himself Emperor shattered this illusion; how Beethoven erased the fallen hero's name from the title-page of his score, withheld the "Eroica" for a time, and then gave it to the world in 1805 as "An Heroic Symphony composed in memory of a great man." When Beethoven heard of Napoleon's death at St. Helena, he said he had already composed his funeral ode 17 years before. Of this marche funèbre M. Ballaique wrote: "It owes its incomparable grandeur to the beauty of the melodic idea and also to a peculiarity of rhythm. At the first half of each bar there is a halt, a pause, which seems to punctuate each station, each painful slip or descent on the way to the illustrious tomb."
Of Wagner, Paul was a whole-hearted worshipper. He was familiar with the myths, legends and folk-poems from which Wagner drew his themes, and he exulted in the master's superb treatment of them. Never, he thought, had music and ideas been more felicitously blended than by Wagner, whatever the theme—the storm-tost soul of "the Flying Dutchman," to whom (p. 062) redemption came at last through loyalty and compassion; the conflict between sensuality and love fought out in the arena of Tannhäuser's mind; the cosmic glories of the Ring with the resplendent figures of Siegfried and Brunhilde; the self-dedication of Parsifal, the Sir Percival of our Arthurian legends, whom "The sweet vision of the Holy Grail drew from all vain-glories, rivalries and earthly heats." Into the glowing music of Wagner my son read lessons in renunciation, the sordidness of the lust for gold, the sublimity of pure human love, the redemptive power of self-sacrifice. The occasional voluptuousness of the music was so transmuted in the alembic of his temperament that for him the sensual element was eliminated. An incident illustrative of his devotion to Wagner is worth recording. In the summer of 1913, during our holiday tour in Germany, we had for part of the time our headquarters at Assmannshausen, a smiling village sheltering snugly at the foot of vine-clad hills on the right bank of the Rhine. That great river is at its best at Assmannshausen; the broad current here flows swiftly over a stony bed. Day and night one's ears are filled with the music of the rushing waters hastening impetuously to the distant sea as though eager to lose themselves in its infinite embrace. One evening the guests at the hotel arranged a concert, and to our surprise—for we knew how diffident he was—Paul, evidently moved by the genius loci, volunteered to take part in it. When the time came he advanced to the piano through the crowded room and, with an elbow resting on the instrument, astonished the audience by a few explanatory words. He said he was going to play the "Ride of the Valkyries," and explained what Wagner meant to convey by that wild, stormy music. Then seating himself at the instrument, he proceeded to play the "Ride" from memory. His execution (p. 063) had a verve whose charm was irresistible. It was a lovely summer night. Through the open windows of the concert-room one caught glimpses of the moonlight quivering on the waters of the swift-flowing Rhine. Nothing could be heard save the river's melodious roar softened by distance, and this enchanting music interpreted by one who was saturated with its spirit, both sounds blending harmoniously like the double pipe of an ancient Greek flute player. All of us felt the spell of the scene and the occasion. Everyone listened tense and silent until the descending chromatic passage at the end when the "Valkyries" vanish into space, the echo of their laughter dies away, and the "Ride" ends in a sound like the fluttering of wings in the distance. When Paul rose from the piano the pent-up feelings of the audience found expression in enthusiastic applause.
In the spring of 1913, just after he had turned 17, he wrote the following appreciation of Wagner for the Llanelly Star:
The 22nd of May, 1913, marks the centenary of an event of supreme importance in the annals of music. To-day just one hundred years ago was born at Leipzig Richard Wagner, king of the music-drama, who towers above all other operatic composers like some lofty mountain rising from the midst of a dull and featureless plain. Such a colossal revolution as was effected by Wagner in Art can hardly find a parallel in any walk of life. What, in brief, was the scope of Wagner's reforms? To answer this question it is necessary to glance at the state in which the opera stood in pre-Wagner days. From the days of Scarlatti the opera had consisted of a number of semi-detached solos, duets or choruses to which tunes were set. These pieces were joined up by any jumble of notes sung by the characters on the stage, usually with no artistic meaning whatsoever, known as the recitative. In a word, the opera was a mere ballad concert. The recitative was so utterly foolish and meaningless, as a rule, that men like Beethoven and Weber, when they composed music-dramas, abolished it altogether, and composed what is (p. 064) known as "Singspiel"—that is, a number of ballads connected simply by spoken words. (The well-known Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are really Singspiels in a lesser form.) Thus it is obvious that the meaning of the opera—that is, a drama whose significance is made more clear by the aid of music suitable to the situation in hand—had been entirely lost sight of.
In the average French or Italian opera, or in the singspiels, all that matters is a number of songs, ballads or arias—call them what you will—entirely disconnected and quite destructive to the continuity that must be the essence of every drama. This continuity is an absolute necessity to every spoken play; imagine the effect if Shakespeare or Ibsen had written little pieces of rhyming verse joined up by any jumble of nonsensical prose! Neglect of this fact led every opera composer before Wagner astray. We can imagine a pre-Wagner composer telling his librettist, "Now, mind you arrange that in certain parts the words will allow me to put in arias or choruses." In short, the situation was summed up in Wagner's famous phrase, "The means of expression (music) has been made the end, while the end of expression (the drama) has been made the means." Now this state of affairs is clearly wrong. If there is no dramatic idea kept as end to work to, then what is the use of writing opera at all? Why not be content with song-cycles or ballads, or lieder like Brahms's and Schumann's?
There are no divisions into aria and recitative in Wagner's operas, but dramatic continuity is retained by the voices of the characters singing music the succession of whose notes is determined by the emotional requirements of the moment. Meanwhile, the orchestra forms a sort of musical background by giving forth music which exactly suits the dramatic situation. The orchestra, in a word, as Wagner himself said of Tristan und Isolde, forms an emotional tide on which the voice floats like a boat on the waters. The essential relevance of the music to the dramatic situation is obtained, as a rule, by means of what are known as "leading motives." These form the basis of all Wagner's reforms. A leading motive is simply a musical phrase suggestive of a dramatic idea. Wagner's motives are marvellous in their descriptive and soul-stirring power. They seem to indicate not only the pith, but the utmost depths of the heart of the ideas which they represent. It (p. 065) is this that makes Wagner so very like Shakespeare. All can appreciate him, yet he is above all criticism, universal in his appeal.
Who but Wagner could make us feel the awful tragedy of Siegfried's death, the calm of the primeval elements, the pompous yet somewhat venerable character of the Mastersingers, the agony of Tristan's delirium, the superb majesty of Valhalla, or the free, noble nature of Parsifal? Even when Wagner uses motives comparatively little, writing rather "freely," as in Tristan und Isolde, he always has the power of imprinting an idea with the utmost clearness upon our souls. He will sometimes make a slight change in a motive, or make a development of it, that gives us an entirely different psychological impression of the idea represented by the motive, as indicating some new aspect of it in which the motives are all dovetailed together into a compact whole that is simply marvellous. If one considers the "Ring," that gigantic web of motives, and at the same time, in the words of that able critic, Mr. Ernest Newman, "beyond all comparison the biggest thing ever conceived by the mind of a musician," colossal yet logical, gigantic yet compact, the power of the Bayreuth master will become even still more evident.
Wagner's first work, Rienci, composed frankly in the blatant Meyerbeerian style, has no artistic significance. The Flying Dutchman marks a great advance. Tannhäuser and Lohengrin are milestones of progress, but in all these works Wagner's full ideal is, generally speaking, but little perceptible. The really great Wagner operas are his later works, Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and, above all, that gigantic tetralogy (a complete musico-dramatic rendering of the Icelandic Saga put into English verse under the title of Sigurd the Volsung by William Morris) which consists of four stupendous operas, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Gotterdämmerung. These marvellous works, the consummation of the Bayreuth master's principles, undoubtedly stand with Beethoven's symphonies as the greatest achievements in music.
For the rest, it may be mentioned that Wagner was in private life a most kindly man, albeit at times quick-tempered, a great lover of children and animals. His philosophy was a somewhat variable quantity; he fell under the influence first of Feuerbach, then of Schopenhauer, and (p. 066) to some extent possibly of Nietzsche. But still, throughout all his works runs the doctrine of the Free Individual, of which Siegfried and Parsifal are perhaps the most striking impersonations.
Like Browning, Wagner believed in redemption by means of sacrifice. In his richness and strength Wagner typified the abounding vitality of the new Germany. To the Fatherland he is what Shakespeare is to England. One may apply to him the noble words Milton wrote of Shakespeare:
"Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
And so sepulchred in such pomp dost lie
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die."
H. P. M. J.
I found among my son's papers a sketch in manuscript of Wagner's life and work. It begins with some observations on Romanticism and Classicism.
Whereas in the Classical style the spirit is held in restraint by certain forms, in the Romantic it refuses to acknowledge these forms and breaks away to give the soul entirely free play. It necessarily follows that the Romantic style makes the wider appeal, for it touches chords of the heart that the Classical cannot. Also the Romantic is rather more definite and less purely intellectual than the Classical, though the ideal may be equally high in the one as in the other. In short, the Romantic style is human in its appeal, while the Classical is superhuman. The best examples of men great in these two forms of art are Shakespeare in the Romance and Milton in the Classic.
Returning to music, he thought that Bach, "immortal though many of his works are," was fettered by his servitude to rules.
The Classical may become too cold, may lose all connection with the warmth of humanity. Such a fate does Haydn seem to have met in many of his works. Beethoven, the mightiest classicist, also to some extent Mozart, saw (p. 067) that the soul must not hold entirely aloof from humanity. Hence it is that Beethoven broke deliberately several, though not indeed very many, of Bach's more enchaining rules, while Mozart, in his operas at least, had a large amount of Romance worked into his music. On the other hand, by its very nature the Romance style is occasionally apt to slip into what is pre-eminently Classicism.
He confutes the argument that because base things have to be expressed in the Romantic style therefore that style degrades Art, for "base things handled artistically excite pure emotions of anger or indignation."
Wagner, though he broke every rule set up by Bach, though he abolished all the ideas of Classicism, produced with his later works (i.e., The Ring, Die Meistersinger, Tristan, and Parsifal) music which reveals infinitudes of art to quite as great an extent as any classicist has done.... Wagner gives us Nature's message, Beethoven the message of the incomprehensible Empyrean, and it is for no one to say that the one message is any greater or less than the other.
Necessarily the opera must be more romantic than the symphony. "Composers who have given the world both opera and symphony such as Beethoven, Mozart, Weber, Spohr, Berlioz, always wrote Romantically in their operas and Classically in their symphonies." Of the development of opera he wrote:
Opera was fast degenerating into a sort of collection of ballads, with hardly any orchestration at all, when a strong man rose to check these abuses. Gluck was the forerunner of the earlier German school of opera composers, which includes such men as Beethoven, Mozart, Weber and Schubert. Gluck had studied carefully the progress of non-operatic music since Bach's time, and seeing what vast strides the art had made in this direction, tried to bring into line with the opera its improvements. He was the first composer to show the immense and inestimable necessity of properly orchestrated music in opera. Gluck's rich scoring, beautiful melodies combined with dramatic connection (p. 068) between action, voice and orchestra, entirely revolutionised the opera. Fortunately, he had a still greater contemporary to carry on his reforms. Gluck has himself explained how he set out to avoid any concession of music to the vocal abilities of the singer; how he had tried to bring music to its proper function, i.e., to go side by side with the poetry of the drama—a clear forecasting of Wagner's own reforms.
Whereas in Monteverde's operas the dramatic significance was kept, but only at the expense of the music, which had absolutely no signification at all, in the works of Gluck, Mozart and Scarlatti the musical part is elevated, but entirely at the expense of the dramatic idea, which is quite lost. A Mozart melody, rhythmic, square-cut, is as different as possible from a Wagner theme, for whereas the former suggests nothing the latter is very rich in suggestion. It is clear that Gluck and Mozart, though they performed an inestimable service to the musical art by the raising of the orchestra to its proper position with regard to the voice and the music, yet failed to keep in view the continuity of the drama in opera. Hence it was that Weber and Beethoven frankly abolished the recitative that joins the formal melodies of the arias and melodic passages and composed Singspiel, having their works built up of airs and melodies joined by spoken dialogue. Such is Weber's Der Freischütz and such Beethoven's Fidelio.
After discussing Meyerbeer, Scarlatti, and Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, my son comes to Wagner and the revolution in music he accomplished:
Wagner was a man of ripe culture, who was equally familiar with Beethoven's symphonies, Shakespeare's dramas, Kant's philosophic writings and Homer's epics. All the great works of literature and philosophy were well known to him. Thus he brought to bear on his music a mind singularly well equipped in every direction. He was, too, essentially a Teuton, with all the German massiveness of conception and depth of soul. A lesser man must have fallen before the prospect of attempting such a colossal reform. What was that reform in its essentials? It was this—to compose opera in which the idea of the drama was made the ruling conception; to attain this end by a wedding (p. 069) of suitable poetry to music of such a kind as should reflect by its themes what was happening on the stage or in the minds of the characters. There was to be no aria or fixed form of ballad, but continuous melody, in which the voices of the characters are regarded as extra instruments of the orchestra, with just that element of personality included....
To have succeeded entirely in this bold design he would have had to be a Shakespeare in poetry and knowledge of human nature, as well as a musician of equal ability. How could any one man fulfil both of these rôles? In the matter of the music Wagner is a very Shakespeare. But if we take his own writings as evidences of what he meant to do, then his librettos must necessarily be unsatisfactory. They keep the dramatic idea in sight so much as almost entirely to lose sight of poetic beauty. Wagner was pre-eminently a musician; he was not a poet, as he wished also to be. Whatever his poetical achievements, the main fact is unaltered. The dramatic idea and the musical expression are kept so indissolubly close by Wagner as to be one for all intents and purposes.
Of Wagner's treatment of the vocalist he says:
The melody sung is modelled upon the way in which the speaking voice rises and falls in accordance with the feelings of the moment. With marvellous skill the master of Bayreuth has made the music sung reflect as clearly as any oration what are the thoughts and feelings of the character. The orchestra makes, as it were, a tide or ocean, over which the voice, in this manner, floats, now rising high on the crest of the wave, now sinking into the trough of the seas. Sometimes for added poignancy, Wagner makes the voice sing the leitmotif of some idea connected with the idea of the moment. This is constantly occurring in Die Meistersinger.
After scornful allusions to French and Italian opera, he shows how Wagner re-fashioned opera on new and nobler lines. Replying to those who say "You must have lightness sometimes," he wrote:
Yes, but never triviality. If we want lightness of touch and wittiness, have we not Die Meistersinger, the greatest (p. 070) comedy in the world, or a merry piece like Mozart's Nozze di Figaro? Here is all the wit that one wants, yet the level is kept high throughout. It is the same in literature. We have absurd, banal pieces, said to be humorous, such as The Glad Eye, which really contain not one-millionth the humour that there is in a noble comedy like Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or As You Like It, or a Shavian play like John Bull's Other Island. Man is too great a thing ever to be of his nature low and banal. We have in life farce sometimes, comedy very often indeed, but never banality.
The essay thus concludes:
If we have been flooded with rag-times and musical comedies, the fault lies in the first place with the French and Italian composers of the period 1790-1850. Pre-Wagner opera is as low a concoction as can possibly be conceived. It took all the genius of the great Bayreuth master to turn things back into their proper channel. But he has succeeded, and the old style is moribund. Anyone who glances over the list of living composers must see that they are all enormously influenced by Wagner's principle. The last of the old style was Massenet, and he is dead. We see Richard Strauss, an extreme Wagnerian, only without the master's full powers; Engelbert Humperdinck, who is a user of the leitmotif and a most skilled orchestrator, though his motifs are not so powerful as Wagner's or even Strauss's; Pietro Mascagni, a Mozartean composer; Bruneau, an extreme Wagnerian; Glazounov and Mossourgsky have combined Wagner's ideas with Tschaikovsky's; Puccini at least is a very strong supporter and admirer of Wagner. It will thus be seen that, with the exception of Mascagni, Wagnerian ideas have been paid tribute to by all the leading opera composers of the day. In a word, the Man is here. Opera, as represented by Richard Wagner's music-dramas, takes its place on a level with the absolute music of which Beethoven's work is the noblest example.
Paul found keen pleasure in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, liking the witty libretto as much as the bright, tuneful melodies. For the work of Cæsar Franck, a gifted Belgian musician who died on the threshold of (p. 071) manhood, he had profound admiration, and was of opinion that had he lived Franck would have taken rank with the great masters. As was to be expected, my son had for Welsh music a strong natural sympathy. He held that "Men of Harlech" was one of the greatest of all battle hymns, and that "Morfa Rhuddlan," the ancient Cymric dirge, had never been surpassed as a piece of funereal music. Some of the old Welsh hymn tunes he regarded as unique in their wistfulness and devout aspiration; and as for Welsh choral singing, he thought it was matchless for richness, fire and harmony.[Back to Contents]
Without the blessing of reading the burden of life would be intolerable and the riches of life reduced to the merest penury.
The taste for reading stores the mind with pleasant thoughts, banishes ennui, fills up the unoccupied interstices and enforced leisures of an active life; and if it is judiciously managed it is one of the most powerful means of training character and disciplining and elevating thought. To acquire this taste in early life is one of the best fruits of education.
Lecky: "The Map of Life."
From his childhood Paul Jones had been a voracious and an omnivorous reader. He read with amazing rapidity. The first book he enjoyed whole-heartedly was Mabel Dearmer's "Noah's Ark Geography," one of the best children's books written in the past twenty years. He read and re-read this book as a little boy and used to talk lovingly of Kit and his friends, Jum-Jum and the Cockyolly Bird. Alas! Kit (Mrs. Dearmer's son Christopher) and his gifted mother have been claimed as victims by the World War. Paul revelled in "Æsop's Fables," "Robinson Crusoe," "The Swiss Family Robinson," "Don Quixote," "Treasure Island," "The Arabian Nights," "Gulliver's Travels," and classical legends. As he grew older he passed on to "The Mabinogion," "The Pilgrim's Progress," Lamb's "Tales of Shakespeare," and writers like Henty, Manville Fenn, Clark Russell, W. H. Fitchett and P. G. Wodehouse. He followed with delight the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, whose charm never faded for him. He made a point of reading everything written by Conan Doyle. But he gave first place among living (p. 073) writers to George Bernard Shaw, and next place to H. G. Wells. He would never miss a Shaw play. His delight at the first performance he saw of John Bull's Other Island was boisterous. He loved to read that play as well as to see it performed. The glimpses of Ireland and the portraits of Irish character enchanted him. Broadbent—typifying the self-complacency of the well-meaning but Philistine Victorian who had solved to his own satisfaction all mysteries in earth and heaven—he regarded as a masterpiece of creative art. For Kipling his admiration was qualified; but he loved "M'Andrews' Hymn," and often recited lines from the "Recessional." Of the great novelists Dickens was easily his first favourite; a long way behind came Scott, Stevenson and Jules Verne. Dickens he knew and loved in every mood. Pickwick like Falstaff was to him a source of perennial delight. He loved and honoured Dickens for his rich and tender humanity, the passion of pity that suffused his soul, the lively play of his comic fancy. Endowed with a keen sense of humour, he read Mark Twain and W. W. Jacobs with gusto. As a relaxation from historical studies he would sometimes devour a bluggy story, and as he read would shout with laughter at its grotesque out-topping of probabilities. He tried his own hand at sensational yarns. I recall one of them, rich in gory incidents, with a villain who is constantly leaping from a G.W.R. express to elude his pursuers. Among his papers I found the manuscript of a detective story, vivaciously written after the Sherlock Holmes and Watson manner.
At one time Paul liked to read Homer and Thucydides, Virgil and Tacitus; but as soon as he was at home in the wide realm of English literature he thrust the old classics from him, and subsequently his hard historical reading gave him no opportunity, even if he had felt the desire, to revert to Greek and Latin writers. But he was (p. 074) fully conscious of the world's debt in culture to Greece and in law and government to Rome. He wrote: "The influence of Greek thought, Greek form, Greek art, is universal and eternal."
Of all names in literature he reverenced most that of Shakespeare, in whom he saw "the spirit of the Renaissance personified," and whom he described "as romantic, philosophic, realistic, and as varied and impersonal as Nature." He was never weary of reading the tragedies and historical plays. He resented any word in disparagement of Shakespeare, and could not understand the inability of a supreme artist like Tolstoy to appreciate his greatness. Though he has written a noble sonnet in homage to Shakespeare's genius, Matthew Arnold once permitted himself to say that "Homer leaves Shakespeare as far behind as perfection leaves imperfection." Paul wrote in a marginal note, "Bosh! to put it bluntly." He would say with Goethe, "The first page of Shakespeare made me his for life, and when I had perused an entire play I stood like one born blind, to whom sight by some miraculous power had been restored in a moment." Paul and I often exchanged ideas on Shakespeare. He was lost in wonder at Shakespeare's creative power, his inexhaustible fertility, the universality of his range, the perfection of his portraiture, his mastery over all moods, his cunning artistry in the use of words, his exuberant imagery and effortless ease. He made a pilgrimage to Stratford-on-Avon to see with his own eyes the spots and scenes amid which Shakespeare's youth and declining years were spent. The smiling beauty of Stratford and the rich rural charm of its surroundings left on his mind a delightful impression that was never erased.
Next to Shakespeare his admiration flowed out to Milton. When he went into the battle-line he took with him only two books—his Shakespeare and his Milton. (p. 075) With Milton's character he had some marked affinities—the virginal purity of Milton's youth, his love of learning, his hatred of all tyrannies, secular and spiritual, making a strong appeal to the sympathies of my son. "Milton," he wrote, "is perhaps the very grandest figure in English history." "In Milton the spirit of Puritanism is combined with a purely Hellenic love of beauty." "'Paradise Lost' may be regarded (1) as a reflection of the Puritan point of view; (2) as a poem pure and simple; (3) as an epic of the classical school."
Profound as was his admiration for "Paradise Lost," he could not forbear smiling at Taine's quip that the Miltonic Adam is "your true Paterfamilias, a member of the Opposition, a Whig, a Puritan, who entered Paradise via England."
Paul extolled Pope's ingenuity and metrical felicity—he has thoroughly annotated the "Essay on Man"—but was acutely conscious of aridity and the absence of rapture and vision in Pope as in Dryden. He singled out as "the finest passage in the 'Essay on Man'" the eight lines in which Pope contrasts the majesty of the Universe with the insignificance of man, beginning:
Let earth unbalanced from her orbit fly,
Planets and suns run lawless through the sky.
He had not much respect for Pope's philosophy, and, commenting on one passage in the same poem, writes: "Pope, like many other unsound reasoners, when his position becomes dangerous, seeks to vindicate himself by insults."
Above all nineteenth-century poets he loved Wordsworth, the revelation of whose richness and glory only came to him after he was seventeen. There were no bounds to his admiration for the Wordsworth sonnets. Many a time since the War he would recite the glorious sonnet which proclaims that
(p. 076) We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spake, the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held. In every thing we are sprung
Of Earth's first blood, have titles manifest.
The magic of Keats and his adoration of beauty struck a responsive chord in Paul's nature. Tennyson did not stir him to the depths of his being like Wordsworth. "Ulysses," "The Revenge," and "Crossing the Bar" were the only Tennyson poems that he cared for. In an essay written when he was eighteen he defined poetry as "the soul of man put into untrammelled speech, the voice of angels, the music of the spheres." He read with critical discernment, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing, with the author. It was his habit when reading a book to mark passages that impressed him and make comments in the margin. Some of his obiter dicta shall be given. In judging them it should be remembered that they were all pronounced before he was nineteen.
How aptly said that Dante seems to have tried to write a poem with a sculptor's chisel or a painter's brush.
Froissart observes clearly, but his observation is limited to the world of nobles and chivalry; he ignores the life, the sufferings and the joys of the people.
Ben Jonson, master of dignified declamatory drama, was the greatest of the post-Shakespeare school. We may justly say post-Shakespeare, though Jonson was nearly contemporaneous with the Bard of Avon, because the influence of such a man clearly belongs to an age in which the freedom and romantic magnificence of Shakespeare have been forgotten.
Gibbon is the first of historians. The "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" runs its course like some majestic river.
Burns is a microcosm of Scotland.
Burke—a stainless and beautiful character. A theorist in practice; a practical man in theory.
Though contemptuous of Wordsworth, Byron himself is a romantic of the romanticists. He was the guiding star of rebels the world over.
In the calm purity of his verse, Shelley is more classic than romantic. What ecstatic melody in his lyrics!
Dickens is often mawkish and often portrays oddities; but these oddities do exist, especially in London (e.g., Sam Weller, Mrs. Todgers, Jo, etc.), and Dickens unearthed them for the first time. How his heart warms for the poor and the wretched! He is the great poet of London life.
Macaulay is not a philosophic writer; but then the English genius is certainly non-philosophic.
Froude in his essay on Homer says: "The authors of the Iliad and the Odyssey stand alone with Shakespeare far away above mankind." Paul's marginal note: "Add to them Milton, Goethe, the author of the Nibelungen-lied, Browning."
Froude, I think, has misunderstood the Nibelungen-lied entirely. There is really much savagery and much glory in both the German and the Greek epic.
How strange that men like Rabelais and Swift, Goldsmith and Dickens, who have done so much to make the world laugh, experienced in their own lives great unhappiness.
Browning is always an optimist. His manliness and vigour are unfailing:
I find earth not grey but rosy,
Heaven not grim but fair of hue.
Do I stoop? I pluck a posy.
Do I stand and stare? All's blue.
Paul considered that Macaulay lacked ideas and vision. He liked the lilt and swing of the Lays and Ballads, and enjoyed the Essays with their superb colouring. Disputing Macaulay's dictum that neither painters nor poets are helped by the advances in civilisation, science and refinement, he wrote: "This argument disproved by the examples of men like Shakespeare and (p. 078) Goethe, like Browning and Kipling. And did not Leonardo da Vinci become a student of anatomy in order to learn how to depict the human body properly on his canvas?"
Macaulay in his Essay on Mackintosh's "History of The Revolution" describes the condition of England in 1678, after eighteen years of Charles the Second's reign, in graphic words, beginning "Such was the nation which, awaking from its rapturous trance, found itself sold to a foreign, a despotic, a Popish court, defeated on its own seas and rivers by a State of far inferior resources, and placed under the rule of pandars and buffoons."
Paul's comment reads: "This superb passage is one of the most inspired of Macaulay's utterances. Contrast with it in the same Essay the vivid sentence beginning 'In the course of seven centuries,' in which he pronounces a magnificent panegyric on the greatness of Britain."
He thought the music of Macaulay's prose had often a metallic sound, and that it suffered from excess of epithet and addiction to antithetical phrases. In pithiness of style, sureness of touch and dispassionate judgment, he contrasted Acton as an historical writer with Macaulay, to the latter's disadvantage. He found every page of Acton packed with thought, every essay richly freighted with ideas. Moreover, Acton was sternly impartial and impersonal in his judgment of persons and in his estimate of influences. Paul wrote:
There has never been in historical writing such inexorable logic, such compact phraseology, so much pith and point, as are to be found in Acton's Essays.
His view of Carlyle was thus expressed: "Take away his style and half his greatness vanishes. Carlyle's works are not English in spirit, nor have they any point (p. 079) of resemblance to those of any other English writer." As for his views: "he has, alas! no love for democracy." Carlyle's habit of apotheosising heroes and his worship of the Strong Man made Paul pose the familiar problem: "Is the great man the fashioner of his age, or its product?" He thought something was to be said on both sides, and that it was impossible to lay down a positive proposition on what he called "this terribly difficult question." But he agreed with Guizot that "great events and great men are fixed points and summits of historical survey." He emphasises the fact that in his "French Revolution" Carlyle, in spite of his hero-worship, accepts the evolutionary view of history.
Among essayists he had a special liking for Froude, Matthew Arnold and Edmund Gosse. He often turned for refreshment to Froude's "Short Studies," and felt the fascination of his "Erasmus." In his essay on the Book of Job, Froude writes: "Happiness is not what we are to look for; our place is to be true to the best which we know; to seek that and do that." On this my son comments: "I don't hold with this idea; for, while happiness is not the end, yet it always in its purest and brightest form comes to the really good or great man in the consciousness of the work he has done." Froude in his essay on "Representative Men" enlarges on the importance of educating boys by holding up before them the pattern of noble lives. By picturing the career of a noble man rising above temptation and "following life victoriously and beautifully forward," Froude thinks you will kindle a boy's heart as no threat of punishment here or hereafter will kindle it. On this Paul writes: "A noble plea for an education of youth far more effective than the cursed nonsense of forbidding this or that on penalty of hell-fire."
Matthew Arnold, whom in some moods he admired, (p. 080) occasionally got on his nerves. I find this footnote on a page of "Culture and Anarchy": "This is self-satisfied swank." On another page: "Matthew Arnold himself often wanting in sweetness and light." On another: "Admirably put; here I do agree with M. A." He liked Arnold's essay on "The Function of Criticism," although he differed from some of the author's judgments. "The French Revolution took a political, practical character," wrote Arnold; on which my son's comment is: "Surely the French Revolution was only one aspect of a great world-movement of liberation! One side of it is Romanticism; another the Revolution itself; yet another, the Industrial Revolution. No movement has ever a character sui generis." On Joubert's remark: "Force and Right are the governors of this world, Force till Right is ready," his comment is: "A regular German theory." Paul's final note on "The Function of Criticism" reads:
I consider that Matthew Arnold insists too much on the non-practical element of criticism. After all, it is the lesson of life that the practical man wins in the end. When we are brought face to face with the realities of things—as in a war like the present one—all thought of art and letters simply vanishes. How is it that the mass of the world is always inartistic? How is it that the one people in the world—the Greeks—who built up their State on what Arnold regards as ideal conditions, collapsed in headlong ruin before the inartistic but practical Romans?
This comment illustrates one effect of the War on Paul's mind: he was becoming less of an idealist and more of a realist.
For Mr. W. H. Hudson's "Introduction to the Study of Literature" he had high esteem. This book he has carefully annotated. Of Mr. Hudson's remarks on the contrast between the style of Milton and that of Dryden, between Hooker and Defoe, he writes: "A comparison (p. 081) of remarkable discernment. The difference between the Miltonic and Drydenic styles, i.e., pre-1660 and post-1660, was simply due to the change in ideas caused by the reaction against Puritanism." Agreeing with Hudson that there is much poetry which is prosaic and much prose which is poetical, he cites as examples: "Prose in Poetry: Pope, Dryden, Walt Whitman. Poetry in Prose: Carlyle, Macaulay, Goethe." He did not concur with Hudson's remark that the "full significance of poetry can be appreciated only when it addresses us through the ear," and that "the silent perusal of the printed page will leave one of its principal secrets unsurprised." Paul's comment on this:
Too sweeping a statement. Take, for example, poets like Milton and Browning, where every line is fraught with some deep philosophic meaning and must be pondered over for some time before the whole of the greatness of the poetry is realised. In these cases reading aloud is not nearly so good as private, silent study.
He demurred to the proposition that while the function of Ethics is to instruct, that of Art is to delight. "I hold," he writes, "that Art's duty is to instruct as much as, if not more than, that of Ethics. Art to be great must elevate and edify." Hudson wrote: "The common view that the primitive ages of the world were ages of colossal individualism is grotesquely unhistorical; they were, on the contrary, ages in which group-life and group-consciousness were in the ascendant." "Quite true," notes Paul. "See Maine's 'Ancient Law,' where he points out that ancient history has nothing to do with the individual but only with groups." Another annotated book is Maeterlinck's "Wisdom and Destiny." To Maeterlinck's remark, "It is often of better avail from the start to seek that which is highest," he adds: "Always, not often." He heartily subscribed to (p. 082) Maeterlinck's doctrine that our attitude to life ought to be one of "gladsome, enlightened acceptance, not a hostile, gloomy submission."
His philosophy of life was expressed in that beautiful passage in Carlyle's essay on "Characteristics":
Here on earth we are as soldiers fighting in a foreign land; that understand not the plan of the campaign and have no need to understand it; seeing well what is at our hand to be done, let us do it like soldiers, with submission, with courage, with a heroic joy. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might." Behind us, behind each one of us, lie 6,000 years of human effort, human conquest. Before us is the boundless Time, with its as yet uncreated and unconquered continents and Eldorados, which we, even we, have to conquer, to create; and from the bosom of Eternity there shine for us celestial guiding stars.
My inheritance, how wide and fair!
Time is my fair seed-field, of Time I'm heir.
The ethical side of Paul's character is reflected in the appended quotations from some of his essays:
Sacrifice is always the lot of the divine man.
What is "to do good"? It is to think of other people.
Joy only comes to Faust when at last he is labouring for others. As Wolsey puts it in Henry VIII: "Love thyself last," and "bear peace in thy right hand."
The Epicurean idea is vile and detestable. If everyone thinks only of his own indulgence, how can the wherewithal for that indulgence be forthcoming? What is the use of man having all his glorious gifts of character and intellect if he does not use them? Why is man made so different from the animals if he is to be the mere slave of his passions?
Stoicism finally degenerates into mere pessimism.
The great defect of Puritanism was its hostility to Art; for Art glorifies and ennobles Life.
"How, when and where?
The Gods make no reply;
To causes give thy care,
And cease to question why."
Carlyle in "Heroes and Hero Worship" shows the folly of condemning a man for the faults noted down by the world about him—by those blind to the true inner secret of his life. "Who art thou that judgest thy fellow?"
Naturalism is illogical because it postulates Nature without mind.
If you do not place faith in humanity, what really is the use of any philosophy of life?
Let us remember St. Paul's injunction, "Bear ye one another's burdens."
It is a thought to make one ponder, that by far the finest Life of Christ was written by an agnostic, Renan.
Action is a great joy in life.
When prehistoric man took up a flint and laboriously beat it into a shape that his brain told him would be of use to him, he laid the foundations of all civilisation. Man's progress is the story of brute force laid low by Thought—which is the one really irresistible influence in the Universe:
"In the world there is nothing great but Man;
In Man there is nothing great but Mind."
It is a perplexing reflection that there is no absolute moral standard. The moral law appears to vary with environment and according to conditions of time and place. I am reminded of Pope's lines:
"Where the extreme of vice was ne'er agreed.
Ask where's the North? At York 'tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where."
The greater a man is in one direction, the more prone he usually is to weakness in another: that is why we must never condemn indiscriminately.
Materialism is fatal to the higher instincts, because it introduces that most sordid element—earthly pomp, circumstance and recompense.
The Universe, History, Life are before us. Why should they not be investigated? It is not true that science leads to Atheism or Fatalism. What science does is to destroy that fabric of Aberglaube or superstition which chokes and asphyxiates the best parts of religion. What science does is to set up a new, purer creed based on certainty and truth.
Of French writers Paul liked most Taine, Sainte-Beuve, and Victor Hugo. His love of reading he took with him into the War. A box of books returned to us with his other effects from France included "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius," Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason," Macaulay's "Essays," Saint-Simon's "Memoirs," Sainte-Beuve's "Causeries," "The Imitation of Christ," Lecky's "History of European Morals," and works by Goethe, Victor Hugo, Dumas the elder, Flaubert, Maurice Barrès, and Mrs. Humphry Ward.[Back to Contents]
History is philosophy teaching by examples.
The science of Politics is the one science that is deposited by the stream of history, like grains of gold in the sand of a river.
Reared in the home of a political journalist, it was natural that Paul Jones should be attracted to public affairs. He followed with lively curiosity the progress of the two general elections of 1910, and from that year was an interested observer of political events. As he grew older his bent towards politics became more pronounced. A youth familiar with Roman, mediæval and modern history could not fail to be fascinated by the political drama unfolding before his eyes. He watched history in the making with the same eagerness that he read the history of the past. The prevailing tone at Dulwich, as at most public schools, is Conservative. Paul was a perfervid Liberal. In school and out of school, not only did he not disguise, he gloried in his advanced opinions. The extent of his political knowledge and the ripeness of his views were astonishing in one so young.
From the moment he began to think for himself his sympathies flowed out to the wage-earning classes. What he remembered and what he had heard of his Puritan grandfather, William Jones, a grand specimen of the Victorian artisan, who died in December, 1905, on the verge of 80, deepened his regard for them. But his own broad and sympathetic nature would have drawn him instinctively to their side. In his judgment it was (p. 086) on and by the working-classes that the wheels of the world moved forward. He had nothing but contempt for the sparrow-like frivolity of fashionable Society, and was repelled from the middle classes by their servitude to conventions, their prejudices social and political, and their non-receptivity to ideas. He for his part must breathe an ampler air. He was wont to speak disdainfully of the Victorian era, because, in spite of all the advances it witnessed in the physical sciences and of Britain's rapid growth in wealth between 1850 and 1890, it did so little for social welfare.
For feudal magnates and the nouveaux riches he had scant respect, holding that both the aristocracy and the plutocracy had used their political power for selfish ends. Old feudalism in some respects he regarded as better than new Capital, for the landed aristocracy did at least recognise some obligations to those under their sway, whereas Capital was so concerned with its rights that it forgot altogether its reciprocal duties. His view was that, under shelter of the laissez-faire system, with its false presumption that employers and employed were on a parity in bargaining power, Capital had scandalously evaded its obligations to Labour. He regarded the conditions of life in some of our industrial districts as a grave reproach to the nation. The lust for wealth and other unlovely aspects of competitive commercialism were most repugnant to him. He knew that Nature cares not a rap for equality and lavishes her gifts with a strange caprice. But though there is inequality of natural gifts, he thought it was the duty of the State to ensure equality of opportunity to all its citizens. His ideal was a co-operative commonwealth, in which the competitive spirit would be held in check by communal needs and aims, and where every career would be opened freely to talent. In one of his essays he deplores the fact that political economists had fallen into the (p. 087) delusion of applying the laws that govern the exchange of commodities without any variation to Labour, and leaving out of account intangibles and imponderables like moral forces and other expressions of the delicate and mysterious human spirit. Political economy, he thought, would have to be recast and humanised. "The economists," he said, "have entirely ignored the human factor."
Paul's conviction was that when the rule of enlightened democracy was established wars would cease. "The peoples never want wars," he wrote; "under a pure democracy wars would be impossible." Because of the associations clustering around it the word "Imperialism" jarred on him, but he took pride in the greatness of the free and liberal British Empire, with its rule of law, its love of peace, its humane ideals. He had the historical sense in highly developed degree. The story of human progress stretched before the eye of his mind in a series of vivid pictures. Surveying the immense and imposing fabric of recorded events woven by the ceaseless loom of Time, he had an unerring instinct for the shining figures, the salient characteristic, the determining factor. Away from a library he could have written a quite tolerable essay on any century of the Christian era. Historical characters in whom he was specially interested were Julius Cæsar, Octavius, Charlemagne, the Emperor Charles V, Queen Elizabeth, Cromwell, Louis XIV, the elder Pitt, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon; and among the non-political Roger Bacon, Erasmus, Luther, Sir Thomas More, Isaac Newton, Faraday, and Darwin. The Elizabethan age had for him a magnetic attraction, because of the Queen with her enigmatical personality, marvellous statecraft and capacity for inspiring devotion, and of the brilliant galaxy of great men, statesmen and sailors, poets and scholars, who enriched her reign with so (p. 088) much glory. Another epoch he loved to study was that of the French Revolution. I have already referred to his habit of annotating the books he read. From notes he made on political books and from some of his essays I have culled the following:
Man's tool-using power is simply a symbol of man's unique reasoning gifts. Its connotations may be extended to mean the entire intellect.
The savage using his language with joy like a child, gives us the wealth of beautiful mythology about all natural objects.
It is wonderful to think that Julius Cæsar's imperial system was handed right down to the nineteenth century, until one not unlike Cæsar himself set his foot upon its neck in 1806. But long before it fell the Holy Roman Empire had really ceased, in Voltaire's words, to be holy, or Roman, or an empire.
Froude holds up to admiration the "serene calmness" of Tacitus, and says he took no side. But I ask anyone who has read the sarcastic remarks about Domitian and the Emperors in the "Agricola" whether he thinks Tacitus took no side in writing history.
Nothing can alter the fact that Mohammedanism has done a vast amount of good. Compare Carlyle's appreciation of Mahomet with Gibbon's acrimonious insinuations.
Much that is strange in human history is explained if we remember that aristocracies in the West were political, while in the East they were religious.
Hildebrand, who boldly declared that the Church compared to the State was as the sun to the moon—the State only shining by light borrowed from the greater orb—was now on the papal throne. His giant intellect and tremendous personality had overawed Henry IV into ignominious capitulation at Canossa. With Europe at his feet Hildebrand cannot but have desired to assert his authority over the island-State across the Channel. William the Conqueror and Hildebrand were rarely-matched antagonists—the one determined to set bounds to the Pope's scheme of world-domination; the Pope equally determined to bend the stubborn Norman to his will. It was the Conqueror who won.
(p. 089) The conception of the Norman Conquest has shifted from the grotesque over-estimate of Thierry to the under-estimate of Freeman and Maitland. To the moderns the Conquest is now little more than a change of dynasty. A juster estimate would be that the very change of dynasty gave the Conquest its vital importance.... The effects were really immense. The Conquest substituted for the degenerate race of Anglo-Saxon kings a virile dynasty able to give to England what it needed—a vigorous central administration—and brought the English people into the stream of European civilisation.
It was the hope of Erasmus that Catholic forms could be blended with the Greek spirit.
Luther's songs express the very soul of old Germany; above all, the great hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott."
Though the Reformation in freeing the mind of man from ecclesiastical tyranny made eventually for political liberty, its whole tendency in England for the time being was in favour of absolute monarchy. Its first outcome here was to set up a secular monarchy, supreme in Church and State, founded on the theory of the divine right of kings, based on an aristocracy made loyal by the instinct of self-interest.
Commerce and national wealth were at stake in the war between England and Spain in the sixteenth century, and not merely, perhaps not even mainly, religion.
Drake was a very great sailor, but he was undoubtedly a buccaneer.
Many Ministers had been sent to the block for offences far less rank than those of Charles I; nevertheless, his execution was absolutely illegal and a fatal mistake in policy.
Few men experienced such hard treatment at the hands of fortune as Cromwell. In every case, save the rule of the major-generals, his constitutional experiments were wise, far-seeing and well-conceived. It was the perverse conduct of those who professed to be his followers that ruined all.
There has never been a shrewder king on a throne than Charles II.
(p. 090) In the popular view, James II will always be regarded as the tyrannical despot, the subverter of the religious and political institutions of England, while his brother, Charles II, will be looked upon as a kindly and amiable gentleman, who oppressed no one and treated everyone kindly. Yet in the view of the student of history Charles becomes the tyrant and James an honest though bigoted fool.
To compare the age of Cromwell with that of Charles II is to see the Dorian and Lydian spirits respectively in their most contrasted lights.
The difference between Richelieu and Mazarin is the difference between the creator and the developer.
The political revolution of 1688 was contemporaneous with a revolution in physics, shown by Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood; with a revolution in astronomical thought, shown by Newton's "Principia"; with a small revolution in literature, shown by the rise of English prose; with a revolution in popular feeling all over the world, as shown by the riots against excessive taxation in France and the ejection of de Witt in Holland. All the different threads of life seem to run interwoven, and one cannot be disturbed without disturbing the others.
The character of Frederick the Great was stained by many infamous deeds; he was in many ways unscrupulous, yet he was never petty, and he was devoted to his country. He was the greatest genius in practical reforms and in the art of war that the eighteenth century produced.
Frederick the Great has had a far stronger and better influence on history than a selfish, callous person like Louis XIV.
Of all the benevolent despots there is only one, Frederick the Great, to whom can be fitly applied what Johnson said of Goldsmith: "Let not his faults be remembered: he was a very great man."
Under a despotism the aristocracy loses all its powers, and, except for the bureaucracy and "King's friends," there is no privileged class unless the King is a weak man and under the thumb of his court (e.g., contrast the France of Louis XIV with that of Louis XV).
Carlyle in his grim account of the death-bed of Louis XV writes: "We will pry no further into the horrors of a sinner's death-bed." Paul's comment: "cf. the episode of the death of Front-de-Bœuf in 'Ivanhoe.'"
Lord Chesterfield saw clearly the symptoms of the coming Revolution in France. Only two other men in Europe foresaw that immense event: Goldsmith and Arthur Young. Note Gibbon's complacent attitude in re France to illustrate the general lack of vision on the subject.
Voltaire's summing up of the consequences of Turgot's fall may be expressed in Sir Edward Grey's phrase: "Death, disaster and damnation."
If Louis XVI had been wiser and more capable, would he have averted the French Revolution? I think not. It is to be doubted whether even a strong king, after so many years of tyranny which had generated such hatred of the ancient regime, could have checked the flow of forces making for the Revolution. Apart from the effect of the old tyranny, new ideas of democracy were arising. Witness the contemporary failure of a great benevolent despot in Joseph II.
There was no idea of nationality in the foreign policy of the younger Pitt.
Hilaire Belloc's description of the guillotining of the Dantonists forms a picture among the most thrilling, enthralling and agonising that I know.
Fox stands out as one of the most brilliant failures and one of the most ineffective geniuses in history.
Before war broke out in 1870 the world believed in the military superiority of France. Only that grim trio, Bismarck, Moltke and Roon, knew the contrary.
William the First, grandfather of the present Kaiser, was an absurdly overestimated character. He owed all his success to his great Ministers.
Treitschke writes: "The territories drained by great rivers are usually centres of civilisation.... Our Rhine remains the king of all rivers, but what great thing has ever happened on the Danube?" Paul's comment on this:
The Jews are a truly extraordinary race. Though they have for centuries been persecuted, despised, outcast, so far from being crushed by their sufferings, they seem actually to have been toughened in fibre, and to-day they exercise a commanding influence in the world.
England's geographical position does not fit her for the rôle of a Continental Power. Her home is on the sea; her empire world-wide.
Each race, each nation, has its own characteristics, its own peculiar type of civilisation. Attempts to destroy these inherent qualities have time and time again been baffled—as the examples of the Jews, Poland and Alsace-Lorraine clearly demonstrate.... As Treitschke puts it: "The idea of a world-State is odious. The whole content of civilisation cannot be realised in a single State. Every people has the right to believe that certain powers of the Divine Reason display themselves in it at their highest."
Patriotism may indeed be but a larger form of selfishness, but it is a larger form. It does involve devotion to others. As long as men are men, it is so unlikely as almost to be impossible that patriotism will ever be replaced by cosmopolitanism.
A great point in favour of the rule of democracy is its character-building power.
It is customary in a certain class of society to abuse trade-unionism. People talk of the tyranny of trade-unionism; it would be as easy, perhaps more justifiable, to talk of the tyranny of Capital. The trade union has its counterpart in what are termed the "upper classes." For example, the British Medical Association is nothing but a trade union under another name. The trade union is an absolute necessity to the worker in modern society.
Laissez-faire has advantages up to a point; State control has advantages up to a point. The most successful nation will be that one which succeeds in making a judicious mixture of the two systems.
The Englishman in his devil-may-care way does not trouble to persecute or oppress; his tolerant spirit, aided (p. 093) by the splendid devotion of a few great men, has, in the words of Seeley, built up a glorious free Empire "in a fit of absence of mind."
You will never make the English people idealistic, but you will never conquer them on that very account.
While the German talks and dreams of world-Empire, the Englishman smiles, puts his pipe in his mouth and goes off to found it by accident.
The modern system of diplomacy is as vile as anything can be. Even in England it is the negation of popular government.
Man's duty to his neighbour ought to be observed as well as the harsh and pitiless laws of trade and competition.
The social conditions of our industrial towns to-day are a standing indictment of the laissez-faire system.
The great warrior is no more important than the humble toiler.
Gladstone's finance was governed by the determination to spend as little as possible. It does not seem to be so good as that of Lloyd George, viz., to be prepared to spend a great deal provided you are sure it is for the benefit of the people.
On a remark of Dr. Sarolea's in re the alleged inherent antagonism between Europe and America on the one side and Asia and Africa on the other: "Absurd! If we are to be good Europeans we must first of all be good world citizens. The Asiatic is as much our brother as is the Belgian or the American."
It is not the case that England has checked Germany's Colonial development. Germany has herself to blame—herself and destiny. But I must say that Germany had to some extent right on her side in the Morocco dispute.
The Germans ignore the fact that wherever we British go we throw our ports open to the commerce of the world.
In the autumn of 1914 my son read General von Bernhardi's book, "Germany and the Next War." In his notes on this book he drew attention to Bernhardi's (p. 094) frequent self-contradictions and his false philosophy. From these notes the following excerpts are taken:
Here Bernhardi flatly contradicts the biological argument he uses earlier in the chapter. Biology knows nothing of States; it sees only human beings.
Look at the intimate connection between Darwinism and the political and economic views of the Individualist Radicals of the mid-Victorian era.
Bernhardi assumes that mere material existence is always to be man's destiny. But the perpetuation of existence beyond the immediate present cannot be guided by the instinct of grabbing.
The modern theory is that good and bad as abstract considerations do not exist, but that they are what experience shows to be best for us in the end. The animal knows this subconsciously; man consciously to a certain extent.
Emphatically No; mere brute force is not the law of the universe.
Bernhardi may as well talk of conquering the moon as of conquering the U.S.A.
Man's true development consists above all in the negation of his selfish elements for the good of humanity.
Bernhardi's proposition, "Only the State which strives after an enlarged sphere of influence can create the conditions under which mankind develops into the most splendid perfection," Paul counters by asking: "How does this theory fit in with the case of the Greeks, who, politically so weak, were yet intellectually so great that to-day, after 2,000 years, their influence in Europe is as great as ever? Which would you rather have been, tiny Greece or vast Persia?"
On Bernhardi's remark: "No excuse for revolutionary agitation in Germany now exists."
No excuse? When the people have no power at all, and can at any moment be led to the slaughter by a pack of Junkers—"all for the good of the State"; in other words, to give the military caste more wealth and dignity. In a few years Bernhardi will see whether the people have any cause for revolution or not.
Germany was indeed unfortunate in entering the world as a great Power so late. But she will not make any progress by perpetually brandishing a sword before Europe.
I do think that Prussia's policy in the past was largely determined by her geographical situation.
The Entente with France was the price we paid for Egypt. Germany never entered our thoughts at all.
On Bernhardi's allusion to India, Paul wrote: "Curiously enough, the very day I read this I heard in the House of Commons the wonderful story of the gifts presented to the British Government for war purposes by the Indian princes. Such a passionate outburst of loyalty has never been equalled. This gratitude and devotion we have won not by the rule of force, but by that of justice and kindness."
In regard to Bernhardi's prediction that our self-governing Dominions would separate from the British Empire:
Our policy toward them nobly justified. Now in our time of need the Colonies have flown to our side.
God help civilisation when the Bernhardis set to work on it!
Strange that people so far apart as Bernhardi and we Socialists should yet be at one on this question of checking selfish individualism by measures of State Socialism.
A frequent visitor to the Lobby and Press Gallery of the House of Commons, my son was known to many members of Parliament and political journalists. Thanks to his free, affable manner, he was on terms of cordial regard with several of the attendants and police-constables on duty in and about the House of Commons. His last visit to the Press Gallery was in May, 1916. He was stirred by the life and movement of the House and enjoyed a good Parliamentary debate, (p. 096) but he had a feeling that politicians were apt to mistake illusions for realities and to think that words could take the place of deeds.
In the last three years of his life, though his democratic sympathies never waned, some of his opinions underwent a change. He was disappointed at the indifference of the masses of the people to their own interests, at their low standard of taste, at the ease with which they could be exploited by charlatans. I remember his telling me once, in 1915, apropos of the blatancy of some noisy patriots: "I now realise for the first time what Dr. Johnson meant when he wrote, 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.'" He disliked the squalor of the political game and the glibness of tongue and tenuity of thought of the mere politician. A generous-minded youth of high ideals, he had not learnt to make allowances for political human nature, or for the fact that the mass of mankind are necessarily occupied with petits soins and apt to be dulled by the mechanical routine of their daily lives. Latterly he often told me that, after all, there was a great deal to be said for the rule of the enlightened autocrat. "But," he said, "the mischief is that you can't guarantee a succession of enlightened autocrats; so we must make the best of the rule of the majority." The backwardness of England in education used to make him wring his hands. To lack of education he attributed the tawdriness and vulgarity of popular taste. I thought my own political and social views were advanced: to Paul I was little better than a Whig with a veneration for Mr. Gladstone. He had a bold, forward-looking mind, and was in favour of root-and-branch changes. He was only 21 when he died, and his views on social and political questions would doubtless have been modified in one direction or another had he lived. But his passion for liberty of thought and action and his deep sympathy with the unprivileged (p. 097) multitude would have remained, for these things were inherent in his character. He would have said with Ibsen: "I want to awaken the democracy to its true task—of making all the people noblemen by freeing their wills and purifying their minds."
Literature, athletics, music, politics did not exhaust the interests of this strong and eager mind. He was a good chess-player, and followed with lively curiosity the new developments in mechanics and aviation. Very fond of dogs, between him and our little fox-terrier there was a tie of deep affection. As indicative of the catholicity of his tastes I may mention that, going over his papers after his death, I discovered in the same drawer a manuscript appreciation of Wagner, "Football Hints," memoranda on "Pascal and Descartes on Method," and the outline of an essay on "The Norman Conquest and its Effects."[Back to Contents]
Ever the faith endures,
England, my England:
"Take and break us, we are yours,"
England, my own.
W. E. Henley.
In the first flush of enthusiasm for the War in 1914 Paul wanted to join the Public Schools Battalion, but I induced him to postpone doing so, pointing out that he had been preparing hard for an Oxford Scholarship, and that there would be ample time for him to join the Army after the examination early in December. My reasons were reinforced by his own desire to carry out his duties as Captain of Football. After winning the Balliol Scholarship, and with the knowledge that the number of recruits for the Army at that time was far in excess of the provision of equipment, he was persuaded to stay at Dulwich College till the end of the football season. But he became very restless in the early months of 1915. He had never cared for military exercises, much preferring free athletics, but in 1914 he had joined the O.T.C. at the College. He assiduously applied himself to drill and took part in many marches and several field-days. Meanwhile he followed every phase of the War with fascinated interest. He read all the War books he could get and began a War diary, which he entered up every week-end, giving a succinct account of the War's progress on land and sea and in the air. This diary he continued until he entered the Army, and at his request I have kept it up since.
(p. 099) From copious entries by my son under the dates named the appended excerpts are taken. They indicate with what intelligence and comprehension he followed every phase of the War.
August 18, 1914.—The British Expeditionary Force has landed safely in France: embarkation, transportation and debarkation carried out with great precision and without a single casualty. Our men have made a magnificent impression on the French people by their athletic demeanour, cheerfulness and orderly discipline. Their arrival a source of great moral strength to France.
The Belgian King and Staff have left Brussels for Antwerp.
August 30.—News filtering through of the retreat from Mons. After the battle of Charleroi and the collapse of the French on our right, the British troops fought stubbornly, but had to fall back before enormous forces of the enemy, which sought to annihilate them by sheer weight of numbers. In most difficult circumstances the ten days' retreat was carried out with wonderful skill.
September 3 and 4.—The Germans now within forty miles of Paris. Note, however, these important considerations: (1) The German losses are terrific; (2) the whole Allied forces are absolutely intact and in good order. The situation is very different from that of 1870, when the French field armies were destroyed before the war had been in progress a month.
The French Government has quitted Paris for Bordeaux.
September 14-16.—It is now evident that the battle of the Marne was a great victory for the Franco-British forces. On September 6 the German advance southwards reached its extreme points at Coulommiers and Provins. This movement was covered by a large flanking force west of the Ourcq watching the outer Paris defences. The southward movement left the enemy's right wing in a dangerous position, as the Creil-Senlis-Compiègne line, by which the Germans had advanced, had been evacuated. The Allies attacked this wing in front and flank on September 8, and a French Army was hurried from Paris to attend to the flanking force. The frontal attack carried out by French and British. The enemy retreated skilfully to the line of the Ourcq, and from here tried to crush the French by a (p. 100) counter-attack. This failed utterly, and the enemy right wing-fell back over the Marne on September 10, pursued by the French and the British. Large captures of German prisoners and guns.
September 16.—Official report of the Belgian Commission on German atrocities too awful to read. The horrible things done by the Kaiser's brutal soldiery in Belgium must remove every vestige of respect for the Germans.
September 19-21.—Conflict on the Aisne continues. No decisive advantage to either side: both armies now strongly entrenched.
September 29-Oct. 2.—The pater came in very gloomy one night this week saying he had got information that could not be published to the effect that Antwerp must fall in a few days, and that the military situation in Belgium is as bad as it can be.
October 12-15.—Ostend evacuated by the Belgian Government, which has moved to Havre. Germans have occupied Ghent and Bruges and are attempting a sweeping cavalry movement to and along the coast. This coincident with an infantry advance on Calais, which was skilfully checked by a British force that had lain concealed near Ypres.
October 18.—German troops in Belgium are now in contact with von Kluck's army; that is, they are on the right of the force that invaded France, roughly on a line drawn from a point a few miles north of Lille to Ostend. The Allies still occupy part of Belgium including Fleurbaix, Ypres and the surrounding portion of the right bank of the Lys. It was feared that the German force liberated by the fall of Antwerp would be able to combine with von Kluck, so as to effect a great turning movement on the Allies' left. Thanks, however, to the excellent railways in north-east France, skilful disposition of British and French forces, and the stubborn courage of our troops, this danger was averted. We have not only checked the movement, but have ourselves advanced, and the Allies' line to the sea is secure.
November 15-22.—Lord Roberts died of pneumonia. He breathed his last at St. Omer in sound of the guns. He had gone to France to greet his beloved Indian soldiers. A fitting end for this really great man.
December 13-20.—On Wednesday morning, December (p. 101) 16, German warships bombarded Scarborough and Hartlepool. This incident of no military value, but (1) it is a distinct "buck-up" for the Germans, as no hostile shots had struck any part of English soil before since the days of de Ruyter; (2) it may arouse unpleasant misgivings among unthinking people as to the functions and efficiency of our Navy. A tip-and-run bombardment only possible because the Germans can concentrate on any selected point of our coast, whereas we have to guard its whole length. Scarborough an undefended town, and the bombardment a gross breach of international law; but we are getting used now to that sort of thing.
England has formally taken over Egypt, which hitherto had only been in our occupation, Turkey's suzerainty being recognised. The old Khedive, who is absent from the country and intriguing with the enemy, deposed, and Hussein Ali appointed Sultan.
December 20-27.—Full story of the Falkland Islands victory now published. This swift, clean and sure naval stroke appears to have been planned from London by Sir John Fisher, the First Sea Lord. Von Spee, the German Admiral, with his two sons and other officers, went down on the Scharnhorst, refusing to surrender.
January 3, 1915.—A rather blunt note from the U.S.A. complaining that American merchant vessels have been stopped and searched by our warships without justification, that serious delays have been caused, and that American commercial interests have suffered. Specific instances quoted, and freedom of American ships from molestation in the future demanded. It is the old question of the right of search come up again.
January 17-24.—On Tuesday the famous Zeppelins made their first appearance on the English scene. Several of the airships appeared over Yarmouth, King's Lynn, Sheringham, and Sandringham. Many bombs dropped, but absolutely no military damage; total result, a number of innocent people killed and injured. This marvellous achievement said to have given vast joy to Berlin. Well, they are easily pleased. The destructive power of the Zepps has been greatly overrated.
February, 1-8.—Early in the week von Tirpitz avowed Germany's intention to torpedo or otherwise destroy every British ship on the sea, whether a vessel of war or a (p. 102) merchant trader—this to be done without warning. Our Admiralty countered this declaration by announcing their intention of using neutral flags for non-combatant British vessels—a permissible ruse de guerre. Thus the Lusitania has set sail from New York flying the American flag. "Diamond cut diamond" with a vengeance!
February 8-14.—U.S.A. warn Germany that any attack on a vessel flying the American flag before it is ascertained whether the flag is or is not fictitious will be "viewed as a serious matter."
February 14-21.—The Germans have gained an immense victory over the Russians along a front extending from the Niemen to the Bzura, and Warsaw is as much in danger of capture as Paris was last September. With marvellous accuracy and skill Hindenburg seized the opportunity of using his railways in East Prussia to outflank the Russians on both sides. One fact stands out clear in the war—the British are the only troops who have as yet held their ground against the Germans. Of what use are our Allies?
March 14-20.—Neuve Chapelle battle not the success for us that the first reports suggested. I fear some disagreeable facts are being concealed. The reticence imposed by the Censor is deplorable. We have suffered heavy casualties in winning a sector of two miles wide by one mile long: our gains disproportionate to our losses. We ought to have shaken the German position right up to Lille.
March 21-28.—Fall of Przemysl to the Russians after a siege of 203 days. The garrison that surrendered comprised nine Generals, ninety-three superior officers, 2,500 subalterns and officials, 117,000 rank and file. This great success frees a large Russian force for active work elsewhere.
Our Commander-in-Chief in France, Sir John French, in his last communiqué talks of a protracted war and warns us against over-sanguineness. "The protraction of the war depends entirely upon the supply of men and munitions. Should these be unsatisfactory the war will be accordingly prolonged."
In Alsace the French have captured the position of Hartmannsweilerkopf; they have penetrated twelve miles into German territory.
March 29-April 4.—The Dardanelles operations are fizzling out in melancholy fashion. Owing to the fact that we began the naval bombardment before our land forces (p. 103) had arrived, the Turks have been able to repair nearly all the damage. However, now that Ian Hamilton has arrived to direct operations in Gallipoli, things ought to begin to move.
April 5-12.—The French have gained a position which overlooks and commands the whole of the Woevre Plain; they are now fighting like demons. This district (Lorraine) is very near to the French heart. The first substantial advance that the French have made since the battle of the Marne.
No official news of any value from the British front (the Censor is hard at work), but for the last six days our casualties have been terrible. It is maddening to see this long catalogue of brave men killed or wounded and yet to have all information withheld.
The Americans, having fallen out for a short time with us, are now quarrelling with the Germans, the cause being a very insolent message to the White House from the German Ambassador. In frantic tones Count Bernstorff demands that America shall cease to supply munitions of war to England and her Allies, his object being to neutralise the effect of our sea-power.
Paul joined the Army on April 15, 1915, within a month of his 19th birthday. His application for a commission in the Infantry was refused point-blank because of his defective vision. The War Office authorities, much impressed by his school and athletic record, had requested him to undergo a special examination by an oculist; and on receipt of the oculist's report showing how extreme was his short sight, wrote to me on March 26, "It is quite impossible to think of passing him for a commission, as his sight is so very much below the necessary standard." Subsequently at an interview at the War Office he admitted that if his spectacles were lost or broken he would be helpless; but he said he would equip himself with several pairs to provide against such emergencies. It was pointed out to him that in wet weather rain-spots on the lenses of his glasses would obscure his vision.
(p. 104) "I am willing to take the risk," was his reply.
"Yes," came the rejoinder, "but as an officer you would be jeopardising other lives and not merely your own."
He was constrained to admit the force of this reasoning. Nevertheless, his rejection for the Infantry was a grievous disappointment to him.
Eventually he obtained a commission in the Army Service Corps. He was very proud to don the King's uniform. On April 15 he reported himself for duty at a home port which is the principal centre of supply for our armies abroad. There he remained for over three months. As his nature was in taking up any work, he got absorbed in his new duties, and, I am informed, executed them with the utmost efficiency. To keep himself physically fit he gave some of his leisure to golf and to long walks, some days tramping twenty miles and more. Looking forward impatiently to the prospect of going abroad, he used to worry himself by the thought that he, an athlete, had no more useful work to do than to superintend the unloading of railway trucks and the loading of vessels and seeing that supplies were up to specification. At Whitsuntide his mother, brother and I spent a week-end in the vicinity of the port where he was employed. One day we visited a little country town, where he had arranged to join us after his duty was done. Near to the town was a huge camp, also a hospital for wounded soldiers. We met Paul on his arrival by train and walked with him to the hotel. On the way he was kept busy acknowledging the salutes of soldiers who passed us. At tea he was grave and preoccupied—for him a most unusual mood. I rallied him on it, and asked whether he was in trouble with his C.O.
"Certainly not," was his reply, "I get on excellently with the Colonel."
(p. 105) Then a moment or two later he exclaimed with emotion, "Dad, I simply can't stand it."
"Stand what!" I exclaimed.
"I can't stand receiving the salutes of men who have fought or are going out to fight while I spend my time about wharves and warehouses."
As he spoke his eyes filled with tears. To appease him was not easy. This outburst was indicative of something more than a fugitive mood.
To his intense delight he received orders to go abroad a couple of months later. On July 27, 1915, he left England for France, in which country and Flanders the next two years of his life were to be spent. His first appointment abroad was that of Requisitioning Officer to the 9th Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division—a Brigade that took part in the severe fighting of the early months of the War and was now waiting eagerly for a fresh opportunity to display its prowess. Our Cavalry officers are a distinct type, with traditions and modes of life and thought of their own. Paul, to whom nothing human was alien, studied them with keen curiosity. He found them gay-hearted, chivalrous gentlemen, and soon shared their enthusiasm for horses. His experiences with the 9th Brigade are described in his letters. The psychology of the French peasantry and tradespeople with whom he came into contact also vastly interested him. It was very responsible work he had to do for a lad of 19, but he did it ably and zealously. He liked the work for its variety; it involved a great deal of riding on horseback and much motoring, and gave opportunities for practising his French.
Yet from time to time he heard voices from the trenches calling him. He was always contrasting his lot with the hardships that were being patiently endured in the front line by, as he would say, "better men than myself." He received his promotion to lieutenant in the (p. 106) spring of 1916. His pleasure at that step upward was soon dashed by his appointment to a Supply Column. This "grocery work," as he characterised it, was most distasteful to him; he thought of throwing up his commission and trying to enlist as a private, but finally decided to seek a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. After two unhappy months in the Supply Column he was appointed in command of an ammunition working-party at an advanced railhead in the Somme battlefield. How he enjoyed this work his letters will show. It involved, however, the hanging up of his application for transfer to the R.F.A. In October, 1916, he was appointed Requisitioning Officer to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade. He rejoiced at his escape from the inglorious, albeit necessary, work of the Supply Column, and was soon at home with his new comrades.
As time went on, it became more and more evident that our cavalry would not have much opportunity in the War. The enforced inaction preyed upon Paul's spirits, and in December he determined to do his utmost to exchange into a unit in the front line. In his application for transfer he put his preferences in this order: 1st, Infantry; 2nd, M.G.C., heavies; 3rd, Artillery. The authorities, realising that his extreme short sight disqualified him for the Infantry, assigned him to the Tank Corps, which he joined on February 13, 1917.
Paul's delight at the change of employment was unbounded. His letters from the time he joined the Tank Corps sing with happiness. Having pushed all obstacles aside in order to walk the sacrificial road, he found great gladness in breasting its steeps. A singular change is discernible in his letters in the last seven months of his life. No longer was there any reference in them to political affairs at home or to international events. He who used to follow the progress of the world with so much intentness had not a word to say about the (p. 107) change in the Premiership of Great Britain, or any comment to offer on such momentous events as the overthrow of the Tsardom in Russia, and the entry into the war of the United States of America. He was either too absorbed in his new duties to continue his old habit of observation and comment, or else his gaze was now turned otherwhere, and he was following the gleam.
A few weeks before his death I wrote to him suggesting that, as he was then twenty-one, a joint banking account in his name and my own might now be transferred to him so that he would have the money under his own control. His reply was: "I have a large number of serious questions, coupled with much hard work, engrossing my attention at present and would prefer to leave all subsidiary matters severely alone." This letter was a sign, and not the only one, that he was liberating himself from mundane ties.
Brother officers have told me of my son's happiness in the Tank Corps. His youthful love of engines had returned in full measure. For his Tank—a "male," carrying Lewis guns and two six-pounders—he had a positive affection, and would spend hours pottering about it after his crew had knocked off for the day. Captain Gates, M.C., who had charge of the section to which Paul's Tank belonged and who was wounded in the battle in which my son was killed, came to see us in London in September. From him we had a full account of the last three months of Paul's life. Among other things, Captain Gates spoke of his joie de vivre, infectious gaiety, hearty appetite, liberal contributions to the mess funds. Paul, he said, was the life and soul of the section. When they were out of the battle-line he used to begin his day by a plunge in the adjacent river. He would come into breakfast looking radiant, and even then was ready for a frolic. "Some of us would be a bit down at times," said Captain Gates, "but Paul never. (p. 108) He was always merry. He had immense strength. In frolicsome moods he would lift a brother officer in his arms like a child, hold him helpless, and then drop him gently on the ground; but it took three or four of us to get him down. To see him come down a village in his Tank was a sight; his gaiety was so great, and he had a shout or a greeting for every passer-by. A braver boy I have never met; he was quite calm and unruffled under shell-fire. If anything, he was too keen. He always wanted to be in the danger zone, and was most eager to get into personal touch with the Boches. I told Major Haslam that whenever Paul would be in battle it would be a case of the V.C. or death; for him there could be no medium course. On the morning of 31st July, when he was thrilling at the prospect of the coming attack, I said to him before we set out: 'Now, don't be too rash; remember that the lives of your crew are in your keeping.' Unfortunately he was killed quite early in the fight by a sniper's bullet. His death cast a gloom over the whole company. In our own mess we shall miss him dreadfully."
On New Year's Day, 1918, Gunner Phillips, of "C" Battalion, Tank Corps, called at our house in London, and told us a great deal about Paul from the standpoint of the men in the battalion. Mr. Phillips, a young craftsman of high intelligence, spoke with intense affection of our son, whom he knew almost from the first day Paul joined the Tanks. He said: "Lieutenant Paul Jones was sociable and most considerate. He was a grand officer and treated his men like brothers. He would never ask the men to do what he would not do himself. The result was that we would all have done anything for him. There are a few rough chaps in our battalion—men who know the guard-room—but even these yielded gladly to his influence, and liked him very much. No officer in the battalion was so loved and (p. 109) respected by the men. One day last summer, when a number of Tanks had assembled in a wood, our whereabouts were discovered by the Germans, who at daybreak simply peppered the place with shells. The order was given to go to the dug-outs. Lieut. Jones, aroused from sleep, came out half-dressed, but he was as cool as if he was on parade, and insisted on every man going into the dug-outs before he himself would take shelter. His merry spirits made him a great favourite with us all. My own relations with him were particularly cordial, because I was a Welshman and an athlete."
It was comforting to have these accounts at first-hand of our son's unalloyed happiness in the last seven months of his life. Countless brave men, gifted and simple, eminent and obscure, have sacrificed their lives in this War, none with more complete self-surrender than Paul Jones. In War as in Peace, he bore himself like Wordsworth's "Happy Warrior."
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
But who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for humankind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a man inspired.
Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray,
Who, not content that former Worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast:
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame
And leave a dead, unprofitable name—
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause:
And while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause.[Back to Contents]
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves.
Shakespeare: "Measure for Measure."
Man he loved
As man; and, to the mean and the obscure
And all the homely in their homely works,
Transferred a courtesy which had no air
A kind of radiant joy
Diffused around him.
Wordsworth: "The Prelude."
Paul Jones was a prodigious worker. What he accomplished in his brief life is proof that he did not waste his time. He had an abnormal capacity for prolonged exertion, whether at work or at play. Such was the vigour of his physical frame that he was usually fresh even at the end of a hard-fought game of football. In fact, he hardly knew what physical fatigue was; and only once, when he was suffering from a chill, and had to sit for his senior scholarship examination, do I recollect his exhibiting any sign of mental fag. He found rest in change of employment. Athletic exercises were a natural antidote to his strenuous intellectual work; and music lifted him into the region of pure emotion and soothed his soul with the concord of sweet sounds.
Paul Jones in his 19th Year.
Though he had read widely and reflected much on human life and destiny, he wore his culture as lightly as a flower. Even after he had left college, he retained the sunny outlook, the gladsomeness and the bloom of boyhood. Wherever he went he carried with him an (p. 111) atmosphere of joy. Fresh ingenuousness and glowing enthusiasm were part of his charm. There was a rich vein of the romantic in his character, but the cast of his mind was philosophical. He had no patience with superficiality masquerading as wisdom, and was quick to detect a fallacy in reasoning. A shining trait in him was truthfulness. He would never compromise or palter with the truth, either by way of suppression, or exaggeration, or casuistical refinement. What Carlyle said of John Sterling applied with remarkable exactitude to Paul Jones: "True above all one may call him; a man of perfect veracity in thought, word and deed; there was no guile or baseness anywhere found in him. Transparent as crystal, he could not hide anything sinister if such there had been to hide."
Affectations in speech or manner, and what schoolboys call "side" or "swank," he abhorred. His free-ranging mind loved to explore and inquire, and he would not be hindered from questionings by the weight of any convention, or the force of any authority. He obeyed Emerson's maxim: "Speak as you think; be what you are." From the vice of envy he was entirely free. His generous spirit loved to praise others, and he was rather prone to self-depreciation. A lenient judge of the actions of other individuals, he was a stern and exacting critic of his own. He had a lofty sense of his personal duty and responsibility; and if ever, or in anything, he fell short of his self-prescribed standard he would, so to say, whip himself with cords. From his boyhood he was distinguished by an extreme conscientiousness. "His chastity of honour felt a stain like a wound." To him conscience was to be reverenced and obeyed as "God's most intimate presence in the soul, and His most perfect image in the world." He had a passionate hatred of injustice, and the very thought of cruelty to human beings or to dumb animals made him (p. 112) aflame with anger. A master or a games captain who allowed himself to be influenced by favouritism he despised. Naturally quick-tempered and impatient, he tried hard to curb these propensities, not always with success; but if he had wounded or wronged anybody, he was eager to atone. Quiet and self-contained in strange company, he was joyous and witty among kindred souls. His manners were cordial and considerate. Servants—how he hated the name!—adored him, and he was always at ease among the working-classes. He was essentially a man's man. To women his attitude was reverential, but he was shy and embarrassed in young feminine society. He used to say apologetically, "I have no small talk," and from the vacuity of the average drawing-room chatter he would silently steal away.
For religious dogmas he cared nothing, but he bowed in reverent homage before the Christ. From some marginal notes he has made on Froude's essay on Newman's "Grammar of Assent," I take these quotations: "After all, what matter what our dogmas if we really follow the example of great teachers like Christ, who had nothing to do with creeds or ritual?" "Every man should be his own priest." The Sermon on the Mount was his religion. One of his favourite Scriptural texts was the familiar one from the Epistle of St. James (i, 27): "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
Froude in one of his essays writes of the necessity for a campaign against administrative incapacity, against swindling and cheating, against drunkenness and uncleanliness, against hunger, squalor and misery. "Hear, hear," is Paul's comment; "this should be England's war." His tastes were extremely simple. (p. 113) He disliked luxurious modes of living, and really enjoyed roughing it. During his twenty-seven months in the Army he never uttered a complaint as to the conditions; discomfort and hardship seemed only to heighten his cheerfulness. He was a non-smoker, and virtually a teetotaller, but in France, when pure drinking water was unobtainable, he used to take wine at dinner. Though he set no store on money, he was so frugal in habit and spent so little on himself that he always had money at his command. Giving was a joy to him. Blest with perfect health, he was not absent from duty through indisposition for a single day in his two years' campaigning.
Paul had in eminent degree the gift of personality. There was something magnetic about him, and in any company he compelled attention. His whole being conveyed an impression of exuberant energy. Strength of will, serenity and good temper were expressed in his countenance. Wherever he went he attracted responsibility to himself. Sometimes the burden assigned to him was uncongenial; none the less, he would shoulder it manfully.
Except for the defect of short sight he was a splendid example of the mens sana in corpore sano. On one occasion, in 1911, returning from a visit to Canterbury Cathedral, we had as fellow-passenger in the train a medical practitioner of the old school with whom my wife and I had an agreeable conversation. I noted that from time to time he was closely observing Paul, then a boy of fifteen. Presently he asked him to stand up, passed his hands over his back and shoulders, tapped his chest, and noted his big bare knees. "Heavens!" exclaimed the old doctor, "what a magnificent boy! He will grow to be a glorious man. I have never seen such physique or such vitality." This expert opinion was borne out by our son's physical growth in the next (p. 114) three years. Athletic exercises assisted in the development of a physique that was naturally strong. In his nineteenth year he was six feet in height, and measured thirty-nine inches round the chest. He had exceptionally broad shoulders. Not an ounce of superfluous flesh weighed on the sinewy, supple frame. There was about him the fragrance, radiant vitality and ease of poise that are characteristic of the athlete in the pink of condition.
Though moulded on a big scale, he was very alert in movement, and had an easy swinging carriage. The head was large, hair rich and abundant, complexion fair, the face round and full, forehead high and spacious, cheeks ruddy with the glow of health, the mouth firm and kind, revealing when he smiled a perfect set of teeth; the aspect bold and noble; grey eyes shone like stars behind his gold-rimmed glasses. A smile of enchanting sweetness often played about the strong, handsome face. His voice had a caressing note; his laugh was loud, hearty and musical. Thanks to his abounding health, neither appetite nor sleep ever failed him. He had only to place his head on the pillow and sleep came to him on the instant, and he would not stir for eight or nine hours. As an infant he often slept twenty hours a day. This precious gift of sleep remained with him to the end; and in a letter to me in June, 1917, he humorously remarked that though not far away at the time, he slept undisturbed by the earth-rending explosion that preceded our capture of the Messines Ridge. His outstanding characteristic was massiveness—he was massive in physique, in intellect, in character. He had the ingenuous simplicity that is often associated with a big physical frame. In him a modest, unpretending nature was linked to a great soul. In judgment he was very sagacious, and for all his idealism there was a shrewd practical side to (p. 115) him. A boyish zest remained to the last one of his principal characteristics.
In the winter of 1916 we moved into a new house which my wife planned with special regard to the tastes of our two boys. Alas for these fond plannings! Paul never saw our new home, never worked in the pleasant library arranged specially for him, never entered the cosy little room garnished with his athletic trophies and adorned with those engravings of Beethoven and Wagner which he so much loved. His last visit home was in May, 1916. He declined leave at the end of 1916 from a fear that if he took it he might lose the opportunity of transferring from the A.S.C. The same spirit of devotion made him, when he was appointed to the Tank Corps, elect to be trained in France, instead of coming to England. I think that at last he almost dreaded taking leave lest a visit home might weaken his resolve to walk the sacrificial road. It was only after his death that we learnt from his brother officers in the 2nd Cavalry Brigade that he had often told them he was convinced he would not survive the War. That conviction seemed only to strengthen his determination to get into the fighting-line. A voice within told him his place was in the heart of the combat and he obeyed its monition with joyful alacrity. From the time he joined the Tank Corps a sort of divine content filled his soul.
Paul found and gave great happiness in his own home. Never moody or despondent, his sunny disposition made him like a glory in the house. He enjoyed nothing better than a frolic with his younger brother, of whom he was devotedly fond. A racy and witty talker, he loved an argument. Many a verbal joust he and I had together. Our views did not always concur. We differed in opinion on many matters, including our estimates of eminent men, alive and dead. For (p. 116) example, my son did not share my contempt for Rousseau; nor could I share his admiration for Frederick the Great and Napoleon, those ruffians of genius who wrought so much evil in the world. Paul, however, adored men of action, and he forgot the crimes and moral defects of Napoleon and Frederick in contemplating the splendour of their achievements. Austere though his own morals were, he nevertheless held that a man capable of great service to the State ought not to be debarred from performing it by his religious opinions or the lack of them, or by the nature of his private life. He felt that you must take genius on its own terms.
What Paul was to his mother and to me I dare not write. Let it suffice to say that no parents were ever blessed with a richer treasure. His love for us flowed through the channel of his being like a river singing on its way. How proud we were of his nobility of soul, his heroic temper, his many triumphs! Young as he was we found in him a firm stay and a sure support, and we felt ourselves more secure in life under the shelter of his strong and radiant personality. We had cherished high, and I hope not unworthy, hopes of his future—hopes which, but for the War, would assuredly have been fulfilled. He had not settled in his mind what profession he would adopt. Law attracted him once, then repelled him; and I strongly dissuaded him from Journalism. Politics had a fascination for him, but in no circumstances would he have become a professional politician, and he had resolved to earn an income independently. I am inclined to think that eventually he would have become a professor and a writer of history. Though it was a quality of his nature to do thoroughly whatever he put his hand to, he was not ambitious in the ordinary sense. He had no lust either for riches or fame. Duty, Honour, Service—these were his watchwords. His desire was to make his life (p. 117) worthy and gracious, and to use it in the service of humanity. That ideal he realised. If he had lived to old age he could not have made a greater thing of his life. Out of the warp and woof given to him by the Creator he has woven a noble and beautiful pattern. Words cannot express what his loss means to us. God alone knows the desolation of our hearts. But Paul has left us glorious and inspiring memories and we know he has gone to his reward. We feel, too, that though absent from us in the body, he is with us in the spirit. His mother and I, after the first stunning effect of our grief was passing, compared notes about our inner experiences, and we found that the image of our beloved son in our eyes was the same: Paul looking divinely happy, standing before us with that enchanting smile we knew so well, and cheerily enjoining us to "Carry on; carry on!"
Our love involves the love before;
Our love is vaster passion now;
Tho' mix'd with God and Nature thou,
We seem to love thee more and more.
Far off thou art, but ever nigh;
We have thee still and we rejoice;
We prosper, circled with thy voice;
We shall not lose thee tho' we die.
A few weeks after Paul was killed I opened a volume of Froude's "Short Studies." Our son's early death lends significance and pathos to passages he has marked in this book. Froude, in the essay on "England's Forgotten Worthies," speaking of honoured old age—"beautiful as the slow-dropping mellow autumn of a rich glorious summer"—says: "It is beautiful, but not the most beautiful." Then comes the following sentence which Paul has heavily underscored:
(p. 118) There is another life, hard, rough, and thorny, trodden with bleeding feet and aching brow; the life of which the Cross is the symbol; a battle which no peace follows this side of the grave; which the grave gapes to finish before the victory is won; and—strange that it should be so—this is the highest life of man.
Our son has written on the margin, "The best kind of life that of constant struggle." Froude goes on to refer to the work in the sixteenth century of the servants of England, whose life was a long battle, either with the elements or with men, and who passed away content when God had nothing more to bid them do. The following passages are again underlined:
They did not complain, and why should we complain for them?... An honourable death had no terrors for them.
"Seeing," in Humphrey Gilbert's own brave words, "that death is inevitable and the fame of virtue is immortal, wherefore in this behalf mutare vel timere sperno."
Paul's marginal note to this is, "Compare Browning's 'Prospice.'" I turn to "Prospice" and I read:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
And with God be the rest![Back to Contents]
Paul as a Subaltern in the A.S.C.
(From a Photograph by his Brother)
From April 15, 1915, to July 26 in the same year Second Lieutenant H. P. M. Jones was employed at a home port which was, and is, one of the principal centres of supply for the British Expeditionary Force. He was glad of the opportunity of obtaining an insight into the methods of supplying the British Army in the field, and was impressed with the thoroughness, efficiency, and businesslike promptitude of the Army Service Corps. He took the earliest chance of quitting this routine work and applying for service abroad.
May 15th, 1915.
You London folk seem to have been having high times with the enemy aliens. It is quite startling and quite pleasant to see English people roused to do things at last. I see from the photos in the papers that the rioting was done for a great part by men of fighting age who ought to be in the Army. It stands to reason that it is always the dregs of the population who show their patriotism by this sort of behaviour. Still, it is refreshing to see someone taking some sort of action. Everybody here is cursing the Government for its remissness with regard to Germans and Austrians resident in this country. There are exceptions, such as Germans who have absorbed the British spirit, but, generally speaking, Germans, even if naturalised, must retain their patriotic feelings towards their Fatherland, and the patriotic (p. 122) German is, of course, England's enemy. Therefore he will try his best to do us all the harm he can.
Personally I think we ought to take stern action in regard to the internment of all Germans in this country. My argument is not based on trivial ideas of retaliation or punishment, but it is based on facts such as the following: (a) I am a Britisher, Britain is fighting; so I fight for Britain and wish to see her everywhere victorious: (b) In Nature the strongest survive and the weaker go to the wall, and in this war Britain must prove herself either the stronger or the weaker: (c) Our policy must be guided by the idea of proving ourselves the stronger in deeds, not words—not by talk of justice or right, because invariable universal abstract standards of justice and right never existed, and never will exist, in this world. The ideal never was anything but a dream—that is why the poet can never be a politician, and vice versa. We must not let sentimental considerations stand between us and victory. Sounds just like a German talking, doesn't it? Yes, I do agree with the German point of view—except as regards frightfulness, which is really folly and does not achieve its end—but I transfer the point of view to England. Why should England allow any rival to stand in her way? In any case, are we not the world's greatest political people and the best colonisers? Leave the realms of Art to the other nations if you like—England never will be artistic, I fear—but Art is not politics. Politics—I mean primarily foreign policy—signifies the adaptation of a nation to environment of time, place and circumstance, and it is that which is the ruling fact of life.
I am now quite converted to the doctrine of facts. Though passionately idealistic in many respects, I realise that the Facts of life are in cruel but deadly opposition to the Ideals of life, and that while the Ideal remains a dream the cruel Fact remains the reality.
(p. 123) This pseudo-philosophy arises from my having read Arnold Bennett's article in to-day's Daily News, and also from a perusal of Hudson's "Herbert Spencer." Bennett is just an idealist, but in dealing with those cruel realities of which I have spoken, he seems to me a child. Any attempt to dissociate the acts of the German Government from the views of the German people—in other words to assume that a great part of the latter want peace—is absurd. Look at France in 1870. When the Second Empire was overthrown and the Third Republic set up in its place, did the Republicans seek peace? No, they proceeded to prosecute the war to the utmost and tried to drive the invader off the soil of France. And even if in this war a succession of defeats should overthrow the German Kaiser and his Government, do you think the Germans would submit forthwith, and throw themselves on the mercy of the Allies? No, they will fight to the last man, woman and child to prevent the Rhine being crossed. So we should realise that, for our own safety's sake, we must reduce the German military forces to a position of helplessness—in fact, utterly destroy them, if we are to have any settlement. It is Germany or ourselves; and till one or the other is up or down, the war will go on.
To crush the Germans we must put every ounce into the struggle. Are we doing so? I cannot think it when I see Parliament taking such a disgraceful line on the question of drink. Small wonder that Lloyd George exclaims, "What an ignoble spectacle the House of Commons presents now!" I had thought the British Parliament to be a great and potent institution. Now I think it is a convocation of old apple women. What we want is a Cromwell or a Napoleon to knock together the heads of political parties and declare, "No more drink." What will history say when it is recorded that in the midst of this great struggle the British people refused (p. 124) to give up the drink that was poisoning their lives and hindering the work of the nation, and that the influence of a few brewers and capitalists was sufficient to prevent any serious reform being passed in that House which is supposed to be the people's representative?
As for the recent anti-German riots, they seem to me to have been organised by those slack loafing elements of the population who lounge about refusing to enlist. Still, I suppose this is a necessary product of our type of national civilisation. Yet that system—the English or insular, I call it—has done, as it will do, marvels. So perhaps all is for the best, but I am grieved beyond measure at the collapse of L. G.'s scheme for drastic treatment of the drink evil. He at least is a man.
Do you realise what a fine part amateur sportsmen are playing in this war? I really doubt if there will be many great athletes left if things go on as they are doing. On the same day I read that Poulton-Palmer and R. A. Lloyd are gone. Only last year, I remember seeing those two as Captains of England and Ireland respectively, shaking hands with each other and with the King at the great Rugby Football match at Twickenham. I see news is to hand also of the death in action of A. F. Wilding, a great athlete who neither drank nor smoked. So in three days we have lost the most brilliant and versatile centre three-quarter in Poulton, the cleverest drop-kick in the world in Lloyd, and the world's champion tennis-player in Wilding!
June 6th, 1915.
Lloyd George in his two last speeches has said more than anyone else during the war. He is an extraordinary man, and at his greatest when rallying the workers. I see that the Tory Press is enthusiastic about him, and also about Winston Churchill's speech of yesterday. L. G.'s remark that "conscription is not undemocratic" (p. 125) has set a new train of thought stirring in this country. Up to now, in the view of the average Englishman, democracy and conscription had been set at opposite poles. Personally I am not exactly a democrat, an aristocrat, a monarchist, a socialist, or a constitutionalist, but a sort of combination of them all, and a firm believer in the Will to Power and in the Strong Man. But the point is that England certainly inclines to democracy—meaning by democracy laissez-faire. Hence what is needed in a crisis like this is to bring into operation a system which, while partaking of a democratic nature, and so not being repugnant to the national type (as developed by geography, circumstance and history) may yet bring into play the advantages of military training and national organisation. If you can persuade the stolid Englishman to adopt a sort of semi-voluntary military system, which is voluntary or appears so to him, yet puts him under discipline, well then you have an ideal system for England to win this war by. Of course, there is an alternative scheme, namely, for some man of outstanding personality to come along and say, "Look here, I am master, and by my force of character I will compel you to bow to a system which I know to be good for you and which will in the end benefit you." Lloyd George might be even such a man—a Cæsar, a Charlemagne, a Cromwell, or a Napoleon.
But I confess that this amazing English race is hard to bend, even when a man of outstanding personality arises. Did not Oliver himself—a superman if ever there was one—fail in his efforts to make better those whom he ruled? Still, as Goethe says, "Personality makes the man," and perhaps even in England a great man might force our stubborn nation to his will. But I confess I doubt it. Besides, I fear the system would break down as soon as the immediate need for it had vanished. We must have regard to the evolution of our (p. 126) type of race-species when trying to frame measures for its advance to victory over another type of race-species, for the simple reason that, if we do not, the system we are trying to set up will remain in the air, and never come to anything until the people have become sufficiently educated in our way of thinking to accept such a scheme. It seems to me that you could never make a British Army on a German model, or a German Army on a British model, because of the difference between the types of the two nations—the only exception being where you have a superman with a wonderful mind and personality to plan the pattern and enforce its adoption.
Our problem in England is to organise the very individualistic British race without letting them imagine that they are being organised. This sounds like the problem about the irresistible force up against the insurmountable obstacle. But seriously if you have followed my train of thought you will agree with me that what is wanted is to frame a system of military service and national organisation which yet conforms to the national predilection in favour of laissez-faire. This would not be so difficult if there were two or three centuries to do it in; the difficulty is that we must do it at once. Perhaps it is impossible; perhaps the influence of our insular environment will be too strong ever to allow a general military system to grow up here—I don't know, but I hope not. Anyway, it is Lloyd George to whom we look to turn the wheels, because he has personality and that almost uncanny Celtic gift of seeing into the future.
Is it not clear that the Germans have developed to the full a system of organisation in harmony with their national character? Geography has rendered necessary to them a certain type of national policy, and I consider their methods were the only possible ones for them, (p. 127) though they badly needed a clever diplomatist to deceive Europe in these latter years. Now Bismarck, if he had lived until to-day, would probably have secured for Germany a leading place, not by directly fighting England—who is, of course, the natural rival of Germany—the old story of the first and the second boy in the class—but by embroiling her at some suitable moment with other Powers. Then, when all would have been weakened by the war, Germany would step in and take the spoils. Fortunately for us the Prussian is a thoroughly bad diplomatist; and he has preferred open force to policy. Last year the Germans really played their cards astoundingly badly. Did we? Well, in one sense, yes, in that we failed to have a force ready to give the Germans a swift blow as soon as they ventured on an invasion of Belgium. On the other hand, no, because Edward Grey, acting openly, and in accordance with British traditions, yet succeeded by some extraordinary means in duping our enemies and making them rush into a war never expecting that we would participate in it. By accident Grey blundered into a marvellous stroke of diplomacy. Of course, we know that all his actions were governed by an honest desire to preserve peace, but the facts show that he really deceived the Germans more than Machiavelli would have done. (The Prussian, in the average, is very prone to misunderstand his enemy.) The Germans thought we would not come in; we did come in, just when they were not expecting it; in effect, that was a master-stroke. Where we failed was that we were not ourselves ready with an adequate force. Though we strangled German commerce at sea and helped to save France, we were deficient in many elements of an army, and are still woefully so. That is the natural result of insularity.
Now if through the folly of Ministers we lose this great chance of settling with our rival, we shall be (p. 128) cutting our own throats. You see, I have led you, by a devious path, back to the old problem—the necessity for organising England to win this war and to establish her national type as supreme. We must take any and every step necessary to set this great nation of ours even higher than it stands now. Some nation must be political leader of the international polity; why not England, whose extraordinary colonising and governing ability is so well known? I am tired to death of talk about "crushing militarism" and of wild dreams of "a union of small States." If you want to see the latter process in operation, look at the normal state of the Balkans! States may have all the "rights" in the world, but if they are not strong enough in a political and military sense, they will never be able to maintain them. Since England—great and wise nation that she is!—has the sense to use her power benignantly, what harm would there be if she were to assert it over weaker national organisms, as man has done over the beasts? This would certainly not be possible without repeated wars. Subject nations may be treated as easily and as freely as you like when under our sway, but they must be conquered first, and we must keep our power over them even though it is hidden.
But I am dreaming myself now, for there is nothing eternal in Nature except conflict and change; and as our Empire grew, so, I fear, it must some day decay. Evolution is no respecter of persons. Anyway it is our duty to postpone that day of decline as long as we can. In my view England's claims are above all others. Our Allies are just so much use to us as we can make of them. They, too, have their national ambitions and interests, and, of course, if these clashed with ours, they would go off on their own. I blame them not at all. It is as well, however, to be prepared for contingencies. For example, four or five sparrows will combine to attack (p. 129) a larger bird which has a piece of bread. As soon as they get the bread the sparrows themselves begin to squabble for its possession; and perhaps two or three will set on the one that has hold of it and force him to give it up. Such is Nature—a theatre of vast, unceasing conflict. Men and nations all come under the great immutable law.
July 19th, 1915.
This coal strike in South Wales is a baffling business. As usual, English lack of system is to blame. The Government ought to have taken over all the mines, as they did the railways, right at the start of the war. But laissez-faire said "No." Now see the result. Undoubtedly men, employers and Government are all to blame—the Government for not organising the system and failing to stop the increased profits of the owners due to the rise in prices; the owners for taking those profits and making all sorts of unkept promises during the past year about meeting the men to discuss what should be done with war profits; and the men because they are imperilling the whole fate of the Navy for the sake of a few more pence a day, and for failing to show that generosity of spirit which they ought to exhibit in a national crisis like this. What gives the lie to those critics who denounce the unpatriotic conduct of the miners is the astounding proportion of recruits from the affected areas, and the fact that thousands of strikers have sons, brothers and other relatives in the trenches. The whole thing is almost a judgment on English haphazard methods, though I know those methods are only the product of our insular position. After all, we fought Napoleon with almost a revolution going on in Ireland. And do you remember the Six Acts? So history repeats itself.
The Germans are still astounding the world. This (p. 130) move on Russia will, I think, be ranked by military historians in the future as one of the most immense things in the story of the war—a parallel, but on a far larger scale, with the French and our own advance from the Marne to the Aisne. Unfortunately, I am afraid the Germans will be more successful than we were on that occasion—for we only drove them back 20 or 30 miles, but the Germans now seem to be menacing two great cities, half a dozen first-class fortresses, and four vital railway lines. There is no doubt that they, at least, are not playing at war. And to think that it should be Wales that may be half-crippling the Navy when we are matched with such a foe! If the Navy fails, then Heaven help us! I don't think we can lose even now, but I doubt now if Germany can lose. It may be 1793-1815 over again!
Don't imagine that economics end war. Nations can easily do without trade if they will. To win a war, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, you have to beat the enemy's forces decisively in the field and put large bodies of his troops permanently out of action, or capture important tracts of territory such as corn land or mining districts, without which he cannot wage the war. Nothing has done us more harm than all this talk about "attrition." People say, "Oh, it's all right, we can strangle Germany by means of our Navy, and only time is wanted." As a matter of fact, Germany is so well prepared by environment, history, and her own endeavours for such a war that were Berlin itself in our hands, I would not like to say we should have won. Berlin has in the past been entered by the enemy, and yet the Germans have defeated their foes. Look at Frederick the Great—he won his wars with half his own country in the enemy's hands. Make no mistake, we shall have to cut the German Army to pieces if we are to win. And we shall not succeed, at least not for any (p. 131) practical purpose, unless we put every man into his right place to win the war. We want the shell-makers at home, the soldiers in the field, the mere politician on the scrap-heap, and capable men at the head of affairs. There must be no more of this muddling War Office policy, no more of this defective control of vital industries and these scandalous deficiencies in equipment.[Back to Contents]
On July 27, 1915, Paul Jones left Waterloo Station for service abroad. Shortly after his arrival in France he was ordered to proceed to the Headquarters of the 9th Cavalry Brigade (1st Cavalry Division), having been appointed Requisitioning Officer to the Brigade. His thorough knowledge of French was the determining factor in securing him this appointment, a very responsible one for a youth of 19.
August 5th, 1915.
At length a chance to write a letter home. I seem to have been travelling for weeks, and I had no time for anything but hasty postcards. My address may not convey much geographically, but I will take the risk of saying that I am very far up country, and—which of course pleases me immensely—not many miles from the real Front. My work involves a great deal of French conversation and much riding and motoring. I am, in fact, a Requisitioning Officer, a title which almost explains itself.
The journey up from the base seemed absolutely endless, but was never lacking in interest, so much was there to see. The glorious spirits of our men would be a lesson to the Jeremiahs at home. Never had I expected, never could I believe possible, that such a (p. 132) wonderfully jovial spirit could prevail among men going to certain danger and hardship and possible death. I saw a lot of Welshmen on the way, and wherever one met them they were singing in those gloriously rich Welsh voices.
How kind-hearted our soldiers are I realised on my journey up. Frequently alongside the railway line were groups of French kiddies shouting, "Souvenirs!" "Souvenirs!" In response our fellows were chucking out to them from the train all sorts of things, bully beef, bread, biscuits, etc., and laughing and chatting at the windows. What a diversity of tongues and accents among our soldiers! Cockney, Lancashire, Scotch, Welsh and West Country were easily recognisable. For cheerfulness and kindness you will never match the British Tommy.
I don't see so very much difference between the new and the old France, except for the greater number of uniforms; the same gay old café-life goes on as always.
Only four out of the fifteen A.S.C. officers who left London on Monday last came up-country, and I was one of the four. Eureka! also Banzai! There ought to be a chance of some excitement, anyhow. I am in glorious health and spirits and feel very pleased with life. Isn't it fine that my desire to be really close to the thick of things should be so fully gratified? Tell Hal I had two delightful swims at the base.
August 9th, 1915.
My mare is temporarily hors de combat with a cut on the hock. This is a nuisance, as I have now to rely on the hospitality of other officers in lending me either their horses or their motor-cars, or, alternatively, go about on a push-bike when I have to travel far afield, which happens almost daily. Before the week is out I am expecting to go right up into the firing-line. One (p. 133) is astounded at the off-hand manner in which officers who have been in the trenches take the most hair-raising adventures. An artillery officer was telling us to-day with the utmost sang-froid of the difficulty he and his comrades had in eating their dinner when poison-gas was blowing about. The gas made their eyes water to such a degree that everybody at the mess seemed to be weeping bitterly. He also told us that for a long time they had had no need of réveillé, as the Boches had a habit of dropping a Jack Johnson near by every morning at 6.15 punctually. In the short time I have been out here I have been struck with the glorious English coolness and the steadfast refusal to get flurried that marks all our tribe.
In our relations with the inhabitants of the countryside we show consideration and strict honesty. Every bit of damage done is compensated, every blade of grass is paid for, although necessarily we have first to investigate the validity of claims for damage. The whole thing is very characteristic of British integrity. I am going very strong and gradually getting the hang of my work, which is decidedly interesting.
We had a remarkable concert the other night. The whole thing—stage, paints, wigs, orchestra, curtains, scenery, everything—was got up by the 1st Cavalry Division Supply Column, and most of the performers were A.S.C. men. The most popular vocalist turned up on his own, however, viz. Captain the Maclean, of Lochbuie (of the 19th Hussars), who is quite an artist in his way. This gay, debonair Scotsman is simply worshipped by the men. One of the latter (himself holding the D.C.M. and the French Médaille Militaire for conspicuous bravery at Landrecies) told me Maclean was the bravest man he had ever seen; he is always at the head of a rush whether on horseback or on foot, and invariably goes into action with a hunting-crop.
(p. 134) A French Territorial Infantry Regiment marched into the town yesterday. They all wore the new grey uniform that is superseding the red trousers and blue tunics of the old days. Quite an interesting spectacle! But for sheer beauty you should see our cavalry on the move. A wonderful sight, I assure you, even without all the gay accoutrements of the Military Tournament. In fact, to my mind, the field-dress makes the affair even more impressive. The horses are simply beauties, and every one of them is in perfect condition.
I have met an old Bedfordian among the cavalry. We have had many a chat comparing notes as to the past, especially in regard to the fierce-fought struggles of old between Bedford and the Blue-and-Blacks. We hope to get some sort of Rugger up when the winter comes, though of course a very great proportion of the cavalry officers are men from Eton, Harrow, Winchester and other schools where, I regret to say, the game of games is not played! They will have to be taught.
August 13th, 1915.
A lot of cavalry men are up trench-digging and I have had my first experience of being up really close to the firing-line. It doesn't take one long to get from here to the thick of things, and we were soon apprised of the fact by heavy and ponderous crashes. Just above us a British aeroplane was winging its flight towards the German lines. Presently one saw small flashes of flame in the air all around it, followed by curious little puffs of smoke; then came the sound of exploding shells; you know that light travels faster than sound. The Boches were potting at the 'plane. However, the British airman was easily able to clear away. After this, a Taube came in our direction and our artillery was having pots at it. Pursued by two British 'planes the Taube (p. 135) turned tail and skedaddled, passing exactly over our car. I wonder it didn't buzz a bomb at us, for the road was crowded with cars, lorries, waggons, and columns of marching soldiers. But it didn't, and went off as fast as it could lick.
We soon reached a village which, during the previous day, had been subjected to a mild bombardment. The results even of a few shells were staggering. A large number of the houses and the village church were shattered into atoms; nothing left but heaps of bricks, with here and there a wall standing amid the débris. To me it was a remarkable spectacle, though my companions assured me that this village was in a positively palatial condition compared to other places farther up. Just as we reached the troops we were destined for, an appalling crash rent the air, and went echoing away like a peal of thunder. It was the British heavy artillery at work, though we couldn't see any batteries. Meanwhile the Boches were aiming at our aeroplanes which were flying above us continually. Amid all this our fellows were quite unmoved, and an exciting game of Soccer was in progress, every successful effort being cheered to the echo by the soldier spectators. And that, mind, though only last night the Boches put twenty-eight of our men out of action not far from this very spot, landing three shells on top of them at midnight, killing one and wounding twenty-seven others, not to mention several horses.
Our route now lay along a road roughly parallel to the firing-lines, and only a few miles behind them. We passed several camps, where all sorts of regiments were quartered. Then we came to quite a big town, which was packed with lorries and field ambulances, and with columns of British soldiers, always cheerful, though in many cases much fatigued. Finally we came back to our quarters. To me the whole experience (p. 136) was most interesting and exciting, and I am eagerly looking forward to a repetition of it. Next time I shall go right up to the real centre of things. It is great to be so near the scrapping, and I only hope a chance of real fighting does come my way. Anyhow, I am ready to do my duty, whatever it may be.
Well, the Germans have got that Petrograd-Warsaw railway. Apparently some people anticipate an advance on Petrograd itself. The war is assuming a phase very like that of the Napoleonic struggles. I hope 1812 repeats itself, but candidly I don't think that the Boches will put their heads into the lion's mouth by risking an advance into Russia with winter coming on.
To his Brother
August 18th, 1915.
I am very busy, but my work is becoming more and more interesting, and I am about in the open air almost all the time. To-day I have had a twenty-mile horse-ride. My little mare ran like clockwork. She is a gem of a horse. I am hoping also to get some motor driving. There is no speed limit here. Talk about express trains! No; Rugby football is not much appreciated by the 9th Brigade. Cavalry officers swear by polo. To see them play a polo match is a sheer delight, for they are the best horsemen in the world.
Many men of our Cavalry Division are at present employed in making a reserve line of trenches some distance behind the real article. Our own brigade is digging vigorously in the grounds of a fine old château. The Supply Officer and I, as his understudy, go up continually in a car conveying special supplies and to do various other duties. The château grounds are well within enemy gun range, and most of the neighbouring buildings have been blown to atoms. Yesterday the first news that greeted us from the (p. 137) trench-diggers was that they had been bombarded that morning by gas shells, among other pleasant surprises. While we were pursuing our duties I heard a boom, followed by a long, sighing screech, then a violent crash about fifty yards off. It was a German shell. Another and yet another followed. Suddenly an R.A.M.C. man came running up to fetch a stretcher—someone had been knocked out. As the nearest man at hand I joined him in carrying the stretcher, and we doubled our fastest for the trees where the first shot had pitched. We found that an R.A.M.C. man had been struck above the ankle by a piece of shrapnel. The wound was small, but deep and ugly, and the leg was broken. The poor chap was in terrible pain. We conveyed him as carefully as we could to the field ambulance. There had been other casualties hereabouts in the morning.
More and more shells, and then a lull. After this exhibition of afternoon hate, we took tea with some officers of the 15th Hussars in a tent in the château grounds. It was a delicious meal, and was not interrupted, though enemy shells from time to time shot over our heads and exploded some distance away in the woods behind. The ineffectiveness of the enemy shelling was greeted every time there was an explosion by cat-calls, shouts and whistling on the part of our imperturbable soldiers. Then the enemy diverted his guns to a village through which our return road ran. On our approaching this place we found our way barred by military policemen, who informed us the traffic was temporarily held up, and that we would have to seek our destination by another and a more devious route. Looking back, one is amused at the nonchalance of this tea in the open with the Hussar officers, while German missiles were shooting over our heads and crashing to earth a couple of hundred yards (p. 138) away. Had the enemy shortened the range we should all have gone up among the little birds.
Did you see that splendid joke in Punch—an old man talking to a very badly wounded Irish soldier swathed in bandages from head to foot? The former says, "This is a terrible war, isn't it, my man?" Pat replies, "Yes, sorr, it is that; a rale tirrible war. But faith! 'tis better than no war at all." Capital, and so deliciously Irish!
August 23rd, 1915.
Excessively busy days these—out sometimes from nine in the morning till about ten at night, often missing meals perforce. A few days back I was in the city whose name practically sums up the character of British fighting—Ypres. Never have I seen such a picture of desolation. Not a house standing; only skeletons of buildings, shattered walls, and gaping window openings, from which all vestige of glass has long since disappeared. The Church and the Cloth Hall are simply piles of débris. To walk along the streets is like a kind of nightmare, even when the Boches are not indulging in a spell of hate against the place. Talk of Pompeii—why, this puts it quite among the "also-rans." What a pathetic spectacle to see a whole city in ruins! Stupefaction and sadness at the wholesale destruction is my impression of this melancholy ruin of an historic town.
Having seen my rations delivered to our regiments, I and my companions (two Hussar officers) visited a battery of 5-inch howitzers at work not far off, through the medium of a friendly Artillery officer. Their headquarters have been amazingly lucky in not being hit up to date. They told us that there was going to be great "strafing" that night, that the Boches were very good gunners, but that they and the French sometimes (p. 139) became quarrelsome and loosed off at each other like fury for a short time, both sides doing very little real damage. As we were chatting a long whistle-blast betokened the presence of a Taube, and our companions quickly dragged us out of sight into a dug-out, lest the enemy airman should spot men about and send back the range. You must understand that the guns are so concealed that it is almost impossible to see them even when you know where they are located. After the aerial visitor cleared off, we had a great tea, with all the ground about us shaking to the reverberation of the battery discharges. Presently a long-drawn-out screech in the distance, and a fearful crash in the middle distance. "That's Percy again!" said the Artillery officer. We found that "Percy" is the name for a German 17-incher, which frequently drops shells ten miles behind our lines. The smallest crater made by his shells would accommodate a locomotive engine with ease. "Percy" is no doubt "some gun," as the Yankees would say. It was a curious sensation to walk about the fields with shells from both sides flying over one's head. Some gas shells had been discharged that day, and the air in places was quite heavy with the odour of them—not unpleasant to smell, but most mephitic, and apt to make your eyes water.
Whom do you think I met on the main road up to-day? None other than Reggie Lloyd, who was one of my best pals at Dulwich. Our car was moving very fast and overtook his. I stopped and jumped out, and we exchanged a firm handshake and a few words before we had to be moving on again "in the cause of duty." He is a second lieutenant in the R.E., and looked thundering fit. To-day I saw him again. On this occasion he was moving about fifty miles an hour on a motor-bike, and we only had time for a (p. 140) hand-wave as we passed. What a thrill to meet an old pal like that out here in the fire zone!
August 28th, 1915.
To go up the road from here to the firing-line is a great experience. You see, as you pass along, all the multifarious items of army organisation—long lines of lorries, horsed-wagons, limbers, guns, columns of marching men, motor-cars by the score, French soldiers, British soldiers, aeroplanes spinning merrily overhead—truly a wonderful spectacle. You have no conception of the abominable state of the main roads out here. The pavé road, peculiar to these parts, is always a bone-shaker at the best of times, but now, after the passage of so much heavy traffic, it is simply appalling. A curious feature is the extraordinary straightness of the main roads, down which you can literally see for miles. The by-roads, on the other hand, seem to abound in right-angled turns, and it is not an easy matter to drive a car along at any considerable rate of speed.
My knowledge of French has come in very useful indeed, but for these outlying country districts a knowledge of Flemish would be even more valuable. Many persons about here speak not one word of French, and Flemish is almost always used by the people en famille. It is a kind of mixture of low German and middle English. I can usually get at people's meanings, and even make them understand mine, by a jargon embracing sometimes words from Chaucer and sometimes a little German. Listening to the language when spoken one is reminded of rather nasal Welsh. There is a distinct resemblance between the general sound of Welsh and Flemish in conversation.
These parts constitute one of the most Catholic (p. 141) districts in Europe; the people are quite as devout as those of the south of Ireland. Wherever you go on the roads you are confronted with shrines—little structures with an altar, holy images, etc., that can be seen through a glass window barred across with slender pieces of iron. Above the door is an admonition urging the passer-by to stop and say an "Ave" or a "Pater." All the dedications to saints and the Virgin are in Latin. For example, this is a very common heading for a shrine, "Ave, Maria, gratiæ plena." I have also seen shrines dedicated to some of those old chaps that Dad is so interested in—Antony of Padua, Francis of Assisi, etc. All over the place you meet, stuck in boxes with glass fronts and mounted on poles, tiny waxen images of various saints, or Christ on the Cross, the Virgin Mary, etc., etc. When a native comes to one of these shrines or images, he pulls off his hat, crosses himself, repeats a prayer, and passes on, probably confident that his sins are forgiven. Everybody goes to Mass at the church of his commune at seven o'clock each morning, and often in the evening as well—on Sunday about three times. Church spires are about the only landmarks in this very flat and rather uninteresting country. The towers vary between the square and the spire. The church itself is always large and quite imposing. You don't see churches of anything like the same size in English villages of corresponding population. A common sight as you ride along these roads is to see the curé, dressed in a long black surtout and a huge wide-brimmed hat just like "Don Bartola," the music-master in the opera of Il Barbiere de Siviglia. The curé gravely salutes you as you pass by, "Bon jour, mon ami!"
I am billeted with very decent folk, extremely devout Catholics. The old man is the secretary to the Mayor. He spends his spare time learning English, and can (p. 142) read an English newspaper quite well. My room is of the kind I like—plain, with two huge windows opening like folding-doors, and only a tiny carpet to attract the dust; the rest clean, bare boards. In the room are two waxen images, one of the Virgin and Child, and one of Christ carrying a child in His arms; also a waxen model in a case of glass of the Virgin and Child, besides no fewer than three crucifixes. This is only characteristic of the whole village: every room I've seen hereabouts seems crowded with images. There are lots of these images, chipped and smashed, lying about the streets of Ypres. I suppose where you are at present [Scotland] everybody is a Presbyterian and very much against all ritual. There is at least this resemblance between Scot and Flemish: they both call the church "kirk" or "kerque." It is rather amusing to think that, according to the ideas of some English Churchmen, both Scottish Presbyterian and Flemish Catholic are lost for ever; while the Baptist of Llanelly is equally convinced that all three of them are; and each imagines the other to be hopelessly wrong. The war has this advantage: that it cuts athwart of all such ridiculous distinctions—for have we not among the Allies English Churchmen and Nonconformists, Catholics, Mohammedans, Hindus and secular Frenchmen, all fighting on the one side against another side which includes Catholics, Protestants and Mohammedans? I say what matter what a man believes if he does his duty?
The last two or three days I have spent in more or less local work, meaning by that districts within about ten miles of headquarters. I have been in the saddle all day, from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M., the only interval being for lunch. Riding is glorious sport. I don't think I shall ever be able to live without a horse in the future. I have been using here one of my own (p. 143) mares, and a fine charger belonging to a 9th Lancer employed at H.Q. (you remember it was this regiment that made the famous charge at Le Cateau back in October). It is a glorious steed this, full of "devil," and a bit bad-tempered. My own big mare is a rather quiet horse, very good at trotting long distances; my other one is smaller but more fiery. I prefer to ride whenever possible a horse that really takes some managing.
September 8th, 1915.
I am glad you are invigorated and pleased with your trip to the land of Burns and Harry Lauder. The Scottish Highlands are the exact opposite of these flat plains. Never in my life have I seen a district so absolutely level as this. There are but three hills in these parts, and these are the only landmarks for miles and miles. Otherwise every road is like every other, every field and every clump of trees the same. The roads are all either dead straight or, in the case of side roads, full of right-angle bends. There is nothing of that sinuous curving which characterises English country roads. As you get nearer the firing-line the roads become worse owing to the passage of Army traffic, till finally they end up in mere broad tracks full of holes and humps. When the weather is bad the mud is appalling—even the Dulwich footer-ground variety comes a bad second—added to which there is, in the case of main roads, the nuisance of a most unlevel pavé, which, it is true, keeps free from mud, but to travel along which in a motor-car is torture. The way the Army lorries go bumping along—many of them old motor-buses with the top parts discarded—is stupendous. It is a strange sight occasionally to see approaching you a real motor-bus, painted grey and full of Tommies. I almost stopped (p. 144) one the other day, near the fire zone, and asked to be taken to Oxford Circus; it all seemed so familiar.
The news from Russia isn't very inspiriting. It looks as if Riga and Rovno will follow in the wake of Warsaw and Novo-Georgievsk. Not that the mere capture of a town means anything in itself, but the Boches must be getting a store of ammunition and guns through their successes. Still, it might be that 1812 would repeat itself, though I fear the Germans have studied history too well to fall into the pit that destroyed Napoleon. Nous verrons.
I went down the other day to an advanced Field Supply Depôt. I often think of the steady flow of goods across the Channel from the home port where I began my Army experience, and the vastness of the silent work behind the scenes that is needed to keep the Army going. You would be amazed to find how little is known even in the A.S.C. itself of that which I have been privileged to see. It has a spice of romance about it, this moving of vast stores from England to the trenches. Out here one gets fresh bread and meat regularly. There are also ample supplies of preserved meat. As for "bully" beef, it is rare good stuff, and I am by no means averse from the hard Army biscuit.
It is the chief part of my duties to make local purchases or requisitions of goods as they are needed. Local resources are always used to the utmost, though G.H.Q. is careful to insist on all goods being duly paid for, or an official requisition-note being handed to the seller. You will realise that in this sort of work I get a lot of practice in French. The French spoken in these parts is very thick, quite different from the metallic French of Paris.
I am told that when we are moving in the field, cavalry go twice as fast as any other branch of the Service. When we begin to move, my job will be really (p. 145) most exciting and interesting, as I shall have to be right on ahead with a store of supplies, bought, requisitioned, or obtained somehow, to keep things going till the ordinary service of lorries and horsed wagons adapts itself to the new conditions. Whatever happens I hope to see some sport.
I get on excellently with the cavalry officers. They have a bright charm of their own and are absolutely fearless. Most of them are descendants of the old English and Scottish chivalry. They are intensely Conservative in opinion, not over intellectual, but men with fine traditions and noble instincts. They have a passion for horses and all things equine.
September 16th, 1915.
So you have had an experience of the Zepps. I am glad London bore it philosophically. I never imagined that it would be possible seriously to perturb the people of England by this species of frightfulness. As Dad puts it, "Curiosity quite mastered every sense of fear," but if the Zepps. are to continue paying visits to our suburb, you may have to evacuate 198 and dig yourselves in in the garden with communicating trenches leading from your dug-outs to Croxted Road and Herne Hill.
It is splendid how our fellows keep rolling up to fight, for, believe me, the war is no joke out here. Very few people who have been out think it's all a death-or-glory sort of business. On the contrary, it is a steady and persistent strain, a strain under which the strongest nerves are apt to give way after a time—I am talking, of course, of the trenches. When the cavalry go into action as cavalry, they are bound to suffer fearfully, being so exposed, but there's no doubt that they will do their job, and put a still greater number of the Boches out of action. This is a war in which there is (p. 146) nothing picturesque or romantic. It takes all the cheerfulness of the British Tommy to overmaster the grinding strain of trench warfare, though as man is by nature a fighter, he presently begins to throw off the trammels of civilisation and live à la naturelle. The British soldier has done marvels in this war. Nothing but his irrepressible spirits and lion-hearted courage would have held up this great host of Boches armed with new and strange implements of war and with every weapon known to science.
September 18th, 1915.
In an interval of relaxation, our division gave a Horse Show to-day. To these cavalrymen, horses are as meat and drink, almost the one topic of their conversation, at once their delight and their business. A lot of notabilities from various places in France came up to see the Show. It was the most magnificent display of horseflesh I have ever seen. It was held in a large open field. The programme included competitions for officers' and troopers' horses (light and heavy), driving for the limbers of the regiment, work by machine-gun sections, races, jumping, turn-out of A.S.C. wagons, and what-not. A wonderful display was that of the officers' chargers, in which the long line of competitors rode, trotted and galloped past the General who was judging. Some of the men's horses were also very good, and really ran the officers' chargers close for merit. The first three prize-winners would be worth a clear £450 apiece. To describe the efficiency of the wagon-driving, the smartness of their turn-out, the quickness and neatness of all their manœuvres, is beyond me. There was no lance or sword play. The whole business had been arranged to see that everything was as efficient as possible, and to promote a spirit of healthy rivalry among the different regiments. (p. 147) It was an extraordinary spectacle, not fifteen miles from the firing-line, with the big guns booming in one's ears the whole time—very characteristic of the Englishman's love of sport and its value to the nation. This is one of the things that the Boches never can, or will be able to, understand. They cannot realise how these "mad English" can forget the War when in the middle of it, and when any minute their "sport" might be interrupted by a "Jack Johnson." I was with our Brigade Veterinary Officer, who, of course, is an equine expert. It was a treat to hear him telling off the points of the magnificent chargers passing in front of us, pawing the ground and snorting, full of dash and fire. To me the whole affair had a profound interest. I have never enjoyed myself more, and really its psychological significance was immense.
On the morning of 25th September, 1915, the 1st and 4th Corps of the British Army delivered an attack on the enemy line between La Bassée Canal on the north and a point opposite the village of Grenay on the south. There were subsidiary simultaneous attacks east of Ypres by the 5th Corps, and north of the La Bassée Canal by the 3rd and the Indian Corps. Our main attack was made in co-operation with the French offensive on our right. The British Cavalry Corps was posted in the neighbourhood of St. Pol and Bailleul-les-Pernes, in readiness to co-operate with the French Cavalry in pushing home any success which might be attained by the combined offensive.
September 23rd, 1915.
I am about to leave on an official mission, the nature of which I cannot disclose to you for the time being. My kit has had to be sent away, and I am only equipped (p. 148) with things I can carry about me or in my saddle-wallets on the horses. Revolver, haversack, official books, map-case and respirator are slung about my body. It is fine to be independent of trunks. Last night I bivouacked in a field, and one day I was quartered in a mining village which before the war must have been a busy place. It reminded me very much of the outskirts of Llanelly. I am feeling better in health and spirits than ever before.
An article by a Liberal M.P. that appeared recently in the Daily Chronicle annoyed me very much. Previously I had imagined the writer to be rather a sportsman and a game fighter; but his insulting references in this article to the "good fellows" in the trenches, who are "excellent in their time and place," etc., simply set my teeth on edge. I know full well that the type of thing that he calls "a voice from the trenches" is only an exploitation of sensational newspapers, as Tommy never by any chance in my experience of him talks of subjects like conscription. But the sheer cruelty of this M.P.'s patronising talk of the men who are dying by thousands to keep him and his kind safe at home absolutely surpasses everything. The suggestion that the man at the Front knows less of how to run wars than M.P.s who have, in all probability, never seen a drop of blood shed or a gun fired in anger in their lives, is, on the face of it, ludicrous. We have heard a lot about the Army not interfering in politics. Well and good; but let the politicians cease to meddle with military affairs, unless, of course, it is manifest that the most sacred civil rights of the people are being sacrificed to a caucus of officers, like those who tried to hold up the Home Rule Bill.
To-day a big detachment of German prisoners was brought into the village. They were well dressed and equipped, and in reasonably good spirits.
Life continues to use me well, though in the last week or two I have been all-ends up with work. I have usually managed to keep fairly dry, but the weather is awful, and despite mackintoshes and greatcoats galore, I have been absolutely soaked on more than one occasion, especially one night about four days back, when I had to sleep in the open on a heath in pouring rain, and with a bitter wind blowing. However, one thinks but little of that sort of thing when campaigning, and I have never been better in health.
I wish I could describe to you some of the scenes I witnessed during the past week, above all, on that never-to-be-forgotten day before the great attack was made. We found ourselves moving along the same road as the Guards—Grenadiers, Scots, and Welsh—who were going up to the attack (the Welsh Guards had never been in action before, having only recently been constituted, but I hear they did great things). Never had I seen such a sight as that evening before the attack. On one side of the road our cavalry, on the other the Guardsmen, all moving forward to the accompaniment of the sound of guns booming sullenly ahead. We halted for a time beside a detachment of Life Guards, among whom I recognised an old Alleynian named Kemp, whom I had not seen since last October. We had a few minutes' pleasant conversation before passing on with our respective columns.
A day or two ago I was to have gone right up to the battlefield with supplies, but a sudden change in orders made it impossible. However, a number of our lot were up there. They tell me it was a fearful scene—the ground littered with corpses, and all the débris of a battlefield scattered around. I was bitterly disappointed at not getting right up, but duty is duty, and (p. 150) I had orders to do other things. We all hope that the day of the great move forward has now begun to dawn, but there's no doubt it will be a devil of a job, as the Boches are fighting like hell to regain the lost ground. All yesterday, last night and this morning the guns have been rumbling away with more than usual vigour.
One day last week I visited a soldiers' cemetery; it was chiefly used for men who have died of wounds at a casualty clearing station near by. A most mournful and yet most impressive spectacle it was. As I returned I saw long strings of ambulances coming down from the Front—a sight that spoke eloquently of the toll that this war is taking of our best. I note you say that the new Welsh Division will be going out presently, either to France or to the Dardanelles. I hope that they will prove worthy of the great name that the Welsh have made for themselves in this war. Yesterday I chatted with a Welshman from Pontypridd, a Regular in the First South Wales Borderers. He had been out here right from the very start, had been twice wounded, and, except for one convalescent period of a fortnight, had had no leave at all. Chris Fowkes, who was wounded some time back, was in the same company as this sturdy Welshman.
October 6th, 1915.
The general impression here now is that the advance is proving a very tough proposition. The casualty list is of colossal dimensions. All the signs point to a long war.
A French interpreter is attached to each battalion of British infantry, or regiment of cavalry, with a liaison officer, or interpreter officer, attached to each brigade in addition. Personally, I have never found any need (p. 151) for an interpreter's services. I am able to make almost any of my requirements comprehensible to the inhabitants, and I think I may describe myself as being really fluent in French by this time. It is perfectly amazing how few of our people can talk any other language than their own.
That was a piquant incident at the College as described by Hal. A little dash of unconventionality like that is wanted in Dulwich and in all Public Schools. They, like other national institutions, are terribly prone to get into a groove. Though that groove be a good one, yet an occasional lift out of it can do no harm. But there's no doubt about it that, conservative though they may be, our Public Schools have done marvellously in this war. The system has proved its value ten thousand times over, and never so much as on these gory plains of Flanders and the hilly crags of Gallipoli. Of late the officer casualties have been fearful, and most of them these days seem to be killed, not wounded.
So Bulgaria seems determined to come in against us. If this means that Roumania and Greece join us, I don't see why the Germans should be so keen on enlisting the Bulgars on their side. Funny, isn't it, how all Europe is falling into the whirlpool of war? Every one of the little States finds that the war is a chance for it to get something out of someone else—hence its decision to join in. I hope our Government won't go sending big forces out to Albania or Salonika, or such places, unless and until they are sure it would be to England's benefit. For the life of me, I can't see why we should carry these footling little nations on our shoulders. All they do is to turn on you as soon as your back is turned, as vide the Bulgars themselves. The end of it all is that everyone is scrapping against someone else for some selfish aim, and the main object (p. 152) and high ideals for which we entered the war are wholly forgotten.
I cannot describe to you the muddy conditions out here. Mud lies inches thick on the roads, and is kept damp and slimy by the continual passage of limbers, horses, guns, wagons and lorries—the final result being a veritable swamp. The other day a man of the 19th Hussars was watering two horses when he got himself and the two animals hopelessly bogged beside the pond in a swamp which he mistook for dry ground. Eventually we tugged him and the two horses out with ropes. They were all soaked with slime and mud from head to foot. As for the infantrymen, when they come out of the trenches, they are caked in mud all over. In these parts mud is the great feature of the war.
October 11th, 1915.
I continue to be very busy. You must understand that it is my job to supplement the ordinary supplies that come up on the Supply Column from the railway with supplies obtained locally. These latter are frequently as essential as the former. Especially is this the case with cavalry, who are naturally apt, when moving, to get separated from their supplies, owing to the rapidity of their progress. Then comes the Requisitioning Officer's real task. That is not to say that this is the only case in which he has to work. On the contrary, the work is absolutely continuous. The men always want all sorts of things that the Supply Column does not provide, and it is up to me to get those things, and what is more, in most cases, to transport them also. I am in charge of a number of wagons, limbers, etc., to carry out this latter job, and I am responsible for the care and transport of the ordinary supplies for our Brigade Headquarters after they leave the Supply Column. I have also to do the (p. 153) following jobs: (1) Distribute pay to the large number of A.S.C. men attached to Headquarters; (2) when we are in billets, to see to the billeting arrangements for the brigade, and adjust the relations between the troops and whatever inhabitants there may be.
You must not imagine that there are no inhabitants in these districts. On the contrary, it is my experience that people cling to their homes and lead their ordinary lives right up into the fire zone. Our authorities take the greatest care not to offend the inhabitants. Let me give you an illustration. Recently we were at a small village, now quite blown to atoms, and considered a hot spot even out here, and which really has no inhabitants. Well, on the occasion of entrenching operations our chaps found it necessary to take some doors from ruined houses. They wanted the timber for planks for trench supports and dug-outs. Though all the inhabitants had fled or been killed long before, and the village was little better than a dust-heap, yet a solemn and portentous court of inquiry was held on those doors: were we justified in taking them, and should payment be made for them to the old inhabitants or their representatives? Eventually it was decided that, as the doors were taken to help to make trenches, they might be considered as destroyed by a fait de guerre, which, I believe, corresponds to an "act of God" in the civil courts, and payment ought not therefore to be made for the doors. It was, however, pointed out that if the said doors had been used to make a road, not a trench, they would not be faits de guerre, and in such case payment would have had to be made to the Mayor of the destroyed commune!
"Business as usual" is the motto they try to live up to throughout these parts, and every effort is made to persuade people that the war is only a sort of accident. Money remains money, and there are people (p. 154) selling and buying right up to places where many lives are lost every day. The position is really almost that described in a Bystander cartoon, depicting a peasant standing above a line of our trenches amid a hell of shot and bursting shrapnel, and saying, "Messieurs, I am desolated to trouble you, but I must request you to fight in my other field, as I plough this one to-day." By the way, The Bystander has succeeded, as no other paper save perhaps Punch has done, in catching the atmosphere that exists out here.
I assure you that just behind the firing-line people are minting money out of our occupation. Not only do they get paid regularly if British troops are billeted on them, but they can name their own prices for milk, beer, eggs, etc., and all those other things that Tommy is anxious for, and for which he can afford to pay. He is, I think, paid three times as much as either the French or the Boche soldiers. True, I have met some pitiful cases of refugeeism, but to a very large number of people in Northern France the war is nothing but somewhat of a nuisance. Of course, where they do feel it is in their own terrible casualty lists. I have known family after family in the little villages who have lost one or two sons. In many communes one finds that the Mayor has been killed while serving at the front, and a deputy acts in his stead. The Mayor of the place where we are now stationed has three sons fighting, one at Verdun. I had an agreeable chat a few days back with the local schoolmaster, who was home on short leave from the trenches.
It is curious that only The Bystander and Punch should have succeeded in catching the atmosphere of "Somewhere in France." Many of the war correspondents, brilliantly though they write, have missed it altogether. John Buchan is not so bad, when he writes soberly, but he will let his imagination run away (p. 155) with him. Talking of writers, what a delightful thing was that article of Zangwill's in the Daily Chronicle on "The Perils of Walking in War-time"! Its brilliant satire, firm grasp of facts, lively humour and racy style quite took my fancy.
I have had some interesting chats with some of the old soldiers in our division about Mons, the Marne and the Aisne, and all "those brave days of old." One chap, now acting as a clerk at Headquarters, wears the ribbons of the D.C.M. and French Médaille Militaire for swimming a river (on the retreat from Mons) amid a tempest of shot and shell, and giving warning to a party of our people on the other side who were in the greatest danger of being surrounded—and quite oblivious of the fact—by the Boches who had forced the passage of a bridge some way off. This brave fellow led his menaced comrades to another bridge, and so enabled them all to get clear.
The Supply Officer of one of our brigades is F. P. Knox, a Dulwich man, who captained the old school at cricket back in 1895 or so and I believe led Oxford to victory after that. His brother you may know—N. A. Knox, the famous fast bowler.
I was horrified to see in a recent casualty list among the killed the name of Second Lieutenant H. O. Beer. I remember him as a rather clever, quiet, inoffensive, distinctly popular fellow in Doulton's House. He left at the end of July, 1914, without getting any colours, but after doing quite well in all games. He won a Junior Scholarship, but failed to get a Senior. He was made a School Prefect in September, 1913, and you will see him in the very middle of the back row of the photo of the Prefects that we have—a markedly good-looking fellow, with light hair brushed across his forehead. What a wealth of tragedy and yet also of honour is expressed in the last line of his (p. 156) obituary notice in The Times—"He fell leading his platoon, aged twenty years." Only yesterday, as it were, we were at school together—I remember handing him off with great vigour on the football field—and now! It was just the same with poor Reynolds and Bray. But I mustn't go on in this strain.
October 15th, 1915.
The Balkan business is a startling knockout for those enthusiasts who see in the development of small States salvation for the world! If people would only accept the fact that this is a material world they would not be surprised at the situation. Myself, I consider that our diplomacy has failed, probably because it did not offer tempting enough bribes to Bulgaria and Greece. No matter; what is the fate of a few tuppenny-ha'penny Balkan States, who have never done a thing worth doing, beside that of the British Empire! Why should we always play the philanthropic idiot towards all these wretched little nations? As if any of them—or anyone else, for that matter, in international politics—knows the meaning of the word gratitude! However righteous our policy may have been, it doesn't seem to have worked in South-East Europe, and the Boches appear to have got home first there. I don't think it is so much a triumph for their diplomacy as a judgment on the blundering stupidity of ours. But when all's said and done, the alliance or hostility of a few Bulgars, Greeks or Roumanians doesn't count (p. 157) for so much, anyhow. "Come the three corners of the world in arms, and we shall shock them. Naught shall make us rue, if England to herself do rest but true."
Have you seen the obituary notices of Captain Osmond Williams, of the Welsh Guards? His funeral took place not half a mile from the spot where we were at the time. The 19th Hussars was once his old regiment, and as he was simply idolised by the men, crowds of them went to the burial. He had a most romantic career—a career that might have stepped out of the pages of Scott or Dumas.
Yesterday I played Soccer for Headquarters against the 15th Hussars. We beat them 2 to 1. However, I can't work up any enthusiasm for Soccer. Oh! for a real game of Rugger. Still, the Tommies—the English ones, at least—think Soccer the only game, so one must cut one's cloth to one's opportunities. It is something to get a game of any sort out here. Is the October number of The Alleynian out yet? I hope they keep their war list up to date. Our Roll of Honour is as good as anybody's, and should be carefully attended to.
October 20th, 1915.
Whom do you think I met the other day leading a column of motor lorries up to our brigade H.Q.? No less a person than G. P. S. Clark, the centre three-quarter who scored that wonderful try against Haileybury in my first year in the team—running and (p. 158) feinting his way through right from his own line. He is a motor expert, and has been gazetted to the M.T. branch of the A.S.C.
Is there any chance of my getting the post of A.D.C. to a Welsh brigadier? If the Welsh division is due out presently it would be rather a good job. But if it involved my coming back to England for any length of time I wouldn't take it. I am perfectly satisfied with my present work, but still would very much like to become a real combatant. Against the defect of short sight I can put the following points:
(p. 159) You may say on reading the above list of virtues that a glass case is the right place for me, but I know to the full that if one wants one of these "knutty" jobs one has to represent oneself as a sort of little tin god. Now don't imagine that I am dissatisfied with my present job. I am more than pleased with it; still I am very keen to become a fighting soldier.
October 25th, 1915.
My present quarters are in a mill. I have a fine large room, also first-rate stabling for my horses. Brigade Headquarters are in one of those magnificent châteaux that are dotted over this part of France. A gorgeous place it must have been in time of peace, and so it is now except that it is beginning to show signs of war-wear and constant use.
I am very bucked with life. All that we would like now would be a stupendous advance. This nibbling policy is all very well, but it doesn't suit cavalry.
My horses have just been clipped. It is the customary thing at this time of year, as horses' coats get very thick, and in consequence they sweat heavily when on the march. The effect of clipping is curious in the extreme, as the animal no longer appears of its original colour, but of the colour of its skin, i.e., mouse-grey. My mare was originally chestnut; now she is a dark grey. Horses are much happier with their thick coats off. The hair will have grown again in a couple of weeks, but it won't be thick for some time. My mare is a grand horse for steady, continuous work, also quite a good galloper. I had a gallop for two furlongs or so the other day with the Staff Captain and the A.D.C., each mounted on a crack cavalry charger. My mare came in with the first of them, and had more left in her at the end than either of the others.
(p. 160) There is no greater mistake than to suppose that the function of the horse has vanished in modern war. On the contrary, even in the transport, horses are quite as much used as motors. Horse transport is not confined to roads, and can pass much more easily than motor vehicles over rough ground. When you get up near the front, where the roads are badly cut up, horse transport is not only desirable but essential. Of course, the motor is absolutely invaluable for speedy transport. But on the whole one can say that, except for motor-buses, which sometimes take the men right up close to the trenches, and except for the ammunition park—a collection of powerful and very speedy lorries loaded up with munitions, which has always to be in readiness to dash up to the front in view of an emergency—except in these cases, it is safe to say that motor transport ends some miles from the actual fighting-line, and all the remaining transport is horsed. True, motor-cars containing Generals on inspection, Supply officers, etc., go all over the place, often right up behind the firing-line. Also there are the motor machine-gun cars, and the armoured cars, which are fighting units proper. But don't for goodness' sake imagine that the horse is done with in modern war because of the advent of the motor.
What the motor has done is to alter the whole face of things because of the extraordinary rapidity with which it enables you to fling troops or supplies up to the Front or transport them from point to point. But for the effective use of motor vehicles you need pretty good roads. You will remember how in the earlier months of the War, ourselves, the Germans and the French effected big troop movements simply by motor transport. You will recall the occasion on which the French flung a force across the suburbs of Paris and attacked the Boches on the right, thus beginning the (p. 161) movement known as the Battle of the Marne. Then there was the occasion when Hindenburg attacked the Russians in October, 1914, feinting at their left and striking at their right at Tannenberg with a force of armoured cars, cavalry, and infantry conveyed in motors. Neither of these movements could have been achieved before the advent of motor transport. As this war progresses, the need for really capable and cool-headed motor drivers will steadily increase. But it will be none the less invaluable to know how to manage a horse—whether to ride it, drive a wagon, or ride-and-drive in a limber. One of our limber horses is a grey captured from the Germans last year. He is a very good worker and doesn't seem to mind being a prisoner in the least.
I must tell you of a funny incident. That night when we were sleeping on the heath, which I referred to in a previous letter (p. 149), our Medical Officer was awakened at 2 A.M. by a frantic signaller, that is, one of the R.E. motor-cycle dispatch riders. It was pouring rain at the time and bitterly cold. The signaller solemnly handed the M.O. an envelope marked "Urgent and Special." The M.O. opened it, his mind full of visions of men mortally stricken awaiting immediate attention and of other tragic things. Judge his astonishment when he found inside the following note from his O.C.: "Kindly render your monthly inoculation return to Headquarters before the end of the week." What the M.O. said is unprintable, as this return had already been sent in, and, in any case, is just a formality of no importance to anybody.
My affection for the British soldier deepens the more I know of him. To a student of human nature it is an everlasting joy to get Tommy to tell you his experiences in his own inimitable language, interspersed with all sorts of gory adjectives. It is so different from (p. 162) and better than the sort of thing you read in the Society papers. Human nature as it really is comes out strongly in these splendid men at the Front. A talk with Tommy is of intense interest to a chap as keen as I am on psychology.
November 5th, 1915.
Still much occupied; out almost all day and every day, either on horseback or in a motor. Much interest has been displayed in these parts in the visit of the King. I have passed the château where he is staying almost every day this past week.
The district where we are now quartered is filled with refugees, among them some orphans from Loos. Some people about here have been terribly hit by the war, but some are reaping enormous profits out of it. Such is the caprice of fortune. All over this neighbourhood you see the names of Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards, Grenadiers, etc., carved on doors and panels. We are close to a large town which is an important point in the scheme of things.
Events seem to be taking a remarkable turn. Who, at the start of the war, would have thought that we would have been able to land a military force in the Balkan Peninsula? It is really a remarkable position all round. Asquith's speech was frank if nothing else. There appears to have been discord in the Cabinet, so now we are about to have something like a "Committee of Public Safety." Marvellous race, the English! Lord Derby seems to be an outstanding personality just now. Have you noticed how each month of the war is marked by some new phase of public opinion? Optimism, pessimism, spies, Zeppelins, economy, pink forms, voluntaryism, conscription, munitions—each of these has been for a time the centre of public interest, and each has swiftly fallen from its pedestal to be replaced (p. 163) by some other phase. Curiously enough, the talk at home has not been influenced in any direct way by the real progress of the war, but by the effect on the popular imagination of trivial incidents, magnified out of all proportion by sensational journals. The war goes on, nevertheless, showing that the great British spirit is something far too strong and deep to be really influenced by the caprices of public opinion.
It is amusing to see how the views of certain newspapers vary from month to month, and even more diverting to observe how all the amateur strategists claim that they had really predicted every phase of the military operations. Believe me, however, the war has been and is quite different from any ideas entertained in regard to it in the early weeks and months. It is a blend of grotesque incongruities that would be humorous were not one side of them so tragic and terrible. No one here seems to know anything definite about what is going on. One has considerable local knowledge but very little general information. Probably the latter is impossible to get in this sort of mix-up—the scale on which the war is being waged is so vast.
You will see roughly from Sir John French's latest dispatch the part played by the cavalry in the advance of 25th September-5th October. You will not, of course, be able to glean much of what actually happened, but I can tell you we had a most interesting time.
How tiresome is the tosh written in the papers and spoken in Parliament about the war! One wonders if it would not be a good plan to shut up Parliament for a time, though I suppose it is a good thing to have a place where men can vent their foolish thoughts. But I am thoroughly weary of "Statements by the Prime Minister" which state nothing, and of mere denunciations (p. 164) by Sir Arthur Markham and Sir Edward Carson; also of the shrieking of the Yellow Press, the wishy-washiness of the Liberal Press and the Spectator, the impenetrable Conservatism of the Morning Post, and the noisy sensationalism of the Bottomley—Austin Harrison crew. Thank goodness the strong broad stream of British spirit runs deeper and is much purer than would appear from this froth and scum on the surface.
Recently it has been a period of Catholic festivals about here. Some days there have been processions and bell-ringing from morn to eve. The other day was the Fête des Morts, and lately there was the French All Saints' Day. It is a singular sensation to hear the chime of church bells blending with the thudding of the guns.
November 18th, 1915.
Yesterday I rode twenty-five miles. A delightful experience it was, too;—in crisp winter weather and with the surrounding country covered with snow. It has become very cold of late, but I am fond of cold weather, especially when it keeps dry. Assigned some special work by the Staff Captain, I had permission to move when and how I liked, instead of accompanying the Column as I usually do. The result was that I was able to join up with the Veterinary section attached to the brigade. We moved at our own pace, resting our horses where we wanted to and giving them a good drink and feed en route, instead of jogging on monotonously with the Column. Our horses were thoroughly fit and full of life when we reached our destination, and good for another twenty-five miles if necessary. You would not believe how much horses benefit from care and attention as to food and rest. The time you lose in watering, resting and feeding, you can always more (p. 165) than make up through the consequent freshness of your animals. Obviously, when speed is absolutely vital, you can't choose your time to rest the horses. For example: on those never-to-be-forgotten days, 23-26 September last, we used to move at a rapid trot for hours on end—for the expectation then was that the Boche line might be broken. This latest "trek" had not the urgency or the wild excitement of that, and we were able to take our own time.
I had a ripping game of Rugger a few days back, playing for the 19th Hussars against the Bedford Yeomanry. The latter, who included some old Bedford School boys, beat us, though only by one point. I played forward in the first half of the game, and scrum-half in the second. It was a treat to handle a Rugby ball again!
Things are becoming rather mixed in English politics, what with Asquith's contradictory statements about conscription, Carson resigning and Winston flinging up politics for the Army. His resignation is creditable to Winston, and at a moment like this he would naturally want to do his bit at the Front. Everybody in the cavalry that I have spoken to considers him a good sportsman. Myself, I regard Churchill as a man with a real touch of genius.
The Haldane controversy seems to have started afresh. How terrible is the ingratitude of the masses! If Haldane had done no more than create the Territorials and the Officers' Training Corps he would have had an everlasting claim to fame; but when one considers also his creation of the General Staff, and his arrangements for mobilising, equipping, transporting and supplying the B.E.F.—well, one begins to realise that the man is a Colossus. And yet the wretched Jingoes continue to bespatter him with mud, and I suppose the nation in the mass regards him as a species of highly-educated (p. 166) spy! But perhaps the majority of the people have never heard of him—Charlie Chaplin is a far more living personality to most of them, I make no doubt.
I referred in a recent letter (p. 162), to the fluctuating phases of opinion in England in regard to the war. A new phase would appear now to have arisen and taken the place of the Lord Derby boom. This new phase is one of criticism of past military and naval operations—Neuve Chapelle, Loos, Suvla Bay, the Narrows, Antwerp, etc. etc., all of which are being discussed with equal zest and ignorance. Mark my words, there will soon be a new phase or an old one will recur.
To his Brother.
November 23rd, 1915.
I am so sorry Dulwich got done down by Bedford. Of all our matches, that is the one we are most keen on winning. Still, we can't expect to win always, and we have not lost to Bedford for three years till now. I had perhaps the unique experience of being in a team which never lost a Bedford match. In 1912-13, when I got my colours, we drew 28 points all; in 1913-14 we won, 16 to 15; and last year, 32 to 16. Well, I would have given anything for the School to have got home a fourth time against old Bedford, but it was not to be.
The sudden drop in temperature during the last fortnight has affected most people here. I have escaped without any sort of cold, though nine-tenths of the officers and men have been down with chills.
My mare has developed a devil of a temper of late, and bites and kicks like anything—a sign of exuberant vigour. Fortunately she gets on well with my other horse, and they don't "strafe" each other in the stable. To get horses in the same stable on good terms with each other is largely a question of feeding them at the (p. 167) same time. My second horse, which my servant rides when we are on the move, is a jolly little chestnut, very strong and hardy, with a magnificent long tail. I ride him and the mare on alternate days. Horses are ridiculous creatures. They will eat all sorts of things, even wood, mud, and pieces of coal, as if from sheer cussedness. It can't be because they are hungry, as they get plenty to eat in the way of oats, hay, dry clover, etc. Sometimes, as if from devilment, they will roll in the mud a few minutes after they have been nicely groomed. Some of our regiments have a lot of mules, which are given to fearful brayings—a sound which is a cross between a horse's whinny, a donkey's hee-haw and an elephant's trumpeting. Mules bite and kick each other continually, but they will do any amount of work when so inclined.
November 29th, 1915.
I see that the Welshmen are coming out. May they strafe the Boches to the wide! I hope the Cymry will prove themselves worthy successors to Owain Glyndwr and all the other grand old chiefs who have given us such a name in arms. Times have changed, and to-day, instead of smiting your foe with a club or a sword, you "strafe" him with gas-shells and machine-guns. The old way was the best, but the natural instinct of all things animate to fight remains, as it always will remain.
We have received some of The Times' broad-sheets. I don't exactly know whether they are good or not. It is undoubtedly a benefit to have "bits" from great writers to skim over when you haven't the time, or the inclination, to wade through a volume. On the other hand, it is intensely aggravating to experience the feeling of incompleteness that naturally results from having your reading suddenly cut off.
The other day I was ordered to visit a certain battery in the firing-line. No one had a ghost of an idea as to their present location, but I discovered where their supplies were being drawn from—a spot two miles from the line, which was being "strafed" daily. Off I went to this place in my car, but nobody there knew a thing about the people I wanted, so I had to go up to the railway station and crave the loan of a telephone. After a great deal of bother I got on to some genial soul who knew where the Brigade Headquarters were of the lot I was after. He told me where they had gone to, but whether they were still there or not he didn't know. Anyhow, it was a clue. So, like Pillingshot (in P. G.'s story), I worked on it.
After consulting my maps, and chatting with dozens of military police, interpreters, etc., I took my car forward by a certain road. By this time it was pitch dark, except for star shells and gun flashes. The road was crammed with traffic. We took a wrong turning, and eventually found ourselves on an apology for a road that ended in a swamp full of shell-holes, and had to retrace our steps gingerly. After blundering about in the dark for some time we struck the village we were looking for, a hopeless sort of place crammed with Scotsmen, all exceedingly grimy, but gay and cheerful. In one house the men were waltzing to the strains of a mouth-organ, though the boom of the guns was shaking the house every second or so.
Having reached the Headquarters I was in quest of, I ascertained from them that the battery with which I had business to do was now at a spot two miles away down a main road which was the scene of such desperate fighting not long back. The O.C. strongly advised me not to take the car down there, as if I (p. 169) did "it was likely that the car would stop some pieces of metal." There was nothing for it but to walk down the road leading to the recently captured village. It was very dark, but star-shells, with their weird green light, would illuminate the countryside every five minutes or so. In the darkness one could vaguely discern the shape of the first-line transport wagons taking up rations to the trenches, and small columns of silently marching men, and now and then a motor lorry belonging to some ammunition park. Presently, after what seemed an interminable walk, I found the battery, who themselves had only just arrived, and executed my job in a half-ruined house. To get back to my car I borrowed a horse and rode part of the way with a number of led horses, which, having brought up the guns, were going back to the wagon line.
On getting to my car I decided that my best road to return would be to go straight along into a certain large town, instead of the route we'd come by. As we spun along a voice from the darkness hailed us: "Have you room for an officer?" We at once pulled up and told him to jump in. Poor devil! he was almost in a state of collapse and talked wildly. He had been six months in the trenches, and had just come out of them in a half-hysterical state. I had to speak to him pretty firmly before he could pull himself together. We took him to his destination, and he was most grateful for the lift.
It was an uncanny experience, this wandering about in the darkness in desolate regions a few hundred yards from the trenches. In this grim struggle there is none of the glory and pomp of war as exhibited in the days of old, when rival armies met amid the blare of trumpets and the waving of standards. The pageantry of war is gone. We have now war in all its fierceness, grime and cold-bloodedness without any (p. 170) picturesque glamour or romance. Can you wonder that in such conditions civilised human nature out here swiftly changes and is replaced by elemental savagery?
In December, 1915, Paul Jones had short leave, and spent six days at home. He took advantage of the opportunity to have a game of football on the familiar arena in Dulwich, playing for the Old Alleynians against the College 1st XV.
December 21st, 1915.
All well after a pleasant crossing. The blundering authorities kept us and three other leave trains six hours in —— station, no one being allowed to leave the platform! We eventually reached —— at 7 P.M. The two first men I met on the boat were old Dulwich boys, W. J. Barnard and Bobby Dicke. Barnard is a field-gunner, and Dicke is in the 1st Royal Fusiliers. I also met another O.A., named Corsan, who is captain in Barnard's battery. How well I remember ragging with him in choir practices! We had a thrilling chat over old times. Both Barnard and Corsan went through the Battle of Loos. On reaching France we found there was no means of getting to our respective destinations until next morning, so we all dined together with a couple of other subs., one in the K.R.R.s, a mere boy in appearance but a veteran in experience. How delightful to meet old pals, and what splendid fellows these old public-school men are!
Everything is very festive about here just now. Officers and men are making ready to pass Christmas in the old-fashioned way.
December 28th, 1915.
We had a very jolly Christmas. The revellings have, in fact, only just begun to subside. Our Brigade (p. 171) Major spent his Christmas in the trenches along with his brother, a V.C. In that part of the line there was a truce for a quarter of an hour on Christmas Day, and a number of Englishmen and Germans jumped out and started talking together. A German gave one of our men a Christmas tree about two feet high as a souvenir. It is of the usual variety, covered with tinsel and adorned with glass balls.
January 4th, 1916.
I was indescribably grieved to read of the death of Nightingale. Himself an O.A., he was in the Modern Sixth about 1900. He was a master at the dear old school from 1907, or thereabouts. I regarded him as one of my best friends among the masters. The year I took on the captaincy of the Junior School "footer," he gave me immense help as master in charge of the Junior School games. But really cricket was his game; he was a splendid bat on his day, a useful slow bowler and a fine fieldsman. He was such an enthusiast for cricket that he would take any and every chance of playing, no matter whether against the 1st XI or against the Junior School. In character he was extremely simple and unaffected—not a great scholar, but a shrewd thinker with a serviceable knowledge of history and literature, and a fine taste in reading. Personally he was one of the kindest of men and so easy to get on with. Though in no sense a professional soldier, yet from a strong feeling of duty he joined right at the start as a private in, I believe, the Rifle Brigade, with whom he served many months in France. He then got a commission in the 7th Lincolns, with whom he was serving when killed.
(p. 172) Here was a man who threw up all to take up soldiering, not because he had the military instinct, but from sheer patriotism and sense of duty. It was just like him—at school he would always put himself out to play in a game if a team was a man short. He was always called "Nighty" by the boys. Can you wonder, with the example of such a man before me, that I should be longing to get into the Infantry? Heavens! A man would not be a man who did not feel as I feel about this matter.
Well, Sir John Simon has resigned. Rather a pity that such a career should be cut short. Still, at best he was a mere politician, and to tell you the truth I don't like politicians much. All the same, I do think Simon did some valuable work as Home Secretary, and earlier as Attorney-General.
For once the British Government appears to have acted with vigour—I mean by occupying Salonika and telling the Greeks politely to "hop it." Result, the Greeks have hopped it. How much more simple and effective this than to jaw about "the rights of neutrals," the "sanctity of small nations," etc., etc.! No! take a strong line in this world, and you're more likely to get what you want than by cajolery.
January 26th, 1916.
One day last week I mounted my horse at 2.15 P.M. and rode in a south-easterly direction. For the first couple of miles things were as usual—crowds of soldiers about, of course, and lots of transport on the move. One village I found populated half by civilians and half by troops. Thereafter the country becomes barer and grimmer, and the fields for the most part are uncultivated—in itself a remarkable thing in France. The next village I came to bore signs of having been shelled, but was still habitable. Originally it must have (p. 173) been quite a pleasant little place. Not many of the native inhabitants remained, and the houses for the most part were filled with Scotsmen and sappers.
Passing on, with the roar of the guns getting more and more distinct, we come to a place that leaves no manner of doubt that there is a war on. There are graves by the roadside, and shell-holes. Lines of trenches and coils of barbed wire arrest your attention. Now there comes into view the battered remnant of what was once a busy mining village. The great slag-heap towers up on our right hand, its sides scarred and smashed by shell-fire. Not a house is left standing. There are only shattered walls and heaps of bricks. Over all hangs that curious odour one gets at the Front—a sort of combined smell of burning and decay. A grotesque effect is produced by a signboard hanging outside a ruined tenement and bearing the words: "Delattre, Débitant," or, in other words, "Delattre's Inn." On the right a gunner is standing on what was once a house roof, hacking away at the beams with a pickaxe; he is getting firewood, no doubt. Solemnly a general service wagon rolls by, carrying a load of fuel, and a limber crashes past at a trot. A little single-line railway from the colliery crosses the road, and even now there are standing on it two or three trucks, strange to say quite intact. The machinery at the pit-head is all smashed, bent and broken. You are impressed with the strange, eerie silence, when suddenly there is an earth-shaking crash. One of our heavies has been fired. You hear the shell whirring away on its journey of destruction, and finally a faint, far-distant crash, perhaps marking the end of a dozen men, five or ten miles off.
Resuming my journey I reached another village, where the destruction had been simply terrible, surpassing even that of Ypres. This village bears a name (p. 174) famous in the annals of British arms, for it was from here that the Guards charged on that memorable day, September 25th. I saw a line of old trenches just behind the village, and rode over to examine them. Perhaps it was from this very line that our men advanced. I tried to picture to myself what it must have been like—valour, endurance, turmoil, destruction, death, a great forward rush by brave men that spent itself, and fizzled out just on the eve of triumph. Why?
On the left there was a large cemetery. Many of the crosses had soldiers' caps hung on them, and in one case the man was evidently a Catholic, for crucifix and image had been taken down from a post on the roadside and laid on the grave. I tried to find if there was any trace of the names of two O.A.s who fell in this battle, Crabbe and Beer, but failed to discover either name.
It was now getting late, so I retraced my steps and cantered homewards. In this war-scarred region I actually met an old French farmer driving his horse and trap along the road leading towards the trenches just as if there was no war raging; and near the one habitable house of the district small boys were playing merrily, while their parents were calling them in and scolding them in shrill voices. In some ruined houses were yet more Scotsmen, most ubiquitous of peoples. I halted to chat with an old military policeman who used to be with the 9th Cavalry Brigade. Then home. A very interesting afternoon's work, which gave one a real insight into "the conduct and results of war" as waged in these cynical days.
During another visit I paid to this desolate region there was a "strafe" of some magnitude on. As I rode I could hear the long whistling and heavy crump of high explosives that the enemy were dropping into (p. 175) a village about a mile to the left, and could see the flame and smoke of the explosion. Our own guns soon began to chime in. It was quite a cheerful little show, what with the long-drawn whining of approaching Boche shells, the crash of explosions, the thud of our guns replying, and the weird, fluttering noise of our shells going over. Presently the gun duel became more and more violent. The fearful crashes of our "heavies," the groans, shrieks and whines of the shells on their message of death, the tremendous thuds of Boche explosions, and the whistling hum of shrapnel pieces flying around—all this made up a pandemonium of noise. My further progress along this road was barred by a thud amongst some ruined houses about a hundred yards in front of me, showing that the "strafe" was veering round to my direction. Deviating from this road I met some old acquaintances in the Gunners, and had tea with them in their dug-out, my horse being put up in what in pre-war days had been somebody's sitting-room. I cantered home at dusk. All this evening there has been a "hate" on—the sky alive with gun-flashes and lit up by star-shells, and the air resounding with bangings and thuddings.
February 1st, 1916.
Hereabouts we seem now to be doing ten times as much "strafing" as the Boches. This afternoon I saw at fifty yards' distance some 60-pounders (the old "Long-Toms") being fired. First, there would come a flash of flame from the muzzle, followed by an ear-splitting bang. Then the whole gun seemed to hurl itself bodily forward and slide back into position again. Meanwhile you could hear the shell tearing its way through the air with the curious shuddering, or fluttering, noise that shells make in transit.
Riding north the other day I came to a place where (p. 176) the only sounds that could be heard were the intermittent crackle of rifle-fire mingling with the shrill tones of a woman haggling over the price of bread with an old chap who had driven out with his pony and cart from an adjacent town to sell his goods. The roof of the woman's house had mostly vanished and some of the walls were non-existent, being replaced by sandbags. A notice proclaimed that there was coffee and milk for sale within. Is it not extraordinary to encounter this sort of thing right up in the battle zone? It shows how human nature can adapt itself to the most uncustomary things. I suppose we should be the same—stick to the old home so long as there was a brick left standing.
I ran across an O.A., named Tatnell, who holds a commission in the Motor Machine Gun Corps. He told me he had met lots of O.A.s out here. Some of the fellows he mentioned are mere boys of seventeen and eighteen still. One of them, Williams, I remember last year as a drummer in the Corps. Honestly, the old school has done splendidly. Every one of the fellows I used to know from the age of seventeen onwards is serving, and they were all serving long before there was any talk of Derby schemes.
To his Brother.
February 10th, 1916.
I went into the trenches a few days back—not in the front line, but as far as Brigade Headquarters, which is a sort of series of caverns in the ground, and is approached by a long communication trench. Nothing much was happening; and, anyway, this particular trench is so deep that there is nothing to be seen save a strip of sky above your head. In a few places you can get out and stand on the open ground without much danger. The spectacle is curious—practically (p. 177) nothing visible to indicate that there is a war on. No soldiers in sight, only a lot of shell-holes and barbed wire, and a general sense of desolation, with an occasional crack of a rifle bullet, the whistle and crash of Boche shells and the bang of our own guns from just behind.
I suppose that the Army class at Dulwich are hot favourites this year for the Form Cup, and the Engineers for the Side. Our star on the Modern Side has, I fear, waned. I shall never forget that final Side match last year, when, with a team much the weaker on paper, we (the Modern Side, captained by Paul Jones) snatched a victory by sheer tactics. It was the best game, or rather, one of the four best games, I remember—the other three being the Bedford match in 1913, when A. H. Gilligan shone so brilliantly; the famous 28-28 draw at Bedford in 1912; and the Haileybury match of the same year. In every one of these games the football reached a high standard, and the result was a pretty fair indication of the run of the play, except perhaps in the second game, in which it was the personal brilliance of the Gilligans and Evans that snatched an almost lost game out of the fire. Great Scott! What wouldn't I give to be starting my school career again? Make the most of your school days, my son, for you'll never have such a time again!
March 2nd, 1916.
A few days ago I went up to see Elias—Captain T. Elias, son-in-law of Dr. MacNamara, M.P.—and had tea with "C" Company, 1st London Welsh. To my amazement I discovered that Percy Davies—now Major Davies, son of Mr. David Davies, Mayor of Swansea, 1917, and editor of the South Wales Daily Post—was in the same village at the time. So I went along to his mess; we were overjoyed to meet one another. He (p. 178) introduced me to his messmates, a ripping set of chaps, who included Sir Alfred Mond's son, and one Parry, whose brother played for Dulwich, inside to Harold Gilligan, in Evans's year. Amazing coincidences, what? At the invitation of these fellows I went with them to a concert they had got up in the village. It was quite the best show of its kind I have seen out here, and there are lots of concert-parties in these parts. The Welsh have a gift of music that is peculiar to them alone. There was some first-rate singing at the concert; and a private soldier—a Tommy, mark you!—played Liszt's "No. 2 Rhapsody" and Schubert's "Marche Militaire" almost flawlessly. And the way the audience appreciated it! Then we had some first-rate comic work—really refined, not cheap and coarse—by a man whom I am sure I've seen at Llandrindod. Altogether it was a first-rate show—by miles the most interesting, intellectual, refined and capable performance I've seen out here.
They have shows of various kinds every night of the week—boxing contests, trials by jury, concerts, etc. What enterprise and intelligence our countrymen have! Percy Davies himself looks after the boxing, and he made quite a telling little speech in announcing his plans for the coming week. Mond is a good chap, very jovial, boyish and unsophisticated. In fact, all these fellows are of the very best, and of outstanding intelligence. Would that I were with them! I was struck by the remarkable difference between these officers and the cavalry officers with whom I am in daily association. Each type is wholly admirable in its own way, but they have not many characteristics in common.
April 14th, 1916.
I derive great pleasure and interest from watching the methods of these French peasants with their horses. (p. 179) It is nothing short of marvellous. They never groom their horses and never clean the harness or bits, yet the horses keep fit as fiddles and look really well too. Their intelligence is extraordinary. Almost every night I see the old chap, at whose farm I keep my own horses, come in with four or five horses from ploughing—riding on one, not in the orthodox fashion, i.e., astride, but with both legs hanging over the horse's near side, something like ladies' style of riding, but without saddle, braces, or stirrups. He is leading no fewer than four other horses on one rein—a remarkable thing in itself. When he gets into his farmyard he slides off and gives some sort of a weird shout that sounds like "Ooee-ee-ee!" The moment the horses hear this off they go to the pond in one corner of the yard and drink their fill.
Meanwhile the farmer has gone into his house. Presently he reappears at the door and utters something like "Oy-eh!" He may be fifty yards from his horses and never goes near them, but as soon as they hear this call they leave the pond and troop off into their stable, where each horse takes up his own place and stands still there ready to be tethered. They all know exactly where to stand, and the old chap unharnesses them, hangs up the harness for use next day, chucks a few handfuls of oats into the manger, shoves some hay into the rack, and leaves them for the night. He never troubles about drying their legs and hoofs after their immersion in the pond. Probably if you treated one of our horses in that fashion he would be likely to get a "cracked heel" and go lame. But these French farm horses never seem to mind in the least. Well, one lives and learns. Our grooms are vastly amused at these methods of horse-managing. The baffling thing is the wonderful health enjoyed by the French horses. It is very rare for any of them to go lame or sick, or (p. 180) even lose condition despite their—to us—extraordinary mode de vivre.
April 27th, 1916.
I see that poor Kitter has been killed. It is too horrible; first Nightingale, now Kittermaster. At Dulwich Kitter was always looked upon as a prototype of K. of K. He was a very silent man, who nevertheless took a very real interest in the affairs of the school, his form, and his "House." He knew a lot about military tactics, and his chief hobby was the Corps, for which he worked and slaved in school-time and out. He taught us fellows more about military discipline and training than you could get from months of study. He was always having little field-days, extra drills, and so forth, and while any movements were on he was always explaining and talking to you, showing why this, and why that, and so forth. He had a fund of dry humour. One of the best men at Dulwich, I always thought! Poor chap! Well, well!
In May, 1916, Paul came home on leave. He spent a very enjoyable week in London and had the satisfaction of meeting many old College friends. On 12th May I saw him off by the 8.10 A.M. train from Victoria. There is a clear picture of him in my mind's eye standing on the platform before taking his seat in the waiting train, cheerily greeting this friend and that, conspicuous in the throng of officers by his massive physique. He looked the incarnation of young manly (p. 181) vigour, courage and hope, and there was about him a fresh and fragrant air like the atmosphere of that delicious spring morning. The future is mercifully veiled from man. Little did either of us think when saying farewell, clasping hands and gazing lovingly into each other's eyes, that we would never meet again on this earth.
May 15th, 1916.
Had a pleasant crossing to France. I dined in an hotel with a gunner lieutenant, who in civil life was a Professor of Literature, a charming and cultured man. We discussed some of our respective pet theories on Art and Life, the Novel and the Drama, etc., and found many points of agreement.
Well! it was a great leave. There is no countryside to compare with the English. If you had lived among the flats of Flanders you would find the tamest English scenery beautiful. Not that we are situated at present in unbeautiful surroundings. In fact, the downs about here are very pleasant, and there are many trees in the valleys; but give me the English countryside. Then there is London! Dear old London! to me the one town in the world. Our own home, too, with its happy blend of urban and rural. And then the old school——! Yes, it was a great leave, there can be no possible doubt about it. Would that it had been twice as long!
On arrival at our quarters I found my horses very well. They are looking perfectly beautiful just now, their coats shining, smooth and glossy like silk. My big one really blazes on a sunny day, and my cob is not far behind him. I shall have a very busy time in the next ten days, arranging for a supply of about 30 tons a week of green fodder to be purchased in weekly instalments in the neighbouring countryside. All the (p. 182) troops are going to bivouac in the fields shortly, as they always do this time of the year, remaining under canvas until September, or even October if the weather permits.
May 18th, 1916.
Thanks so much for the "Shakespeare"; it was exactly what I wanted. I am making a careful study of the Bard's works again, and with an enthusiasm that has not one whit abated; rather it has augmented. I only wish it had been possible to see some of his plays whilst on leave.
What a superman Shakespeare was! The interest of his plays is absolutely perennial. Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of his work is the astonishing consistency of the characters in his dramatis personæ. His characters invariably behave exactly as people of that type would and do behave in real life. Thus we have the illusion that the characters conceived by his mighty imagination are themselves real. He has hit with marvellous accuracy on the points in human nature that are common to almost all ages, and, mutatis mutandis, his plays could be staged in the nineteenth or twentieth century without losing any of their power.
Men of the type of Hamlet are doubtless rare, yet we all know the sort of genius who is so much a genius that he is incapable of action and does nothing but reflect. Hamlet seems meant to show how vain it is to be merely a philosopher in this world. Hamlet is always pondering, thinking of the abstract rights and wrongs of the case. In the result, though he does eventually avenge his father's murder, his introspection and vacillation have led to the death of himself and no fewer than three other innocent persons—Ophelia, Polonius and Laertes. Yet Hamlet was at least twice (p. 183) as brainy as the rest of them, and he was also a good sportsman; for instance, he refuses to kill Claudius when he finds him at a disadvantage—that is, when Claudius is praying.
To me the lesson of the play seems to be this—the only policy that really works in this world is to "go in and get the goods," as the Canadians say. The philosopher usually causes more trouble than his philosophy is worth. It is the old lesson of the Girondins and Jacobins over again. No one doubts which of them had the purer and loftier ideals. Equally no one doubts that the Girondins, despite all this, were hopelessly outmanœuvred by the practical Jacobins, who had not a tithe of their brains.
To change the subject, I have been getting a lot of swimming lately. At a big cement works in a neighbouring town there is an enormous pond in a quarry. The water is about 15 feet deep all round and not at all stagnant, and there is a splendid place for diving. Yesterday I was down at a neighbouring seaport on business and got a delightful swim in the sea. A swim means to me almost as much as a Rugby match. I am going down to the cement-works pool every day, and whenever possible I shall have a swim in the sea. The weather just at present is wonderful, the sunshine simply glorious. Do not imagine that I am neglecting my work. In fact, I have been tremendously busy buying and arranging for green fodder for about 2,000 horses at the rate of 4 lbs. per horse per diem. By to-morrow noon I shall have contracts concluded to keep the brigade supplied until further orders.
May 21st, 1916.
The weather in "this pleasant land of France" remains wonderful. The sun is really shining. In the height of summer I have never known more beautiful weather. This, on the whole, is a picturesque part of France, and everything looks at its best just now. The lanes and wooded downs here might be in Surrey.
I was seven hours in the saddle yesterday. The General himself commented the other day on the splendid condition of my horses. They certainly are looking extraordinarily well.
May 28th, 1916.
I note that Winston Churchill suggested in the House of Commons the other day that the Cavalry should be turned into Infantry. With due respect to him, I think that he is all wrong. Whenever the "Push" comes, cavalry will be not only desirable, but absolutely and vitally essential. The day of cavalry charges may have gone, but I agree with Conan Doyle that "the time will never come when a brave and a capable man who is mounted will be useless to his comrades." You might, indeed, mount them in motor cars, but a man with a horse has three times the freedom and the scope for scouting and independent action that a man has who is brought up in a motor and then dumped to shift for himself. I entirely agree with Churchill, nevertheless, about the large number of able-bodied men employed behind the fighting-lines. I only wish I were in the trenches myself, I can tell you. My rejection for the Infantry was a bitter blow!
Everybody here is grieved at the death in action of Captain Platt, —— Hussars, attached Coldstream Guards. I knew him quite well, and we were great (p. 185) friends. He was a chivalrous gentleman, and very clever intellectually, quite a bit of a poet in his way.
June 2nd, 1916.
We are now in bivouacs in a big field. I have rigged up a first-rate tent, made out of cart-cover, with a sort of enclosed dressing-room for washing, etc., attached. We've got a fine mess-tent, 30 feet long by 20 feet wide, made out of wagon-sheetings. It is not only much more pleasant, but a good deal cheaper, to live in the open like this.
So Churchill has once again leapt to the fore as a critic of the Army. Mind, I have a lot of sympathy with some of his arguments, but in general this last speech seemed to me mere wild and whirling words. I note that L. G. now appears in the rôle of Conciliator-in-General to Ireland. If anyone can settle this miserable Irish question, he will.
The war drags wearily along on its monotonous course. Are you reading Conan Doyle's review in the Strand of the early stages of the war? The style is not so good as John Buchan's, and perhaps he is inclined to miss the broad issues of the conflict. But for details, and for pictures of incidents that go to make up war, Conan Doyle's narrative is very good indeed. The story of the heroic fight of "L" Battery R.H.A. at Le Cateau, when the whole battery was wiped out save for an odd man or two, is admirably told. War was war in those days, not like this earthworm war that has replaced it. Still, no doubt the trench phase will not last for ever.
June 9th, 1916.
The school cricket XI seems to have been doing badly. It was undoubtedly hard lines to go under by only four runs to Bedford, but our bad season is only (p. 186) a tribute to the patriotism of the school, for I can see from the names of the eleven that we have no one playing over the age of 17. Our system of training the young idea in cricket is very much inferior to the training for footer. The consequence is that in Dulwich cricket a young team is probably destined for disaster, whereas I know from experience that whenever we've had a young footer team it has had quite as much success as teams exclusively composed of fellows in their last year at school.
To speak of bigger matters, it seems to me impossible as yet to put together any connected story of the Battle of Jutland. The only facts that seem certain are that both sides lost heavily (the Boches worse than ours, I expect), and that British superiority on the seas, and consequently the maintenance of the blockade, remains in statu quo antea. I am quite prepared to find, when the true facts come out, that it was a deathless story of heroism on the British part, and that in a fight with a foe about six times his strength Beatty covered himself with glory.
Lord Kitchener's death was terribly tragic. There ought to be stringent inquiries as to the ways and means by which the Boches were enabled to sink H.M.S. Hampshire. On the other hand, I can see that it is possible that the whole thing was a woefully unfortunate accident. To have one's name coupled with "Kitchener's Army"—a title alone which should pass K.'s name down to posterity—is no small honour.[Back to Contents]
In June Lieut. Paul Jones, much to his chagrin, was transferred from the 9th Cavalry Brigade to the Divisional Supply Column. His letters will show how (p. 187) much he resented this change. (Certain words and figures omitted from the following letter are the result of excisions made by the Press Bureau censorship. They do not appear to have been made on any intelligible principle.)
June 12th, 1916.
I have been transferred from my old post of Requisitioning Officer to Supply Officer, Cavalry Division Supply Column. I am frankly and absolutely fed-up with this change! They tell me it is promotion. Well, as I told my colonel, promotion of that kind was not what I wanted. I loved my old job with its facilities for exercising my French, and its comparative variety. Now I am dignified with a job whose main element is seeing to the rations being loaded on to the motor lorries that feed the division. I have not even a chance of exercising my special faculty—that of speaking French. I told my colonel I didn't want the job and beseeched him to leave me with my brigade. He was adamant. My late General wrote a personal letter to the A.S.C. colonel, urging in the strongest terms that I should be left with the brigade. Even to his appeal the only answer vouchsafed was: "The change is equivalent to a promotion for the officer," and it is "necessary for the satisfactory rationing of the division." The colonel told me he was moving me (1) because I was good at figures—me!; (2) because I was hard-working. They don't seem to realise that, if what they said was true, I would have been a far greater asset as a Requisitioning Officer. Oh, it does drive me wild!
We had a brilliantly successful Divisional Horse Show last Saturday. It proved a real triumph for the —— Hussars of our brigade—to my mind the best cavalry regiment in the Army. They romped home easy firsts for the cup presented by the G.O.C. to the regiment (p. 188) that got the greatest number of points in the competitions. The classes for heavy and light chargers brought out some magnificent horses. The well-known C.O. of the —— Hussars was very much in evidence in all these classes. He is a striking personality. With his hard, shrewd, red face, his wonderfully thin legs, light-coloured breeches, beautifully-cut tunic and high hat cocked over his left ear, he looked the personification of the cavalry officer as we read about him in novels. It would seem as though these cavalry officers had been fashioned by nature to sit on a horse. I suppose it is heredity. Certainly they are all of a type.
An interesting unofficial incident was provided by a man in the 4th Dragoon Guards producing a fine bay horse which he wagered 30 to 1 against any officer riding. It was a real American buck-jumper. This challenge was enough for the dare-devil subalterns of the —— Hussars, and one of them, Beach-Hay, a splendid horseman, promptly closed with the offer. For twenty minutes or so he tried to mount, without succeeding; finally he muffled the horse's head in a cloak and got on his back. Then he dug his spurs in and set off at a gallop over the wide plain where the show was being held. All went well for some time until suddenly, without any warning, the horse put his feet together, arched his back, and leapt several feet into the air, at the same time turning to the left sharply. This the horse repeated several times, up hill, down hill, sideways. How Beach-Hay managed to keep his seat no one could tell; it was marvellous the way he stuck on. At last the spirited animal contrived to get the rider well forward on his neck, and then Hay slipped off and the horse was away over the plain at full gallop, riderless. He was chased and caught at last after a long run. Then up stepped a wily old trooper of the 5th Dragoon Guards who used to be a jockey. He saw that (p. 189) the horse was now tired out and got on his back without difficulty, and as the animal by this time was utterly fagged, he found little trouble in keeping his seat. All the honours, however, belonged to the young subaltern.
Did you see that wonderful record of R. B. B. Jones of Dulwich? He shot no fewer than fifteen Boches in a scrap in the craters on the Vimy Ridge before himself being killed. I remember him more than well—a short, sturdy fellow, a very good shot, and an excellent diver and gymnast. He did not go in much for cricket or for football. Poor chap! Yet such a death, I think, is far more to be coveted than an ignoble life far from danger and risk. I often think of those lines of Adam Lindsay Gordon:
No game was ever yet worth a rap for a rational man to play,
Into which no accident, no mishap, could possibly find its way.
June 16th, 1916.
I have had another fit of the blues over this wretched transfer. Why should it be given to all the fellows I know to be in the thick of real fighting—a life which anyone should be proud to live—while to me, aged twenty, standing six feet, about forty inches round the chest, Rugby footballer, swimmer, fluent French speaker, and Balliol scholar, it is given to load up rations? Loathing this Supply work, I have already applied for a transfer to the Horse Transport Section. Oh! that I had only obeyed the dictates of my own conscience and enlisted in the H.A.C. at the start of (p. 190) the war, instead of staying on at school to get a paltry scholarship which the odds are 10 to 1 on my never being able to use! What I pray for is a job in which the following elements are constantly present: (1) hard work; (2) real brain work, employing, if possible, my knowledge of languages; (3) constant danger, or, at least, the constant chance of it; (4) if possible, horses to ride. For such a job I would willingly give ten years of my life.
June 22nd, 1916.
I am glad to say that I'm not finding my new job so absolutely hopeless as I expected. It is in many ways not at all uninteresting to be attached to a Supply Column. After a long time with men whose one interest in life is horses, I now find myself with men who eat, drink, live and breathe motors. My experience has already taught me that England has a splendid system of mechanical transport. Our column numbers no fewer than 150 lorries, 6 motor-cars, and 20 motor-bikes, and about 600 personnel, not to speak of a big travelling workshop and two or three break-down lorries. When you consider that this is merely the means of supplying one single division, you will faintly realise what a part mechanical transport plays in this war. There is no horse-train to a cavalry division, and the lorries deliver rations direct to the regimental quartermasters, so you stand a good chance of seeing all the fun if with the M.T. My duty is to make arrangements for translating the ration figures rendered daily to me by the Cavalry Brigades into terms of meat, bread, biscuit, forage, etc., and arrange for these to be loaded at railhead on to the lorries; then, in company with the M.T. officer of the day, to take these rations up to the units, at the same time obtaining the next day's feeding strength from the Brigade Supply Officers.
The M.T. officers are a very efficient lot, and know their job from A to Z. Among them is Captain Hugh Vivian, a member of the famous firm of Vivian & Son, of Swansea and Landore, so near to our ancestral home. He is O.C. to the section of lorries to which I am attached—a most intellectual man of charming manners, who has travelled all over Europe and speaks French and German fluently. He is one of the ablest men I have met in the Army and I find him one of the best of fellows. He may have to leave us shortly, because his thorough knowledge of the metal trades has marked him out to the authorities as a man invaluable for the production of munitions at home.
You have to be with a Supply Column in order to get some idea of the vast quantities of food that are sent up daily to the Front. Never have I seen such quantities—innumerable quarters of meat, tons of bully, crates of biscuits, and cheese, butter, jam, sugar, tea galore. When you remember that all this food has been transported across the Channel, and much of it previously imported from foreign countries into England, you begin to comprehend the value of sea-power.
I am told that the Cavalry Brigade have had to fix up a special interpreter to assist in the requisitioning work since my departure! "Verbum sat sapienti"! Why the authorities should give a man nearly a year's training in one job and then shift him to something else, without reference to his faculties, experience, or wishes, I simply can't tell. Still, there it is, and we must assume that they know best.
July 9th, 1916.
Things have been moving "a few" (as the Yanks say) on this front, haven't they? Let no one, however, delude himself with the belief that the business can be done in five minutes. Things in general in this war have a habit of moving slowly; also the enemy is undoubtedly well defended. Some of his dug-outs are 30 and 40 feet deep, with machine-guns on electric hoists, etc. The wily Boche has not wasted his time during his twenty odd months on this front. But what a relief it is to get back to action after so many months of sitting still!
I have seen numbers of wounded go through the various railheads. These cases were comparatively light wounds, the serious cases being removed by motor ambulance. But many of the gallant chaps I saw seemed in considerable pain. They were sent off in batches as soon as possible to a seaport, the returning supply trains being utilised for this purpose. Every one was in an incredible state of grime. It is the griminess of modern warfare that strikes me as its most characteristic feature.
For a whole fortnight I have lived, moved and had my being in a motor-lorry. I found it quite comfortable, though it was not inside the body of the vehicle that I had my dwelling. You see the lorries are almost always full of rations ready for delivery; so I slept in the driver's seat, and found it quite tolerable. It is just like the driver's seat on a motor-bus; in fact, many of the lorries are old London General omnibuses converted. Personally, I never wish for anything better, least of all on active service. There (p. 193) was a cushion and I had my blanket bag. What more could a man want?
The Ulster Division did remarkably well in the recent fighting. I am not surprised, for I saw them training in England, and was impressed by their toughness—hard-bitten, short, powerfully built men, who took things very seriously.
I can't tell you with what joy and pride I learnt that Lloyd George had been made Minister for War! I regard him as the outstanding personality of the age. Granted that he is sometimes rash, granted that he does not always master the details of the problem he is dealing with, granted that he sometimes propounds schemes before they are ripe; yet against that place (1) his wonderful personality, (2) his boundless vitality and energy, (3) his heartfelt sympathy for the downtrodden ones of the world, (4) his wonderful ideas and ideals, (5) his quickness of intelligence, (6) his ardent patriotism, (7) his remarkable powers of oratory, and (8) his almost uncanny gift of seeing into the future—and you have a man whose superior it would indeed be hard to find. Nietzsche would have welcomed him as his superman incarnate! I have never wavered in my admiration for L. G. Even when he was in hot water over Marconis, I stuck to him. Anyhow, was there ever a man who was absolutely perfect? Let us, for Heaven's sake, judge a man on his great points, and not "crab the goods" by always emphasising his weaknesses. Lloyd George is the man whom the Germans have more cause to fear than all the rest of the Cabinet or any of our authorities, civil or military.
July 17th, 1916.
In that mysterious quarter known as the back of the Front the motor-lorry is omnipresent, especially (p. 194) at a time like this. Wherever you go you see motor-lorries carrying food, ammunition, telegraphic appliances, barbed wire, gas cylinders, clothing, coal; in short, every sort and kind of article necessary to the service of an army in the field. Sometimes they are even used to carry up troops and to bring down wounded. During the Loos push, for instance, this column was hurriedly requisitioned to take up a Yorkshire battalion to the Hohenzollern Redoubt.
I was much interested in Kittermaster's last letter published in The Alleynian—a very characteristic bit of writing. There were very few fellows or masters either who ever got at Kitter's inner nature. He was always somewhat of a mystery to most people. This was accentuated by his taciturn temperament, his rather distant manner, and short, brusque way of speaking. But he certainly was one of the very best masters I can remember at Dulwich, and of the Corps he was a wonderful O.C. There have been many tributes to Kitter, but I scarcely think that people have done full justice in the obituary notices to Nightingale, the other Dulwich master who has given his life in the war—a sterling chap if ever there was one.
So Howard, as well as R. B. B. Jones, now figures in the death roll! It seems but yesterday that we three were ragging together in the swimming baths, of which both these chaps were great habitués.
I am very sad, too, at the death of A. W. Fischer. He and I got our 1st XV colours together in Killick's (p. 195) year, and were the best of friends throughout his last two years at school. He was a smallish, active forward of the Irish type, a splendid hard worker all through the game. He and I never on any occasion got crocked, and we played in every 1st XV match for two consecutive seasons, 1912-1914. He was a shrewd fellow, too, and well read, particularly in the classics. He had a very deep, rich voice, and used to do well every time in the competition for the Anstie Memorial Reading Prize. As a soldier he would have been almost ideal, as he was a rare good leader, and a devil-may-care chap who feared nothing. It is inexpressibly sad that he should have been taken away thus. And I haven't even seen him since we parted at the end of the summer term, 1914, just before this holocaust started. We shook hands on saying "Good-bye" on the cricket ground, he proceeding towards the school buildings, and I towards the pavilion. He was to have gone to Cambridge the ensuing October, and we had been talking of his chances of a "Blue," and if we would be able to play against each other in the coming season. But what use to raise up the vanished ghosts of the past? It only makes the tragedy more heart-breaking. It is up to us to see that these lives have not been laid down in vain.
July 25th, 1916.
I was up yesterday in the region where we won ground from the Germans, seeing to a dump of rations. The chief impression I brought away with me was one of all-pervading dust. I have witnessed a few scenes of destruction in my time out here, but nothing to match a certain village in this area. Vermelles was bad enough, but this place is even worse. Everything in it has been razed to the ground. Except for an occasional square foot of masonry protruding (p. 196) out of the earth, there is nothing to suggest that there was ever a village here at all. In one old German trench I saw a cross with the following words written on it: "Hier liegen zwei Franz. Krieger," which interpreted would be: "Here lie two French warriors," a tribute by the enemy to two Frenchmen buried here earlier in the war before we took over this portion of the line.
Alas! another old pal of mine has been killed, namely W. J. Henderson, a captain of the Loyal North Lancashires. In the old days at Dulwich he did well in football. He got into the 2nd XV under Evans, and frequently played for the 1st XV. He was also decidedly clever, and won a classical scholarship at Oxford. The war is taking a frightful toll of the best of our race.
July 27th, 1916.
I should like to have your permission to apply for a transfer to the Royal Field Artillery. The procedure will be quite simple. I will send in my application to the O.C., who will forward it with the Medical Officer's health certificate to the higher A.S.C. authorities; then it will go forward in the usual course. If the people in charge think my record satisfactory and my eyesight good enough they will take me. I want to give the authorities a chance to take or refuse me for a really combatant corps. In this way, whether refused or accepted, I shall have satisfied my conscience. After all, the doctor will state on the medical certificate exactly what my vision is. So there will be no question of trying to deceive the authorities. They (p. 197) will have before them all the facts re my record and my eyesight. If they then refuse me, well and good. I shall accept the inevitable. If they take me, so much the better. I have had several chats with the Officer Commanding the Supply Column on the subject, and explained to him that I was utterly fed up with grocery work.
The scenes I have witnessed during and since this great attack—the Somme battles—have confirmed my resolution to go into the fighting line. You who have not seen the horrors of a modern campaign cannot possibly know the feelings of a young man who, while the real business of war is going on at his very elbow (for we are not far from the centre of things), and who is longing to be in the thick of the fighting, is yet condemned to look after groceries and do work which a woman could do probably a great deal better.
Oh! it is awful. And all this, mind you, with the knowledge that all the chaps one used to know are in the thick of it.
To sum up, I recognise that I have a serious physical defect. I shall not attempt to conceal it from the authorities; it would be wrong to do so. But I have also many physical, and I think some mental, advantages over the average man. Moreover, I am young and exceptionally strong. I give you my word of honour that in making my application I shall not conceal the facts about my short sight. Having lodged my application for transfer, it will be for the authorities to say whether they will take me or leave me. Please, please, give your approval to my putting in such an application. Occasions come to every man when he has to make up his mind for himself and by himself—as I did about my move to the Modern side of Dulwich. Was that a failure?
I am more thankful than I can say to have your permission to apply for transfer to the R.F.A. Since I wrote to you a circular has come from G.H.Q. stating that officers for the artillery are wanted urgently. They propose to send home two hundred officers a month till further notice for training at the Artillery School. I want, if possible, to avoid going home to train. I would like to go through my training course here, but I fear beggars can't be choosers, and in the case of a highly technical arm like the gunners the training may have to be done in England. Everybody with us is feeling restive; the inaction that prevails is getting beyond a joke.
As for the A.S.C., I consider that my particular branch of the service is overstocked. In itself the mere fact of the work not appealing to me (though I absolutely loathe it) would not be decisive. It is because I am convinced that I could do better work in other directions that I am longing for a transfer. Even the transport side of the A.S.C. I would not object to. It is the Supply, or grocery, side that I loathe. Had I remained in the post of Requisitioning Officer, with its variety of work and the possibility of exercising my linguistic gifts, I would have been moderately content. But in my heart and soul I have always longed for the rough-and-tumble of war as for a football match. What I have seen of the war out here has not frightened me in the least, but rather made me keener than ever to take part in the fighting. It is all very well to be an "organiser of victory," but it does not appeal to me, even if I had the particular type of mind necessary for success at it. But I am not a good business man, and the details of business bore me stiff. On the other hand, it is my passionate desire to share the hardships and dangers of this war.
(p. 199) It is not only my own desire and my own temperament that influence me, but the example of others. I pick up my newspaper to-day, and what do I see? Why, that a fellow that sat in the same form-room as I did two years back has won the V.C., paying, it is true, with his life for the honour. But what a glorious end! I mean, of course, my namesake, Basil Jones, the first Dulwich V.C., of whose achievement one can scarcely speak without a lump in the throat. Likewise I see my friend S. H. Killick, to whom I gave football colours, has been wounded. And think of the men who have fallen! Men of the stamp of Julian Grenfell, D. O. Barnett, Rupert Brooke, Roland Philipps, R. G. Garvin, and W. J. Henderson have not hesitated to give up for their country all the brilliant gifts of character and intellect with which they would have enriched England had it not been for the war. The effect on me is as a trumpet call. All the old Welsh fighting blood comes surging up in me and makes me say, "Short sight or no short sight, I will prove my manhood!" If it should be my fate to get popped off—well, it is we younger men without dependants whose duty it is to take the risk. You will get some inkling of my feeling when you read in Garvin's father's article how his son, when sent off to the Divisional H.Q., lost all his spirits and begged to be sent back to the old battalion, and how, when he did get back to it, "his letters recovered their old clear tone." How well I can understand that!
(p. 200) My application for a transfer to the R.F.A. has now gone in. If I am refused I shall be broken-hearted, but my conscience will be clear. If I am accepted, it will be the happiest day of my life.
A few words now about some personal experiences. At a certain village not far from here are a number of Boche prisoners. Every day they go out to shovel refuse into army wagons, and then unload these wagons elsewhere on to refuse heaps. It is a daily occurrence to see a Boche mount up on the box beside the English driver, and off they go—if the Boche can speak English—chatting merrily as if there had never been a war. I have even seen Tommy hand over the reins to his captive, who cheerfully takes them and drives the wagon to its destination, while the real driver sits back with folded arms. That will show you how far the British soldier cultivates the worship of Hate. It is small incidents of this kind, unofficial and even illegal though they may be, that make one realise the true secret of Britain's greatness—her magnanimity and her kindliness.
August 14th, 1916.
The Dulwich Army List makes very interesting reading, though I notice some omissions and errors in it. Everyone seems to be doing something. It is as good a record as that of any other school or institution of any kind in the country. I have not yet had any news about my move to the Gunners, but the application has only been in a comparatively short time, and these things have to take their course. I know that my application was duly forwarded and recommended by my C.O. to the Divisional authorities. I shall be very much surprised if I don't get the transfer. By Jove! if I only can. You cannot imagine anyone being so fed up with anything as I (p. 201) am with my present job. Loathing is not the word for the feeling with which I regard it.
I am reading Burke on the French Revolution. It is brilliant writing, to be sure, but Burke is too biased and has not complete knowledge of his subject. You would think from the way he writes that the "Ancien Régime" was an ideal system of government which brought to France nothing but prosperity! Had he possessed the knowledge of Arthur Young, who had examined social and economic conditions in France with piercing eyes, he would doubtless have modified his views. Moreover, Burke forgets the maxim he himself laid down in his speeches on the American Revolution—that large masses of men do not, as a rule, rebel without some reason for so doing. It seems to me that Burke's heart and his inborn prejudices have run away with his head. Though he scoffs at people who try to work out systems of government on the lines of idealism, yet his own views are often purely idealistic, especially on the subject of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, whom he apparently regarded as a pair of demigods!
The style of the book is splendidly oratorical, sometimes too much so, but there are passages in it which it would be difficult to match even in the splendid realm of English prose—for example, his great panegyric on the State. On England, too, he is very fine. Many people to-day might do worse than read his defence of the British Constitution, though I personally disagree with some points in his argument. One sentence from this passage might be addressed to our Allies very appropriately to-day—"Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle reposing beneath the shadow of the British oak chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that (p. 202) those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field."
Unfortunately the British people do bear a strong resemblance to great cattle, and it requires a Lloyd George to awaken the sleeping animals and galvanise them into movement.
Recently I got hold of a volume of de Musset. There is some beautiful verse in it, especially the "Ode to Lamartine," in which he has a great tribute to Byron.
Could you send me out the programme of the coming Promenade Concert season? I would give anything to hear Wagner and Beethoven once more. My allegiance to these giants, as to Shakespeare and Milton, grows stronger every day. The appalling tawdry trash that passes for music nowadays, and the degradation of art and literature which seems to be the feature of the twentieth century, intensify my loyalty to great musicians and noble writers. What is the cause of this decadence? There is surely enough inspiration for genius in this colossal war, when every day the spirit of man is winning new triumphs and deeds of extraordinary heroism are being performed.[Back to Contents]
In August, 1916, Paul Jones was relieved of his uncongenial duties with the Supply Column and appointed to command an ammunition working-party located at an advanced railhead in the terrain of the Somme battles.
August 21st, 1916.
I am delighted to tell you that I have been temporarily posted to a job of real interest and responsibility, (p. 203) having been given the command of a working-party composed of infantry, artillery, and A.S.C. men, whose function it is to load and unload ammunition at an important railhead not far from the Front. We are about 150 in all, and a very happy family. We live in tents and work under the orders of the Railhead Ordnance authorities. There is a vast amount of work, and it goes on continuously, at present from 4 A.M. to 9 P.M. daily, and sometimes throughout the night as well. It is a revelation to see the immense quantities of explosives, etc., that are sent up. I have nothing further to report about the R.F.A. transfer, but my C.O. has assured me that if my application is not successful I shall be able to return shortly to the Cavalry Brigade in my old capacity as Requisitioning Officer.
This working ammunition-party of which I am in command is located in a little town well in the swirl of war, with the guns booming in the near distance most of the day and night. The "unit under my command," to put it in official language, lives in a field by the railhead. We have a pair of first-rate sergeants (R.H.A. and Infantry) and various very sound A.S.C. n.c.o.s in charge. Everything goes merrily as a wedding-bell. A gunner officer looks after the administrative welfare, pay, etc., of the artillerymen, but the discipline and command of the unit as a whole devolve on yours truly.
Next door to us across the line there is a concentration camp of Boche prisoners. They work on the railway all day shovelling stones in and out of trucks and lorries. To the eternal credit of England the treatment the prisoners receive, the food supplied to them, and the conditions under which they live are all of the very best. They have their being in tents within a barbed wire enclosure, not too crowded, and have excellent washing facilities (hot baths once a week), good food and conveniences for its preparation, including (p. 204) huge camp kettles for cooking—in short, every comfort possible. The work they do is hard, but no harder than that many of our own fellows have to do in the normal course of events. The considerate way in which our prisoners are treated is a great tribute to British chivalry. An old French soldier, watching them one day in their camp, said to me: "Vous les traitez trop bien ces salots." I replied: "Oui, mais c'est comme ça que l'Angleterre fait la guerre—avec les mains toujours propres."
I was grieved to hear of the death of Lieutenant Ivor Rees, of Llanelly. He was a great friend of Arthur and Tom. It is awful, there is no doubt about it, the sacrifice of these lives cut short in their prime, but they are not wasted; of that I am convinced. Besides:
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.
Lloyd George's Eisteddfod speech was very stirring. I like that phrase, "The blinds of Britain are not drawn down." I see the papers are discussing Ministerial changes. I hope whatever happens that Lloyd George will remain at the War Office—it is the place where his personality is wanted. I am reading two interesting French books: Émile Faguet's "Short History of French Literature" and Dumas' "Vingt Ans Après." I wish you would send me Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason," or one of Hegel's books. This evening I listened to Beethoven's "Egmont" overture—what a glorious work it is! Keep your eye for me on any books dealing with Beethoven or the immortal Richard.
September 2nd, 1916.
I am still in command of the ammunition working-party, and, entailing as it does real work and responsibility, am enjoying it hugely. All our men seem very (p. 205) happy. Their rations and living conditions are excellent. We have our own canteen, which does a great trade. It is a bad day if the canteen fails to take 250 francs, although it is open only from 12 to 2 and from 6 to 8 as per regulations.
We get our stuff from the nearest branch of the Expeditionary Force canteens, a military unit which does a colossal business at the back of the Front. It has depôts almost as large as those of the A.S.C. A sergeant-major of the nearest branch of the E.F.C. tells me that they calculate that at one depôt they take more money in a day than Harrod's Stores do in a week. The place is chock-a-block from morning to night, and outside there is always waiting a string of lorries, mess-carts, wagons, limbers, from all over the place. The part played by the E.F.C. in the war is by no means unimportant. It is a regular military unit, with officers, n.c.o.s and men (in khaki, of course), run under the authority of the War Office and subject to military law. Profits on sales go to the purchase of fresh stock, and I believe, in part, to the Military Canteens Fund at the War Office. The whole thing is run by the Director of Supply and Transport at the W.O., and is commanded out here by an A.S.C. major. It is difficult not to make profits on canteens; even in our comparatively small one, we constantly find ourselves saddled with more money than is required, and this although the prices charged to the men are the lowest possible. One great merit of the canteens is that they prevent the men from being "rooked" by unscrupulous civilians, who, I regret to say, are to be found in force in some of these French towns and villages.
The military canteen movement on its present huge scale has only been possible to us because of (1) the comparatively high rates of pay in the British Army; (2) the command of the sea, making transport (p. 206) from England simple and easy; (3) the inexhaustible reservoirs of supply and manufacture that exist within the British Empire. There can be no doubt about it that the path of the British soldier in this war has been made as easy as it is possible to make it—an incalculable advantage to a nation that has had to create a great voluntary Army in a comparatively short space of time. Whatever faults the military authorities may have committed in other directions, they have kept steadily in view the Napoleonic maxim, "An army moves on its stomach."
The Boche prisoners round about here work energetically. They must, I fancy, be amazed themselves at the manner in which they are treated—the abundance of food, the entire absence of rancour on our part, and the general conditions under which they work and live. Actually, they get their Sunday afternoons off. Some of them have been given a little plot of land close to the internment camp, where they are busy gardening in their leisure time. In the camp they have all sorts of work-tables and tools, and you often see some of them doing carpentering after their day's work is done. The prisoners stroll about the camp and its environs at will, and the men on guard are continually chatting and joking with them. The ration of the prisoners includes fresh meat and bread every day, and a supply of tobacco and cigarettes once a week. It is much to the credit of Britain that her captives in war should be treated with so much generosity. Don't let the Government abandon this policy of broad magnanimity because of the noisy clamour of armchair reprisalists at home. By the way, these Boche prisoners observe the rules of discipline even in their captivity, and when British or French officers pass by they stand respectfully to attention. Most of the prisoners are big chaps.
(p. 207) If you have not read it, let me recommend to you a book by John Buchan called "The Thirty-nine Steps." To my mind it is the cleverest detective story I have read since the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. It is in a way a sort of enlarged version of an earlier story by Buchan that appeared in Blackwood's Magazine called the "Power House." As in the "Power House," the chief villain is merely hinted at; he is only fully revealed in the last page. Throughout the rest of the story he is one of those genial, cheery old men who are always puffing cigars and drinking whisky. The incidents take place in England and are connected with a series of events that precipitated the present war. I enjoyed the book and admired the ingenuity with which the plot is worked out. The writing is vigorous and there is no sloppy sentimentality.
September 6th, 1916.
Yesterday my working party had orders suddenly to shift its quarters to a spot farther up the line. Having struck camp we started off about 2 P.M. in motor char-à-bancs and lorries. After about two hours' plunging about in roads that were like quagmires we arrived at our destination, a newly formed railhead, not far from the battle line. It is situated on a sort of plateau. The surrounding country is thick with guns. In the past twelve hours there has been a terrific bombardment, the guns booming incessantly. Even Loos, which wasn't so bad while it lasted, pales into insignificance in comparison. At night the sky reminds one of the Crystal Palace firework show in its palmiest days. It is a fine place this from the point of view of health, being high up and open to the fresh air and the sunshine. I am feeling absolutely splendid both in health and spirits. It is a treat to be up where things are happening.
Pursuant to orders from the Division, I marched my party up to join another working party that is engaged on duty whose scope extends as far as the most recently gained ground. We are quartered along with a lot of cavalry at a point in the area captured, and are just in front of our big guns. The country all around is a veritable abomination of desolation. Its surface is intersected at innumerable points with ditches, in which much splendid English blood has flowed. Here and there, looking very forlorn, are stark and blasted stumps that used to be woods. Above and around the ceaseless voice of the guns fills the air with its clamour. Steel helmets and gas helmets are the standing order for us when on duty.
Whom do you think I met this morning to my great delight? No less a person than Peaker, now an officer of the K.R.R.s. He was just back from a certain spot in the line, where his lot had "gone over" with good results. The story of his experiences occasioned heartburnings to myself as regards the part I've been playing in the war behind the battle line. He had recently met Cartwright, G. T. K. Clarke, and the elder Dawson—all old Alleynians, who have had the privilege of participating in the "push." On the advice of the Divisional A.A. and Q.M.G., I am reluctantly leaving over the question of transfer to the R.F.A. till things get more settled. At present I am away from the Division, and it is difficult, almost impossible in fact, for me to arrange the interviews with the Medical and Artillery authorities that are necessary as a preliminary to transfer. Still, as I am (p. 209) getting plenty of interesting work at my present job I don't mind waiting.
September 14th, 1916.
Last night I was detailed to go up with a working party engaged in operations on the very site of the last great battle. The whole business took place under cover of darkness. After an hour and a half's trudging, up hill and down dale, we got to the allotted spot and began our work. The night was alive with noises—ear-splitting reports of big guns, the shrieks and whistles of shells in transit, and the rat-tat-tat of machine-guns. Now and again the darkness would be illuminated by the glare of star-shells. I think I mentioned to you before the mournful desolation of this war-scarred countryside—land without grass, without trees, without houses, nothing more now than a wilderness, with yawning shell craters innumerable, and here and there blackened and branchless stumps that used to be trees. We were near the site of a village famous in the annals of British arms. A single brick of that village would be worth its weight in gold as a souvenir. As we worked in the darkness the air was polluted by a horrible stench, and as soon as one's eyes got accustomed to the gloom there became visible silent twisted forms that used to be men. But enough; I dare not tell you of the ghastly scenes on that historic battlefield; it would give you nightmare for weeks to come if I did.
Out here one gets into a callous state, in which these things, while unpleasant, are scarcely noticed in the whirl and confusion of events. Personally at the time, in traversing this battlefield, I was slightly horrified at first, but chiefly conscious only of the frightful odour of mortality. It is on thinking the thing over in retrospect and with cold blood that the real sense (p. 210) of horror begins to creep into one's soul. Such is the so-called "ennobling influence of war"! As I went over this grim battlefield, with all its tragic sights, I reflected bitterly on the triumph of twentieth-century civilisation.
Our work occupied us about five hours, and we trekked for home before dawn. Through the night there was movement and activity—ration parties, walking wounded, stretcher-bearers, reliefs, all moving silently in the darkness like so many phantoms. I have picked up a number of souvenirs from the old Boche trenches, including a Boche steel helmet, with a shrapnel hole in the side as big as a crown-piece. Its wearer must have "gone West" instanter.
September 21st, 1916.
In the last few days two other officers and myself have been in charge of working parties. Starting out at 8 A.M., it is our habit to proceed on foot to places distant anything up to three and four miles, returning in the late afternoon. Yesterday we got to our destination about 9 A.M., and found the Boche "crumping" with fair regularity the vicinity of an apology for a road. Though little more than a muddy track, and only recently captured by us, this road is full of traffic most hours of the day. The "Hun" knows this and acts accordingly. As we were marching gaily up about 9 A.M. he began a "strafe" of the district with pretty heavy shells at intervals of a couple of minutes. Suddenly came a bang about thirty yards in front of us on the road, and he put a beautiful shot almost under the wheels of a lorry, digging a huge crater in the road, into which the crumpled-up chassis subsided with a crash. Fortunately the driver was not there, or for him it would have been a case of "kingdom come." I was at the head of our lot, along (p. 211) with my friend Lieutenant Gardner. We considered what we should do—whether to push straight through to our destination, which was not two hundred yards away, to wait where we were, or split up into small parties. We arranged that he should lead on, while I would wait to see all the column pass and hurry up stragglers. Gardner had not got farther than fifty yards when a six-incher came plonk within a few yards of him. Luckily he and all his lot had time to prostrate themselves, and there were no casualties. I was gathering the remainder of the party, when whew! crash! and I felt a terrific detonation at my very elbow, and for a moment was stunned and deafened. A Boche shell had pitched not five yards behind me. How I was not blown to smithereens will always be a marvel to me. As I staggered about under the shock of the explosion I could feel bits of steel and earth pattering on my helmet like rain. After the first momentary shock I was in full possession of my wits, and I quickly realised that, for the moment at least, I had lost all sense of hearing in my right ear. But this was a small price to pay for the escape. Such a miracle would assuredly never happen again. A few hours later I had regained a good deal of hearing power, but it is not right yet. Experts, however, tell me that this effect will pass off in time. A fragment of the shell passed through the right sleeve of my heavy overcoat. I am glad to say we had no casualties at all, though the enemy kept on dropping heavy stuff round about us all day.
Well, cheer-oh! I am keeping as fit as a horse. My appetite, I regret to say, gets bigger every day.
September 27th, 1916.
Our working party having finished its duties, I have now been appointed Requisitioning Officer to the 2nd (p. 212) Cavalry Brigade. This is much better than that horrible job with the Supply Column. The war news is splendid, but some glorious men have "gone West." We are paying a big price for victory. The death of Raymond Asquith is a great tragedy. A brilliant life extinguished, one that gave promise of great things. I had a shock to-day on reading in the paper that my old friend H. Edkins, who took a Junior Scholarship at Dulwich in the same year as I did, is reported among the missing. He was an able and gifted fellow. Do you remember how well he sang at the school concert in December, 1914? With all my heart I hope he's all right. I wish you would get for me Professor Moulton's book, "The Analytic Study of Literature."[Back to Contents]
October 3rd, 1916.
Here I am a Requisitioning Officer again, this time for another Cavalry Brigade. I was sorry not to get back to my old comrades. Still, it is a change to work with new regiments. This Cavalry Brigade is a famous body of troops. To it belongs the honour of having been the first lot of Britishers in action in the war. While I like my duties, I am beginning to feel restive, and am longing to get back to the real battle zone. What think you of our new war machines? [Tanks were first employed on September 15, 1916.—Editor.] I have had many opportunities of studying them on the move. One would scarcely believe it possible they (p. 213) could go over ground such as I have seen them comfortably traverse. No obstacle seems insurmountable to them. They are quaint-looking things, but, in spite of the Press correspondents, they are no more like to, or suggestive of, primeval monsters than a cow resembles a chaff-cutter.
Ireland is an enigma and no mistake. The man who settles the Irish problem will go down to history. The difficulty would appear to be to effect any rapprochement of the English and Irish national points of view, these having been determined by the different environments of the two races. In national life as in nature the law of natural selection operates.
I rejoice to say that I've got two horses again, one a big brown horse, very strong and a hard worker, the other a powerful bay mare. Neither is particularly good-looking, but I've learnt from experience that soundness and strength in a horse are more to be desired than good looks, especially when campaigning. It is seldom that you can combine all the qualities. Breed and blood tell in horses. A well-bred horse will outlast a common one, because it tries harder. What you want is a judicious mixture of breed and strength. My two horses are pretty well-bred and have great strength, and always try hard; so I'm pretty well off, I reckon.
I observe that those blighted Zeppelins have been about England again. But really the Zepp. is a colossal failure, whether you regard it from the point of view of doing military injury, or damage likely in any way to help Germany in the war, such as impairing the morale of the British people. The best reply to the Zepps. is being given day and night on the Somme, where hundreds of thousands of Boches must at present be wishing they had never been born. I am surprised they have stuck our bombardment as they have (p. 214) done, but I am bound to say that the Boche is by no means a coward.
I am at present deeply immersed in Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason." It is a great work, and not by any means one to be read in a hurry. Every line is charged full with deep thinking. It appeals to me intensely. Kant's was a gigantic mind.
November 3rd, 1916.
Our Cavalry Brigade has been on the move for some time. In these circumstances I am always busily employed. Every day that we move I go on with the brigade advance parties, go round the billets that the troops are going to occupy, and make all arrangements with the French inhabitants for a plentiful supply of fuel, straw and forage to be available for the troops when they arrive. The weather recently has been the reverse of clement. The first stages of the move were accomplished in pitiless rain, the more recent ones in weather fairly dry, but bitterly cold. Not that vicissitudes of weather worry me. I never enjoy life so much as when I'm fully occupied with hard work like that I am now doing, which is really useful and responsible.
The question of Ireland remains a perplexing one. We have two Irishmen in our mess, one a Unionist, the other a Nationalist. The impression one gets from them at least is the hopelessness of our being ever able to settle the Irish problem. It is largely, of course, a question of temperament. The Ulsterman with us is all for the "strong hand" policy, but I pointed out to him the absurdity of our adopting Prussian tactics, especially at this moment. He agreed, but steadfastly maintained that, judging purely from results, Balfour was the best Chief Secretary Ireland has ever had. He frankly admitted that Carson made himself liable to be tried for high treason at the time of the Larne gunrunning. (p. 215) He also agreed with me that to administer an irritant to a man recovering from brain fever is a very risky policy. In fact, we came round to the old conclusion in which, to quote "Rasselas," "nothing is concluded." It is a thousand pities that so able, attractive and intelligent a race as the Irish should have such an accursedly impossible temperament. It is the unimaginative, easygoing, supremely practical Englishman who is the ideal governor in this foolish world, not the hot-headed idealist.
November 10th, 1916.
I am starting off to-day on rather a big, albeit safe job, namely, purchasing all the hay and straw in a certain area on behalf of the Cavalry Division. It is an important commission and will take me about a week to execute.
We have arrived at another stagnant period in the war. That was a happy definition of it as "long spells of acute boredom punctuated by short spells of acute fear."
What brilliant soldiers the French are! It amazes me that they should be able to "strafe" the Boches so constantly, and at points where one would least expect them to. The recapture of Douaumont was, in my opinion, one of the best bits of work in the war. Of course, the French Army is superbly generalled, and it has a military tradition second to none in the world. A nation that can boast of men like Vauban, Turenne, Condé, Soult, Masséna, Ney, and Macdonald (I don't mention Napoleon, because he was not really a Frenchman at all) has a glorious military tradition worth living up to.
On the other hand, I cannot withhold praise from the wonderful organisation of the Boches. The way in which they repeatedly take the bull by the horns and (p. 216) attack the encircling ring of their enemies at some new point is extraordinary. Where on earth did they find men for their Rumanian campaign? There can be no doubt that they are a very stiff foe to beat, and they are not easily "rattled" by failures or defeats. But it is undeniable that they were badly "rattled" on the Somme. British achievements there enable one to look with great hope to the future, when our full strength will be in the field. Man for man the German soldier is no match for the British Tommy.
I was amazed to read in the papers that the Dulwich 1st XV have been beaten by Merchant Taylors'. If that really happened, then truly it is a case of "Ichabod," and "The glory is departed from Israel."
November 17th, 1916.
I am still detached temporarily from Headquarters, travelling about in a motor-car for the purpose of securing local supplies of forage and straw in the area about to be occupied by the Cavalry Division. It is very interesting work, with a large human element in it; but one has difficulty in getting these French farmers and dealers to agree to our prices for their commodities. Almost always they want much more for them than is prescribed in our schedule of official prices. Taking note of all refusals to sell to us, because our prices are too low, I have to-day applied for permission to requisition the goods in these cases—that is, to take the stuff over compulsorily, handing to the owner a note entitling him to draw so much money from the British Requisition Office, the amount being settled by us and not by the farmer or dealer. That is the way the French Military authorities do things. They, of course, are dealing with their own people. It is different with us, and French farmers and peasants think they are entitled to exact all they can from the English. The French (p. 217) authorities, acting through their A.S.C. or the local mayors, periodically call on the communes to supply them with so much forage, straw and other commodities. These quantities have to be supplied nolens volens and at prices fixed by the French Army. I can see ourselves being forced reluctantly to adopt the same procedure, at least in some cases, though it is much more pleasant for both parties when we can buy amicably and pay cash on the spot.
A number of the farmers with whom I had to deal recently are "permissionaires"—they get pretty regular leave in the French Army. The peasant stock of the North of France has a knack of producing good fighting men—they are an unromantic race, but amazingly industrious, shrewd, and very tough.
My car-driver is a Welshman from Pontypridd. He is one of the best drivers I've struck out here and a first-rate fellow to boot. He has played a lot of Rugby, having turned out several times on the wing for Cardiff. He is quite young, not much older than myself. Like most Welshmen, he has literary tastes, and has a real gift for reciting poetry.
The Alleynian duly to hand. Its monthly War record for the old school makes splendid, albeit mournful reading. How poignant to read the record in dates of Edkins's life: "Born, 1896; left school, September, 1915; killed in action, 1916." Judging from the official account, Frank Hillier must have done great work in earning the Military Cross. I see also that K. R. Potter has got the M.C. He is one of the most brilliant men Dulwich has produced. He was one of the two men to win a Balliol Scholarship in Classics in the second of those historic two years when we got two in each year—a record equalled by few schools and beaten by (p. 218) none. J. S. Mann, who took a Balliol Scholarship at the same time as Potter, has been wounded in the trenches.
Deep was my grief to read of the death in action of R. F. Mackinnon, M.C., one of the finest forwards and captains who has ever worn the blue-and-black jersey. He was captain of the first fifteen in my first year at the school, 1908-9, in which we had a pack of forwards of strong physique and whole-hearted courage. Arthur Gilligan, who was in the same battalion as Mackinnon, told me he was absolutely without fear, and was continually working up little "strafes" of the Boches on his own.
November 22nd, 1916.
I have been up to the neck in work, having temporarily to do what is really three men's work—Brigade Supply Officer, Brigade Requisitioning Officer, and Divisional Forage Purchasing Officer—the last a newly-created post under the direction of the Corps H.Q. It is no joke personally arranging the payments for all the forage in an area fifteen square miles by ten. To-day I found it impossible to continue and do the work efficiently without assistance. It is not so much the getting the forage as the amount of accounting that is involved. I fear I am a poor accountant at best, and the figuring involved in the new scheme (there are five enormous Army forms to fill up weekly, in addition to the ordinary business side of the transactions) has been taxing my energies and has taken up my time long after working hours. Major Knox, Senior Supply Officer of the Division (an old Dulwich man, at one time the Oxford Cricket Captain, and a splendid fellow (p. 219) to boot), spent about six hours to-day with me in completely checking our available resources. The fact is that the hay ration from England has been very considerably reduced for some reason, and we have to make up the deficiency out here, permission having been obtained from the French authorities to purchase and requisition in various Army areas. This permission was for a long time withheld, as the French wanted the local supplies for their own troops.
I am finding the War a boring business; the glamour has decidedly worn off. Oh, if we could but get through the Boche lines! As things are at present, there is no thrill and not much scope for initiative. It is just a sordid affair of mud, shell-holes, corpses, grime and filth. Even in billets the thing remains intensely dull and uninspiring. One just lives, eats, drinks, sleeps, and all apparently to no purpose. The monotony is excessive. My chief function in life seems to be the filling up of endless Army forms. I thoroughly sympathise with the recent protest from military men in the Spectator about the "Military Babu," who is occupying an ever larger and larger place in the life of the Army. There will be a revolt one of these days against the fatuity of this eternal filling up of forms for no conceivable purpose.
It is not only myself, but many of my comrades who are bored by the War. To my mind there are only four really interesting branches in the Army: (1) Flying Corps; (2) Heavy Artillery; (3) Tanks, and (4) Intelligence. It must be intense reaction against the drab monotony of life at the Front that is responsible for the outbreak of frivolity that is said to have been the leading characteristic of life in London and elsewhere of late. The Englishman doesn't like thinking; if he did, he would not be the splendid fighting man that he is.
(p. 220) In literature taste had gone to the dogs long before the War, and it seems to me that the War has hastened it on its downward path. It does seem to me a tragic pity that no great and inspiring work has sprung to birth in England from the contemplation of what the men of British race have achieved in this War, enduring such depressing conditions with so much fortitude and doing such glorious deeds whenever there is a chance for action.
November 29th, 1916.
More boredom and an incredible amount of figuring, until I loathe the very sight of pencil and paper. Thanks for parcels. Everyone is so kind that it afflicts me with a sense of shame. Not that any amount of gifts is too lavish for the brave men in the trenches, but for "peace soldiers," like yours truly, it is very different. I am at present living in a beautiful château at a perfectly safe distance from the Front, in very pleasant country, with a motor-car and two horses at my disposal and every conceivable luxury. And then one is asked about the hardships that one endures! It really is too absurd. I am by no means the only one who feels like this, but I do think it is worse for a Celtic temperament than for an Anglo-Saxon one.
At last there seems to be a chance of escape from this luxurious life, for a circular has just come to hand from the O.C., A.S.C., of the Division, intimating that a number of transfers per month from the A.S.C. to really fighting units has been sanctioned by the War Office, together with a form to be filled up by officers desiring to transfer. Of course, I am putting my name down. I am deliberating whether to go for Infantry, Artillery, or Machine-Gun Corps.
I was medically examined yesterday, and passed fit for general service. To-day I filled in the application form, applying for (1) Infantry, (2) M.G.C., (3) Royal Artillery. You will doubtless want my reasons for this step. (1) It is obvious that they need Infantry officers most. It is, therefore, clearly the duty of every fit officer to offer his services for the Infantry. I have been passed fit by an entirely impartial medical officer, after a searching medical examination; therefore it is my duty to go. (2) From the personal point of view I have long been most dissatisfied with the part I am playing in the War, and I jump at the chance of a transfer.
I don't pretend to be doing the "young hero" stunt. I am not out for glory. I have probably seen far more of the War as it really is than any other A.S.C. officer in the Division. I know the War for the dull, sordid, murderous thing that it is. I don't expect for a minute to enjoy the trenches. But anything is better than this horrible inaction when all the chaps one knows are undergoing frightful hardships and dangers. For a long time the argument of physical incapacity weighed with me. I was forced to admit that if, on account of defective eyesight, I was not sound for Infantry work, it was better that I should stick to a job for which I was fit than do badly one for which I was not fit. But I have now been passed fit for general service, and this being so I would be a craven to hold back from the fighting-line.
If we are to win this War it will only be through gigantic efforts and great sacrifices. It is the chief virtue of the public-school system that it teaches one to make sacrifices willingly for the sake of esprit de corps. Well, clearly, if the public-school men hold back, the others will not follow. Germany at present (p. 222) [the Germans had recently overrun Rumania] is in the best situation—speaking politically—she has been in since those dramatic days of the advance on Paris. The British effort is only just beginning to bear fruit, and we are called on to strain every nerve in our national body to counteract the superb organisation of the Boches. That can only be done by getting the right man in the right job. Men with special qualifications must be given the chance to exercise them. All A.S.C. officers should be business men; they could perfectly well also be men over military age, as the work demands none of the qualifications of youth. For a young chap like myself, without any special qualification or training, but full of keenness, with good physique and just out of a public school, the trenches are emphatically the place.
Well, anyway, there it is. My application is in, and I am now just waiting for G.H.Q. to accept me for the Infantry. I should not be surprised if I am back home at Christmas in order to train. An excellent recommendation from my C.O. accompanied my transfer papers. I also had a satisfactory interview with the Major-General commanding the Division, who, I believe, added his own recommendation.
December 20th, 1916.
I can't tell you how relieved I was to get the Pater's last letter, and to feel that we see the matter in the same light. It lifted a weight from my mind, as I will frankly admit that I was much worried, torn one way by my conscience and another by the fear that my action would cause displeasure and grief at home. Now, with the Pater's letter in my possession, I can go ahead with a light heart. There can be absolutely no question that I've done the right thing. It is a mere coincidence that my personal feelings have long (p. 223) tended in the same direction. I saw the path of duty before me absolutely clear. Up to date I have never "let you down," and I don't think I shall do so this time.
By the way, in my transfer papers, I have expressly stipulated for a temporary commission, as I have no idea at all of becoming a Regular.
January 1st, 1917.
Hearty wishes for a happy New Year, wishes which always seem to me more serious than the greetings that pass at Christmas time. With most people Christmas is a purely festive season, but with the end of the old year comes the necessity of looking forward to a new period—perhaps to be joyful, perhaps otherwise; anyway, a period on which it is necessary to enter as far as possible with confidence. From the general point of view that is not an easy matter as things stand. I am bound to say I am getting pessimistic about the War. The chief trouble is the total lack of action that characterises it. This grovelling in ditches is a rotten, foolish business in many ways—though to me sitting in comfort and safety behind the lines is a great deal worse.
We passed a pleasant Christmas. I had dinner and tea with the men of the Brigade Headquarters—the former one of the most pleasant functions I have ever attended. I much prefer a ceremony of this kind along with Demos to the "Tedious pomp ... and grooms besmeared with gold" that Milton denounces so scathingly.
I am sorry the Dulwich 1st XV didn't have a very good season. To judge from the photos in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic, the forwards don't know how to pack. One of the "scrum" photographs is one of the best illustrations of how not to pack that (p. 224) I have ever struck. It seems to me that there has been a lack of training. But what I do remark with joy is the care that has been taken with the games. All will be well with the school if the games are keen.
I have just been reading the first book that I've found that absolutely gets the atmosphere of the Western Front—namely, "The Red Horizon," by Patrick McGill, the navvy poet. It really is great. He doesn't spare the horror of the thing one iota, but it "gets one right." "Sapper" has a good picture of the fighting man, but a very bad one of the Front. McGill has got a pretty good one of the man and a superb one of the Front. He describes to a "T" one's sensations under shell-fire.
January 11th, 1917.
Congratulate me! I am, as I have every reason to believe, on the verge of the most stupendous good fortune that has ever yet come my way. Last night I got a wire ordering me to present myself at Headquarters, Heavy M.G.C., for interview with the Colonel-in-charge. Well, I went up for my interview this morning, and was tested for vision by the Colonel with my glasses on. Finally he told me that he was going to recommend me for the Tanks, which means that the thing is as good as settled. I had not dared to hope for such luck, owing to the fact of my not having any special qualification. However, my usual marvellous good fortune seems not to have deserted me. It means just this, that I am going to be a member of the most modern and most interesting branch of the service. So great is my delight that I scarcely know whether I am standing on my head or my heels. The transfer will, I fear, prevent my coming home on leave for a time. Anyway, it's more than possible that I shall come back to England to train. I hope (p. 225) not, for despite my earnest desire—more than you can ever guess—to see you all again, I think it is far better to remain on active service, if possible, when on duty.
I've been pretty busy with my brigade work recently, though to nothing like the degree of November and the first fortnight of December. One meets strange types of humanity on this sort of duty. You can divide the countryfolk round these parts into three lots: (a) The farmers—on the whole honest, but decidedly avaricious; the French farmer's one fear in life is that his neighbour across the way is being paid at a higher price than he himself. (b) The average merchant, who is on the lookout for making a bit in all sorts of illegal ways, such as cheating us by underweight. (c) The honest middlemen, who, I regret to say, are few and far between. As far as possible we always try to deal with the farmers direct, as they are fairly honest, though very obstinate. An honest middleman is very useful, but there are not many of him. Business difficulties are increased by the extraordinary accent in which the country people hereabouts talk. Sometimes even French interpreters find themselves at a loss. I am getting into it famously, and can even speak with the local accent myself, to a certain extent.
Did you see that my old colleague, E. C. Cartwright, has got the M.C.? His reports of 1st XV matches in Evans's year were the feature of The Alleynian, as were poor Edkins's reports in the year of my own captaincy. Also J. P. Jordan, another O.A., well known to me, has won the M.C.
I am delighted that the Old Man (Mr. A. H. Gilkes) has received the living of St. Mary Magdalene at Oxford. He could, I am sure, have never had an appointment more to his tastes—barring, indeed, his (p. 226) mastership at his beloved Dulwich. As a headmaster he was a gigantic character; of that there can be no doubt whatever.
January 28th, 1917.
No news yet of my application for transfer. But people "in the know" tell me that it is only a question of time. The document having been approved and recommended by all the necessary authorities is, I presume, now wandering through the multifarious ramifications of the maze of Army offices, but I am told it will soon filter down. One thing that pleases me is an assurance that the A.S.C. authorities, whatever may have happened in the past, are not this time blocking my transfer. From your knowledge of my weaknesses, you will no doubt have guessed that I'm on pins these days—the period of waiting for the result of an exam., even if you think you've passed, is always a trying one. It is especially so for me on account of my absurdly impatient temperament. I fear that leave is out of the question till the transfer is settled one way or the other.
The cold weather now prevalent must add yet a fresh discomfort to those that are being endured by our men in the trenches. I cannot recollect a cold spell of such severity continuing for so long a time. We had a heavy snowfall a fortnight back, and since then there has been incessant and exceptionally hard frost. The roads in places are wellnigh impassable owing to frozen snow. Going down one steep hill to-day in our motor-car we all but turned completely over, as at a curve in the road the car-wheels, instead of answering to the steering gear, skidded on the frozen surface, and the car swung completely round on its axis, finishing by facing the opposite way to that in which we were travelling. Where the roads (p. 227) are not very slippery they are as hard as iron. A curious result is that you have a thick dust raised over a snow-covered landscape and in bitterly cold weather!
I was much interested in the Balliol College pamphlet and the Master's accompanying letter. Balliol appears to have done even more than its part in the War. Did you see that the Brakenbury Scholarship in History for 1916 was taken by a chap from Gresham School, Holt? I often wonder whether I shall ever go up to Oxford. Almost needless to say, to go there would be the crowning joy of my life, but I cannot help thinking that circumstances will render it impossible. Still, we will hope for the best. One thing I mean to do after the War is to learn Russian thoroughly and to visit Russia. I am not at all sure that travelling is not the best of all Universities. The great disadvantage of a 'Varsity is the insularity of mind which it is apt to breed. Its rigid observance of ancient customs, its cult of "form," the fact that it is the almost exclusive monopoly of the rich, the aristocracy and the upper middle-class; above all, its contempt for the learning of modern times and studied disregard of modern languages—all these features help to make the 'Varsity as insular as the most insular of all English national institutions. On the other hand, by its genuine intellectuality, by its cult of the beautiful and the abstract, by its scorn of the sordid business side of modern civilisation, by its enthusiasm for athletics and by its traditions of duty and of patriotism, the 'Varsity remains, to my mind, one of the most healthful influences in modern British life.
Talking of English insularity, it is curious to note how the Englishman makes his progress abroad. He is so insular that instead of learning the language and adopting the customs of the country he is in, he makes (p. 228) the indigenous population adopt his! He does not, for example, know much French, but he has evolved a sort of patois—much nearer English than French—that enables the inhabitants to understand him and comprehend what he wants.
I have recently been reading another of John Buchan's, called "Greenmantle." If you haven't read it, get it. It is just as good as Buchan's other books, rich in mystery and scintillating with adventure. It deals with this War and the experiences of Richard Hannay (whom you will recollect as the hero of the "Thirty-nine Steps," and who has since become a Major and got wounded at Loos) in his efforts, eventually crowned with success, to crush a German plot—this plot being the working up of a "Jehad," or Holy War among the Mohammedans, and so provoking a rising of Islam against the British. A thoroughly live story, told with great spirit.
I have also read H. G. Wells's war novel, "Mr. Britling Sees It Through." It is undeniably clever, though not to my mind up to the level of Wells's very best. It rather gives the impression in parts of having been written by the mile and then lengths cut off as required. He has one very good touch, the realisation of the impersonal and indiscriminate nature of the War: it claims as victims both Mr. Britling's own son and the young German who had been living with them before the War. The book concludes with a letter from Britling to the German boy's father, attempting to find some way out of the blackness. As usual with Wells, the best feature of the novel is the way in which he expresses the point of view of the average man. He has the trick of recording reflections in a sort of staccato style, with gaps here and there—just the way that one does think. There is some rot in the book, but on the whole it is very good and well worth reading.
(p. 229) Recently I have been attending a Veterinary Course—lectures and practical demonstration; most fascinating it is, I can assure you.[Back to Contents]
On February 13, 1917, Paul Jones joined the M.G.C.H.B., in other words the Tank Corps. His joy at this transfer was unbounded. Nothing could be in sharper contrast than the letters he wrote after joining the Tank Corps and those penned during the preceding three months, when the enforced inactivity of the cavalry and the nature of his own routine work preyed on his spirits and made him exclaim with Ulysses:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use,
As though to breathe were Life!
February 13th, 1917.
When I came in from my morning's work yesterday what should I find but a telegram instructing me to report at the earliest possible moment to Headquarters, Heavy M.G.C., for duty on transfer! These things usually come with a rush after one has been kept waiting a long time in suspense. I spent the rest of the day in bringing my accounts and papers up to date, and this morning came across in the motor to my destination. Is it not splendid? My luck has never yet failed to stand me in good stead. I won't deny, nevertheless, that it was a severe wrench parting from the old Cavalry Division after twenty months of service with it. I had formed many friendships there, among both officers and men, and it cost me many a pang to bid them good-bye. All partings from old associations are hard to bear (p. 230) even when the parting leads up, as in my case, to the fulfilment of one's greatest ambition. My delight knows no bounds at my new appointment. I really am asking myself whether I am awake or not. It almost seems too good to be true.
I am writing this letter in my new mess which is in a Neissen hut. For the present I remain Lieutenant A.S.C.—till the period of probation is past. But that's no matter, for the acme of my military ambitions is now attained. My new messmates are almost all ex-infantry men, many of whom, most in fact, are here learning their new job. Strangely enough, I am the third Senior Lieutenant in the company, and in point of active service, with my twenty months in France, I stand well in front of almost all of them. The O.C. of the company, stroke of good luck for me, is an old Hussar officer and ex-member of the Cavalry Brigade which I have just quitted. It was a joy to meet him again. I was able to give him a lot of news about his old pals.
All the fellows in the new mess are amazed that I have been without leave since the beginning of May, 1916. I must not set my leave before my work, however. I have already started my new labours. Altogether I am in luck all round. I verily believe I am the luckiest man in the B.E.F. to-day. Congratulate me! You will be interested to know that an old Dulwich boy, Ambrose, to whom I gave 2nd XV Colours in my year of football captaincy, is in the same battalion, but I have not met him yet.
To his Brother.
February 17th, 1917.
I am getting on splendidly. I can't tell you how bucked I am with life. It was my third shot to get out of the "great Department," and not only did I (p. 231) succeed in this, but I have obtained that which I had most desired. I had really hardly dared to hope that I should succeed in getting into the Tank Corps. There are a lot of Rugger men among the officers here, including an O.A., Ambrose, who was one of the best of the 2nd XV forwards in 1914. In our company is a splendid fellow called Hedderwick, who played for Loretto and was tried for Cambridge; and a man called Saillard, who was the Haileybury full-back in that match when they beat us at Haileybury by 32 to 12 in Evans's year. You may recollect Saillard getting laid out in the second half, Haileybury continuing without a full-back—with very sound judgment as it turned out, for this enabled them to play us off our legs in the scrum and control the game with eight forwards to seven, and we never got the ball to give to our eight outsides. To sum up, I am in most congenial society and enjoying life hugely.
Naturally, I am working pretty hard, learning my new job. I am determined to make good at it, and I have the conviction that, with hard work and concentration, a man with education behind him can succeed in pretty well anything that he likes. Leave may come in the near future, provided the authorities consider I have made sufficient progress in my new studies; but I have a lot to learn, and it is not my desire to go on leave before I have mastered at least the elements of my new job—very much the reverse, in fact.
February 20th, 1917.
Am having a grand time—up to my eyes in oil, grease and mud from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. I am finding my old hobby of engineering of the greatest value, and my enthusiasm for seeing "the wheels go round" has returned in all its old force. Even the gas-engine and dynamo of famous (or infamous) memory are proving (p. 232) most serviceable to me through the experience I acquired with them—demonstrating again how useful the most recherché of ideas, occupations or hobbies may become. No knowledge is to be despised.
The only fly in the ointment is that an exam. is due for me in a week's time or so—as you know, impending exams. fill me with terror. I have such an accursedly active imagination that I find it impossible to banish from my head the thought, "What if I fail?" I've always been afflicted with this, though I am bound to say that when it came to the point it did not, as far as might be judged by results, affect my actual performances. But I am, nevertheless, in a chronic state of what the B.E.F. calls "wind up" on account of this exam. I am so eager to do well that the mere thought of failing is abhorrent. I am inclined to ascribe these feelings at bottom to egotism.
There is quite a number of South Welshmen in our lot out here, including some men from Llanelly. There are also a lot of Scotsmen among the officers, fellows of broad speech and dry humour to whom I am much drawn.
You haven't hit on a book on some musical subject for me, have you? I would much like a work dealing with Wagner or Beethoven. It is music that I miss more than anything in the intellectual line. Shall we ever hear the "Ring" again, I wonder? Anyway, it was one of the supreme experiences of my life to have heard it conducted by Nikisch. I regard the "Ring" as one of the world's artistic masterpieces. It is conceived on a scale of unparalleled grandeur, and must be thought of as an organised whole.
I miss the "Proms" and the Sunday Concerts, too—both have done a real national service in popularising the greatest music.
February 28th, 1917.(p. 233)
In the language of Tommy, I am "in the pink" and getting on first-rate. Am delighted to say I passed well in that examination, being marked "very good indeed." I got more than 90 per cent. of marks. I never dared to hope for such success. It would be absurd to deny that I am hugely bucked at the result, but I had had a pretty strenuous training for the exam. I am still engaged in learning, but now in a different department, though of equal interest, and I am glad to say that no examination is involved this time.
Last Sunday we had a real first-rate game of Rugger—not very scientific as far as passing and outside play were concerned, but a great struggle forward. My own side had a couple of splendid Scottish forwards against it, and I had a great deal of defence to do, falling on the ball, etc. The final was 6-3 against us, but one glaring offside try was allowed to our opponents—accidentally, of course, as the referee's view was unfortunately obstructed at the time. It was a grand game to play in, though I was not in the best of training—one's first game for fourteen months is usually apt to be a bit of a strain, and I hadn't played since I turned out for the O.A.'s at Dulwich in December, 1915. It was simply great, worth living years for, to touch a Rugger ball again.
March 17th, 1917.
These days for me are crammed full of work, 8.30 A.M. to 6 or 7 P.M. as a general rule. I am enjoying life hugely, however. To me hard work has always been preferable to slack times, and I like going at high pressure. Besides, this is such a grand job that the work is a sheer pleasure. By Jove! if you only knew how much happier I am these days than in any period (p. 234) during the twenty odd months I had spent previously playing at soldiers in the "Grub Department." It amazes me that I could have been so long contented with work like that of the A.S.C. Well, anyway, those days are over and done with, and a new and brighter era has been ushered in. As a rule, I am now almost always in an incredible state of grease and oil and grime, which, remembering my old propensities, you will know delights me. The old gas-engine at home was nothing to it. I have had to set aside a special suit for daily use, as even with overalls on there is not sufficient protection against grease, oil, petrol and mud. I cannot tell you how supremely happy I am in my work.
Ambrose returned to his company from a course of instruction last week, and he came across immediately to see me. We discussed old times and old friends with great gusto. There are two other Dulwich men in the battalion whom I never knew well, as they were fairly senior fellows when I was only a kid, though I distinctly remember both. Their names are Trimingham and Sewell. They were in what was in those days Treadgold's House.
I am sending back by the same post a pair of spectacles which got broken recently. Will you please get them repaired? I still have four sound pairs, but I always like to keep up the set of five with which I started in the War.
The breaking of the great frost created appalling conditions on this countryside, which for some time was an absolute quagmire. Even now things are pretty bad, though the weather improves daily.
March 20th, 1917.
Well, the Boche has retreated on the Somme, as most people anticipated he would, though few imagined he would make such a considerable withdrawal. (p. 235) He is a cute customer, of that there is no doubt. He never does a thing without having a reason. Yet there have been occasions in the War when he has entirely misjudged the situation. Take Ypres and Verdun for example. This retirement on the Somme is clever, though it may tell on the morale of his men. On the other hand, the Boche relies, and always has relied, much more on discipline than on morale for keeping his army together. He has never developed esprit de corps as it has been developed in our army, or the French, but there's no denying that his discipline is something pretty considerable. That discipline, as far as can be gauged, has as its foundation a very efficient system of N.C.O.'s. His officers are intelligent, but nothing to write home about, but his N.C.O.'s are unquestionably very good. I have myself witnessed their influence among gangs of prisoners we have taken.
It must necessarily come about in the course of a War that situations arise when esprit de corps is equivalent to, and even produces, discipline. That is where brother Boche fails to rise to the occasion. I am not of those who think the Boche a coward, but undoubtedly an unexpected situation very often plays the very deuce with both his courage and his organisation. In his plans he allows for most possibilities, but he is nonplussed when the situation does not turn out exactly as it should on paper. Again, man for man, he loses "guts" in tight corners, because of this same lack of initiative. It is perhaps a temperamental failing. There have been moments in this War when only his incapacity to deal with a suddenly-developed situation has stood between him and stupendous success. He has assumed, let us say, that by all the rules of War the enemy must have reserves available, and has therefore ceased his attack until such time as he could muster his forces to meet the counter-attack by these (p. 236) imagined reserve troops, when actually his enemy had no reserves at all. Conversely, he has assumed on many occasions that his enemy must, by all the rules of War, be battered into pulp or asphyxiated, and that he has only to advance over the bodies of his foes to win an overwhelming victory; yet somehow or other from out of the indescribable débris and havoc wrought by his artillery or gas, arise survivors who, though half-dead, yet have enough life and pluck to hold him back.
Take as illustrations either the second battle of Ypres or Verdun. In the first case, after the first surprise gas attack a rent about a mile and a half wide had been torn in the Allied line. Against a vast number of German troops there was opposed only one single division of what Bernhardi contemptuously termed "Colonial Militia," namely, the Canadians. For quite a long time there were no other troops of ours (save a few oddments) in the vicinity. The Boche had five miles or so to get to "Wipers." Of these he covered just about two, and even that ground was only what he gained in the first surprise of his gas attack. Between him and the Channel coast there still stretched a khaki line. The same sort of situation was repeated several times during the second battle of Ypres (though the odds were never so great as in these first April days), yet the result was always the same.
Take Verdun again. For me this prolonged battle has a strange fascination. There is something more terrible and primitive about it than about any other struggle of the War. It was a sort of death-grip between two antagonistic military conceptions.
(The remainder of this letter never came to hand.)
March 31st, 1917.
It must be a singular experience for our troops on the Somme to miss enemy artillery fire, trench mortars, (p. 237) grenades, etc., from the scheme of things. What a huge relief to the Infantry to have a pause from the eternal "Whew-w-w-w-Crash" of the high explosives! I fear, nevertheless, that the British infantrymen will soon resume acquaintance with them, for the War isn't over by a long chalk yet. Meanwhile, however, the sight of an at present comparatively unblemished countryside must be a great joy to men sick of the howling wilderness created on the ground that has been contended for since July, 1916. I know those Somme battlefields—every square yard of soil honeycombed with shell-holes, all traces of verdure vanished, trees reduced to withered skeletons, blasted forests, fragments of houses, with the poor human dead rotting all around. Verily a nightmare country.
You may have remarked in the last Alleynian a poem called the "Infantryman," by Captain E. F. Clarke. It appeared first in Punch some time ago and has had a great vogue. When I read it first, before I knew who the author was, I was greatly taken with this poem. I now see from The Alleynian that it is the work of an O.A., a chap whom I held in high regard, namely, Eric Clarke, whom you cannot fail to remember as King Richard II in the Founder's Day Play, 1913—his superb acting in that rôle was greatly admired. It was he who was to a large extent responsible for my undertaking the editorship of The Alleynian. He was my immediate predecessor in the job.
The poem appeals powerfully to me. To use the words of a Canadian poet, R. W. Service, "it hits me right." It has a swing about it, it has ideas, it has atmosphere. Pervading it through and through is the atmosphere of this Western Front. I have often told you that I had yet to meet the man who could convey that atmosphere in story, book or article. Clarke's (p. 238) poem (along with Bairnsfather's pictures) is one of the very first pieces I have read that really gets this atmosphere. The verse is not particularly polished, but it has life and force. Its simplicity adds to its effectiveness. Such an expression as "the sodden khaki's stench" lives in the memory, for it appeals directly to the soldier's recollection of his experiences—that odour the infantryman must have noticed dozens of times in the wet dawn, when he was waiting to go "over the top." Clarke has undoubtedly made a name for himself by the poem. Decidedly he has lived up to the high reputation he had at school. It looks as if he will make a name in literature. [See p. 240, text and footnote].
These days I am tremendously busy and revelling in it, as the work is so completely congenial. I am muddier and greasier than at any other period of my existence, and gloriously happy withal.
A corporal in our Company lives in the Herne Hill district, and in civil life was a tram conductor for the L.C.C. on the Norwood section. He has been out here two years, and won the Military Medal for gallantry on the Somme. Very interesting to meet one of the "dim millions" from one's own neighbourhood in this fashion, n'est ce pas?
In April Paul Jones, as a Tank Officer, took part in the battle of Arras.
April 24th, 1917.
I am splendidly well and enjoying life hugely. If my letters for the past three weeks have been few and far between, you must put it down to War activities. It would be ridiculous to try to conceal the fact that my movements of late have, to a certain extent, been connected with the great "stunt" now in progress. For me the past three weeks or so have been a period full of incident and rich in variety—quite and by far the best (p. 239) period of my life up to date. There have been certain rotten incidents that have worried me at times; but, on the whole, I have been far happier during that period than at any other time since joining the Army. Thank goodness! I shall at length be able to hold up my head among other Dulwich men and not be forced to admit with shame that in this War I only played a safe, comfortable, luxurious part in the A.S.C. No! those wretched days are over and done with. Even now, I have a far easier time than thousands of fellows in the Infantry.
I have referred to certain rotten incidents. The worst of these was the death in action of one of my best friends in the Company. This chap was a young Scotsman named Tarbet. We had been thrown very much together and became warm friends. On April 9 Tarbet was killed by a sniper about 11 A.M. while out in the open reconnoitring the approach to the Boche second line. I came along to relieve him an hour later, and practically fell over his dead body—a very bad moment, I assure you. Another of our section officers was wounded in the face about the same time by shrapnel. I myself had rather a close shave, as I was alongside another man at the time he was hit in the head by a shrapnel bullet. I scarcely realised the explosion until I saw the poor fellow wounded.
On the whole, that day was an absolute picnic. The only trouble was that the Boche ran back too fast in our particular sector for us to inflict all the damage on him that we would have liked to have done. Such, however, has not been the case everywhere since. He is fighting desperately hard now.
Two more O.A.'s killed in action—Gerald Gill (p. 240) and Eric Clarke. Gill took his colours in cricket, gym, and football. His impersonation of M. Perrichon in the French play on Founder's Day, 1913, was very clever and entertaining. I am also much grieved at Clarke's death. He was shaping for a brilliant career. It's just awful this sacrifice of the best of our young men.
To his Brother.
April 29th, 1917.
Circumstances are making my letter-writing increasingly difficult. It is rather a case of "but that I am forbid I could a tale unfold," etc. I suppose holidays are on just now. I want to tell you that I am confidently looking forward to your winning a great success in the forthcoming Matriculation. By Jove! it doesn't seem such a long time since I was in for that exam. myself. In my day we were able to take it at the school, now I believe you have to go up to London University. Eheu fugaces!
The more I see of life the more convinced I am of the greatness of the old school. Wherever you meet a Dulwich man out here, you'll find he bears a reputation for gallantry, for character, for hard work and for what may be termed "the public-school spirit" in its best form. Our Roll of Honour and the literally amazing list of decorations bear this out. Of my own old colleagues, there is not one who has not either been hit (alas! killed in many cases) or received some decoration, or both; and that, mark you, though we are not what is known as an "Army School" like Eton, Cheltenham, or Wellington. Ambrose, the O.A. in our battalion, has recently accomplished some wonderful (p. 241) things, and is sure to receive a high decoration. Yet one more up for the school!
Did you see that Scottie is now an Acting-Lieutenant-Colonel, with a D.S.O. and the M.C.? That is some achievement, if you like! C. N. Lowe, the famous footballer, has been wounded. He had transferred to the Flying Corps out of the A.S.C. Doherty, who used also to be in the "Grub Department," has now got a Company in the Infantry. You see, it isn't in the nature of a Dulwich man to be leading a life of ease when other men are fighting.
I have been having a great time of late. Work of surpassing interest, a certain amount of excitement, and a knowledge that one was more or less directly participating in the winning of the War—what more can the heart of man desire? If only poor old Tarbet hadn't been killed—he was a dear pal of mine,—there wouldn't be a cloud on the horizon. Don't let the Mater and Pater get the wind up about my personal safety. At present I am quite safe; besides, I have wonderful luck. I was only saved by a miracle from being blown into the air last September on the Somme. I may get home on leave in the near future.
May 4th, 1917.
I rejoice to say that Ambrose has received the D.S.O. for that achievement referred to in my last letter. He more than deserves it. He had a most terrible experience. The D.S.O. for a subaltern is one of the very highest honours that the Army has to bestow. We are all very bucked about it, especially the O.A. section of the battalion.
How anomalous the War has become—the world's great Land Power striving to strike its decisive blow at sea, while the great Sea Power is endeavouring to strike its decisive blow on land! This double paradox (p. 242) will give much food for reflection to future historians. I am coming to the conclusion that without a complete knowledge of the facts it is well-nigh impossible to derive accurate deductions from History. It seems to me you can make History prove anything. To understand History in all its significance, one must be familiar also with literature, languages and science.
Talking of science, do you see that some modern scientists are throwing doubt on the original theory of Evolution? They admit the possibility of the modification of species through natural selection, but they dispute the theory that any broad change takes place in the genera of organisms. They do not even admit the possibility of the atrophy, through long disuse, of organs of which the animal no longer has need. They are forced to admit that many species and genera have become extinct—so much is proved by the skeletons of prehistoric beasts found from time to time under the earth's surface. But what they dispute is that there is any connection between those beasts and living animals. They say, for instance, that as far back as we have records, we find the horse practically the same, organically speaking, as he is to-day. They cast doubt, that is, on the theory that the horse is descended from the pterodactyl.
It is an interesting point, though there appears to be no essential difference between this new school and the thoroughgoing evolutionists; for both admit the principle of the survival of the fittest. To me the new school's conception seems to be grotesque. According to them, the world was originally full of an enormous number of animals, organisms and what not, of which some have up to date survived, and whose numbers will decrease until only a few certain types, or perhaps one certain type, will be left subsisting. That is a view that I cannot accept. But, of course, Nature has (p. 243) many checks on the propagation and the multiplication of species. Natural conditions do not permit of the existence of too many species or sub-species. But it is clear that there are types, call them genera, species, or what you will, that have, by virtue of some inherent fitness and flexibility of adaptation, survived and mastered other types.
The theory or principle of Natural Selection can also be applied to nations. As far back as we have any record, man was much the same sort of being as he is to-day. The genus, in fact, has not changed. It is now established that in the long distant past there was one great Aryan race in Central Asia, which has split up since then into the peoples and nations of modern Europe, India, Arabia, and so forth. Biologically speaking, these peoples have all some traits in common, but environment has wrought great changes and has created species. Between these species there are great differences, so great indeed that various of them are to-day engaged in a good old intertribal war.
But has the genus Man always borne the same sort of characteristics as those that distinguish him to-day? Or, on the other hand, is he descended from a kangaroo-rat through the long lineage of the pithecanthropus, the ape-man, the man-ape, and so forth? And why stop at the kangaroo-rat—the first mammal to bring forth its young alive? Why not continue his lineage right back to the original bi-cellular organism—protoplasm? If these are our humble beginnings, what a progression to Man, so "noble in reason, infinite in faculty"!
Speculations about the development of life are very fascinating. I hold very strongly to belief in the survival of the fittest. Accepting this theory, you can explain most of the apparent inconsistencies that exist in the world. But I must admit that there is at least a (p. 244) possibility that genera are not changed by environment, time or circumstances. Perhaps they exist until they become unfit, when they vanish. The genus may remain in existence as a permanency till it ceases to become fit to survive, but the species most certainly alters. The only point in dispute is, therefore: do genera become altered by environment, etc.? Or do they exist unaltered till they become unfit, when they just vanish from this sublunary scene? However this may be, the broad principle of natural selection seems to me to be unshakably established.
May 20th, 1917.
I was absolutely taken aback by the news of Felix Cohn's death. It seems almost incredible to me, even at this moment. It was only a few days ago that we met out here. He had then been "over the top" and was in high spirits. He was a sincere fellow and played his part like a man. I do take off my hat to the Infantry. No one in England realises what we all owe to them; marvellous men they are. How they endure what they do, Heaven only knows. If you see Mr. Cohn, please express to him my deepest sympathy, or rather, send me his address and I will write to him.
We of the Tank Corps are having a pleasant and peaceful time in billets these days. Nature hereabouts is beginning to put on her best dress. It is some contrast between the vivid green foliage that one sees about here and the blasted trees and shell-shattered areas of the fighting zone. Only one thing indicating the living force of nature did I remark in that dreary countryside. This was the piping of a few birds now and again in the most unlikely places. Bar that, the battle zone is a (p. 245) blasted area, where the only difference between the seasons is noted by a change of temperature and the transformation of mud into dust. Meanwhile, I am having a very good time in billets; but I am looking forward eagerly to a real scrap with the Boche.
Thanks so much for the "Perfect Wagnerite." It is a treat to read about the "Ring" once more. I would give much to be able to hear it again.
To his Brother.
May 25th, 1917.
Just a line to wish you the best of luck in the Matric, and to express the hope that you will do really well. Put in all the work you can right up to within twenty-four hours of the start of the exam. and then take one day right off duty altogether. I am certain you will do us all infinite credit.
As to the Pater's remark that my recent letters have lacked detail, this is mainly due to the Censorship regulations, which I personally like to observe in the spirit as well as in the letter. Besides, a careless remark may be misconstrued, and it is difficult to say one thing without disclosing others that ought not to be revealed. Then there is the other consideration, that if I write fully you may perhaps get the "wind up" about my personal safety.
As regards photographs of myself, the regulations as to the possession of cameras are very stringent, and I really haven't the time or the inclination to go and get snapped by a civilian photographer out here. Again, entre nous, I regard photographs as trivialities—above all, those abominations "photos from the Front." A man who is really at the Front has neither time nor occasion to have photographs taken. No, if we must worry, let us worry first about the things that do matter.
(p. 246) I am frightfully sorry about the death of Felix Cohn. He was very cheerful when I saw him. We met twice in a certain large town which has of late figured prominently in the communiqués. Our talk was of Dulwich, the cases of Roederwald and Gropius, of Wagner and music; and, of course, of the War itself. He had then been "over the top" once, on the same day that I was. Felix said that he had had an easy time, as his lot took about seven lines of trenches in an hour. He had done considerable work as a translator of German documents and in the examination of captured Germans. I feel sincere sympathy for Mr. Cohn, but there is little use in words of condolence in the case of such tragedies. It is the price of the game.
To a large extent, the Pater's deductions about the work in Tanks on hot days are correct. Still, you can wear practically what you like when on duty, so one works in a shirt, shorts, puttees and boots. Although we are for the time being out of the battle line, I am really very busy; there is no slacking in the H.B.M.G.C.; but I am enjoying life hugely.
I manage to get a good deal of bathing these days, as there is a beautiful little river about a stone's throw away from our billets. By the way, I hope you are continuing as keen as ever on your swimming. As to leave, it has again vanished into the limbo of futurity. I am not particularly sorry. Leave is such a fleeting joy. Just as one is beginning to get into the way of things at home one has to go back again to the Front. I would much prefer to get the War completely over than get leave. After all, in my present job I am not worried by monotony, and I find the work of absorbing interest. Moreover, I have many friends in this battalion, and, above all, in our own Company, which contains some really splendid fellows. What I miss most is music.
There are few opportunities of writing, and the busy period is likely to last for a space, so I fear my correspondence for some time to come will be but scanty. Our northern push has been a first-rate success. The simultaneous explosion of those mines on the Messines Ridge must have created a terrific din, though I myself never heard a sound, being at the time wrapped in the sleep of the just.
I do hope things are going well in the old school, but I fear that in existing conditions it is a difficult period for all public schools. Owing to the War, boys leave so much younger now, and you do not have fellows of eighteen and nineteen to set the tone; and at that age they have unquestionably a far greater sense of responsibility than at sixteen or seventeen, or, I imagine, in the first years at the 'Varsity after leaving school. Ian Hay says somewhere that a senior boy at a public school is a far more serious and responsible being than an undergraduate. As there are no senior boys, it is more than ever incumbent upon the masters to keep up the esprit de corps of the school, and to help maintain the old standards in work and games.
Talking of masters, I much liked that poem entitled the "House-Master" in a recent number of Punch. It is just the case of Kittermaster, Nightingale, or Scottie, isn't it? I pray and trust that Dulwich in these difficult days will maintain its fine traditions. The welfare of the school is a very precious thing to me. I am inclined to think that my own six and a half years (1908-15) at Dulwich were about the time of its Augustan era. Among other things, this period included the year of the two Balliol scholars, the year of the crack "footer" team that never lost a match, and it was marked by a consistent average of first-class XV's throughout. It produced five "blues" and (p. 248) internationals, and would have produced many other "blues," and perhaps internationals, had it not been for the War—Evans, for example, as half-back, and Franklin or either of the Gilligans as three-quarters. It was also the period of A. E. R. Gilligan, unquestionably the finest all-round public-school athlete of the past decade; the period of the gymnastic records; of the sports records; with a consistent average of scholarships and other educational distinctions, such as Reynolds's B.A., direct from the school. Finally, this period was marked by a general spirit of keenness and industry, both in work and games, throughout the school. It was truly a glorious time. Oh, to have it all over again!
June 18th, 1917.
For over three weeks we have been working at exceptionally high pressure. Chief interest now centres in Flanders. Our branch did wonderfully well there, though the Boche apparently didn't offer serious resistance anywhere. I was inexpressibly shocked to hear of the death of that chivalrous Irishman, Willie Redmond. The fact that he was carried off the battlefield in an Ulster ambulance was a most touching episode, and should go far to reconcile the mutually antagonistic Irish parties. Such an incident is one of the compensations of War—few enough though they may be, Heaven knows! As it drags on, the War is becoming more and more mechanical. It is now like one enormous engine, with multitudinous cogwheels, each of which plays its part.
July 4th, 1917.
Looking at the Casualty Lists recording the death of so many brave men, and thinking of the grief in the homes, one feels that this War lies heavy on the world (p. 249) like a black horror. And yet I find myself ever more irresistibly (albeit wholly against my will and wishes) forced to the conclusion that War is a part of the order of things. Did you read the Russian Socialists' manifesto on the War? While, on the one hand, they ascribed responsibility for it to the capitalist classes in the warring countries, yet they admitted that Russia's withdrawal from the War would put the Boche section of capitalists in an advantageous position, and so decided to continue it. In other words, they admit that Democracy is powerless to avert War.
To my thinking, all History is made up of a series of movements like the swinging of a pendulum, from democracy (often via oligarchy) to imperialism, and from imperialism back to democracy. It seems to me that there is only one effective method of ensuring world-peace. It was the method of the Romans, by which one nation having fought its way to a position of undisputed and indisputable supremacy, imposed its will on the other nations of the world, and established the "Pax Romana." Similar efforts made by great men have proved a disastrous failure in the long run, though after meeting with temporary success. Rome's universal dominion did not endure long, and Napoleon's domination of the Continent was very brief. England seems to have almost succeeded up to date in her attempt to establish a "Pax Romana," for she gave order and peace to a large part of the world. England builded better than she knew, for many of the wise things she did were done under protest and from her devotion to the laissez-faire system. But this stupendous conflict shows that the "Pax Britannica" has not succeeded in averting wars.
I have heard it maintained that Karl Marx's theory is the solution of the question, namely, to ignore national boundaries and establish what he called "class-consciousness" (p. 250) among the wage-earners of the world. That is to say, Marx proposed to replace national consciousness—viz., the family, race or tribal consciousness that exists under the name of patriotism—by class-consciousness—viz., the consciousness of the workers in all countries that their interests are identical, the idea being that with the realisation of the unity of the workers wars would cease. To this theory there are, it seems to me, two fatal objections: (1) Even if this class-consciousness, or international solidarity of the workers, could be brought about, yet you would soon have the old division into capital and labour growing up again, through the ordinary laws of natural selection and because of the unequal capacity of different men to make their way in the world. (2) To my mind, the tribal instinct is much too strong to give way to a class-consciousness that ignores national boundaries and national rivalries.
Broadly speaking, the division of the world into nations is a natural division; and recent research all goes to confirm the theory that man never has "made good" as an individual. He begins his existence as a member of a family and of an association of families—thrown together (a) by kinship of blood or likeness of type; (b) by environment; (c) by chance or circumstance (as a rule for the purpose of self-protection). It is these enlarged families that are what we call to-day nations. I cannot see that it would be possible to replace the great and, on the whole, ennobling sentiment of patriotism by a broad international trades-unionism, which is practically what Marx proposes. And given the world as it is and animal and human nature what they are, I don't see how to prevent the interests of nations clashing. Ethically speaking, the trouble is that existence is a selfish thing. Stamp out competition—which, when you think of it, is not very far removed (p. 251) from war on a small scale—and experience shows that you stamp out the incentive to work and to progress. It is a melancholy conclusion to come to, but it's better to look facts in the face than to shirk them.
I had the experience the other day of visiting a portion of the country where the old battle front used to be, for two and a half years, before the Boches withdrew to their Hindenburg line. This section of ground is miles from the present front line, in fact you can only hear the guns rumbling in the distance. This whole countryside is a ruined waste—villages destroyed, weeds overgrowing everything; and no inhabitants except troops. It was strange to walk over the old trench systems and the broad green band between them (still thickly strewn with barbed wire) that used to be No Man's Land. One thought of the Englishmen, Frenchmen and Germans who sat for so long in those trenches, peering at each other furtively from time to time, each doing all he could to kill the enemy, and from time to time raiding one another's lines. I examined the deep, well-ordered Boche trenches. All dug-outs and practically everything of military value they had destroyed prior to their departure, but a few concrete and steel emplacements and snipers' posts still remained—beautifully made and all in commanding positions. The destruction of the villages, farms and lands by the Germans on their retirement was absolutely systematic—not a house or a structure of any kind left standing. This area depressed one much more than the ordinary zone near the lines, because it was all so deathly empty and so weirdly silent, like the ghost of some prehistoric world. Up in the battle line you have at any rate life and activity—but here nothing at all, simply destruction and a silent desert. I noticed in this area a French Military Cemetery with names dating back to 1914!
(p. 252) I am keeping splendidly well and am absolutely happy. By far the happiest time of my life since leaving school has been the past six months. My brother officers are a grand lot of fellows. Our own section of the Company is commanded by a young captain with the M.C., who has spent most of his life in the Colonies—a first-rate man he is. There are four other officers besides myself, all of them splendid comrades, especially one who was along with me in the old days back in April and whom I am proud to consider a bosom pal—a little Irishman, called O'Connor. He and I and poor old Jock Tarbet had always been the greatest of friends since my arrival in the Company. Alas! there are now only two of us left.
To his Brother.
July 27th, 1917.
I was charmed to get a letter from you to-day and to hear that things are progressing so well. It certainly was bad luck for you in the diving competition. However, better luck next time! I was delighted to get the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News with the photographs of the Dulwich College O.T.C. How it does warm my heart to see even a photograph of the old College and its surroundings! I note that, barring Scottie and poor Kitter, there isn't much change in the officers of the Corps. What excellent fellows they are! Give my love to them all.
Many thanks for the last parcel containing among many acceptable things a Gaboriau detective novel. I was very anxious to read this and compare it with good old Sherlock Holmes, whom I still worship as much as ever.
I have just completed two full continuous years of service in this country. Well, cheer-oh, old boy! Best luck and much love to you all!
(p. 253) P.S.—Have you ever reflected on the fact that, despite the horrors of the war, it is at least a big thing? I mean to say that in it one is brought face to face with realities. The follies, selfishness, luxury and general pettiness of the vile commercial sort of existence led by nine-tenths of the people of the world in peace-time are replaced in war by a savagery that is at least more honest and outspoken. Look at it this way: in peace-time one just lives one's own little life, engaged in trivialities, worrying about one's own comfort, about money matters, and all that sort of thing—just living for one's own self. What a sordid life it is! In war, on the other hand, even if you do get killed you only anticipate the inevitable by a few years in any case, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have "pegged out" in the attempt to help your country. You have, in fact, realised an ideal, which, as far as I can see, you very rarely do in ordinary life. The reason is that ordinary life runs on a commercial and selfish basis; if you want to "get on," as the saying is, you can't keep your hands clean.
Personally, I often rejoice that the War has come my way. It has made me realise what a petty thing life is. I think that the War has given to everyone a chance to "get out of himself," as I might say. Of course, the other side of the picture is bound to occur to the imagination. But there! I have never been one to take the more melancholy point of view when there's a silver lining in the cloud.
Certainly, speaking for myself, I can say that I have never in all my life experienced such a wild exhilaration as on the commencement of a big stunt, like the last April one for example. The excitement for the last half-hour or so before it is like nothing on earth. The only thing that compares with it are the few minutes before the start of a big school match. Well, cheer-oh!
(p. 254) This was our son's last letter. A few days later came a field postcard from him, bearing date July 30, the day before the battle in which he was killed. After that, silence—a silence that will remain unbroken this side of the grave.[Back to Contents]
The day's high work is over and done,
And these no more will need the sun:
Blow, you bugles of England, blow!
That her Name like a sun among stars might glow
Till the dusk of time with honour and worth:
That, stung by the lust and the pain of battle,
The One Race ever might starkly spread
And the One Flag eagle it overhead!
In a rapture of wrath and faith and pride,
Thus they felt it and thus they died.
Blow, you bugles of England, blow!
W. E. Henley: "The Last Post."
The circumstances in which Lieutenant H. P. M. Jones met his death are described in the following letters sent to me by Major Haslam, his commanding officer, and Corporal Jenkins, the N.C.O. in his Tank:
August 2nd, 1917.
Your son went into action with his Tank, together with the remainder of the company, in the early morning of July 31st. He was killed by a bullet whilst advancing. From the evidence of his crew I gather he was unconscious for a short time, then died peacefully. I knew your son before he joined the Tanks. We were both in the 2nd Cavalry Brigade together. I was delighted when he joined my company. No officer of mine was more popular. He was efficient, very keen, and a most gallant gentleman. His crew loved him and would follow him anywhere. Such men as he are few and far between. I am certain he didn't know what fear was. Please accept the sympathy of the whole (p. 258) company and myself in your great loss. We shall ever honour his memory.
J. C. Haslam (Major),
No. 7 Compy., "C" Battn., Tank Corps.
Corporal D. C. Jenkins wrote:
I have been asked by your son's crew to write to you, as I was his N.C.O. in the Tank. Your son, Lieut. H. P. M. Jones, was shot by a sniper. The bullet passed through the port-hole and entered your son's brain. Death was almost instantaneous. I and Lance-Corporal Millward, his driver, did all we could for your son, but he was beyond human help. His death is deeply felt not only by his own crew, but by the whole section. His crew miss him very much. It was a treat to have him on parade with us, as he was so jolly. We all loved him. Fate was against us to lose your son. He was the best officer in our company, and never will be replaced by one like him. I and the rest of the crew hope that you will accept our deepest sympathy in your sorrow.
Paul Jones had touched life at so many points—Dulwich College, the athletic world, the Army, journalism, the House of Commons, and Wales—that the news of his death caused grief in far-extending circles. Of the hundreds of letters of condolence that reached us I propose to reproduce a few here. They are unvarying in their testimony to his idealism, his personal charm and the nobility of his nature. Extracts from his last letter, published in the Daily Chronicle, the Western Mail, Cardiff, and Public Opinion, attracted considerable attention.
Lieutenant Jack Donaldson, who, as an A.S.C. officer, was attached to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade in the winter of 1916-17, wrote:
It was with the very deepest sorrow that I read in to-day's paper of the death of your son in action. As you know, he worked under me throughout the greater part of last winter. He was the first subaltern, if I may so express it, I ever had, for he worked under me though he was actually senior in point of rank. He was also the best and most loyal one I could wish for. Far more than that, he was a most interesting and lovable companion and friend. In fact, when he left us the gap created in our mess was one that became more noticeable every day. Intellectually, he was a great loss to us, for his interests were extremely broad and his views original. But far more than that, there was a sort of bigness about him. He was an idealist, and the rarer sort, the sort that carries its theories into practice.
We all laughed at him and at some of the things he did and the scruples he had, but in our hearts I think we all honoured and loved him for them. For without forcing it in any way upon others he himself followed a code of honour that differed from, and was stricter than, that of the world around him. He was quixotic, especially in anything to do with money, and often to his own personal loss. I think we were all the better for having known him. He seemed hardly to think of himself at all.
No man I ever met was more censorious of his own actions, or more obstinate in his defence of any principle or theory he was advocating in argument, no matter how hare-brained it might seem. We used to spend hours arguing over anything, from free-will to the "loose-head." I knew, of course, how much he disliked the class of work (requisitioning of local supplies) he was doing for me, though no one could have worked harder and few have done it better; but the commercialism of it was abhorrent to him. It was his duty to drive a hard bargain and to be (p. 260) one too many for a knave, and while he did his best to fulfil it he disliked the task.
I took him down on his first interview for the Tanks, and again on his transfer; and though I had no share in getting him the latter, I don't know that I should regret it if I had. For I saw him several times afterwards. I had a couple of joy-rides in his land-ship, and I and all others who met him could not but remark how happy he was. After the Arras show I believe he was simply radiant. He has died the death he would have chosen and in a good cause. Many a time he said to me that he was sure he would never survive the war, and that he did not, for himself, greatly care, for he was not built for a mercenary age. We may be sure that all is well with him where he lies.
I last saw him at Poperinghe about a month ago. He was full of spirits then, though under unpleasant enough conditions. Since then my transfer, applied for at the same time as his, has come through. I was so looking forward to another meeting with him later in France.
From Captain Maurice Drucquer, barrister-at-law, now serving in the A.S.C.:
I want to tell you how grieved I was to hear of the loss of your son. He received his commission the same day as I did, and we were posted to the same station. I only enjoyed his company for three months, as he was sent abroad. During that short period he had endeared himself to all of us, his brother officers, though we were many years his senior in age. What appealed to me most in Paul was the combination in him of boyhood and manhood. There was not the slightest attempt at pretence, not the slightest sign of precociousness, no desire to ape the tone or the airs of those among whom he worked. On another side of his character he was in every respect a man. He tackled all problems of a serious nature with a grasp of the subject which might well be the envy of a (p. 261) thoughtful man. One could not enter into conversation with him without at once perceiving that he must have given much thought and study to the everyday affairs of life. His knowledge of literature was great, and one was surprised, even abashed, at his store. His hours off duty were spent well and wisely. A certain period was always given to healthy exercise, and then would come, almost as a matter of course, hours of fruitful reading. The affectionate part of his nature came out in his relations with the people with whom he lodged. He earned the affection of the whole household, and the lady of the house has often told me that she loved him like her own sons. I saw much in Paul that I cannot put into writing, and I think he had the spirit to see certain truths which we see all too dimly.
Mr. George Smith, M.A., Headmaster of Dulwich College since the autumn of 1914, writes:
It was with deep regret that I learned of Paul's death, and I feel most sincerely for you all in your great sorrow. As you know, I was brought very closely into touch with him as soon as I came to Dulwich. He was the captain of the XV and of the football of the College during my first year; and I relied on him mainly for the organising and inspiring of the games. There his energy and keenness were invaluable to us. Then, as a prefect, he used to bring his essays every week; and I was greatly impressed by his intellectual power and promise. I remember how full his essays were of matter; how ready he was to grasp and to originate new ideas; how vividly and emphatically he expressed himself. We looked forward to a brilliant and useful career for him. But it was not to be. It is very hard to lose him. But he has done his duty; and he leaves behind him a memory that we of the old school must especially cherish and honour.
The Reverend A. H. Gilkes, Vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, Oxford, formerly Headmaster of Dulwich (p. 262) College, in a touching tribute to the "noble character of your brave, dear and able son," said: "I sympathise with you fully and deeply. It means little, I know, to you in your trouble, but I trust it means something, that your son was so much loved and admired, and is so sadly missed by so many. He was fearless, strong and capable, and his heart was as soft and kind as a heart can be. I thought that he would do great things; and indeed, sad though it is, I do not know that he could have done a greater."
Mr. J. A. Joerg, principal of the Modern Side, Dulwich College, a gentleman of German antecedents, for whom my son had a high and an unalterable regard, wrote:
It was with the greatest horror that I read of the fall in action of your hero-son Paul. I read his noble character during the many years he was with me, and I recognised and admired the great sense of justice and duty and loyalty that were such prominent features with him. His deep gratitude for anything that was done for him will always be remembered by me. He was a noble boy. I shall always reverence his memory.
Mr. P. Hope, Classical master at Dulwich, to whom Paul owed much when studying English literature, and whom he always recalled with affection, sent me a pen-picture of my son limned with insight and love:
August 18th, 1917.
I have heard with deep sorrow and distress of the death of your dear son, H. P. M. Jones, killed in action. Your son was never in the Classical Sixth at Dulwich College, and so was not directly a pupil of mine. But he often (p. 263) came to me for advice and help, and we often talked together about many things. I always cherished a real regard and admiration for him and his sterling qualities and great ability. He was a most kind-hearted and generous-minded boy, one who had the best interests of the school at heart, one who never spared himself if he could in any way render a service to his team or to the school as a whole; one who could be relied on to act loyally, faithfully and conscientiously in all that he did; one who would place duty before all other considerations. He was an indefatigable worker, a boy of great power and promise, and, so far as we could prophesy, was sure to achieve a high and distinguished position for himself in the world later on. He was greatly beloved by the boys, his own school-fellows, and honoured and respected by all his masters.
I well remember how he gave up hour after hour of his own time out of school to the training of the XV; how he would throw himself heart and soul into the heavy work connected with the organisation of the school football and games generally, and how he would do all in his power to make things happier and easier for the boys with whose welfare he was entrusted. He was indeed, as he grew older, just one of those men whom we could least of all spare in these days, the very embodiment in himself of all that is best in the public-school spirit, the very incarnation of self-sacrifice and devotion. I cannot tell you how much we shall miss him at the College among the Old Boys. There is no name or memory that we shall hold more dear than that of your much-loved son. He has died, even as he lived, in fulfilment of the high ideal which he set before him, and there could be no nobler or more glorious death.
Though our loss is great, yours is unspeakably greater. Our hearts go out to you in reverent sympathy. As we think of the dear ones who have made the great sacrifice for us, it is hard to fix our thoughts on the contemplation of their shining example, to find satisfaction in the assurance that their memory and their inspiration can never die. It is so human and so natural that we should miss them in their (p. 264) actual presence in our midst; and their absence leaves such a hideous gap in our lives which nothing can ever fill. But maybe as the days go by we shall understand more clearly the real value of their sacrifice and their life and death.
"Salute the sacred dead,
Who went and who return not—
Say not so!
We rather seem the dead
That stayed behind."
Your son was a truly good, simple-hearted, modest, gallant man: he has contributed his part to the making of the new world which we all pray will follow after the war—the new rule of righteousness and peace. He shall not be without his reward; and you, too, who have taught him from childhood and filled his mind with your own ideals, may remember him with pride as having fulfilled the highest aspirations which you had formed for him.
Mr. E. H. Gropius, who was captain of the school in 1914, when my son was at the head of the Modern Side, writes:
Paul was a friend of mine long before he reached the brilliant position he held when he left Dulwich. During his last two terms I got to know him still better and to admire him more, not only for his intellectual and athletic brilliance, but for his solid qualities, his strength of character and sound judgment. He was one of the best footer captains we have had, and he never once put his own personal feelings before the good of the school. As for in-school footer, he absolutely reformed it. Not that footer is the most important thing in a man's life. But if a man can play as he did, he must be a sportsman; and Paul died as he lived, a great sportsman. He could quite easily have kept in the A.S.C., but he preferred to do more. It is men like he was that we need most, but even if he is not with us his memory is. His influence at school was enormous; to all who knew him that influence will remain (p. 265) a powerful factor in their lives. Though we had hoped to be up in Oxford together, it could not be. Had he gone up his genius would certainly have made its mark.
When I think of my last year and the great times we had at Dulwich, it seems impossible that I shan't see Paul again. He was absolutely one of the best, the very best. But I am sure he would not wish us to be over-miserable on his account. His last letter gives a perfect picture of his mind and character. I really believe that he did welcome the war, not as a war, but because it gave him, as well as others, the chance of seeing things in their true light.... When I saw Mrs. Bamkin a few weeks ago we talked very intimately about Paul. She knew him only through her own boy who was killed in July, 1915, and through what other fellows and myself had said—and we came to the conclusion that Paul's was one of the finest characters of my time at school.... He inspired in me all the highest feelings. His example will help us on and he will live among us still.
A young German, Mr. Gerald Roederwald, a fellow-student with my son in the Modern Sixth, wrote:
I did not think that Paul would ever be able to get into the firing-line at all, but it was just like him to seek the thick of danger. Reading his last letter it seemed to me just as though we were still at school together in the midst of an argument. Often have I thought of "H. P. M." as we used to call him at school. We all liked him. What a career his would surely have been! It was an accepted tradition amongst us that old "H. P. M." would one day astonish the world. Those who knew him well derived great benefit from his cultured mind. I myself owe more than I can express to your son's influence over me. No one who came near him could help coming under the spell of his personality. His remarkable intellectual gifts made us feel that he was our superior. Not only that, his great stature seemed to be the essence of his whole being. I mean that everything about him was on a large scale. (p. 266) Nature had gifted him with a generous, open mind, which was incapable of taking in anything that was small or mean. Whenever Paul spoke to me his eyes seemed to probe into the depths of my whole being. As long as I live I shall never forget him. His spirit is with me always, for it is to him that I owe my first real insight into Life.
From Mr. Raymond T. Young, Felsted School:
I knew Paul as a small boy at Brightlands ten years ago. He was in my form and had already begun to show great promise intellectually and as a sound and splendid boy. Afterwards I came across him when he played such a fine game for the Dulwich Rugger side. Had he been spared, I quite think he would have taken a "Blue" at forward for Oxford. You must comfort yourselves with the constant thought that you have given for England one whose whole life was as perfect and true as it was full of promise of great things; and also you must be very proud of having had so much to give.
The Master of Balliol (Mr. Arthur L. Smith), writing on 21st August, 1917, said:
In sending you the official condolences of the college on the death of your brilliant son, I should like also to express personally my own feelings of the very successful career that was open to him at Oxford, which, like so many of our best young scholars, he gave up without a moment's hesitation to serve his country and the world in this great crisis. Such a change is surely not all loss if we could see things in their true proportion and in their realities; but meantime the loss must indeed be severe to you, because you must have been justly proud of him on so many grounds. I remember how he struck me in the scholarship examination by the excellent way in which he put some very vigorous good sense, particularly on the subject of the character of Oliver Cromwell; and I see that my notes refer to him as "showing much vivacity of expression," "sound reading," (p. 267) "strong mental grasp and excellent arrangement and method." He also made "a most pleasing and favourable impression in 'viva voce.'" He would have been a very leading and, in the best sense, popular man in the college. His last letter is one of the finest even of the many fine letters that have been written under such circumstances during the last few years.
A high official at the War Office wrote:
In this great and cruel crisis I have had before me many things which have evoked the deepest sympathy of my heart; but I know of nothing which has distressed me more than the sad blow which you have received. Your son's whole life and his outlook on life appealed to me in a remarkable way. There was nothing mean or small in his physical form or his mental equipment; and his fine, strong joy of life, and his love for the everlasting ideals made an impression on my mind which will not readily be erased. It is not so well known as it should be how manfully he overcame every obstacle to make himself the most perfect defender of his country and how ardently he strove with a hero's heart to place his glorious gifts upon the altar of his country. He was all that the most exacting paternal standards could demand. Now that his sun has gone down while it is yet day, with all its brilliant past and all its brilliant prospects, I join with your many friends in the sincere and heartfelt hope that the courage, consolation and pride which come to those who have "nurtured the brave to do brave things" may be yours in largest measure in your hour of sore trial.
From Mr. Lionel Jones, Science headmaster, Birmingham Technical School:
I believe ours was the first house Paul visited, and I have followed his career with interest and with, indeed, a sense of pride. We had expected him to do great things; yet he has done greater, for his last letter shows he had grasped the inner meanings of Life and Death more clearly (p. 268) than we do, and was content to sink the lesser in the greater Being.
From Mr. Hugh Spender, Parliamentary correspondent of the Westminster Gazette:
I had the privilege of meeting your son, and I shall always carry a very lively recollection of him. He was so modest that I did not realise what a distinguished college career he had had. But he impressed me very vividly with the strength of his personality, remarkable in one so young. There was an air of radiant gaiety about him which sprang from a pure heart and a lofty purpose. I realised that he must have had a very great influence for good. This thought must be a great consolation to you in your grief. Here was a life "sans peur et sans reproche," a light to brighten the footsteps of every man who knew of him.
A well-known Professor, himself a Balliol history scholar, wrote:
I only met your son once, but I liked him much, and from the time he got the Brakenbury the promise of his future career at Balliol had a very special interest for me. I felt sure he was destined to do great things. It is tragic to know that that destiny will now never be realised; but he has done greater things; he has done the greatest thing of all. That he should have joined the Army so early and pressed for transfer to the machine-gun corps—a unit which occupies posts of the greatest danger, and is required to hold them at all costs and against all odds—makes his achievement all the more memorable. Your sorrow must indeed be great, and almost intolerable, but the thought of such a high and fearless devotion will, I trust, do something to assuage it.
From Mr. William Hill, an old journalistic friend of mine:
(p. 269) Yesterday morning I read with regret profound, on account of the nation's loss as well as your own, the report of the death of your gallant son. Yesterday evening in a volume by Watterson—which incidentally contains a sketch of the Captain Paul Jones of history, depicted as a brilliant young man, with charms of person and graces of manner—I read in an appreciation of Abraham Lincoln a letter written by the great President to a sorely-bereaved mother, which I feel it to be a duty and an honour to recite in part to you in this hour. Lincoln wrote:
"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom."
In your own case, Lieut. Paul Jones, in the form of his last letter and by the testimony of his Major, has left a legacy of protest and aspiration and example which I ardently trust and believe will reinforce powerfully the spirit of regeneration, so long belated, that is already beginning to influence materially the Britain of our immediate future. Sealed by the sacrifice of his life, the note of a saner and purer national life set in his letter by your son will, ere half the century is past, give us, I am confident, a stronger and mightier Britain.
From Mrs. Denbigh Jones, Llanelly:
"Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" That has been the ideal of these brave young souls. From one great joy to another your glorious boy led you on. He lived and moved with an intensity and a fullness beyond our slow dreams, as if rushing to consume (p. 270) everything in life worth reaching and learning in the given time. The intoxication of life which possessed him will shine for ever in your memory, as it was not of earth. He scaled the topmost crags of duty, and now his young voice still calls to us "far up the heights."
My son's nurse, for whom he had a warm and abiding affection, married Mr. W. W. Jones, of Llanelly, who wrote:
On behalf of my wife, his devoted and loving nurse Nan, and myself, we extend to you our most heartfelt and sincere sympathy in this great catastrophe of your lives through the death in action of your dear son Paul, whilst fighting for the rights of justice, humanity and freedom. He died like the hero he was. My wife was greatly distressed and painfully grieved when she learnt of the cruel loss you have sustained. Paul's name was a household word in our home. She always spoke of him as such a noble, unselfish and virtuous boy, good in spirit, great of heart. It is hard that he should be taken, his life already so rich in achievements and with its promise of a brilliant and golden future. By his death it is not only you, his parents, who will suffer; but Paul, being in himself a great democrat—which in these days we can ill afford to lose—the democracies of the world will suffer by the loss of such a gallant and noble gentleman.
From a man of letters:
Thinking of your great sorrow over the loss of that splendid boy of yours, there came to my mind that passage in Macbeth where Ross tells old Siward:
"Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirmed
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.
Siward: Had he his hurts before?
Ross: Ay, on the front.
Siward: Why, then, God's soldier be he!"
(p. 271) From the editor of a London daily newspaper:
It is infinitely tragic to hear day by day of this waste of the life of brilliant young men who were the hope of the future. And yet we must not say that it is waste. If we say that, then there is no mitigation of the sorrow. The price is appalling, but we must believe that it is being paid for a treasure the world cannot live without; and if that treasure is won, your sorrow will at least be assuaged by the thought that it is not in vain, and that what you have lost the world has gained.
From a friend and colleague on the Daily Chronicle:
My wife idolised Paul for his lovableness and nobility. The vision we had of him in his splendid youth has been made unforgettable by his glorious sacrifice.
From a Welsh editor:
The memory of Paul's rare and great qualities and the definite promise he gave of a very brilliant career will ever remain fragrantly in your hearts and in those of your friends who had the happiness to know him.
From an Irish editor:
I was impressed no less by his unaffected modesty than by his evident ability and high character. Many as have been the brilliant young lives lost in this war, there can have been but few which carried such high promise as his.
From a Scottish journalist:
The Greeks summed up human virtue in a phrase which can hardly be bettered—καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός. In the promise of his life, and even more in the grandeur of his death, your son was καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός.
From a Dulwich schoolboy:
I can say nothing beyond this, that I feel certain Dulwich will not forget.
(p. 272) From his uncle, Mr. Brinley R. Jones, Llanelly:
What pride to have reared such a son and to know that he felt that the greatest thing in life was to lay all on the altar of his country! And to think of the gallant band whom he has joined—W. G. C. Gladstone, Rupert Brooke, Raymond Asquith, Donald Hankey, and many more.
"And ofttime cometh our wise Lord God,
Master of every trade,
And tells them tales of His daily toil,
Of Edens newly made;
And they rise to their feet as He passes by,
The tears came to my eyes, tears of joy and pride, when I read the extract from Paul's wonderful letter to Hal. We had looked forward to Paul serving England in his life—great service for which his transcendent gifts seemed to mark him out. It has been ordained, however, that his service is by way of Calvary. We can only wonder what it all means.
A colleague of mine in the Press Gallery wrote:
He was a fine fellow and you had good reason to be proud of him. I was greatly struck by his last letter. It breathes a splendid spirit and reminds me of a passage in my favourite essay in Stevenson: "In the hot fit of life, a-tip-toe on the highest point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other side."
An old friend who knew Paul well and whose two sons were educated at Dulwich College wrote:
I grieve beyond measure at the passing of so noble-hearted a man. He, like others who have gone down in this horrible war, was of the very flower of our race—he even more than most of them; and the nation's loss is great, too. There are consolations even in such an affliction as yours; and the highest consolation of all must be that Paul willingly laid down his life for his fellow-men.
(p. 273) From Major David Davies, M.P., Llandinam:
Your gallant son's death brings to my mind a verse of Adam Lindsay Gordon's:
"Many seek for peace and riches, length of days and life of ease;
I have sought for one thing, which is fairer unto me than these;
Often, too, I've heard the story, in my boyhood, of the doom
Which the fates assigned me—Glory, coupled with an early tomb."
Your son has covered himself with imperishable glory, though his promising young life has suddenly been cut off. Is it too much to hope that those great principles for which he fought so nobly will at last become the heritage of the whole world? He and those who have fallen with him will then have created a new earth, in which shall dwell peace and righteousness. I firmly believe it will be so; but it is up to us who are left behind to see to it that all the heroic sacrifices have not been made in vain, and that the "new order" will be worthy of those ideals which were cherished by the men who laid down their lives for them.
Of the many messages that reached us, none touched a deeper chord than the following:
7th August, 1917.
I would like to convey to you my condolences in the loss of your son, Lieut. H. P. M. Jones. Although a stranger, I am moved to do this after reading in to-day's Daily Chronicle the account of his career and those noble words he wrote in his letter home just before his death. I and those around me felt, "Here was a fine man and one the country could ill afford to lose." May it be some comfort to you in your grief, that your boy's death made at least one man say to himself: "I will try to be a better man."—Anonymous.
(p. 274) A young Welsh musician wrote:
I cannot express how intensely I feel for you in your great sorrow at the death of Paul. Of surpassing intellect and noble ideals, he would have been invaluable to the country in the near future. I feel sure it must be a source of great pride and comfort to you that he made the supreme sacrifice in such a courageous way, so becoming to his noble soul. He will live for all time in my mind as the very essence of honour and idealism.
"That was a wonderful letter," writes a newspaper proprietor. "I have read nothing finer. It brought tears to my eyes, but it made me proud of my race."
The athletic editor of a London newspaper, who is an authority on public-school athletics, wrote:
In your son's death we have lost a model sportsman. I will long remember him, as will Dulwich and the young giants of the school he so splendidly led.
From an official of the House of Commons:
I have prayed earnestly that there may be comfort in your mourning, and in due time a binding-up of hearts so sorely broken. The record of his school life, vivid with success and leadership and, best of all, whole-hearted in its purity, wrung my heart as I thought of what had been lost to us. But I believe he has passed on to other service.
"A life nobly lived and nobly died—the ideal"—such was the comment of an old colleague of mine, who has himself since lost a promising soldier son. "I venture to say," he added, "that his noble letter, written almost on the eve of his death, will carry healing to thousands and thousands of sorely-stricken hearts in these sad times. It should be printed in letters of gold."
(p. 275) "Be sure," wrote an old Cardiff friend, "in all your sorrow that He who fashioned your boy so well and equipped him so fully, still has him in His own kind care and keeping; and that when you 'carry on,' bearing your load bravely, your dear boy will be nearer to you than you often think, in some splendid service, too."
"It is such noble sacrifices as your son's," wrote a well-known M.P., "that almost alone redeem the horror of this world-wide catastrophe."
From M. Marsillac, London correspondent of Le Journal (Paris):
What a truly magnificent spirit was shown in that letter of your son! Indeed, we who remain behind are more to be pitied than those who go forth into Eternal Peace by such a noble and luminous road.
Mr. Alexander Mackintosh, its Parliamentary correspondent, writing in the British Weekly, said:
Lieutenant Paul Jones, as an occasional visitor, was familiar to the Press Gallery. Oxford has lost another young man of unusual gifts, a scholar and an athlete, as modest as he was brave, and the Gallery has a sense of personal loss. Yet it bids his father say, in the beautiful apostrophe which Rustum puts into the mouth of the snow-headed Zal:
"O son! I weep thee not too sore,
For willingly, I know, thou met'st thine end!"
Mr. Arnold White ("Vanoc") in the Referee for August 12, 1917:
Just before his death Lieutenant Paul Jones wrote a letter which deserves record on imperishable bronze. This (p. 276) young officer has given a new lustre to the name of Paul Jones.
Messages of condolence were received from the King and Queen, the Prime Minister, Cabinet and ex-Cabinet Ministers, the Army Council, members of both Houses of Parliament, clergymen, London and provincial pressmen, scholars, soldiers, labour-leaders, newspaper and journalistic societies and political associations. Letters came not only from the four countries of the United Kingdom, but also from France, Palestine, South Africa, India and Canada. These sympathetic expressions from far and near, from the exalted and the humble, prove, if proof were needed, that the memory of brave soldiers like Paul Jones, who have sacrificed their lives in a great cause, is cherished with gratitude and reverence by their countrymen.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.[Back to Contents]
Alleyn, Edward, 14
Alleynian, The, 25, 29, 41 et seq.
Ambrose, 231, 240
Barnard, W. J., 170
Beer, H. O., 155
Bray, F. W., 156
Cartwright, E. C., 20, 225
Clark, G. P. S., 157
Clarke, E. F., 25, 237
Cohn, F. A., 244
Dicke, R., 170
Edkins, H., 26, 213, 217
Evans, W. E., 248
Fischer, A. W., 29, 194
Gill, W. G. O., 240
Gilligan, A. E. R., 29, 39, 248
Gilligan, A. H. H., 38, 177
Gropius, E. H., 246, 264
Hannaford, S. J., 23
Henderson, W. J., 196
Hillier, F. N., 217
Howard, C. C., 194
Jones, Basil, 29, 189, 199
Jordan, J. P., 225
Killick, S. H., 199
Knox, F. P., 155
Lloyd, R., 139
Lowe, C. N., 241
Mackinnon, R. F., 218
Mann, J. S., 218
Peaker, A. P., 208
Potter, K. R., 217
Reynolds, J., 248
Roederwald, G., 246, 265
America and the War, 101, 103
Antoinette, Marie, 201
Army Service Corps, 104, 144, 187, 191, 198
Arnold, Matthew, 80
Asquith, H. H., 162, 165
Asquith, Raymond, 212
Athletes and the War, 49, 50, 124
Cricket, 37 et seq.
Football, 21, 28, 177, 186, 223, 233
Lawn tennis, 21
Swimming, 21, 183, 246
"Victor Ludorum," 23
Balkan States, 151, 156
Barnett, D. O., 199
Balliol College, Oxford, 1, 19, 23, 227
Master of, 227, 266
Bennett, Arnold, 123
Bernhardi, General, 93, 236
Brakenbury scholarship, 19, 227
British Empire, 87, 93, 122
Brooke, Rupert, 199
Browning, 77, 81, 118
Buchan, John, 154, 185, 202, 228
Burke, 76, 201
Byron, 21, 77, 203
Canteen, Expeditionary Force, 205
Capital and Labour, 86, 250
Carlyle, 79, 82, 91, 111
Cavalry, British, 105, 136, 145, 163, 188, 219
Charles I. and II., 89, 90
Chronicle, Daily, 13, 148
Churchill, Winston, 165, 184
Commercialism, 50, 93, 253
Conquest, Norman, 89
Cromwell, 89, 125
Dardanelles operations, 102
Democracy, 87, 96, 125, 249
Dickens, Charles, 73, 77
Donaldson, Jack, 258
Doyle, Conan, 72, 185
Dulwich College, 1, 14, 24, 240, 247, 252
Boon, F. C, 18
Doulton, H. V., 17, 26
Gibbon, W. D., 30, 241
Gilkes, A. H., 15, 225, 261
Hope, P., 262
Joerg, J. A., 18, 262
Kittermaster, A. N. C., 180, 194, 247
Nightingale, F. L., 171, 194, 247
Oldham, F. M., 45
Smith, George, 261
Classics in our public schools, 17
English Universities, 227
Public schools and the War, 151
Elizabeth, Queen, 87
Engineering, 54, 55, 234
English qualities, 93, 122, 125, 200, 203, 206
Erasmus, 44, 79, 89
Evolution, 94, 122, 128, 243
Garvin, R. G.,
George, D. Lloyd, 93, 123, 193, 204
Germany, 56, 93, 123, 130
Her diplomacy, 127
Her methods in war, 100, 235
Gibbon, 76, 88, 91
Girondins, the, 183
Goethe, 57, 74, 83, 125
Goldsmith, 77, 90
Greece, Ancient, 94
Grey, Sir Edward, 91, 127
Haslam, J. C., 108, 258
Hay, Ian, 247
Hindenburg, 102, 161
History, 19, 87, 242
Homer, 73, 77
Horses, about, 136, 159, 164, 181, 188, 213
House of Commons, 95, 123, 163
Hudson, W. H., 80
Mainwaring, Thomas, 9
Marx, Karl, 249
McGill, Patrick, 224
Milton, 75, 81, 202, 223
Morris, William, 65
Beethoven, 57, 60, 67, 204, 232
Classical and Romantic, 66
Mozart, 67, 68
Opera, development of, 64, 67
Wagner, 61 et seq., 115, 232, 245, 246
Patriotism, 92, 250
Pax Britannica, 249
Pax Romana, 249
Pitt, the younger, 91
Plymouth, 9, 11
Political economy, 87
Politicians and the War, 148, 163, 172
Prisoners, German, 203
Public schools, influence of, 48, 151
Punch and the War, 138, 154
Bedford, 32, 38, 134, 166, 185
Haileybury, 32, 231
Merchant Taylors', 32, 216
Sherborne, 32, 38
St. Paul's, 33, 39
Shakespeare, 60, 69, 70, 74, 182, 202
Shaw, G. B., 70, 73
Simon, Sir John, 172
Socialism, State, 95
Socialists and the War, 249
Soldier, the British, 132, 148, 161
Somme battlefields, 203, 237
Spectator, 164, 219
A nocturnal adventure, 168
An off-day at the front, 173
Diary of, 99 et seq.
Its causes and objects, 47
Loss of ideal aims, 152
Motor transport, 160, 190, 194
Night on a battlefield, 209
Our treatment of prisoners, 206
Requisitioning officer's duties, 131, 152, 158, 218
Tank Corps, 106, 229, 239
The horse in war, 160, 184
Ypres, 138, 236
Zeppelins, 101, 145, 213
Wells, H. G., 73, 228
Welsh coal strike, 129
Welsh football, 34
Welsh music, 71
Welsh soldiers, 150, 167, 177, 178
Wordsworth, 75, 109
Working-classes, the, 85, 92, 250
Zangwill, I., 155
Printed by Cassell & Company, Limited. La Belle Sauvage, London,
Footnote 1: Fowkes was a contemporary of Paul's at Dulwich.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 2: James Reynolds, head of the Modern Side for two years. The first Dulwich boy to take the London B.A. degree while still at school. Born, 1893. Killed in action in Belgium, May 2nd, 1915, while serving with the London Rifle Brigade.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 3: Frederick W. Bray, only son of Mr. W. Bray, West Norwood. One of the keenest members of the O.A.F.C. Quitting his engineering studies, he joined the 1st Surrey Rifles at the outbreak of war. Born, August 26th, 1895. Killed, May 25th, 1915.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 4: Son of Sir Osmond Williams, Bart., formerly M.P. for Montgomeryshire. Served in the South African War, and in his day was regarded as the most brilliant cavalry subaltern in the British Army. A severe accident in the hunting-field compelled him to leave the Army. When war broke out in 1914 he offered his services to the War Office, but was rejected because physically unfit. He then enlisted as a private soldier, and by repeated acts of gallantry in the field won his captaincy.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 5: Lieutenant F. L. Nightingale. Born, 1881. Killed in action in France, December 19th, 1915. A master at Dulwich, 1906-1914. A man of ripe culture and a splendid cricketer.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 6: Captain Arthur N. C. Kittermaster. Born, 1871. Killed in action in Mesopotamia, April 5th, 1916. A master at Dulwich, 1896-1915. An accomplished scholar and athlete, who was C.O. of the Dulwich O.T.C.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 7: R. B. B. Jones. Born, 1897. Killed, May 21st, 1916. In the shooting VII, 1913-14; captain of gymnasium, 1914. Lieutenant, Loyal North Lancashires. His heroic bravery on the Vimy Ridge recognised by bestowal of a posthumous V.C.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 8: C. C. Howard. Born, 1897. Killed, May 23rd, 1916. Held an exhibition in science at Trinity College, Cambridge. Lieutenant, Loyal North Lancashires.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 9: A. W. Fischer. Born, 1895. Died of wounds, May 12th, 1916. In the 1st XV, 1912-13-14. Held the Tancred Studentship for Classics and Science at Caius College, Cambridge. Lieutenant, Devonshire Regiment.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 10: Captain W. J. Henderson, M.C. Born, 1895. Killed in action, July 6th, 1916. A senior classical scholar at Dulwich. Won a classical scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Joined the Army, September, 1914.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 11: Lieutenant D. O. Barnett, killed in action, 1916, was a distinguished scholar and athlete at St. Paul's School. His career there presents a striking similarity to that of Paul Jones at Dulwich. Both won junior and senior scholarships; both ended their school career by winning a Balliol scholarship; both shone in athletics; Barnett was captain of St. Paul's School; Paul Jones was head of the Modern Side at Dulwich.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 12: Captain A. P. Peaker, M.C., of the K.R.R. (son of Mr. F. Peaker, of the Morning Post), who was a contemporary of Paul Jones's at Dulwich, and won an Oxford classical exhibition in December, 1914.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 13: Lieutenant Harrison Edkins, 1st Surrey Rifles. Born, July 5th, 1896. Killed, September 15th, 1916. At Dulwich he was captain of fives; Editor of The Alleynian, 1915. In December, 1914, he won the Charles Oldham Classical Scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 14: Lieutenant F. N. Hillier, M.c., R.f.a., Son Of Mr. F. J. Hillier, Of The daily News. Educated At Dulwich.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 15: Lieutenant Ronald F. Mackinnon, M.C. Born, October 23rd, 1889. Killed, October 21st, 1916. Was in the Dulwich 1st XV for three seasons, and captain of football 1908-9; a member of the gymnasium XVI in 1907-8, and won the Swimming Challenge Shield in 1908.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 16: Lieutenant W. G. O. Gill. Born, May 26th, 1895. Killed in Palestine, March 27th, 1917. He was in the cricket XI, 1913, football XV, 1913-14, and in the gymnasium XI, 1912-13.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 17: Captain E. F. Clarke. Born, April 1st, 1894. Killed, April 9th, 1917. Editor of The Alleynian, 1911-12-13. Went up to Oxford in 1913 with a classical scholarship at Corpus Christi College.[Back to Main Text]
Footnote 18: Second Lieutenant Felix A. Cohn, East Surrey Regiment. Born, August 31st, 1896. Killed, May 3rd, 1917. Was in the Modern Sixth at Dulwich with Paul Jones. Son of Mr. August Cohn, barrister.[Back to Main Text]