“The British soldier was never so cheerful as when he was hopelessly and miserably uncomfortable”

Reading School pupils were urged to face the future.

Colonel Wilson’s Address.

Colonel Wilson, who was accorded a very enthusiastic reception, said he considered it a great honour to have been invited to present the School prizes. He wished heartily to congratulate the School on its record, particularly its war record, which was one of which any School might rightly be proud. They had, too, another record – that of being one of the oldest Schools in the United Kingdom, with a history extending over nearly 800 years, and, if he might offer a word of advice to the boys, it was that they should always remember their School after they left it, and never do a single thing that might put a black mark on this brilliant record. (Hear, hear.) The last 4.5 years had done a great deal to bring back to many of them memories of their School life, and the memories thus revived, when they had met with those with whom they had been at School, had always been happy ones. He was a great admirer of Kipling and of the patriotic spirit that permeated his writings. Patriotism, however, was something that was born in them. They did not talk about it very much, but they liked to think about it. He wished to say one word to them on the spirit that had animated the nation during the war – a spirit which he hoped and trusted would animate the nation during the serious and difficult times that lay before them. The generation to which he belonged was passing away, while the generation to which they belonged was coming on and would have to tackle the vast problems of the future.

The Old Spirit.

He often wondered when the war broke out, whether the spirit of the men of England, which had animated her soldiers on the battlefields at Agincourt and Crecy, and her Sailors at the Nile and Trafalgar, would manifest itself in the men of 1914, after the passage of so many years. It was only after the gallant old Regular Army and the French Army had had a really serious series of reverses on the Western front that the British nation said, “We are up against somebody who means to fight us and is trying to beat us” and it was then that the spirit of the nation awoke. This war was entirely different from any war in which England had fought in the past. It brought together men of all classes, the vast majority of whom never thought of the profession of arms as one they would ever be likely to follow. If the comradeship which they had made at the front was going to last, then it was the best thing that had ever happened to this country of ours. (Applause)

The British soldier – and he said this with no thought of detracting from our Allies – was entirely different from the soldier of any other country. The British soldier was never so cheerful as when he was hopelessly and miserably uncomfortable. When things were at their worst he was the most cheerful person he could find, but as soon as things were happy and comfortable, he started “grousing.” (Laughter.) But the British soldier had what was, to his mind, the greatest saving grace of all-and that was his wonderful sense of humour. It was the cheerfulness, the sense of humour, and devotion to duty which had characterized the British Soldier and the British nation that had enabled it to win through as it had won through.

Difficult times lay before them, and if they were to win through them also, he would advise his young hearers to imitate those men who had been through 4.5 years of war. Let them imitate the high sense of duty and the high sense of patriotism and determination which had characterised all of their actions. And he was sure that if they did in civil life as they had done in military life, there would be no doubt as to the future of the nation. He asked them to remember when they went out into the world, that other men had just as much right to live as they had, and that is was their duty to see that they had the same advantages as they themselves had had, if it was in their power to give them. He urged them to be patriotic. In this as well as in other lands there were lots of people who seemed to have far greater admiration for the laws and legislation of other countries than their own. Let them love and venerate their own country, and if they thought its institutions needed altering, well let them alter them, but that did not mean transferring their love to another country. He did not believe the cosmopolitan patriot- “the sturdy patriot of the world alone, the friend of every country but his own.” He begged them always to remember their duty to their country, for if they did so they would be sure of leaving it better and happier than they had found it. (Applause.)

Reading School Magazine, April 1919 (SCH3/14/34)

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The brotherhood of man will be realised after the war

The Dodeka Club members in Reading debated the future of the country once peace were declared. Some were optimistic, others took the whole question less seriously.

The 280th meeting of the club was held at Barkas’s on Jan 5th 1917.

After refreshments an exceedingly suggestive and interesting paper was read by the host entitled:- “After the war. What?” The host after suggesting that very altered conditions must exist after this titanic struggle, proceeded to argue on evolutionary lines. Religion would be deepened and become more spiritual. Science would become more closely allied with trade and manufacture and research would be increasingly applied to both physical and psychical conditions so as to finally bridge the gulf between religion and science.

Social endeavour would be greatly helped by the men, who, having met on the battlefield, would realize the brotherhood of man and so lose the distrust between class and class. The colonies would unite with the mother country and form a great Federal Council of free peoples, the greatest the world has ever seen, for the uplifting and true happiness of the human race.

An active discussion took place after the paper, the tine varying from a note of great levity to one of seriousness. It was suggested, in the words of Kipling, that “Pay, pay, pay” would be the most likely answer to the title of the paper. After discussing such questions as Labour unsettlement, cooperation and division of profits, reform of the tariff and an Empire Parliament, the discussion turned to the problem of how soon men would have wings, which quickly put a termination to the proceedings.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

“They deserved it” – but Staff officers should not get the same kind of medal for safe work

Maysie Wynne-Finch told her brother Ralph how proud she was that her Guards officer husband John had won the Military Cross.

Jan. 22/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales
My dear darling R.

You will guess that I am what Jim calls “throwing my chest out” after John’s Military X. It was for that show on Oct. 8th. It’s so awfully nice Billy should have one too. I think they deserved it! Your news of Lord A’s DSO does not surprise me. It’s the usual story. As Becky wrote to John re his X – “he hoped it might be the 1st of many rows – for himself being on the staff of course, he felt pretty safe to finish up with 3 rows at least!” One is all for staff work being honoured but why not make classes & have one for good safe work & another for dangerous jobs whether won by staff or anyone else. Don’t you agree? I am so glad to hear of your new work. It sounds most awfully interesting – & I do hope you’ll be left in place at the one job for a bit. Yes, your DMO went with the rest. I was sure you would be sorry. K seems to become more & more disappointing as far as one can judge by effect. Rumour has it he’s going to marry old Lady Minto. “I should have thought he’d enough to do without the cares of matrimony” as O de B sarcastically wrote to me!! Which reminds me, I [am] sending you rather a nice little Kipling on the Navy & also a collection of various newspaper articles.

I don’t know how much of news John told you in his letter. He went & saw his doctors & jaw man last Mon. the latter thinks another lot of jaw bone has gone – caused by a huge wisdom tooth coming through & setting up inflammation in the already tender jaw bone. Anyhow he was x rayed again & is now waiting to get the report. He will probably have to have another little operation to remove the bad stuff.

George Crichton offered him & urged him very strongly to go to Windsor as Adjutant, however, having got the Docs to say he should, all being well, be fit for France in another two months, he has refused, not wishing to get stuck at Windsor. The Med Board have given him another 3 weeks sick leave to his extreme wrath, to have his jaw treated. He wished & had determined to combine the process with duty at Windsor. I expect we shall go to London next week now to have the op. or whatever it’s to be, he’ll go to Windsor as soon as possible. From all accounts nothing but a miracle can account for that evacuation of that awful peninsula. I had a delightful letter from Capt McClintock saying so, & giving that story no doubt you know of the cruiser, one of the covering squadron, who after the last man had left, drew out of the line & assembled all the ships company & on their knees thanked God & then returned to bombard the enemy. I like that, it has a fine old flavour of sea tradition.

One thing I long for these days all the time is that Mahan had not died before writing this last & possibly greatest chapter of the influence of Sea Power.

Incidentally these last figures of the neutral food supply open people’s eyes a bit. It’s no news to sailors or soldiers of course. Oh God these d— politicians & diplomats. It’s sickening. If America plays the fool & one doubts her pluck too, let her come in & be d— to her.

Isn’t it too ghastly about Ivar. Poor dear Aunt Syb. One hardly dares to think of the black desolation of her sorrow. She writes too wonderfully. No word of complaint or regret, only thankfulness that he so played the game – & by heaven he did….

People from France write rather fed up just now. No wonder – it all sounds too beastly, especially in the weather we’ve had…

Submarines were again in the Irish Channel at New Years time I believe. The mail was held up one day & night till they were cleared off, I believe….

Joan Lascelles writes of some new appointment Eddy has. I was so glad for her about his Mil X – though John heard much adverse comment on the matter in London last week! Ducky Follett is doing well, a wife & a DSO all at once. I was so glad.

Yours ever
Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

“Kipling in real life”: the life of a trainee dispatch rider

Apsley Cherry-Garrard enjoyed life as a dispatch rider in training:

14th Signalling Company
Royal Engineers
Stanhope Lines
Aldershot

Dear Farrer

Here I am living as a Tommy & a good life too – pretty rough. Luckily in barracks and so we are better off than 14 in a Bell Tent. I have had no medical & so cannot tell about that – otherwise I have my job as Dispatch Rider. They appear to have had so many casualties among the 1st batch of Dispatch Riders that they are going to have us fully trained before going out, & I don’t think we shall go for at least two months though we can say nothing.

So we are to do signalling & ordinary drill. We are just off now at 5.30 pm, starting 5.30 am. We have a real good fellow, Captain Stratton, as CO of the company. A lot of this company have already seen active service so things look good, and they are a splendid lot of men. It’s just Kipling in real life!

Yours very sincerely

Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Sept 23

Letter from Apsley Cherry-Garrard to Arthur Farrer, D/EHR/Z8/140