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In Memoriam: Oliver Bernard Ellis

Photograph of Oliver Bernard Ellis in uniform.

Oliver Bernard Ellis

Oliver Bernard Ellis was killed in active service over the German lines near Arleux on 19th May 1917, aged 18 years.

He was from Leicester and attended Bootham School from 1912 to 1916.  He was a keen sportsman at school, and also very interested in natural history and photography.

The March 1915 issue of Bootham Magazine tells us:

REPORT OF THE OLD SCHOLARS’ ASSOCIATION NATURAL HISTORY EXHIBITION COMMITTEE, 1914.

“After the absence of competitors last year we are pleased to welcome the work of three ornithologists. O. B. Ellis, of Leicester, shows an extensive series of observations, illustrated by photographs and lantern slides. These include an excellent series, starting with the cuckoo’s egg in the hedgesparrow’s nest, and showing the development of the cuckoo and the fate of the young hedge-sparrow. The black-headed gulls and other water-fowl at Skipwith have been studied and illustrated by a further series of creditable photographs. There were extensive fatalities among young gulls, but some suspicion cast upon owls seems to have been dispelled by careful examination of their pellets. A long essay on ‘ How Birds Protect their Eggs ‘ shows that O. B. Ellis has tried to arrange his observations and make them of value. We award him an exhibition of £7.”

Photograph of hedgesparrow, by O B Ellis

Hedgesparrow, photo by O B Ellis

Oliver had found the newly-hatched cuckoo fledgling in a nest on Strensall Common.  He made a unique photographic record if its growth by cycling to Strensall every other day.  To maintain the sequence, Oliver had on several occasions to break out of School before dawn, take the photographs when there was enough light, and then get back in time for “Silence”.

When he left, the school magazine, Bootham, wrote of him:

“O. B. ELLIS excelled in all forms of athletics. He was a brilliant and daring gymnast, weathering all hurts. He was an able goal-keeper, where he obtained his 1st Masters’ colours, and, later, played at outside right. At cricket he obtained his 1st eleven colours. Last year he obtained the Silver Medal of the Life-Saving Society and served on the Athletics and Football Committees. Last year he tied for the Senior Athletics Cup, and helped to command the Fire Brigade. He was a wonderful practical photographer, and was very patient over his ornithological excursions with the camera. He was a curator of ornithology and the N.H. [Natural History] rooms, and two years ago obtained the Old Scholars’ Prize. He leaves from the Upper Senior, and was a reeve [prefect].”

Oliver had a place at St John’s College, Cambridge and had hoped to take up his residence there in the autumn of 1916.  However, he joined that Royal Naval Air Service in June 1916.

He was trained at Redcar R.N.A.S. Station for three months.  In November he was transferred to Cranwell where he quickly qualified for his first class pilot’s certificate.  In March 1917 he was confirmed in the rank of Flight Sub-Lt.   He left England for Dunkirk, and shortly afterwards to the front in Flanders, and then to Squadron No 1 R.N.A.S., near Arras.  On May 20th he was notified as “missing” and enquiries found that he had gone down on May 19th in an engagement with a superior force over the German lines, “east of Arleux”.

In a letter received from Squadron Commander R. S. Dallas, R. N.:

“……I am afraid I was not actually leading the patrol you mention on the 19th May.  I was leading one patrol and was joined by another in which your son was.  We became engaged in a bit of a fight, and your son gave a very fine account of himself indeed.  He has already shot down one of his opponents when I say him attacked by another.  Your son was very tenacious and fought it out, and went down out of control through the clouds……. “

Squadron Commander Haskins writes:

“…. Although your son was not with more than a few weeks, I had formed a high opinion of him as an officer and a fighting pilot.  A cheery messmate, always trading for any work or play, he is a great loss to us ………. Your son has helped us to maintain our present superiority over theGerman air service, which is essential to winning this war, and that is a valuable service to our country…..”

The Headmaster wrote in “The Friend”:

“Oliver Ellis came to Bootham from Sidcot with a reputation for genial friendship and for holding the junior sports championship two years in succession.  He proved himself a fearless football player, a brilliant and daring gymnast.  He took a good position in class, and did excellently in his pilot’s examination a few months ago.  He was a keen ornithologist and a forceful reeve – full of the spirit of adventure when he left school less than a year ago.  His loss will be felt in a large circle of friends, for his has left behind him that worthier thing than tears, the love of friends without a single foe.”

The news of his death made a deep impression on the school.  One of his school-fellows says:

“We could scarcely believe that one who possessed his gifts had been taken so soon.  His energy and spirit, combined with remarkable thoroughness, made his a leader in every undertaking; and his open honesty made him the true friend of all who knew him.”

In a letter home, dated May 3rd 1917, Oliver had written  “….. thank God that I’ve got the safest job in this war. Don’t worry about me, I’m having the time of my life and am enjoying myself hugely, and the war can’t last for ever.”

Oliver Bernard Ellis is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Oliver was the subject of a series of articles for Explore Your Archives week in 2014. More may be read about him here:

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 1 (Athletics) http://blogs.boothamschool.com/archives/?p=329

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 2 (Natural History) http://blogs.boothamschool.com/archives/?p=335

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 3 (Railway Buildings) http://blogs.boothamschool.com/archives/?p=344

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 4 (“A letter from Alexandria”) http://blogs.boothamschool.com/archives/?p=348

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 5 (R.N.A.S.) http://blogs.boothamschool.com/archives/?p=355

 

In Memoriam: Arthur Clifford Guy

Photograph of Arthur Clifford Guy

Arthur Clifford Guy

Arthur Clifford Guy was reported missing, later presumed killed, at Bullecourt, France on 3rd May 1917, aged 25.

He was born in Bradford in 1892 and attended Bootham School from 1906 to 1908.  He was in the 2nd XI cricket and 2nd XI football at school.

By May 1917, Clifford was a Rifleman with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.   The April 1919 issue of Bootham Magazine reports:

“A. CLFFORD GUY {1906-8) was reported missing on May 3rd, 1917, and about a year later he was assumed by the War Office to have been killed. It is thought that he was killed near Bullecourt by the bursting of a shell which destroyed practically the whole of his platoon.

He was at Bootham from September, 1906, to April, 1908, and his stay at the school was all too short. His reserved and quiet manner made the circle of his close friends small, but those who really got to know him found a kind sympathy and solid friendship. By these friends, as well as by all who knew him, his loss will be deeply felt.”

Arthur Clifford Guy is remembered on the Arras Memorial in France.

 

In Memoriam: Denys Armstrong

Denys Armstrong

Denys Armstrong

Denys Armstrong died on active service, aged 20, on 3rd October 1916.

He was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1895 and attended Bootham School from 1909 to 1912. He played 2nd XI cricket and as goal on the 1st XI football team.  He was awarded the bronze Life-saving medal.  After Bootham, he studied at Armstrong College.  At the outbreak of war he was serving an apprenticeship with Messrs. Swan, Hunter and Co. as a naval architect.

In June 1915, Denys joined the 5th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers and fought in France.  He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

Denys died on the third day of the Battle of Le Transloy on the advance to Le Sars as part of the final British offensive of the Battle of the Somme.

“Bootham” magazine on October 2016 records:

“DENYS ARMSTRONG, second lieutenant, fell in action on October 3rd. The day before he had been hit in the hand, but refused to go back, and led his men successfully across No Man’s Land. On the 3rd he was wounded by a shell, and a man was dressing his wound when a second shell came and killed both of them. Officers and men had grown very fond of “Snowball.” ” We could trust him absolutely, and he was so frank and warm-hearted that one could not but love him. He was just as greatly liked and admired by the cadets, and he wielded a remarkable influence for good amongst them.” ”

Denys is buried at the Warlencourt British Cemetery in France.

Maternity leave

I’m heading off on maternity leave after today!

We will still be providing a limited enquiry service. Please contact office@boothamschool.com or 01904 623261 in the first instance if you have an enquiry or would like to donate an item to the archive.

We will continue to add posts to the blog and twitter, and Lynne, the Honorary Assistant Archivist will be continuing the First World War project while I’m away, so there will still be new posts to look out for.

Jenny (Bootham School Archivist)

Drama mysteries

We were checking through the box of material about drama productions recently, and came across these photographs, which weren’t labelled, so we’re not sure about dates or productions. If you recognise these productions, please let us know!

P1010892 P1010893P1010894 P1010895The two lower photographs must have been after 1966, as that’s when the new hall was opened. We’re not sure whether the top right photograph was from a drama production, or another event.

Expedition Recipes

Last weekend I was helping with the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme training expedition, and inevitably the conversation turned to food – what they had eaten (and how well or badly it had gone), what they would be eating soon, and what they might eat (some of the suggestions were worthy of a certain TV programme based in the Australian jungle). Inspired by this (perhaps inspired isn’t quite the right word), I found a Bootham magazine article from 1993, about the Basic Term Expedition. Basic Term was an introductory course to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and it seems that points were given for inventive recipes, some of which were included in the article….

Chocolate Apple Segments
It turned out the one Yorkie bar wasn’t enough to cover pieces of apple, so shelled Minstrels had to be added (apparently the shell of Minstrels doesn’t melt). They also learnt that melting chocolate directly in the pan risks burnt chocolate!

Fried Bananas
Best when cooked in a very greasy frying pan. For an extra challenge the pieces of banana could be laid North-South, to help with navigation after breakfast.

Chocolate Ambrosia
The ratio of rice pudding to chocolate powder was crucial.

As anyone who has done expeditions will know, any cooking done in a damp field when you are starving and have no other options tastes pretty good (perhaps not very crunchy pasta though)!

Christmas Bells

Term has finished, with all the Christmas events the end of term brings, this year’s ‘Bootham’ magazine has just been posted, and the school is quiet. From my office I can hear the Minster clock chime. So it seems appropriate to end this Christmas series with a drawing of ‘The Christmas Bells’ from the ‘Extra Christmas Number’ of The Observer from 1873.

bells cropped

The editor finishes his introduction to the issue by “wishing Contributors, Artists, Poets and Readers

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

20 Bootham, December 11th 1873”

140 years later, I would like to send the same wishes to everyone reading this.

  1. The Observer, Vol XII, p735. The image is signed SPT, almost certainly Silvanus Philips Thompson, who was a pupil at Bootham School between 1858 and 1867, and taught at the school between 1870 and 1875. He went on to become a well known physicist and there is a blue plaque with his name on Bootham.
  2. 20 Bootham was later renumbered as 51 Bootham.