1914 Register – cricket, rats, fire and escape plans

This post continues from earlier posts with extracts from the 1914 edition of the Bootham School Register. Thanks to Claire, one of the volunteers, for researching the post.

Arthur Frederic Gravely (B. 1869-70)

Played in the annual cricket match with Schoolroom against the Seniors when, with I.H. Wallis as captain, they beat the Seniors in one innings: Remembers Septimus Marten’s great throw from the far side of the then adjoining field over the row of trees dividing that from the cricket field, the ball falling within a yard of the wicket: Postcards came into use whilst at Bootham, and he wrote and posted one the first day of issue to his sister at the Mount. Has a vivid recollection of J. Edmund Clark, then a teacher, learning to ride an early bicycle (“Boneshaker”) on the playground: also of a most enjoyable school excursion to Goathland, where he climbed a fir tree and brought down a nest of young squirrels for inspection, and afterwards with his clothes on slipped on a stone, and, to quote the words of an old song, “He caught a fine duck in the river”. Once when troubled with boils he went to Fielden Thorp, who welcomed him with the following “Come hither, come hither, my little boy, and do not tremble so, for I can prick the biggest boil that you ever did yet grow”.

Joseph Foster Lloyd (Lawrence St. 1844-45 and B.1846-49)

Became a Coal and Iron Merchant until his health broke down: Of rather retiring character, and as an invalid for some years before his death: At school he was a daring boy – watching a water rat in Langwith Long Lane, was greeted by John Ford with a “At him, Joe,” and without a moment’s hesitation he plunged into the ditch after the rat.

 Herbert Thomas Malcolmson (1897-1900)

At Bootham under John F. Fryer and Arthur Rowntree he remembers the “fire”, when he lost quite a number of Natural History specimens – in fact, some of his skulls were in the pot left boiling, and which is thought caused the fire, although he was not in charge.

George Mennell (Lawrence St. prior to 1829)

Arranged in conjunction with Henry Binns and John Bright to run away from school to America. H.B was caught on leaving the school premises and obliged to reveal the plan. JB., who had started second, pursued and caught on Tadcaster Road. G.M reached Leeds on foot, and was there found waiting for the others at the inn whence the coach to Liverpool was to start.

A third update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit

Since November 16th there have been parties continuously at the sheds, and in all they have probably done about 200 dressings…

The work at the dressing station at Woesten has been continued, and the party there has varied in number from twelve to seventeen. Geoffrey W. Young was in command until November 18th, and since then Maurice Stansfield has had charge of the station,

The main part of the work continued to be the collection of wounded from various villages just behind the firing line, and the evacuation of cases too serious to be sent by train to hospitals in Furnes and Dunkirk. Probably altogether between 200 and 250 wounded have been brought back from the villages of Zuydschoot, Boesinghe, etc. ; and of these a considerable proportion would have been killed had they not been removed. On November 18th twenty-five were brought out of Boesinghe while the village was undergoing a heavy shell fire; on the second journey twenty-two shells fell while the cars were being loaded. On November 20th fifty more people, including some refugees, wounded civilians and nuns, were brought from the same village, which was again being fired on. The conduct of everyone concerned on both occasions was admirable.

About forty or fifty serious cases have been evacuated during the week to Furnes and Dunkirk. This work is a severe strain both on the cars and on the drivers, but is a most valuable part of the service that the unit is able to render, as it is undoubtedly the means of saving some men who otherwise would die. Some much larger and heavier cars than are yet at the disposal of the unit are really necessary for the purpose.

In addition to the above work, a certain amount of dressing has been done. On November 17th, after a heavy fight around Zuydschoot and Bixschoot, about 100 men were dressed, some of them for the first time since they were wounded. Altogether about 250 men have been dressed by members of the unit at Woesten during the last week. The personnel of the party at Woesten has been changed from time to time, so that in all thirty-five members of the unit have had some experience of conditions at the front.

But the work of the Woesten dressing station has been much hampered by the fact that the party there are only, so to speak, the guests of the French doctors in charge, and that they hold no official position. In consequence, they do not receive regular information as to where their services are required, and are compelled to find their own work. This involves much loss of time and energy, and means on some days that they are able to do little.

With the object of removing these disadvantages and of enabling us to start new stations of the same sort, we were anxious to make some formal arrangement for the authorisation of our activities by the French Government. This we have been fortunate enough to accomplish… The advantage of it is that, however many stations we may establish, or however wide a front we may be covering, they will all be in telephonic communication both with our new headquarters in Furnes and with each other. Our headquarters will be in direct touch with the French authorities, who will keep us informed every day as to the work which there is to do.

We have offered to the Mission Francaise at Furnes the services in the first instance of twenty-five men, including three doctors, and of nine cars. There is no doubt that in the near future we shall add to these numbers. There is also little doubt that, although in the first instance this work will be primarily that of collection, in a short time and as need appears we shall be able to institute dressing stations of our own.


PHILIP J. BAKER. November 21st, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914, Vol VII, p115.

See the second update from the Ambulance Unit for the account from one week earlier.

A second update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit

During the last week the work of the unit has been extended and developed in several directions. The work in the evacuating sheds at the station at Dunkirk has been continued without intermission. There has been no time, either at day or at night, during the week when there has not been a party of from seven to ten persons on duty in the sheds. As the members of the unit have become more expert in dressing, it has been possible to reduce the size of the parties. The normal number is now eight instead of twelve, and includes only one doctor instead of two. This eases the strain on all the members of the unit, and especially on the medical staff; while it is found that the smaller party is now quite competent to accomplish the work which previously occupied the whole of the larger party.

The work of the unit has developed in another direction during the week. We were offered by the Belgian Government the use of a military hospital at Ypres, and on Monday, the 9th, a party of twelve men and two doctors left Dunkirk with the intention of establishing there a collecting and dressing station. It was found, however, that the town was completely deserted and partially destroyed; the party spent the night in the hospital, but the bombardment continued at intervals, and by the next morning it was clear that there was no useful work to be done in the town itself. We therefore went north to Woesten, a village on the main road to Furnes, where there was a French evacuating station. The medecin chef of the station at once accepted the services of the party, and provided a large room for its accommodation. Since Tuesday the party has done a considerable amount of work, including the evacuation of hospitals at Poperinghe, Furnes, and Dunkirk of perhaps 40 or 50 very seriously wounded men, some of whom might have died if they had not been taken to hospital at once. They have also dressed over 100 cases, and have on three occasions collected wounded from points just behind the firing line. They were engaged in an endeavour to remove about 70 men from the village of Zuydschoot when the Germans began to shell it. They succeeded in removing about 40, but the remainder were killed by the collapse of the building in which they were lying. Some members of the party were for some time under fire while this operation was being carried out.

The medical staff express themselves as well pleased with the progress made by the members of the unit in the work of dressing.

During the week over 1,500 wounded men have been redressed at the station. In addition to the redressing, a very large number have been provided with shirts and other clothes from the stores of the unit, and in this way much suffering has been alleviated. It is clear that the unit can in this way utilise a large supply of clothes, and especially of shirts.

The whole work at the sheds has been placed on a more satisfactory basis by the construction of a dressing-room, which is allocated to the unit by the French authorities. It is therefore possible for us to keep there an adequate supply of stores and instruments, and thus to render more efficient the services of members of the unit. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the French authorities should have so far marked their appreciation of the work done by the unit. The party which arrived at Dunkirk yesterday has already begun to perform duties in the sheds. (The report proceeds to explain the removing of cases from the sheds to the hospitals already existing at Dunkirk.)

It is clear from the experience gained at this dressing station at Woesten that, if this side of the work is expanded, many more motor ambulances will be needed. An arrangement is at present being made with Captain Fournier, of the French Army, and with Dr. Hector Munro, who has been carrying out ambulance work at Furnes, as the result of which the unit will probably in due course establish two other similar stations on the line between Ypres and Dixmude. There is no doubt that this is the kind of assistance most urgently required, and if a definite arrangement with Captain Fournier is made, the energies of the unit can be most effectively used in this direction.


PHILIP J. BAKER. November 14th, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914, Volume VII, p113

See previous posts for an update about the Ambulance Unit , a postcard from Corder Catchpool and an appeal for help.

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 5 (R.N.A.S.)

This post continues from Part 4, and is part of a series for Explore Your Archives week.

Oliver Bernard Ellis left Bootham in 1916. The bene decessit in the magazine (a paragraph about each leaver) reads:

“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. rooms, and two years ago obtained the Old Scholars’ Prize. He leaves from the Upper Senior, and was reeve [prefect].”

Group photograph of 1916 Leavers.
1916 Leavers photograph – Ellis is second from right, front row

Oliver joined the Royal Naval Air Service in July 1916, and by March 1917 he was in Dunkirk. Some of his letters home were published in ‘Bootham’ magazine, here are some extracts:

April 21st 1917: “The F.A.U. dentist who I went to the other day said, ‘Let me see, you’re the man who tried to whitewash the roof of some railway buildings in York, aren’t you?’ He was an Australian, but his assistant was a man I was at school with at Sidcot!”

April 24th 1917: “I saw a little owl tonight, and heard lots of patridges calling. It was simply a ripping evening, and I almost expected to see an old curlew flying over.”

May 3rd 1917: “somehow the quiet freshness of Warwickshire seems far more fascinating than ever it did before, and the thought of perfectly white flannels and a perfectly flat cricket ground seem to be things only to be found in heaven. I think I’m going to live in white flannels when I get home. Does anyone play tennis this year?…The chances are one in a hundred in our favour, and there we must leave it, having reduced it to that, and 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.”

On May 20th 1917 he was reported missing. Then the news came that his plane had been shot down on May 19th, and he had been killed.

Photograph of Oliver Bernard Ellis in uniform.
The photograph from the In Memoriam for Oliver Bernard Ellis in ‘Bootham’ magazine.
In Volume VIII of ‘Bootham’ magazine, there were only 150 pages between Oliver’s Bene Decessit (on leaving) and his In Memoriam.

Here is his entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

After his death, his parents presented the school with the Oliver Ellis medal for athletics, in memory of their son.

Photograph of Oliver Ellis Medal
Oliver Ellis Medal

Note: I hope that this week has helped to show how stories can be pieced together in an archive. There is still scope for far more research on this story, and many others in the archive.

There is an enormous range of archives nationally, with diverse collections, and they contribute in all sorts of ways, including education, business, identity and democracy. I hope that you will be encouraged to explore your archive.

Some of the items that I used to piece together the story

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 4 (“A letter from Alexandria”)

This post continues from Part 3, and is part of a series for Explore Your Archive week.

Oliver Bernard Ellis wrote an essay for ‘The Observer’* called ‘A letter from Alexandria’. According to notes by his family, the essay was based on a letter sent by his uncle, Edward Dare Evans, to Edward’s daughter.

Image of first page of the essay.
First page of the essay.

The essay is written from the perspective of a serviceman who is wounded and in hospital in Alexandria. It gives an account of the events leading up to the injury.

The first sentence reads: “Looking back over the happenings of the last week, I realise the futility of attempting to give you any idea of the horrors of modern warfare.”

The last sentence reads: “When this letter reaches you I shall have left this broken shell, and shall be free to fly back over land and water to the old home, and there I shall stay for a few short years until we can meet again on the same footing ‘Death is not the sunset but the sunrise of our lives’.”

Image of last page of the essay.
Last page of the essay.

The series concludes tomorrow with his time in the R.N.A.S.

*The Observer was a collection of handwritten essays on a range of subjects by Bootham students and staff, that was regularly produced. This essay is taken from 2nd Series, Volume XXXII, p599.

Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit – help needed

You will, with us, have watched with interest and sympathy the arduous training at the Jordans Camp, and the accounts of the first expedition of the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Corps. Eighteen Bootham Old Boys are now serving at Dunkirk and are having a terribly hard and anxious time. They receive several hundreds of men from the front daily, most of them in a shocking condition from wounds and exposure. The only place for them so far is on straw in station sheds, with an entirely inadequate supply of blankets, and no clothing to replace their dirty and worn things. Help is urgently wanted, and I am sending this appeal particularly to those who have a personal interest in Bootham, and would wish to support an undertaking so enthusiastically served by Old Boys. Money is needed, flannel shorts (washed, old or new), “helpless case shirts,” vests, warm bed-jackets, socks, small pillows, blankets, handkerchiefs, belts, etc. Anything of this kind that can be collected by friends of Bootham will be gratefully received by me here and forwarded regularly to Dunkirk.

Ellen H. Rowntree.

P.S.—There are interesting articles in this week’s Friend by H. W. Nevinson (for many years a war correspondent) and Philip Baker. Mr. Nevinson concludes :  “The amount of excellent work which the party has already put in is remarkable—I have never known a whole set of young- fellows so keen, so resourceful, and of such a temper that it is a real delight to associate and work with them.” Old Boys from Bootham are : Joseph Baker, Philip J. Baker, Donald Gray, Will Harvey, Victor W. Alexander, Corder Catchpool, Richard E. Barrow, Stephen Corder, Maurice Stansfield, Charles Gray, Harry Gray, Colin Rowntree, Laurence Rowntree, Donald Eliott, Wilfrid S. Wigham, Basil Priestman, John W. Harvey, Robert H. Horniman.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914

See the earlier post about the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit’s arrival in Dunkirk.

Arthur L. Lean (1886-89) in Germany

Our friend Dr. Henrietta Thomas, of Baltimore, who has paid several visits to Germany to repatriate German girls and bring back English girls, had dinner with Mrs. Lean and himself in their comfortable Berlin flat (some account of her impressions—not of the flat, but of the whole situation—appeared in the Labour Leader for November 12th). Although reliable information all seems to indicate that English have been better treated in Germany on the whole since the war broke out than Germans have been in England, it must be remembered that there are far fewer English in Germany and that these are of a superior class and can easily be kept under supervision. We shall be anxious to learn whether A. L. L. has been interned since the German Government began to adopt this policy by way of retaliation for the English action.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914

See the earlier post about Arthur L. Lean.

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 3 (Railway Buildings)

This post continues from Part 2, and is part of a series for Explore Your Archive week.

Returning to the article about Oliver Bernard Ellis by one of his contemporaries in the November 1976 ‘Bootham’ magazine, it seems that one of his notable exploits whilst at school was to climb the N.E.R. (railway company) offices in York, and paint his initials on the roof. On reading the copy of his diary, it turns out he did this in the early hours of July 7th, 1915, and that someone had dared him to do it. It seems that the railway company were concerned about who might have done the painting, and eventually Oliver had to own up to the Headmaster, Arthur Rowntree, and have a very uncomfortable interview with someone from the solicitor’s office.

The series continues tomorrow with an article about the war in ‘The Observer’ magazine.

A postcard from Corder Catchpool

It will be generally known that our President, T. Edmund Harvey (1887-1891), after preliminary visits of investigation to Holland, Paris, and Bordeaux on behalf of the Friends’ War Victims Relief Committee, is now leading our first party of workers in France. Three others of this first party are O.Y.S., in Hugh B. Clark (1899-1901), F. Herbert Wetherall (1893- 1894), and Arthur B. Webster (1907-1909), all of whom are acting as chauffeurs. There are so many O.Y.S. working with Philip J. Baker (1903-1906) in the First Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit in the neighbourhood of Dunkirk that these will probably be referred to elsewhere, so I will be content to quote, by permission of Stephen Hobhouse, a postcard addressed to him on November  11th by T. Corder P. Catchpool (1900-1902) and franked by M. Stansfield (1903-1905) as “Acting Adjutant ” :— ”We are spending long- hours day and night dressing ghastly wounds in the shambles, two huge dark, dirty sheds at the station, where some 300 wounded arrive and leave by boat every twenty-four hours. The sights, sounds and smells could hardly be imagined. Some 20 of our party are out at the firing line, and have already experienced nights under continuous shell fire. We relieve the party weekly, so my turn will come very soon. Our surgeons are busy at an improvised theatre here—we bring out the worst cases from the station, and have some 50 beds at disposal. Many die each night. Some go mad.” Our thoughts go with both parties in the prayer that their work may serve to spread the spirit of love and reconciliation, upon which alone our shattered civilisation can be rebuilt.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914

Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 2 (Natural History)

This post continues from Part 1 and is a series for Explore Your Archives week.

Next I moved on to his photography and natural history interests. I found a collection of photographs by Oliver Bernard Ellis, which along with the natural history annual reports in the magazine, show the range of work he was doing.

Photograph from O. B. Ellis' Natural History Album.
No. II Whinchat.

The photograph above is from the collection of photographs (which is titled “O.B. Ellis Natural Science (Illustrations) Upper Senior 1914-15”) and is labelled “No. II Whinchat. Photographed half way to Skipwith in June 1914. It had a nest close by.”

Oliver was mentioned several times in the January 1915 Annual Report of Bootham School Natural History, Literary & Polytechnic Society. He won the Old Scholars’ Exhibition “with his interesting observations on the protective colouring of eggs and young.” He gave a talk on the subject, with lantern slides, at the Christmas Show. Later on the report mentioned that he showed “a number of bones collected from owl pellets, with the object of ascertaining the nature of the food of the owls of a particular district and of discovering whether they were responsible for an unusually high death rate, which had been observed among the young birds of the district.”

The Ellis family produced volumes of copies of letters and diaries by Oliver Bernard Ellis, and we have a copy of the two volumes in the archive. There is an enormous amount of material contained in the letters, more than I have yet had time to study properly. I did however notice a reference to bird photography in the diary entry of June 20th 1914. He got up when it was just light and cycled to Skipwith (just over 10 miles) to photograph a young cuckoo. He got back to school by 5.30am, and had an hour of sleep before getting up time.

The series continues tomorrow with the station buildings.