“THE following letter, from “B.E.F., April 10,” bears the initials of a distinguished scholar of Bootham, Fellow of All Souls, Oxford :—
‘I have come to the wars—what I think, in my more dramatic moments, is getting about the only experience my life hadn’t included before. But although I promised myself to write an offensive article in Bootham when I got here, something about this business (I can’t guess what, though it’s certainly not its horribleness) dries me up. I find one doesn’t think here much, because there’s rather a lot of work, but I did for one moment have a strong impression of a theoretical kind. It was when I first saw the corpses of about a hundred unhappy fellows in turbans who were so bewildered when they got here (in the cold and mud at Christmas) that they lost a trench. They lie between our lines and the Germans, and no one can go out to bury them. My impression was that nothing could be important enough for great empires to go to war about it ; but whether that remarkable reversal of my normal views will be what I seriously conclude from it all, I’ll tell you after the war.’
Readers of Bootham are requested not to weary themselves unduly with the consideration of what that all-important word “nothing” does or does not involve.”
“It is painful to read that some of the literary activities in the School have been temporarily suspended because of the pressure of time due to ambulance classes; assuredly this could not be avoided, but we know that the School authorities, no less than the rest of us, must regret it. When the ancient universities have a third or less than a third of their normal number of students, when thousands of the most promising minds are perishing, or, more terrible still, being seared and demoralised by the ghastly ordeal imposed upon them, one may naturally look to the schools in every part of the country to encourage those who are least liable to the oppression due to a true perception of the meaning of war to continue the national tradition expressed in the ideal of the gentleman. “Sweetness and light,” the true culture, is needed to-day – needed, perhaps, even more than courage and heroism. The heroism, too, for which, we believe, Bootham will always stand is not merely the courage to withstand the forces of evil, but still more that loftier courage which strives to direct and control the forces of good; and for this the first requisite is surely a true cultivation of the mind and soul. We look forward to a time when not only the winners of the Natural History Exhibition shall gain scientific scholarships at the universities, but when winners of the Le Tall prize, and many who have worked solely for love of art and learning, will win fame in the “gentler” arts. We believe that the literary section of the Bootham Natural History, Literary and Polytechnic Society has a duty in equipping men who will be the true solace of a stricken world.”
From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915. The Annual Report of the Natural History, Literary and Polytechnic Society in the same issue noted that the Senior Essay Society and Senior Reading and Discussion Society had abandoned their meetings during the Autumn Term owing to the pressure of work caused by ambulance classes etc.
“Arthur L. Lean (Bootham 1886-1889), who was interned in Ruhleben shortly after the Foreign Notes in the November number of Bootham were penned. Writing from Ruhleben on Good Friday, he says : ” Mr. M. and myself have just been brought back here from the sanatorium at Buckow, where we had completed two months. The country there is very pretty : numerous lakes and wooded hills. A good deal of snow fell at times, and there were keen frosts, so that tobogganing and skating were indulged in. It was delightful to be able to see Con and Phyllis and Olga on two Sundays when they obtained leave from the Berlin police to visit me. The children are all well, but, as is natural, Con seemed rather tired, but keeps her spirits up. The food there was excellent, and I was ordered to be out of doors as much as possible and to take a good deal of exercise. Towards the end of my stay I did a little gentle gardening in the large garden adjoining the Buckow lake. We have both profited much by the change, and during the nine weeks’ stay I gained seven pounds in weight. . . . M. and I have seen the camp military doctor twice, and have promise of permission to leave the camp again and spend four weeks more at another sanatorium. . . . The conditions here have improved during the last two months. The food is better; the German contractor has been relieved of his duties, and the department is run by the camp : English cooks in the kitchen, etc. Football may now be played on the racecourse. The following departments have been organised, each with a chairman, vice-chairman and committee— viz., Finance, Sanitary, Education, Recreation, Health, Watch and Works (Police), Kitchen and Canteen. The military do not seem to be so much in evidence, numerous German newspapers can now be bought in the camp, and absurd rumours about outside and coming events have largely stopped.” Since writing the above I learn that a postcard has just been received from Arthur L. Lean asking for three loaves of bread to be sent out to him weekly. In his earlier letter he said that an occasional pound of tea would be welcome, but that otherwise everything could be obtained on the spot. We do not know whether the present request is due to an inadequate supply of bread, or because the quality supplied is unsuitable for one in poor health, but it is sufficiently disquieting that the request should have to be made.”
“The Friends’ Ambulance Unit has now completed four months’ work at the front. During the whole time it has continued to work in the same area in Flanders and Northern France; and its headquarters remain still where they were first established at Dunkirk. The original party that went out from England has been more than trebled in size, and there is still no slackening in the demand for men to do the additional work that is continually opening out. Before Christmas the unit’s main achievement was the organisation of a system of seven ambulance stations on the front, which carried among them in a few weeks over ten thousand wounded men, mostly from aid posts just behind the trenches, to hospitaux d’evacuation in the rear. Since Christmas the biggest development of the work has consisted in a large scale attempt to cope with an epidemic of disease among the refugees and civilian population still living in the very front of the fighting zone in Flanders. Besides the work of two hospitals, which have an accommodation of over two hundred beds, various preventive measures have been taken; six thousand five hundred civilians have been inoculated against typhoid ; a pure water supply has been provided in various towns and villages; and now every house in the district is being visited and, if necessary, disinfected. Much of this work is done within range of the German guns. The unit also has two hospitals in Dunkirk, one of which, it is hoped, will vary rapidly expand.”
Edward Allen wrote his early recollections down. Unfortunately there’s no date of writing, but it must have been after 1875 as he refers to a house move in that year. Before coming to Bootham he had spent several years in Folkestone, and compares his experiences.
“I went to Bootham and my stay of 4 years there was fairly uneventful. I found the tone of the school very different from what I was used to, and on one occasion when I was tempted to act according to the lights of Folkestone, one of my schoolfellows said “Thou mustn’t do that, the other lads will look down on thee” so I learned to do better.” He also talks about his natural history activities: “I was keen on butterflies and shells and shared with Albert Alexander the winning collection of 1855, obtaining a watercolour paint box for my prize, which I still have.” The Natural History Society had been formed in 1834 and was an important part of school activities.