First World War: News from Old Scholars December 1915

From Bootham magazine, December 1915

“A. BUTTERWORTH (Captain) [Bootham: 1910] remembered on the Peninsula last December how he used to look forward to the School Christmas holidays. ” How well I can see it all again, the old Minster from the Art Room windows…. The only thing I can’t see is the new swimming bath; here one has hard work to get water for a shave”; so he sends a donation to
the bath from “somewhere in Gallipoli.””

“J. C. S. MACGREGOR [Bootham: 1910-14] sent F.A.U. greetings from the most un-Christmaslike surroundings and the most deplorable weather.”

“E. RUSSELL SANDERS [Bootham: 1903] served in France for fifteen months with the Northumberland Hussars (Imperial Yeomanry). He was somewhere in Flanders when he wrote in December. He has evidently learned amidst the discomfort of feet wet and cold for weeks “a great patience, and that if you only wait the worst is bound to pass.” He is captivated by the beauty of some of the nights and early dawns. And if he feels a bit blue and fed up, there’s the grand old song, ” Goals for the eager and fights for the fearless.” “

First World War: News from the Ambulance Unit and Relief Party, June 1915

“All the sackcloth and ashes of Jerusalem would hardly serve to cover the sub-editorial shame. We promised original accounts of the great work of the Relief Party and Ambulance Unit; neither is forthcoming. The Editor of Bootham has been much too busy in Belgium to write any news, and no one in France had any time to spare either…

The Ambulance Unit has, we fear, been slightly disorganised for a short time by the advance towards Ypres, but the members are continuing their work wherever possible in spite of difficulty and danger, and look forward to wider activity in the near future. We were all very sorry to learn that two members of the party, Donald Allen being one of them, had been rather badly wounded, but the latest reports are good.

The Relief Party has been building veritable cities of huts, in which many homeless folk have been able to take refuge.

It is a great thing to know that our fellow Old Scholars are doing such fine work. We can only trust that the time will soon come when they will be able to continue their labour without the constant knowledge that for every human being saved or work created dozens of lives are being deliberately ended and works destroyed.”

From Bootham Magazine, June 1915

In Memoriam: Frederic Garratt Taylor

On 25th September 1915 Frederic Garratt Taylor was killed by a shell in Flanders. He was a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit and was on duty with his ambulance car picking up wounded soldiers. He was 21 years old.

Photograph of F G Taylor in uniform.
Photograph of F G Taylor in uniform.

Frederic was a pupil at Bootham School in York between 1908 and 1912. He was known as a fast swimmer, who twice helped his bedroom to win the aquatics team race and gained the Bronze Medal of the Royal Lifesaving Society. He also won prizes in the workshop category of the school exhibition for making chessmen and a cycling tent.

Photograph of F G Taylor
F G Taylor

After leaving school he joined Morland & Impey Wholesale Stationers in Birmingham, before joining the Friends Ambulance Unit in 1914, going to Dunkirk on 4th December 1914.

FG Taylor Vehicle permit Pocket case belonging to FG Taylor

The Commandant wrote from Dunkirk on 27th September: “We have just returned from his graveside in the little cemetery here, a company of over a hundred members, nurses, and officers of the unit who went to pay a last tribute of honour and affection to a comrade whom every one of us loved, one of the brightest, most willing, and cheeriest members of the unit.” The French authorities awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

FG Taylor Croix de Guerre FG Taylor Letter from French Authorities

His friend Lawrence Rowntree wrote this in the school magazine in December 1915: “When I think of Eric Taylor I am always reminded of Peter Pan: he never grew up. In determination, in pluck, in self-reliance, he was a man, as we all knew him in France; in light-heartedness and cheery good spirits, in his readiness to enter into anything that savoured of mischief, and in his enthusiasm in taking up any new employment, amusement or hobby, he was always a boy, without a care in the world.”

First World War: Old Scholars’ Association AGM 1915

The Old Scholars’ Association met for their AGM on Saturday May 22nd 1915. T. Edmund Harvey, chairing the meeting, started off by saying:  “If we had been gathering together for a social function I think we should all have felt that it would be better that the Old York Scholars’ Association should not have met at all at such a time, but I think all of us feel, and we are glad to feel, that our annual gathering is something infinitely more than a social function; it is a time of inspiration and of fellowship, where friends meet together to help each other, to share in the sense of comradeship and of unity and to get inspiration from the ideals that have been lit for us in our youth in the two schools. And so all the more because of the great cloud that is upon us do we feel that it is worth while making an effort to be gathered together to feel the strength that this comradeship gives.” He went on to pay tribute to the Old Scholars who were giving service in many different ways: “There are very many who have gone forth to different services : to the wonderful service of the Ambulance Unit, to help the war victims, to what seems much simpler work at home, and there are a great many who have felt it their duty to stick to what is perhaps the hardest task of all, the service which they have been doing or which lies ready to hand where they are and that does not involve any apparent act of great sacrifice, and yet is essential to the true well-being of the country, and is, it may be, the highest fulfilling of duty.”

Ivy Weston then talked about her work with Belgian refugees at Folkestone, where a local War Refugee Committee was formed. She talked about how they fed as many as five thousand people in a day at the harbour, meeting the boats as they arrived.

Florence Barlow talked about the work of the Emergency Committee for the assistance of distressed Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians in Great Britain, and how she had visited two camps on the Isle of Man.

Philip Baker discussed the Friends Ambulance Unit, and the motives which brought the unit together.

T. Edmund Harvey mentioned the Friends War Victims Relief Committee work, including medical, agricultural and other relief work, such as building shelters and temporary housing for the populations of areas affected by the conflict.

A summary from the AGM report in ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1915. Both Bootham and Mount Old Scholars were at the meeting. Longer excerpts from the accounts of the various types of work done will follow in later posts.

First World War: Friends Ambulance Unit update, March 1915

“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.”

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915

First World War: Dunkirk Ambulance Unit Appeal

DEAR MR. EDITOR,—The response to an appeal for help from friends of the School for the Ambulance Unit at Dunkirk has been most generous. We have sent nearly 5,000 articles of clothing and blankets, etc., from Bootham, and £300 has come in cheques to be spent as necessities arise. May I take this opportunity of again thanking all those who so kindly and readily sent assistance urgently needed? With the rapid extension of hospital work the wants of the Ambulance continue to be great.

Yours sincerely, ELLEN H. ROWNTREE.

From ‘Bootham’ March 1915

January 1915 News

“The School welcomed Mr. Alexander back; it will be remembered that he was to have come at the beginning of the September Term, but was unable to do so on account of working with the ambulance unit in Dunkirk.”

“Our Belgian family was still at Earswick and in a very flourishing condition, as the man had got temporary employment in the cocoa works.”

From ‘Bootham’ magazine. See a previous post about the family from Belgium.

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.

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.