Still Waters

For reasons I won't bore you with I found myself trawling through the obituaries from the Second World War of old boys from my children's school. The most famous of them was the indomitable Roger Bushell, remembered for his exploits as Big X at Stalug Luft III in what became known as the Great Escape, (although at the time of publishing in 1949 it was more modestly known as the great break away). Bushell though is only one of many old boys who gave their lives. 

The forward to the Wellington College Roll of Honour, said this,

"Perhaps it was this feeling of the inevitable which was responsible for a greater forbearance in the attitude of boys to each other in the years immediately preceding the war-and it was this generation which suffered most. In this brief period of spring before the autumn storms, the tree blossomed with the promise of abundant harvest. Games, though still holding pride of place, ceased to be the only passport to success. Scholarship, music, art, literature and drama, claimed and secured recognition and a devoted following. Yet in all this there was a feeling of frustration and unreality. Boys talked little of their future, and we hesitated to speak of it to them. They knew, and we knew, the road along which destiny pointed the way. They were neither boastful nor morbid. They turned the gifts they had acquired to the stem uses of war and went forth, without any heroics, to play their part in securing the freedom of mankind. Their lives in epitome are a record of men and boys, confident in themselves, confident in their cause. They did not live to see the triumph."

The short obituaries tell of success on the sports field and in the classroom at school and of heroism and fortitude in battle. From the Boer War and Great War veterans who pushed and pulled to get into uniform again to the youngest eighteen year olds, straight into service from the Upper Sixth. Of them all, this simple obituary of a 2/Lt Money left the deepest impression. Still waters run deep.

Second Lieutenant ROBERT COTTON MONEY, The Cameronians, was in the Hardinge from 1932 to 1937. He was a quiet boy, wrapped up in his books and field sports. On May 27th, 1940, during the retreat on Dunkirk, he heard that a friend in the Hardinge had been left behind seriously wounded. Towards dusk against advice and orders he set out to look for him and from that journey Roy Money did not return.

 

Made of Different Stuff

A Captain Robert Campbell drops into our lives this morning from a bygone era. The Great War in fact when, if the facts are considered, many might have thought him from a bygone era of medieval chivalry even then.  Newspapers carrying the story, which was dug out by historian Richard Van Emden, inform us that Capt Campbell, was captured at Mons, became a prisoner of war but was released on parole to visit his very sick mother in 1916. The only condition being that he returned and indeed he did. Surprising though it is, the logic was if he chose not to then other prisoners would probably be denied the privileged in future. 

 

All of which brings to mind the farewell we collectively said a month ago to another wonderful character, the like of whom there are so very few left. Squadron Leader Peter Tunstall was a serial escaper in the Second World War, who had the notable claim to fame of having spent longer in solitary confinement than any other Allied prisoner, a total of 412 days. The Germans court martialled him five times and like many of his ilk, he eventually found himself in Colditz.

A leading exponent of the art of “goon baiting,” he devoted his energies after capture to both escaping and creating as much time wasting irritation for the Germans as he could muster. A figure straight out of central casting, it’s something of an embarrassment that he was not to be decorated for his conduct as a POW, (it’s a common misconception that most prisoners fulfilled their duty to attempt to escape; Unlike the Squadron Leader and his chums, most did not). His obit in the Telegraph is well worth a read.