Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WW1: Trinity College, Oxford (Comment)

The Summer 2014 Newsletter of Trinity College Oxford has many items to tickle the memory and warm the heart of an alum.

The Commem Ball

It is great news that the triennial Trinity College Commem Ball drew 1,800 guests and "is generally accepted as the biggest and best ball in Oxford." I was surprised and impressed to see that the College's Durham College Quad was painted blue and a stuffed zebra was featured inside a bandstand.

College President Sir Ivor Roberts, KCMG, former H.M. Ambassador to Italy and several other countries, confessed that he and his wife Elizabeth survived only to 2 a.m. The tradition among the younger set is to hang on till early morning and then go punting.

The last Trinity Commem Ball that Alice and I went to was with Philip and Daisy Keevil; their son Adrian, also a Trinity alum (1997) is noted in the Newsletter as now being Dr. Keevil, having been awarded a Ph.D. in Management from the Darden School at the University of Virginia.

Remembering the Great War

So much for the fun side. The College is devoting much of its exhibit space and reports to alumni to remembering the Great War, aka World War I. John Keeling, the Trinity Domestic Bursar, writes in the current Newsletter about the impact of the first 100 days of the war on Trinity. We forget, he says, that between 1900 and 1914, when the war broke out, "there had been over 100 regicides and high profile assassinations in Europe".

The assassination of the Archduke, however, set into a play, because of treaties, a domino effect. Armies had started assembling in Europe by the millions. At the same time, Britain failed to warn Germany that it would not tolerate a breach of Belgian neutrality. When Germany invaded Belgium, Britain was shocked and the war was on. Trinity alumni who enlisted did so because they "didn't want to miss the show".

The first Trinity man to be killed in action was Lt. James Gilkison (1903), in August. Another died in an accident during training. Three more died in September. Three more in October.  By Christmas, nine were dead.

Overall, by Armistice Day, November 1918, more than 700,000 British soldiers, sailors and airmen would die, more than one out of every eight who enlisted. Trinity's loss was greater, one in five, because so many did get to see the "show" and fought in the major battles - the Somme, Gallipoli, Ypres. As a college with a family tradition, four pairs of Trinity brothers died in the war.

It was a Trinity alum, Laurence Binyon (scholar 1887) who wrote one of the great poems of The Great War, "For the Fallen". The poem was published in The Times on September 21, 1914.  The fourth verse is used in many memorial services:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not wither them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them.
It ranks with John McCrae's "In Flanders Field" as one of the great tributes to the dead.

Trinity will have a talk about Binyon on November 9 (3:30 pm) and another one earlier on October 23 (5 pm) about Henry Moseley, who died at Gallipoli. Reservations are required. Trinity will also have an exhibition on those who died in, and those who survived, the Great War, as well as on the impact of the War on the life of the college.


I hope that Viscount James Bryce, a Trinity alumnus who served as H.M. Ambassador to the United States in the years up to the Great War, gets adequate attention in the College's remembrances. The German Ambassador, Graf Heinrich von Bernstorff, was pleased that Bryce had left before hostilities broke out in Europe, because he said that it would have been much harder to keep the United States out of the war for so long (i.e., not until the sinking of the Lusitania in 1917) had Bryce been in town bending President Wilson's ear.

No comments:

Post a Comment