‘When the War broke out the country was unprepared for it. We had almost completely neglected to produce many of the materials necessary for war. In one thing only we were magnificently provided. We had produced the men. They were so many and so good that they achieved the immense task of forging, during the War itself, the weapon that was to give us victory.’
So states the introduction to the Brasenose College Roll of Service.
This list, alongside countless others, of men who served in the First World War continues to serve as a poignant reminder of how many lost their lives. Technological innovation, alongside mass production methods helped contribute to this high loss of lives. The revolution in firepower and resulting trench warfare made the First World War one of the deadliest conflicts in history.
One of the first Brasenose men to commence active service in this deadly conflict was Alfric Euan Allies. Allies was born in Worcestershire in 1890, matriculating from Brasenose in 1910. During his time at the College he was a keen cricketer, and as a friend wrote in his obituary, ‘he was endowed with a rich vein of natural humour, of the truest and best kind’. He was awarded his B.A. in 1913 and at the outbreak of war in July 1914 was working as a clerk at Cox’s Bank. However he soon commenced his service, in August 1914, for the 8th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. By July 1915 the Battalion were moved to Mudros, a small Greek port on the Mediterranean island of Lemnos, 50km away from the Dardanelle straits. The Battalion subsequently served in Gallipoli, Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Allies highest acting rank was as Lieutenant, but within a year of commencing his war service he was sadly killed in action at Anzac, Gallipoli on 16 August 1915. The Gallipoli Campaign, which was also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, was fought on the Gallipoli peninsula in what was then a part of the Ottoman Empire between April 1915 and January 1916. Anzac, as the area where Allies was killed became known, was named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought in the campaign.
His letters home, a selection of which were published as ‘Letters of a Subaltern in the Dardanelles’ in the Oxford Magazine, reveal his experiences from the beginnings of his voyage from Avonmouth to life in the trenches. These letters reveal how a young man survived everyday life in severe battles, maintaining a sense of humour, whilst eating sardines and soup squares. The College Archive holds a picture of Allies on a visit to the College, taken by WTS Stallybrass, then Fellow and Vice Principal of the College. The Stallybrass photographic collection contains thousands of photographs, including many of serving members of the College taken on visits to the College before going off to fight in the war. Many of these men are photographed in their uniforms, outside College buildings and are stark reminders of the young men who lost their lives after having spent some happy years in College. We hope to share many of these pictures on the blog over the coming year.