Issue 18 â€˘ Spring 2014
Trinity in the Shadow of War The Gordon Butler Letters Russell, Wittgenstein, & The First World War Trinityâ€™s VC Holders Attack of the Zeppelins Trinity and Modern Gunnery The Blunderbuss
18 This issue marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The Master, Montagu Butler, lost a son in 1916; Connor Southard has been reading their correspondence. Simon Blackburn contrasts the attitudes of Russell, who became notorious for his pacifism, and Wittgenstein, who seemed almost to embrace the dangers of war. Ralph Morley has investigated the lives of some of Trinity’s holders of the Victoria Cross. In a complementary pair of articles, Hugh Hunt analyses the threat of the Zeppelins and the efforts made to destroy them, and Meg Weston-Smith describes her father’s pioneering work for their detection. Finally, Lucy Wark presents selections from The Blunderbuss, a magazine produced by the trainee cadets billeted at Trinity. The all-consuming nature of Britain’s war effort is illustrated in these pages. Dr Neil Hopkinson (e1983), Fellow, Editor
CONTENTS The Gordon Butler Letters 3 Russell, Wittgenstein 4–5 & The First World War Trinity’s Victoria Cross Holders
Attack of the Zeppelins 8–9 Trinity and Modern 10–11 Gunnery The Blunderbuss 12–13 Fellows’ News
Events 16 The Fountain is published twice yearly by the Alumni Relations & Development Office. The views expressed in this Newsletter do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity College, Cambridge. Editor Dr Neil Hopkinson (e1983), Fellow Acknowledgments Trinity College would like to thank all those who have supported the production of this edition of the Fountain. © Copyright Trinity College 2014
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THE GORDON BUTLER LETTERS Connor Wroe Southard Near the end of Henry Montagu Butler’s term as Master of Trinity, his three sons by his second marriage volunteered for service in the First World War. All three young men – Jim the eldest, Nevile the youngest, and Gordon in the middle – served as officers with the Scottish Horse. Jim and Nevile lived through the war. Gordon died of dysentery at El Quantarah, Egypt, in July 1916. Many of Gordon’s wartime letters to his brothers and parents survive among his brother Jim’s papers, which are held by the Wren Library. Shortly after mobilizing in 1914, Gordon wrote to his father to say how odd it must be to see Trinity used to billet troops – “especially Nevile’s Court.” There is an oddly heartening circularity in reading his letters now, sitting above Neville’s Court in the Wren, trying to understand a young man who remained interested in the day to day rhythms of life at Trinity even as he fought in some of the war’s bleakest battles. Gordon was soon to take part in the infamous campaign at Gallipoli when he received a letter from his father telling him that he had nearly been elected a Fellow at Trinity: “Had there been four vacancies instead of three, you would have been elected straight off.” Gordon’s reply was typically lighthearted: “I suppose my next job will be to see that the war continues for a sufficiently long time to render it impossible for me to write a dissertation by next September: because if it didn’t my goose would inevitably be cooked.” Even when Gordon wrote about combat or life in the trenches, he filtered his impressions through the lenses of
academic study, school and university culture, and his constant reading. “There are certainly few better antidotes to war literature and war fever than a dose of Jane Austen,” he wrote in May 1916. “It is hard to remember that [Emma] was written during the Napoleonic Wars.” Gesturing obliquely at a disconnection between a comforting novel and the realities of warfare – that’s as close as Gordon would ever get to complaining about or even dramatizing his service. Much of his correspondence with his father was about Thucydides, and whether Gordon would soon be able to draft a new essay about the Greek historian’s work. Gordon was wounded almost as soon as he arrived in Egypt in September 1915. He seemed more upset by the unsporting way in which he was hurt than by the pain or danger of the wound itself. “I was scotched at 11pm last night in the thigh, just after speaking to your C.O. in his dugout,” he wrote to his older brother, “It is very comic getting shot without having seen a single Turk… It is sickers not having seen or even had a shot at the Ottoman.” He recovered at a hospital in Malta, all the while anxious to rejoin his unit. Jim Butler spent much of the Egyptian campaign serving near Gordon, and the brothers were often able to meet up for swims, rides, and tours of Cairo. “[Jim and I] have rarely seen so much of each other since the days we were both at Cambridge. A highly satisfactory result of Active Service,” Gordon wrote. One day at the beach, “we were making some appropriate Homeric quotations… ‘long waves,’ ‘great unharvested,’ ‘fishy deep,’… when suddenly a great-crested wave toppled over and filled our Classical mouths with brine.” One of Gordon’s last letters to his brother Nevile traces the interweaving of the intellect of this budding classical scholar with the practical demands of
combat service: “Riding in the evenings continues to be the great joy of life. There is a buried city about two miles out which the Vandal gunners use as their main artillery strafing-spot in their practicefiring. Roman coins can be picked up there if you have the energy. It is the happy hunting ground in the evening of the antiquarian, when the guns have ceased to roar. I have hopes of being able to take all the [machine guns] soon and have a grand strafe there… If you come in time, you might bring a few mills-bombs and handgrenades, too.” Gordon’s letters broke off abruptly only a few days after he wrote that he had been surprised by a porpoise while swimming – “he was not so accommodating as the one who took Arion on his back.” Coming after congratulations to someone called Guy on scoring a century in a cricket match at Sandhurst, the last paragraph Gordon Butler ever sent off assures his mother that he hopes her birthday went well. Already well into his eighties by the summer of 1916, Master Butler would not live another eighteen months after hearing of his son’s death. He wrote to his oldest son Jim upon receiving the news: “How can I write about this dear dear most loveable Boy! Little did I dream when I wrote to you yesterday the second part of my Birthday letter that he was no longer with you – no longer to be seen and talked with and laughed with, though, thank God, he lives even more than ever, never to be absent from our memories, our hearts, our intense love… I love to think, to be sure, that you [and Gordon and Nevile] will all meet again. Such a threefold cord is not quickly or ever broken.” Connor Wroe Southard (2013) is pursuing an M.Phil. in modern and contemporary English literature, and hopes to continue to the Ph.D.
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RUSSELL, WITTGENSTEIN, & T H E F I R S T W O R L D WA R By Professor Simon Blackburn At first sight there could not be a greater contrast than that between the conduct of Trinity’s two greatest philosophers in the First World War. Russell spent four years in fierce, passionate political opposition to the war. Wittgenstein, who was in Vienna at the outbreak of the war, intending then to go on to holiday with his friend David Pinsent, immediately joined up to fight for the Central Powers. Russell became one of the most notorious pacifists in Britain; Wittgenstein volunteered for ever more dangerous military postings, was repeatedly praised for his courage in various campaigns, and narrowly avoided being awarded the Austrian equivalent of the Victoria Cross, for which he was actually recommended. There is, however, a different contrast to be made. Russell’s conduct plunged him into controversy, fractured many of his close relationships, including his friendship with his collaborator A. N. Whitehead, and eventually brought him into conflict with the College. But such costs had to be borne, since there was a matter of principle at stake. The war was wrong, its conduct was criminal, and it needed to be opposed. In the heated, bellicose atmosphere of the time Russell’s unswerving devotion to that principle itself required a great deal of heroism. He was himself beyond military age (he was 46 at the outbreak of the war; Wittgenstein was 25) and it would have been relatively easy simply to keep quiet, as no doubt many others did. But Russell never flinched from a fight. Wittgenstein on the other hand appears not to have gone to war for the sake of any cause or principle. He felt, rather, that facing death had in itself
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a spiritual value, and would give him a chance to redeem himself, to purge himself of what he imagined to be his almost unique wickedness. It would be quite wrong to think of him as besotted, like many of his generation, by a false ideal of military glory. Rather, throughout his life he was drawn to Christian ideals of purity, sacrifice, and atonement. He wanted the experience of war to transform him. “Perhaps”, he wrote, “nearness of death will bring light into my life.” He seemed to think of fear as a kind of sin that he had to overcome, and like today’s jihadis he saw the chance of martyrdom as a kind of consecration of his life (it may not be out of place to remember that three of Wittgenstein’s four brothers committed suicide). As Ray Monk describes in his acclaimed biography of Wittgenstein, “he went to war, one could say, not for the sake of his country, but for the sake of himself”. Nor is there any evidence that he came through the conflict disillusioned with these ideals: if anything, his appetite for self-inflicted asceticism seemed to increase after the war. Russell’s war work ended with a period of imprisonment, but it was not that which brought him into the bad books of the College Council. His friend and supporter the mathematician G. H. Hardy recounts in his meticulous pamphlet on the affair that Russell had written in support of a conscientious objector, one E. F. Everett, who, like others, had been sentenced to two years hard labour for refusing the callup, military service having been made compulsory in March 1916. Russell was then a lecturer, not a Fellow, of the College, although had it not been for the atmosphere generated by the war and the dislike of Russell’s opposition to it, he would have become a Fellow at the end of 1915. Council had agreed
on that course at the beginning of that year, but when Russell asked for leave for what would have been the first two terms of his Fellowship, it was agreed that for the time being his lectureship should be extended instead. The College thereby avoided the appearance of promoting someone who would in effect be devoting himself full time to political purposes. Shortly, however, Russell was prosecuted, in June 1916, for his pamphlet in support of Everett, the charge being that it contained “statements likely to prejudice the recruiting and discipline of His Majesty’s forces”. Russell had no difficulty defending himself against the main prosecution case that his text was likely to prejudice recruiting. On the contrary, he pointed out, by highlighting and lamenting the harsh sentences facing conscientious objectors it could better have been said to make recruiting easier. Nevertheless the court predictably found him guilty, and imposed a fine. And in July, on the grounds of this conviction and its confirmation on appeal, Council dismissed Russell from his lectureship. As so often, it proved to have been the old men left behind who were more patriotically entrenched than the younger men away doing the fighting. At the end of the war, when these returned, a letter in support of Russell (signed, amongst others, by every Fellow who had served in the forces) left Council no choice but to reinstate him, which it did in 1919. Russell was never bitter about his dismissal: he probably shared Hardy’s view that there was no malice or vindictiveness in the case, but only a failure of imagination and common sense. Russell spent much of the last year of the war in Brixton prison. He had written an article advocating peace with Germany, and flippantly saying that the alternative would be an American
L to r: Hon. Dorothy Eugénie Brett; Augustine Birrell; Clive Bell; Anthony Birrell; Bertrand Russell; Aldous Huxley; Lytton Strachey; Julian Ottoline Vinogradoff (née Morrell); Sir John Tresidder Sheppard. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
garrison, who “whether or not they will prove efficient against the Germans will no doubt be capable of intimidating strikers, an occupation to which the American army is accustomed when at home.” Though true, this was judged likely to cause disaffection, and he was sentenced to six months prison. While there he read and wrote prolifically, completing most of his excellent Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, a highly readable introduction to his own work on the foundations of mathematics and logic. It could, Russell said, be read by those with no mathematics beyond anything that might be acquired “at a primary school, or even at Eton”. Wittgenstein on the other hand was writing only for an elite, and arguably one of which he was the only member. During lulls in the fighting he wrote the only book published in his lifetime, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In
this extraordinary, intense, and hugely influential book Wittgenstein starts with an investigation of what a symbolism must share with the world, in order to be capable of representing it, before going on to wrestle with the nature of logic and inference, and then moving apparently seamlessly into reflections on the will, the self, ethics, and finally death and the mystical. In the Preface he predicts that the book will be understood “only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it – or at least similar thoughts”. He was probably right. If you write a book whose penultimate paragraph claims that anyone who understands the book will recognize that the propositions in it are senseless, you cannot expect immediate comprehension. Something of the puzzlement it induces was nicely expressed by G. E. Moore, who together with Russell later “examined” Wittgenstein for a PhD, the Tractatus having been offered as a dissertation: “It is my personal opinion that Mr Wittgenstein’s thesis is a work of genius; but, be that as it may, it is certainly well up to the standard required for the Cambridge degree of Doctor of Philosophy”. Wittgenstein later repudiated much of the Tractatus, but at the end of the war he was convinced that, senseless or not, it had solved all the outstanding problems of philosophy. However, he also became convinced that nothing worthwhile had been achieved when this was done, so he retired from academic life and took to living in great poverty, teaching primary school in rural Austria. Ramsey and Keynes eventually rescued him from this self-imposed exile, luring him back to Cambridge in 1929. It is important to note that the war itself had left no bad feeling between him and Russell: in the Preface he says, “I am indebted to Frege’s great works and to the writings of my friend Mr Bertrand Russell for much of the stimulation of my thoughts”. But what he interpreted as Russell’s inability to understand the Tractatus, together with obvious differences of temperament, forced an estrangement between one-time pupil and master. Although in the nineteentwenties Russell produced some very
fine philosophy, he turned increasingly to social, political, and educational writing, all of which made Wittgenstein sick, while Wittgenstein’s new interest in the actual uses of language, rather than the logical form of sentences, in turn left Russell cold. A few years ago the Faculty of Philosophy mounted a fund-raising campaign to secure an endowment for what was then simply known as The Chair of Philosophy. Opinion was divided over whether, should we be successful, it should be named after Wittgenstein or after Russell. Perhaps the divide could be seen as far back as 1914. Russell represented not only great logical and mathematical achievement, but also the public side of philosophy. Russell’s grandfather may have been a great liberal Prime Minister, but throughout his long life he himself was equally influential as an activist for liberal and progressive public causes. His work was often popular, sometimes a little facetious, always immensely readable. Wittgenstein was by comparison a solitary, a figure for whom the words noli me tangere might have been coined. It was always clear what Russell was saying, even if sometimes it did not seem so very important. It was always clear that what Wittgenstein was saying was very important, even if it remained obscure what it actually was. Yet it was the intransigent, driven, tormented, impenetrable Wittgenstein who exerted the greater charisma, and for many years the greater influence. When he came back to Cambridge in 1929 Keynes wrote, “Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5.15 train”. He would not have written that about Russell. I am pleased to report that, partly thanks to Trinity itself, the Faculty’s fund-raising was successful. And I was very proud to be the first Bertrand Russell Professor of philosophy, even if I sometimes used to roll the alternative around my tongue, just to see what it would have sounded like. Professor Simon Blackburn (1962) read Philosophy and became the first Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.
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V I R T V S V E R A N O B I L I TA S :
SELECTED LIVES OF TRINITY’S VICTORIA CROSS HOLDERS By Ralph Morley Arthur Tisdall The son of a clergyman active in the Church Missionary Society, Tisdall was born in Bombay and spent much of his early life in Persia. Coming back to England with his family in 1900, he attended Bedford School, astounding contemporaries with his talents and winning numerous prizes. It came as no surprise that he won a scholarship to Trinity in 1909. At Cambridge his success continued, and he took a double First in Classics and the Chancellor’s Gold Medal. A typical assessment is that of a supervisor, Dr Reid: he had, wrote Reid, a “genuinely scholarly” attitude, a thoughtful approach to work and a “winning” temperament. He rowed for 1st Trinity and joined the Officer Training Corps, believing a European conflict likely; beyond his intellectual and physical prowess, though, his peers at Bedford and Trinity praised his uncommon sympathy and modesty, along with his ability to be interested in almost anything. He stayed on at Trinity to sit Part II Economics (in which he took a Second after sleeping through a paper and sitting a substitute) before joining the Civil Service. Tisdall joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a rating in May 1914; mobilised in August, he was sent to Antwerp to fight as infantry in a battalion of the Royal Naval Division (RND) that October, and was subsequently commissioned. The division was withdrawn to England, where Tisdall associated with Rupert Brooke, also an RND officer, and he remained there until he embarked for Gallipoli the following February. In April, his battalion transferred to the
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SS River Clyde, a collier that had been converted to land troops. The first ashore at V Beach, Gallipoli, on 25 April were men of the Royal Munster and Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Tisdall watched as the Irish infantrymen were pinned down by accurate fire. Eventually, he was heard to say that he could not stand it any further, and he leapt down from the troopship, grabbed a small boat, and headed for the shore to rescue some soldiers. Four ratings joined him. He made several trips until, with the boat leaking and an Ottoman machine gun trained on them, Tisdall and his sailors were ordered to return to the ship. He disembarked the following day, but was killed by an Ottoman sniper on 6th May. Though he was buried at the time, his grave has since been lost. He was a keen author of light verse, and a collection of his poetry was published in October 1915, accompanied by a selection of memories of him and a foreword by the Master, Montagu Butler; his Victoria Cross, however, was not awarded until 1916, owing to the difficulty of ascertaining what had happened. Five of River Clyde’s crew were also given the VC. Tisdall’s medal is on display at HMS President, his old naval unit. Reginald Graham Graham was born in 1892 in Calcutta into a prosperous mercantile family; his grandfather was created a baronet in 1906, while his father was chairman of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in 1910 and 1911. Before coming up to Trinity, he attended Eton, where he was a member of his house’s debating society. The surviving records show he took a particular interest in military affairs: in October 1908, he spoke against conscription, claiming that it “does not suit the character
of Englishmen” to receive orders. In February 1911, he debated whether it was better to be an officer in the Army or the Navy: defending the Fleet’s honour, Graham commented that while naval officers exhibited higher standards, he would himself choose the life of an Army officer. He was also a keen oarsman, narrowly missing out on coxing Eton’s 1st VIII in 1911. Graham went up to Trinity in 1911. Records from his time here are sparse, but he continued to be a keen oarsman, rowing for the College. On the outbreak of war, he was commissioned into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but in 1916 he was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps and posted to Mesopotamia. Britain had first become involved in Mesopotamia in 1914; after several setbacks, Imperial troops finally took Baghdad in March 1917. An offensive was then launched aiming to follow up this success by taking ground further north. On the night of 22nd April, the Punjabi Rifles – to whom Graham’s section was attached – had been detailed to assault an Ottoman position along the banks of the Tigris at Istabulat, on the crucial BaghdadSamarrah railway. Graham was twice wounded during the advance, but continued to direct his section. When the Ottomans counter-attacked, he used his last remaining heavy machine gun to delay them, being wounded again. Still Graham did not give up the fight, using a Lewis light machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was forced to retire. Graham’s action, as the citation for his VC noted, was instrumental in holding off the Ottoman counter-attack. After the Great War, Graham worked in India for the family firm, inheriting the baronetcy in 1936. During World War II, he held posts in the War Office
The author has so far identified the following additional Trinity recipients of the VC or GC. He would be pleased to learn of any more. The rank shown is the rank at the time of the action which attained the medal; the year given in brackets is the year of award.
and Scottish Command. He later held the ceremonial position of Usher to the Green Rod of the Order of the Thistle. Graham died in 1980; his Victoria Cross is held by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Stirling Castle. John Dunville Dunville was born in 1896, the son of John Dunville Dunville, who had himself studied at Trinity in the 1880s and who was chairman of Dunville’s, the family whiskey firm. The young Dunville was sent to Ludgrove School in Berkshire and then to Eton, where his career was, as the Eton College Chronicle noted after the award of his VC, “not otherwise conspicuous”. He was a cox of senior boats from 1912 onwards and a member of his house debating society, but he does not make much of an appearance in the Eton archives. Dunville was awarded a place at Trinity starting in 1914 but never took it up, going straight into the Army instead. The record book from his Eton house observes that he was one of seven leavers to join up straightaway: “Splendid!” is the house captain’s comment. Commissioned into the 1st (Royal) Dragoons in September 1914, it soon became clear, in the words of one posthumous account, “that he was cut out for the life of a soldier, and his cheeriness, energy and gallantry endeared him to both officers and men”. Though the Dragoons were cavalry, they
James Leith (1826–69): Lieutenant, 14th Light Dragoons (1858). Rescued a comrade who was surrounded by rebel troops at Betwa, India, during the Indian Mutiny. George Boyd-Rochfort (1880–1940): 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Bn., Scots Guards (1915). Picked up a German mortar-bomb which had landed in his trench and threw it clear. Later became a racehorse trainer.
spent much of the conflict fighting in the trenches alongside the infantry, and it was while out in no-man’s-land that Dunville won his VC. On the night of 24/25 June 1917 Dunville was the scouting officer of a mixed party of Dragoons and Royal Engineers who had been detailed to approach the German lines near Péronne in Picardy and lay landmines under the barbed wire prior to an assault. On reaching the German wire, the Royal Engineer corporal responsible discovered that one landmine had become defective and was in need of repair; during the delay, the party was spotted by the Germans, who opened fire. Dunville placed himself in front of the corporal in the way of the German rounds until repairs were completed. The assault parties then came forward, but Dunville was severely wounded
Robert Armitage (1905–82): Lieutenant, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (1940). Carried out bomb disposal work, for which he was also subsequently awarded the George Medal; his George Cross was one of the first four to be presented. John Anderson (1918–43): Major, 8th Bn., Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (1943). Assumed command of his battalion at Longstop Hill, Tunisia; though his men were outnumbered, Anderson ensured that they pressed home the attack. Killed in action later that year in Italy. N.B. Some sources list William Hope VC and William Rhodes-Moorhouse VC as having attended Trinity. They in fact matriculated at Trinity Hall. Acknowledgements: Eleanor Cracknell, Rod Mackenzie, Jon Smith, Keith Wilkinson
in his left arm by a grenade. He walked the 800 yards back to the British lines, talking cheerfully to the doctors on his arrival, and was sent to receive further medical assistance, but his wounds proved too grave, and he died on 26 June. His commanding officer wrote after his death: “He will be a great loss to us, both as a friend and an officer. We were all devoted to him.” The award of the VC was made public in the London Gazette on 31 July that year. His medal is held by the Household Cavalry at Windsor. Ralph Morley (2011) is a third-year Classicist at Trinity. He is also a Midshipman in Cambridge University Royal Naval Unit Ralph captained the Trinity team which won the 2013–14 series of University Challenge. Congratulations to all!
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AT TA C K O F T H E Z E P P E L I N S Dr Hugh Hunt and Dr Catherine Watling
The First World War began with Germany favourites in the air. For the first two years Zeppelins ruled. When they first arrived they were an astonishing sight. Bigger than an ocean liner, they floated through the air, silhouetted against the night sky. Children, awoken by their parents, stood in the streets marvelling at these monsters, both beautiful and terrifying. Even as their destructive cargo of explosive and incendiary bombs fell, the crowds stood and stared. The raids became frequent, and the death toll began to rise. Conceived as a way to break British civilian morale, the Zeppelin raids never caused casualties on anything like the scale that would have been necessary to change the course of the war. Nevertheless, for civilians who witnessed them, the attacks were a shocking experience. London’s East End and other towns and cities in eastern and southern England, such as Hull, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth, found themselves targets. Silent and difficult to anticipate, the Zeppelins were a new kind of terror weapon which the British were slow to counter. When the raids ended in 1917, 77 of the 115 German airships had been shot down, but 1,500 British citizens had been killed. The Zeppelins were impossible to repel. Ordinary guns would make tiny holes in the fabric and these holes were repaired in flight; if gunfire was fierce, they just flew higher. Shooting down a Zeppelin? You would think that it’s pretty straightforward given the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. But it was quite the opposite.
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In August 2013 an investigation into how the Zeppelins worked and how they were defeated was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary film. Among other revelations, the programme shows how the unlikely use of cows’ intestines became so critical to German plans that sausage-making became illegal in areas under German control. The remarkable material used to make gas bags, so-called “gold-beater’s skin”, came from the lining of a cow’s appendix. For thousands of years these skins were used by artisans to make gold leaf. Ingots of gold were beaten between two sheets of the skin until they were only microns thick. Production of the skin was a trade secret passed down through the generations, but as synthetic fabrics became prominent the art died away. The Germans used the skin for their Zeppelins because it was strong, light, gas-tight and abundant. But how did a single skin, a metre long and 15 cm wide, become a gas bag with a surface area of 3,000 square metres? The film rediscovers the process by experiment at Weschenfelder’s, a sausage-casing factory in Middlesbrough. As well as having an opportunity for cracking the wurst jokes ever, we discovered how to join two membranes simply by wetting them and laying one on top of the other – the skins seem to melt together to form a seamless sheet. Highly skilled German women would build up the layers until they had a strong, gas-tight sheet in the Zeppelin gas-cell factory. It took 15 skins to make one square metre of fabric, and with many gas bags in each airship, it took over 500,000 skins to complete a single Zeppelin. In 1917 the Germans built 24 Zeppelins, which meant that in a single year’s production over 12 million animals were used for this purpose. Needless to say, the
collection of gold-beater’s skins was very systematic: we discovered that in Germany and the countries it occupied sausage-making was forbidden. It is easy to forget that the Zeppelins were virtually invisible at night. The first notice of their arrival came practically with the first bomb they dropped. The British decided that even if they couldn’t see them, they might be able to hear them coming. Around the country several “sound mirrors” were built for this purpose. A huge concrete dish, 20 ft in diameter, would amplify the engine noise and give some advance warning of a Zeppelin’s approach. An early example is still to be seen near Kilnsea in East Yorkshire. We visited it and put it back into action, finding it remarkably effective and easy to use. Night after night and in all weathers an operator would sit beside the sound mirror, with a horn on the end of a pole attached to a stethoscope, listening out for the characteristic low rumble of the Zeppelin’s Maybach engines. The direction that the pole pointed allowed the operator to locate the Zeppelin and gave the anti-aircraft batteries a target for their guns. But this proved to be of little use, since the shells were too short in range. The public complained that more damage was caused by the shells falling back to earth than by the Zeppelins themselves. A new approach was needed. Before the war, a Cambridge graduate engineer, Edward Teshmaker Busk, designed the BE2c, an inherently stable aeroplane machine that could safely be flown ‘hands off’. It was fundamentally unsuited for the dog-fights on the Western Front, where German pilots nicknamed it “altes Fleisch” – cold meat. Unable to outrun or outfly the superior Fokker biplane, it was derided in the British press as “Fokker fodder”. Carrying only the pilot and fuel, it
Dr Hugh Hunt, Katherine Board (from Zeppelin Group GmbH) and Eric Grove, Professor of Naval History at Liverpool Hope University.
would take an hour to climb to its ceiling altitude of 12,000 ft, and it could stay in the air for only a few hours. But its easy handling proved just the thing for its new role in home defence, and its slow landing speed was a great asset for pilots unaccustomed to the comparatively new perils of night flying (more pilots were dying in landing accidents than in combat). Frustratingly, no sooner had the British had some success shooting down an airship with the BE2c than the Zeppelins raised their raiding altitude beyond its reach. Intriguingly, we don’t have much information about how Zeppelins were built, nor about how they were destroyed. Winston Churchill had written them off as “enormous bladders of combustible and explosive gas”, but in practice they proved exceptionally difficult to bring down. The film revisits the method by which the British BE2c pilots finally put an end to the Zeppelin threat, by alternately firing explosive and incendiary bullets into the balloons. By doing so, they were able to pierce the balloon first, enabling oxygen to mix with the hydrogen, before setting the lethal mixture on fire. The film also records a remarkable discovery, quite by chance, that the man behind the decisive innovation of incendiary bullets which won the battle was my great uncle James
Buckingham. At the outbreak of the war three intrepid inventors put their minds to the problem of stopping the Zeppelin menace. It became obvious that the only way to get close enough was via a plane firing a Lewis machine gun, with a special mount to make sure it pointed upwards. Buckingham contrived an ingenious design for a flaming bullet. It was filled with phosphorus, which would ignite on contact with air. The clever part was that the friction caused by the rifling on the gun-barrel would melt away a lead plug, exposing the phosphorus to the air and setting the bullet alight. During production we filmed one of Buckingham’s original bullets with high-speed cameras and revealed this beautiful design in action. With these new incendiary bullets the pilots were optimistic, but when they were put to the test nothing happened. The flame did not ignite the hydrogen gas, because there was no oxygen available for combustion. What they needed to do was blow a hole in the gasbags so that the hydrogen could escape and mix with the air in the Zeppelin, creating an explosive mix. Only then would the incendiary bullets be fired. Two inventors came up with explosive bullets that could do the trick. One was Commander Brock, of Brock’s Fireworks; the other was
John Pomeroy, a New Zealander who travelled to the UK at the outbreak of war. Both created bullets that developed over several versions, but they were both based on the principle of a contact explosive (potassium chlorate in the Brock and nitroglycerin in the Pomeroy) detonating when it hit the Zeppelin. Creating a bullet that would trigger when it touched the fabric envelope of the Zeppelin but which would not explode from the shock of firing the gun was an engineering marvel. The British government were unsure which bullet to back, so they instructed the pilots to alternate them in their magazines. One pilot cynically remarked that this was so that “if one didn’t blow up in your face, the other would”. However, hedging their bets seemed to pay off, and on the night of 2nd/3rd September 1916 – 18 months after the first bombs struck terror into London – William Leefe Robinson shot down the first airship with the magic bullet mix. Dr Hugh Hunt (e1990) read Engineering at Melbourne University before completing his Ph.D. in Engineering at the University of Cambridge in 1988. Dr Catherine Watling is a researcher at Windfall Films. She is a Girton graduate and holds a Ph.D. in Physics.
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T R I N I T Y A N D T H E B I RT H O F M O D E R N G U N N E RY By Meg Weston Smith Before war broke out, flying was a glamorous sport of daredevil stunts and races. But as soon as enemy planes carried bombs we wanted to retaliate. Antiaircraft gunnery was born and its early development owes much to Trinity. In the bitter March of 1916 three Trinity men, two fellows and an undergraduate, were testing a new device by measuring the height of a
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telegraph pole on the Huntingdon Road. The device comprised two large mirrors ruled like graph-paper placed some way apart, the baseline. Two people viewed the mirrors simultaneously – they were connected by (temperamental) field telephones – and noted the x/y co-ordinates of the reflection of their overhead target. A calculation combining these readings together with the length of the baseline and data relating to the apparatus gave the height of the target. In reality the procedure was more elaborate and needed refining.
The idea for the ‘height-finder’ lay with the inventor-engineer (Sir) Horace Darwin FRS (BA 1874)1, Charles Darwin’s youngest son, who designed and built equipment at his Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company for such eminent scientists as Sir Joseph Thomson FRS (Master 1918-1940). Darwin was keenly interested in aeronautics and realised that for antiaircraft gunnery to be effective it was vital to know the height of a plane. In discussion with Captain Archibald Vivian Hill (elected Fellow 1910),
future Nobel laureate for his work in muscle dynamics, the ”height-finder” became a reality. Extraordinarily versatile, from mathematics – he was Third Wrangler – to engineering and with a knack for experimentation, Hill eagerly took charge. Looking to recruit a team, he turned to the pre-eminent mathematician G.H. Hardy (elected Fellow 1900). He declined because he disapproved of the war, and instead suggested the forceful personality of (Sir) Ralph Howard Fowler (elected Fellow 1914), mathematician and accomplished sportsman, currently an officer in the Royal Marines. He agreed to help while recovering from a wound received at Gallipoli. Hardy also recommended his pupil, Edward Arthur Milne2 (elected Fellow 1919), who was glad to be of use because the army had rejected him for poor eyesight. He ceased his undergraduate studies and pitched in with a will. They were the nucleus of Hill’s Brigands3, as they were called, an unlikely mixture of seasoned dons and inexperienced undergraduates that ultimately numbered a hundred people. After the preliminary test in Cambridge the group moved to Northolt Aerodrome to try out the device on planes, but the promised flights did not materialise. Hill was up against military diehards who resented scientists interfering and who doubted the significance of height in highangle gunnery. They merely increased the elevation of field guns. Other key differences are the effects of air resistance and gravity. Hill persevered and in May (Sir) Richard Tetley Glazebook (elected Fellow 1877, Senior Bursar 1895– 1898), Director of the National Physical Laboratory, invited the group to Teddington. There an electrical engineer, Edwin Hartree Rayner (BA 1897), was particularly friendly, and soon his cheery cousin William Rayner Hartree (BA1892), a civil engineer, added his talents to the enterprise. The project gathered pace, and in July Hill demonstrated the device, named the Darwin-Hill Mirror Position Finder (D-HMPF), on kites and balloons to a
formidable array of senior personnel. The climax came at dusk with a plane lit by searchlights; the pilot finished off with acrobatic turns, then stood to raise his hat to the crowd. Next, the Brigands tracked shells. This required a time-keeper by the gun. In trials with 6-inch AA guns across the estuary at Great Yarmouth, the Brigands successfully evaluated a labour-saving method for calculating trajectories devised by Hardy’s collaborator Lieutenant John Edensor Littlewood (elected Fellow 1908). At last the D-HMPF gained official recognition. Hill sought better facilities, and a chance meeting with a naval officer from HMS Excellent, the Royal Navy Gunnery School on Whale Island, Portsmouth, led to its captain, Commander Vincent Lewin Bowring, extending the Brigands a warm welcome. They installed permanent mirror stations at Eastney and Hayling Island, linked by proper telephones, and systematically analysed the behaviour of shells and guns. They solved the mystery of unreliable fuses; they predicted weather by measuring the speeds and heights of clouds. Their pioneering work culminated in issuing new firing tables to the armed services, and they won international renown. Hill, Fowler and Hartree received OBEs, Milne an MBE. Milne blossomed as a mathematician, whether correcting faulty formulae or quantifying the effect of wind on shells. To see how air temperature and pressure vary with height, he went up in flimsy little planes hanging over the side without parachute or harness to read his instruments. It was dangerous, deafening, fiendishly cold and utterly exhilarating.
At night, although a plane was invisible a skilled operator could pick up the faint drone of its engine with enormous listening trumpets placed 5 feet apart and attached to his ears by stethoscope tubing. After identifying the whereabouts4 of the plane, searchlights illuminated it for gunners to take aim. In March 1918 Hill asked Milne, now a lieutenant RNVR, to improve the procedure and its correcting factors. For example, sound does not travel through the atmosphere in a straight line; its path is curved due to changes in air density. Milne, from his previous work, was well placed to tackle the necessary mathematics. Liaising with acoustic specialists, he investigated trumpets of different shapes and sizes to specify the optimum design. The resulting ‘standard’ trumpet (3 feet long) was accepted by our French and Americans allies. Trumpets and searchlights took him to military stations in Essex, Hampshire and Suffolk, and in the autumn he took a consignment of trumpets to France. He was at St Cyr, the military academy near Versailles, when he heard the joyful news of the Armistice. Ballistics was the springboard of Milne’s career. In October 1919 on the strength of his Brigand mathematics the College elected him a Fellow, an unusual feat in that he had not completed his undergraduate course and never did. He became a professor at The Other Place, but Trinity was ever his spiritual home. Meg Weston Smith is the author of “Beating the Odds: The Life and Times of EA Milne” (Imperial College Press, London), 2013. £18.00 (paperback, ISBN 978-1-84816-907-4).
1 Grandfather of neuroscientist Horace Barlow FRS (elected Fellow 1973). 2 My father (FRS 1926), astrophysicist and cosmologist. 3 Their formal title was the Anti-Aircraft Experimental Section of the Munitions Inventions Department, part of the Ministry of Munitions. 4 The operation required two men and four trumpets, one pair rotating in a vertical plane, the other in a horizontal plane. Each operator swung his trumpets until he judged the intensity of the sound in each ear to be the same, i.e. the noise was straight ahead. After applying corrections, these positions gave the plane’s elevation and compass bearing.
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ADVENTURES WITH THE BLUNDERBUSS: A WINDOW ON TRINITY IN W O R L D WA R I By Lucy Wark
On a pallid, grey January afternoon, I found myself in the Wren Library, poring over copies of a strange and wonderful publication called The Blunderbuss. The early dark came unnoticed, as I exclaimed and giggled my way through four years of poems, cartoons, reports, photographs and advertisements. Even the name was perfect –military in a jolly, obscure way. The magazine was first published in 1915 by the 5th Officer Cadet Battalion, who were quartered at Trinity (and later at St John’s) for training during the First World War. It began as little more than a lighthearted diversion. The Master’s foreword to the inaugural edition emphasises the magazine’s role in fostering “the spirit of brotherhood” between officers and their men. Perusing the magazine, one cannot help but feel the editors’ motives were slightly more subversive than this sober introduction would imply. Take, for example, the description of the magazine’s crest: “Out of a casque crowned with a chapeau cadeté, a hand grubby, clasping a glass of ale college, proper and very nice too”. Or How to Clean a Rifle, a decidedly unbrotherly tutorial in tricking new cadets into doing your chores. Other comic themes surface regularly. A training exercise called alternately ”the physical jerk” or ”bags of spring!” is mocked ruthlessly, and complaints about the inconveniences
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of college life abound, as The Tragedy of the Bath attests. Jokes about the intellectualizing tendency of Cambridge are common too – as in The Rake’s Progress. Contemporary students may feel a sympathy with Examination Hints: “Remember the old adage ’forewarned is fore-armed’ – many a man has been ploughed, though he knew his answers perfectly… afterwards”. Predictably, sporting competitions play a central role in The Blunderbuss, though these range from the expected – cricket and rugger – to the bizarre (see pictures below). A surprising aspect of the magazine is the Snapshots series, collections of photographs from Egypt, Trinidad, the ”Gold Coast Colony” and even Gallipoli, all of which passed the Army censors. Women, when they are mentioned
at all, appear in a narrow set of guises. A Cadet’s Map profiles Cambridge’s public houses; “poor beer”, “good beer”, “good whiskey”, “good beer and pretty barmaids”, and “Business House: with nice girls”. In The Theorist, a young couple take a punting journey. The cadet is horrified to hear that in his absence his love has joined the women’s movement: “He gasped at the enormity of it. She was quoting from some awful pamphlet which he would be compelled to read”. He responds that the war has in fact consolidated the supremacy of men, and when this fails, seems to push her into the river. However, as the fighting wears on, The Blunderbuss reflects the changing realities of the cadets’ lives. Later editions grow more complex and varied in tone, with sombre elements that
recognise the growing toll the war was taking on the battalion. Casualty lists are published from 1917, religious symbolism occurs more frequently, and pieces like the poem On Peace evince a bitterness not evident in earlier issues: “When coming Spring is dun and bloody all/ With War; you ask for gentle rhymes on Peace:/ Ah! Lady, I who mourn a brother’s fall” / Methinks I’ll dream of peace, when I too lease/ A little bit of sod upon a knoll, / And when, in restful sleep, my struggles cease.
Most readers associated with Trinity will have some link to the men in The Blunderbuss. The Australian Soldier’s Farewell and the poem A Spray of Wattle felt personal for me, but there were two truly startling moments of connection; reading the names of the soldiers who lived in my Whewell’s Court room a century ago, and discovering that one of the Australian soldiers lived a few streets away from my closest friend. I emerged from the Wren that evening disoriented by a few hours in
the world of The Blunderbuss. Looking over the Cam, I imagined the shouts of the swimming races; standing in Great Court, I now picture the lines of soldiers (walking on the grass, no less!). I often wonder how it felt to go from the turrets of Trinity to the pyramids of Egypt. This period of the college’s history is a poignant one, especially for young adults, and it should be better known. A reprint is in order. Lucy Wark (2011) is from Australia and is reading Politics, Psychology and Sociology. She was co-founder of The Cambridge Globalist, a new student publication, and is considering a career in cultural journalism. *All images from The Blunderbuss.
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Sean Borodale Sean Borodale, Visiting Fellow in the Creative Arts, is a poet who writes documentary and scriptive poems, often whilst engaged in a specific activity: ”Notes for an Atlas”, written whilst walking around London; “Bee Journal”, written whilst keeping bees; and more recently, poems about the “alchemy” of food, written whilst cooking. Exploration of caves, coal mines, barrows and darkness will form the basis for his next collection. Tiago Cavalcanti Tiago Cavalcanti, previously a Fellow of Churchill College, is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics. He works in macroeconomics, on understanding growth and development, addressing such issues as the role of market imperfections in boosting growth. The heart of his contribution is in looking at how individuals and firms behave, and how this aggregates up into the whole economy. He has considered the effect of regulatory costs in hindering economic development, and shown that differences in regulatory costs can account for the different sizes of the shadow economies in Southern Europe versus the USA. Charles Kimmel Charles Kimmel, from the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon, is a Visiting Fellow Commoner for the Michaelmas Term
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2013. He studies the development of backbones in vertebrates.
in the impact of fluid mechanics on problems in biological physics.
Daniel Larsen Daniel Larsen is from Christ’s College Cambridge, and his thesis was entitled “British Intelligence and American Neutrality during the First World War.” He shows that there was considerable “pessimism” about the prospects of military victory in the First World War in the British cabinet. His thesis documents the struggle between “pessimists” and an opposing camp. The “pessimists” looked to American mediation to secure the best possible compromise peace for the allies. The opposing camp was committed to total war until complete victory was achieved. A key role was played by British intelligence, who had broken all the American codes. This is the core of the thesis, but the insights it generates go further than this, into intelligence and code-breaking in general and into the cultural and ideological foundations of AngloAmerican global hegemony in the twentieth century.
Yvette Perrott Yvette Perrott is a graduate of Trinity. Her thesis is entitled “The Galaxy and Beyond with the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager” (AMI). AMI is a radio telescope located just outside Cambridge which was designed to observe clusters of galaxies via their imprint on the Cosmic Microwave Background. Yvette has developed data reduction techniques for AMI when operating in drift scan mode, so that the patch of sky being recorded drifts across the field of view as the Earth rotates, rather than being tracked by moving the telescope. She then mapped a large area of sky in the plane of the Galaxy ‒ a region containing thousands of sources as well as diffuse clouds of gas and dust. This is the first survey of the sky to be made at frequencies of 15 GHz with arcminute resolution and millijansky sensitivity levels. Some objects of special interest in the survey include sources with anomalous radio emission spectra, suggested to be due to tiny spinning grains that pervade interstellar clouds. Her work may provide a new handle for characterising the properties of these grains.
Eric Lauga Eric Lauga, from the University of California, San Diego, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in Cambridge. He has a broad interest in the application of fluid mechanics to biology, material science and applied physics. A major focus of his research has been in swimming micro-organisms, from bacteria to spermatozoa, and
Anthony Pickles Anthony Pickles graduated from the University of St Andrews. For his PhD he studied gambling in Goroka, a Papua New Guinea Highlands market town where 71% of the population gamble, and
where gambling is a new practice that stems from European contact in the 1940s. Card gambling has now developed from a single card game to a spectrum of indigenously invented card games, along with darts, bingo and slot machines. There is more to be learnt about Melanesian sociality from the humble card game than one might have suspected. Gorokans do not gamble as autonomous individuals seeking to accumulate personal wealth; they gamble as persons embedded in social relations seeking to circulate wealth. Rather than try to exploit the abstract law of probability to their own advantage, they presuppose an outcome of relatively equal wealth distribution over time and gamble as a means to compel others or to be compelled by others to release wealth. Didier Queloz Didier Queloz came from Geneva University to his appointment as Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory. He is one of the discoverers of exoplanets, planets which circulate stars other than the Sun. More than 850 exoplanets are now known. The first to be discovered was a giant planet, but improvements in the sensitivity of the methods allowed Queloz to discover Earth-like planets. These may have the ability to support life as we know it, and a study of them may help to show how the Earth’s atmosphere and life have evolved. Joel Robbins Joel Robbins came from the University of California, San Diego to his appointment as Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology. His research has followed Christianity and cultural change among a remote group in Papua New Guinea and has tried to understand the social and cultural processes that have shaped
the rapid globalization of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity. He suggests that among the natives of Melanesia Christianity works as a culture: it is a transformation and not a veneer. He now has the opportunity to study the Fellows of Trinity. Oliver Shorttle Oliver Shorttle is investigating processes in the Earth’s mantle. The mantle is made of solid rock but it is convecting like boiling soup. A vast upwelling of hotter-than-usual mantle beneath Iceland causes melting and volcanism, and is sometimes responsible for disruption of air traffic. The effects are felt even in the UK: Scotland’s mountains would be low-lying ground without the uplift associated with this hot plume. Oliver combines fieldwork, geochemistry and computer modelling to investigate these deepearth processes. He has developed an elegant means of using the isotopic composition of basalts to map out the chemical and thermal structure of the Earth’s interior and to understand how this relates to volcanic activity at the surface. David Skinner David Skinner has come directly from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and is a Lecturer at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. He is unusual in that he combines expertise in both string theory and twistor theory, and so it is perhaps not surprising that he has been laying the foundations of twistor string theory. Textbook methods for understanding what happens when quantum particles meet are hopelessly outmatched when many particles crash together at the same time. David has realised that these processes
in fact have a hidden simplicity that becomes transparent in Penrose’s twistor space, and he has been working to understand what this new perspective teaches us about quantum field theory and gravity. Kathryn Stevens Kathryn Stevens is from Oxford via King’s College, Cambridge. As an undergraduate at St John’s College, Oxford, she specialized in Akkadian, the principal language of ancient Mesopotamia. Her thesis is entitled ”Beyond the Muses: the Greek World and Mesopotamia in Hellenistic Intellectual History”. The conquests of Alexander the Great opened up Egyptian and Mesopotamian culture to the Greeks in the Hellenistic period. Kathryn has used her knowledge of Greek and Akkadian to treat aspects of cultural contact between Greece and the Near East, and also developments which were parallel but independent. In this way she has devised a new model of comparative scholarship for intellectual history. Ross Wilson Ross came to us from the University of East Anglia to take up a University Lectureship in Criticism at the Faculty of English. His research interests are based in the Romantic period, where he has worked on English and German poetry and philosophy. His publications extend from Kant and Coleridge to Benjamin and Adorno, and he has a new book just out on Shelley, which takes as its point of departure the poet’s essay ‘On Life’. Indeed he is quite keen on ‘life’, and has not flinched from putting his name to such modest titles as ‘On the Meaning of “Life” in Romantic Poetry and Poetics’.
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FORTHCOMING EVENTS MAY
A L U M N I FA M I LY DAY 2 0 14 S U N DAY 1 3 T H J U LY 10 A M – 4 PM
‘ W I N N I E - T H E - P O O H S AV E S T H E D A Y ’
Sunday 25th: Great Court Circle Luncheon (Hall)
Winnie-the-Pooh invites you to join him and his friends in the Hundred-Acre Wood on Sunday 13th July from 10am.
Spend the morning visiting his friends Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo, with a chance to explore their world where there is fun to be had for all ages with games, drama, dance and craft.
Saturday 5th: Annual Gathering 2004–2005 (Chapel & Hall) Sunday 13th: Family Day Under 12s’ Winnie the Pooh themed activity day (Scholars’ Lawn + Fellows’ Garden) Wednesday 16th: Annual Gathering 1968–1969 (Chapel & Hall)
SEPTEMBER Saturday 13th: First & Third Boat Club Dinner (Hall) Friday 19th: Annual Gathering 1970–1971 (Chapel & Hall) Wednesday 24th: Annual Gathering
1972–1974 (Chapel & Hall)
Sunday 28th:10th Annual Members
Luncheon (Nevile’s Court & Hall)
TRINITY ONLINE Trinity Members Online: http://alumni.trin.cam.ac.uk Facebook: www.facebook.com/ TrinityCollegeCambridge Twitter: @Trinity1546 LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/ Trinity-College-Cambridge-2633390
Stop for honey sandwiches and other favourite snacks from Pooh and his friends, and then let lunch go down as you head off on Woozle’s trail, listen to other Winnie-the-Pooh adventures, or maybe embark on an ‘Expedition to the North Pole’. Finally help entertain the grown-ups in an afternoon performance, as ‘Pooh Saves the Day’. So put on your Big Boots and join us for the day.
TICKETS • Adult tickets £20.00 each • Child tickets (12 and under) £10.00 each • Under 3’s free
Book online at: http://alumni.trin.cam.ac.uk/family-day
ANNUAL FUND A huge congratulations to our student callers and alumni for raising more than £240,000 in the Annual Fund Telethon this year! The team spoke to over 700 alumni over the last fortnight, resulting in a fantastically generous participation rate of more than 50%. Please visit: http://alumni.trin.cam.ac.uk/annualfund to find out more about the Annual Fund and to learn why it is so important for the College. If you would like to make an online donation to the Annual Fund, you can do so by visiting the above link.
If you would prefer to read The Fountain and/or the Annual Record online, please let us know by email: email@example.com. Don’t miss out on our regular email communications – make sure we have your email address.
Published on May 2, 2014
This issue marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The all-consuming nature of Britain's war effort is illustrated in th...