George Arthur Tryon 7 November 1918

Born in 1886, George Arthur Tryon was the son of Rev Arthur William Tryon, Vicar of Middle Rasen, Lincs and only grandson of Major-General Samuel Tryon. He was educated at Uppingham School, and from there obtained a mathematical scholarship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After taking his degree as a Wrangler, he came straight to Oundle in September 1908. He was attached to New House and lived at Cottesmore for two years. He played in the Masters’ Fives team against the boys in the autumn of 1909, alongside Francis Norbury and George Williamson, both of whom would also be killed in the War. In January 1910, he succeeded Walter Paine (who was later killed at Gallipoli) as Housemaster of Crosby. No house could have had a keener guardian of its welfare or one with a fuller sense of his responsibilities and many of his old boys testified to the close and kindly interest with which he followed their careers both while they were here and when they left. 

In June 1911, as Lieutenant Tryon, he took a detachment of 12 cadets to attend the Coronation of George V. In March 1914, he lectured to the Science Society about the possibility of life on Mars and seems to have come down in favour of the idea.

He had been an energetic member of the OTC soon after he came and by 1914 had attained the rank of Captain. When the war broke out, he tried to join up at once and at last, in September succeeded in getting a commission as Captain in the 6th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles. He went out to France at the end of November 1914, - missing the Mons Star by 24 hours – and apparently was nearly killed when a German aeroplane dropped its payload of bombs just yards away, killing 31 men. He arrived in France about the same time as his great friend and fellow housemaster, Captain Francis Norbury, who was attached to the 1st Battalion. The two had played hockey together for the Masters in a thrilling 5-3 victory against the School XI in March 1909. A few months later they appeared together playing cricket for the Masters but were soundly beaten by the XI. In March 1912 there was another defeat, this time in hockey, this time a 9-0 drubbing by the school team and George Tryon was in goal! 

Three years later, the sport was rather more deadly. Now, Tryon and Norbury saw service together near Béthune in the first awful winter of the War. George Tryon was wounded by a shot through the left forearm on Jan 1st 1915 but his good friend Captain Norbury was killed a week later. After about five months in England, during which he came back to Oundle and helped with the House he loved, he went to France again, this time with the 4th Battalion of his regiment and remained there, chiefly on the Front opposite Amiens, during the summer. 

In September 1915, the brigade was moved to the Salonika front, near the mouth of the Stryma. He remained there for nearly three years with only one leave. On more than one occasion, he commanded the battalion for two months at a time and was finally promoted Major in the spring of 1918. His letters home record some interesting features of his life in northern Greece. He commented that his men were trying to make a decent highway of the road once travelled on by St Paul on his last missionary journey. He also noted that if the old saint had passed by in 1918, he would probably have been arrested as a spy. 

One of the most important items he wrote whilst in Salonika was a poem in memory of one of his boys, Christopher Gell, killed on the Somme in 1916. Here he followed in his father’s footsteps. In 1885, he had penned a poem lamenting the death of General Gordon and bidding England take revenge. Clearly Tryon senior was something of an imperialist, whose views of the importance of war, to back up Britain’s imperial pretensions may have influenced his son.

He is gone- the Christian hero –
We have lost him: never more
Shall the voice of Britain welcome
Gallant Gordon to her shore.
In her might old England rising,
As she rose in days of old;
Will be lavish of her bravest,
Will be lavish of her gold:
Till the Mahdi’s barb’rous power
And his fierce fanatic horde
Shall no longer threaten Egypt,
Crushed by Albion’s victor sword.

Transferred back to the Western Front in July 1918, Arthur Tryon’s son George was now acting Lieutenant-Colonel. In October 1918, he came home on leave and was eagerly anticipating a speedy end to the war and a longed for return to his work at the School. He might well have applied for extension of leave, for he had much overdue but he refused to do this, feeling that his men still needed him.

Aged 32, he was killed in France, close to the Belgian border by a chance bullet while visiting his leading troops, on November 7th, 1918, just four days before the peace came. He lies buried in the St. Remy-Chausee Communal Cemetery. 

He was twice mentioned in despatches and was awarded the MC in January 1918. The sympathy of the School he served so faithfully and of the generation of old boys who knew him here, went out in full measure to his widowed mother in the loss of her only son. 

In Oundle, he is commemorated on the Town War Memorial, and in the parish church. There is also a plaque in nearby Bulwick Church, where his family were lords of the manor.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow