It was much more elitist than Oxford’s Bullingdon Membership, whose previous members embrace Boris Johnson, David Cameron and George Osborne.
The Annandale Society, nicknamed the Anna, was made up solely of Previous Etonians at Balliol Faculty, Oxford, within the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They’d their very own desk for meals, smashed crockery by throwing it down staircases, trashed the rooms of different undergraduates, whipped non-Balliol members out of the faculty grounds, and ritually abused, verbally and bodily, a few of their very own fellow college students.
Now the story of 5 younger males who attended the faculty shortly earlier than the primary world warfare – three Previous Etonian members of the Anna and two non-Etonians – has been was a play, opening in London subsequent month
Into Battle conveys not simply the feud between this trio of Balliol Previous Etonians and the opposite two college students, however the imminent warfare, wherein, by a tragic coincidence, all 5 had been killed.
It was additionally the title of a poem written by one Annandale member, Julian Grenfell, who – regardless of his thuggish behaviour at Oxford – was a poet of some observe, being commemorated in Poets’ Nook in Westminster Abbey. His poem Into Battle was a pro-war piece written in 1915 and was met with widespread acclaim when revealed posthumously.
The thought for the play got here after former promoting govt Hugh Salmon helped a good friend analysis and publish a guide concerning the England rugby union participant Ronald Poulton, who captained his nation within the remaining worldwide earlier than the primary world warfare. Poulton, one of many non-Previous Etonians in Salmon’s drama, had additionally been at Balliol earlier than the warfare.
“He was not simply a particularly proficient participant. As I dug round in archives and previous books, and after speaking to family members, I came upon about this extraordinary feud with the Eton crowd,” mentioned Salmon, whose personal brother Jamie was – uniquely – capped for rugby by each England and New Zealand within the Eighties.
Salmon’s play concentrates on three explicit Previous Etonians: Grenfell, his youthful brother Billy, who behaved essentially the most boorishly, and Patrick Shaw-Stewart, president of the notorious Anna. Shaw-Stewart additionally grew to become a warfare poet, finest identified for his verse Achilles within the Trench – additionally referred to as I Noticed a Man This Morning – which was discovered after his loss of life in France in December 1917.
This trio despised the others on the school, whom they referred to as “plebs”, and took it out on Poulton and, particularly, his shut good friend Keith Rae, who had been educated at house in Liverpool due to poor well being. Rae was a Christian with very robust social convictions. He and Poulton had been stalwarts of the Balliol Boys’ Membership, which had been set as much as assist underprivileged native children.
However Rae and Poulton fumed on the appalling behaviour of the Annandale Society, together with, in accordance with Salmon, “letting free rabbits in a closed quad for a bulldog to kill them”. On one other event, they dressed up as prehistoric males, rampaging by way of school, breaking home windows and hurling beds out of them.
“The Grenfell brothers had been notably terrible. This was bullying and never simply excessive spirits. Billy actually had it in for Keith Rae, insulting him and throwing his belongings out of his room, whereas Julian even used a whip to power a pupil from one other school out of Balliol’s grounds.”
Billy Grenfell was lastly despatched down for a yr by the faculty, whereas Julian needed to take a time period off, returning to his household property, the place he lay for weeks on a settee with a loaded rifle at his facet.
By a unprecedented coincidence, Rae and Billy Grenfell, sworn foes at Oxford, died preventing collectively in the identical regiment in opposition to the widespread enemy of Germanyon 30 July 1915 within the trenches of Belgium, very near Ypres.
“The Annandale was lastly closed down within the Thirties by the then left-leaning grasp of Balliol, Sandie Lindsay,” mentioned Seamus Perry, a Balliol English literature professor. Perry can also be chairman of the Keith Rae Belief, which took over the function of the Balliol Boys’ Membership within the early Twenties.
“The stays of Keith had been by no means discovered, although his father Edward, devastated by the lack of his son, went looking out,” mentioned Alistair Rae, a grandson of one in all Edward’s brothers and himself a trustee.
Edward Rae, a stockbroker, was conscious of his son’s dedication to younger folks, and put up the cash to ascertain a brand new belief. A century on, it nonetheless provides every year to boys’ golf equipment and organisations across the UK.
This form of monetary help is especially welcome immediately as a result of authorities funding for boys’ and ladies’ golf equipment has been severely reduce over the previous decade. “Actually it has been decimated,” mentioned Andy Hamill, director of the Nationwide Affiliation of Boys and Women Golf equipment. “Whereas immediately there are extra issues, in precept, for kids to do, those that as soon as joined youth golf equipment usually got here from extra disadvantaged backgrounds, and now don’t have as a lot entry to the complete vary of actions on the market.”
Into Battle, which is able to run on the Greenwich theatre in south-east London, seems again on the extraordinary occasions of simply over a century in the past at one Oxford school. At the moment, Balliol factors out how a lot it has modified. When Julian Grenfell first went there in 1906, he was one in all 18 Previous Etonians amongst its 53 freshers. But in 2020-21 there was only one from the consumption of 137.