Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

Lieutenant Reginald John Elliott Tiddy

Lieutenant Reginald John Elliott Tiddy 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Lieutenant Reginald John Elliott Tiddy
2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

 

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

I recall especially the work of some who have not returned; Davenport, Scott, Stockton, Zeder, and Tiddy among the officers, and among the non-commissioned officers and men a host of good comrades…..

Early in August an unlucky shell deprived the Battalion of one of its best officers. Lieutenant Tiddy had joined the Infantry in a spirit of duty and self-sacrifice, which his service as an officer had proved but to which his death more amply testified. The regrets of friends and comrades measured the Battalion’s loss.

London Gazette 15th February, 1915

4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry; Cadet Reginald John Elliott Tiddy, from the Oxford University Contingent, Senior Division, Officers Training Corps, to be Second Lieutenant. Dated 16th February, 1915.

From the Witney Gazette, 24th July 2013

The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 ended Tiddy’s rural idyll. Although a pacifist by nature, he felt it his duty to fight, and he enlisted in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, becoming a lieutenant with the regiment’s 2nd/4th Territorial Army battalion in 1915. With asthma and poor eyesight it was a wonder he passed a medical board, and in fact it took several attempts. Tiddy’s war was quickly over; he was posted to the Somme (incorrect, France) in May 1916 and killed by a stray shell on August 10 while searching for wounded comrades.

Name: TIDDY, REGINALD JOHN ELLIOTT
Initials: R J E
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: 2nd/4th Bn.
Age: 36
Date of Death: 10/08/1916
Additional information: Son of William Elliott Tiddy and Ellen Tiddy, of Priory Cottage, Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxon.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. D. 20.
Cemetery: LAVENTIE MILITARY CEMETERY, LA GORGUE

There is a very good Web site that gives details of the life of Reginald Tilley, http://www.mastermummers.org/articles/Tiddy.htm

“No Vain Sacrifice”
An Appreciation of Reginald Tiddy

In August 2008, I took a detour during my return from holiday in France to pay my respects at the grave of Reginald John Elliott Tiddy in the British military cemetery at Laventie, mid-way between Béthune and Armentières. The title of this piece is taken from the inscription at the foot of his gravestone. His grave may be seldom visited, but two other memorials provide regular reminders of him. One is Tiddy Hall, a community venue in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, the Cotswold village where he made his home. The other is his book “The Mummers’ Play”, published posthumously by his friends David Pye and Rupert Thompson in 1923.

Much biographical information has been published about Tiddy, not least in the introductory “Memoir” inserted by Pye in “The Mummers’ Play”. I will therefore give just a brief overview of his life here. My main purpose is to review the impact that his book has had on folk play scholarship and its enduring legacy.

Tiddy was born 1880 in Margate, educated at Tonbridge School, where he was head boy, and studied classics at University College, Oxford. On graduation, he became a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, teaching classics, although he later changed to tutoring his real interest, English literature. By all accounts, he was a popular don. He was a leading light of the folk dance movement in Oxford, being a close associate of Cecil Sharp, for whose demonstration morris dancing team he was first reserve. He took up residence at Ascott-under-Wychwood, near his mother’s childhood home, where he took an interest in educational activities and the local morris tradition. To this end, he himself had the reading room and village hall built that was later re-named in his honour. After the outbreak of the First World War, Tiddy felt compelled to do his patriotic duty, and joined the Oxford and Berks Light Infantry in 1915 with whom he was commissioned as a Lieutenant. He was sent to fight in northern France, and was cut down by a German shell on the 10th August 1916 while searching a trench at night for wounded soldiers.

The period during which Tiddy researched Mummers’ plays appears to have been relatively short but intense. What caused him to become interested in the plays is not recorded, but presumably Cecil Sharp must have been an influence. The dates of letters from Tiddy in the Ordish Collection and elsewhere suggest that he first started researching the plays in 1913 (Smith, 1997). In the Spring of 1914, he delivered the lectures that eventually became the five chapters of his book. The 33 play texts published in “The Mummers’ Play” plus a couple more he sent to Ordish came from a variety of sources. He collected some personally in the villages around his home at Ascott-under-Wychwood, and others came from correspondents elsewhere in the country. He continued collecting even while on active service. We now know that at least one of his texts came from a published source – the “Play for Christmas” from Cornwall (Millington, 2003) – and he evidently consulted other published texts. His reading of general English literature was extensive, as a result of which he identified a number of literary sources that had been incorporated into certain folk plays (particularly evident in the footnotes to the aforementioned Cornish play).

Like his contemporaries Edmund Chambers and Cecil Sharp, Tiddy thought that the plays originated from some pre-Christian ritual. This view, based on the approach of J.G.Frazer, has long been discredited, but would no doubt have chimed well with his background in classics. However, Tiddy was still working on his ideas when he died in action. It is tempting to speculate how his book would have looked had he survived the war and continued his research. There are some clues that things might have been different. Tiddy was not unquestioning in his take up of other people’s views. For instance, he was disinclined to believe that man-woman characters were survivals of a ritual marriage such as were still said to exist in Greece. Also, scholars had hitherto assumed that Elizabethan dramatists had borrowed from the folk plays. In his final chapter he concedes that it could have been the folk plays that had been the borrowers. This was in recognition of the undoubtedly literary fragments he had identified in some folk play texts. Had pursued this line of research, perhaps the mounting evidence would have caused him to modify his views on origins.

This is still plenty of information to be found about Tiddy’s life and research. We know, for instance that there is correspondence from Tiddy in the Ordish Papers and in other archives. It would be useful to locate and catalogue all this material. However, the real prize would be to locate Tiddy’s long lost manuscript papers. These ought at least provide useful information on the provenance of the texts in his collection, and might turn up new material. I commend this as potential postgraduate research project for someone.

What is Tiddy’s enduring legacy? The text of his book may now be little read, as times have moved on, but his collection of scripts remains a useful body of source material. The book’s publication stimulated a surge of fieldwork in the 1920s, yielding an indirect legacy, and his material has continued to be the starting point for much research right up to the present day. Long may this carry on.

Peter Millington
References

Peter Millington (2003) The Truro Cordwainers’ Play: a ‘New’ 18th-Century Christmas Play
Folklore, April 2003, Vol.114, No.1, pp.53-73
Available: http://articles.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2386/is_1_114/ai_102910348, accessed 31st Oct.2008

Paul Smith (1997) Thomas Fairman Ordish (1855-1924): A Lasting Legacy
Lore and Language, 1997, Vol.15 Nos.1-2, pp.84-116
Available: http://www.folkplay.info/Ordish/Introduction.htm, accessed 31st Oct.2008

R.J.E.Tiddy (1923) The Mummers’ Play
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923
Reprinted: Chicheley, Paul P.B.Minet, 1972, ISBN 0-85609-014-X
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Readers’ Comments

Barry Care – 09-Nov-2008

Some years ago I knew an elderly lady from Ascott under Wychwood called Doris Warner. She knew Reg Tiddy from her childhood in the village and could recall his interest and involvement in country dancing there. She told me of a time in 1912 when he visited her mothers home along with Cecil Sharp in order that Mr. Sharp could see a set of morris bells that had belonged to her grandfather, William Honeybone who lived in Ascott (1815 to 1897).

Peter Millington – 09-Nov-2008

One of Tiddy’s morris dancers at Ascott-under-Wychwood, who became his batman in the army, was one Ralph Honeybone. I presume he must have been a relation of William Honeybone.

In issue 46 of the Ascott Grapevine, April 2005, There is some interesting details on Reg Tiddy. http://www.ascott-under-wychwood.org.uk

Who was Tiddy?

In the present Tiddy Hall is a photograph of the founder of the original Tiddy Hall, a building which used to stand in the south east corner of today’s car park. The plot of the land was purchased by Reginald John Elliot Tiddy who in 1912 had the first all wooden building erected as a reading room and with it’s sprung wooden floor a purposely built arena for morris and folk dancing.

Reggie Tiddy was an Oxford Don and lived in Priory Cottage at the top of Priory Lane with his father and brother.The following article written by Nicholas Salaman describes more details of Tiddy’s life and demonstrates that Tiddy’s memory after his death in the Great War has not only been kept alive here in Ascott but also in the realms of Trinity College, Oxford.

The year 2005 marks the 450th anniversary of the founding of the College of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford. The founder, Sir Thomas Pope and his wife the Lady Elizabeth, were childless and regarded the College and its students as their ‘children’.Sir Thomas was Comptroller to Queen Mary, a sort of Cardinal Wolsey to the Queen, and bought the land and buildings of an earlier college, Durham Hall, a monastic foundation,whose closure had been ordered by Mary’s father, Henry VIII. She was married in 1553 to King Philip of Spain, and the royal arms of Spain are displayed on the great fireplace of the College Hall… There will be many celebrations to mark this 450th anniversary and not least among them will be a revue or Cavalcade marking some of the great events and celebrating some of the famous sons and daughters of the College. This is the
gist of what I propose to say on this occasion, as I introduce an element of Morris… No survey of Trinity would be complete without a mention of R.J.E. Tiddy, Fellow in English at Trinity from 1906-1916. Tiddy came to Trinity in 1906 and taught English. He was apparently an extraordinarily nice man with ‘a sparkling gift of friendship’. He divided his time between Trinity and his cottage
in Ascott under Wychwood where he showed a keen interest in local dialects and traditions, wrote the definitive work on The Mummers’ Play, and helped rescue the Morris Dance from oblivion. He was a close friend of Cecil Sharpe of folk music fame, also of another illustrious Trinity undergraduate, the composer
George Butterworth. Tiddy produced and took part in the first Morris Dance to be performed in Oxford in recent history, held here in Trinity gardens, before what was described as ‘the raised eyebrows’ of the university. The Oxford Journal was enthusiastic,
praising: ‘The long golden boots… the harmoniously shaded ribbons, the black hats.. .the little bells.. .and the way those dancers leapt into the air and played leap-frog,some of them of sober years and solid proportions, was wonderful to see.’

When the Great War broke out, Tiddy, a pacifist by inclination, felt that he could not stand by and let others do the work, so although
shortsighted and asthmatic, he joined up and his group of young dancers from the villages around Oxford, principally Ascott, followed him into the Ox and Bucks, led by his chief dancer Ralph Honeybone, who became Tiddy’s batman. They danced on Salisbury Plain among the bivouacs. They danced in France when they arrived. They danced behind the front line. And then they moved up to the front itself. In due course, almost inevitably, the President received the sad letter from Ralph Honeybone: ‘I regret to inform you of the death of Mr Tiddy who was struck by a shell in the trench last night…’. There was a final scene in a Morris Musical I planned where Tiddy and his heroes danced in heaven . .

Meanwhile, in memory of a brave man and the only fellow of Trinity to die in that war, (one of whose epitaphs was penned by my grandfather, Fellow in Classics at Trinity, then a young man), I give you a team specially press-ganged from Trinity and the University for this enterprise. To echo the words of the Oxford Journal: ‘Surely never before in real life and never before on the stage were there ever such glorified Morris dancers…’ Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen the Morris Oxford. Now let us enjoy the Oxford, no, the Trinity Morris…

Nicholas Salmon

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