Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the penultimate section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.
Roy used to live at 3, Lenton Road in Nottingham’s richest area, The Park. He would be awakened by another High School boy called Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, who would come along the road as he walked the family dog, and whistle loudly that it was soon time to go to school. Roy was then accompanied to school by his friend, who was walking from his own family house at 2, Hawthorne Drive in The Park. One particular day in the Fourth Form, Alfred Chenhalls did not arrive, and Roy Henderson was therefore late. Mr Lloyd Morgan ticked him off:
“Who shall we punish? Chenhalls or his dog? ”
Alfred Chenhalls, whose father, like that of Roy Henderson, was a minister of the church, later became an accountant who dealt with lots of musicians and theatrical people, including the famous Hollywood actor, Leslie Howard. Chenhalls always smoked a large cigar, and as a big fat man, looked rather like Winston Churchill. He was killed on June 1st 1943, when the unarmed DC-3 of the B.O.A.C., carrying him and Leslie Howard between Lisbon and London, was shot down by Junkers Ju 88s of the German Luftwaffe. Here is the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, in question:
At the time, Churchill was known to be attending a conference in Algiers, and there was much speculation that a German spy had seen Chenhalls getting onto the plane in Lisbon, and had then organised its destruction. Here is Chenhalls pretending to be Churchill:
Further confirmation of the Germans’ interpretation was that Churchill’s colleague in Algiers, the Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, looked very like Leslie Howard. Alternatively, Leslie Howard may have been thought to be Detective Inspector Walter Thompson Churchill’s personal bodyguard. Whatever the complex truth of it, Churchill himself considered all his life that this was a definite assassination attempt. The incident was also one of the very few occasions when airliners were ever attacked on this route out of neutral Portugal. Much more detailed information on the event is available here.
At this time, many boys had nicknames. Donald James Clarkson was always called “Pug” because of his upturned nose. Here he is:
Another boy, an extremely good Fives player, was called, for obvious reasons, “Sparrowlegs”. Strangely enough, though, only one particular boy ever had a certain nickname. Nobody could ever be called “Pug” or “Sparrowlegs”, as long as the original boy remained in the school. There seemed to be no obvious reason for the nickname of “Fuzzy” Barton, given that his hair was not in the least bit curly. Peculiarly enough, though, his elder brother had extremely fuzzy hair. He, though, was never called “Fuzzy”.
Eventually, the younger Barton became the Headmaster of King Edward’s School in Sheffield. The latter establishment had an extremely peculiar cricket pitch, which was constructed on various levels, with a number of different slopes, flat areas, and two or three quite sharp drops. Certain unfortunate fielders were unable to see either wicket, and pieces of information had to be passed on to them by other fielders one level higher up.
Because of the Great War, and the subsequent restrictions on travelling by train, there were very few away matches at cricket. Boys went only to Derby, Worksop or Sheffield, but never to Denstone or Birmingham. On many occasions, they played home fixtures against Army teams billeted in the area, including a few Italian ones. This was much more enjoyable than the very limited number of fixtures against other schools.
If they did ever travel by train, High School teams invariably used the now demolished Victoria Station. You might recognise the Clock Tower which still stands nowadays, outside the Victoria Shopping Centre. The hotel on the right is also still there:
Here is a steam train coming out of the tunnel which took rail traffic northwards towards Worksop and Sheffield. This tunnel is still visible, either from the modern multi storey underground car park or from Huntingdon Street:
At this time, in the school, in general, the rules on caps were very strict. Roy Henderson himself had a special dispensation from the Headmaster and was allowed not to wear a cap in school. For some unknown reason, his mother had contacted the Headmaster, and the latter had agreed to this special privilege. Roy wore a cap for the first time when he became a prefect, and that turned out to be a spectacular piece of headgear with a silver badge on it.
Roy was the secretary of the School Debating Society. He spoke quite frequently in debates, despite, by his own admission, not being particularly good at it. The meetings, which were mostly in the winter term, took place after school, between twelve and one o’clock on Saturday afternoons.
When he left the High School, Roy joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles. He had already learned a lot in the school’s Officer Training Corps, as was confirmed by the first drill sergeant that he encountered in the regular army. Later, he joined the Regimental Concert Party, which did its training at Lichfield. Roy, because of his age, missed the Great War by a few weeks, but he caught Spanish Flu in January 1918. He was not to leave hospital before August 1918.
At the High School, there had been no specialist singing master, and no real in-depth teaching of music. Roy had never realised that he had any particular talent in this field, until he sang solo during the interval of a school play, and was overwhelmed and astonished by the great volume of applause which he received. Roy later went on to sing at Speech Day. Within only a few years of leaving the High School, he had become one of the leading singers in the country, who was destined to work with some of the greatest musical talents in the whole world. I have been unable to find any photographs of Roy Henderson, but here is one of his record labels:
And here is one of his album sleeves:
In the near future, I will continue with the fifth, and final, article in this series. I hope you are enjoying them and finding them interesting.
16 responses to “The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (4)”
You always put out enjoyable and interesting posts, John. I never fail to come here and not learn something new as well.
You are too kind. As far “learn something new”, well, as an ex-teacher, I just can’t stop it. It’s like an addiction. But if it’s enjoyable as well, that’s a bonus!
My father was often heard saying, ‘The day I stop learning, please – close the lid.’
Another fascinating account John. Like GP, I always learn something new. Your post prompted me to look up BOAC flight 777. Theories abound that either the German’s believe that Churchill was aboard or that Leslie Howard, Tyrrell Mildmay Shervington (the director of Shell-Mex oil company), or Wilfrid Israel (a rescuer of Jews from the holocaust) were British spies and a target for the German high command. Intrigue, espionage and conspiracy – ingredients for a fine story indeed!
Yes, I am really surprised that it’s never been made into a film. I found out from another source that “We may have a long wait for the truth. Certain papers about the flight will be secret until 2028. Other papers which were due to be declassified in 1980 were not released and will now remain classified until 2056.” So I for one will have to wait until I’m 103 to find out the truth. Unless of course, they don’t release them then!
Wonderful story – great research as usual!
Thanks very much Andrew. I just hope that you are never tempted by cheap flights to Lisbon in a Dakota. Stick with Ryanair!!
Bless you, John, for keeping these posts coming that portray the truth!!! Thank you! ❤
And thank you Amy, for your enthusiasm! I just wish that our government were a little more forthcoming. I really don’t see what impact the truth about spies in 1943 would have now, some 73 years later.
John, your guess is as good as mine.
Well done, John. Good that you found the last two pics.
Yes, Derrick. Roy Henderson doesn’t seem to be particularly popular these days but he certainly was a world famous figure in the world of music when he was young.
Thank you for sharing, I enjoy all your posts 🙂 Regards, Lakshmi
And thank you for saying that, Lakshmi, you are very gracious
Great post John. I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks very much. It’s kind of you to take the trouble to say so.