I told you last time about my first book, “500 Happy Returns: Nottingham High School’s Birthday“.
I’m sure you will have heard about my second book, “Nottingham High School : an Anecdotal History”.
Nearly thirty years in the writing, I was quite happy with it and it seems to be selling quite well. I would just love to know where all the people who bought it lived. My first sales ever were two books in Tennessee. What a long, long way from Nottingham!
I still get a kick from all those old photographs. The staff in 1880 or thereabouts:
And then in 1901:
The man at the right hand end of the back row won a Victoria Cross in World War I. Theodore Hardy. Always late for his lessons though, apparently. But he never got told off, probably because he was a Reverend.
And here’s “Nipper” Ryles, with that blank expression on his face which all teachers have from time to time:
I started my next venture about 18 months ago. It was inspired by a fellow teacher and friend of mine, Simon Williams, who had researched the stories of the young men from the High School who were killed in the First World War. He suggested I took a look at the Second World War dead and that is what I’ve been doing.
I was sadly surprised how the numbers went up as I began my researches. It started with 82 on the official list but I have pushed it up to at least 106 with probably more to come.
I’m writing about every single one of them and I have researched both in the School Archives and on the Internet where some absolute treasure houses are to be found.
U-boat of the Day (bottom left)
Now I have started to write them all up and I’ve got 50 odd of them done. Most run to 4,000-5,000 words because a lot of explanation has to be given. It’ s no use just writing, “He was killed in his Whitley during Operation Husky” and leaving it at that. And I’ve also talked about where they lived, with most of the houses still there and occupied by people who know nothing of their history, nothing of the man who was killed by the Bismarck:
I have been amazed at where all these casualties occurred. Arnhem, The Battle of Britain, Burma, Canada, Dunkirk, India, Iran, Jerusalem, Milford Haven, Sicily, Singapore, Tobruk, Yugoslavia. Killed on a Death March. Killed in a Spitfire, killed in a Lancaster, a Whitley, a Gloster Gladiator. A man who was in the SAS and whose death was so mysterious even they don’t know how he died. And all those who were killed in training. The man in Canada who flew off and was never seen again . The ones who died of pneumonia. The officer cadet who died of hypothermia. But they all started out as schoolboys:
The Great Army of the Dead, who all did what they were asked to :
It’s rather difficult to say that people will enjoy such a book, but it will certainly remind them of who preserved our freedom at the cost of their own life. I suppose what I am trying to do is what Robert Wace, a Norman cleric, said in the Roman de Rou in 1170:
All things decline
Everything falters, dies and ends
Towers cave in, walls collapse
Roses wither, horses stumble
Cloth grows old, men expire
Iron rusts and timber rots away
Nothing made by hand will last
I understand the truth
That all must die, both clerk and lay
And the fame of men now dead
Will quickly be forgotten
Unless the clerk takes up his pen
And brings their deeds to life again