Monthly Archives: January 2019

Nottingham High School on ebay (6)

My last two posts in this series are a little bit out of the ordinary, perhaps. I bought this postcard on ebay. It is very strange to say the least:

The post card has been coloured beautifully and it is interesting to note the wonderfully delicate fence, the gas light and a shrubbery that the Knights who say “Ni” would be proud of. The full set of chimneys and pinnacles are there and, back left, is Dr Dixon’s house and back right is Brincliffe School, both of which were still standing when I started in the High School in 1975. But what about all that writing?

Well, I’ve spent some time working on it, and here are my enlargements, in order, from the top right to top left. Here’s No 1:

And No 2:

And No 3:

And No 4:

Why not have a go at trying to read it? Writing like this was fairly common practice in the last century. To save money, particularly money spent on mere paper, people would frequently write on it twice, once horizonally, and once vertically. That must have been a little difficult to read !

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Filed under Football, France, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

The Battle of Britain (5)

Last time I mentioned the name of “Watty” Watson who was the High School’s only member of Churchill’s famous “Few” that I have discovered so far. I did find one other Old Nottinghamian who was in Fighter Command during the period of the Battle of Britain, but he did not fly the legendary Spitfire, yet another picture of  a Mark I which I just cannot resist:

Instead, Flying Officer Walker flew the Bristol Blenheim Mark I which was desperately pressed into service as a night fighter:

While he was at school, “Watty” had been a keen rugby player for the First XV:

He was a keen member of the Second XI at cricket:

Most of all, he loved the Officers Training Corps:

As you look at the photograph the boy on the left is “Higgs” and the boy on the right is “MacKirdy”. The three behind, left to right, are JMT Saunders, Burley and MJ Dodds, as far as we know.

Eventually, “Watty” was promoted to Drum Major, every boy’s dream, having your own drum. Having your own leopard skin wasn’t bad either:

And in close up:

But if you have a big drum, then you’ve got to bang it, bang it loud and march like a maniac:

What’s that quotation?

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

So “Watty” gave up his drum and his leopard skin, but he was eventually given something he liked a whole lot better:

Here he is, in close up:

“Watty” gave his life for this country’s freedom on November 28th 1940. He was “Blue Two” and he was just 19 years of age.

If you ever want to put some flowers on his grave, “Watty” is buried in the Nottingham Southern Cemetery on Wilford Hill, off the A60 Loughborough Road,  in Section  M.24, Grave 74. We all owe him, and his colleagues, one hell of a debt.

 

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Filed under Aviation, History, Nottingham, The High School

The World of the Mysterious (1)

I believe in Bigfoot. Or rather, insofar as I think that Bigfoot is an undiscovered ape which still lives in the immensity of North America’s forests, rather than a deity, I think that he exists. I do hope for his own sake, however, that he is never found:

I believe that Bigfoot is just one relict population of several around the world. The North American species is one of a number of very large ape-like humans (or human-like apes) that, at one time, lived in all of the forests and wild places of the northern hemisphere. He has been called by many names…I found quite quickly the alma, the almasti, the menk,  the omah,  the sasquatch,  the yeren, the yeti and the yowie, an inhabitant of the forests of Australia. All of them are very similar creatures, although they have been reported by different people in different isolated places in the world, separated by thousands of miles. One thing for definite is that the people could not possibly have collaborated with each other, particularly before around 1850:

Just try reading the old reports from the 19th century. The oldest I have found so far dates from 1818 in New York State. One of my favourite Bigfoot books carries a large number of similar reports for the whole of North America. They portray many details about Bigfoot which are still witnessed today, such as Bigfoot’s whistling. How could these people have possibly got together so long ago to invent tales which are so similar to each other? The Native Americans often depict Bigfoot as a creature who whistles. That is probably their most frequently encountered evidence of his existence. Look at this totem pole:

In my personal opinion, what has happened is that the people of many different parts of the world have lived calmly and quietly together in small numbers, either hunting or farming their land, for hundreds and hundreds of years. During that time, as fairly harmless inhabitants of a largely virgin landscape, they have come into regular contact with creatures which were very much like the Bigfoot of today. These beings were big, hairy and quite often, smelly. Sometimes they were fierce but usually they did relatively little damage. Here’s a Menk, out in the unexplored woods of the eastern Urals in Russia:

It’s my belief that the literature of the distant past reflects the existence of these denizens of the forest. Hundreds of years have elapsed between these different works of literature and because of that, and the geographical separation between them, they will not all have the same details, but they will have some of them. These details might include the creatures’ enormous size, their hairiness and their fierceness. Being thought fierce goes with the territory, though, when you’re ten feet tall:

Next time we’ll take the Bigfoot trailcams into ancient literature.

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Filed under Cryptozoology, History, Literature, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

The Battle of Britain (4)

The Battle of Britain was Nazi Germany’s first defeat. It was brought about by the famous “Few”.

In the picture above the pilots are running towards their Hurricanes, formidable fighters which claimed 60% of the Luftwaffe aircraft shot down. Here is the most beautiful aircraft ever built:

Even as a little boy, I was fascinated by that magic sounding colour for the underneath of a Spitfire, “duck egg blue”.

I used to teach at Nottingham High School. Two of our Old Boys fought, and died, in the Battle of Britain.

One of them was Arthur Roy Watson. He was born in Basford, a district in the north of Nottingham. Originally the family lived at 193 College Street in Long Eaton, a suburb to the west of Nottingham. College Street runs roughly north to south in Long Eaton. Here is his house, now divided into two semi-detached houses:

College Street’s southern end is on Derby Road more or less opposite Trent College where a propeller from Albert Ball’s aircraft is on display in the library and the original cross from his grave in France is kept in the college chapel:

Did young Arthur ever go to see these important relics? Did they inspire him?  I have already written about the famous World War One fighter ace and the various escapades he found himself involved in. Here he is in his days at Trent College, after his expulsion from Nottingham High School and the King’s School, Grantham:

After living in Long Eaton, the Watson family then moved to 48 Carisbrooke Drive, a leafy suburban road that overlooks the old High School playing fields at Mapperley Park:

His friends in the squadron called him “Watty”, “Rex” or “Doc” because that made him “Doctor Watson”. Here he is standing by his Spitfire. He was just 19 when he was killed:

 

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Filed under Aviation, History, Humour, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

Nottingham High School on ebay (5)

I bought just a few more photographs on ebay than the ones I showed you last time. They were all taken down at our Valley Road playing fields, and the boys, all of them members of our Preparatory Department, were aged between nine and eleven years old.

The first one is, shock horror!!, a soccer team.

“But I thought it was a rugby school?” I hear you ask.

Well, the main School is a rugby school, but what is now the Junior School, and was then the Preparatory School, has always played football, presumably because there is less chance of serious injury for small boys when they play football. This is the Second XI during the 1965-1966 season:

The players’ names are on the back:

And now, Technicolor ©, the only one of the photographs I bought:

In this photograph you can see the huge tree which used to stand near the Daybrook. It was damaged by the Great Storm of 1987 and eventually had to be taken down. In its time it has sheltered hundreds of cricketers who waited, either to bat or to go out and field. Traditionally, they all seem to have eaten bags of fresh cherries as they sat happily out of the sun. Perhaps this was a particularly freely available local fruit at the time or perhaps it was just fun to spit the stones at each other afterwards.

The team is listed on the back:

I don’t know if Mr Clarke and Mr Willey are still alive but they were both good men, much respected by their colleagues over the years. The boys in these teams may well be retired now. I hope they all made it through to their pensions! The very worst thing about teaching is the number of pupils who leave us for one reason and another as we grow older. I am sure that most teachers think about them from time to time. I know I do.

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Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

The Battle of Britain (3)

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There is no better person to tell the story of the Battle of Britain that the greatest ever Englishman, Sir Winston Churchill:

“The Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science” :

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“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

He produced a second speech which gave us another memorable phrase:

“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

“All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.”

We actually know exactly how that phrase “Never in the field….” came about.

On August 20th 1940 Churchill was travelling in a car with Major General Hastings Ismay to give a speech about the Battle of Britain in the House of Commons. Churchill was reading the speech out aloud to Ismay and it was originally “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few”. Ismay interrupted him and said “What about Jesus and his disciples?” Churchill concurred and immediately changed it to its present form “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, Politics