Monthly Archives: January 2019

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