Vandalism in the School Archives? Or is it Art?

A few months ago, I went into the School Archives to photograph the School Lists. They are quite boring little booklets to be brutally honest, but they are very informative and record the names of all the members of all the forms in the School for every year. The oldest ones date from the late 1860s, but because I was researching the school’s casualties in World War II, I started my James Bond activities with 1892 and then went forwards as far as 1950. Just for the sake of argument, here’s one, with a particularly famous ex-pupil on it:

With all that information, it is actually a Victorian Excel Spreadsheet!

The only thing out of the ordinary that I found in 3.96 GB of School Lists was in the edition for 1941:

Once again, some young man was feeling the ‘Call of the Skies’:

Below the printers’ name, he had knocked out a couple of bombers;

Here’s the larger of the two bombers blown up as best I can:

It is called the 320 and has a range of 3,000 miles, with an endurance, I think he means, not ‘duration’, of 6 hours 8 minutes and a bomb load of 3,000lbs. It also has 8 machine guns. Looks a bit like a Blenheim with the nose of a Heinkel, the tail of an Airspeed Oxford perhaps and inline engines.

Here’s the smaller of the two bombers blown up as best I can:

It is called the 350 and has a range of 1,000 miles, with no armament. It looks a bit like a Blenheim with the nose of a Heinkel, the tail of an Airspeed Oxford perhaps and inline engines. Here’s one I prepared earlier:

I have also tried hard to blow up the first of the fighters:

It has one 1 inch cannon, in the propeller boss, by the look of it, and 8 machine guns.

The other fighter is rather Spitfire like:

It is called the 398 and has 4 cannon, 4 machine guns, an endurance of 5 hours and a range of 3,000 miles. I’m sorry to say that Maths was not necessarily this young man’s strong point! The German fighter has no names or specifications:

For me, it is mainly Focke Wulf Fw 190, but there is a little dash of Mitsubishi Zero in it as well perhaps.

I often think that we regret what we do not do far more than what we do do. When I was in the Sixth Form at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Boys’ Grammar School, we used to have French lessons in a smaller room because there were only 12 of us. One of the desks had a fantastic carving of a B-17 Flying Fortress, deep into the wood of the lid, with all the ailerons, all the machine guns and all the ventilation holes in the gun barrels. It was fabulous. This is the closest I can find on the Internet:Looking back at how much money the school had, I suspect it dated from  1943 rather than 1963 and the Airfix kit of that era:

My regret is that I did not find any way of preserving this work of art rather than it be thrown into a skip in the middle 70s.

Not much survives of the pupils in any school. And what does would have been classified as vandalism at the time. Such as this example from 1922:

or this one from 1942:

or this one from a young man who upset the High School more than he could ever imagine:




Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

26 responses to “Vandalism in the School Archives? Or is it Art?

  1. Excellent detective work John, especially how you have identified those planes.

    • Thanks very much, you are very kind. Plane identification is easy, to be honest, if you spent virtually every penny of pocket money on comics and books on aviation, and on occasion, even visited local toy shops to see if either Airfix or Frog had brought out any new kits.
      We had terrible lives before computers and mobile phones!

  2. Chris Mann

    So where, John, did you leave your mark on the fabric of the school?!

    • An excellent question! Nowhere really, In the archives they have the two books that I wrote about the High School, the History and the 500th Birthday one. That’s probably it, until I finish work on the WW2 casualties. Oh, and I managed to find and then refind DH Lawrence’s prize, which was in the archives and which so far, has been lost three times, including once when I found it kicking about on the floor.
      As far as staff are concerned though, a great deal of paperwork is retained by the school. When I asked about the full names of some Masters from before the war, Mr Fear was able to supply it by return of post, presumably, because they have had the good sense over the years not to throw things away.

  3. You’ve certainly treated it as art, John

    • Well, Derrick, I was obliged to apply my own rule, namely that “Anything better than Tracey Emin is Art”. Admittedly, that leaves you with a very great deal of “Art” but as somebody who spent a lot of his time as a boy trying to draw the tail of a Spitfire correctly, I think that this lad deserves the benefit of the doubt, given his valiant efforts with all of these various imaginary planes.

  4. So good to put a human/ordinary picture of someone who became such a bright star in the firmament.

  5. Whoever loved flying certainly did an excellent job of drawing the bombers. I recall our wooden desks having carvings in them, but nothing so interesting. Then by high school we had the modern, Formica-covered, uncomfortable desks.

    • The use of Formica in secondary schools certainly put a firm stop to a lot of artistic careers. I do wonder, though, if that is why the modern Leonardo da Vincis went outside and showed us all their talents on the walls of public buildings and the sides of subway trains. There might even be a PhD in that if you framed it correctly, “The end of wooden desks in school has sent the 21st century artist outside into the urban environment”.
      More seriously, as I mentioned above, in our school, we had that fantastic carving of a Boeing B-17G, complete with huge amounts of detail. That was in 1965, and I only realised recently that, given the antiquity of all our school equipment, that work of art was probably based on contemporary views from 1942 onwards. How I wish I could go back in time and rescue it from the rubbish tip it surely finished up on.

  6. The doodles of that young man are fantastic, John. I can just imagine him dreaming of flying that bomber, in an adventurous type of way, as he drew it, not realizing the realities of war. Too bad you could not save that desk with that bomber drawing on it. So much has been thrown away that should have been preserved for history purposes. Thank you for another great post!!

    • Yes, that is the seductive power of war, with its bright uniforms and its wonderful and attractive, yet deadly, toys. Hardly any of the young men who go off to the forces realise the reality of what awaits them.
      And thank you, incidentally, for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

  7. Wow, John, the school’s record-keeping is impressive!

    • Well, yes, overall, it is very impressive but there has been the odd hiccup from time to time. Three brothers came to the school on one occasion and then left at different times. That was a little too much for the record keepers who had Brother No 3 as having left, in say, 1924 whereas he remained in school until 1928. Just think of it, four years at school but never attending lessons, or, alternatively, attending other lessons that you were not supposed to be at.
      And one or two names tended to be unstable and form what in another context would be isotopes. DOBBS or DODDS? PYCROFT or PYECROFT? and on a very bad Friday, COMERY or COUNCER?

  8. Wow! It must have given you a great sense of achievement to come across DH Lawrence in those records. That combined with those remarkable pictures definitely made it trawl worth doing!

    • It’s surprising sometimes what you can find. I could actually have shown you the following year’s Form List where he has been recorded as HD Lawrence. Still you can’t get them all right.
      It’s very sad, but I really enjoy lists like of that type, and the stories that they might throw up. I recently found Boy A in 1923, who was top of the class, and whose father was a missionary in Bangalore in India. Boy B kept finishing second to him in the end-of-year exams year after year. Boy B then went to university and afterwards joined the army and spent the rest of his life in India, Was it because the two of them were friends? Did Boy A tell his friend, Boy B, about that magical land?
      We’ll never know, but it’s a nice idea.

      • It certainly is John, and nice that perhaps they stayed friends long after school. I always find that the more you dig, the more questions arise that just tickle your inquisitiveness. A simple list can certainly become an intense and long enquiry.

  9. Commend you on your research, very interesting reading and great results, the skies were unlimited in young minds in those days, that combined with their imagination is what culminated in their dreams fruition.

    • How true! And now in England, young people can only get jobs with a short term contract. What use is a job with only eight months’ work guaranteed?
      That in turn guarantees that you will never be able to borrow the money to buy a house and in many cases, will never be able even to rent one. The most basic of young people’s dreams and aspirations are denied them.

  10. Jan

    If only our budding aircraft designer had known that jet fighters and bombers were already on the drawing board – he could have been much more adventurous with his artwork.

    • We don’t know the age of the boy who did the drawings. If he was only eleven or twelve, then he could only work within his own terms of reference. Even in late 1944 hardly anybody in the RAF knew about jet engines or jet aircraft. I did a post about the Gloster Meteor with my Dad’s story: ““one day in late 1944, everybody was in the mess at Lossiemouth, eating their lunch and drinking their cups of tea. Suddenly the door was flung open, and a very excited young man came in shouting “Quick ! Quick ! Come outside and see this ! There’s a crate out here without any props ! ””

  11. jackchatterley

    The engines of the 320 bomber reminds me of the 679 Manchester, dunno why.

    • I think it’s perhaps because it’s an inline engine, although if you google images of the Manchester, you’ll see that it had some strange metal lumps all around the front of it. For me, what has possibly been in his mind is the Merlin engine of the Lancaster, which may well have been a lot more familiar to him than the Vulture engines of the bigger bomber.

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