Monthly Archives: August 2019

the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk at Hendon

On July 22nd 2010, we visited the RAF Museum at Hendon. I took a great number of photographs and these few show the Curtiss Kittyhawk IV.

First  a general view of the aircraft, taken from the rear, as the museum is very, very, full. The peculiar colours are because of the strange Jacques Cousteau type lighting which is supposed to prevent deterioration of the original paint from the 1940s. They originally found some thirteen P-40s abandoned in the New Guinea jungle in 1974 but I suppose you can’t be too careful! Incidentally that was the same operation that retrieved the RAAF Beaufort I depicted a little while back:

Here’s a second view of the Hendon P-40 with perhaps a little bit less of the “Under the Sea” effect and a lot more of that strange deep purple light made famous by the Aviator Formerly Known as Prince. Here’s a very slightly different view of the P-40. And by the way, I don’t know why the question mark is there:

And here, incidentally, is that Bristol Beaufort, with the link to read about it:

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One of the most interesting things about this plane is its name. Manufactured by Curtiss-Wright of Buffalo, New York, the largest aviation company in the USA during the 1930s, the P-40D and subsequent models was called the Kittyhawk by the RAF, the RAAF, the RCAF and the RNZAF as well as the South African Air Force. It was used extensively in North Africa:

The earlier P-40A, P-40B, and P-40C models were called Tomahawks. I have no idea whatsoever why, other than a sneaking feeling that it was just to confuse everybody who wasn’t aware of the story. The Kittyhawk had a more powerful engine and if you like aircraft engines, you can read a tale involving substandard or defective aircraft engines for military use, conspiracy, false testimony, gross irregularities, neglect of duty, troublemakers and a general court martial via this link. Amazingly, the paragraph you need is called “”Defective engines sold to U.S. military in World War II. It was apparently such a big story at the time that Arthur Miller wrote a play about it.

These two pictures show the most famous thing about so many P-40s and Kittyhawks. The shark’s mouth nose art:

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On a P-40, the first people to use this design seem to have been the Chinese Nationalist Air Force although they seem to have thought that they were using a big cat, insofar as they were dubbed “The Flying Tigers”. They were still the most famous of the Shark’s Mouth aircraft though:

So just treat yourself to a little bit of the film “The Flying Tigers”. John Wayne at his very best:

In this film, “The Duke” actually speaks Chinese. Two words, “Ding Hao”.

In case you don’t know, “Ding Hao” means good luck, or good day or very good or fantastic and so on. Not as universally applicable a word as “Mao” in “The Deer Hunter” but not bad. It’s quite impressive when one single word is an entire language:

 

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Renegade Football at the High School (3)

High School Football had provided three captains of England and the highest scorer in the FA Cup. In 1897, Fred Chapman, who would go on to win an Olympic gold medal when he scored the opening goal in the final of the Olympic Football Tournament in 1908, was just a little boy at the right hand end of the back row. At least two or three of the others would appear in the pop group “Madness” :

In summer, he was the wicketkeeper in the School cricket team. You can just about see the ridges on his pads. Can you see any boys who are in both photographs?:

Just eighteen years later, the School had stopped playing football completely, even if hundreds of young English and German soldiers suddenly developed a desire to play the game during the truce of Christmas 1914:

The High School stopped playing football therefore and changed to rugby union. The decision to change sports at Christmas 1914 was made by the School’s General Committee by a two to one majority and both the Old Boys and the parents were in favour. The boys, however, by a substantial majority, would have opted for football. Here are a Year Seven class in 1901, eager to get their chance in the team. That goalie could do with losing a bit of weight, though:

Why did football disappear in the High School when the sport was just beginning to conquer the world? I have already spoken of a long list of “things better to do than football” last time. Films such as “Cabiria” turned our lads’ heads:

But deep down, it may well have been the boys themselves. It was as if football became less and less popular as the years went by. This is shown by a number of reports in the “Nottinghamian” of boys who seemed completely apathetic. Basically, they just didn’t want to play:

“One cannot be legally compelled to play football, but it ought to be a point of honour with each boy to turn out when called upon. Such excuses as “ doing extra work with Mr.——,” “ didn’t know it was footer today,” or “ my things are at the laundry,” are too often merely excuses to cover a desire to skive, and they strike an altogether unworthy note.”

And a second one:

“The interest of the School in its own football, and in that of its representative teams is much less than it was four or five years ago. The feeble attendance at School matches, the falling numbers of spectators during the “Eight-a-side” competitions, the widespread objections when House matches fall on a Wednesday-half day holiday, the complete disappearance of cheering of victorious teams on their arrival in the Hall for Prayers—all these facts prove a lack of interest and “esprit de corps” that is nothing less than lamentable.”

My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that the boys, far from any sinister motives imputed to them, were merely beginning to expand their expectations, as regards what might be available for their two half days of leisure per week, Wednesday and Saturday. In the last post, I looked at the possibilities of the new technology which gave them a whole range of new pleasures outside school. Personally, I have always thought that the falling numbers of boys at football practices is connected to the invention of the “What the Butler Saw” machine, even if you have fallen asleep by the time she’s got her cardigan off:

“The Nottinghamian” had already complained in December, 1915 of how boys were “frequenting picture-palaces, or doing something equally futile.”

Even inside School, the possibilities were seemingly endless, with various editions of the School magazine reporting the activities of the Officer Training Corps, with lengthy accounts of their camps and their Field Days, School Musketry, the Debating Society, the Literary Society, the Voluntary Gymnastic Club and the N.H.S. Boy Scouts.

Here are those High School Boy Scouts, still working for their “Car-jacking Badge”:

Here’s the Officer Training Corps in 1907. To the left of the stairs is the present day Language Centre. The rooms to the right were demolished in 1938 in a vast cloud of dust, to be replaced by a new three storey science block. The latter was to be erected gradually over the course of the next five years. The Officer Training Corps was very popular among the boys, especially with a World War on the horizon:

“We’ll show those damned Boers and those damned Germans and those damned Turks and those damned Austro-Hanoverians and those damned Japanese……”:

Between 1910 and the beginning of the First World War, many older clubs such as the Literary and the Debating Societies seem to have been extremely popular, and numerous other activities were expanded, especially the military ones such as the Boy Scouts or the O.T.C. The latter pursuits were presumably in response to the increasing militarism of the era.

One other factor about which we know very little is the academic side of School life. It may well be that as other schools in the area, such as High Pavement, for example, were increasingly successful, and raised their academic standards, then the High School was forced to respond, and boys found themselves quite simply with more work to do:

“The Nottinghamian” complained at one point that the excuse “doing extra work with Mr.——,” was one used far too frequently to get out of football practices, but the fact remains that the excuse may well have been true.

Who could resist the lure of Cambridge, and the promise of fish, chips and mushy peas in such wonderful academic surroundings?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

The problems with researching World War Two (1)

During my researches of the High School’s war casualties, I soon encountered one, huge, huge, problem. This was the fact that somebody at the High School, a pupil or a member of staff, might have exactly the same name as a casualty listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website, but beyond that, there was nothing else to link them together, or to keep them firmly apart. No date of birth. No date of death. No parents’ names. No place where they had lived. Nothing.

The reason for this strange state of affairs is that in the huge number of names listed on the CWGC website there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of casualties which provide no extra details at all which would allow any definite links to be made. In particular, no date of birth is ever listed.

I have always presumed that this has happened because, when the new recruit filled in the paperwork early in his military career, there was some kind of option which allowed him to preserve his privacy in this way.

To take a completely random example, Sergeant Leonard Thompson in the RAF was killed on Wednesday, September 16, 1942 and his sacrifice is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial near London. And there are no more details than that provided about Leonard, no date of birth, no age, no parents’ names, no town of origin, and no town of residence, absolutely nothing. So if there is a Leonard Thompson in the School Register, of an age to be in the Royal Air Force, there is no definite way of linking the two together, unless you find it mentioned in another book or on another website elsewhere (something which I have not yet done in five years of research).

This is all there is to link Leonard to anybody else:

Certainly, photographic evidence is of little value. Are these the same person? The little bugler boy at the High School:

And the rear gunner on an Avro Lancaster bomber (front row, right) ?

Let’s take another completely random example. In the School Register, Boy No 4959, John Taylor, is an orphan and has no parents listed. Only Mrs AM Cooke is recorded as a “Father or next Friend”. She is most probably a relative of one of John’s parents and is now the adult legally responsible for John Taylor’s welfare. Clearly, the original Mr Taylor has passed away and so too, probably, has Mrs Taylor.

But was young High School boy, John Taylor, Boy No 4959 in the School Register, the same person as Private Taylor, 4748560, of the York and Lancaster Regiment? Or was he Able Seaman Taylor, D/JX 303159, in the Royal Navy? Or perhaps he was Engine Room Artificer 4th Class,  John Taylor, D/MX 75819. Or maybe Stoker 1st Class JohnTaylor,  P/KX 601918 ?

Or perhaps the High School’s John Taylor was Flight Sergeant Taylor, Service Number  1079856? Or was he Gunner John Taylor, 4385260 ? or Private John Taylor, 3909612 of the South Wales Borderers? Or Sapper John Taylor 1888052 of the Royal Engineers? Maybe  he was Gunner John Taylor, 941298, of the Royal Artillery ?

Back to Leonard Thompson. Another war casualty to bear the same name was Gunner Leonard Thompson. He was killed on Thursday, May 18, 1944 and he is buried in the Beach Head War Cemetery at Anzio in Italy. He was a member of the 92 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. There are no more details about him either. There is no age, no parents’ names, no town of origin, no town of residence, nothing. He might well be the Leonard Thompson in the School Register but then again, he might not. There is nothing definite to link him to the High School. Here is the beach at Anzio, as usual, full of Americans in their flashy, cheap tanks:

Still, at least it kept the Germans’ towels off the sunloungers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

“Hilarity with Heraldry” (1)

Dr Sheldon Cooper is famous for his series of podcasts “Fun with Flags”:

I have always enjoyed vexillology enormously but I would have to confess to an even greater love for heraldry, the study of coats of arms. I don’t really have the time to launch “Hilarity with Heraldry” in any great depth, but I don’t think anybody would find it particularly boring to take a brief look back at some old football, or soccer, badges.
I used to read a comic called “Tiger” when I was a boy and in one issue they sowed the seeds of my interest when they gave away, free, an album of football club badges. This was on an unknown date in 1961, so we are looking back quite a long way. Here’s the album:

The picture comes from ebay where the albums can sell for quite good prices. So too do the 1967 versions of the album, entitled “Roy Race’s Album of Football Club Badges” in honour of the fictional star of the fictional Melchester Rovers. Roy Race was Tiger comic’s “Roy of the Rovers”:

In both 1961 and 1967 the buyer was given the booklet and then in the succeeding weeks, he received sheets of paper with around 30 small badges printed on them. He then had to cut out the badges carefully and then stick them in the booklet with extreme care and glue.

Most boys couldn’t do this, which makes it extremely difficult to buy a booklet where they are stuck in straight, and are not over-trimmed, or, in some cases, they are not stuck in upside down.

This album has a pretty good start to page one. although there is a slight crease:

This is average:

I would not buy this. They are crooked and cut out wrongly. At least two are in the wrong position:

These three are shockers:

And these two badges below are simply the wrong way round. Blackpool is a seaside holiday town with seagulls and BW may conceivably stand for “Bolton Wanderers”. And if this page is like that, the other ones will all be of a similar quality:

I was at an indoor market a few years ago when I bought several colour pages of football, cricket and rugby club badges which dated from the 1950s. The badges seemed to divide into four groups. The first were obviously based on the coat of arms of the town which the club represented. This is Notts County with the tree from Sherwood Forest. Whoever or whatever holds the shield up is called the “supporters” and Notts County have the normal two, namely a lion and some other unknown mammal, possibly on otter, or perhaps a weasel. On top of the shield is the “crest” which, in this case, is a tower from Nottingham Castle. “On top of the shield” is just an optical illusion. The crest actually used to rest on top of the knight’s helmet, so a tower is, to say the least, a challenging choice for his neck muscles. The only bit of the helmet that you can see is the padding between the tower and the metal helmet, which is yellow and green and is called the “wreath” or, because it is twisted, the “torse”:

This is Nottingham Forest with the same type of thing. The supporters are stags and on the shield is a green rustic type cross with three crowns that I know nothing about, I’m afraid.

A similar badge was used for the Nottinghamshire cricket team:

In heraldry, what we would call colours, or tinctures to use the technical phrase, are divided into two groups. The first group is called ‘colours’ and the second is called ‘metals’. All of them have Norman French names. The metals are ‘or’ and ‘argent’, which are ‘gold’ and ‘silver’. The colours are red or ‘gules’ which comes from the word for the mouth of an animal, “la gueule”. ‘Azur’  is easy as it obviously comes from azure blue. ‘Vert’ is green and it has survived a thousand years into modern French, much like ‘purpure’ which is actually a very rare colour. ‘Sable’ is black and comes from the fur for coats, It’s a sort of rich man’s ferret, apparently:

There is just one rule about all these tinctures. Colours cannot go on top of colours and metals cannot go on top of metals. This is because Heraldry was designed for the purposes of identification in battle so everything has to be exceptionally obvious and visible. Here’s the somewhat over dressed queue for the fish and chip shop after a hard day’s peasant slaughtering:

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Filed under Film & TV, Football, France, History, Humour, Personal

Renegade Football at the High School (2)

Last time, I spoke of the actual end of High School football at Christmas 1914, and the reasons that brought it about. Basically, they were mostly connected with the idea of “other things to do”.

There were picture palaces and films. Exciting films about beautiful women such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Beautiful Lillian Gish was once the Number One star in Hollywood yet today she is forgotten. Years ago I bought her autograph for next to nothing on ebay. Mary Pickford was equally famous. She was a Canadian and my grandfather, Will Knifton and his brother, John Knifton, worked as bricklayers on her mansion,  shortly after their arrival in Canada, before the First World War :

 

Some of the films were comedies about “bathing beauties” whatever they were:

The Boy Scouts attracted some of the boys:

Strangely enough, though, this unwillingness to give up their valuable time and participate in football did not seem initially to have a direct relationship with the success, or lack of it, of the School’s First Team.

Indeed, the football teams, both First and Second Teams, may actually have been too successful for their own good. Playing so many matches, both on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and occasionally after lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, meant that the supply of younger talent was denied the facilities or the opportunities to train or to practice.

Match reports are incomplete for the 1911-1912 season, but those that do still exist show an impressive start to the year, which read:

Played 11        won 10                        drew 1             lost 0

Even in the 1913-1914 season, things were far from disastrous:

Played 13       won 7                          drew 0           lost 6

We  know only a little about the social aspirations of the parents and staff but the School magazine provided some of their views, and they were certainly in favour of rugby, the upper class game. “Follow the money” as the Americans say:

“Rugger is the finer game and produces better all-round development.”

“Rugger is much superior”

Here’s an early rugby team:

A lot of the parents’ ideas were based on class prejudice. This is a rather unusual opinion below, but this parent would like to see the public schools and the amateur football players exert more influence on the professional game :

“I shall always be sorry to see the Public Schoolboy seceding from Soccer. For good or ill, it has taken a hold upon the working classes of the Kingdom, and the more the game is leavened by pure amateurism, the better. There is a field of real social reform in the Association of Public School football with the professional and League variety.”

At least one other parent thought along similar lines:

“Soccer is England’s game at present, and the more Schoolboys drafted into it the better ; we do not want the national game to drift into the hands of professionals.”

Here is an amateur boys’ team of the period:

Such comments in the “Rugger or Soccer ? ” debate make it abundantly clear that football was perceived as a sport where the professional players , and the working class, were taking over from the amateur player , and the upper class. Of the two Nottingham teams, Nottingham Forest, for example, indubitably represented the working class and wore red shirts. Notts County, on the other hand, had been founded by young men from the professional classes such as bankers, lawyers, and lacemakers, who, in 1862, after enjoying playing football in “The Hollow”, a piece of waste ground near the Cavalry Barracks in the exclusive Park Estate, had decided to form a club.

As we saw last time, the General Committee at the High School, presumably of School sport, and made up of Masters, had voted 2-1 in favour of adapting rugby as the new school sport. The boys in the Upper School were thought to favour very strongly the handling game “because of the novelty of the suggestion”, and the parents, had also voted for rugby by a 3-2 majority. The Old Boys favoured the same sport by a majority similar to that of the parents. The only group who seemed to favour football were the smaller boys, those who were not about to go off to university, but instead were in the First, Second and Third Years. I suspect that the Fourth and Fifth Years were probably divided in their opinions but I have no irrefutable evidence for that. Indeed, I did find at least one source that said that overall, the boys in the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Forms would probably have opted to continue with football. What was certainly true is that hardly anybody, parents, boys, even the staff, had ever seen a game of rugby played.

By today’s standards, the voting procedure about the taking up of rugby was hardly carried out in a particularly unbiassed way. The envelope sent out to Old Boys and parents containing their voting slip also contained a short article summarising “the advantages claimed for Rugger.”

Even the article in “The Nottinghamian” was at pains to point out how many other schools would be available to play rugby fixtures, if the change was made. They included recent converts such as Trent College, Denstone, Newark, Grantham, Retford, Oakham, Leeds, Bradford and the Birmingham schools.

In many ways, therefore, the decision to adapt rugby would seem already to have been taken, long before any Old Boys or parents were asked to rubberstamp it in a postal ballot.

 

 

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

The Great Flood of 1875 and the Fossilised Streets of Nottingham (2)

Recently, I wrote about the Great Flood of 1875, described by a person standing on the terrace at Nottingham Castle, looking across the valley of the River Trent. Here is an old oil painting of old Nottingham. It shows beautifully the castle on its cliff and, just in front of it, a brightly shining St Mary’s Church. You can also see the River Trent and the old Trent Bridge, just to the right of the tree trunk.

In 1499 Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes Mellers, founder of the High School, is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair this particular bridge which I believe was known back then as “The Bridge of Hethbeth”, although I’m not 100% certain of that.

In the centre of the picture, fairly distant,  is the church at Wilford:

Last time I couldn’t stop myself looking at the streets of old Nottingham and how,  in modern times, they have either disappeared, or have been made to disappear. I suppose really I was asking myself the question: “Would our journeys today be better if we could follow the same routes as Victorian roads did?

Here is one of the maps from last time. The orange arrow points to a thoroughfare no longer within our use. By a carefully planned coincidence, it is the road barely seen on the old oil painting of old Nottingham above, leading to distant Wilford Church (centre). The diagonal, all white, thoroughfare on the map, if continued to the north eastern, top right corner, would arrive at St Mary’s Church. In the other direction, that same straight road stretches southwards, straight as a die, to the River Trent and the Toll Bridge at Wilford on the left hand side. On the Ordnance Survey map, that very same route is highlighted by our trusty friend, the orange arrow. Nowadays, it would make a marvellous road into the city, especially for bicycles and even electric cars.

Personally, I do wonder if 130% of our traffic problems are down to planners who have completely disregarded those old streets which used to run, straight and wide, from one side of the city to the other.  The worst obstruction to traffic flow in this area is the Broadmarsh Centre, a huge shopping mall which blocks so many of the old medieval and Victorian thoroughfares:

I do apologise for his absence, incidentally, but the orange arrow is currently on strike for better pay and more beautiful places to point to. Here is the 1970s car park for what was then the new shopping centre. It takes seven years or so to get a degree in architecture:

I had almost forgotten that I was writing about the Great Flood of 1875 as well as traffic flow. Well, nothing, including the Broadmarsh Centre if it had been there,  could have stopped the vast floods of water from cascading through the city of Nottingham:

Wilford-road was the scene of a sad disaster, involving the loss of several lives. The flood was so deep that the only means of communication with Briar-street and the houses near it was by boats or vehicles; in the evening a man with a cart got about a dozen people into it in order to take them to places of less danger. They got out of Briar-street on to Wilford-road safely; but the posts on the road side being covered and only the street lamps to guide the driver, he got too near the edge of the road, which had been raised considerably, the cart was upset into the field on the east side, and six of the passengers were drowned. Next morning a man named Asher rode into the flood in the same neighbourhood in order to bring off a horse which was in an outlying shed, but was himself carried away and drowned. At Wilford the river overflowed the banks, washing down some of the cottages, and standing eight feet deep in many of the houses The traffic on the railway was much hindered, the trains from Trent having to be sent by the Derby, Codnor Park, and Mansfield lines.

Briar-street does not seem to exist any more. Wilford Road is the eventual continuation of Wilford Street towards the top left/centre of the map. It used to run southwards straight as an orange arrow to Wilford Ferry Bridge, at the bottom of the map. Most of that direct route is no longer there or is no longer usable. It has been interrupted, mostly by housing and parts of Robin Hood Way and Sheriff’s Way:

We already know Wilford and its famous ferry, replaced eventually by a bridge:

The Kannibal Killer Kaptain John Deane used to live just the other side of the bridge from Nottingham:


This was definitely THE flood in Nottingham. As the book says:

“This flood of 1875 was 5½ inches higher than that of 1852, 23½ inches higher than the floods of 1869 and July, 1875, 28 inches higher than the flood of January, 1877, 36 inches higher than the Floods of 1857 and 1872, and 39 inches higher than that of 1864”

The heights of those floods are recorded underneath present day Trent Bridge:

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