In the Footsteps of the Valiant (Volume Three)

There must have been many people out there who thought that we were not going to publish any more volumes about the Old Nottinghamians of all ages who sacrificed their lives in the cause of freedom between 1939-1948.

But, while Covid-19 seized the world in its deadly grip, our work continued, albeit at a slower pace. And all those efforts have now ended with the publication of the third volume, detailing 24 of the High School’s casualties in World War II. Don’t think, incidentally, that we were running out of steam and had nothing to say. All five volumes have been deliberately constructed to contain the same amount of material as all of the others. And that material is all of the same quality.

This volume, therefore, portrays the families of these valiant young men, their houses, their years at school with Masters very different from those of today, their boyhood hobbies, their sporting triumphs and where they worked as young adults and the jobs they had. And all this is spiced with countless tales of the living Nottingham of yesteryear, a city so different from that of today. And as I have said before, “No tale is left untold. No anecdote is ignored.” Here are the teachers that many of them knew;

And as well, of course, you will find all the details of the conflicts in which they fought and how they met their deaths, the details of which were for the most part completely unknown until I carried out my groundbreaking research.

These were men who died on the Lancastria in the biggest naval disaster in British history or in the Channel Dash or in the Battle of the East coast when the Esk, the Express and the Ivanhoe all struck mines. Some died flying in Handley Page Hampdens, or Fairy Barracudas, or Hawker Hurricanes, or Avro Lancasters or Grumman Wildcats or even a North American O-47B. One casualty was murdered by a German agent who sabotaged the single engine of his army observation aircraft. One was shot by the occupant of a Japanese staff car who was attempting to run the gauntlet of “A” Company’s roadblock. One was the only son of the owner of a huge business that supported a small local town, employing thousands. When the owner retired, the factory had to close. He had no son to replace him. His son lay in a cemetery in Hanover after his aircraft was shot down. Thousands of jobs were lost. And all because of a few cannon shells from a German nightfighter. The work of a few split seconds.

They died in the Bay of Biscay, the Channel, the North Sea, Ceylon, Eire, Germany, Ijsselstein, Kuching, Normandy, Singapore, Tennessee. None of them knew that they were going to die for our freedoms. And certainly none of them knew where or when.

But they gave their lives without hesitation. And they do not deserve to be forgotten. That is why this book exists, and so does Volume One, and Volume Two and in due course, so will Volumes Four and Five.

We should never forget this little boy (right), playing the part of Madame Rémy, and killed in Normandy not long after D-Day:

We should not forget this rugby player, either, killed in a collision with a Vickers Wellington bomber.

We should not forget this young member of the Officers Training Corps (front row, on the left). A mid-upper gunner, he was killed in his Lancaster as he bombed Kassel, the home of at least one satellite camp of Dachau concentration camp:

We should not forget this young miscreant, either, mentioned in the Prefects’ Book for “Saturday, October 20th 1934. “Fletcher was beaten – well beaten.” By June 23rd 1944, though, he was dead, killed with twelve others when two Lancasters collided above their Lincolnshire base. He wanted to have a chicken farm after the war. Not a lot to ask for, but he didn’t get it:

We should not forget the Captain of the School, killed when HMS Express hit a German mine:

We should not forget the son of the US Consul in Nottingham, the highest ranked Old Nottinghamian killed in the war:

And we should not forget any of the others, wherever they may turn up. Killed by the Japanese in Singapore :

Killed in a road block firefight in Burma:

And this little boy, still years from being shot down on his 66th operational flight  by Helmut Rose, in his Bf109, German ace and holder of the Iron Cross First Class. And yes, that is the little boy’s Hawker Hurricane:

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The First XV player, proud of his fancy jacket:

A young man tricked into having to dress up as a young woman in “Twelfth Night”:

Two years later, getting a part  as “Jean, a veritable Hercules….a convincing rural chauffeur”, in “Dr Knock”. Except that all of your friends think that you have got the part of the village idiot:

And a very frightened village idiot at that.

 

Please note:

All three of the titles published in this series so far are on sale with both Amazon and Lulu.  All royalties will be given to two British forces charities, and if this is important to you, you will prefer to buy from Lulu. This will generate a lot more revenue.

For example,

If Volume 3 is bought through Amazon at full price, the charities will get £1.23 from each sale.
If Volume 3 is bought through Lulu, that rises to £9.48.

Incidentally, if you see the price of the book quoted in dollars, don’t worry. The people at Lulu periodically correct it to pounds sterling, but it then seems to revert to dollars after a few days, although nobody seems to know why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, cricket, Football, History, military, Nottingham, The High School, the Japanese, Writing

21 responses to “In the Footsteps of the Valiant (Volume Three)

  1. So many lives lost before they realized their dreams. But that is life. But it is wonderful that they are being remembered. You all are doing a wonderful job. May God bless you all.

    • Thank you,Lakshmi, you are very kind. I have only had contact with three or four relatives of the dead men but they were all very keen that their grandfather or great uncle should never be forgotten. And I feel that I have made my own contribution towards that.

  2. Neil Crowe

    Poignant as always. Although distant souls from another era the connection to our collective home, the High School, brings their tragically short lives into sharp focus. I doubt I will ever grow weary of reading about the lives of our valiant forbears. Thank you John.

    • And thank you, Neil, for those kind words. I just hope that I have done justice to their unbelievable courage, the fact that they were willing to lay the rest of their young lives on the line in the struggle to defeat fascism.

  3. I read these stories with an intense sorrow that smacks of lost friends. So much sorrow…..

    • I think you have hit the nail exactly on the head there. An aggressive country, whether Germany or Japan, decides to attack all of its neighbours and eventually, they are defeated, But at what a price.
      And every single casualty had a family, who, in many cases,were so affected that their dead son or daughter was never spoken of again, so much pain was caused by the very mention of their name.
      The only thing we can do is to realise that there is a lot more to it than just a name on a war memorial and that if we can understand the anguish caused by every one of these casualties, and the details of the lives they lost, then one day there will be no need of any more war memorials.

  4. You have a way of writing that draws you into what was once their lives – you make us think, ‘What would have their lives been like….’

    • Thank you for those kind words. Far too many decent young men have been lost trying to defeat a succession of evil empires.
      And among these young men here, there were those who may have made great scientific discoveries or have represented their country at sport. Some though, may have been the best Dad in that particular family, or the best painter and decorator in the whole town of Thedford. Whatever the case, it was a life cut short, but at the same time, it was cut short in an unavoidable way. From 1939-1945, lives were the price paid for the war to be won. Let’s just hope that very, very soon, everybody realises that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are other methods of solving our problems.

  5. Thank you for sharing!!.. “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” (Brodi Ashton)… 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the universe and life is all that you wish for it to be!!… 🙂

    • To be honest, I have been glad to share the details of these young men and their lives which were cut short so tragically. I just hope that very, very soon, humanity comes to its senses and realises that there are other ways.
      Here in Merrye Englande, all is well, more or less. My wife will have her first vaccination of the two this afternoon, if the snow keep off. And I keep wishing I was young again, although so far, nothing has happened on that front!

  6. This is building up to a superb collection of information John. Five volumes is just an incredible amount of work. I hope that a copy of the entire collection is stored safely together, on public view, in a national library.

    • Thank you, you are very kind. And you are right about the work, too!
      I was going to put a set of books into the City Archives at our Central Library, and to do the same with the County. I hadn’t really thought about a national library, but perhaps I ought to. Or I wonder if the Imperial War Museum would be interested. I will look into that, thank you for the idea.

  7. Lives lost but not forgotten ❤

    • Well, not on my watch, at least! I have been genuinely moved by the pride shown by family members whose relative was a casualty in WW2. They seem genuinely proud of a man who gave his life for his country and in the fight against fascism.
      I have been both surprised and not surprised too, if that is possible, at the love shown by the people who actually knew him. What is strange to me, though, is that both living family and war casualty are frozen in time. The RAF officer is forever 28 years old in the eyes of the living family member, who himself is forever nine years old, his age when he last saw his Dad. And that “little boy” may well be more than eighty years old in his real life, now.

  8. Congrats on publishing another volume in your series. You are doing a great service to the Nottingham community by preserving all this history.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words. Hopefully, a couple of sets will be placed in the City and County Archives. Sales have not been enormous, but all the people who have commented have had something nice to say. (So far!)

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