Monthly Archives: September 2021

Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (6) or “The Cat”, after D.H.Lawrence

The famous novelist, David Herbert Lawrence, was a Nottingham County Council Scholarship pupil at Nottingham High School from 1898-1901.

For a number of reasons, despite his fame as one of the 20th century’s greatest novelists, Lawrence soon became persona non grata at his old school, and, even more so at his old university, which was then called University College, Nottingham.

The problem was that he wrote dubious books where the main characters indulged in naughty practices which embarrassed many of the good citizens of Nottingham and elsewhere:

Furthermore, in 1912, Frieda, the wife of  Professor Weekley, the Head of the Modern Languages Faculty at University College, Nottingham, had run off with Lawrence. She left behind her her three children, who, by the divorce laws of the time, she was forbidden to see. And it was all Lawrence’s fault, and everybody in Nottingham thought Lawrence was a cad and a bounder and they were all firmly on the side of the much wronged Professor Weekley.

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Given that Lawrence was an Old Nottinghamian, and had behaved so badly, the School had little choice but to condemn him whenever the occasion arose. And those negative feelings extended as far as everything that Lawrence had ever written. Well, how could a cad and a bounder write anything of any value? And exactly the same thing happened at University College, Nottingham.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the July 1941 edition of the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, and found the following poem:

 

CAT

(After D.H. Lawrence)

 

In the daytime,

She only sits licking her back with a rough, pink tongue

Like emery paper rubbing on a wooden frame.

Or curls up in a chair before the fire and mews.

Only milk can tempt her into the kitchen, and then she

Laps,

As gold-fish nibble ant-eggs, or cows munch grass,

With an insatiable longing for more.

Her tail, swishing gently to and fro ;

Her little black funny nose.

She purrs, purrs more gently than a ticking clock or than a baby

breathing in his sleep.

Her small, black feet and glossy shining fur,

Her dark-green eyes blinking in the bright day sunshine.

No more lively than a tired horse, or an old man sitting on a seat in the

park.

Only occasionally does she ring in a sparrow, clawed in a moment of

fiendish exertion ;

Or a mouse, mauled by those deadly cat-claws.

 

But at night, when the dark shadows hide the corners of the roofs and

people sleep,

She goes out and meets the other cats from down the road.

Then life begins, night-life of a thousand cats,

The cat life.

The black life.

They go and roll on the irises, and on the lilies, and hold a cat-

conference behind dark trees.

 

Life returns,

The cat life.

Squealing, scratching, and miaouwing and chasing one another through

the shrubs.

Squealing like naughty children, and then miaouwing again.

And then they squeal.

I wake, and wonder what the squealing  is,

Like a child strayed from its mother.

Cats in the garden, sitting on the lilies or chasing one another through

the green shrubs.

The night-life.

The cat life.

The poem was written by DE Rhodes of 6 Cl. That is to say, Dennis Everard Rhodes of 6 Classics. Dennis was born on March 14th 1923. He was the son of the schoolmaster at East Bridgford, a country village to the east of Nottingham, and he entered the High School, on a Nottinghamshire County Council Scholarship, on September 20th 1934, at the age of eleven.

He left the school on July 29th 1941 and went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge with an Open Scholarship.

Dennis Rhodes lived to be 97, and he died only months ago. His adult life was on the academic world stage and some of it was so academic that a simple old codger like myself cannot even understand what he was doing. So, sometime soon, there will be a blog post about Dr Dennis Rhodes PhD, and what he got up to in the last seventy years of his life.

 

 

 

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Filed under Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

POST NUMBER 600: Two brothers fighting fascism (5)

This is my 600th post. Enjoy !!!

On Saturday, February 13th 1943,  Robert Renwick Jackson was flying his Boston III Intruder, serial number AL766, towards Nantes in western France:

His mission was to drop propaganda leaflets for the occupied French, so they could read the real truth about the war for themselves.

Alas, Robert Renwick Jackson died that night along with his navigator. The upper and rear-gunner, Sergeant TS McNeil, survived and became Prisoner of War No 27276 at Lamsdorf, then in German Silesia but now in south-western Poland. Here’s a typical POW camp:

And here’s a hut nowadays:

The second casualty in the Boston was Peter John LeBoldus, the navigator, who would have been sitting in the nose of the aircraft. His name is virtually unknown in England, but he is better known in Canada. His parents were John LeBoldus and Regina LeBoldus née Weisberg, German Catholic immigrants who had six sons and six daughters. John was a hardware and implement dealer. The family lived in Vibank in Saskatchewan. One of the highlights of Peter’s very short life must have been taking tea with the Queen Mother and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Windsor Castle with a group of newly arrived Canadian Airmen in England.

On this particular night, Peter John was preparing for the mission and his brother Martin, also a member of 418 Squadron, but working as a mechanic, had helped him put on his flying clothes and his parachute harness. This was the last time the brothers ever saw each other. This is Peter LeBoldus:

Peter John LeBoldus is buried next to his friend, Robert Renwick Jackson, in Grandcourt War Cemetery.

Sadly, Peter John was not the only member of the LeBoldus family to die in the war. John Anthony “Johnny” LeBoldus was a member of 142 (RAF) Squadron, where he was an air gunner in a Vickers Wellington Mk X, serial number LN566, squadron letters QT-D, “D-Dog”. They took off from RAF Oudna in Tunisia on November 24th 1943 to bomb a ball bearing factory at Villar Perosa near Turin, at the very limit of their range. Extreme weather with wind, cloud, fog, rain, and ice caused the loss of 17 aircraft and 73 men were killed. “Johnny” LeBoldus was one of them:

The third LeBoldus brother to die was Martin Benedict LeBoldus, the same man who had helped his brother, Peter John, with his flying clothes and his parachute harness before his death in Boston AL766. Martin Benedict was killed on February 20, 1944 at the age of 31. He was the flight engineer in a Handley Page Halifax Mark II of the Canadian 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron in Bomber Command, serial number JD114, squadron letters VR-V, “V-Victor”. On February 20, 1944 he and his colleagues took off at 23:12 from RAF Middleton St George near Darlington to bomb Leipzig and they were never seen again. Six other men, with an average age of twenty four, were also killed. John Leslie Beattie, Thomas Gettings, Alfred Harvey Hackbart, Donald Clifford Lewthwaite, Douglas Keith MacLeod and John Ralph Piper.  A total of 79 bombers were lost that night. Here’s Martin Benedict LeBoldus:

Mr Leboldus wrote a very bitter letter to the Secretary of the Department of National Defence for Air about the death of his sons:

“Other boys spending their time of war in Canada, yes hundreds and thousands walking the streets of Canada for years, and all our three boys were in the front line of attack. I have my doubts whether this is right and just. Plenty of those who offered three four years ago never seen any fighting nor smelled any powder, why all mine have to do it?”

Certain other Canadian families no doubt felt the same way. They included the Cantin family, the Colville family, the Forestell family, the Griffiths family, the Kimmel family, the Lanteigne family, the Milner family, the Reynolds family, the Rich family, the Rivait family, the Stodgell family, the Wagner family and the Westlake family, all of whom sacrificed three sons to the cause.

Nowadays the LeBoldus brothers are not totally forgotten. Canada is a vast land so it is comparatively easy to give names to hitherto unnamed geographical features. They are called “geo-memorials” and there are now more than four thousand of them. Leboldus Lake in north-western Saskatchewan is named after Peter John Leboldus. The Leboldus Islands there are named after Martin Benedict Leboldus. The link between Leboldus Lake and Frobisher Lake is called the Leboldus Channel after John Anthony Leboldus. What a pity that we don’t do that over here in England.  What a pity there are no streets in either Nottingham or Solihull named after Robert Jackson, killed at the age of 22, fighting for his country.

(Picture of the black Boston borrowed from wp.scn.ru.)

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, military, The High School

Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (5) “Blackpool, summer 1939”

This poem was published in the School magazine, the Nottinghamian in July 1939. It was written by Alan Douglas Fluder Howard, the son of a school teacher. Alan was born on December 1st  1922 and the family all lived at 5 Alpha Terrace, between North Sherwood Street and Addison Street, fairly close to the High School. Alan entered the High School on September 2oth 1934, as Boy No 5845 and he studied there until the end of the School Year in 1941 when he left to go to Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge with an Open Exhibition of £40 per annum for Classics and a City of Nottingham Scholarship of £80 per annum. Here’s Gonville & Caius College, or at least, a picture of the entrance to Staircase K:

Alan then seems to have become an illustrator of children’s books such as, for example, “The Pimpernel and the Poodle” and “Limping Ginger of London Town” both of which are still on sale, intermittently, on the internet.

Alan died on Monday April 14, 2008 at the Mount Nursing Home in Shrewsbury. He was the much loved and loving husband of Margaret, the father of Shelagh and Jennifer, the grandfather of Laura, Joanna, Harry, Katy and Zachary and the brother of Marian.

Unlike many Cambridge men of his era, Howard did serve in the war. On October 1st 1945, he received an Emergency Commission to promote him from the ranks of the ordinary soldiers to become a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Signals.

This poem is one of the very best you’ll find in the school magazine. It is set in Blackpool in the very last summer before the war began on September 3rd 1939.

Blackpool was, and still is, England’s Holiday Capital. Its most famous building is Blackpool Tower, jealously copied by the jealous Parisian architects within a couple of years of its completion. There are three piers, North, Central and South, there is a huge Pleasure Beach and Blackpool has literally thousands of things to do. And it also has its problems, as this poem will gradually reveal to you……..

BLACKPOOL, 1939

I like to be at the seaside, the seaside, the seaside,

The jolly, jolly seaside, is just the place for me.

 

I love the bracing sea-breeze, the sea-breeze, the sea-breeze,

The sewage-fish-and-chips breeze,

Down by the sea.

 

Oh, how delightful, beautiful, adorable,

Just to spend a day down on the strand !

Gramophones, deck-chairs, chattering lunatics,

And sand sand sand jellyfish sand.

 

How nice to have a picnic,

All on the seashore,

Down by the briny.

Oh, how grand !

 

Lemonade, sandwiches,

All gone musty,

Bread-and-Butter, hard as granite,

Seaweed, sand

 

With sad, shrill wailing, high above the waters,

The slender white seagulls swoop and soar:

Listen to the salt waves softly sighing,

Listen to the breakers crashing on the shore—

“An I says to ‘er, I says—“   “I wanner sticker rock.”

“Johnnie’s gorn an’ pinched me bucket and spide.“

“Let’s ‘ave some fishanchips.“   “Buy me an ice-cream.”

“Wind up the gramophone.”   “Pass the lemonide.”

 

Look at that fat man,

Playing with a beach ball’

Just like a walrus,

Just like a walrus ;

Look at these chocolate papers, toffee papers, newspapers,

And those broken bottles, pleasant for the feet :

 

Here are the side-shows,

Hark! the showmen softly call—

Giraffe-necked women, three legged women,

Fat women, headless women.

Yonder people half-drunk, two-thirds-drunk, completely drunk.

Not a few hyper-drunk, rolling down the street,

 

Hurrah ! for the sea-shore,

The sand-castles,

(So-called).

Hurrah ! for the deck chairs,

(Twopence a time) ;

Cheers for the deep sea, the green sea, the dirty sea,

Covered with frothy-brown,

Smelly-brown

Slime.

 

‘Ray ! for the beastly rock,

Landladies,

Pickpockets,

Roundabouts,

Sideshows,

Gambling dens.

Ray ! for the bandstands,

Machines to tell your fortune ;

No wonder they call us

Homo sapiens.

All that remains now is to show you just one or two pictures of Blackpool.  Here’s the beach, pier  and tower :

And here is an aerial view of the most famous holiday resort in England:

Here are the attractions in the South  Shore area:

Here’s the North Pier. You’d think nobody had heard of any other seaside resort in England. Every single English family and their dog, has turned up:

And here’s the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens:

And finally, a couple of family photographs, both of them taken at Blackpool. First of all, the rather bored little boy is my Dad, born 1922. He looks about eight or nine to me. The lady with him is his mother, my grandmother. Behind them is an escape convict, blending in very skilfully with the cloche hatted crowd :

My grandad, the one who went to Canada and fought in their army, was the husband of the lady above. His father was my namesake, John Knifton, who seems to have acquired a touch of dementia in his final years. On one occasion, at a rather advanced age, he went up to Dr Love’s surgery in High Street, Woodville, and told him that he had come for the job as a doctor. There was, of course, no job. Dr Love went down to see his son, my grandad, and announced to him that “the old professor has really flipped his lid !”

So, here’s the Old Professor:

The lady with him was his second wife, a rather vinegary lady who my grandad and his brothers hated with a will. They would eventually finish up walking down a gangplank onto the docks at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, because of her.

And finally, did you spot him? Staircase K ?

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

Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (1)

About a year ago I bought a collection, on DVD, of what were,  supposedly,  some 12,000+  images of World War  2 . I was very surprised, and pleased, to see that most of them were not British or American but were in fact either Russian or German. I would like to share the best of these photographs with you because a good number of them have great photographic merits as well as capturing a split second in history. They also reflect quite accurately how that massive struggle was unfolding.

September 1st 1939. The Germans attacked Poland in some strength and soon, prisoners were being taken in large numbers:

On June 22nd 1941, came Operation Barbarossa. The Germans attacked the Soviet Union where lebensraum was almost limitless. Victories came easily. Cities were blown to bits:

Towns were destroyed:

And villages burned:

Russian prisoners were captured in their hundreds of thousands:

The Germans didn’t always feed the Russians. In years to come this would result in cannibalism in many of the camps. A German sentry would shoot a Russian prisoner, and the others, all starving, would then eat him:

For the advancing army, there were always meteorological problems, In the height of summer, it was dust:

But then it started to rain as autumn set in. Not too much to begin with. But then it got worse. The Russians call this time “распутица” (pronounced “rass-poot-eat-sa”) which means “the season of bad roads”.  The origin of the word is that “рас” (“rass”) means “in different directions” and “пут” (“poot”) means the road. And that’s exactly what happens as the road disappears into a sea of mud. It begins very gradually with this:

And it ends with this:

Traditionally, the weather starts to get colder and much more wintry on November 7th, the anniversary of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. But the Germans did not know this, and they just woke up one day and there was a light dusting of snow, and the mud was all frozen. They preferred that. At least you could walk on frozen mud:

But then it snowed a little more, and a little more. At first it was very picturesque:

But then you find your tank is stuck in the frozen mud and the snowdrifts and it’s unusable. You expect to be given a winter uniform and winter equipment but it never comes. You start to feel cold. And it’s no fun playing stupid games in the snow any more:

 

 

 

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Filed under History, military, Russia