The Carvings in the Tower (3)

Last time, we met Richard Milnes who left the High School on the last day of the Summer Term, July 30th 1940. Further south, the Battle of Britain was about to reach its peak.

Neither he, nor his friends, when they carved their names and their message on a stone window sill  in the High School Tower would have known how the war would turn out.

The Germans were certainly well ahead so far. And to add to England’s troubles, the American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose this day to give his firm promise that he would never ever send “our boys” to war.

I don’t know if it was a desire to leave something defiant that could not easily be wiped away, but Richard and his friends climbed up into the School Tower, the one that dominates the skyline of the city, and carved their names and their message on a stone window sill. It is still there today:

“The following were members

of the anti-parachutist squad

May 20-21, 1940 (being first to do so)

RA Palmer, JS Gibson, DJ Furley,

RM Gunther, RB Holroyd,

RV Milnes, R Mellor, JMT Saunders”.

JS Gibson worked in the Preparatory School from September 1938. He left in November 1941 and served, it is believed, in RAF ground crew, although these particular men are members of the RAAF:

By 1943, nine of the 32 members of staff had gone off to fight for their country. They were CH Beeby, AR Davis, JS Gibson, F Greener, WD Gregg, JS Hunter, KC Lewis, AR Pears and AW Thomas. All of them survived as far as I know. Mr Gibson left the RAF in 1945 but did not return to the High School.

Another member of the anti-parachutist squad, Robert Bernard Holroyd, lived at 4 Bonington Road in Mapperley:

Robert came to the High School on September 20th 1934 as Boy No 5844 and he left on February 11th 1941. He had passed his School Certificate in 1939.

In the OTC and the JTC he reached the rank of sergeant and passed his Certificate ‘A’. The latter attested the holder’s abilities in battle drill, command, including drill commands, drill, map reading, range work requiring a minimum score with .22 rifle and weapon training. The holder was considered “eligible for consideration for a commission” in the Territorial Army. In the first few months of the conflict, many holders of Certificate ‘A’ were also considered eminently capable of teaching conscripts how to march, salute, shoulder arms and so on:

Robert also attended the Air Cadets and became a Lance Corporal, a Corporal and then a Sergeant by 1940. In sport, he won his First XV Colours and was Captain of Rugby in 1940-1941:

He was “An enthusiastic  footballer whose keenness is an example. An accomplished hooker. Defence sound.”

At the School Sports Day in 1940, he was the “Victor Ludorum”, the best all round athlete. He was a good, enthusiastic rower and was awarded his “Blazer for Rowing”.

During the war, he became a Signalman in the Royal Corps of Signals. Let’s hope that he never exhibited the same levels of criminality as Reginald Lawson, the clergyman’s son, punished in 1911 for “signalling words of an indecent nature by semaphore”.

On May 23rd 1942, that Certificate ‘A’ paid off when Robert Bernard Holroyd was made a Second Lieutenant. He stayed in the forces after the war, because on May 3rd 1952 what had been an emergency commission as a Lieutenant was firmed up to a real commission. I have found out no more than that, and Lieutenant Holroyd can now walk off into history. Let’s hope he was happy and lived to be a hundred!




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

12 responses to “The Carvings in the Tower (3)

  1. GP

    Hearing FDR say he wouldn’t send our boys to war should have been the key that he would – what politician ever says what they mean?
    I was glad to hear Lt. Holroyd made it home!!

    • In Blog post 4 about this carved mantelpiece, you can read the story of Bob Gunther who also made it home, although after a prolonged stay in the tender care of the Japanese Imperial Hotel chain, which looked after quite a few like Bob, keen to take off any excess weight and wanting to build up their muscle strength,preferably in a Japanese coal mine.
      Now you come to mention FDR and the opposite of what he said, wasn’t it Woodrow Wilson who also said that “our boys” would never fight in Europe in WW1 in order to win the Presidential Election in 1916? And where did they all find themselves a year or so later?

      • GP

        As I said, John, if a politician made a definite remark – you can expect the opposite.
        An old joke – How can you tell a politician is lying?
        His lips are moving.

  2. FDR had a tough job entering the war with so many ethnic Germans and Italians in the USA. Lucky for Europe that Japan settled the decision making process.

    • Please forgive a long answer but I researched what turned out to be a very complex issue.
      The Japanese admitted in 1994 that they wanted to declare war on the USA half an hour or so before Pearl Harbor started but couldn’t because of a “cock-up on the paperwork front”

      Adolf Hitler declared war on the USA not the other way round. To all intents and purposes, the US was already no longer neutral so he made war between them official. See the “Background” section of
      This very interesting link to the US Navy museum shows the war that was already going on between U-boats and American warships well before December 1941:
      As regards internment it was very interesting to investigate.
      Germans…..from a US population of 43 million and 1.2 million ethnic Germans, 11,000 were detained. The rest acted as good citizens should.
      Italians……Up to 1.5 million people of Italian descent are thought to have served in the war, and 14 Italian Americans received the Medal of Honor. Some 1,881 were taken into custody and detained under wartime restrictions.
      About 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were interned. Most of them lived on the Pacific Coast. They were forcibly relocated and incarcerated in concentration camps. Approximately two-thirds of the internees were United States citizens. California defined anyone with a Japanese great-great-grandparent as a person who should be interned.
      Of the three groups, the Japanese were worst treated, probably to the same extent as the Boers in British camps at the turn of the century.
      I learnt a lot answering that question!

  3. Another very interesting part of the story John. I hope that when, if ever, the school is pulled down for high rise flats or the like, that this stone is preserved somewhere for prosperity. It’s just a wonderful piece of history especially when you add the stories behind the writing. I also wonder how many other signallers sent ‘inappropriate’ messages by semaphore!

    • That’s an interesting question. Perhaps it was the standard way for the scouts and other organisations to keep semaphore lessons interesting, rather than just keep signalling “marmalade” or “porcupine ” or other boring stuff.
      I certainly think you are right about this particular boy. He will certainly have had his imitators and the time he was caught will not have been his first offence !

  4. I wonder what the signaller’s Dad thought.

    • I don’t know, but he wasn’t the first clergyman to produce a very naughty boy. Two miscreants in the 1930s were expelled (extremely rare in those days) for knocking old mens’ hats into the gutter as they cycled past, making offensive remarks, spitting in the street at High School boys and at strangers, possessing contraceptive appliances, possessing a key to Mr Smith’s form room, and another to the cycle shed.

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