The Sandiacre Screw Company (10)

The brave young men from the High School who died defending their country have left relatively little behind them. Sometimes we have a  few blurry photographs of school plays (the “woman” next to the teacher, and the boy in the middle of the very back row);

And sometimes we have a few blurry pictures of them in their uniforms:

We have some nice pieces of writing in the Nottinghamian magazine from Frank Corner and from John Walker. In the School Archives, John Grain’s school cricket blazer has hung on a hook there since 1936 and will hopefully continue to hang there until “towers cave in and walls collapse”. Whenever I saw it, I always thought that John could not possibly have imagined such a lonely fate for his blazer. No, he thought that one day in 1980. when he was 61 years old and a fat old man, he would come up to visit his old school and get them to dig out his old blazer and he’d then try it on. He’d say:

“Look! It almost fits me!”

And everybody would laugh and say:

“Why!  You can’t even get it over your shoulders! You must have grown a lot of muscles in the last forty five years! Perhaps the army made you fitter!”

And then he’d go back to his grandchildren and tell them where he’d been that day, and what it was like when he was at school.

We have a couple of Keith Doncaster’s poems.

In addition, we also have a lovely picture of the Officers Training Corps in 1937, with Keith on the left hand end of the very front row, looking extremely youthful and nowhere near his calendar age:

Keith Doncaster though, is the only casualty from the Second World War, of around 125 men, of whom we have a cinefilm. It was originally for sale on the internet but it can now be watched for free on BFI-Player, courtesy of the BFI, the British Film Institute. The four-minute film is silent and rather blurred, but everything is recognisable.

The title is “Shenstone and Longmoor Farm May-July 1943” but most of it clearly shows Keith in the garden of the family house in Sandiacre, relaxing on leave in the early summer of 1943.

Keith is in full, impeccable, RAF uniform, his hair shining with the traditional Brylcreem. He is a very slight young man, looking much younger than his actual age:

And then you can turn it into a close-up:

Then we see him walking towards the camera:

Then he’s on the lawn scratching the cat’s ears,:

He’s walking around the lawn, and then sitting down on a garden bench:

His sergeant’s stripes stand out in a pale grey world. What must be his father is there, wearing his office suit and smoking a cigarette:

A very old couple is there too. They could be Grandma and Grandad, but equally, they may well be the gardener and the cook:

There are shots of what must be Longmoor Farm with cows. One of them is very tame and Keith can scratch the back of its head and neck just like a dog:

Back at Sandiacre, the humans are still a mystery. Keith is with an elegantly dressed woman that may be his mother:

Certainly Dad is there, this time without the hat:

Back on the farm there is a herd of cows in a field, then two calves are let loose in a field to scamper and chase each other like two dogs:

But who are the two men? The cowmen? Alas, we will certainly never know:

And one of the stills I produced is quite lovely:

One more blog post, before Keith Doncaster fades back into history.

The home movie is available at

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-doncaster-shenstone-and-longmoor-farm-may-july-1943-1943-online

and of slightly lower standards of presentation, at

https://www.macearchive.org/films/doncaster-shenstone-and-longmoor-farm-may-july-1943

13 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Film & TV, History, military, Nottingham, The High School

13 responses to “The Sandiacre Screw Company (10)

    • Thank you, Derrick. That was the effect I was trying to achieve. I just wish I had been able to tell, in flippant fashion, a tale of the wild excesses of all 125 of these young men at the Nottingham Over-Sixties Club. Alas, that was not to be!

  1. GP

    Thank you for the pictures, as the movie will not show outside of the UK. I had to go back and take another look at that smiling face before he fades back into history. Sad that it is so.

  2. Thanks for sharing, John. It’s great you feature the small town heroes.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. Too often, we think that the only heroes are the ones who appear in films, whereas every single combatant was willing to put his or her life on the line and deserves our thinks for that.

    • That was exactly why I started something like six or seven years’ work as soon as I retired. I realised that only 82 of the eventual 125 were even on the initial list in 1946, and I thought that everybody on the eventual list in 2016 should receive recognition, especially as they had all made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Freedom.

  3. What an amazing find John. I’ll bet whoever took the film never thought it would ever end up on public view. You can just hear the camera man say ‘and walk forward’.

    • I hadn’t heard the cameraman but I’ll give it a couple of listens. I just presumed that the whole film was silent. What a huge pity that nobody thought to conduct interviews of the different members of the family, although I suppose that was not anything they had ever seen given that TV wasn’t invented yet!
      Incidentally, the Doncaster family were exceptionally rich, so a camera was a viable Christmas or birthday present for somebody in the family.

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