Category Archives: History

Why no statue? (9)

Almroth Edward Wright was born on August 10th 1861 in Middleton Tyas, which is a small village near Richmond in the extremely picturesque countryside of North Yorkshire in England.

And here’s the village church, which dates back to the twelfth century:

Almroth’s family was of mixed Anglo-Irish and Swedish origin. His father was a rector in the Church of England but his mother was Ebba Johanna Dorothea Almroth, the daughter of Nils Wilhelm Almroth, who was a professor of chemistry in the Carolinska Medico-Surgical Institute and the Royal Artillery School in Stockholm. In later years he became the director of the Swedish Royal Mint.

Almroth does not seem to be particularly famous nowadays, but he changed the world. Even on the Wikipedia page for his village, though, he is not paid any real attention. The village’s “notable people” therefore, are listed as, in first place, the fraudster Sir Edmund Backhouse and his brother, the naval officer, Roger Backhouse. Then comes in third place, Lady Alicia Blackwood, and then Arthur Francis Pease. Then comes Almroth Wright and his brother, and finally Keith Hawkins, the poker player.

Almroth was a lot cleverer than any of those, though.

Almroth was, in actual fact, the man responsible for developing a system of inoculation against typhoid fever, a disease which, at the time, was killing literally millions of people across the world. In the late 1890s, he also pointed out to whoever cared to listen, that one day bacteria would develop a resistance to antibiotics and then we would really be in trouble. His other main idea was that preventive medicine was what doctors should really be aiming at developing. And lastly, in any spare time he had, he also managed to develop vaccines against enteric tuberculosis and pneumonia, the latter a disease which killed more people in England than any other at that time. Not for nothing was it called

“The Captain of the Men of Death”

In the 1890 census in the United States, 76,490 had died of it, a death rate per 100,000 of the population of 186.94.

Almroth graduated in 1882 from Trinity College, Dublin with first class honours in modern literature and modern languages. In 1883 he graduated in medicine, before studying and lecturing at Cambridge, London, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Marburg, and Straßburg as it then was. Back in England in 1891, he worked in the laboratories of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and was then appointed Professor of Pathology at the Army Medical School in Netley, on the south coast of Hampshire in England.

Here is the hospital in black and white:And here it is in colour:

At Netley, he developed a method of immunising people against that mighty killer, typhoid fever. And then, in 1898, he went to India as a member of the Plague Commission and tested his vaccine on the 3,000 Indian soldiers who had all volunteered to try it out for him.

And it worked!

Not a single one of the vaccinated soldiers succumbed to the dreaded disease. And then, the vaccine was equally successful in the Boer War of 1899-1902, although a major mistake was made by continuing to make vaccination optional rather than compulsory.

There were 328,244 men in the British Army in the Boer War but sadly, only 14,626 men volunteered to be injected. None of that select group, though, were among the 57,684 cases of typhoid in South Africa or the 9,022 who died from the disease. Exactly as had been the case in India, the ones who had the vaccine all survived because of it.

Until Almroth came upon the scene, though, typhoid fever had always held the entire world in its grasp. It was a simple disease with lots of places to catch it. As Wikipedia says:

“Typhoid is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the fæces of an infected person”.

That scenario was easily arranged before a vaccine was developed.

In 430 BC in Greece, typhoid killed Pericles and a third of all Athenians. It killed off at least half of the inhabitants of the English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. Between 1607 and 1624 more than 6,000 of them perished and they may well have passed it to the rest, thereby eliminating the entire colony……

Typhoid went on to kill 80,000 soldiers in the American Civil War. And I have seen more than one source which said that in every war fought by British forces until the Boer War, more men were lost to typhoid than to the enemy.

Next time, we’ll look at the impact that Almroth’s vaccine had on the number of casualties in the British Empire forces in World War One. It’s giving nothing away to say that he prevented deaths from disease in unprecedented numbers.

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Filed under Africa, History, Nottingham, Science, The High School, Wildlife and Nature

Headless Valley 1

The Nahanni Valley is in the middle of more or less nowhere in Canada’s Northwest Territories, some 300 miles or so west of Yellowknife. It is, however, unbelievably beautiful:

It is a very hostile region, much of it accessible only on foot, by boat or by floatplane. For well over a hundred years, there have been countless tales told about fur trappers and gold prospectors who went into the area, and then either disappeared without trace or were found minus their heads. And obviously dead.

One website, taken more or less at random from the many, states that

“Over the years, many unfortunate travellers and explorers have gone missing, or turned up dead and beheaded. The number of decapitated bodies found within Nahanni Valley have earned it the nickname “Valley of Headless Men”. 

The number of headless bodies found in the Nahanni Valley varies enormously from one website to another or from one book to another. It is usually quoted as between somewhere 30-50 deaths. Explanations vary. The chief suspects include the extremely naughty Naha tribe who are apparently extremely aggressive and extremely elusive and guard their land very jealously. Or perhaps it’s a different group of people, namely a race of hairy, cave-dwelling cannibals who are extremely aggressive and extremely hungry too. And don’t forget that legendary scary hominid who goes by the name of “Nuk-luk”, a Neanderthal-like creature, five feet tall with a long beard. He doesn’t wear any clothes. Here he is, in a very blurred photograph, thank goodness:

In first place in the long list of suspects, though, is the supposedly much more violent northern variety of Bigfoot, examples of which supposedly measuring up to twelve feet tall or even more are regularly claimed in this area. This is a perfect application of Bergmann’s Rule :

“According to Bergmann’s rule, the body size of vertebrates is closely related to the average ambient air temperature in the region in which the vertebrate lives, so organisms in warmer regions are typically smaller than members of the same species in colder regions.”

Given this colourful and perhaps rather horrific, background to the area, in 1971, the intrepid English explorer, traveller and writer, Ranulph Fiennes, aka “Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes” to give him his full name, took a small expedition of soldiers from the Royal Scots Greys to explore the Nahanni Valley. Ranulph’s book is called “The Headless Valley” and contains a very detailed account of the murders that have given the area its name (and his book its title). Clearly, from his writings, the author seems to have discovered that many of the victims had, quite simply, not lost their heads.

But first, from the internet, the famous tale of the McLeod brothers, who were mixed race, with one First Nation parent and one white:

 

“In 1908, after a lengthy search which had lasted two years, their brother Charley finally found the skeletons of Frank and Willie McLeod. Both men had been shot as they lay warm in their blankets, one either side the fire. They still had their heads. There was no sign of Weir, their partner, he was never seen again.”

I did find, though, in a rather more sensationalist book, an account which recorded the tale of the McLeod brothers as being found “reportedly decapitated”.  To be fair, though, there were some men on the list who did lack their heads:

” In 1916, a mounted policeman called Corporal Churchill found the headless skeleton of a prospector called Jorgensen up the Nahanni.”

Jorgenson evidently died a rather painful death, although one which had been particularly thoroughly carried out:

“a tough experienced woodsman, his remains were found by a log cabin near the Flat River’s confluence with the Nahanni. A loaded rifle close to the body, the cabin had been burnt down…. However heavy a sleeper Jorgensen would surely have woken up if the cabin had been on fire …..if he was still alive.”

And next, one with no head mentioned:

“In 1922, a prospector named John O’ Brien went up the Nahanni and never came back…”

The Nahanni Valley stories are good examples of how a rather shaky, iffy, perhaps somewhat gossipy piece of evidence can take on a life of its own. Granted, there may have been a small number of trappers and prospectors found minus their heads, but such a fate was certainly not what happened to every single person killed or disappeared in the Nahanni Valley, and there were certainly not thirty to fifty of them. More blood-soaked examples next time, when we will further examine that familiar old dilemna:

“Head or no Head?”

 

 

 

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Filed under Canada, Criminology, Cryptozoology, History, Science, Wildlife and Nature

Strathallan…………the lost air museum (2)

Last time we looked at just a few of the aircraft which my friend, Bill, and myself saw on our visit to Strathallan Air Museum, near Auchterader, in the mid-1970s. Strathallan, if you remember, was the aircraft museum which eventually went bankrupt and all of the aircraft were disposed of in one way or another. A look at the map shows why, in pre-motorway days, very few visitors came to see the aircraft:

One of the most easily identifiable aircraft at Strathallan  was their de Havilland Comet, the world’s first jet airliner, which made its maiden flight on July 27th 1949.

Here’s my photograph, taken with a plastic camera whose controls for light were “bright” and “dull” :

And here’s a de Havilland Comet, by a much better photographer, which I found on the internet. On second thoughts, though, perhaps that may be a model. If so, it’s a really good one :

Of course, it’s a model ! But what are the other articles on this 1950s table? Is that the pilot’s map?

The Strathallan Comet (XK655) was eventually broken up for scrap metal, and in 1995 its nose was sold to Gatwick Airport for display purposes on the Spectators Terrace. Not a fate I myself would care to share. Here it is:

On an internet forum I found “G-ORDY” who said that XK655 was built for BOAC as the first Comet Mark 2, G-AMXA. It was eventually converted into “a Comet 2R, an aircraft of electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT) configuration, by Marshalls of Cambridge, and flew with 51 Squadron from Wyton. The forward fuselage of XK655 is now in the Al Mahatta Museum, located at the old Sharjah airport, UAE, and is restored in BOAC colours.”

There was another de Havilland aircraft at Strathallan. This was a De Havilland DH-98 Mosquito TT35, “TT” standing for “target tug”. Here’s my photograph:

And here it is in a much better photograph which I found on the internet:

In the RAF, the Strathallan aircraft had a serial number of RS712 and had featured as one of the bombers in the film “633 Squadron” and the later film “Mosquito Squadron”. The aircraft is currently displayed at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, in Wisconsin, as RS712 and EG-F, the aircraft flown by Group Captain P.C.Pickard during the attack on Amiens prison in 1944:

I have actually already written very briefly about the book featured above, in a post called “Books for Christmas 1”.  I said:

“A famous incident of the air war is investigated in this book by Jean-Pierre Ducellier. Its title is “The Amiens Raid: Secrets Revealed: The Truth Behind the Legend of Operation Jericho” and Ducellier has spent the majority of his adult life attempting to put the evidence together into a coherent whole. And his solution is not a lot like the official version.”

Here’s Strathallan’s Grumman Avenger, a TBM-3W2 of the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Koninklijke Marine. Here’s my photograph:

And here’s a much better photograph, of an Avenger in a much better state of repair:

When the museum closed, the Dutch aircraft went back to the USA and is now registered as N452HA at Hickory Air Museum, a private museum in North Carolina whose proud boast is that they never charge a penny for entrance.
The only other aircraft I can remember seeing at Strathallan was the RS3, built in 1945 at the Reid and Sigrist factory at Desford, some seven miles from Leicester:

It was designed as a small, twin engined trainer, although the RAF showed little interest. In 1948 it was adapted for prone-pilot experiments, with a lengthened, glazed nose, and a set of controls for another pilot who lay on his stomach. Here’s a better photograph from the internet:

The RS3 flew in this form in June 1951, and eventually went to the Institute of Aviation Medicine at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.

When I went to Strathallan, there may have been some other aircraft there which today, just over fifty years later, I have simply forgotten. It all depends on which year I went to the museum and in which year certain aircraft were sold off. The aircraft which I can no longer recall were an Avro Anson, an Avro Lancaster, a Supermarine Spitfire and a Westland Lysander. To be honest, had they been there during my visit, I do think I would probably have taken some  photographs.

This picture from the Internet was the closest I got to the ex-Strathallan Lancaster, KB976 and GB-BCOH. It is currently held at Polk City, Florida:

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Strathallan…………the lost air museum (1)

In the mid-1970s, Bill Brown, a friend of mine, and I used to spend time camping around Scotland, the Land of Mountains, Mist and Midges. For the most part, we explored the wild west coast, but one year, probably 1975, on our return home, we stopped at a place called Strathallan, on the eastern side of Scotland, to visit the air museum there. No digital cameras then. At RAF Cosford in 2011 I took 854 photographs. At Strathallan, in around 1975, with 16 shots on each rather expensive roll of film, I took 11 photographs. Strathallan is quite a remote place. Look for the orange arrow, resplendent in his kilt:    

 I didn’t realise at the time that Strathallan was well on the way to having to close, because of financial pressures. As somebody said, it was too remote from any large city and hardly anybody could be bothered to visit it. And back then, the motorway north of Edinburgh, the M90, simply did not exist.

That said, I was happy enough with the museum and I took photographs of the majority of the aircraft. Whether there were any more aircraft that I did not think were worth the cost of a photograph, I do not know. I can’t remember any more. That fact, to me, is plain scary. What percentage of our lives have we totally forgotten? 50%? 70%? 90%?

My favourite exhibit was their very colourful Avro Shackleton T4. The Shackleton was the last of the Manchester-Lancaster-Lincoln-Shackleton line and was used for maritime reconnaissance. I have clear memories of them flying over our house in South Derbyshire in the early 1960s. Presumably, they were following a Severn-Trent shortcut.

Here’s my only photograph:

The stripes on some of the eight propellers are to stop you walking into them. Here’s a photograph taken by a proper photographer. I found it on the internet:

As far as the Avro Shackleton is concerned, the British and the South African Air Force were the only countries to use it.

Here it is in even stripier hue. This particular aircraft was operated by the South African Air Force.

My Dad once saw a man walk accidentally into the propeller of a Lancaster. It affected him for the rest of his life, I always thought. He only ever spoke of it to me once.

Strathallan’s Shackleton was broken up eventually, although its nose is now in the Midland Air Museum in Coventry. Not how I envisage my own eventual fate.

The museum had a Lockheed Hudson, an America  light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft, primarily operated by the RAF. It was a military conversion of the Lockheed Super Electra airliner, and the first ever large contract for Lockheed. Here’s the Model 14 Super Electra:

 

And here’s the Lockheed Hudson at Strathallan:

I would meet this aircraft again at Hendon and take three photographs of it, rather than just the one:

The kangaroo is the obvious link between the two encounters:

Next time, we’ll continue this mini-tour around the lost aircraft of Strathallan.

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Mrs Bowman-Hart, the first woman teacher at Nottingham High School

As far as I can ascertain, Mrs Bowman-Hart was the very first woman ever to be employed by Nottingham High School as a teacher. That means that there had been a longish wait of at least 370 years between Dame Agnes Mellors and the High School’s presumed foundation in 1513, and Mrs Bowman-Hart beginning her fourteen year career at the school. Mrs Bowman-Hart seems to have worked there from 1883-1897, years which fell partly within the headmastership of Dr Robert Dixon. Before he became Headmaster, Dr Dixon had worked as Karl Marx’s body double in several racy films about the rise of the proletariat:

Dr Dixon left in July 1884 and was succeeded by Dr James Gow, a man who, when he was offered the job, had never taught boys in his life. His strong point, though, was that he was extremely clever, having finished third best classicist at Cambridge University in 1875, winning the Chancellor’s Classical Medal :

Here is the staff photograph of 1884 with Dr Dixon, the Headmaster, and Mrs Bowman-Hart, sitting next to each other in the centre:

Dr Robert Dixon had had enormous problems during his tenure of office from 1868–1884. Builders were constantly present in the school, often rectifying major faults in the new building. Dr Dixon clearly suffered from anxiety and depression because of these problems, but things deteriorated even further after the death of his wife, which left him with five young children to look after. School standards fell and soon Nottingham’s other schools were gleefully welcoming former High School pupils. They included High Pavement, People’s College and Queen’s Walk School, which would one day be renamed “Mundella”.

In January 1884, though, in his termly report, Dr Dixon was actually able to report to the Governors that better results had now been achieved in Languages and Mathematics. Furthermore, they were better results than at any time in the past sixteen years. Science had also improved, and there was much praise for Mrs Bowman-Hart who was now coming in to teach singing in music classes. The latter were extremely popular because boys could participate enthusiastically in the lessons, rather than just sit there and listen.

Mrs Bowman-Hart was the sister of John Farmer, who had been the Music Master at the famous Harrow School from 1862-1885. He was responsible for writing the music of the Harrow School song “Forty Years On”, the lyrics being written by Edward Ernest Bowen. John Farmer was a popular teacher at Harrow, although for some unknown reason he was always nicknamed “Sweaty John”. After his years at Harrow, Farmer seems have become a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford.

Here’s Mrs Bowman-Hart next to the Headmaster in the staff photograph above. It’s just slightly enlarged:

It was presumably because of these Harrow connections that Mrs Bowman-Hart had the High School boys singing what were originally Harrow songs, such as “Forty years on”. This latter song was for many years afterwards to be regarded as the High School song.

Its words were exceptionally stirring, especially the chorus…

Forty years on, when afar and asunder,

Parted are those who are singing today,

When you look back and forgetfully wonder,

What you were like in your work and your play,

Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you

Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song;

Visions of boyhood shall float then before you,

Echoes of dreamland shall bear then along.

Chorus

Follow up; Follow up ; Follow up ; Follow up ; Follow up ;

Till the field ring again and again

With the tramp of the twenty two men

Follow up; Follow up;

There were two more verses, and much chorusing of the refrain “Follow up ; Follow up”. Ironically, the best recording I could find on Youtube came from Camberwell Grammar School:

It remains quite a turgid dirge though, and, as a school song, sounds far too much to me like a bunch of Englishmen trying vainly to outdo the Welsh rugby crowd singing “Land of my Fathers”.

Mrs Bowman-Hart lived in Shakespeare Street, or “Shakspere Street” as it was called when she lived there. Her house was in Angelo Terrace and was No 16. Angelo Terrace seems to have included Nos 12, 14, 16, 16½, 18 and 20. Nowadays, Age UK is No 12 and “Bard House” has been built on all of the houses from No 14 to No 22, so the majority of Angelo Terrace has disappeared. Mrs Bowman-Hart’s house therefore, is somewhere underneath “Bard House”, the building on the left with the two people walking past it:

At No 16, Mrs Bowman-Hart ran the Nottingham Branch of the “Harrow Music School” and held the rank of “Principal” there. In addition, at 7.30 pm every Saturday evening, the High School Musical Society used to meet at No 16. Entry was free to all past and present members of the school.

On Tuesday, February 26th 1889, the High School’s new Debating Society held its first ever meeting and the Headmaster, Dr James Gow, was elected President. For the first few years, the society held many more musical evenings, or “soirées”, than actual debates, including, for example, Mrs Bowman-Hart’s class singing “Holiday on the Rhine”. These events formed an important part of the school’s social life at the time.

One final detail about this energetic woman is that she was the person who founded the Nottingham College of Music, in 1863. Operating under the aegis of Harold Edwin Gibbs of 26 Regent Street, by 1900, it had more than two hundred pupils. Mr Gibbs was to become the Chief Music Master at the High School from 1897-1901.

In 1875 Mrs Bowman-Hart and others, along with Henrietta Carey and her sisters had founded “The Nottingham Town and County Social Guild” whose aim was the “social betterment of the common people”. And quite right, too!

What a true Victorian! No task was too large to be attempted, whether it involved an association to get the working class to wash more frequently or held competitions for the cleanest homes or even the prettiest window flower boxes.

And if you think that you have heard Mrs Bowman-Hart’s name somewhere, but can’t place it, it could be because she endowed a High School prize for singing for many, many years after her death. You have probably heard her name read out aloud on Speech Day and thought to yourself “I wonder who that is?”

 

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Keith Doncaster’s Poem

This is Mr Hardwick, who spent a large part of his time at the High School as the form master of 2A. In this photograph he is some twenty years older than when he plays a small part in this particular story:

In 1936, Keith Doncaster was with Mr Hardwick in Second Form A. Aged only twelve, he was honoured by having a short poem featured in the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian. It was entitled “Poetry” and this is how it went:

Poetry

I’m not a Poet

And I know it.

The next line will take some time.

Now I’ve started,

All thoughts have parted

From my head,

So now I think I’ll go to bed.”

Still a young boy and now thirteen years old, Keith had a second poem which was featured in the Nottinghamian. It was called “Gathering Shells” and he wrote it when he was in Third Form A with Mr Beeby in 1937. Here’s Mr Beeby, in the middle of the group:

This is, in actual fact, an enlargement of a staff photograph taken in 1946, just twelve months after the end of the war. Mr Beeby, late Scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, was one of a small group of High School teachers who joined up to fight for his country. Like Keith Doncaster, he joined the RAF where he became a War Substantive Flying Officer, which meant that as long as the conflict lasted he held that rank. In the RAF he served in the Signals Unit of the Technical Branch This may possibly have been Radio Countermeasures and Jamming as well as Direction Finding. Flying Officer Beeby may even have been working in Electronic Warfare but he would have been instructed never to say a word about any of this top secret stuff to anybody. And he would have kept that faith for the rest of his life.

As soon as I read Keith’s second poem, I realised what poetry he might have written had he lived, and that, even if he did not realise it himself, he had inadvertently foretold his own premature death:

Gathering Shells

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

The poem summarises, in nine lines, the lives all humans lead. We pursue happiness, we like our pleasures, each one of us, we run along our own silvery beach, gathering coloured shells, objects which are attractive and pretty but ultimately of little or no value on the cosmic scale. We are just the same now, eighty years later. Short lived creatures who enjoy the sand and the sun and the shells, which we consider to be highly important and worthy of our attention. But ultimately, they are of little or no value whatsoever.  The only things which are important are the distant bells, because they call us, one day, to our doom. But we choose to ignore them, and just to run along the silvery beach for a little while longer.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

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The Sandiacre Screw Company (11)

Let’s recap this sad, sad, tale. And I’ve also found out one or two important new facts, and I’ve found a good number of new details. So don’t just dismiss it. Take a walk 80 years back into the past…..

Ivan Keith Doncaster was born on October 17th 1923. His mother was Evelyn Mary Fell before she got married. His father was Raymond Doncaster, an engineer. Ray’s father was Sir Robert Doncaster, the founder and owner of the Sandiacre Screw Company, a huge firm, the enormous size of whose premises on Sandiacre’s Bradley Street reflected perfectly the size of the business:

Sir Robert arrived in Sandiacre, a small town of some 9,000 inhabitants, around the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1899 he was living at “The Grange” on Derby Road and by 1912, he was living at “The Chestnuts” on the same road. (Or, he had just changed the name of his house.)

Ray and Evelyn Doncaster, Keith’s parents, lived at “Shenstone” in Longmoor Lane which is just one section of an extremely long road which runs north to south,  across the middle of the town. It begins as Ilkeston Road, then Lenton Street, then Longmoor Lane as it passes under Brian Clough Way and then finally Petersham Road.  In the 1930s, houses in Longmoor Lane were so infrequent that house numbers were not necessary. The address given to the High School for young Keith, in 1933, therefore, did not include a house number. Just “Shenstone” would suffice. The house was actually the modern No 108, to the south of Brian Clough Way, almost on the brow of the hill as you travel southwards. And this detached house, set back from the road, is absolutely enormous. It was originally built for the founder of the family firm, Sir Robert Doncaster, and was set in its own grounds, with mature trees and lots of space in every direction. It is currently pebble dashed completely white and must contain many very large and lovely rooms. One quite fascinating detail that I found out was that the house’s garage has its own minor place in history. Protected by hundreds of sandbags, it operated as one of the ARP centres for nearby Sandiacre. The ARP (Air Raid Precautions) was set up in 1937 as an organisation to protect the civil population from the worst effects of the inevitable terror bombing by the Luftwaffe. This is the house:

Ray Doncaster, Keith’s father, served in the army during the First World War. When he returned home in 1919, Ray became Assistant Works Manager of his father’s company. In due course, he was promoted to Works Manager, eventually replacing his father as Managing Director. He retired during the 1960s. It does not take a fortune teller to work out that, had he lived, Ray Doncaster’s only son, Ivan Keith Doncaster, would himself eventually have succeeded to that position. Instead, Keith did not come back from his war and the company eventually just disappeared. How many hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs were lost when young Sergeant Doncaster’s Lancaster was shot down? Today, the area which was occupied by the Sandiacre Screw Company is easily traceable. It is the brownish area on this modern map, with Longmoor Lane to the west and the railway tracks to the right. The Orange Arrow marks the spot:

Nowadays, this area is home to an almost uncountable number of modern industrial units, small workshops,  places where a large lorry can be loaded, places where a large lorry can be unloaded,  places to have a broken windscreen replaced, places to rent storage space, places where they carry out autorepairs, distribution centres and supermarkets. But it’s a dead place:

Just here and there, occasionally, a vehicle drives past, a car drives into one of the unit’s car parks. A van sets off to deliver car parts to Bingham. A fork lift truck driver shouts a greeting across to his friend in a lorry. It is a huge area but it certainly does not support anywhere near the huge number of people that used to work for the Doncaster family:

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Here and there a few red brick buildings remain. And the occasional red brick wall:

They are all that is left of the Sandiacre Screw Company nowadays. Just one German bullet had such a huge effect. Initially on one 20 year old mid-upper gunner. And then the ripples spread wider, and affected a whole family. Then they touched on a whole factory and its workforce of so many hundreds of workers in a distant English town. And thirty years or so after that Lancaster plunged to earth, the workforce found they had no work, and ultimately, they had no factory.

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Madame Lionnet, the High School’s French mistress

Madame Marie Lionnet was one of the very few women to work at Nottingham High School during the Victorian era. She may even have been the second-ever woman to be employed by the school. Regrettably, I have found out relatively little about her, with only a series of mere snapshots of her fascinating and colourful life available at various intervals.

Marie Lionnet was born in middle to late 1835 or early 1836, although I have failed abjectly to discover either her maiden name or her place of birth, beyond “France” and probably “Paris”. We have no pictures of Madame Lionnet either. When she worked at the High School she seems to have slipped between the staff photographs of 1883 and those of 1895. The only woman we have on a staff photograph of that era is Mrs Bowman Hart, the music teacher. Here is the staff of 1883-1884:

As far as we know, they are :

back row:

Mr H Lupton ?, the Reverend EAT Clarke ?, Mr C “Carey” Trafford, unknown

middle row:

Mr JA Crawley, Mr WE “Jumbo” Ryles, Mr W Jackson, Mr S “Sammy” Corner, Mr S “Cheesy” Chester, Mr J Russell, Mr B “Benny” Townson.

front row:

Monsieur JLE Durand, Mr C “Donkey” Bray, the Reverend JG “Jiggerty” Easton, Dr. R Dixon (Headmaster) Mrs Bowman Hart (of whom, more later), Mr H “Donkeys” Seymour

Here is the High School at that time:

Notice that the school’s enormous coal fire chimneys have not yet been added. That was something that happened around 1890. There were originally two crosses on the roof, but clearly, one has been taken down, or more likely, blown down in some long-forgotten storm. In front of the school, the bushes are beginning to grow out of control but eventually they would all join up to form one enormous shrubbery, home to foxes and sixth formers with cigarettes.

Madame Lionnet is known to have married an engineer called Lionnet and they spent a good few years travelling with his work around the United States, Canada and various European countries. They went back to Paris, France, however, in early 1870 and were present in the capital during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Here is a single soldier from each side:

On the left is a member of the famous “Grenadiers de Bretagne” who would express their reluctance to retreat by tying their beards or moustaches to the beard or moustaches of the man next to them, often forming defensive lines up to two or three miles long.  On the right is a member of the famous Prussian “Bismarcken Shocken Troopen” who would always fight so bravely in Germany’s many wars that in late 1939 the Führer designated them the first ever “Sacred Regiment of Adolf Hitler Impersonators”.

We presume that in 1870 Madame Lionnet must have been visiting her family, who hailed from the capital, because we know that she was present at home in Paris when her father was killed in combat. He had been fighting in one of the battles around the city’s fortifications during the siege. Shortly afterwards Madame Lionnet’s husband was killed and, with hardly any family left,  when the siege was lifted, she came to England to work as a teacher of French, possibly a little like this one:

On the French version of Google, I did find a rough fit for somebody who may well have been Madame Lionnet’s husband. This was Étienne Napoléon Lionnet, who was born on April 13th 1815. He began his studies at the “Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées (School of Bridges and Roadways) in 1837 at the age of 22. Here is a postcard from that era. Even then, the notorious Parisian traffic was absolutely ferocious:

Monsieur Lionnet died on December 15th 1870 which would have been in the very middle of the Siege of Paris which lasted from September 19th 1870 to January 28th 1871.  I also found mention of the Lionnet brothers who ran an ambulance service during the Siege of Paris in 1870-1871. People were really hungry during the siege, and some rather queer markets soon sprang up, Rat is very obvious, but “viande canine et féline” means “dog and cat meat”. Tastes a little like chicken, apparently:

The whereabouts of Madame Lionnet in the 1870s are unknown, other than just generally, “in England”.

The first exact piece of news came from Nottingham. Madame Lionnet became the University College’s first ever lecturer in French, having started her employment there in the college’s opening year of 1881:

Before that, she had worked at the High School for Girls as “A French Mistress”:

Madame Lionnet started her career at the High School in, probably, the academic year of 1885-1886. She died on March 9th 1895, so she worked there for nine years.

She had her own house, which seems to have had the name “Esplanade”. It was at 5 Dryden Street. Dryden Street, indicated by “La flèche orange”, runs north from Shakespeare Street and ultimately, via Addison Street, finishes at Forest Road East. If you turn left out of Addison Street, and walk along Forest Road East, you will soon come to the High School, which is the white rectangle near the corner with Waverley Street:

Madame Lionnet seems to have bought her house from John Hudson, a machinist, and after her death, it passed into the hands of Mrs Betsy Stevens. Nowadays, every single square inch of Dryden Street has been used to build new buildings for Nottingham Trent University. This is where Dryden Street joins Shakespeare Street. No 5 would have been near to the junction. Perhaps Madame Lionnet would recognise those mature plane trees on the left:

In her obituary in the school magazine, “The Forester”, Madame Lionnet is described as

“a woman of wide culture and well read in the literatures of several languages, and was a most capable and energetic teacher who spared no pains with her pupils. It will ever be a sincere regret to her many friends that her last years were embittered with heavy losses; for she lost the savings of many years through the failure of the Liberator Society.”

The Liberator Society crashed in 1892 when £3,500,000 of investors’ money was lost after the closure of the London and General Bank which, along with the House and Land Investment Trust, was investing money in “gigantic building speculations”.

“Madame Lionnet was remarkable for open handed generosity, and those who knew her well could speak of many deeds of charitable kindness, and pay a tribute to the courageous industry and independence of character which enabled her to work so successfully in a foreign land.”

Madame Lionnet was killed by a bout of pneumonia which “supervened on influenza”. Pneumonia was the commonest killer in Victorian England, and just before the First World War, Sir William Osler would call pneumonia the “Captain of the Men of Death” as it was by then the most widespread and dangerous of all acute diseases. As we have seen, Madame Lionnet died on Saturday March 9th 1895 and she was buried in the Church Cemetery on Mansfield Road on the following Wednesday, the Reverend Peck, a teacher at the High School, conducting the service.

The Forester said that the interment took place:

“in the presence of many friends and pupils and of representatives from the School, the University College and the High School for Girls. Numerous beautiful wreaths, with which the coffin was entirely covered, testified to the respect in which the deceased lady was held.”

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Filed under France, History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (4)

About a year ago I bought a collection, on DVD, of what were, supposedly,  more than 12,000  images of World War Two . 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 some of these photographs with you, because a number of them have great photographic merits as well as capturing a split second in history.

Please be aware that these photographs do indeed capture moments in history. They portray the deeds of the Soviet Union, not the deeds of  present day Russia, a country run, like China and North Korea, on the mushroom method of management, although, of course, you can be sure that Putin’s suit will always remain spotless.

Today then , I’m going to look at the some of the pictures of children. Some were really quite cute, although they made no effort to disguise the fact that a war was going on:

In this picture, the war is a soldier, looking out of the window, making a call by field telephone :

Another photograph made the point that in the twenty or so years since the revolution in 1917, the Soviets had made enormous strides in improving living standards, particularly in the cities. Don’t miss the Demonic Phantom in the middle of the back row. Or perhaps she’s the KGB Milklady

But then, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and the Heinkels and the Dorniers rained death over Russian cities. This picture has done duty as being English boys watching the Battle of Britain, but the lack of clothing and the short, almost shaven haircuts, say to me “Western Russia”, a place of unending flat fields where Operation Barbarossa took place in absolutely splendid summer weather. Look at how the boys are amazed, fascinated, yet each one of them has a look of fear in their eyes.

Boys would play their part in the war. For Yuri Gagarin, the  cosmonaut, it was throwing caltrops on the road, pouring soil into tank batteries about to be recharged and mixing up the chemicals used for this job. No wonder! His school was burned down, his family were forced to live in a mud hut and two of his brothers went to Poland for slave labour. In this picture, the boys seem to be snipers of some sort, using enormous long barrelled rifles, or is the nearer one a machine gun?

Next comes a beautiful picture of three bewildered and possibly orphaned little children in front of what may well be the ruins of their house. In Yuri Gagarin’s village, some 27 houses were burnt down. Hitler’s plans for the Russians involved the complete eradication of all the Russian villages, towns and cities, and to have the population housed in large camps from which they would be able to cultivate the land for the Germans. As these slave labourers died off, German families would come east to farm the land as their own:

A similar picture but the little boy is clearly well aware of what has happened to their family, and he just can’t take any more:

This is an unknown Russian village with two more little children. Both the village and its population have been destroyed:

The Germans were not in the slightest bit interested in the Russian civilian population. How could they be when they had carried out the massacre at Babi Yar and killed 33,771 Jews in two days, and the Rumbula massacre in Latvia where around 25,000 Jews were murdered in two days? As the Holocaust moved forward, the Germans would expect to find and kill all the Jews of a small town in a single day.

Russians, and indeed, all Slavs, were merely “untermenschen”, sub-humans, to be killed as the mood took them. The exceptions were the higher echelons of the Communist Party, who were killed on sight.

Human beings, no matter what may have happened to them, will always want to talk to each other and discuss. Here is Grandad, with his three grandsons, talking to somebody they know, probably about the future and where they are going to live. The Wehrmacht would burn down houses just because they felt like it, which may be what has happened here:

PS

My records, which I was looking at last night, show that I published “An impossible Beatles Quiz (1….the Questions)” but that I did not ever publish the answers. For Quiz No 2, I did publish both the Questions and the Answers.

Does anybody out there remember?     

I clearly thought I had published both Questions and Answers for Quiz 1, but the WordPress list of “Published” seems to think otherwise! Indeed, it thinks different things about the subject every single time I do a search!

Please write any thoughts in the “Comments” section of this particular blog post if you can help. 

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Filed under History, military, Politics, Russia, Uncategorized, war crimes

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

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