Category Archives: Nottingham

Fred’s travels with the RAF

During the war years, Nottingham was a city which welcomed huge numbers of RAF men from all of the many airbases in Lincolnshire. One of the most famous pubs was the Black Boy, designed by Nottingham’s greatest architect, Watson Fothergill. The famous hotel is the very large building in the middle of the buildings on the left :

Alas, this wonderful, wonderful building was demolished to make way for a supermarket and a very ugly supermarket at that. The Black Boy was a hotel which was very convenient for the dashing Brylcreem Boys, who could easily get to Nottingham from their scores of bomber bases across Lincolnshire. Once they were there, they could get up to whatever they wanted and the Black Boy had enough bedrooms to accommodate all of them. I saw a programme recently which said that the rates of venereal disease among RAF aircrew were so high around this time that serious measures had to be taken. It was decided therefore that any man diagnosed with VD would have his mission total taken back to zero. Once you had done 30 missions, you were taken off combat flying, so if you had done a decent number, around 20, for example, this would have been a huge disaster, and a life threatening one at that.

Fred used Nottingham as a place to get a connection for Derby. When he was at Elsham Wolds, I think he must have caught a train at nearby Barnetby and then either got a connection at Lincoln or gone straight through to Nottingham. From there he could easily reach Derby or even Burton-on-Trent.  The orange arrow points at Elsham Wolds and nearby Barnetby:

Fred was no fool and he soon discovered that there was a small railway station, almost in the centre of Nottingham, called, he thought, High Pavement. It was an open station which meant that there were never any inspectors there to check tickets as the passengers alighted from the train.

The smart thing to do therefore, if you were either coming to Nottingham to visit, or were just changing trains at Nottingham, was not to bother with buying a ticket, but just to get off, not at the main station, but at High Pavement. You could then either disappear into the city, or walk the short distance to the main station and then catch the train to Derby or to Burton-on-Trent.

In later life, Fred was to retain little memory of the details of High Pavement station except that there were lots of blue brick walls and you had to go down some steps on your way to the main bit of the station.

I don’t really know where he means, but this remaining railway-type blue brick wall may be something to do with a station in this area:

Fred often had a 24 hour pass, which would run from 00h00 to 23h59. He frequently used to travel, therefore, in the early hours of the night. At that time there were certainly very few welcoming faces on the platforms, except the members of the Salvation Army, who were always on hand to dispense cups of tea or plates of hot food, most welcome out in the damp fogs of autumn, or in the cold icy blasts of winter. In later life, Fred was always to say that the Salvation Army were the only religious organisation to show any practical interest whatsoever in the welfare of the forces. He would always try to give them a donation whenever he saw them, because they had done so much to help soldiers, sailors and airmen when they really needed it in the cold dark days of World War Two.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Personal

Groups of people at the High School

On my home made CD of old photographs of the High School, one of the constant recurring themes is that of “groups of people”. Here is the staff in 1885:

It’s not one of my best scans, but it is possible to recognise Dr Gow in the middle of the five who are seated. In front of him, like a faithful great hound, is the new Drill Serjeant, George Holmes, an ex-army man, who was responsible for “…the usual manual exercise and marching drill, bayonet exercise, sword drill for infantry and cavalry and Indian club exercise.” His appointment was “…to the great advantage of all our games.”

This group are pupils but I don’t think  anybody knows who they are. The variety of dress is quite astonishing:

Some seem to have school badges. They are worn on a….

“cap fitted close to the head, and bore the quaint lozenge shaped crest of the school, with its three black birds on a white ground, a badge restored to use by Doctor Gow, and of which the boys were proud. It was known by the vulgar boys of the town as the “three crows”.

One boy, No 2 sitting on the bench, is wearing a Scottish or French tam o’shanter and there is an Ed Balls lookalike if you study the faces carefully. And is Boy No 1 on the back row, a person  of colour, if it’s OK to put it that way?

Not all groups are from 139 years ago. Here is a picture about which absolutely nothing seems to be known. Was it taken on a School trip abroad in the 1930s?

And this is probably the First XV but in an unknown year. Notice the 1st XV official caps and blazers awarded when the players were given their colours:

The master is Mr Joseph William Lucas Kennard who joined the High School in November 1910, as a teacher of Modern Languages . He was employed primarily as the Form Master of a newly created Fourth Form which, presumably, had been operating without a fixed Form Master up to that point. He had previously taught at the Liverpool Institute and then in Switzerland. I found only one description of Mr Kennard’s methods in the classroom around this time, from Roy Henderson who said that

“He had the unfortunate habit with smaller boys of pulling them close and then tugging their hair very hard. It was extremely painful.”

Mr Kennard’s main rôle was to introduce rugby into the School. He was quite highly qualified to do so, having captained Lancashire, and having played for the North of England XV. On one occasion he had played for the North against the South in an England trial. The school duly switched from football to rugby in January 1915.

Let’s come forward a little. Here are some members of 2K, caught by the Reverend Stephens as they rehearsed “The Island of Doom” in 1958:

The last group comes from four years later in 1962, when the Reverend Stephens took a photograph of the School’s rather large Scout group.:

 

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George Norman Hancock, Old Nottinghamian and RAF (1)

George Norman Hancock was born on May 31st 1913. His father was George Augustus Hancock who was a lace manufacturer. His mother was Sarah Grace Hancock, but everyone knew her as Sadie. His sister was called Grace. During the First World War, George Augustus was in the 1st Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. He was a Captain and his bravery was such that he was eventually awarded a Military Cross. The family lived at 11 Ramsdale Crescent. Ramsdale Crescent is a quiet, pleasant street in Sherwood, the very same suburb of Nottingham where I myself live:

George Norman Hancock entered the High School on April 29th 1921 as Boy No 4376. He spent ten years there and by the time he left he had achieved a fair bit. In the School List, the rather ornate “M” next to his name signified that he had passed a “University Matriculation Examination”, possibly the London University version. That meant he had reached the high standards needed for entry to any university in the land.
In George’s case, I get the impression that even at this early stage he was looking to enter the Forces in some way. He was a member of the Officer Training Corps, and, as well as the “M” next to his name, there was an “A” to signify that he had passed his OTC Certificate A. This was a qualification issued by the Government and was a military equivalent really of the “University Matriculation Examination”. It seems to have covered basic training at the very least and in 1939, totally raw recruits were being taught the absolute basics by young school leavers who held the Certificate A. This included some recent Sixth Formers from the High School. Here is a Certificate ‘A’. If you can’t read the small print, then just tap on it and it should open up:

Indeed, George was so outstanding in the OTC that he had won the Certificate A Prize for the whole School in 1929-1930. And he was now Corporal Hancock. And a few short months later, Sergeant Hancock. In 1930-1931 George passed his Higher School Certificate, the equivalent of today’s ‘A’ level.
He also won his 2nd Colours for Rowing although I have found out very little about his individual triumphs. In those days of the late 1920s, the Nottinghamian always seemed to talk about sport in rather general terms. When it did single people out, they were usually the very top, star performers and I have found no mention of George’s specific contributions in the Second Boat. This is a rowing eight going under Trent Bridge. The High School seems to have had four rowers in the boat during the interwar period. I just don’t know if this happens any more:

George left the High School at the end of the Summer Term in July 1931.

Shortly afterwards, he sat the Army Entrance Examination and was placed second in the Order of Merit for the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell in Lincolnshire:

George won a Prize Cadetship valued at £210, the first ever won by a pupil from the High School. This was announced in the publication, “Flight”, on September 4th 1931…

“The Air Council have awarded Prize Cadetships, each of the value of £105 per annum for two years, to the following successful candidates at the examination held in June, 1931, for entry into the Royal Air Force College.”

There were six successful candidates…

“AFR Bennett (Harrow County School), GN Hancock (Nottingham High School), K Gray (Leeds Grammar School), TL Moseley (Tamworth Grammar School), GAV Knyvett (Malvern College) and JAP Owen (St Bees School, Cumberland).”

We’ll see what happened to those six young men next time

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Nottingham High School on ebay (7)

Last time I showed you the strange writing on a postcard I bought from somebody on ebay. At the same time, it was a magnificent coloured picture of the High School:

Just look at the chimneys, the pinnacles, Dr Dixon’s house on the left, Brincliffe School on the right, the gas light and the beautiful, light and complex metal fence. And just look at that Shrubbery:

I actually think that if you watch this second scene right to the very end, when the knights actually get their shrubbery, that the High School arguably received a much better one:

My researches have revealed that if you want to view the peculiar writing on the postcard of the High School, it is as legible as it is ever going to be on an ordinary tower computer.

In actual fact, the beginning of the letter begins on the reverse of the postcard as the writer begins with “Mon cher André” because (did you realise it?) the correspondence is conducted in French. Here’s the first bit:

This second section ends with “une lettre”:

The third bit starts with “soit une carte” which goes with the end of the last line of the second section, which ends with “soit une lettre”.

This last bit then links up with the front of the card with the view of the School. Hopefully, somebody out there will be expert enough to read this French missive. I found it rather difficult, because I was never able to decipher a sufficiently long run of words to extract much in the way of meaning.

The card was addressed  to Monsieur André Mallieu. The next line is “Caporal avec le 4 ème Génie 14/2” which means “Corporal with the Fourth Engineers”. The Little Corporal is based at Grenoble in Isère in France. Tne date is difficult, if not impossible to read. It was probably not written in wartime though, because the stamp shows Edward VII who died  (“qui s’est poppé les clogues”) in 1910.

I’m always amazed at how different the past is. Just look at this amazing photograph of Nottingham I found on the Internet. Notice the Watson Fothergill pub called the “Yorker” or the “Rose of England”, on the right edge of the photograph. There’s Shakespeare Street and at the far end, the Victoria Station. To its left is the vast hole containing what was then a working station. And don’t miss the road suspended over the abyss. Just try to pick out any other landmarks you can identify:

 

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

Nottingham High School on ebay (6)

My last two posts in this series are a little bit out of the ordinary, perhaps. I bought this postcard on ebay. It is very strange to say the least:

The post card has been coloured beautifully and it is interesting to note the wonderfully delicate fence, the gas light and a shrubbery that the Knights who say “Ni” would be proud of. The full set of chimneys and pinnacles are there and, back left, is Dr Dixon’s house and back right is Brincliffe School, both of which were still standing when I started in the High School in 1975. But what about all that writing?

Well, I’ve spent some time working on it, and here are my enlargements, in order, from the top right to top left. Here’s No 1:

And No 2:

And No 3:

And No 4:

Why not have a go at trying to read it? Writing like this was fairly common practice in the last century. To save money, particularly money spent on mere paper, people would frequently write on it twice, once horizonally, and once vertically. That must have been a little difficult to read !

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The Battle of Britain (5)

Last time I mentioned the name of “Watty” Watson who was the High School’s only member of Churchill’s famous “Few” that I have discovered so far. I did find one other Old Nottinghamian who was in Fighter Command during the period of the Battle of Britain, but he did not fly the legendary Spitfire, yet another picture of which I just cannot resist:

Instead, Flying Officer Walker flew the Bristol Blenheim Mark I which was desperately pressed into service as a night fighter:

While he was at school, “Watty” had been a keen rugby player for the First XV:

He was a keen member of the Second XI at cricket:

Most of all, he loved the Officers Training Corps:

As you look at the photograph the boy on the left is “Higgs” and the boy on the right is “MacKirdy”. The three behind, left to right, are JMT Saunders, Burley and MJ Dodds, as far as we know.

Eventually, “Watty” was promoted to Drum Major, every boy’s dream, having your own drum. Having your own leopard skin wasn’t bad either:

And in close up:

But if you have a big drum, then you’ve got to bang it, bang it loud and march like a maniac:

What’s that quotation?

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

So “Watty” gave up his drum and his leopard skin, but he was eventually given something he liked a whole lot better:

Here he is, in close up:

“Watty” gave his life for this country’s freedom on November 28th 1940. He was “Blue Two” and he was just 19 years of age.

If you ever want to put some flowers on his grave, “Watty” is buried in the Nottingham Southern Cemetery on Wilford Hill, off the A60 Loughborough Road,  in Section  M.24, Grave 74. We all owe him, and his colleagues, one hell of a debt.

 

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The Battle of Britain (4)

The Battle of Britain was Nazi Germany’s first defeat. It was brought about by the famous “Few”.

In the picture above the pilots are running towards their Hurricanes, formidable fighters which claimed 60% of the Luftwaffe aircraft shot down. Here is the most beautiful aircraft ever built:

Even as a little boy, I was fascinated by that magic sounding colour for the underneath of a Spitfire, “duck egg blue”.

I used to teach at Nottingham High School. Two of our Old Boys fought, and died, in the Battle of Britain.

One of them was Arthur Roy Watson. He was born in Basford, a district in the north of Nottingham. Originally the family lived at 193 College Street in Long Eaton, a suburb to the west of Nottingham. College Street runs roughly north to south in Long Eaton. Here is his house, now divided into two semi-detached houses:

College Street’s southern end is on Derby Road more or less opposite Trent College where a propeller from Albert Ball’s aircraft is on display in the library and the original cross from his grave in France is kept in the college chapel:

Did young Arthur ever go to see these important relics? Did they inspire him?  I have already written about the famous World War One fighter ace and the various escapades he found himself involved in. Here he is in his days at Trent College, after his expulsion from Nottingham High School and the King’s School, Grantham:

After living in Long Eaton, the Watson family then moved to 48 Carisbrooke Drive, a leafy suburban road that overlooks the old High School playing fields at Mapperley Park:

His friends in the squadron called him “Watty”, “Rex” or “Doc” because that made him “Doctor Watson”. Here he is standing by his Spitfire. He was just 19 when he was killed:

 

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