Category Archives: The High School

The Carvings in the Tower (5)

Robert Michael Gunther (line 5 of the picture below) was one of the young men who, in May 1940, had climbed up into the Tower of the High School and carved their names and their message on a window sill. When the group did this, they could have had no idea how the war would turn out, whether the Germans would cross the Channel and occupy the country, or whether the British forces would manage to fight them off :

Robert lived at a house called “The Haven” in Burton Joyce, a village which is to the north of Nottingham, on the River Trent. He entered the High School on April 24th 1924. Robert won Mr Player’s Prize for Arithmetic (Intermediate) in 1938 and passed his School Certificate in 1939, just a year before he carved his name and message on the stone window sill in the School Tower.

In the OTC, he became a Lance Corporal and then a Corporal in 1938. He won the Certificate ‘A’ prize in 1939 and soon became Company Quarter-Master Sergeant and then Company Sergeant Major. In 1940, he was the most efficient senior NCO and the Commander of the Most Efficient House Platoon. A School Prefect, Robert won his First XV Colours and Cap, and captained the school rugby XV in 1940-1941:

“An exceptionally good leader, he also has shown himself outstanding in all departures (sic) of forward play.”

Robert left the High School on Christmas Eve, 1940. He joined the RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) and by 1942 he was a member of the Fleet Air Arm. He was trained at HMS Kipanga in Kenya and then at HMS Ukussa in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He then joined 810 Squadron. The motto means “Like lightning from the sky”:

810 Squadron, Robert included, flew off the aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious:

At the end of the academic year, in July 1944, the Nottinghamian carried the following message:

“We regret to announce that the following Old Boys have recently been reported “Missing”, and we hope that good news of their safety will soon be received: RM Gunther (1934-40) and FL Corner (1932-39)”.

The Nottinghamian said that Bob Gunther had disappeared during a routine flight over the Indian Ocean in June 1944. In actual fact, he had been shot down while acting as observer in a Fairey Barracuda during a bombing raid on Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.

The Andaman Islands are here:

Here is Port Blair:

And here is a Fairey Barracuda, which could carry combinations of a torpedo, bombs or rockets :

Bob and his pilot, Basil Willington Aldwell, were missing for 15 months. But Bob was not dead. The brutal Japanese had him, and his pilot, in their tender care. From July 13th 1944-August 27th 1945, he was imprisoned at Ofuna near Tokyo before spending two days at Shenagawa. When released he spent a long, long, time in hospital, before he was able to return home. Here are two typical victims of what was, ultimately, Japanese racism:

At Christmas 1945, another notification was published in the Nottinghamian:

“Sub-lieutenant RM Gunther RNVR (1934-1940) who disappeared on an operational flight over the Indian Ocean, in June 1944, is reported safe and on his way home. No news had been heard of him for some 15 months, and we are delighted to know of his safety.”

The extraordinary story also appeared in the Nottingham Evening News:

“One of the first Nottingham people to get a cablegram announcing the release of prisoners of war in Japan is Mrs KL Gunther of 37 Staunton Drive, Sherwood, who today was one of the first in Nottingham to receive news that her only son was returning home. His telegram read “Safe in Allied hands. Hope to be home soon. Writing. Address letters and telegrams to Liberated POW, c/o Australian Army Base Post Office, Melbourne.”

Sub Lieutenant RN Gunther of the Fleet Air Arm had been liberated. He had survived the Pacific war, a theatre where it was only too easy to lose your life.

Frank Leonard Corner, the other name in the Nottinghamian magazine of Summer 1944, was not so lucky.

At 00:25 on June 7th 1944, operating as a flight engineer, he had taken off from RAF Metheringham in an Avro Lancaster Mark III of 106 Squadron. It carried the squadron letters “Z-NH” and had a serial number of NE150. “Z-Zebra” was tasked with attacking bridges near Caen in the immediate aftermath of D-Day. It carried 18 x 500 lb bombs in its capacious bomb bay. Bombing from 3,000 feet and lower, at around 03:00 hours, the Lancasters were hit very severely by anti-aircraft fire over Lison, where a worker at the railway yard remembers vividly how the German gunners celebrated the fact that they had shot down a bomber, which must surely have been “Z-Zebra”. Frank was just twenty years old when he died. His service number was 222039 and his parents had by now moved to Whiston near Rotherham in South Yorkshire.

Frank was the scorer for the school’s First XI cricket team in 1938. In the photograph below he sits cross legged in front of the team:

Three of that season’s cricketers were killed in the war, as well as the team scorer.

Boy No 4 on the front row, George Colin Brown, of the Second Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, was killed in Normandy on July 8th 1944, as 7 Platoon helped to clear the village of Hérouville-Saint-Clair of Germans.

“We slowly crept forward across open fields. As we broke into a trot, the Germans came out of holes in the ground like rats and unleashed hell. Mortars rained down on us and machine gun bullets were flying everywhere. Ahead of me, my platoon commander, Lieutenant Brown and his batman were killed.”

George Colin Brown was just 24 years old when he died. He was a young man whose….

“fast in-swinging ‘yorker’ on the leg stump was so devastating on its day.”

Boy No 5 on the back row, Ian Leslie Wilkinson, was killed on January 31st 1944, after taking off on a routine training flight from RAF Tilstock in an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V of 81 OTU, serial number LA 765. They crashed about 30 miles away near Dilhorne, a tiny village in Staffordshire. Ian was 24 years old and he was training to be a bomber pilot.

Boy No 6 on the back row, John Richard Mason, was killed on Friday, April 16th 1943, near RCAF Station Assiniboia in southern Saskatchewan in Canada. Sergeant Mason, a Pilot Instructor, was instructing Trainee Pilot, Leading Aircraftman John Hugh Evans, when their Fairchild Cornell Mark I, serial number FJ654, crashed into the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Africa, Aviation, cricket, History, military, Nottingham, The High School, war crimes

Why no statue ? (6) John Player

Last time, I was talking about how the High School’s most philanthropic Old Boy, John Dane Player, had set up wonderful leisure facilities for his tobacco company’s employees. All kind of sports were catered for and there was even a company newspaper called “Navy Cuttings”. John Player’s generosity didn’t stop there, though. Mr and Mrs Player did not have any children of their own and they donated extremely generous sums of money to the Nottingham Children’s Hospital, as well as to the Nottingham General Hospital. In 1933, for example, he donated £25,000 to the General Hospital (£1.8 million today). In 1927, he had already given a total of £50,000 to extend Nottingham Children’s Hospital (£3.2 million today). Here’s the original Children’s Hospital, on Chestnut Grove, just off the Mansfield Road :

At the Children’s Hospital, John Player served on the management committee, attending weekly meetings and visiting the children almost daily for the rest of his life. When he died in 1950, he had donated £180,000 to the Children’s Hospital (worth an absolute minimum of £6.2 million in today’s money, and considerably more in real terms as the buying power of the pound was much greater in years gone by.)

Here Princess Mary is accompanied by Mr John Player at the opening of the Player Wing on April 30th 1927. You can probably guess who paid for it all:

Away from the hospital donations, Nottingham University received large amounts of money from John Player, who also paid for a great many convalescent homes, churches and church halls, including St. Margaret’s church on Aspley Lane and the village hall at Whatton. Here’s St Margaret’s:

In November 1903, Old Boy, John Dane Player became a Governor of Nottingham High School. His acceptance was typically modest…

“Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be a Governor of my old School; please convey to the Governing Body my thanks. I much appreciate the honour they have done me.”

His first gift was a cheque for £300 (£36,717 in today’s terms). He soon became one of the founders and main supporters of the Dame Agnes Mellers Lads’ Club.

By 1933, he had paid for several new High School buildings including the Gymnasium and the newly converted Library. He had already paid for the East Block. Then it was a new cycle shed, a Sixth Form darkroom, a junior science laboratory, a second science lecture room and a new cloakroom. He had also bought the Valley Road playing fields for the school and then provided them with a school Assembly Hall. After that he financed the plan whereby the Middle Block was demolished to build new science laboratories as well as a new three storey West Block. Even five years after his death, the North Block was constructed largely due to his generosity. In actual fact, very little of the major building in the school between 1868-1960 was not directly due to the generosity of John Player.

Here’s an aerial view of the High School in the 1950s. If you find the main entrance steps (bottom left, one o’clock from the circular walkway around the war memorial), they lead to the old building from the 1860s, which is roughly a dozen windows wide. The rest is all down to John Player, and the gap in what is, very roughly, the rather angular figure eight of the school, will be filled by the North Block, five years after John Player’s death. Even readers who have never seen the High School might be able to pick out the West Block, the East Block, the Middle Block,  the Assembly Hall and, by a process of elimination, the Gymnasium.

We still have some photographs of the building process. This is the Assembly Hall in the mid-thirties:

The Assembly Hall, incidentally, was never consecrated as a Christian site of worship, and this wise decision allowed it to be used for plays, debates, concerts and functions. It was the Headmaster, Mr Reynolds, who devised the system whereby, if the School Bible was resting on its lectern, then the hall was a Place of Worship, but if it was not there, then the building was being used for secular purposes. Mr Reynolds wanted to call it the Player Hall, but this was resisted by John Player himself, who said that it should not be a “Player’s Hall, but a Workers’ Hall.”

This is the North Block being erected in the late fifties, early sixties:

John Dane Player paid for some of the shiniest floors in the world. Player’s Parquet with a current street value of £8 million:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Despite his immense wealth, John Dane Player was a very modest man. His own admiration was reserved for the brilliant scholars the High School turned out at that time. On one occasion, he is known to have said to a fellow Old Boy:

“I was no good at school. Were you? ”

Those brilliant scholars are largely gone and forgotten, of course, and it was they who benefited from the High School, rather than vice versa. Indeed, one is tempted to wonder where the High School would be now, were it not for John Dane Player.

Incidentally, I have been unable to trace the first two photographs. If anybody has a genuine problem with them, then please contact me.

 

17 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

The Carvings in the Tower (4)

On October 27th and November 12th, I wrote about the life of Richard Vernon Milnes, one of the more senior members of the OTC (Officers Training Corps). In May 1940, a group of eight of them all climbed up to the School Tower and carved their names and their message on a stone window sill. I told Richard’s story as far as July 30th 1940, the last day of the Summer Term, when he left the High School for ever at the end of the six years he spent there.

When Richard walked out of the High School for that last time on that particular date, neither he, nor his friends, could have been particularly sure about how the war would turn out or whether England would be invaded and conquered by Christmas.  Still less did Richard know that he had just 1,281 days left before he died in a place which, at this point, he had never heard of.

Obviously, I should have completed the story of Richard’s by writing about the 1,281 days before his death. But I got it wrong. I was so keen to get on to the next name carved in the stone that I got ahead of myself. I missed out the sad details of Richard’s tragic death.  So accept my apologies, dear reader. And let’s pick up the tale, and read on……..

Soon after he left the High School, Richard married his wife Barbara. Their first daughter was born on January 1st 1944.

Shortly afterwards, Richard applied to become an officer. This desire to serve his country, though, would rob him of his young life. Aged only 21, while “undergoing training”, Richard died of pneumonia, probably in the hospital at Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye in the Western Scottish Highlands. This was on February 29th 1944. I have found nothing precise about his death and probably never will. Here’s Portree today:

Initially, few men wanted commissions and many men dropped out of the training. Changes were then made to attract men from more humble backgrounds, and to break the mould which said that only the upper classes possessed sufficient brain power to be an officer. The rigidity of the system was quite astonishing. Even in the South Notts Hussars, High School boys were always limited to being just corporals or sergeants. The officers had always been to more illustrious schools in the region such as Repton or Uppingham.

Promises for change had been made, though. Candidates were no longer asked which school they had attended. New leadership activities were used to test out the candidates, with an emphasis on problem solving and command tasks.

Successful applicants were then sent to Officer Cadet Training Units. To improve their physical fitness, these were in the Brecon Beacons or the Scottish Highlands, particularly the Black Cuillins on Skye, which were possibly the most difficult mountains in the whole country:

Many problems occurred with this physical training, which was often in such terrible weather that the men’s health was affected. Cadets frequently suffered from exhaustion. And the constantly cold, wet weather could affect everybody after an entire month in the mountains, hiding in ditches filled with cold water or sleeping in a freezing damp tent. And there were lots of twenty mile marches. And runs up steep hills. And night marches in the pouring rain.

Would-be officers require outstanding qualities but not at the expense of their deaths. Most, though, did not want to be returned to their units and they were completely willing to risk their own lives. And there were deaths. Two 19-year old cadets, for example, drowned in North Wales, trying to cross a river patrolled by “enemy” troops.

During his physical training, Richard Milnes died of pneumonia, one of the greatest killers of the twentieth century.

One other Old Nottinghamian serviceman died of illness during the war, a butcher’s son from Ilkeston Road, named Peter Vernon. He died in the North Atlantic at the age of 23, through “illness contracted during naval operations in northern waters on H.M. Motor Minesweeper 260″, battered ceaselessly by extra strong winds and freezing rain. Peter probably died in the Invergordon Royal Navy Auxiliary Hospital.

Portree and Invergordon are only 90-100 miles apart and Peter died on January 26th 1944, just over a month before Richard Milnes would pass away. It may well have been the same spell of awful weather that killed them both.

Richard Milnes was buried in Stronuirinish Cemetery near Portree. He was 21.

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under History, military, Nottingham, The High School

Why no statue ? (5) John Dane Player

John Player’s cigarette company was, strangely enough, set up in Nottingham by a man called John Player. In 1868, he had a shop on Beastmarket Hill and was busy pre-packing the various blends of tobacco so that he could serve his customers much more quickly when they came in. By 1877, he was operating from Broad Marsh, where he introduced ready-packed cigarettes in a readily identifiable packet. He registered as his trademark the well-known drawing of Nottingham Castle. Here it is, at the top of the packet :

In 1883, the famous sailor’s head first appeared. Four years later the famous “Navy Cut” cigarettes were introduced.

When John Player died in 1884, a group of friends of the family ran the company until the two sons, John Dane Player and William Goodacre Player, were able to take over in 1893. Both of these young men were Old Nottinghamians. John had been Boy No 563 and William had been Boy No 564. They were both living in Belgrave Square off All Saints Street, when they entered the High School on January 22nd 1879. At this point, they were both in the Lower School with Nos 541 and 542 respectively.

When the two brothers took over the family business, it was worth around £200,000 (£2.65 million today). They soon merged with WD & HO Wills, the makers of “Woodbines”. These were very popular cigarettes during World War 1 and were handed out free to the troops as they went into the front line trenches (even though it may have been bad for their health).

Player’s, though, continued to market Navy Cut, John Player Special and Gold Leaf. By the beginning of WW2 in 1939, Player’s were selling 67% of the cigarettes in Great Britain. They were extremely popular among the middle classes in the south of the country.  And women found them very chic and alluring:

At that time there was little idea that cigarettes were dangerous. Any number of “physicians” were willing to step forward and approve cigarettes. Some even thought that cigarettes were beneficial and could cure throat and lung problems. Here’s the most surreal image of that era

“More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!”

So everybody was totally confident about the safety of cigarettes and more people smoked than didn’t. John Player and Sons made money in in unbelievably huge amounts. It was said that once a year, when John Dane Player signed the company’s tax cheque, they paid for the National Health service.

Here are the John Player Tobacco Warehouses in Radford, a working class area of Nottingham. The architects all won prizes:

The first people to benefit from the company’s huge income were the company’s employees. Player’s recreation ground was opened on Aspley Lane in 1906. In 1910, they began paying every employee an annual bonus. Holidays with pay were started in 1922. Wages were high and working conditions were excellent and always as safe as possible. In 1934 the two brothers were both made Freemen of Nottingham for their investment in the welfare of their workers. At the end of the war “Navy Cuttings”, a periodical exclusively for employees at Player’s, was published. It was issued once a month until 1967. The contents included information about the different departments and their staff to sports fixtures and forthcoming marriages. The sports articles were always very popular and employees were praised for their sporting prowess.

The atmosphere at the factory was wonderful:

“A lot of people met their husbands and wives at the factory.   We were like one big family.”

One employee said:

“Jobs were only advertised internally. People were moved round the departments and life was very varied. You just felt as if they cared for each employee.”

Sports clubs were set up and led to a comprehensive welfare and sports organisation with private grounds of a very high standard. Employees played in Players Sports teams in a number of different sports such as athletics, soccer, cricket and field hockey for example, and it was all paid for, with weekends away for participants. Here’s the Christmas party:

Just look at their faces. They are happy. And look at their clothes. They have enough money to be well dressed. They even have a company nurse. Can you spot her, standing behind Wally?

John Player had clearly succeeded in his mission. He had built a factory, employed thousands of people and then managed to treat them all decently. And they, clearly,  had responded to his kindness. They liked going to work.

19 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Science, The High School

“A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (7)

It’s a long time since Post No 6 in this series about the futility of the Boer War, but I would like to finish off with what is perhaps the saddest and most poignant tale of them all. The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa.

The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states:

Richard Truman Fitzhugh was born on June 8th 1873. He was educated first at Shrewsbury Grammar School and then at Nottingham High School. There are at least four boys visible in this picture of the School, taken from a spot near what was then the old Caretaker’s House:

Richard arrived at the High School on May 4th 1891, with the sole intention of passing the examination needed to enter university and to become a doctor.  His success was duly recorded in the School List :

“London Matriculation Examination, First Division, June 1891”

Having accomplished exactly what he had come for, Richard left at the end of the school  year, in July 1891.

Richard was particularly talented and popular, but sadly he became a totally innocent victim of a greedy overseas war, started by men eager for gold and diamonds:

“It is with deep regret that we record the death of Dr Richard Truman FitzHugh, the only son of Mr Richard Fitzhugh, JP, of Clumber Crescent, The Park, Nottingham. His death occurred on June 15th, 1900 as the result of enteric fever (typhoid), at the Imperial Yeomanry Base Hospital at Deelfontein, South Africa.”

Richard was only 27 years old.

The first intimation of his illness had reached Nottingham at the end of May. In his letter, Richard mentioned that he was suffering from shivering fits.

Then a telegram arrived in Nottingham saying that Richard was seriously ill.

On Friday, June 15th, another telegram arrived, with the first indication of anything life-threatening:

“Regret to inform you that your son, Richard, is dangerously ill with enteric fever”.

Two days of anxious suspense followed, then a third telegram arrived:

“Deeply regret to inform you of the death of your son, Richard, from enteric fever, an irreparable loss to this hospital, he having endeared himself to all.”

Richard had gone straight from Nottingham High School to Guy’s Hospital for his medical training. He passed important examinations in 1892 and in 1895. He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and then a Bachelor of Medicine in 1898. Here is a ward in the hospital with what may be an oxygen tent in the rear right corner:

Richard worked as Assistant House-Surgeon and House Physician as well as Obstetric Resident, Clinical and Gynaecological Assistant, and Dresser in the eye wards. Here’s one of the operating theatres:

His obituary came from his colleagues:

”He was a man of culture and ability, held in high regard by his associates at Guy’s, not only because of his medical skill, but because of the part he played in its social life. He was a fine sportsman and soon took a prominent place in athletics. He was a leading cricketer and helped to win the cup in 1892. He was best of all at Association Football. Indeed, Richard was one of the best players of recent years, and won the cup in 1894, besides captaining the team from 1894-1896.

He was Assistant Secretary of the Student’s Club, President of the Residents, and foremost among the singers at Christmas.

Richard was a man with a keen sense of humour and the most popular performer at the smoking concerts which cheered us up so well. One of his songs was so admired that, however many others he sang, he could never leave the piano until he had sung that favourite one.

Behind his good humour and cheeriness, though, there was a solid character, and an honest straight forwardness that made us all trust and admire him. An old friend wrote:

“There was nobody I worked with at Guy’s for whose character I had greater respect, or whose society gave me greater pleasure.

He was a sterling gentleman and there is some consolation that he died amongst his friends, and that everything was done for him.”

The news of “the termination of such a promising career by a malignant disease which is causing more deaths than the enemy, has evoked enormous sympathy for his family.”

Mr Fripp was the Senior Surgeon at the Imperial Yeomanry Base Hospital at Deelfontein:

He wrote:

“Everybody felt they had lost a friend. He was popular with his colleagues and the nursing sisters, the NCOs and the orderlies, and also with the patients. It seemed he would attain a very high place in his profession, but he also had many characteristics which endeared him to everyone.

Poor “Fitz” will never be forgotten. There “was an enormous congregation at his funeral. All ranks of the hospital were represented. They formed a long procession to the cemetery. The coffin was carried by orderlies, and some of his fellow Guy’s men acted as pall-bearers.

I doubt if the cost of war was ever brought home to us as fully as when we heard of poor FitzHugh’ s death. None of us even knew he was ill.”

Dr Fitzhugh’s death is commemorated on the Nottingham Boer War Memorial in the Forest Recreation Ground. It used to stand in Queen Street in the city centre but was moved in 1927. No war memorials last for ever. Sadly, after a certain period of time, they have to be relocated elsewhere to make room for the new war memorial.

22 Comments

Filed under Africa, History, military, Nottingham, Politics, Science, The High School

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!

 

 

12 Comments

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

The Carvings in the Tower (2)

In May 1940, the senior members of the OTC (Officers Training Corps) had climbed up to the School Tower and carved their names and their message on a stone window sill. It is still there today, eighty odd years later:

Richard Milnes again had a poem published in the School Magazine in December 1936. It was entitled:

“SINGEING THE KING OF SPAIN’S BEARD”:

“The sun beat down on the Spanish fleet,

As loaded with treasures she lay;

Her sailors slept in the noonday heat,

Not a guard watched over the bay.

We wound in the cable as evening fell,

When a mist rose up from the sea.

My heart beat fast as we breasted the swell,

For all alone were we.

The night was black, not a single star,

Smiled down on the “Golden Hind.”

We could hear the billows over the bar,

And we blessed the darkness kind.

We waited, three score of British Lions,

Our cannon and pistols primed;

I heard the clatter of grappling-irons,

Then over her rail we climbed.

Then suddenly rose a warning shout

From a ship just over our lee.

We tried the swarthy Dons to rout,

But all alone were we.

Then as we fought with our backs to the mast

There came a cry from the right.

“Golden Hind !  Ahoy ! Avast !”

And we knew ‘twas the “Silver Sprite.”

Over the plank stepp’d the Dons of Spain

And her treasure lay in our hold.

There never will be such a fight again,

As was fought in those days of old.”

Given that he was only 13 years old, not a bad effort! At least it rhymes, something which few poets achieve nowadays. The following year saw Richard move into the Upper Fifth Form Classical with Mr Duddell aka “Uncle Albert”. As always for examination purposes, the 27 boys in the Form were combined with the 29 in Mr Palmer’s Upper Fifth Form Modern. Richard came 13th equal of the 56.

Here’s Mr Duddell in 1932 and 1942:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This year Richard passed his School Certificate. In 1938-1939 he moved into the Classical Sixth Form, where Mr Gregg was his Form Master in a form of 13 students. The following year was Richard’s last in the High School. He spent it in the same Form, this time with Mr Beeby. Richard left on July 30th 1940, presumably the last day of the Summer Term. He was 17 years old and had achieved quite a lot this year. He had passed his Higher School Certificate (Classics) and in what was now called the Junior Training Corps, the JTC, he had joined the Air Cadet branch where he became a Lance-Corporal. He was awarded his much coveted “Certificate ‘A’” qualification which proved his good knowledge of military basics, and allowed him to be considered there and then as a potential officer in the part time Territorial Army. Richard also won the JTC contingent’s Musketry Prize. In the realm of sport, he won his full First XV colours in Rugby after being awarded his Second XV Colours the previous season.

This year, in Rowing, he also won his Colours and Blazer for the Second IV.

Richard then, left the High School on that last day of the Summer Term, July 30th 1940. Neither he, not his friends, could have been particularly sure about how the war would turn out and whether England would be invaded and conquered by Christmas. Still less did Richard know that he had 1,281 days left before he died in a place which, at this point, he had never heard of.

16 Comments

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

The Carvings in the Tower (1)

Nottingham High School has a very obvious high and splendidly Gothic tower, complete with a tiny turret. It totally dominates the skyline of the city. The tower was even mentioned by DH Lawrence in his first novel, “The White Peacock” as “the square tower of my old school.” A brand new flagpole was erected on the top to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria on Tuesday, June 21st 1887.

This tower has always been accessible to the boys, one way or another. For years, it played host to the deliberations of the School Prefects, and the beatings they inflicted. In May 1940, with England expecting to be invaded at any moment, the senior members of the OTC (Officers Training Corps) climbed up there and carved their names and their message to the future on a stone window sill. They are still there today, eighty odd years later:

“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”.

But who were these young men, and what happened to them during their lives? After all, they must are all be dead today. But, sadly, not every one of them even made it through to the end of the war.

Richard Vernon Milnes was born on March 29th 1923. His father, William Vernon Milnes, died when Richard was quite young. His wife, Florence Annie Milnes became the bread winner, working as a school teacher, one occupation which was more open to women than most at this time. The family were living at 8 Langar Close, in the triangle between Mansfield Road and Valley Road:

Richard entered the High School on September 20th 1934 as Boy No 5855. He was only eleven years of age and he was a Sir Thomas White Entrance Scholar. He went into Cooper’s House and Third Form A with Mr Gregg as his Form Master. There were 29 boys in the Form and Richard finished the year in second position.

Richard then moved into the Upper Fourth Form A with Mr Bridge.Here he is, in the darker blazer, looking fairly angry, as he often did:

(back row)  “Beaky” Bridge, “Wappy” Parsons, Reg Simpson, the future Test cricketer,  Arthur Mellows, the future paratrooper, killed in “Operation Plunder”, the crossing of the Rhine into Germany, 1945. (front row) Bruce “Farmer” Richardson, killed while defending the perimeter of Dunkirk so others could get onto the boats, 1940. John Louis Pilsworth, Prefect, and Eric James Dickenson, Captain of Cricket and of Rugby.

There were 29 in the Upper Fourth Form A and Richard was one of the four boys who were “not placed” in the end of the year examinations, absent, I would presume, for reasons of illness. Only six boys joined the Officers Training Corps that year but Richard was not one of them. During this year Richard wrote a poem which was published in the School Magazine. It was entitled “Winter”, and it was a lovely little poem for a boy of thirteen:

Winter

The wind goes whistling round the eaves,

Scattering far and wide the leaves.

The leafless oak-tree creaks and heaves.

Winter is here.

Clammy fog is swirling drearily,

Ghostly buildings looking eerily,

Cars are crawling, hooting, wearily.

Winter is here.

The snow is falling, smooth and white,

Covering the earth with a canopy bright,

Luminous in the pale moonlight.

Yes, winter is here.

During the following year of 1936-1937, Richard was with “Fishy” Roche in Lower Fifth Form A. The Form contained 31 boys of whom sixteen, including now Richard, were in the Officers Training Corps.

More about Richard next time.

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under cricket, History, military, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

“CAT, after D.H.Lawrence.” Part Two. What became of Dennis Rhodes.

A little while ago I introduced you to a young gentleman and Old Nottinghamian, called Dennis Everard Rhodes. He had written a poem in the School Magazine entitled “CAT (After D.H. Lawrence)” It was published in the Nottinghamian in July 1941, when Dennis was just eighteen. Here’s the High School at the time:

Amazingly, Dennis died only 18 months or so ago. He seems to have been one of the cleverest people who ever came to our school. A man of astounding brilliance and scholarship. I’m hoping in about 700 words to show you by how much he is cleverer than even a relatively clever person.

Firstly, let me quote you some of his obituary by Dr Lotte Hellinga which is expected to appear in The Library magazine in 2021:

“Dennis Everard Rhodes, Gold Medallist of the Bibliographical Society in 2007 and staunch contributor to The Library from 1952, died on April 7th 2020, aged 97…….

His studies began in 1941 with classical Greek, but he soon switched to Italian language and literature. During the war, he was already fluent enough in Italian to join the Intelligence Corps as interpreter during the Italian Campaign. He not only perfected his use of the language, but it discovered a country, its culture and its people that he came to love and where he felt at home. Italy in all its great cultural variety remained one of the two poles between which he conducted his life, the other being the British Museum, not less so when it was transformed into the British Library.

In 1950 he became Assistant Keeper in the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum Library. His mentors were both deeply immersed in the cataloguing and investigation of early printed books, and Dennis followed them in the same direction. He thrived in the Italian section, but his particular interest was in incunabula.

Dennis’ commitment to the library lasted his entire lifetime, through its separation from the Museum and becoming the British Library in 1973, then his appointment as Head of Incunabula in 1974,  his promotion to Deputy Keeper in 1978, his retirement in 1985, and the move to the new building in 1998; almost to the very end of his life he simply stayed on, most of those years continuing with work behind the scenes.”

An “incunabulum”, by the way, is “an early printed book, especially one printed before 1501.” “incunabula” is the plural. Surely you have not forgotten that old aide-mémoire:

“Please remember every day.

Neuter plurals end in “A”.”

Dennis’ obituary will reveal in much greater depth the all encompassing intellectual life of Dr Dennis Rhodes. You can read it here.

Dennis wrote a lot of very specialised books. You can fine a list of his book titles here. Here is one of the pages for you to look at if you follow the link. Just look how wide ranging these titles are:

This bookseller and dealer in fine art is selling an archive of some of Dennis’ work. He could almost sell it by weight! This picture below is only a tiny fraction of Dennis’ work :

Dennis’ books are held by most universities in the Western World. He did not always write in English. Here is the list of which of Dennis’ books are held just in the various libraries at the University of Gent in Belgium. Just click on “Search collection”.

Dennis’ publications are, of course, to be found in most of the universities of the world. Let’s look at the website.

First of all, there is an overview of who Dennis was, what type of things he wrote,  and, most impressive, how many of his works are held by libraries worldwide. And the answer? Well in excess of six thousand, scattered across the globe.

The same webpage begins that list of the more than five hundred of Dennis’ works, which are held by so many libraries.

With the last entry on the previous webpage, incidentally, we can see just how interested Dennis became in the spread of printing across Asia. What is even more impressive, of course, is that every single one of these first nine books on the list are held by a minimum of two hundred libraries world wide.

Dennis created an amazing volume of material in his lifetime and modern websites talk about Dennis’s prodigious productivity. As well as his books, in sixty-seven years he wrote over 450 such articles as well as about one hundred book reviews.

The first thing I did when I  came across the name “Dennis Everard Rhodes”, was to google it. I was amazed to find that in the first five pages, some fifty or so URL addresses, only a very few were not our DE Rhodes. In more than ten years researching Old Nottinghamians, I have never ever had a result like that. Just take the trouble to pause the gallery and to have a look at the titles (in blue). Surely these entries cover about as wide a spectrum as they possibly could :

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Only on the fifth page are there any interlopers., with the Norfolk Record Office and the Jamaican Family Search.

And finally, the only picture of the Great Man I have been able to find.

I have borrowed the photograph from a page of PRPH Books.

 

8 Comments

Filed under History, Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

 

17 Comments

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