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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Nottingham High School on ebay (5)

I bought just a few more photographs on ebay than the ones I showed you last time. They were all taken down at our Valley Road playing fields, and the boys, all of them members of our Preparatory Department, were aged between nine and eleven years old.

The first one is, shock horror!!, a soccer team.

“But I thought it was a rugby school?” I hear you ask.

Well, the main School is a rugby school, but what is now the Junior School, and was then the Preparatory School, has always played football, presumably because there is less chance of serious injury for small boys when they play football. This is the Second XI during the 1965-1966 season:

The players’ names are on the back:

And now, Technicolor ©, the only one of the photographs I bought:

In this photograph you can see the huge tree which used to stand near the Daybrook. It was damaged by the Great Storm of 1987 and eventually had to be taken down. In its time it has sheltered hundreds of cricketers who waited, either to bat or to go out and field. Traditionally, they all seem to have eaten bags of fresh cherries as they sat happily out of the sun. Perhaps this was a particularly freely available local fruit at the time or perhaps it was just fun to spit the stones at each other afterwards.

The team is listed on the back:

I don’t know if Mr Clarke and Mr Willey are still alive but they were both good men, much respected by their colleagues over the years. The boys in these teams may well be retired now. I hope they all made it through to their pensions! The very worst thing about teaching is the number of pupils who leave us for one reason and another as we grow older. I am sure that most teachers think about them from time to time. I know I do.

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The Battle of Britain (3)

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There is no better person to tell the story of the Battle of Britain that the greatest ever Englishman, Sir Winston Churchill:

“The Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science” :

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“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

He produced a second speech which gave us another memorable phrase:

“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

“All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.”

We actually know exactly how that phrase “Never in the field….” came about.

On August 20th 1940 Churchill was travelling in a car with Major General Hastings Ismay to give a speech about the Battle of Britain in the House of Commons. Churchill was reading the speech out aloud to Ismay and it was originally “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few”. Ismay interrupted him and said “What about Jesus and his disciples?” Churchill concurred and immediately changed it to its present form “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”.

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Nottingham High School on ebay (4)

Just a couple of years ago, I saw some photographs of High School sport for sale on ebay. They showed various sports teams from what was then the Preparatory School, all of them photographed down at our Valley Road sports grounds. Here are the sports grounds, indicated by the orange arrow:

On the other side of the road is the City Hospital and the large space in the bottom right hand corner north of Perry Road is HM Prison Nottingham.

The school bought the 18 acres of land for the new playing fields on Valley Road in 1929, largely with money from JD Player, the Old Boy and cigarette millionaire. The total cost was £5,600, with £13,000 more needed to level the site, returf the surface, and build a new pavilion.  The Headmaster and JA Dixon, the Notts County and England footballer and Nottinghamshire cricketer, had looked at more than twenty sites before the decision was made.
Until this time, the school had played its representative matches at Mapperley Park on Mansfield Road, with house and form competitions played on the Forest Recreation Ground. The old Mapperley Park ground was sold to the City Corporation for £6,750 and the rest of the money for developing the site, some £6,000-£7,000, was raised by the Old Boys.
Interestingly enough, Johnny Dixon for many years believed strongly that more land should have been purchased, and that the whole school should then have been relocated to a new campus, surrounded by its own playing fields.  On the other hand, the Valley Road site did have a marsh at the western end, and the possible problems and expenses caused enough uncertainty to back away from buying any more land at this site:

In December 1931 the School Magazine included a three page list of subscribers who had given money to support the appeal to develop the School’s new playing fields at Valley Road. Overall, a total of some £434 2s 6d had been raised. The most generous benefactors were Messrs E Bignall and W Bignall, HR Gillespie, JC Joynes, F Limpenny, FW Pare, L Pilsworth, TS Ratcliffe, GT Rigley and AS Rigley, HB Rose and EB Stocker, all of whom contributed ten guineas. In the least generous category, however, were the three who could only be persuaded to hand over 2s 6d. Arguably though, the finest human being of all was the bank, whose interest payments amounted to £12 2s 6d.

Anyway, here is the first photo I bought, the Under 10 XI in 1965:

The players are written on the back:

The next one, of the First XI in 1966, is perhaps of slightly better quality:

Again, the names are written on the back:

Next time, Technicolor © is invented.

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The Battle of Britain (2)

Deep in the bowels of the RAF Museum at Hendon is the Battle of Britain section where the lighting is of a strange purple colour so that delicate ancient paint is not faded by direct sunlight. That’s an extra excuse for these rather weird photographs. First of all, the baddies, with that old favourite, the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, an aircraft used in the blitzkrieg to dive bomb defenceless refugees:

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Here’s a Heinkel He111 which was all right as a bomber but which didn’t carry a particularly significant bomb load. Even so, it performed well at Guernica, Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places as the Germans invented the much criticised concept of “area bombing”.

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The fighters were the Messerschmitt Bf110, a rather slow aircraft for daylight use which would eventually finish up having to be escorted by better performing fighters:

This is the Junkers Ju 88, a twin engined and very versatile aircraft which was arguably, a competent Bristol Blenheim or a poor man’s De Havilland Mosquito:

Last and certainly not least is the famous Messerschmitt Bf 109, a decent fighter, but an aging design which was prepared in response to a Reichsluftfahrtministerium specification of 1933. Bf 109s couldn’t carry enough fuel to fight for very long over Southern England. And a Spitfire, in theory, could always escape them by turning tightly inside them:

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The Bf 109 at Hendon does not really allow you to stand back and get a decent general photograph. Here is one I found on the Internet. It certainly is a stunning photograph:

The Hendon individual is a Bf 109E-3 and it may have been painted as a yellow nosed member of Jagdgeschwader JG26, “The Abbeville Boys”. There must have been a little plaque in front of it, but I can’t remember what it said. Its detailed history can be accessed here.

And in the blue corner…….the Supermarine Spitfire. Here’s my effort at a picture:

As one writer said,

“It was one of the most beautiful aircraft ever conceived with elegant, flowing lines that make it look perfect from every angle.”

And the most stunning Spitfire ever was the Mark I or Ia or the Mark IIa.

This gallery of photographs comes from the Internet. With a little bit of luck, you should be able to see what I mean about a beautiful aircraft:

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And there’s also a Hawker Hurricane, an aircraft which, as we all know, shot down more German aircraft in the Battle of Britain than the Spitfire. The scores were roughly 60% to 40%. The Hurricane was a design which looked backwards to its biplane ancestors, especially the Hawker Fury:

On the plus side the Hurricane was a lot easier to repair than its cooler cousin, the Spitfire. It was easier to make as well, 10,300 man hours rather than 15,200 for the Spitfire. And easier to make meant cheaper, of course. Here are my unworthy efforts:

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And now some proper photographs:

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And next time, the Old Nottinghamians make an appearance.

 

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Nottingham High School on ebay (3)

Last time I was looking at a postcard sent to Noel George Peet of 2 Gorsey Close in Mapperley Park. The postcard was sent on October 27th 1926 and it was stamped with an 8.00 pm postmark. Here is the sender and the message:

It reads “Sorry! I shall be unable to play on Saturday next.”

I would say that the signature is of “JG Sykes”. October 27th 1926 was a Wednesday and JG Sykes is clearly writing to the person who organises a local sports team, probably the captain or the secretary. At this time, Noel was only 24 years old and I would therefore presume that he was the captain of the team, rather than the secretary, who is the man who organises the fixtures, the renting of the pitch and so on. At first reading, I would have said that the team was probably the Old Nottinghamians and that they were going to play rugby, but there is one big problem about this best guess.

JG Sykes did not go to the High School. It cannot be a local cricket team in late October, so it must be football, or soccer as my American friends would term it. Between 1914-1968 the High School did not play football, at least officially. There were, though, one or two renegade teams which I intend to talk about in a separate blog post. All I can offer, therefore, is that JG Sykes and NG Peet were members of a local football team, unconnected directly to the High School. Which one, I cannot imagine. Sherwood United? Mapperley Rangers? Who knows?

I did though, find out who JG Sykes possibly was. In the Kelly’s Directory for 1928, this entry appears:

That is “James Gordon Sykes of 97 Mansfield Street, which I feel should be written in that same old fashioned way, as “Mansfield-street”. However you write it, Mansfield-street is deep in the heart of Sherwood, the suburb, of course, rather than the leafy place where the Merrie Men hang out. The orange arrow points to Mansfield Street which does in fact continue northwards over Winchester Street.  If you look at where “the Yellow Road to Woodborough” goes off the bottom of the map, the letters “-RSEY RD” to the left refer to Gorsey Road.

In the bottom left corner is the double roundabout only a hundred yards from the High School. Clearly, as regards games of football, this really was a local team for local people.

Sooooo…….what’s on the postcard? Well, James Gordon Sykes clearly knew his captain’s educational ancestry because he chose this beautiful scene. The front of the High School:

And there have been one or two changes since, say, 1920. A lot of pinnacles and chimney pots have been removed, presumably in the days before the concept of listed buildings was invented. The School field gun has gone. Here’s the School in more recent times:

The photograph for the postcard was taken from over on the right, behind the bushes and the hedge. Most noticeable, though, is the war memorial which has been there since 1922. On the top is a life size statue in bronze which represents a young officer leading his men into attack. The statue was designed by an Old Nottinghamian, Colonel AS Brewill, the commander of the 7th Sherwood Foresters and it was cast in bronze by Henry Poole.

Just over 1,500 boys and masters had fought in the Great War. Two Victoria Crosses had been won, 124 men had been awarded other decorations, and 29 had been mentioned in dispatches. Most important of all, though, was the fact that between two and three hundred men had been killed, from a School which had an annual total of between 350-450 pupils in the years before the war.

The only other object in front of the School before 1922 was a 25-pounder field gun which somebody had brought back from the war as a souvenir. I haven’t been able to discover who it was, or exactly when or indeed, why. After four years of a war memorial and a field gun within thirty yards of each other, a decision was taken to remove the gun and have it made into ploughshares somewhere. Even then, the gun had its supporters:

” In July 1926 the Old Boys’ Society spoke out against the removal of the field gun from the front of the school. They felt that its barrel provided a wonderfully useful litter bin for the boys walking past.”

Here is that old field gun enlarged:

The building behind the gun is the caretaker’s house, demolished long ago. The tower is still there to this day. It is nothing to do with the High School or the caretaker’s house. It belonged to a man who was extremely keen on the horse races which were held nearby until 1890 on what is now the Forest Recreation Ground . He therefore had the tower added to his house so he could see if he had won or lost his money. The last meeting took place on September 29th-30th 1890, and the last race, the Cotgrave Gorse Plate, was won by Sir Hamilton, owned by Mr T Tyler, and ridden by A Nightingall. Horse racing subsequently moved to Colwick.

Just to finish, here’s an aerial view of the School taken in 1920 or thereabouts. It is isn’t of very great quality, but then again neither was the camera or the plane:

Notice the shrubbery, Dr Dixon’s house on Waverley Mount, AKA the “Last House on the Left”.  The caretaker’s house is opposite and notice the boys near to it. Top left is the Fives Court and Brincliffe  School still stands to the right of that, where the staff car park now is.

The back of the School was very different then. Here is the North Entrance in 1915:

Notice the bell tower and the extra flag pole.

One last fact about Noel Peet by the way. I have only just realised where he has appeared before in the context of my blog. His name is to be found carved into the mantelpiece of the fireplace between the General Office and the Assembly Hall. You can read all about that here.

 

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1792 : a vintage year

The details that I found for the year 1792 come from a source that I have used quite frequently before, namely “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood”.

The year started in spectacular fashion on February 25th:

“Between the hours of eight and nine this evening an alarming shock of an earthquake was felt in the Midland counties, but particularly at Nottingham, many of the inhabitants running out of their houses, expecting them to fall upon their heads. The shock was preceded by a rumbling noise like the rolling of a cannon ball upon a boarded floor.”

A bit like this, then:

At this time, there was, of course, no real sport in the city…no Nottingham Forest, no Notts County, no Nottingham Panthers, no Nottingham Outlaws, no Nottingham Rugby Club. And so people had no choice but to busy themselves by showing enormous interest in council planning applications:

May 9th . “On the arrival of the intelligence that the bill authorising the formation of the Nottingham Canal had received the royal assent, the bells of both churches were set a-ringing, and other congratulatory manifestations indulged in.”

Thank the Lord. We’re going to build a canal. Canals are wonderful :

If you look after them, and remember, like pot plants, to water them regularly:

I think by now people’s nerves were already on edge after over indulging in their personal celebrations of the success of the planning application for building the new canal. They were a little like small children who get fractious and behave badly after their routine is disturbed:

May 12th.  “A number of people assembled in a riotous manner in the Market-place, on account of the high price of butchers’ meat:

The Market-place did look quite different then:

The account continues:

After a stout endeavour to retain possession of their property, when further resistance might have proved dangerous, the butchers retreated from the Shambles, and left the mob in undisturbed possession. It being Saturday, the stock of meat was large and in a few moments the whole of it disappeared.

The magistrates at once called out the military, and by the expostulations of the Mayor, and the firing of the soldiers in the air, the mob dispersed, and the military returned to their quarters.”

Here come the military. They do look a little bit regimented, I suppose, but they are a lot easier to draw this way:

“Very unexpectedly, in the course of the evening the depredators reassembled, and bearing down upon the Shambles with renewed force, destroyed and conveyed away every door, shutter, implement, and book they could find in the shops, and made a great bonfire of them in the Market-place, yelling and shouting round it like  savages. The fire was burning from eleven at night till one in the morning, when the military succeeded in extinguishing it, and tranquillity was restored.”

For a moment there, it must have been touch and go:

I would think that for the second military intervention, they used the soldiers with the silly hats. Most people, when faced by these picked German troops, just ran away clutching their stolen sausages:

“For several days after, symptoms of a recurrence of the disorder were apparent, but the vigilance of the authorities at length finally suppressed them.”

Nobody nowadays ever thinks of England as ever being on the edge of revolution, but it had already happened once during the reign of King Charles I when the king was executed. The end of the 18th century saw a fair few Englishmen holding up the French Revolution as an example of good practice. They were pushed into that by a royal family who were perhaps the least charismatic of the many Germans who have ruled over our country. Parliament was no better. It was a place where rich landowners were vastly over represented. Their excessive number of MPs kept the price of the food their estates produced artificially and permanently high.

Many revolutions around the world have started with hungry people robbing shops full of food they wanted to eat but could not afford.

 

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