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Warren Herbert Cheale

Warren Herbert Cheale, who lived with his family in Burton Joyce, moved to the High School in January 1944 to work as an Acting Pilot Officer with the School Flight of the Air Training Corps. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve:

RAF

On Thursday, September 7th 1944, while away at camp at Wenlock in Shropshire with the boys from the High School A.T.C., poor Warren was killed in a flying accident. He was only 44 years of age.  He left a widow and a teenage son and daughter. Despite his short stay at the High School, one of the boys described him as “one of the nicest people we had ever met”.
Warren, who was born in the first three months of 1900, seems to have been quite a colourful character. He lived originally at a house called Redhill in St. Helen’s Crescent. Hastings, in Sussex and the first mention of him that I can find seems to be at the age of three when, on November 28th 1903, he played the important part of Bubbles in a local production of Little Red Riding Hood:

little_red_riding_hood_and_wolf1

Not very long afterwards, Warren joined up for the Great War and eventually found himself in the Royal Flying Corps.

During this era, British pilots were not allowed to wear parachutes, so Warren must have thought his death was imminent when he was involved in a mid-air collision at an altitude of over two thousand feet. The two planes must have either spun or perhaps fluttered down to earth, though, because Warren escaped with his life. That life, however, was perhaps affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to some extent. It is difficult to imagine that anybody could go through an experience like that and remain completely unaffected.

Fokker-DVII-Crash

On July 29th 1925, Warren married Alice Elisabeth Unwin at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London.

Warren then seems to have remained in the new Royal Air Force, because the next mention seems to be in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer (Hastings, East) for June 28th 1930. Listed as a mechanic, he appeared in the local magistrates’ court, along with a young friend, who lived in the School House, North Street, Hornchurch. Both were found guilty of damaging a crop of rye in a local farmer’s field, a rather bizarre mark to leave on the pages of history, perhaps.

Certainly from 1931-1934, Warren continued to live in Hastings and St Leonards, presumably with his wife. It was a lovely place:Hastings_english_school_xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx1

Warren played local cricket, both as a batsman and a bowler, although life did not always go well. For whatever reason, his wife Alice Elizabeth filed for a divorce at the London Divorce Courts in 1936. The divorce may not have gone through, because the report contains the annotation, [wd] which may well have meant “withdrawn”.

Perhaps the family then moved northwards to Nottingham as a new start, hoping to put their marital difficulties behind them for the sake of the children.

Alas, we will never know, because 21 PAFU ORB reported on that fateful September evening:

“Flying accident at Wheaton Aston. An Airspeed Oxford LX509, with Flight Lieutenant Harrison as instructor, and Pilot Officer Cheale (Air Training Corps) took off for a night flying test from Wheaton Aston and was seen to dive into the ground shortly afterwards. Both occupants were killed instantly as a result of injuries sustained.”

Here is a general map showing the location of Wheaton Aston airfield:

wheaton aston

At the time, the Airspeed Oxford was considered to be, potentially, a rather dangerous aircraft to fly:

Airspeed_Oxford

Although designed as a twin engined trainer, and supposedly extremely docile, it could be, in actual fact, a rather unforgiving aeroplane.  Many aircraft used in RAF Training, of course, were well past their sell-by date and poorly maintained. These factors may well all have been contributory to the deaths of these two men. In actual fact, in the North Midlands, during the course of the Second World War, the majority of fatalities occurred in either Airspeed Oxfords or another old stager, the Vickers Wellington bomber. To help the situation, Oxford trainers were painted a conspicuous yellow:

Airspeed_Oxford_V3388_yellow

The crash location on the Accident Card for this particular incident is given as:

“At Colonels Covert?, Hatton Grange, Ryton. Map Reference OS765036, just south of Hatton Grange, to the north of Ryton and just south west of RAF Cosford”.

Here is a map which shows Hatton Grange:hatton

The verdict of the official  inquiry was that:

“It is not possible to form a conclusion. Investigation has not revealed the cause of the accident.”

The crew of the Oxford were:

“Flight Lieutenant Sydney Donald Harrison, aged just twenty one. He is buried in (St Ediths) Churchyard, Church Eaton, Staffordshire. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on February 5th 1943.

Sydney  was the beloved only son of Mr and Mrs Donald Harrison, Two Trees, Hernes Road, Oxford and the grandson of Mr and Mrs T E Clarkson, The Villa, Rancliffe, near Goole.

Pilot Officer Warren Herbert Cheale (177869), RAFVR, was aged forty four. His death is commemorated at the Nottingham Crematorium. No next of kin was given at the time.”

When application for a ‘Grant of Probate’ for Warren’s will was made, his address was listed as 123 Church Drive, Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire. This is the Main Street in that lovely village:

18679784

Interestingly, when Probate was granted on February 13th 1945, it was not to Alice Elizabeth, his presumed wife from the 1930s, but to “Rose Cheale, widow”. Perhaps that divorce had actually gone through in 1936, and this was Warren’s new wife.

Two men had paid dearly, therefore, for the High School Flight of the Air Training Corps’ week long stay in Shropshire for their annual training.  They had been accompanied by at least one member of the academic staff, Mr D.C.Whimster, who was a Master at the school from 1939-1945. He was Form Master of the Fifth Form A, and may have been a teacher of English. In reminiscences published in the school magazine, the writer says, talking of drama productions:

“I wish the Society would tackle “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” again, with its greater resources and experience. Mr. D. C. Whimster’s production was interesting and creditable.”

The High School cadets were also accompanied by a person named in RAF reports as Pilot Officer Alder (Air Training Corps). This may have been somebody who normally worked at Wenlock, but I strongly suspect that this is a mis-spelling of the name of a second member of staff, namely Mr S.Allder who worked at the school from 1940-1946. As his name was “Stanley”, the boys, ever inventive, apparently called him “Stan”.

And so Warren Cheale’s extraordinary luck came to an end. In the Royal Flying Corps in 1918, he had somehow managed to avoid what must have seemed to him, as he fell earthwards for thirty seconds, perhaps a minute, a horrific and unavoidable death.

But this time, almost thirty years later, the Gods of the Air had claimed him as their own:

aerspeed

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, The High School

The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume I, 1887-1909

As well as John Francis Haseldine, another High School footballer has carved his initials on the stone mantelpiece of the ground floor fireplace between the General Office and the entrance to the Assembly Hall. This footballing vandal is “F.C.Mahin”.

mahin cccccc
Frank Cadle Mahin is one of the most interesting of the school’s pupils. He was born on May 27th 1887, in Clinton, Iowa, the son of Frank W. Mahin, who was a retired United States Consular Officer at the time. Frank W. had graduated from Harvard University in 1877. Frank C.’s mother was Abbie Anna Cadle, who was born in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1857 to Cornelius Cadle and Ruth Lamprey.
This was Abbie’s second marriage. She had previously been married to Frank Mann with whom she had one child. With her second husband, Frank W., she had two more children, Frank C., and a daughter, Anna, who was born in 1880.

Anna was to meet a young English doctor during the family’s stay in Nottingham, and she remained with him after her parents eventually left England for Amsterdam in Holland. I have been unable to trace Anna’s husband’s surname, although he was to become Frank’s Uncle Alec. As an Englishman, Alec was to fight in the Great War well before Frank and his fellow Americans became involved in the hostilities. Alec was certainly in combat as early as 1915, and I believe that he survived the conflict. The year of Anna’s death has not been recorded. Her mother, Abbie, died in 1941 at the age of 84.

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Frank Cadle Mahin entered the High School on September 15th 1902, at the age of fifteen. The Mahin family lived at 7, Sherwood Rise, on the opposite side of the Forest Recreation Ground from the High School. His father was by now the United States Consul in Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

Untitled
Despite a comparatively short stay at the High School, Frank Junior seems to have been an accomplished sportsman, and appeared for the First XI at football in a fixture against Loughborough Grammar School on Wednesday, October 25th 1904 at Mapperley Park. The High School began very slowly and had quite a fright before they eventually ran out victors by 4-1. The team was M.J.Hogan, J.P.K.Groves, R.Cooper, R.E.Trease, R.G.Cairns, F.C.Mahin, H.E.Mills, S.D.M.Horner, R.B.Wray, L.W.Peters and P.G.Richards.
Frank played a second match on the afternoon of Saturday, December 3rd 1904. Again, it was at Mapperley Park against Notts. Magdala F.C. 2nd XI. The game finished in a 1-3 away win as:

“a weakened team, who ought really to have won, but did not play as well as they might have, against opponents who themselves were rather poor.”

This time the team was  M.J.Hogan, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper, R.E.Trease, R.G.Cairns, F.C.Mahin, H.E.Mills, J.Henson, L.W.Peters, C.R.Attenborough and P.G.Richards.
Frank’s only away game was against Worksop College at Worksop. The entire team doubtless travelled by steam train from Nottingham’s Victoria Station on the afternoon of Saturday, March 11th 1905:

Nottingham_Victoria_Station_3

According to the school magazine:

“The High School fielded a weakened team, but played well, and did not deserve to lose by such a wide margin as he 0-5 final result would suggest.”

The team was M.J.Hogan, J.P.K.Groves, W.E.Williams , F.C.Mahin, R.B.Wray, R.E.Trease, H.E.Mills, C.S.Robinson, S.D.M.Horner, L.W.Peters and P.G.Richards.

This photograph shows the First Team in the 1904-1905 season. It was taken at Mapperley Park Sports Ground, opposite the old Carrington Lido on Mansfield Road. Serjeant Holmes is present, and on the back row are S.D.M.Horner, C.F.R.Fryer, M.J.Hogan, R.E.Trease and J.P.K.Groves. Seated are R.G.Cairns, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper (Captain) and L.W.Peters, Seated on the grass are H.E.Mills and P.G.Richards. On the right is the so-called twelfth man, the reserve player, who is Frank Cadle Mahin. I believe that the photograph was taken on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 12th 1904, just before the High School played against Mr.Hughes’ XI. The School won 12-5, and we know that Cooper in defence was the outstanding player, but the whole team played well, and the forwards’ finishing was particularly deadly. This year, the team was amazingly successful. Their season began with victories by 5-4, 2-1, 23-0, 12-5, 9-0, 15-0, 3-1, 4-1, 11-0, 16-1. They had scored exactly 100 goals by November 3rd, in only ten games:

mahin @ carrington

The detectives among you will notice that it is warm enough for the changing room windows to be open, and the design of the ball is very different from nowadays. Young Horner has forgotten his football socks, and, because this game marked his début for the side, Mr Fryer’s mother has not yet had the time to sew his school badge onto his shirt. Frank is, in actual fact, in the full school uniform of the time, which was a respectable suit or jacket, topped off with a neat white straw boater, with a school ribbon around it.

Frank also performed as a linesman, or assistant referee, in First XI football fixtures on several occasions in 1904-1905:

“Referees during the season were Mr.W.T.Ryles, Mr.R.E.Yates, Mr.M.R.Hughes and Mr.A.G.Onion. F.C.Mahin and K.M.Brace also performed as linesmen.”

Frank was perhaps a better cricketer than footballer, and he was, in actual fact, the regular captain of the Second XI at cricket.

cricket team

This photograph shows the First XI cricket team, in an unrecorded year, probably 1905. The individuals are thought to be on the back row, Mr.A.G.Onion, (Groundsman and Coach), S.D.M.Horner, R.G.Cairns, C.F.R.Fryer, unknown and F.C.Mahin.  In the middle row are P.G.Richards, L.W.Peters, W.G.Emmett (Captain), M.J.Hogan and R.B.Wray. Seated on the grass are J.P.K.Groves, H.E.Mills, and an unknown player.
In his time at the High School, Frank played for the First XI cricket team only sporadically. We know that he batted once in the 1904 season, and scored five runs, and then batted once more in 1905, and obtained the same score.
In addition, we also know that, on Saturday, June 24th 1905, which was School Sports Day, Frank dead-heated for first place in the Open Long Jump, managing a jump of fifteen feet nine inches, exactly the same distance as C.F.R.Fryer.
In the academic world, Frank won the Mayor’s Prize for Modern Languages, and, most significant of all, perhaps, he reached the rank of sergeant in the newly formed Officer Training Corps.

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Frank left the High School in July 1905, and returned to the United States where he was in the Class of 1909 at Harvard University.

The university’s proud boast nowadays is that they produce the most highly paid university alumni in the United States:

harvard-university-brandxxxxxxxx

Frank’s close contemporaries included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and two sons of the current President of the time, Theodore Roosevelt. They were called Theodore and Kermit.

Both of these men had the same interest in the military as Frank.  In 1917, Kermit Roosevelt, although he was obviously an American, joined the British Army to fight in Mesopotamia during the Great War. He was awarded a Military Cross on August 26, 1918. Theodore Roosevelt served as a Brigadier General in the United States Army during the Second World War. He died in France in 1944, a month after leading the first wave of troops onto Utah Beach during the Normandy landings.  This brave act was to earn him the Medal of Honor. To me, it would seem ludicrous to suggest that they were not, at the very least, among Frank’s acquaintances at Harvard, if not friends.

Hopefully, Frank had little or no association with another famous member of the Class of 1909. This was Ernst Hanfstaengl, a prominent member of the German Nazi party in the 1920s and early 1930s. A close personal friend of the Führer, Hanfstaengl provided part of the finance for the publication of “Mein Kampf”  and the Nazi Party’s official newspaper, the “Völkischer Beobachter“. Using his experience of Harvard football songs, he composed many Brownshirt and Hitler Youth marches and also claimed to have invented the “Sieg Heil” chant. Eventually, “Putzi” was to defect to the Allies and to work as part of President Roosevelt’s “S-Project”, providing information on some 400 prominent Nazis.

During his time at Harvard, according to the Secretary’s Second Report on the Harvard College Class of 1909, Frank married Miss Carrie Knight Whitmore on December 10th 1906. Alas, the poor lady was to die on February 11th 1907. Details are lacking, unfortunately, but this was an era where women could die not only giving birth to a child, but even of morning sickness in the early part of a pregnancy. The same source reveals that Frank remarried on August 18th 1908 in New York, New York State. The lucky lady was called Miss Sasie Avice Seon.

Frank represented the University at football on a number of occasions. Here is one of them:

in goal 1908
On November 30th 1906, Frank was selected as a goalkeeper against Columbia University:

“Tonight at 6 o’clock the University association football team will leave on the Fall River boat for New York, where they will play Columbia tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. While in New York the team will stay at the Murray Hill Hotel. On Sunday, they will leave for Ithaca, play Cornell on Monday afternoon, and return to Cambridge that night. The following men, accompanied by Manager E. B. Stern ’07 and Assistant Manager P. Woodman ’08, will be taken: G. W. Biddle ’08, W. M. Bird ’08, P. Brooks ’09, E. N. Fales ’08, W. A. Forbush ’07, H. Green ’08, O. B. Harriman ’09, F. C. Mahin ’09, C. G. Osborne ’07, A. N. Reggio ’07, A. W. Reggio ’08, L. B. Robinson ’07, W. T. S. Thackara ’08.”

Further details followed in “The Crimson Banner

The association football team will play its first game of the season with Columbia this afternoon at 2 o’clock on Alumni Field, New York. Individually the team is strong; but, as several of the men have only recently joined the squad, the team work is not well developed. Captain Thackara will be in the line-up today for the first team this year. Columbia finished second in the intercollegiate league last year and defeated Yale last week in a well-played game by the score of 4 to 0.
The line-up will be: HARVARD.  COLUMBIA. Mahin, g.  g., Graybill Green, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Voskamp Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Fairchild Biddle, l.h.b.,  r.h.b., deGarmendia A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dickson Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Rocour Forbush, l.o.f.  r.o.f., Billingsley Brooks, l.i.f.  r.i.f. Simpson Osborne, c.f.  c.f., Hartog A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Dwyer Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Cutler
Tomorrow the team will leave for Ithaca, and will play Cornell on Monday afternoon, returning to Cambridge that night.

Frank did well:

“The association football team defeated Columbia on Saturday at Alumni Field, New York, by the score of 1 to 0. With only ten men in the line-up, Columbia was unable to block the clever attack of the University team, and was on the defensive during most of the game. The single goal was scored in the first half after a series of speedy passes by the forwards to A. N. Reggio, who sent the ball into the net. Osborne, the University team’s centre forward, played an excellent game, and continually broke up the Columbia attack before it was fairly started. Two 30-minute halves were played.
Harvard vs. Cornell at Ithaca Today.
This afternoon, the team plays Cornell on Percy Field, Ithaca. Last month Cornell defeated Columbia by the score of 2 to 1, and has a fast, aggressive team.
The teams will line-up as follows: HARVARD  CORNELL. Mahin, g.  g., Wood Green, l.f.f.  r.f.b., Van der Does de Bye Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Sampaio Biddle, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Malefski A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dragoshanoff Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Wilson Forbush, l.i.f.  r.o.f., Van Bylevelt Brooks, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Deleasse Osborne, c.f.  e.f., MacDonald A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Samirento Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Chryssidy ”

On December 4th, Frank appeared against Cornell University:

“ITHACA, N. Y., Dec. 3.–On a field covered with snow the association football team defeated Cornell this afternoon on Percy Field, by the score of 5 to 1. In spite of the unfavorable conditions, the University team played well and showed a marked improvement in team work over the form in the Columbia game. Cornell’s defense was unable to check the hard attack of the University forwards, and but for the snow which made accurate shooting impossible, the score would have been larger. Of the five goals, Osborne made three, and Biddle and A. N. Reggio one each. Cornell’s goal came after a hard scrimmage in front of the net, following a kick out from the corner of the field. Two thirty-minute halves were played.
The summary follows: HARVARD.  CORNELL. Mahin, g.  g., Wood Green, l.f.f. r.f.b.,  Van der Does de Bye Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Sampaio Brooks, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Malefski A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dragoshanoff Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Wilson Forbush, l.o.f.  r.e.f., Van Bylevelt Biddle, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Delcasse Osborne, c.f.  c.f., MacDonald A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Samirento Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Chryssidy
Score–Harvard, 5; Cornell, 1. Goals –Osborne, 3; Biddle, A. N. Reggio, Dragoshanoff. Time–30-minute halves.”

This is the Harvard team for an unknown match in the 1906-1907 season:

sophomore 07-08

On December 8th, news came of an important game:

“The University association football team will play Haverford this afternoon at 2.30 o’clock in the Stadium. As neither team has been defeated this fall, the game today will decide the intercollegiate league championship.
The University team has improved steadily during the season and has developed an effective attack, as shown in the Cornell game last Monday. Haverford has a well-balanced, team of experienced players, many of whom played on last year’s championship team. Last month they defeated Columbia by the score of 2 to 1, while the University team defeated Columbia, 1 to 0.
The line-up will be: HARVARD.  HAVERFORD. Mahin, g.  g., Warner Kidder, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Brown Green, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Godley Thackara, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Drinker A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Rossmaessler Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Windele Brooks, l.o.f  r.o.f. Bushnell A. N. Reggio, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Furness Osborne, e.f.  e.f., Baker Robinson, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Shoemaker Biddle, r.o.f.  l.o.f, Strode
The privileges of the Union are extended today to all Haverford men.
D. J. Pryer has been elected captain of the Brown University football team for next year.
The novice revolver shoot, finished last night, was won by M. R. Giddings ’08 with a score of 329 out of a possible 500.”

Frank duly appeared as the goalkeeper for Harvard on December 10th:

“The University association football team was defeated by Haverford on Saturday in the intercollegiate championship game by the score of 2 to 1. Haverford’s light forwards were very fast and displayed better team work than the University players, who depended almost entirely on individual work. On the defense, the University backs were not given enough assistance by the forwards.
For the University team, Brooks and A. N. Reggio played especially well. In spite of a constant guard of two Haverford players, Osborne played his usual good game. In the second half, several opportunities to score were lost by the University forwards through inaccurate kicking. Baker, Haverford’s centre forward, played brilliantly and was the most untiring player on the field.
Haverford won the toss and chose to defend the north goal with a strong wind behind them. During the first half, Baker made two goals, aided by fast team work on the part of the other forwards. Shortly after the beginning of the second period, A. N. Reggio scored Harvard’s only goal.
The summary follows: HARVARD.  HAVERFORD. Mahin, g.  g., Warner Thackara, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Brown Kidder, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Godley Brooks, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Drinker A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Rossmaessler Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Windele Forbush, l.o.f.  r.o.f., Bushnell A. N. Reggio, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Furness Osborne, c.f.  c.f., Baker Robinson, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Shoemaker Biddle, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Strode
Score–Haverford, 2; Harvard, 1. Goals–Baker 2, A. N. Reggio. Referee–J. H. Fairfax-Luey. Linesmen–D. V. Leland ’10 and F. R. Leland ’10. Time–25-minute halves.”

On October 25th of that year, Frank had taken part in the university rowing:

highest-paid-alumni-harvard-zzzzzzzzz

This was in the “first bumping races” and Frank rowed for a crew called “Brentford”. The latter were classified as fifth out of six, in the third division out of three:

“Brentford–Stroke, C. L. Hathaway ’10; 7, J. F. Frye ’09; 6, J. A. Curtis ’10; 5, W. F. Doake ’09; 4, P. N. Case ’09; 3, I. E. Willis ’09; 2, F. C. Mahin ’09; bow, H. F. Bingham ’10; coxswain, E. B. Gillette ’10.

The full details were:

“This afternoon at 3.45 o’clock the first division of the Dormitory crews will race upstream over a one and three-eighths mile course, starting at the Boylston street bridge, and rowing up the river to the beginning of the long stretch, leading up to the Brighton bridge. A stake boat will be placed at this point and all the crews will finish at the same place. Immediately after, the second division will row over the same course, and as soon as the shells are returned, the third division will start. The divisions of the crews and the order in which they will start follows:
Division I–1, Claverly; 2, Mt. Auburn street; 3, Dunster-Dana-Drayton; 4, Randolph; 5, Westmorly; 6, Craigie-Waverley; 7, Russell.
Division II–1, Thayer; 2, First Holyoke; 3, Hampden; 4, Holworthy; 5, Perkins; 6, Matthews; 7, Weld.
Division III–1, Foxcroft-Divinity; 2, Grays; 3, Second Holyoke; 4, Hollis-Stoughton; 5, Brentford; 6, College House.
On the two days’ racing, which will follow, the order of the crews in the divisions will change; the crews securing a bump advancing in position, while the crews against which a bump is scored, will be put in the rear, one place for each bump.”

On March 17th 1906, Frank had volunteered to play cricket:

“At the meeting of candidates for the cricket team last night, the following handed in their names: W. P. Phillips 2L., R. M. Gummere 3G., N. L. Tilney ’06, C. G. Mayer 2L., C. G. Osborn ’07, A. W. Reggio ’08, R. N. Wilson 1G., A. N. Reggio ’06, H. R. Waters ’07, N. B. Groton ’07, T. E. Hambleton ’07, L. C. Josephs ’08, E. M. B. Roche ’09, A. E. Newbolt ’09, A. L. Hoffman ’09, F. C. Mahin ’09.
For the present the men will be divided into two squads, which will practice in the old baseball cage in the Gymnasium on alternate afternoons between 3.30 and 5 o’clock. Outdoor practice will begin as soon as the condition of the ground on Soldiers Field permits.”

Frank was really quite bored with life at Harvard though. He wanted to be a soldier. After two years of university life, he left Harvard to join the Regular Army, not as an officer, but as a private soldier. I will take up his fascinating tale in another blog post.

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Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

Gun Battle on Derby Road: three slain, and a horse

Derby Road seems reasonably peaceful now, but not in 1701, when Timothy Buckley, a 29-year old criminal from Stamford, Lincolnshire, was arrested after a ferocious gun battle as he tried to rob a stagecoach on its way to Derby.  The coach contained three gentlemen attended by two footmen. Buckley had previously been a shoemaker’s apprentice in London, but gradually became a more and more hardened criminal after his return to Nottinghamshire and the Wild North.
Beyond “two miles from Nottingham”, we do not know exactly where this gun battle took place, but usually, highwaymen would strike as the coach was moving uphill, and was therefore travelling at its very slowest pace.

highwayman

To me, the steep slope near the present day St.Barnabas Cathedral is too close to the city centre, so my best guess would be that stretch of the A52 as it climbs steadily after the present-day Ring Road, between the back of Wollaton Park and the grounds of Nottingham University. On this map, look for the orange arrow which is over the green A52 road with the words “Lenton Abbey” written over it. If the incident was any further on, then it might have been on the shorter slope near to the present day Bramcote Leisure Centre.

shoot out
No sooner had Buckley commanded the stagecoach to “Stand and Deliver, Your Money or your Life!”, than one of the passengers, unwilling “to submit to a single bravo”, blasted him with a blunderbuss. Buckley’s horse was shot out from under him, and died instantly.

Blunderbuss1

A blunderbuss was a murderous weapon, used for close-in fighting, in the words of Wikipedia, “when it was unimportant to protect objects around the intended target”. This formidable firearm was loaded with shot and anything else the user thought might do the job, small pieces of metal, nails, bits of rock or stone, or even salt. It was flared at the muzzle, and was the 17th-19th century equivalent of the shotgun so beloved of Wells Fargo personnel.
Interestingly, the military term dragoon is taken from the fact that early blunderbusses (or should that be “blunderbi”?) were decorated with dragon’s heads around the muzzle, and the blast would seem a little like the fire of a real dragon.
Buckley was not lightly armed either. He was carrying eight horse pistols. The largest were up to twenty inches long, and were carried in holsters across the horse’s back just in front of the saddle. This seems an unlikely number of such large weapons, but perhaps some were coat pistols (carried in the pocket of a greatcoat) coach pistols, (carried in a saddlebag perhaps), or belt pistols, (carried on a belt, hanging from a hook).

horse pistol xxxxxxxxIn any case, Buckley was very attached to his favorite horse and enraged by its untimely demise, “a most desperate conflict ensued”. Buckley let fly with all his pistols.
One male passenger and a footman both fell dead, shot through the heart. Eventually, though, Buckley was overcome by the remaining occupants of the stagecoach, as he grew gradually weaker and weaker from loss of blood, caused by his eleven severe gunshot wounds.

Guild-hall-1750 and prison

After a brief trial at Nottingham Shire Hall, Buckley was found guilty and was later hanged. He was only 29 years of age, and he was sentenced also to be “hanged in chains”. I don’t know how long his rotting cadaver was left exposed to the elements, but as a birdwatcher, I certainly know that there was one famous case in Nottingham where a dead criminal decayed over the course of the winter, helped by passing crows and magpies, only to have, with the advent of spring, a pair of blue tits raise their young inside his empty skull, using his eye sockets to go in and out, perhaps even operating their own one-way system.

As these events all took place in 1701, Buckley would have been executed on what is now “The Forest Recreation Ground”. Centuries ago, “The Forest”, was called “The Lings” and was a very different place from what it is like nowadays. Largely covered by gorse and scrub, it was considered to be the southernmost part of Sherwood Forest itself. It was only as late as 1845 that, under the Nottingham Inclosure Act, some eighty acres of Sherwood Forest were set aside for recreational use. This area became “The Forest Recreation Ground” and to commemorate the event the Mayor of Nottingham planted a special Oak tree called the “Inclosure Oak” which can still be seen today at the Mansfield Road entrance. The orange arrow marks the oak tree:

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Pretty well straightway, the area became a site for sports and shows, or a combination of the two.

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In the summer of 1801, four butchers held their weddings there simultaneously, and decided who was to pay for the wedding picnic by holding a donkey race, with four animals, each equipped with mascots taken from the wardrobes of their respective owners’ new wives. The race was easily won by the donkey which had corsets attached to his tail with a bow of green ribbon. In second and third place were the animal with a pair of stockings around its neck, and another with a saddle made out of a nightgown.  Needless to say, the donkey wearing a voluminous pair of ladies’ drawers was placed last.
By this time, the Forest had already been a horse racing course for well over a hundred years. Not long before that, bear baiting had taken place on the very site where the horse racing course was later to be constructed. In 1798, a new horse racing track in the form of a figure-of-eight was built. Unfortunately, this rather novel choice of layout, designed to give the maximum length of course in the smallest possible area, was not overly successful, as spectators did not have a sufficiently good view. Crashes between horses were apparently too infrequent to compensate for this.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, though, there were at least two major race meetings per year, in spring and autumn, and the area was beginning to attract the same kind of people who can still be found there nowadays, well over a hundred and fifty years later…

“…loiterers…policemen…tooting footmen…toddling children…enterprising
vendors… overcharging greenhorns…patterers, chanters and beggars…sailors without arms or legs… “downy blokes”…holiday makers….villains…detectives …boozers and nymphs of easy virtue…ministers of religion……“black sheep”…enterprising merchants…aristocratic swells… pleasure seekers…a few robberies, a few drunks, a few fights…married men, sitting in the drinking places at the Stand with an assemblage of whores…the unemployed poor…”

Indeed, with whisky at an all-time low of 75p a gallon, so unsavoury did the area become that in 1879, male members of Nottingham University staff were threatened with instant dismissal if they were ever found at the horse races.
Other sports were played there as well. From 1865-1879, Nottingham Forest both practiced and played soccer here, being known therefore as “Forest Football Club”. Cricket was widely played in the summer, as were types of field hockey known variously as bandy, shinney or shinty.
Apart from sport, alongside what is now Forest Road East, there was a long line of thirteen windmills, all taking advantage of the strong winds and updrafts which blew across the open ground lower down to the north.

(c) Nottinghamshire Archives; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The exact place where the gallows stood and where Tinothy Buckley met his Maker has not necessarily been recorded absolutely accurately. Public executions took place here until as recently as 1827, and I am fairly certain that, many years ago, I read that the gallows used to stand a little distance down Mansfield Road from St.Andrew’s Church, within the present day Rock Cemetery. This was to the south of the white, recently refurbished, Lodge House. Clearly, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, there was still some judicial rôle for this building to fulfil, as it was originally used as a Police or Keeper’s Lodge and a police cell can still be seen at basement level.

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Others say that  there was a gallows on the same site as present-day St.Andrew’s Church, and, indeed, when excavation work was done here in 1826 for the church foundations, more than fifteen apparently medieval skeletons were found. This was presumably connected with a much earlier era, when travellers left the City of Nottingham through the gate in the mediaeval wall near what is now the Victoria Centre branch of Boots the Chemist. As they climbed painfully slowly up the hill which is now Mansfield Road, stagecoach robbers and mere footpads would sometimes pounce at Forest Road: hence the gallows which were constructed here, and might even have concentrated the thieves’ minds a little as they waited to swoop upon their prey from behind the bushes.

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“Garner’s Old Nottingham Notes” (date unknown) somehow contrive to be both illuminating and yet somehow confusing…

From information given, the gallows appear to have been erected on the level ground which now forms the upper portion of the Rock Cemetery, and it was probably 100 yards or rather more from Mansfield Road…..
Judging by the large old official map of the borough, measuring from the present Forest Road East, I consider it probable that, going northwards, the site of the gallows was about 100 yards from the southern boundary of the Rock Cemetery, and probably rather more from Mansfield Road, according to the contour of the ground, as depicted upon the official map. There is much likelihood that the gallows was erected near to where the last windmill on that side of the Forest then stood or was afterwards constructed.
It is certainly proper to state that I have seen two or more old maps on which the ground now covered by St Andrews Church, and southwards from there, is entitled Gallows Hill. The upper part of the ground is no doubt higher than any portion of the Rock Cemetery, and I have thought that this might possibly be the original place on which the gallows stored a few centuries back and perhaps afterwards were moved to the spot above designated.”

to gallowszzzzzzzzzz

Wherever the exact location of the gallows, when convicted prisoners were to be hanged, they were usually brought from the County Hall in High Pavement, or the Town Hall at Week-day Cross, through the maze of streets in Hockley, and then walked along Clumber Street, Milton Street and finally up the hill along Mansfield Road. Prisoners were entitled to one last drink at the Nag’s Head Public House, which was traditionally paid for by the landlord.

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There is, of course, a traditional tale, told no doubt, of every road with a set of gallows and a public house. One particular prisoner, who was a teetotaller, therefore, refused his last mug of ale at the Nag’s Head. He was taken straight on to the gallows and duly hanged. Seconds later a much flustered horse rider came galloping up the hill, and screamed to a halt by the little knot of people. He was waving a piece of paper which was, of course, the Royal Pardon for the Recently Hanged Man. Had the latter been just a little later in arriving at his place of execution, then he would have been saved. The “little later” of course, is exactly the time it takes to quaff a pint of ale.
The last person to be executed at these gallows on Forest Road was William Wells, a 45 year old native of Peterborough, who had robbed James Corden in Basford Lane and Mansfield Road on March 7th 1827. He was executed on April 2nd 1827.
Not all highwaymen meet with disaster however. Just occasionally one of them can make that leap from criminality to superstardom…

 

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