Today marks the 100th anniversary of that enigmatic character, Albert Ball. Nowadays, perhaps, Albert Ball is pretty much a forgotten name. He was, however, one of the greatest air aces of the Great War:
Albert was a natural fighter pilot, and initially, he always flew French Nieuport fighters (with a top speed of 110 m.p.h.):
As well as the French fighter though, the English S.E.5 with its top speed of 138 m.p.h. was to hold a huge place in Albert’s affections in the latter period of his career:
Unlike many of his colleagues in the Royal Flying Corps, Albert gained widespread public fame for his achievements. In general, unlike the French or the Germans, the British did not use their aces for propaganda purposes, but Albert was the first brilliant exception. Almost like a medieval knight of the air, Albert shot down 44 enemy aircraft. In today’s world he would have been, quite simply, a superstar.
Albert was genuinely fearless, and the war weary English public of 1917 loved the way he flew alone, like a Knight of the Round Table, and always attacked the enemy aircraft, irrespective of the odds against him. His favourite prey was the German Roland C.II, the so-called “Walfisch”:
Most of Albert’s victories came by attacking enemy aircraft from below, with his Lewis machine gun tilted upwards. It was very dangerous but, like the Schräge Musik cannons of a later conflict, was remarkably successful.
Flying without any other aircraft to support him, Albert was always going to be vulnerable, and he was finally killed out on patrol on May 7th 1917, shortly before his twenty-first birthday. For this last combat, Albert was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, to add to his Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Cross, Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Chevalier, Russian Order of St George and the American Medal.
These medals can still be seen inside Nottingham Castle. Outside, in the gardens, is his statue:
His battered uniform has been carefully preserved:
And so has his shattered windscreen:
On a more scurrilous note, Albert was always one for the ladies and every photograph of the dashing hero seems to have him with a different young lady in tow. In some of his biographies he is credited with having left an unknown, but relatively sizeable, number of the young ladies of Nottingham in, shall we say, a very interesting state. Indeed, it would be interesting to know if anybody nowadays claims kinship with this dashing young man.
Albert was born on August 14th 1896 at the family home at 301, Lenton Boulevard (now 245 Castle Boulevard), Nottingham. He was the third child, and elder son, of Albert Ball and his wife, née Harriet Mary Page. A few years afterwards the family moved to Sedgley House, 43 Lenton Avenue, The Park, Nottingham, where they lived in a moderately wealthy fashion:
Albert had a brother Cyril and a sister Lois. Their parents were always “loving and indulgent”. Albert Ball Senior had originally been a plumber, but he was an ambitious man and became an estate agent, and then a property speculator, as his fortunes improved. He was to be elected Mayor of Nottingham in 1909, 1910, 1920 and 1935.
As a boy, Albert was interested in engines and electrics. He had experience with firearms and enjoyed target practice in the garden. Thanks to his wonderful eyesight, he was soon a crack shot. On his sixteenth birthday, Albert spent a lovely day as a steeplejack, as he accompanied workmen to the top of a tall factory chimney. He was completely unafraid and strolled around, not bothered in the slightest by the height:
Albert’s education began at the Lenton Church School. He then moved, along with his younger brother Cyril, to Grantham Grammar School, which had a military tradition that stretched way back into the Napoleonic times of the early 19th century, well before the establishment of other schools’ Officer Training Corps, or Combined Cadet Forces.
Albert moved to Nottingham High School on Thursday, September 19th 1907 at the age of eleven, as boy number 2651. According to the school register, he was born on August 17th 1896, although on his birth certificate, the date is certainly given as August 14th. Later in life, Albert was to countersign a certificate from the Royal Aero Club on which his date of birth was written as August 21st. His father is listed in the High School register as Albert Ball, a land agent of 43, Lenton Road, Nottingham.
Albert did not last a particularly long time at his new school, as he was to be expelled for bad behaviour in 1910. Contemporary sources reveal that Ball particularly enjoyed misbehaving in music lessons:
“The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you ! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO ! NO ! NOT YOU !! …YOU ! ! ” The original four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.
Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and were then sent out of the room.”
According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert’s actual expulsion came from:
“an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets. At one point it was allowed to burst, and hundreds and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.”
That did not necessarily mean, however, that Albert misbehaved with every single teacher. The Chief History master, C.Lloyd Morgan, was to recollect in later years:
“I think I taught Albert Ball but can’t recollect him.”
Albert moved next to Trent College, where he was a boarder. He was only an average student, but he possessed great curiosity for everything mechanical. His favourite lessons were therefore carpentry, model making, playing the violin and photography. He was also a member of the Officer Training Corps:
Albert eventually left Trent College at Midsummer 1913. His stay there seems to have been for the most part relatively happy, although it was not always a totally enjoyable experience, by any means. On at least one occasion, for example, the unhappy young Albert is supposed to have run away to sea, and he was only apprehended at the very last moment:
“covered in coal dust, in the engine room of an outgoing steamer”.
Whatever Naughty Albert’s long forgotten negatives, though, there is something genuinely cool about being featured on your very own stamp. As far as I know, Albert is the only Old Boy of the High School to have achieved this:
During his career, Albert secured 44 victories over enemy aircraft with a further 2 unconfirmed. Nobody can fight alone for ever, though. After just 13 or 14 months of combat flying, Albert was killed.
The end came 100 years ago to this very day. I have tried to schedule the appearance of this post so that it is published to celebrate this anniversary. There is no clear indication of what happened in his last combat although four German officers on the ground all saw his SE5 emerge from low cloud, upside down, and trailing a thin plume of oily smoke. Its engine was stopped and the plane crashed close to a farm called Fashoda near the village of Annoeullin. Albert was still alive and he was removed from the wreckage by Mademoiselle Cécile Deloffre. As she cradled him in her arms Albert opened his eyes once and then died. His death was later found to be due to his injuries in the crash. He had not been wounded. The chivalrous Germans gave Albert a funeral with full military honours on May 9th. The original white cross with which they marked his grave, No.999, is still kept in the chapel at Trent College.
Albert’s father, Sir Albert Ball, was eventually to become Lord Mayor of Nottingham. After his son’s death, he bought the land where the crash had occurred. When he died in 1946 he bequeathed it to the inhabitants of the village to farm and to keep the memorial in good condition:
When I composed the four articles, I deliberately chose not to include anything negative from what Mr Henderson said. I cannot, however, fail to include this almost surreal tale. Hopefully, you will find it interesting to read it and then try for yourself to work out what is really going on, what the real motivations are behind people’s behaviour, and what is happening behind the scenes.
Arthur Willoughby Barton was the son of Professor Edwin H.Barton, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Professor of Experimental Physics. He lived in Private Road, Sherwood, where very large Victorian houses change hands nowadays for around £500,000:
After the High School, Arthur went to Trinity College, Cambridge and gained First Class Honours in Physics. He was then a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he helped Lord Rutherford to split the atom.
Harold Connop was the son of an Elementary School teacher, Mr Arno B Connop, and Mrs Ada Connop. There seems to be some confusion about the address. Some sources give it as 33,Westwood Road, a street in Sneinton, one of Nottingham’s working class areas. It is the first house on the left with a white door:
In 2001, this terraced house, with, perhaps just four or maybe five rooms, sold for £25,000. It is now worth around £57,000. Another address listed for Harold is 20, Stewart Place, a location which has now been demolished, probably in the slum clearance under the Socialist government immediately after the Second World War. Ironically, these houses were originally built by a local philanthropist, as “good houses for poor people”. This kind gentleman was the Reverend Robert Gregory, who was eventually to become Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Harold’s education at the High School was financed solely by scholarships, awarded on the basis of intellectual ability. He entered the school as a Sir Thomas White scholar, and then became a Foundation Scholar. Two years later, in 1913, the Sir Thomas White Scholarship was renewed and then subsequently extended for a fourth year.
Harold won prizes for six different subjects and the Form Prize for the Fifth Form in 1913, and the Sixth Form in 1915, 1916 and 1917. Here is the school in 1915:
In his public examinations in 1913, he gained First Class in six subjects, and subsequently five distinctions at Higher Level. He became a Prefect in 1915, and Captain of the School in 1917. In the words of Roy Henderson, he was:
“a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter in rugby, and a very fast runner.”
Harold won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and was also awarded an exhibition, worth £65 annually for four years. At Oxford he was regarded as “the first Scholar of Corpus Christi College”, in other words, the cleverest and best one there:
Compared to both Barton and Connop, Roy Henderson was, quite simply, not in their league. He enjoyed school, but himself admitted that he was never very good academically and was totally hopeless at exams. The high point of his career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize for an English essay on “Militarism”. Henderson only won because the rest of the Sixth Form boycotted the competition, saying “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…let him have it.”
Around this time, Roy Henderson, along with William Donald Willatt, founded a new school magazine called “The Highvite”. As editor of the original school magazine, Connop was apparently furious at this new rival. Henderson didn’t get on very well at all with Connop, for a reason which Henderson was not willing to divulge, even after the best part of seventy years. Henderson added that Connop was not very well liked in the school as a whole and he was never a particularly popular figure.
William Donald Willatt was one of six brothers at the High School, the sons of John Willatt, who lived at 4, Pelham Road, Sherwood Rise. John Willatt was a wine merchant, whose business was presumably prosperous enough to pay the school fees of his six sons.
I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind. I will tell you about the quarrel next time.
Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the penultimate section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.
Roy used to live at 3, Lenton Road in Nottingham’s richest area, The Park. He would be awakened by another High School boy called Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, who would come along the road as he walked the family dog, and whistle loudly that it was soon time to go to school. Roy was then accompanied to school by his friend, who was walking from his own family house at 2, Hawthorne Drive in The Park. One particular day in the Fourth Form, Alfred Chenhalls did not arrive, and Roy Henderson was therefore late. Mr Lloyd Morgan ticked him off:
“Who shall we punish? Chenhalls or his dog? ”
Alfred Chenhalls, whose father, like that of Roy Henderson, was a minister of the church, later became an accountant who dealt with lots of musicians and theatrical people, including the famous Hollywood actor, Leslie Howard. Chenhalls always smoked a large cigar, and as a big fat man, looked rather like Winston Churchill. He was killed on June 1st 1943, when the unarmed DC-3 of the B.O.A.C., carrying him and Leslie Howard between Lisbon and London, was shot down by Junkers Ju 88s of the German Luftwaffe. Here is the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, in question:
At the time, Churchill was known to be attending a conference in Algiers, and there was much speculation that a German spy had seen Chenhalls getting onto the plane in Lisbon, and had then organised its destruction. Here is Chenhalls pretending to be Churchill:
Further confirmation of the Germans’ interpretation was that Churchill’s colleague in Algiers, the Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, looked very like Leslie Howard. Alternatively, Leslie Howard may have been thought to be Detective Inspector Walter Thompson Churchill’s personal bodyguard. Whatever the complex truth of it, Churchill himself considered all his life that this was a definite assassination attempt. The incident was also one of the very few occasions when airliners were ever attacked on this route out of neutral Portugal. Much more detailed information on the event is available here.
At this time, many boys had nicknames. Donald James Clarkson was always called “Pug” because of his upturned nose. Here he is:
Another boy, an extremely good Fives player, was called, for obvious reasons, “Sparrowlegs”. Strangely enough, though, only one particular boy ever had a certain nickname. Nobody could ever be called “Pug” or “Sparrowlegs”, as long as the original boy remained in the school. There seemed to be no obvious reason for the nickname of “Fuzzy” Barton, given that his hair was not in the least bit curly. Peculiarly enough, though, his elder brother had extremely fuzzy hair. He, though, was never called “Fuzzy”.
Eventually, the younger Barton became the Headmaster of King Edward’s School in Sheffield. The latter establishment had an extremely peculiar cricket pitch, which was constructed on various levels, with a number of different slopes, flat areas, and two or three quite sharp drops. Certain unfortunate fielders were unable to see either wicket, and pieces of information had to be passed on to them by other fielders one level higher up.
Because of the Great War, and the subsequent restrictions on travelling by train, there were very few away matches at cricket. Boys went only to Derby, Worksop or Sheffield, but never to Denstone or Birmingham. On many occasions, they played home fixtures against Army teams billeted in the area, including a few Italian ones. This was much more enjoyable than the very limited number of fixtures against other schools.
If they did ever travel by train, High School teams invariably used the now demolished Victoria Station. You might recognise the Clock Tower which still stands nowadays, outside the Victoria Shopping Centre. The hotel on the right is also still there:
Here is a steam train coming out of the tunnel which took rail traffic northwards towards Worksop and Sheffield. This tunnel is still visible, either from the modern multi storey underground car park or from Huntingdon Street:
At this time, in the school, in general, the rules on caps were very strict. Roy Henderson himself had a special dispensation from the Headmaster and was allowed not to wear a cap in school. For some unknown reason, his mother had contacted the Headmaster, and the latter had agreed to this special privilege. Roy wore a cap for the first time when he became a prefect, and that turned out to be a spectacular piece of headgear with a silver badge on it.
Roy was the secretary of the School Debating Society. He spoke quite frequently in debates, despite, by his own admission, not being particularly good at it. The meetings, which were mostly in the winter term, took place after school, between twelve and one o’clock on Saturday afternoons.
When he left the High School, Roy joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles. He had already learned a lot in the school’s Officer Training Corps, as was confirmed by the first drill sergeant that he encountered in the regular army. Later, he joined the Regimental Concert Party, which did its training at Lichfield. Roy, because of his age, missed the Great War by a few weeks, but he caught Spanish Flu in January 1918. He was not to leave hospital before August 1918.
At the High School, there had been no specialist singing master, and no real in-depth teaching of music. Roy had never realised that he had any particular talent in this field, until he sang solo during the interval of a school play, and was overwhelmed and astonished by the great volume of applause which he received. Roy later went on to sing at Speech Day. Within only a few years of leaving the High School, he had become one of the leading singers in the country, who was destined to work with some of the greatest musical talents in the whole world. I have been unable to find any photographs of Roy Henderson, but here is one of his record labels:
And here is one of his album sleeves:
In the near future, I will continue with the fifth, and final, article in this series. I hope you are enjoying them and finding them interesting.
Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the third section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.
Prominent boys in the High School at this time included Lancelot Wilson Foster, who, in the 1930s, was to become a vicar in Cheshire, and then a chaplain in World War Two.
William Donald Willatt became the Vicar of St.Martin’s, Sherwood, and eventually lived in West Bridgford. Here is St.Martin’s:
Along with Roy Henderson, William Willatt was later to start a school magazine called “The Highvite”. By Roy’s own admission, it was “a pretty dreadful magazine”, and only survived because it was financed by a variety of different adverts. The enterprising boys went round to local companies such as Sisson & Parker, and many other businesses. As editor of the other school magazine, Harold Connop was furious at the new rival. Roy didn’t get on very well with him at all.
Harold Arno Connop, however, was a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter, and a very fast runner, but for one reason or another, which Roy was not willing to divulge, he was, supposedly, never particularly well liked in the school, and in general, was apparently not a very popular figure. This may not have been totally unconnected, however, with Harold’s rare combination of outstanding academic prowess, and humble origins. His father was a mere Elementary School teacher, and Harold’s education throughout his time at the High School was entirely financed by his being both a Sir Thomas White Scholar, and a Foundation Scholar.
Harold eventually joined the Royal Naval Air Service, where he became a Lieutenant. He would not survive the conflict and was to die of his wounds on March 31st 1918. Here he is, resplendent in his uniform:
Percival Henry Biddulph Furley always used to sit next to Henderson in the Classical Sixth. He was one of Deputy Headmaster Sammy Corner’s favourites. In actual fact, despite being well over sixty years of age, Mr Corner was to leave his post as Form Master of 5b to go to the Great War. Here is Mr Corner, showing the School Charter to interested parents on the occasion of the school’s 400th anniversary in 1913:
As a teacher, Mr Corner was famous for how easily he could be diverted from the work in hand. Anybody just had to get him started off on an interesting subject, especially in Scripture lessons, and the class would then seldom, if ever, have to return to what they were supposed to be doing. Percival Furley, for some unknown reason, was always nicknamed “Dab”. He was a member of the First Eleven at cricket for three years. His other claim to fame was his talent in school plays. At this time, all the female parts were taken by boys. Given his youthful good looks, “Dab” could always be made up into a very good looking lady or girl! When he left the High School, “Dab” joined the Army. He was eventually to be killed in a skirmish with some lashkars at Miranshah, in the North West Province of India, in June 1919. Here is the official account of that short rehearsal for our recent war in Afghanistan:
And here is Miranshah today, now that it is running its own affairs:
According to Roy Henderson. the younger of the two Boyd brothers, John Hardy Boyd, was the best athlete in the school. He was captain of the school cricket team and of the Officer Training Corps. His elder brother, Charles Gordon Boyd, had been the school’s wicketkeeper, and had represented the school at football from 1910-1912. He was killed on May 3rd 1917, while serving as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment.
Allan Roy Stewart Grant was the son of a Presbyterian minister. For some subtle reason, possibly connected with his initials, he was always nicknamed “Pongy”. Thomas Wright was quite a good bowler, as was Daft, the grandson of the famous Nottinghamshire cricketer. Other cricketers included Francis Arthur Bird and James Wilcox, and Roy was himself one of the better bowlers and batsmen. The school cricket coach at this time was, of course, Mr A.G.Onion, seen here, perhaps, in his later years:
In one year, Roy was the school Fives champion. In the year before this, it had been Donald Clarkson, who was to become that most vulnerable rank of officers, a Second Lieutenant, killed on August 9th 1918 with the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters. “Pug” Clarkson lived only a street away from where I am now writing, at 52, Caledon Road, Sherwood.
Other school Fives champions included Victor Guy Willatt and his brother, William Donald Willatt. William Norman Hoyte, the Captain of Mellers House was also a very fine athlete, as was Sidney Charles Trease. The latter was to become a Second Lieutenant in the 11th Scottish Rifles. He went missing on September 19th 1918 at the age of only nineteen. He was the beloved son of George and Annie Trease, of 85, Waterloo Crescent, within just a couple of minutes’ walk of the school. His death came in a fairly pointless campaign in Greece and is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial.
The School was converted to rugby by Mr Kennard. He had the unfortunate habit with smaller boys of pulling them close and then tugging their hair very hard. It was extremely painful! There was no real reaction on the part of the boys to the change of sports from soccer to rugby. They just did as they were told.
Roy played as goalkeeper for the school on several occasions. He once let in eight goals against Trent College, and towards the end of the game he became what was probably the first player ever to be substituted in the history of school football, when he was replaced in goal by Donald Clarkson.
At the time, boys who represented the school were awarded ornate colour caps.
This article will be continued in the near future.
Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the second section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict:
Nobody was ever allowed to speak to or approach girls from the Girls’ High School. For this transgression, boys were punished by being confined to their own school. Attitudes at this time were very Victorian.
Dr Turpin, the Headmaster, was always a popular figure. On one occasion, Roy was grounded for three months for putting chewing gum on the seats of other boys. Perhaps fortunately for him, he was caught when just about to put it on Jumbo Ryles’ seat. Mr Ryles came in, and Henderson thought that he would be expelled for this offence.
There were two Ball brothers in the school at the time. They were both in trouble most of the time. The more famous brother, Albert, was “a real card”. This is a photo taken during the time of the Great War. It shows Albert, apparently still wearing his brightly coloured slippers, his brother Cyril and an unknown officer of the Royal Flying Corps:
At this time, music was not in the curriculum. There were just “a few ridiculous songs” for the prize giving ceremony. The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO! NO! NOT YOU!! …YOU! ! ” The first four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.
Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and would then be sent out of the room. This is Albert in 1911:
According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert Ball’s actual expulsion came from an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets, which, at one point, was allowed to burst, and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.
Albert Ball’s father was a City Alderman, but at the same time, he too was “a real character”. He took Roy trout fishing on several occasions around this period, but always used worms, never flies. This is Albert with his father, Sir Albert and his mother, Harriet Mary:
Roy’s brother was also in the school around this time. He seemed always to be in scrapes when Roy was a prefect. Eventually he left Nottingham, and went to Millhill School. Roy himself enjoyed the High School, although he was never very good in the classroom. By his own admission, he was very poor academically, and was totally hopeless at exams.
Roy was a best friend of Arthur Willoughby Barton, who was later to become the Headmaster of the City of London School. The pair of them always collaborated closely in Chemistry lessons with Dr Turpin. Henderson did the weighing and all the practical activities, while Arthur did all of the calculations. In lessons they always got full marks, but in examinations, Roy usually scored very low marks indeed. Arthur, of course, still got his ten out of ten. Here is the official paining of “Fuzzy” Barton as the Headmaster of the City of London School:
The high point of Roy’s rather modest academic career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize, the Duke of Portland’s prize for an English essay. It was on “Militarism”, and Roy only won because the rest of the Sixth Form deliberately boycotted the competition, with the attitude of “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…..let him have it.”
The Duke of Portland, in his capacity as the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, was to unveil the school war memorial in 1922:
Roy sang a specially composed song, accompanied by a piano placed “at the top end, just inside the school”. A wonderful draught of wind blew outwards from the school throughout the very impressive and solemn ceremony. It carried his voice beautifully, but also gave him lumbago. Here is the school war memorial:
Here is a photograph of the dedication ceremony. One of the people is surely Roy Henderson. but I do not really know which one:
During the first year of the Great War, many of the Sixth Form members of the Officer Training Corps had gone to a special summer camp, working on a farm on the south side of Nottingham. It was hard, unpaid work, harvesting potatoes and hoeing turnips. The following year, Roy arranged his own summer camp, at a farm near Grantham. Six boys, all members of his father’s church, went with him. They were all Prefects, and comprised three pairs of friends, Harold Connop and Francis Bird, Thomas Wright and Lancelot Foster, and John Boyd and Roy Henderson. Unfortunately, as they waited for the train, the tent, which was supposed to arrive, did not turn up, so four of the boys went on to Grantham, while two had to stay behind in Nottingham. The farmer, unhappy with having to pick them up twice at Grantham, greeted the final two at the station with the words:
“What? What? My boy, I am not a little annoyed! ”
Here is Grantham relative to Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:
The boys were asked to load hay from a stack to the farm cart. They started piling it on enthusiastically, but they proved to be too quick for the man on the cart, a Mr Wright. The latter soon told them that half a load was enough, and then geed up the horse. When the cart set off, though, half the stack came with it, and the whole lot collapsed. Everyone found it immensely amusing, and they laughed about it for a long time afterwards. Other work for the boys included shaking the clover out of the cut wheat. At the end of the week, they enjoyed an amazing celebratory meal at the farmhouse. There was roast beef and duck, and by the end of the pudding, everybody was absolutely filled, collapsing with the weight of the food consumed. The farmer then sent for Henderson, obviously about to give him something as payment for the six boys’ work during the week.
When he returned they all quizzed him…“How much??? How much??? ” He replied “A pound.” There was a disappointed silence, which was broken only by Henderson’s single word “EACH!!” Everybody collapsed with excitement. They were totally flabbergasted, as, at the time, a pound was an absolute fortune. The boys were later invited to the farmhouse for dinner at Christmas. Under each of their plates, they found a ten shilling note as a gift from the generous farmer. In addition, the boys all went to the school’s army camp, but was a much more formal, military occasion.
This article will be continued in the near future.
This is the first section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.
Here is the High School around this time. Notice at least four boys in the picture, including one sitting down on the edge of the tennis court:
Roy Galbraith Henderson arrived in the High School Preparatory Department in January 1909. He had been born in Edinburgh, although he had not lived there since the age of three. Given his Scottish background, he arrived at the school wearing a kilt. This proved not to be the wisest of decisions, since he was immediately picked on by two older boys called Jaffer and Dodds, both of whom were at least a foot higher than he was. On many occasions in the future, he was to have water poured down his neck by these two bullies.
The Head of the Preparatory Department was Mr Leggatt, who was one of the very first to volunteer to go off and fight in the Great War. The main game in the school playground at this time was called “relievo”. It was a particularly thrilling game to play in one of the era’s many dense fogs.
In the First Form, the form master was called Mr Radley, or “Pot-eye”. He always used to get the boys to begin work with a loud cry of “pens up!”. They would then write “like the blazes”, before the call of “pens down ! ”. Mr Radley is the third person from the left on the front row:
In Form 2a, “Nipper” Ryles was a very good master, and was thought to be one of the very few who did not possess a degree. Here he is:
In the following year, in Form 3a, his brother, “Jumbo” Ryles, however, was “terrible, absolutely hopeless”. He used to have his feet up on the front desk all the time, and would practically go to sleep. The Drawing Master used to poke his nose around the door, and wake Jumbo up with a gentle cough. The latter would then rouse himself, and say to the class “Now get along there! Get along there! ” Jumbo’s teaching technique was to line boys up in a row for a series of questions. If they were correct, they would stay where they were. If they were wrong, they would go back to the end of the queue. This cartoon dates from just before “Jumbo” retired:
In the Fourth Form, Mr Lloyd Morgan went to serve at the front during the middle of the school year, shortly after hostilities began. He was replaced by Mr D’Arcy Lever, who was the butt of many jokes, and found the boys extremely difficult to control. They made a lot of fun of him. Later in the conflict, retired teachers had to return to the school. Mr Trafford took over 3c, the worst form in the school, who were famed for their ability “to play up a lot”.
In Form 5a, Mr Brock was a “very nice chap, and very popular”. Everyone liked him very much. The Classical Sixth was looked after by Mr Strangeways.
In the yard, games tended to be played by years. In Form 1a, for example, everybody always had pockets full of marbles. They often played in the covered sheds near the Forest Road entrance.
The yard also had two Fives courts, one of which was covered, and the other was left open to the elements.
To the left as one entered the playground via the Forest Road entrance, there was some extremely dirty sand.
This was used as a football pitch, with rough and ready goalposts at either end. Every year, around Easter, a competition was held among teams of eight players, each one of which was captained by a different member of the First Eleven. In 1913, Roy played in the winning team, which was captained by James Ivor Holroyd. On October 30 1917, Holroyd of the 1/28th London Regiment was to be reported missing, presumed dead, in the Second Battle of Passchendaele, at the age of only twenty one.
Form 2a enjoyed a game called “rempstick”. A member of one team would stand with his back to the wall, while one of the other members of his team stood with his head between the first boy’s legs. The next team member would then put his head between the legs of the second boy, and so on, until a long caterpillar-like scrum structure was formed, just one person wide. The members of the other team then took a long run-up, and, one by one, jumped onto the top of the human caterpillar. If they caused a collapse, then their team was allowed to have a second go. If the caterpillar held up, then its members were allowed to do the jumping:
In Form 3a, the main game was football, which was played on the left hand side of the playground. looking from the Forest Road entrance, right at the very far end. In Form 4a, football was played again to the left, but not as far along as in the Third Year.
The Fifth Form played their football under cover in the sheds along the Forest Road wall, kicking the ball against the wall in an effort to get past their opponent. Among these boys, Lancelot Wilson Foster was remembered as a particularly good full back.
The Sixth Form spent most of their free time just walking and talking on the lawns at the front of the school:
Nobody was ever allowed inside the school during breaks, but it never seemed to rain! In any case, all the boys were always very keen to get out of the building.
There were few facilities for the boys, including just six to eight cracked stone washbasins. There was a tuck shop, near the south eastern corner of the present day West Quadrangle. It was run by Robert, the School Caretaker. The small shop which boys at the end of the twentieth century called “Dicko’s” was at this time called “Baldry’s”, and it was a sweet shop. A female member of staff, a Mrs Digblair, lived above it. She was one of the school’s first ever mistresses, and members of the Sixth Form loved to go and have tea with her.
Finally, my own footnote on Mr Radley. He was a teacher with what would nowadays be considered ideas before their time. He loved literature, art and music, and taught the boys about understanding and peace among mankind. Indeed, this was perhaps not particularly surprising for a man who knew French, German, Italian, Russian and Welsh. On one occasion, he brought an Egyptian into school to show his pupils that there were “other men than Englishmen and other creeds than Christianity.” His obituary in the school magazine ended with the words “Goodbye, Mr Chips!”
This article will be continued in the near future.
When he first joined the Canadian Army in Toronto, he was soon sent across the Atlantic to receive his initial training in England. He started at Shorncliffe Training Camp in Kent, learning how to be a Canadian soldier from late July 1916 until the end of November. There was a Canadian Training Division at Shorncliffe and I suspect he was stationed there. Will seems to have enjoyed his stay in Kent, the so-called “Garden of England”. I have already shown you some of the post cards he sent to his fiancée, in an article imaginatively entitled “Off to the Great War (Part One)”.
At this time, Will’s fiancée, Fanny Smith, lived with her family in Woodville, a little village in South Derbyshire. Will sent Fanny many postcards. This one is of Sandgate, a little seaside resort in the area. It shows the High Street East:
The message reads:
“Sandgate is about 5 minutes walk from Ross Barracks. Love Will”
Ross Barracks were themselves part of Shorncliffe Camp.
This next postcard was posted at 10.00 am. on August 4th 1916. It shows the low cliffs in this small village near Shorncliffe Camp and close to Folkestone:
Here is the back of the postcard:
The message reads;
Once again, Will is able to retain an almost surreal quality in his writing:
“It has been so warm today and we walked 18 miles. Send me lots of news dear. Love to all. Yours Will”
This postcard was franked at 11.00 pm, on August 20th 1916, and had been posted in Folkestone, perhaps after a visit by train to the famous cathedral, only some twenty miles away in Canterbury:
Here is the back of the postcard:
Here is the message enlarged:
The message reads, as far as I can decipher it….
I didn’t get my pass yesterday so couldn’t see Stacey. (name slightly illegible) May go next week. Trust you are alright. Fondest love, Will ”
This postcard shows the Lees and the Shelter at Folkestone:
The message reads:
“Yours to hand love (?) A letter is coming. I wish I were too. wont be long Fondest love Will”:
Here is the message enlarged. This seems to be in his more florid style of handwriting:
In retrospect, this next postcard may perhaps seem a little insensitive. Just a few short weeks after being asked to join the blood soaked antics of the Western Front, and due to depart on November 17th for the trenches, Will sent his fiancée a postcard of the large convalescent home in Folkestone. Presumably, the lone soldier on the seat is the only one left after “The Big Push”:
This is the reverse of the card:
Can you decipher the message, written in best quality pencil?
Here it is enlarged:
And notice too, how the young prototype Canadian, once again, says “I will write you”, rather than the more usual English of “I will write to you”. In actual fact, the message reads……
“I will write you again tonight. Trust you are well. Love to all. Fond love to you. Will”
The postmark of 9.oo pm on September 5th 1916 reveals that Will could not have been convalescing at the hospital, as he had only just arrived in England from Canada on July 25th 1916, and he did not set off to join the Great War until November 17th 1916.
I am fairly sure that this was Will’s last card before he moved on in his Canadian Army career. I suspect that it was sent from Folkestone in Kent, just before Will embarked for France and the Western Front. The reverse, unusually for Will, is blank. Perhaps what faced him in the future was enough to take away his inspiration temporarily:
The inscription on the front of the card reads:
“Crossing the Channel was quite a thrilling thing. But an old B.E.F. man rather spoiled the trip by swanking without his life belt, and otherwise showing everyone that the entire thing was far from new to him.”
On November 17th, Will left Shorncliffe, Folkestone and Kent to sail for France and the “3rd D.A.C.” He was “taken on strength” with the “3rd D.A.C.” on November 23rd, and could now be considered a fully fledged soldier.
Like many soldiers on the Western Front during the Great War, Will was shot by a German machine gun on at least one occasion. He had two wounds in the legs, and I believe that he may have gone back to Kent to recuperate. The position of his wounds was doubtless because German machine gunners were trained to sweep their guns backwards and forwards close to the ground:
They were told to try and imitate a man cutting down grass with a scythe:
Germans, machine guns, bombs, mud, trench foot, sudden death, whatever. Will survived it all:
Frank Cadle Mahin was so keen on a military career, that after only two years, he left Harvard University and his boring Law studies. He joined the Regular Army in 1910 as a private soldier, after service with the New York National Guard. Two years later he received his first commission. On April 21st 1912, Mahin and thirty eight others took an examination and were all made Second Lieutenants:
At this time, Frank is listed as being at Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana.
On September 25th 1913, Frank was married to Margaret Mauree Pickering, his previous, second, marriage to Sasie Avice Seon having, presumably, come to an end in some way. Again, unfortunately, the precise details are lacking.
Margaret Mauree was born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA in 1890, the daughter of Abner Pickering and Celestia Florence Kuykendall. In married life she was to call herself Mauree Pickering Mahin so that her father’s name was never forgotten. Her father, and Frank’s father-in-law, was Abner Pickering, who came from a very strong military background, as is shown by the wedding announcement in a local newspaper:
In her book, “Life in the American Army from the Frontier Days to Army Distaff Hall”, Mauree describes the magic moment when she first met her future husband:
“We sat down, and the place next to me was left vacant for him. When he did
arrive, everyone forgot that we had not met, so after a minute of awkward
silence he took the vacant seat saying: “I guess no one is going to introduce us, I am Lieutenant Mahin, and I am sure you are Miss Pickering.”
With that one look into his clear steady eyes, I was convinced that there was such a thing as “Love at First Sight” and that I was not going to let the blonde or anyone else have him.”
Frank and Mauree were to have four children, including twins named Margaret Celestia and Anna Yetive, both born on June 2nd 1915 in the Philippines which at the time was an American colony, seized from the Spanish after the Spanish-American War. Frank’s three daughters were all to marry, as was his son, Frank junior, bom in Connecticut on January 2nd 1923. His third daughter, Elizabeth, lived from 1921-1981 and Frank junior, like his father, was a distinguished military man until he died in Dallas, Texas, on January 28th 1972.
In November and December 1914 Frank and the regiment received extremely unexpected orders. They were to go to Naco in Arizona where Pancho Villa. the legendary Mexican bandit, and the inventor of the moustache, was up to his tricks, causing trouble:
The American garrison was tasked with keeping Villa’s men from crossing the Mexican border into the USA. Orders from Washington stipulated though, that, in the interest of preserving friendly international relations, no shots were to be fired, even if the bandits fired at them, a rather difficult policy to carry out!
That was December 1914. Europe had already been at war since August, and more than a million young men were already dead. Frank Cadle Mahin, as you will see in another article, was to play his part in this sickening slaughter.
In early 1915, Frank was sent to the Philippines, then still an American colony. Here he was to have an unexpected chance to practice the German he had learned at the High School. Let’s not forget that in 1905, he had won the Mayor’s Prize for Modern Languages:
“On to Guam our next port of call, and there the war was brought directly to our minds, for anchored in the harbour was one of the converted German warships, riding at anchor. She had been forced in there by lack of coal and, of course, was interned for the duration of the war! Our Quartermaster had occasion to visit this ship with some supplies, and since he spoke no German, he asked Frank to go with him and interpret for him. Judging by the time they were gone, it must have been an interesting and pleasant afternoon. One thing I do know, the Germans may have run out of coal, but not out of good German beer!”
The first Mahin to be seriously affected by the Great War was Frank Senior. At this time, he, and his wife, Abbie, were, of course, both citizens of a neutral United States. In September 1915 they made the ferry crossing from Holland, where, by now, Frank Senior was the American consul in Amsterdam. They were on their way to visit their daughter, Anna and her doctor husband Alec in Nottingham, England:
“The journey is made by daylight during the war so we sailed from Flushing at 6.00 am. on July 31st on the Dutch liner Koiningin Wilhelmina. The day was lovely and the sea calm, and all was calm and restful till ten minutes before ten, when, a sharp explosion beneath us was heard, and great volumes of water blew up over the sides of the ship. Passengers on the forward deck, under which the explosion occurred, were drenched with water and covered with black particles, which came from the mine which, as we all
realized, the ship had struck:
As the explosion was under the stoke-hold three poor stokers were killed, and one fatally wounded. We put on overcoats, hats, and lifebelts and went on deck. In about ten minutes all of the lifeboats had been loaded and left the ship. The boats rowed toward the lightship, about three miles distant. As we left the ship, the forward part was slowly sinking. But in half an hour the boat sagged in the middle. That part sank out of sight, and the bow and stern rose straight in the air. From the stern floated the Dutch flag, thus the two ends stood for some minutes. Then they came together as one: the flag floating from the top of it. Slowly that column disappeared under the water at fifteen minutes before eleven o’clock, fifty-five minutes after the mine was struck.
Scattered about were our lifeboats rowing towards the lightship, which was a mile or two away. Beyond it, cruising swiftly in circles, was the British war vessel which afterwards took us to England. Behind us was the sinking ship, whose last moments were like the despairing struggle of some living thing; and we thought of the poor dead men who were going down with the ship, as might have been the fate of all of us.
At the same time we heard the roar of cannon in the direction of Belgium, adding more death and destruction to this awful war. All the boats reached the lightships safely by noon, and everyone was safe. About six that evening a British torpedo boat destroyer took us to Harwich, England, where we arrived at 8:30 that night. We spent the night at Harwich, and at midnight we heard the sound of bombs exploding, Zeppelins being in the vicinity.
Frank junior had been swiftly promoted following his good work against Pancho Villa and his band of Mexican bandits. He became a Major just in time for the USA’s entry into the Great War, and served in combat in France in 1918. He was wounded at St. Mihiel, the first time that American troops were in really significant action, as they launched an offensive against retreating German forces. Frank was to win a Purple Heart, showing great bravery under enemy fire:
Frank then went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the Battle of the Argonne Forest. He had at least one amazing escape:
“I think I am more than lucky to be here at all. I have had narrow escapes before, since
I came over to France, but had more in this day and a half in the Argonne than all the rest put together. For instance, Hancock, my liaison officer, and I were lying in a shell hole with machine gun bullets cutting the top edges off and knocking the dirt all over us. Then a 105mm artillery shell hit right at the edge of the hole and slid down under us, raising the ground up, like a mole furrows, on the side of the shell hole.
Of course it was sliding for the tiniest part of a second but we heard it, felt it, and knew what it was, and then it burst! Good night! In that fraction of a second, I thought “God bless my girls, “ but we weren’t hurt! It was a gas shell, thank God, with just enough explosives to crack the case and throw the dirt around. We had our masks on anyway, so it did not harm us, but Hancock looked like a ghost, and fool that I am, I laughed at him and took my mouthpiece out and yelled, “ Going up!” and even he had to smile then! Had that shell been a High Explosive they would never have found even our identification tags. If it had been even an ordinary gas shell, half gas and half High Explosive, it would’ve blown both of us to pieces.”
In the 1920s, when he returned to the United States, Frank, still fresh faced and eager, was to relate to his twin daughters exactly what his life under fire had been like:
“The trouble is gas, we were in it almost continuously for three hours, and I tried to keep my mask on, but you just can’t run a battalion in battle with a gas mask on. It was a wet, misty morning when we went “over the top” and they just poured gas shells over, tear gas, sneezing gas, then phosgene and mustard after they had gotten our noses and eyes inflamed.
The country was the worst possible country to fight over, for it was just ridge after ridge with fire coming at us from every direction. Believe me, it was some scrap. Saint Mihiel was a cinch compared to this Argonne Forest offensive.
From the Field Hospital, they sent me by truck to Evacuation Hospital No 7. I stayed there a day and a half, and then to Base Hospital No 27, a Pittsburgh outfit at Angers near the mouth of the River Loire. The hospital is in a big old three-storey convent building, and is awfully comfortable, and the ‘chow’ is fine.
Nausea, acute diarrhea, for several days, and an awful headache, all from the gas, and, of course, burning lungs. I now feel pretty good but the d— stuff has affected my heart. They say this does not last more than a week if one stays perfectly quiet, but for several more weeks I will have to be very careful not to exert myself violently.”
His wife Mauree, however, adds a little more realism to the tale, pointing out just how seriously affected her husband was:
“I can assure you, girls, that that heart condition lasted several years instead of several weeks. Even after his return, and for many months, he would be sitting talking, and without warning would fall right out of the chair, and I never knew when we picked him up whether he would be dead or alive.”
Nowadays we have little or no idea of what it must have been like in the trenches during a gas attack:
We are given some idea, however, when the family take a trip to a more peaceful Europe in 1920. It is Frank’s wife, Mauree, who tells the tale:
“On this trip we followed the movements of the 11th Infantry up to the time of Dad’s gassing and evacuation. At Madeleine Farms, where his battalion command post was during one of the offensives, we were able to go down into the very dugout he had used! It had two entrances, and both were completely overgrown with vines. As Dad and I started down the rickety old rotted-out steps, Dad recognised the odor of gas still down there, and he whispered to me not to tarry long but just to take a quick look and go out of the other entrance. The dampness was terrible, water dripping off of the low ceiling, we were able to see the boards hung against the side where they slept when there was a minute to spare, and we actually walked on the duckboard.
As quickly as we went through, Dad was greatly affected by that little gas, and had a very hard attack of coughing ; and just as we got into the car Grandma had a heart attack, and this was two whole years after the war , thus you can see, just how potent that gas really was!
Here are the Madeleine Farms, then and now, as it were:
In my next article about Frank, I will tell the tale of how he continues his military career and eventually achieves a very high rank in the American army.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
“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.”
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.
“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 ”
“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:
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.
I have already mentioned in a previous blog post that my Grandfather, Will Knifton, emigrated to Canada in an unknown year before the Great War. Conceivably, he was with his elder brother, John Knifton, or more likely perhaps, John went across the Atlantic first and then Will joined him later on. I have only two pieces of evidence to go on.
Firstly, it is recorded that a John Knifton landed in Canada on May 9th 1907. His ship was the “Lake Manitoba” and he was twenty three years of age. His nationality is listed in the Canadian records as English.
On the other hand, I still have an old Bible belonging to my Grandfather, which says inside the front cover,
“the Teachers and Scholars of the Wesleyan Sunday School, Church Gresley, given to him as a token of appreciation for services rendered to the above School, and with sincerest wishes for his future happiness and prosperity. March 26th 1911.”
Whatever the truth of his arrival, Will lived at 266, Symington Avenue, Toronto. He then worked as a locomotive fireman on the Canadian Pacific Railways, between Chapleau, Ontario, right across the Great Plains to Winnipeg. He also talked many times of the town of Moose Jaw, although he never supplied any details that I can remember:
Will joined the Canadian Army on June 12th 1916 at the Toronto Recruiting Depôt. He sailed from Canada for the Western Front on July 16th 1916 on the “S.S.Empress of Britain”:
For many years, Will had courted a local English girl called Fanny Smith, the daughter of Levi Smith, a labourer in a clay hole in the area around the village of Woodville, in South Derbyshire, where they all lived. Will wrote to her from Canada and then, during his time in the army, he sent her regular postcards from France. During his leaves from the front, he always returned to see her and they married on July 15th 1917:
I still have quite a few of Will’s postcards. He had clearly bought this postcard just before he left Canada for England and the Great War:
He used to speak enthusiastically about Montreal and especially about the famous Hôtel Frontenac:
On July 25th, Will duly arrived in England, and was taken on strength into the army at Shorncliffe in Kent. He posted his postcard of Montreal soon after he arrived at Shorncliffe Camp in Folkestone, Kent, at 7.00 pm on July 27th 1916. Here is the back of it:
The message reads:
“Englands shores Dearest, arrived safely on the Empress of Britain, a pleasant voyage was free from sickness will write you later fondest love Will”.
Notice how Will is beginning to become a Canadian with his unusual lack of a preposition in “will write you later”.
Shorncliffe Camp was where Will, and many other young men, were to train for France and the Western Front. Having mentioned the idea of being sick in his previous postcard, Will continues the romantic mood with a picture of the men and horses of the Canadian Field Artillery drilling hard on the parade ground:
The reverse is here:
Will manages to make a charming juxtaposition of “men and horses at drill with the big guns” and “Fondest thoughts” to his true love. (And she really was his true love.)
Will began his training at Shorncliffe on July 27th and he remained there until November 17th 1916. The schedule for basic training makes interesting reading nowadays. This particular week was the one ending June 5th 1915, and it is difficult to imagine that Will would have done anything substantially different just over a year later:
(6.30-7.00 am) Squad drill without arms
(8.00-9.00 am) Physical Training
(9.00-9.30 am) Bayonet Fighting
(9.30-10.00 am) Rapid loading
(10.00-12.00 am) Company Training
afternoon as for morning less ½ hour squad drill
morning as for Monday
afternoon Entrenching (2 Companies), remainder as for Monday
morning as for Monday
afternoon Entrenching (2 Companies), remainder as for Monday
Thursday all day Battalion field training
morning as for Monday
afternoon as for Monday
morning as for Monday, less afternoon (holiday)
(If this were a restaurant, you would only go there once, wouldn’t you?)
Will’s next postcard continues the hearts and flowers theme with a photograph of the men’s tents.
Will’s own tent is marked with a cross:
This is the reverse side of this postcard. Firstly, as Fanny received it:
And here is the message enlarged:
Will remained at Shorncliffe until November 17th. He sent his girlfriend, or perhaps by now, his fiancée, some more post cards before he left. We will look at them in the near future.