Tag Archives: Great War

Albert Ball, the naughty hero

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:

Ball photo

Albert was a natural fighter pilot, and initially, he always flew French Nieuport fighters (with a top speed of 110 m.p.h.):

This is a painting  of Albert’s very own Nieuport:

nieuport_ball cccccc

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.

medals 2

These medals can still be seen inside Nottingham Castle. Outside, in the gardens, is his statue:

statue xxxxx

His battered uniform has been carefully preserved:

coatcccc

And so has his shattered windscreen:

windscreenxxxxxxxx

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:

sedgly avenue xxxxxxx

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:

steeplejack1

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.”

at trent college

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:

armoury door trent college

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:

Albert_Ball_stamp zzzz

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Young Men behaving Badly and a Touch of Class (1)

In the recent past, I published four articles which were, I hope, bite sized sections of a much larger whole. They were all about the High School before the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict. All of the material came from the reminiscences of Roy Henderson, an Old Boy  from this time. None of these articles would have been possible without the original research by my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, who interviewed Roy Henderson at length. Simon, of course, has done some incredibly detailed research about the school’s casualties in the Great War. This can be found in the Nottingham High School Archive. Take a look, for example at the material he has found on Harold Ballamy, perhaps, the High School’s saddest and most pointless loss of the entire conflict. Poor Harold is also remembered by Nottinghamshire County Council, who incorporate much of what Simon Williams has produced.

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.

Firstly, a little background information.

Roy Henderson’s father was a minister of the church. The family lived at No 3, Lenton Road in The Park Estate in Nottingham. This part of Nottingham is about as rich as it gets in the city. One website says that “If Nottingham were Los Angeles, this would be its Beverly Hills”.

Recent house prices there reached £535,000 (No2), £820,000 (No9) and £840,000 (No11). Another house in the road is currently for sale for £1,150,000. One website currently values No 3, Lenton Road at £816,382:

the park

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:

private

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:

westwood lane

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:

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:

Corpus-Christi_College_Oxford_Coat_Of_Arms_svgCompared 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.

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (4)

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:

350px-BOAC_Flt_777

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:

CHENHALLS

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:

clarkson zzzzzzz

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:

Nottingham_Victoria_Station_3

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:

train

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:

Decca_1929_Sea_Drift

And here is one of his album sleeves:

record

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them (3)

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:

st martin sherwood ccccc

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:

connop zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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:

sammy corner s

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:

furley

And here is Miranshah today, now that it is running its own affairs:

PAKISTAN-UNREST-NORTHWEST

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:

onion

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.

 

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (2)

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:

Albert25 bro, unklnow

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:

Albert 1911 trent

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:

Albert22 family

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:

(c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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:

1900_Duke_of_Portland,_by_sssssssss

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:

notting_high_school_war_memorial xxxxx

Here is a photograph of the dedication ceremony. One of the people is surely Roy Henderson. but I do not really know which one:

war meoorial ceremnoy

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:

granthsm

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.

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (1)

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 of my own where this seemed helpful to the reader.

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:

west end of school

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:

radley front 3rd from left

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:

jumbo ryles

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:

jumbo ryles left

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.

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The yard also had two Fives courts, one of which was covered, and the other was left open to the elements.

fivers

To the left as one entered the playground via the Forest Road entrance, there was some extremely dirty sand.

playgro 1932

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:

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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:

front schoollll

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Off to the Great War (Part Two)

I wrote about my grandfather, Will Knifton, in a previous blog post:

A1 hard man

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:

sandg high st

The message reads:

“Sandgate is about 5 minutes walk from Ross Barracks. Love Will”

five mins ross back xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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:

sandgate cliff xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Here is the back of the postcard:

baxk of snadgate c;liff xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The message reads;

baxk of snadgate c;liff eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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:

camterbury cathedrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Here is the back of the postcard:

back cathedralzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Here is the message enlarged:

back cathedra jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

The message reads, as far as I can decipher it….

 “Sunday 1pm

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:

folstone colour

The message reads:

“Yours to hand love (?) A letter is coming. I wish I were too. wont be long Fondest love Will”:

back folkstome colour

Here is the message enlarged. This seems to be in his more florid style of handwriting:

back folkstome colour enlarged

 

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”:

convalaecscnt home

This is the reverse of the card:

back hospitasl

Can you decipher the message, written in best quality pencil?

Here it is enlarged:

back hospitasl wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

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:

old sldier channel

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:

a23_world_war_1_german_machine_gun_1

They were told to try and imitate a man cutting down grass with a scythe:

giphy

Germans, machine guns, bombs, mud, trench foot, sudden death, whatever. Will survived it all:

old age

 

 

 

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