Tag Archives: Mr Beeby

The Carvings in the Tower (8)

John Michael Taverner Saunders was born on March 14th 1922. His father, Mr W Saunders was a commercial traveller, and the family lived at Park View in Redhill, a suburb of Arnold to the east of the Mansfield Road:

John was one of the young men who carved their name and message on the window sill in the High School’s Tower:

John entered the High School on September 18th 1930 as Boy No 5459.

He was only eight years of age.

He passed through a succession of teachers and forms. First Form D with Miss Webb. Here is the best photograph of her I could find:

Then it was First Form B with Miss Baker. And First Form A with Mr Day and the School Nature Study Prize. Then the Second Form A with Mr “Tubby” Hardwick, badly gassed in WW1. Third Form A with Mr Gregg and Upper Fourth Form A with Mr “Beaky” Bridge, a very strange man. Here he is on the left:

Then came the Lower Fifth Form A with Mr “Fishy” Roche and then the Upper Fifth Form Classical with Mr “Uncle Albert” Duddell. Here he is:

Teachers and forms pass by with the years. Firstly the History Sixth Form with Mr Gregg, and then, in his second year, Mr Beeby. And very soon, May 20th-21st 1940, John was looking for German parachutists and carving his name.

John received four different scholarships because his parents sometimes struggled with the fees. He was a Dr.Gow Memorial (Special) Exhibitioner and an Agnes Mellers Scholar and a Foundation Scholar and the taxpayer also awarded him a Nottinghamshire Senior Scholarship.

His prize record included the SE Cairns Memorial Prize, Mr Durose’s Prize for History, the Cusin’s Memorial Prize for History, the Bowman-Hart Prize for Music and a Bronze Medal for Reading. He was a Prefect and in the Junior Training Corps he became the Company Quarter-Master Sergeant and then Company Sergeant Major. In sport, he won his First XV Colours at rugby as:

“an improved player and solid scrimmager. A front row forward who gets through a great deal of hard and useful work in the course of a game.”

Here’s his final record from the School List:

John left the High School in July 1941 and eventually finished up with the Royal Artillery. They, of course, had a very large selection of guns, including these giants, designed to bombard the enemy from long range :

This smaller weapon is an anti-tank gun:

And this is an anti-aircraft gun :

John was involved in fighting through the Netherlands, as the British Army tried to rescue the paratroops who had captured the Arnhem bridge but were now surrounded and cut off . Did he realise that fellow Old Nottinghamian, Tony Lloyd, lay in Kate ter Horst’s house in the town, one of 57 paratroopers given a temporary burial in a mass grave in the house’s garden?

And then John played his part in Operation Plunder, the crossing of the River Rhine at a small town called Wesel, all of it organised behind an impenetrable week long smoke screen. Did John Saunders ever realise that two of his schoolmates would die within just a few miles from him? Arthur Mellows (1931-35) and John Hickman (1934-37)? Here’s what was left  of Wesel at the end of World War Two:

John survived the war, but despite my best efforts, I could find no more mention of him until February 12th 2013 when he passed away peacefully in his sleep. On March 1st 2013, he was cremated at Macclesfield Crematorium with all donations in lieu of flowers to be made to SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad). He left behind him three daughters, six grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

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The Sandiacre Screw Company (3)

Last time we were following Keith Doncaster’s progress through the High School, with two unmarried women teachers in the Preparatory School (which was as the rules demanded. As soon as women teachers got married, they were forced to resign.) After a spell with Messrs Day and Hardwick, Keith remained in an “A” Form in 1936-1937. This was the Third Form A with Mr Beeby. This Form of 28 boys had seven ex-Scholarship holders but only one of the previous year’s seven had retained his award. Here’s a very poor picture of Mr Beeby. He is right in the middle of the group:

Mr Beeby soon left the High School to join the RAF. He was absent from at least September 1941-1946. Flying Officer Beeby served in the Signals Unit of the Technical Branch who carried out all kinds of electronic warfare and radio counter-measures including the blocking of the famous German Very High Frequency bombing system called “Knickebein”. This was all “Top Secret”, of course. Mr Beeby certainly would not have been able to discuss what he had been up to with his pupils in the Air Training Corps. He might even have been associated with code breaking. Lots of codebreakers were recruited among the top Classics and Mathematics graduates at Cambridge. Here’s the equipment the Germans used for “Knickebein”:

Keith didn’t win a prize or a scholarship this year and he came 23rd in the Form. This was  sufficient reason to relegate him into a “B” Form the following year, the Upper Fourth Form B with Mr Kennard. This Form had 27 boys and sixteen of them opted to join the OTC, the Officers’ Training Corps, including Keith, who finished the year seventh in the Form. In 1938-1939, Keith was in the Lower Fifth Form with Mr Parsons. Here’s Mr WA Parsons, one of the two Masters in charge of cricket. He was universally known as “Wappy”. Right next to him is Bruce Richardson who lived in the big house diagonally opposite Oxclose Lane Police Station at the junction with Edwards Lane. Four years after this photograph was taken, “Farmer” Richardson would die on the perimeter of Dunkirk, trying to buy time for the British Expeditionary Force to get back across the Channel. It wasn’t called “Operation Certain Death” but it might just as well have been:

There were 21 boys in the Lower Fifth Form, 15 of whom were in the OTC, including Keith. Indeed, we still have a photograph of the OTC taken during the calendar year of 1939 and Keith is on the left hand end of the front row, as we look at it. Despite his physical age of either 15 or 16, he looks almost boyish, rather thin and rather delicate. There are a couple of boys who look less adult than him, but of the 26 individuals in the photograph, there are more than twenty who seem so much more physically prepared to leave the High School than he appears to be. In the end-of-year examinations, by the way, Keith finished a respectable sixth:

Here is Keith in close up:

The next year, 1939-1940 was Keith’s last in the High School. He spent it with Mr Thomas in Fifth Form B. There were 26 boys in the Form. Here’s Mr Adan Thomas in later years, in a superb photograph taken by the Reverend Stephens:

Keith does not seem to have taken his end-of-year examinations and he is not recorded in the School List for the Form, even as an “X, not placed”. The situation is rather strange because the School Register says that his departure occurred on July 30th 1940, which was presumably the last day of the working term. So why did he not take the School examinations?

There is some indication, though, that Keith took, and passed, his School Certificate this year and that may have had some connection with it.

Keith did achieve three very important things during this year, though. He became a OTC A/cadet (an air cadet), and he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He also passed the all-important OTC Certificate “A”. With that, he took one more step towards his premature death:

 

 

 

 

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The Carvings in the Tower (2)

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

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

“SINGEING THE KING OF SPAIN’S BEARD”:

“The sun beat down on the Spanish fleet,

As loaded with treasures she lay;

Her sailors slept in the noonday heat,

Not a guard watched over the bay.

We wound in the cable as evening fell,

When a mist rose up from the sea.

My heart beat fast as we breasted the swell,

For all alone were we.

The night was black, not a single star,

Smiled down on the “Golden Hind.”

We could hear the billows over the bar,

And we blessed the darkness kind.

We waited, three score of British Lions,

Our cannon and pistols primed;

I heard the clatter of grappling-irons,

Then over her rail we climbed.

Then suddenly rose a warning shout

From a ship just over our lee.

We tried the swarthy Dons to rout,

But all alone were we.

Then as we fought with our backs to the mast

There came a cry from the right.

“Golden Hind !  Ahoy ! Avast !”

And we knew ‘twas the “Silver Sprite.”

Over the plank stepp’d the Dons of Spain

And her treasure lay in our hold.

There never will be such a fight again,

As was fought in those days of old.”

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

Here’s Mr Duddell in 1932 and 1942:

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

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

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

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Poems in “The Nottinghamian” School Magazine 1922-1946 (1)

All the poems in this particular selection have a flavour of the Second World War. Preparations seem to have started as early as 1922, the year when the eccentric and beloved caretaker, universally known as “Robert”, retired.

Almost totally deaf and a great favourite of the boys, Robert would have his own poems printed and then distributed around the school. Unfortunately, only one of them appears to have survived. On this occasion, he celebrates the school’s Cadet Corps, preparing slowly but surely  for the next world war:

“If you look through them gates

You’ll see Captain Yates

A-drilling of boys by the score.

So come on, my lads

Get leave of your dads

And join the High School Corps.”

And here is the High School Corps:

The next poem appeared in December 1943. It celebrates the Home Guard, the amateur soldiers, either too young or too old for the real army, who were tasked with defeating the invading Germans. It was written by Timothy John Norfolk DEAVILLE (aged 9) who was the son of the Reverend R Deaville, the vicar of St Andrew’s on nearby Mapperley Road:

The Home Guard

“Daddy’s in the Home Guard,

He’s helping win the war.

He’s donned a khaki uniform

Just as he did before.

 

He hasn’t won a medal yet,

He hopes he will do soon.

He’s only been a sergeant

This very afternoon.

 

His comp’ny’s got a kitten,

He helps to feed it now.

It claws him every morning

And makes him call out, “Ow!”

 

I’m glad he’s got promotion,

He has more leisure hours.

Commander says he’s clever

(He’s quite a friend of ours).

 

He hasn’t shot a German yet,

He wants to get a chance.

If “Jerry” tries his funny tricks

He’ll lead them quite a dance.”

Can you spot TV’s Mr Brown in this photograph of an unknown Home Guard unit?

If you remember the song, Mr Brown goes off to town on the 8.21. But he comes home each evening and he’s ready with his gun :

This next poem appeared in April 1945, and it was written by David Brian Bowler of the Science Sixth. It has a bit of a laugh at the various amateur organisations set up by the school to push the Huns straight back into the sea. “J.T.C.” is the Junior Training Corps, L.D.V. stood for the Local Defence Volunteers (or as they were usually called, “Look, duck and vanish”) and the H.G. is the Home Guard.

I don’t know what happened to young David, but I did find two companies where a “David Brian Bowler” is named as a director, shareholder or secretary. They were “Acem Geotechniques Limited” and “Bowler Geotechnical Pty Ltd”, both of them operating in Queensland and Papua & New Guinea.

The poem is called:

“Epic”

“In the grim days they feared the Hun

Would come by air or sea;

At the first observation point

They posted the J.T.C.

 

Through the chill nights with unknown sounds

Of foes they could not see

They waited, hoping for the chance

To give them ‘ell D.V.

 

And from those hearty pioneers

By way of L.D.V.,

With drill and guards and tireless work

Came the High School H.G.

 

First to stand up, last to stand down,

Wherever you may be,

Salute to you, the best of luck,

And thanks to the School H.G.”

Here’s the final parade of the nation’s various Home Guard units, before they were stood down for ever on December 3rd 1944 before being completely disbanded on December 31st 1945.

In December 1940, the Nottinghamian contained a poem entitled

“ODE TO ELSTON (ACCOMPANIED BY WOODPIGEON)”

The title referred to the many boys who took part in a scheme organised by Mr Palmer and Mr Beeby, whereby Sixth Formers went off to work at three different agricultural locations, for the most part helping to get the harvest in. One farm was at Elston, a small village south west of Newark-on-Trent, another was at Car Colston north east of Bingham and the third was at Honey Lane Farm at Farndon which is also near Newark-on-Trent. On other occasions, boys went to a farm camp at Dowsby, just the far side of Grantham.  Ooooh   aargh:

“ODE TO ELSTON (ACCOMPANIED BY WOODPIGEON)”

‘S nice to be in the country

When summer suns are glowing ;

‘S nice to milk the brown cows—

‘S nice.

Cycle out to farmyard

Six o’clock in morning ;

Sweat and sweat and drink tea—

S’wet.

 

‘S nice to ‘staak’ the barley,

‘S nice to pick the oats,

‘S nice to staak the wheat,

‘S nice !

 

‘S nice to load the ‘cow-muck’ ?

‘S nice to pump the water ?

‘S nice to be in country

But it’s nicer to be in town !

The poem was written by Philip Blackburn of 6 Classics. He left the school in 1941 with a Studentship for Classics at University College, Nottingham, and a Nottingham Co-operative Society Scholarship of £25 per annum.

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