Tag Archives: Nottingham

POST NUMBER 600: Two brothers fighting fascism (5)

This is my 600th post. Enjoy !!!

On Saturday, February 13th 1943,  Robert Renwick Jackson was flying his Boston III Intruder, serial number AL766, towards Nantes in western France:

His mission was to drop propaganda leaflets for the occupied French, so they could read the real truth about the war for themselves.

Alas, Robert Renwick Jackson died that night along with his navigator. The upper and rear-gunner, Sergeant TS McNeil, survived and became Prisoner of War No 27276 at Lamsdorf, then in German Silesia but now in south-western Poland. Here’s a typical POW camp:

And here’s a hut nowadays:

The second casualty in the Boston was Peter John LeBoldus, the navigator, who would have been sitting in the nose of the aircraft. His name is virtually unknown in England, but he is better known in Canada. His parents were John LeBoldus and Regina LeBoldus née Weisberg, German Catholic immigrants who had six sons and six daughters. John was a hardware and implement dealer. The family lived in Vibank in Saskatchewan. One of the highlights of Peter’s very short life must have been taking tea with the Queen Mother and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Windsor Castle with a group of newly arrived Canadian Airmen in England.

On this particular night, Peter John was preparing for the mission and his brother Martin, also a member of 418 Squadron, but working as a mechanic, had helped him put on his flying clothes and his parachute harness. This was the last time the brothers ever saw each other. This is Peter LeBoldus:

Peter John LeBoldus is buried next to his friend, Robert Renwick Jackson, in Grandcourt War Cemetery.

Sadly, Peter John was not the only member of the LeBoldus family to die in the war. John Anthony “Johnny” LeBoldus was a member of 142 (RAF) Squadron, where he was an air gunner in a Vickers Wellington Mk X, serial number LN566, squadron letters QT-D, “D-Dog”. They took off from RAF Oudna in Tunisia on November 24th 1943 to bomb a ball bearing factory at Villar Perosa near Turin, at the very limit of their range. Extreme weather with wind, cloud, fog, rain, and ice caused the loss of 17 aircraft and 73 men were killed. “Johnny” LeBoldus was one of them:

The third LeBoldus brother to die was Martin Benedict LeBoldus, the same man who had helped his brother, Peter John, with his flying clothes and his parachute harness before his death in Boston AL766. Martin Benedict was killed on February 20, 1944 at the age of 31. He was the flight engineer in a Handley Page Halifax Mark II of the Canadian 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron in Bomber Command, serial number JD114, squadron letters VR-V, “V-Victor”. On February 20, 1944 he and his colleagues took off at 23:12 from RAF Middleton St George near Darlington to bomb Leipzig and they were never seen again. Six other men, with an average age of twenty four, were also killed. John Leslie Beattie, Thomas Gettings, Alfred Harvey Hackbart, Donald Clifford Lewthwaite, Douglas Keith MacLeod and John Ralph Piper.  A total of 79 bombers were lost that night. Here’s Martin Benedict LeBoldus:

Mr Leboldus wrote a very bitter letter to the Secretary of the Department of National Defence for Air about the death of his sons:

“Other boys spending their time of war in Canada, yes hundreds and thousands walking the streets of Canada for years, and all our three boys were in the front line of attack. I have my doubts whether this is right and just. Plenty of those who offered three four years ago never seen any fighting nor smelled any powder, why all mine have to do it?”

Certain other Canadian families no doubt felt the same way. They included the Cantin family, the Colville family, the Forestell family, the Griffiths family, the Kimmel family, the Lanteigne family, the Milner family, the Reynolds family, the Rich family, the Rivait family, the Stodgell family, the Wagner family and the Westlake family, all of whom sacrificed three sons to the cause.

Nowadays the LeBoldus brothers are not totally forgotten. Canada is a vast land so it is comparatively easy to give names to hitherto unnamed geographical features. They are called “geo-memorials” and there are now more than four thousand of them. Leboldus Lake in north-western Saskatchewan is named after Peter John Leboldus. The Leboldus Islands there are named after Martin Benedict Leboldus. The link between Leboldus Lake and Frobisher Lake is called the Leboldus Channel after John Anthony Leboldus. What a pity that we don’t do that over here in England.  What a pity there are no streets in either Nottingham or Solihull named after Robert Jackson, killed at the age of 22, fighting for his country.

(Picture of the black Boston borrowed from wp.scn.ru.)

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, military, The High School

In the Footsteps of the Valiant (Volume Four)

As we found with Volume 3, things moved at a rather slow pace for the publication of Volume 4, but you will be pleased to hear that it has finally made its appearance, detailing 25 of the High School’s casualties in World War II.

Don’t think, incidentally, that we were running out of steam. As I mentioned last time, all five volumes have been deliberately constructed to contain the same amount of material as all of the others. Furthermore, that material is, overall, of the same quality as all the other volumes. No single book is full of exciting stories of derring-do, at the expense of another volume devoid of all excitement. I took great care to make that the case.

Indeed, Volume 4 contains the detailed story of “Watty” Watson, the Battle of Britain fighter pilot who would die, it was alleged by his colleagues in 152 Squadron, the victim of Irish saboteurs in the parachute packing plant.

This volume, therefore, portrays not just the terrible excitement of World War II, but the backgrounds of these 25 young men who died fighting it. Their families, their houses, their school years with Masters very different from those of today:

You can read about their boyhood hobbies, their sporting triumphs, where they worked as young adults and the jobs they had. And all of this is related against the background of the living Nottingham of yesteryear, a city almost completely different from that of today.

That is not to say, of course, that you will not find all the details of the conflicts in which these young men fought and the circumstances in which they met their deaths. On occasion, particularly in the case of the more peculiar training accidents, I have even attempted to find explanations for events. Most details of this kind were completely unknown until I carried out my groundbreaking research.

In this volume, you will meet the ON who was killed trying to defend Liverpool at night in a Boulton Paul Defiant night-fighter:

The ON shot down over West Norfolk by Oberleutnant Paul Semrau of the Fernnachtjagd:

The ON who flew his Vickers Wellington straight into the cold waters of Tremadog Bay in North Wales, for no apparent reason:

The ON who worked for the Air Transport Auxiliary, ferrying American bombers across the Atlantic:

The ON who left his jacket hanging in the School Archives, where it still hangs today. Alas, it may look as if it is waiting for its owner to come in, a laughing, jovial, chubby middle aged man, who will boast that his school cricket blazer still fits him, but who will be sadly disappointed when he takes it off the hanger and realises just how thin he was back in the day.

Alas, he sleeps now in Tobruk Cemetery:

Another ON perished trying to cross the River Volturno in Italy. He and his colleagues were prevented, temporarily, from so doing by the Hermann Göring Division and the 15th Panzergrenadiers.

The ON whose Whitley bomber crossed the North Sea on a bombing mission only to be hit by anti-aircraft fire and crash, as my researches have discovered, on a hillside near Hüffe Farm south of the village of Lashorst, near the small town of Preußisch Oldendorf in North Rhine-Westphalia, nineteen miles east-north-east of Osnabrück and almost midway between that city and Hannover:

The ON in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place, the Bomb Dump at RAF Graveley, which stored the bombs for the missions of an entire squadron over, at least, a number of days. The time, five seconds before it all blew up.

The ON who fought with the SAS, the Special Air Service and then the SBS, the Special Boat Service. The SAS still do not know how he died.

The ON whose family owned and traded under the name of “Pork Farms”:

The ON, a young man whose “fast in-swinging ‘yorker’ on the leg stump was so devastating on its day.”  Alas, six years later, he was one of the day’s casualties “laid out on the ground in front of the church wall” in Hérouville,  as the Allies fought hard to clear another of the many little villages  in Normandy.

And finally, the ON who was a history lecturer at Glasgow University, but who, in October 1941, thought it was his duty to give lectures to the ordinary troops in the North African and Mediterranean theatres about why we are fighting and the world after the war. Backwards  and forwards he criss-crossed the area time and again. And the ordinary men lapped it up. They were so happy that a university lecturer who didn’t need to be there had come to see them and to explain the politics of the day.

And don’t forget, our history writing motto still remains:

“No tale is left untold. No anecdote is ignored.”

This book is now available for purchase through Lulu.com:

 

 

 

 

 

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Old Nottinghamian saves the World OR Why no statue? (4)

Thomas Hawksley was born on July 12th 1807 at Arnot Hill House in Arnold, Nottingham, to parents John Hawksley and Sarah Thompson. Arnot Hill House is still there:

John was a worsted woollen manufacturer who co-owned the mill in Arnold. The mill engine’s cooling pond is now the ornamental lake, situated in front of Arnot Hill House. That’s still there too:

Thomas was educated at the Free School, or Grammar School, in Stoney Street, studying under the Headmaster, Dr Robert Wood.

Thomas arrived on May 27th 1821, at the age of 13 years 6 months. His school days were comparatively brief, for in September 1822 he was removed, with a view to practical training.

Thomas was self-taught from the age of 15 but eventually he was articled to an architect and surveyor Mr Edward Staveley, of Nottingham. He soon became a partner, along with Mr Jalland, of “Staveley, Hawksley and Jalland, engineers, architects, &c.” By 1835, Thomas was based at Middle Pavement and Trent Bridge, and “Staveley & Dudley” were based in Stoney Street. Mr Hawksley and Mr Jalland then worked together until 1850 when Jalland left. Thomas then left for London.

During his time in Nottingham, in 1823, aged only 23, Thomas had constructed a new pumping station for the Trent Waterworks Company near Trent Bridge.

Before this, Nottingham’s water was taken from shallow wells or from the Trent or its tributaries. The new pumping station filtered water taken from the Trent through natural beds of sand and gravel. The water was then pumped through a 15 inch main to a reservoir near the General Hospital. The pipes that carried the water were always kept under high pressure, and taps provided water day and night. Thomas eliminated leakage, and ensured an unvarying supply of fresh water. The pressure also meant that germs could not get in. This arrangement provided “Britain’s first constant supply of clean water, whose high pressure prevented contamination.”

In 1832, the young engineer personally turned on the tap. Anybody in Nottingham could now have clean fresh water from the tap in the yard, thanks to Thomas’ pumping station:

Thomas was the first engineer to set up a scheme of this type in a large and generally fairly dirty industrial town, and to make it work. The local plumbers, of course, objected tooth and nail to doing what Thomas told them to do, but his patience and, presumably, the threat of the sack, persuaded them to obey him.

In 1845, Thomas became chief engineer of the newly formed Nottingham Water Company. Five years later he excavated a seven feet wide and 250 foot deep borehole to get at the purest water which was present in the Bunter sandstone below the town:

 

Before long, Thomas was setting up schemes like the one at Nottingham across the length and breadth of England.

In this way, an Old Nottinghamian provided clear fresh water at the turn of a tap for most of the citizens of Barnsley, Barnstaple, Birmingham, Boston, Bridgwater, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Coventry, Darlington, Derby, Durham, Great Yarmouth, Haslingden, Hinckley, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Liverpool, Lowestoft, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, Newark Newcastle-on-Tyne Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rochdale, Southport, Sheffield, Southend, Stockton, Sunderland, Wakefield Waterford, Wexford, Windsor, Worcester and York.

Sunderland seems to have revered Thomas. There is a Thomas Hawkesley Park in Sunderland, full of expensive four and five bedroom houses:

It’s not as beautiful, though, as Hawkesley House:

 

Thomas was also a gas engineer and, applying the same basic principles for gas as for water, he advised about how to set up the supply for large cities. The number of gas-works he built was very large, and included Barnsley, Bishop Auckland, Burton-on-Trent, Cambridge, Chesterfield, Derby, Folkestone, Gosport, Lowestoft, Newark, Normanton, Nottingham, Pilkington, Radcliffe, Sunderland and Bombay.

Thomas also worked hard on sewage treatment and, as with water and gas, he helped a great many places including Aylesbury, Birmingham, Hertford, Whitehaven, Windsor and Worcester. He anticipated modern methods in refusing to discharge raw sewage into rivers and recommended treatment with chemicals. He believed that spreading the resultant mixture on farmland might well render it completely harmless.

Here is Thomas in later life:

Thomas became the first president of the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (1863), President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1872), President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and of the Institution of Gas Engineers (1876) and Fellow of the Royal Society (1878). And he was not a one-trick-pony. In 1885 he received a gold medal for the invention of an instrument for the assistance of the deaf.

Thomas died on September 15th 1893 at 14 Phillimore Gardens in Kensington. London.

In 1907, Thomas’ son, Charles, established the Thomas Hawksley Fund on the centenary of his father’s birth on July 12th 1907. In 1913 Charles initiated the Thomas Hawksley lectures. The first was given by Edward B Ellington, an expert in hydraulic engineering, talking about “Water as a Mechanical Agent”. The lecture was presented at the headquarters of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and then given again in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham. Subsequent speakers have included H L Callendar (published the first steam tables), F W Lanchester, (the car engine), Harry Ricardo (an engine designer) and Sir Noel Ashbridge (broadcasting). Hawksley lectures still take place today.

 

 

photo of lake courtesy of geogreph

 

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Two Old Nottinghamian brothers fighting fascism (1)

There is an interesting letter in the School Archives which begins:

“On December 10th 1988, my son, daughter and myself were visiting Nottingham to see my granddaughter who is at Trent University. We arrived on the Saturday morning, and found my old school, opposite the Forest but with locked gates. Then we suddenly noticed the gates opening. It was one of the teachers preparing to drive out before locking up. We were warm in our anoraks but although he was only wearing light clothes, this kind teacher offered to show us around the outside of the school buildings. The site of the former “Fives” court was, he told us, blocked by a newer building. Memories began flooding back.”

The writer was John T Jackson who left school in 1935 at the age of twelve. His father’s job was transferred to Birmingham and he and his brother transferred to Solihull Grammar School. Here are the school gates on Forest Road in 1932:

Here are the two fives courts, now replaced by the Sports Hall:

When young John Jackson attended the junior school, Mr Day was the headmaster. One day the boys were all taken outside to see the flight overhead of the new airship, the R101.

The buildings had not changed much as the little group all walked towards the front of the school. Mr Jackson remembered that the steps at the front of the school led to the Headmaster’s room. Then they saw the War Memorial. Mr Jackson had not realised that it would contain so many names. Over two hundred had died to halt fascism. He scanned the names, picking out his brother “Jackson RR”. He was very grateful to see this tribute to the courage and sacrifice that he and his fellow pupils had made.

Robert Renwick Jackson served in the RAF as a pilot in No 40 Squadron based at Chelmsford and flew on low level night intruder missions against enemy targets. In 1943 he was shot down in the coastal area of northern France. He and his observer are buried at Grandcourt in France:

After taking a few photos, John Jackson returned to his car, thanking the teacher for his kindness. When they found the gates locked they had been ready to accept that the best they could manage was to look from outside.

John Jackson had a far luckier war than his brother. He trained as a navigator in the RAF and was stationed at Kinloss in Scotland. His captain was Mac Hamilton, and they survived two tours in Bomber Command. After ten trips to Berlin with 619 Squadron, the whole crew volunteered to join 617 Squadron after Gibson’s successful raid on the dams. 617 was then commanded by Leonard Cheshire who had a precision way of marking targets with special bomb sights. They carried the Tallboy bomb weighing 12000 lbs and attacked special targets such as the U-boat pens, certain tunnels and canals, and rocket sites. Their last two operations were against the Tirpitz battleship. It took a total of three attacks to sink the Tirpitz.”

To be continued………..

 

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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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“A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (5)

The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa. The British Empire owned Cape Colony and the Bechuanaland Protectorate:

The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.

William Henry Heath was born on June 11th 1882. His father was Henry Heath and he was a farmer at Bestwood Park which is to the north of the city of Nottingham. Bestwood Park was originally a hunting estate in Sherwood Forest, owned by the Crown from the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century, when King Charles II gave it to his mistress, Nell Gwyn.

Nell was a famously shy girl, who always kept herself to herself and very much liked to read about embroidery and the lives of the saints:

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More seriously, the topless painting is called “Portrait of a Courtesan, thought to be Nell Gwyn” and comes from the studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80). The more or less clothing free effort is called “Portrait Of A Young Lady And Child As Venus And Cupid” and is known as a picture definitely by Lely.  Sir Peter was the finest painter of the Restoration and the official artist to King Charles II.  And Nell Gwyn? Well, she is known to have been “one of the first women to abandon her modesty to advance her career.”

Two hundred years in the future, William Heath’s mother was Mary Ann Heath and according to the various censuses, by 1891, William had a brother, Leonard, and two sisters, Margaret Annie and Mary. By 1901, Henry,  Evelyn and  Dorothy have appeared and by 1911, another brother, Norman. Depending on the date of his departure to South Africa, William may never have seen Evelyn or Henry and he certainly never saw Dorothy. The farm in 1911 is given as “Sunrise Farm” although that is not necessarily the farm of William’s boyhood. For his education, he may possibly have gone initially to Grosvenor School, a preparatory school at Nos 107-109 Waterloo Crescent, a pleasant footpath off Mount Hootton Road on the western side of the Forest Recreation Ground. Here it is today:

William entered the High School on January 22nd 1895 as Boy No 1366. He was twelve years of age and he went straight into the Upper First with Mr Marriott as his Form Master. Mr Marriott taught at the High School from 1891-1897. He was originally a temporary teacher but he was given a full time job after his first year. He had a BA degree and was a late Scholar of Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University.

There were 32 boys in the Form and of the 30 boys who took the end-of-term examinations, William came 19th. The School List gives us a number of his exact placings subject by subject… English (18th), French (12th), Latin (16th), Writing (14th), and he came third in Drawing. He had been placed in Mathematical Set XII. The following year, it was the Lower Second with Mr Wilfrid Tyson Ryles. There were 29 in the Form and 28 took the examinations. William finished 15th. Here he is in class with Mr Ryles standing back left of the photograph.

William improved very well over the course of the year though, because he was awarded the Lower Second Prize for the Summer Term. But then it was more of the same…. English (10th), French (18th), Latin (15th) and Writing (25th). He was still  in Mathematical Set XII.

The next year of 1896-1897 was his third, and his last. He spent it in the “Shell” with Mr Hodgson, who was the first ever master of this newly invented Form which was designed to receive boys who entered the school late, usually from state schools, and with little or no previous French or German, and certainly no Latin. The following year they were expected to go into the “Modern Fourth Form” but Henry would not do this as he left at Midsummer 1897.

There were 32 boys in the Shell but they were divided into Divisions A and B. Henry finished 18th of the 21 boys in Division A. His last acts at the High School before his departure were his examinations….. English (19th), French (15th), German (20th), Writing (28th), and he came tenth in Drawing. He had been promoted at last to Mathematical Set X. A figure ‘1’ after his name in the School List signifies that he was awarded a prize for Writing in 1897 and one for being the best in Shell Division A in July 1897. Given his positions, I really don’t see how that worked!

Here’s the High School in around 1896. Note Sergeant Holmes, the Drill Sergeant, and the little boy in the bottom right corner. He should be in class but has no doubt been attracted by the photographer and his assistant.

I do not know what William got up to between his final year at the High School and his leaving for a distant, exotic and exciting war in South Africa. I suppose he may have helped out at Sunrise Farm, but that seems a rather easy thing to say.

Next time, William goes to protect the British Empire from a small group of awkward Dutch farmers or possibly, gets involved in a greedy overseas war, started by rich men eager for bucketfuls (or bucketsful, possibly) of gold and diamonds.

 

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“A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (2)

The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa. The British Empire owned Cape Colony and the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.

Major Alexander Bruce Wallis had already lost one of his three sons, Captain Alexander Frederic Wallis, on February 24th 1900. He was killed in action near Arundel, near Colesberg, in Cape Colony in South Africa. Major Wallis’ grief, though, was not over yet , not by a long chalk.

He had another, third and youngest, son whose name was Harry Wallis. Harry was born on September 17th 1869 and entered the High School on January 21st 1881 as Boy No 648. He was eleven years old. Hardly any details are available about an individual boy during this period of the school’s history. Set against this is the fact that Harry was there to watch the crisis which gripped the school during this period. Standards were plummeting and by November 1883 more than a quarter of the boys had left. By March 1884 the Headmaster was seriously ill, and was given three months sick-leave. Here is the School at the time.

An official inspection scrutinized the School and said:

“The School is at present not in an efficient or satisfactory state. Generally, there is a want of vigour and enterprise in the management and administration.”

The Headmaster resigned and Dr James Gow took over.

Dr Gow was a lawyer, not a teacher. He saved the High School. He examined the dreadful situation analytically, and reported that:

“I am inclined to think that the School Buildings are not so grossly inconvenient and the School Staff is not so grossly incompetent as they have sometimes been represented. I am confident that by a few changes, mostly trivial, the School can almost at once be brought into a good state of efficiency.”

And he was right. And Dr Gow walked into history:

“He found a rabble and he left a public school.”

(It’s always better that way round, of course.)

This is the albumen print of the High School which I used when I was talking about the tragic and, arguably, pointless death of Harry’s brother, Alexander Frederic. It is certainly of much better quality than the picture above. Can you see the patterned brickwork of the crenellations ?

Harry Wallis left the High School in July 1885. He went to work in Messrs Moore & Robinson’s Bank which operated from 1836-1901. They were based at Beast Market Hill in the Market Place, somewhere near where the Bell Inn is nowadays. The manager was Mr James Stedman. Here’s the Wright’s nineteenth edition of their Directory of Nottingham, published in 1898-1899 :

Harry knew he had the wrong job, working in a bank. Like his father and his elder brother, he yearned to enlist and to become a soldier. Mr Stedman gave him his discharge and Harry went to South Africa. One of his first tastes of adventure was the Jameson Raid. This fiasco took place from December 29th 1895 –January 2nd 1896. It was a botched British raid against the Dutch Republic of the Transvaal. Led by Dr Leander Starr Jameson and using his colonialist troops, these men were employed ostensibly as police officers in the police force, owned by Alfred Beit’s and Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company.

Supposedly the raid would encourage the Uitlanders, the pro-British citizens, to rebel against Paul Kruger, the Transvaal president, and his supporters. A pro-British government would quickly be set up. Then the British would get all of the Boers’ gold and diamonds. Here’s “Oom Paul Kruger” as he was called at the time :

Absolutely nothing happened and Jameson was arrested. The anti-English Boers, though, were by this time more than ready for a fight against the British when the Second Boer War came round.

Here is part of Harry’s epitaph taken from “The Forester”, the first School Magazine.

“Returning to England after the Jameson Raid, Harry then returned to South Africa and became a Lieutenant in the British South Africa Mounted Police. After doing much good work on active service, he died of enteric fever (typhoid) on April 21st 1900 at Gaberones, the capital city of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland. He was thirty years old. Great sympathy is felt with his father who has thus lost two sons in the war.”

The sad father, Major Alexander Bruce Wallis, now had only one remaining son, Francis Edward Wallis, born on December 24th 1862 and the eldest of the three. He entered the High School on Friday, September 12th 1879 as Boy No 584. He was sixteen years old. I have found out no more than that about him, although I am fairly confident that he would probably have joined the Army at some point and perhaps then served in Africa. Hopefully, he joined just in time to hear somebody say :

“Have those Zulus definitely gone then?”

And Francis Edward Wallis was certainly not killed in World War One. Thank the Lord.

 

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Filed under Africa, History, military, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

In the Footsteps of the Valiant (Volume One)

Three months or so have passed by since I first published “In the Footsteps of the Valiant”, which was the story of the lives and deaths of 23 of the 120 or so men who were educated at Nottingham High School and who subsequently sacrificed their lives for us all in the Second World War. Also included is one young man who was killed in the early 1950s in the RAF.

So far, I am afraid, sales have been really quite disappointing. I have no real idea why this should be the case. The book is of a length commensurate with the price. The number of words holds up well alongside, say, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, “The Two Towers”, “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Emma”.

The book is priced at £18 and is more or less entirely my original research. And what better things could you get for £18? Two cinema seats. A bottle of “Graham’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port”. You could buy a Venus Fly Trap. Or a glasses case with your name on it. Or enough wildflower seeds to plant three square metres. You could buy some Miracle berry tablets. The tablets last for about an hour and alter your taste buds so that anything sour tastes sweet.

Perhaps the book is being perceived as being limited to only one town or city. I don’t know, but I had hoped that people would realise that Nottingham stands here for any British town of similar size.

What is much more important though, much more important than sales alone, is that my original research has now been completed and that we now have a much longer list of war casualties than was previously the case. In the immediate aftermath of the end of hostilities in 1945-1946, the High School thought that 82 of its former pupils had perished in the war. My researches have extended that number to 121 men whose lives and deaths have been investigated and will now never be forgotten. I have also found five deaths in the early 1950s. Once they have been unearthed and brought out into the light, they will never be lost again. And people will have a chance to read something about the lives of these brave men and to see what they did for us all.

In the First Volume, the men featured are Alfred Highfield Warren, Bruce Arthur Richardson, Sidney Moger Saxton, Edwin Thomas Banks, Francis Nairn Baird, Clifford Frank Shearn, John Edwin Armitage, Wilfrid Henry Vivian Richiardi, Ian Mactaggart MacKirdy, John Harold Gilbert Walker, Robert Renwick Jackson, Howard Rolleston Simmonds, Charles Davy Hudson, Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, Walter Raymond Julyan Hoyte, Paul Wilson Cherry, Warren Herbert Cheale, Philip Bonnington Smith, Anthony Bertram Lloyd, Philip Mackenzie Britton, Richard Christopher Sowerbutts, William Roy Llewellyn, Keith Henry Whitson and John Jeffrey Catlin.

Here are just a few of them. This is Tony Lloyd of the Parachute Regiment:

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This is Keith Whitson:

And  John Harold Gilbert Walker, Spitfire pilot:

And Alfred Chenhalls:

And Edwin Banks and his aircraft, a Gloster Gladiator:

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And Robert Renwick Jackson and his all-black Douglas Boston:

Their brave deaths spanned a whole world. Killed in a Dakota over the Bay of Biscay. Killed in a Bomber Command aircraft over Germany. Killed by the Blitz in Leicester. Killed in North Africa fighting on foot. Killed fighting to seize a bridge in Sicily. Killed fighting to seize a bridge too far in the Netherlands. Killed by exposure during the summer in an unenclosed RAF dinghy in the English Channel. Killed in the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Persia. Killed crashing a Gloster Gladiator in Greece. Lost for ever in the trackless snowy Canadian wastes. Killed crashing a Fleet Air Arm fighter into the warm waters off Trincomalee.

Here’s that link:

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Canada, Criminology, France, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School, Writing

Renegade Football at the High School (5)

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.

Sergeant Holmes is again present, and the players are….

(back row)      S.D.M.Horner, C.F.R.Fryer, M.J.Hogan, R.E.Trease and J.P.K.Groves

(seated)          R.G.Cairns, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper (Captain) and L.W.Peters

(seated on grass)        H.E.Mills and P.G.Richards

On the right is twelfth man, F.C.Mahin. You can read about the incredible life of Frank Cadle Mahin in three of my previous blog posts.

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, perhaps to commemorate the game for the old Drill Sergeant. 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.

Notice that it is warm enough for the changing room windows to be open, and the design of the ball is still that old fashioned “Terry’s Chocolate Orange”. Horner has forgotten his football socks, and, because this game marked his début for the side, Fryer’s mother has not yet had the time to sew his school badge onto his shirt. Frank Mahin is, in actual fact, in the full School uniform of the time…a respectable suit or jacket, topped with a Sixth Form white straw boater, with a school ribbon around it. Here he is in American military uniform:

Football, though always, seems to have appealed to the rebellious nature of the boys. Even when it was a school sport, some of them wanted more, and they were quite prepared to break the rules of the High School to achieve that aim. The Prefects’ Book records how “an extraordinary meeting of the Prefects was held after morning school on November 23rd 1908”.

AB Jordan reported that a Master, Mr WT “Nipper” Ryles…

“… had complained about a cutting in the “Football Post” & “Nottingham
Journal”, stating that the High School had been beaten 5-1 by some unknown team called Notts Juniors, reported 8 boys out of IIIC, 1 out of IIIB, 1 out of IVB. The boys were Davie (J.R.), Herrick (R.L.W.), Gant (H.G.) Hemsley, Major, Parrott, Wilmot, Tyler, Cowlishaw & Sadler. They had played against a team of Board School boys down at Bridgford, under the name of Nottm High School Third Form. The other team had put the result in the paper. They were told that such teams must not be played, & that nothing must be sent to the papers except the results of 1st XI & 2nd XI matches.   Signed  AB Jordan”.

The School Archives also have a photograph of older boys in an unknown team.  Nobody has any real, definite and provable idea about who they might be. Perhaps they were something unofficial too:

The man behind the team is not a known member of staff. Here he is:

Is the mystery man is one of  Haig’s staff officers from 1914, on an early lookout for likely cannon fodder for the Western Front? Why should I think that? Well, take a look at this photograph of a group of what were probably the cleverest, shrewdest military thinkers of their age, “Field Marshal Haig and the Blockheads”. Perhaps, front left, Tubby Watson?  :

The next team photograph is not one I am particularly proud of. It is the sad result of the practise of using a camera to scan images because it is so much quicker. It appeared in the School Magazine a few years ago  and they seemed to have little knowledge of who it is:

The caption reads

“Is the above photograph a School Football Team of the early 1890s? The only proof that the team is the three merles badge on the shirt of one of the boys. The photograph is supplied by Don E Stocker (1926-1932) and his father EB Stocker (1889-1891). Is the man on the right a master or possibly Mr Onions, the groundsman and cricket coach?

Well, he’s neither a Master nor Mr Onions in my opinion:

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And the badge may mean it is a High School team but not 100% definitely. It might be the only football shirt he has:

And surely, if it was a High School football team, more than one would be wearing a proper football shirt. As far as I can see, the majority of the players are wearing ordinary white shirts such as they might wear in the bank where they worked, or the technical drawing office.

I don’t think the team is pre-1900 either because the ball is made of 18 panels sewed together. Balls from this period tended to be like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange with lots of segments held in place by a circular piece of leather on either side. It may be a renegade team though, because School football stopped in 1914 and this photograph may well date from after that.

More Ché Guevarras of High School football next time.

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Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

Fred’s travels with the RAF

During the war years, Nottingham was a city which welcomed huge numbers of RAF men from all of the many airbases in Lincolnshire. One of the most famous pubs was the Black Boy, designed by Nottingham’s greatest architect, Watson Fothergill. The famous hotel is the very large building in the middle of the buildings on the left :

Alas, this wonderful, wonderful building was demolished to make way for a supermarket and a very ugly supermarket at that. The Black Boy was a hotel which was very convenient for the dashing Brylcreem Boys, who could easily get to Nottingham from their scores of bomber bases across Lincolnshire. Once they were there, they could get up to whatever they wanted and the Black Boy had enough bedrooms to accommodate all of them. I saw a programme recently which said that the rates of venereal disease among RAF aircrew were so high around this time that serious measures had to be taken. It was decided therefore that any man diagnosed with VD would have his mission total taken back to zero. Once you had done 30 missions, you were taken off combat flying, so if you had done a decent number, around 20, for example, this would have been a huge disaster, and a life threatening one at that.

Fred used Nottingham as a place to get a connection for Derby. When he was at Elsham Wolds, I think he must have caught a train at nearby Barnetby and then either got a connection at Lincoln or gone straight through to Nottingham. From there he could easily reach Derby or even Burton-on-Trent.  The orange arrow points at Elsham Wolds and nearby Barnetby:

Fred was no fool and he soon discovered that there was a small railway station, almost in the centre of Nottingham, called, he thought, High Pavement. It was an open station which meant that there were never any inspectors there to check tickets as the passengers alighted from the train.

The smart thing to do therefore, if you were either coming to Nottingham to visit, or were just changing trains at Nottingham, was not to bother with buying a ticket, but just to get off, not at the main station, but at High Pavement. You could then either disappear into the city, or walk the short distance to the main station and then catch the train to Derby or to Burton-on-Trent.

In later life, Fred was to retain little memory of the details of High Pavement station except that there were lots of blue brick walls and you had to go down some steps on your way to the main bit of the station.

I don’t really know where he means, but this remaining railway-type blue brick wall may be something to do with a station in this area:

Fred often had a 24 hour pass, which would run from 00h00 to 23h59. He frequently used to travel, therefore, in the early hours of the night. At that time there were certainly very few welcoming faces on the platforms, except the members of the Salvation Army, who were always on hand to dispense cups of tea or plates of hot food, most welcome out in the damp fogs of autumn, or in the cold icy blasts of winter. In later life, Fred was always to say that the Salvation Army were the only religious organisation to show any practical interest whatsoever in the welfare of the forces. He would always try to give them a donation whenever he saw them, because they had done so much to help soldiers, sailors and airmen when they really needed it in the cold dark days of World War Two.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Personal