Tag Archives: Nottingham

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

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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Filed under History, Humour, Literature, military, Nottingham, The High School

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

“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

Six Kings and Two Queens (1)

“The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood” by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its entry for August 18 1761:

“Death of John Deane, Esquire, at his residence at Wilford, in the 82nd year of his age. Captain Deane was born in the reign of Charles II, in the year 1679, and was the youngest son of a gentleman of moderate fortune living in Nottingham. When he attained a proper age for business he took the strange fancy of being apprenticed to a butcher.  He was not satisfied with this, but being bold and spirited, he became associated with a gang of poachers and deer stealers. At length, dreading detection, he thought it prudent to go to sea.

In this new occupation Deane was happy in his job, and there is strong reason for believing that he was with Sir George Rooke at the capture of Gibraltar, where he was raised for his bravery to the rank of a naval captain.

Here is the striking shape of the “Rock of Gibraltar”:

gibraltar5xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

In 1710, when laid up and without employment, Deane, along with his father and brother, purchased a vessel which they named, The Nottingham Galley. After filling the ship with merchandise, Captain Deane took command and sailed for North America.

Here is that happy, happy ship:

nottingham galley

The ship was unfortunately wrecked on the New England coast.

Here is a sketch from the time:

wreck of the npottingham gaslley

The crew landed with great difficulty on a barren island.

The island was actually called Boon Island, and was well known as a very good place to die:

cheat

Deane and his crew were destitute of both clothes and provisions, the sea having swallowed up everything. Here they remained for twenty-six days exposed to severe hunger and cold. Three of the seamen perished, and the survivors were driven to the horrid and revolting necessity of feeding upon one of the dead bodies.

“Here we are!! Come and get it! Raw leg again!!”

eating cabinboy

On the 5th of January, 1711, a vessel came near enough to perceive their signals, and when despair had almost driven them mad, they were providentially rescued.”

A number of websites attach a great importance to this shipwreck, given its almost four weeks of bleak, desperate horror.

A good example would be ‘boonislander’  or  Stephen Erickson, who, in his own words, is a resident of Portsmouth in New Hampshire and a co-author of a new book on the wreck of the Nottingham Galley, the splendidly titled Boon Island:  A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck and Cannibalism. He wrote:

“The Nottingham Galley is one of the most important episodes in maritime history for a number of reasons.   It may have been the most well-known shipwreck controversy prior to the Bounty mutiny.  The story is famous for cannibalism; they ate the ship’s carpenter.

book xxxxxxx

No shipwreck castaways were ever less prepared for the subfreezing temperature they were forced to endure, and lived to tell about it; they were without food, freezing, and compelled to lie for weeks at a time, huddled together on solid rock. “

The shipwrecked men had certainly been forced to rely on their own ingenuity. A piece of sail provided a shelter of sorts and there was enough cheese soaked in salt water to last around a week. Ironically, the first to die was the cook. They respectfully consigned him to the waves. The next to go was the ship’s carpenter. He was out of luck, because by now they were hungry enough to eat him, allegedly wrapped in pieces of seaweed.

seawweeedd

They were unable to light a fire, so it had to be raw. What a pity they were never able to kill a seal and eat that.
For those of you interested in the precise details of gastronomy, the usual tale is that:

“they hacked off the feet and hands, gutted the bodies and then cut them into quarters like a pig or a cow.”

And presumably:

“Wrap in raw seaweed and serve at Atlantic Ocean temperature. Serves up to a dozen.”

Later, despite severe frostbite for those who had not yet eaten their own hands and feet, the men tried to build a boat, but it sank and took two men with it. A second boat fared equally badly but a corpse drifted to the mainland and alerted the locals as to what was happening on Boon Island. They were finally rescued in the early days of January 1711.

Steak-and-Chips

 

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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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The Missing Statue

Let’s finish this series of High School puzzles with a third, and final, enigma. So let’s look at that photograph of the Stoney Street school again:

stoney st

We already know where the pesky little merlettes are hiding, (four o’clock down from the word “stationer”) but what exactly is in the niche near the top of the building? Here is a photograph of nothing, this time seen in close up:

stoney st niche

Now let’s look at the present day High School. This beautiful photograph was taken by Rishabh Motiwale and was used as the cover of the book which celebrated the school’s presumed 500th birthday, “500 Happy Returns: Nottingham High School’s Birthday”:

Rishabh%20Motiwale

And I’ll ask the same question a second time. What exactly is in the niche near the top of the building? Well, here’s that photograph of nothing again…

Rishabh%20Motiwale close up

Do you remember what a “vowess” was?  Of course you do. It’s:

“a woman who has vowed chastity or devotion to a religious life; a nun”.

It’s what Dame Agnes Mellers became after her husband died.

But do you remember Mr. F. J. Snell’s words about a “vowess” in his book “The Customs of Old England” ? Why certainly! He said that:

“a “vowess” would never willingly forgo any opportunity of showing reverence to the Blessed Virgin”.

So what is missing from the niche near the top of both buildings, therefore, is a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. An image of Mary, Mother of God, a beloved figure in the Roman Catholic Church but one not enjoying perhaps quite as big a fan base with the Protestant Church over the last 400 or so years:

hytheBVM

I would guess that, perhaps in the very small print, in Clause 42, sub-clause 69, of Dame Agnes’ bequest, acting as a staunch vowess, she had stipulated that this type of Roman Catholic statue should be on prominent display in her new, or perhaps, merely refreshed, school. After all, her school had started its life in a church dedicated to St Mary:

st-marys-church-1846

But then, twenty years later, once Henry VIII had decided that Roman Catholicism should no longer be the state religion, to have a statue of Mary, Mother of God, on display above the door of the school, must have become just “a statue too far”. It would have made the place look anti-Protestant. Anti-Church of England. It might even have reminded ordinary people of the fact that the Glorious King Henry VIII had taken advantage of the Reformation to steal billions of pounds worth of assets and land from the suddenly unwanted Roman Catholic Church.  So one day, the statue of Mary, Mother of God, just wasn’t there any more. And few people noticed and those who did notice, knew that the best thing to do for their own safety was to keep their mouths firmly shut. And nobody ever mentioned the statue again.

Presumably, this centuries old exclusion from the school’s premises of statues of the beatified members of the fairer sex will come to an end very soon. When the first girl crosses the threshold of her new, co-educational school, she will surely walk into the building under a statue of the Virgin Mary, just as Dame Agnes would have wanted. Surely we will not have to wait for the High School’s first Headmistress to put the matter straight?

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Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, Politics, The High School